Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

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.”

Advertisements

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!

    My Personal Timeline

    January 4, 2010 Leave a comment

    This was an assignment for my Psychology class. This was a very meaningful and interesting project as I had to reflect on the man I am today and the events that shaped who I have become. However, this is probably more than you ever wanted to know about me, but I figured I would post it as I am attempting to chronicle my general body of collegiate work on this website. Enjoy!

     

    When I look at myself in the mirror today, I see the reflection of a man whom is very different from the person that I envisioned myself to be as I was growing up. I have not become the fireman, police officer, rock star, or any of the other pie-in-the sky visions that I had of myself based solely in childish fantasy. Looking back on the events that have defined my life has been an extremely enlightening experience, but before I discuss what this jaunt into self-reflection has meant to me, let me take you through the journey that I experienced when I was researching and pondering the events of my life that have led me to the place where I currently exist.               

    My story began twenty-six years ago in a small German hospital in Nuremburg. I was born to a pair of loving parents whom were extremely excited about the new bundle of joy that they had brought into the world. My mother’s pregnancy was mostly uneventful. She received quality prenatal care as my father was a lieutenant in the United States military. Also, it was important to her to give me every advantage possible even during her pregnancy, so she abstained from ingesting any material that could be deemed harmful to me while I was in utero. This included caffeine, which was an admitted struggle for my mother, but the sacrifice was worth it as it was for her baby boy. Although my mother’s pregnancy was fairly typical for a healthy twenty-three year old, my birth presented a severe challenge to the attending physician. As I was descending down the birth canal, it quickly became apparent that there was an issue. My progress gradually slowed until finally coming to a complete halt. This can be a deadly complication during delivery, so the doctors wasted no time and began working diligently to free me from the prison of flesh in which I had become lodged. The doctor grasped my head with a pair of forceps and began to pull me out. Unfortunately, the forceps broke because I was so tightly lodged. The doctor repeated this process twice more, finally extricating an exaggeratedly cone-headed, healthy eight pound nine ounce baby boy.             

    My first year of life was spent in Germany. My mother did not have the best circumstances in which to begin her adventure in motherhood due to the fact that my father spent many months of the first year of my life in the field training with his unit. One other major obstacle that is completely foreign to many in the world today revolved around the difficulty in which my mother had in communicating with her family in the states. There was no internet, so e-mail and Skype were not in the picture. She had to call the operator to schedule an international call and then sit by the phone for hours and wait for the operator to call back. These phone calls were very expensive which led to a very limited number of calls. This was a trying time for my mother as she had no family and very few friends on whom to depend, but she weathered the storm like a seasoned veteran, providing a wonderful, nurturing start to my life that was full of love and affection. Three days before my first birthday, my father was reassigned to Fort McClellan, Alabama and my family excitedly left Germany to head home to the states. Fort McClellan was more than simply a reprieve from the foreign theater. It was a homecoming as well because this was the area in which both my parents had grown up. Therefore, my mother and father went from having no support as new parents to having overwhelming support from mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.

    According to my mother’s records regarding my physical and mental development, I was ahead of schedule on every milestone that a child is supposed to reach during this period. I was sitting by 22 weeks, crawling by 33 weeks, and walking by 39 weeks. I said my first word at four months and my first sentence at 13 months. Apparently, during this period I exhibited a streak of independence that was difficult for my parents to correct. My mother recorded a story of when I was eight months old. She said that I had just gotten in trouble and instead of crying; I stood defiantly and stared at her red-faced with clenched fists. This independent streak was also evidenced in the first sentence that I spoke when I was 13 months old. I boldly stated to my mother one morning “I want to go” as we were preparing to leave for my grandmother’s house. My mother also noted that I would sit around for extended periods of time doodling on paper with a pencil and that I loved books.

    I also experienced two physically traumatic events during this period of life. When I was 11 months old on the way back to Alabama from Germany, I fell into a bathtub and chipped my front two teeth. The trauma actually went on to negatively affect the development of my permanent teeth in later years. Also, when I was 15 months old, I stepped on a floor heater and had to be treated in the emergency room for severe burns on my left foot. This injury did not seem to have any lasting effects.

    The strong family relationships that were fostered during this period after my family returned from Germany with the members of my extended family still play a role in the decisions that I make in my life now. Although the relationships that I had with the members of my family were strong, my mother cannot remember me experiencing any separation anxiety. I spent several days a week with a babysitter as my mother was finishing college and my mother said that I also socialized well with other children. I believe that trust was established, rooting from these relationships, allowing me to successfully move into the next stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development.

    During my early childhood, my mother also has recorded that I was ahead of schedule on many of the expected developmental milestones. I was potty trained by the age of two and had an extensive vocabulary. My mother noted that I understood the meaning of many words and could perceive the meaning of unknown words based on context fairly early in my development. I was talking conversationally in sentences relating to the world that surrounded me and to the adults with whom I spent the majority of my time. One of my favorite activities during this time was riding my big wheel and playing ball with my father in the yard. During the later years of this stage, I participated in organized sports.

    I had surgery early on during this stage in my life. My recovery was speedy, but any surgical procedure has the potential to set back the development that a child has accomplished. My first brother was also born during this time. My mother noted no regression in development related to either one of these potential obstacles. My fine motor skills were slightly underdeveloped during this period. This may be due to lack of opportunity to exercise these skills as my parents were extremely conscious about messes inside the house. This lack of early development still plagues me to this day, manifesting itself in my extreme lack of manual dexterity.

    My parents fostered an extremely secure environment for me to explore the world around me. My father had a good, secure job in the Army and my mother was able to spend the majority of the day with me, so my physical needs were all met. My emotional needs were also met as there was plenty of love that was lavished on me by family during this time. This fostered autonomy within me by giving me the security to know that I could explore the world confidently. This allowed me to once again progress into the next stage of psychosocial development. The fact that my parents allowed me room to make mistakes and grow also fostered a strong sense of initiative within me, giving me the strength to undertake new tasks and to understand that failure is just a step to a future success.

    My middle childhood featured the first move that I can truly remember. We left my hometown in Alabama and moved to Lansing, Kansas. I remember this being one of the toughest things that I had ever experienced because I had to leave behind all of my extended family who had played a very important role in my life to that point. Going from many caregivers to solely my parents was a hard transition to make, but the skills that had been fostered in my earlier stages of development were extremely helpful in dealing with this new challenge.

    An additional difficulty that confronted me during this stage of development was rooted in my parents’ desire to better the living situation of our family. Both my mother and father began and finished their master’s degree programs during this period in my life. In addition to my parent’s schooling, my mother returned to work. This meant many nights with babysitters. Some sitters were better than others, but honestly, I believe that my brother and I felt slightly abandoned due to the time that my parents had to spend away from us. Upon review, this could not be farther from the truth, but I do remember feeling as if I had to fend for myself emotionally during this time. I had developed close friendships with several of the children in my neighborhood that also helped to sustain me during this tumultuous time in my life.

    Scholastically I did well. However, I did have a strong aversion to homework. There were nights that I would sit at the kitchen table for hours in defiance because I did not want to do my work. My parents were firm and consistent with my discipline and with their expected standards; therefore, I eventually learned that I was not going to get out of homework and it made my life so much easier to just complete it as quickly and accurately as possible. My father also spent a year away from the family in Korea, which added to the stress that pressed in on me during this time of my life. In the middle of the fifth grade, my father returned from Korea and we had to move to Fort Lewis, Washington. This was yet another extreme change during this period of my life causing me to leave the circle of friends that I had developed and moving farther away from my extended family. 

    Although my scholastic achievement was good during this time, I felt as if I never really fit in socially with my peers other than the close friendships that I had fostered with the other children who lived in my neighborhood. I always felt as if I was not good enough to fit in socially and was afraid of embarrassing myself. This is a fear that I have never truly overcome. I have a strong desire to please people and I believe that much of that desire is rooted in unresolved feelings of social awkwardness and extreme fear of embarrassment that began during this time in my life.

    I am fairly certain that all the changes that occurred during this period of my life limited my feelings of industry as I had to learn several new performance standards for different babysitters, teachers, and parental structures throughout this period. I do believe, however, that I did achieve industry and was able to take ownership of my accomplishments and abilities. It was during this period that I also developed a love for music, which has become one of the most important driving forces in my life today. 

    Moving from my middle childhood and into adolescence was a strange transition; although, I am certain that this is a difficult transition for everyone. Again, at the onset of this time in my life, my family was uprooted and moved first to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for my seventh grade year and then back to Fort McClellan for three following years. This period was marked with extreme physical and mental changes as puberty began to work its awkward magic inside my body. 

    I was a late bloomer and that caused many confidence issues that took many years to overcome as I was the target of much ridicule regarding my small, underdeveloped stature. During this period, the desire within me to please people became even more important because I desperately wanted to fit in. Erikson’s major milestone for this period has to do with the individual establishing his or her identity. I can honestly say that this was not the primary concern of the beginning of my adolescent period. I just wanted to stay off the radar. I was very small, weighing in at 75 pounds in seventh grade. It was difficult to watch the other boys changing into young men while it seemed that I remained stuck in the trappings of childhood. The others noticed, of course, and pointed this out at every opportunity that was presented to them. Honestly, this was probably the most difficult aspect of my early adolescent years. However, shortly after I turned thirteen, I discovered the most amazing relationship that challenged me to be different. This relationship continues to challenge me even now. 

    Shortly after moving back to Fort McClellan, I was befriended by a young man who was fairly well known within the small school that I attended. Through this relationship, I was invited to church and eventually to a relationship with Jesus. The moment where I met Christ was the moment that my life was changed forever. This is when I began to understand what my identity was supposed to be based upon what the Bible states about how our individual lives are supposed to look. It was not easy to pursue Christ with reckless abandon as it goes against the social norm and the expected behaviors of society, but I have never made a more important and worthwhile commitment. 

    My academic achievement was of chief importance to me during this time, but I also wrestled and did fairly well in both. I was consistently on the “A” honor roll and was a state place winner in wrestling. I hung out with the “nerd” group and that suited me just fine as the competition fostered within this group pushed me to greater heights academically. I felt socially awkward and was slightly terrified of girls until puberty really began to take hold of me during my sophomore year in high school. Unfortunately for my burgeoning libido, we again moved in between my sophomore and junior years of high school. This was terribly traumatic as I was involved heavily in my youth group at church and was fairly popular in my high school. I moved from a class of 60 students to a class of 280 students and a high school that was five times bigger than the small school that I had left. Talk about culture shock.    

    During this time, I sank into a fairly deep depression that colored much of my junior year. I had a difficult time adjusting to the new social network, but my academic achievement did not fall off as this was still of prime importance to me. The second semester of my junior year changed everything. My pursuit of Christ had waned during this time of extreme depression, but, thankfully, His pursuit of me had never changed. I met a young man on the first day of second semester who would help to foster a change my life forever.

    Through this young man, I met the first girl that I truly loved. Fortunately, she was the only girl that I would ever have to date and would be blessed to marry in the future. Thanks to the relationship that was fostered with the young man whom became my best friend, I was finally able to find a group in which I fit. This was the local youth group at the church that my friend attended. Through this group, I was able to develop the strongest social network in which I have ever been privileged to take part. This group helped me to find who I really was inside and who I was in Christ. I had several adult mentors that were also extremely vital to my personal development during this time.

    I find it a curious task to set goals for my future as I ponder what God has planned, because the only thing that I do know is that I don’t know anything. However, I do feel that it is vital for everyone to establish a strong set of goals that line up with scripture in order to set the direction for their lives, always remaining open to the fact that God has the right to change those goals and the direction in which my life is headed at any moment according to His perfect will. First and foremost, my goal is to look as much like Christ as possible and to do whatever it takes to make my life look like His, experiencing true worship on a daily basis. This encompasses my psychosocial, biological, and cognitive goals as each are an important aspect in truly reconciling myself to the image of Christ. The importance of this goal cannot be understated as it is the driving force behind my very existence. Everything that I do must line up with the purpose for which God has created me. If this does not occur, then I will find myself outside the will of God, and this is not a destination that I am willing to take my life.

    Biologically speaking I would like to lose 40 pounds and to get back into shape, so that I can freely participate in the sporting activities that I used to enjoy and once again be happy with my personal body image. Cognitively I have pledged to become a lifelong learner because when we stop using our capacity to learn, we lose much of our ability think and reason. These are two abilities that I hold in extremely high regard, and, due to this, I will always be enrolled in a class of some sort and a Bible study as well in order to continually foster my cognitive and spiritual development. Finally, psychosocially I desire to have a small group of close friends on whom I know that I can depend on no matter what the situation. I have already accomplished this goal to a certain extent, but I am always on the lookout for new relationships.

    During the course of writing this assignment, I have had to come face to face with many of the major events in my life that have led to me becoming the man that I am today. This was an extremely enlightening experience. Prior to this assignment, I had never truly taken a comprehensive look at the struggles and triumphs that have shaped my life.

    The first thing that really stuck out to me was the fact that all of my early developmental milestones were accomplished ahead of the expected schedule, specifically focusing on my ability to manipulate and understand language. It appears that I have always had a love for words and that I have been blessed with an innate ability to communicate my thoughts. This was the first time that my mother and I had ever deeply discussed my early development. My mother told me that I was always a smart child and that I was truly inquisitive as well, asking many questions to better understand my environment.

    Although the study of my early development was enlightening, the study of my middle childhood was truly fascinating. I was able to look back at many of the events that shaped my behavior during that developmental period and understand the lasting effects that those behaviors and personality traits had on my early development and even persisting into who I am today. For example, socially, I never truly felt as if I fit in with my peers. This might have stemmed from the chaotic environment of regular change in which I spent my middle childhood. I still have problems feeling like that to this day; however, I have changed the way in which I cope with this perceived personal stigma. In my middle childhood I retreated into myself and maintained only a few very close friendships as this was where I was comfortable. Now, I am much more extroverted, but the motivations of my behavior have not changed. I still continually seek the approval and praise of other people.

    I can most definitely see how the tumult of my middle childhood affected my adolescence. These issues compounded with the fact that I was a late bloomer made the early part of my adolescence extremely awkward socially and even within my own psyche. This was a difficult time, but the lessons that I learned during this time again helped to shape me into the man I am today. Without the early adversity during this time period, I do not know if I would have ever felt the need for Christ, which would have made the rest of my life utterly meaningless.

    I believe that God never wastes a hurtful, awkward, or joyous moment. I know everything that happens in this life truly does happen in order to bring us closer to our glorious Creator. Looking back on the entirity of my short life, I am thrilled to see how God has woven all of the events of my experience together to make me the man that I am today. I am thankful for the fact that even in the darkest times in my life, I have always had a loving God looking out for me and shaping me as the potter shapes clay. Understanding the past has given me a better understanding of my present situation and, in turn, has given me a new perspective for my future. I am looking forward to seeing what plans God has on the horizon that He is going to allow me to be a part of and humbled to know that before time began, His plan for me was set into place. Above all else, I am thankful for the obedient sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that has enabled a wretched sinner like me to find the most amazing love that a person can experience on Earth. Looking back at all the great times, the destitute times, the times spent on the mountain top, and the tough moments spent in the valleys, I can sum up my life in three simple words: God is good.

    Bible Study Friday: Humility

    November 13, 2009 1 comment

    La BibliaOne of the most important aspects of walking alongside God is making sure that you are continually reading and meditating on His word. I am planning on starting a new installment on the blog called Bible Study Friday. Here I will relay what I am studying and how God is moving in my life based on His amazing word. I hope that publishing this study will help you as much as it helps me to prepare for this installment. Without further ado…

    What is Humility? Some would say humility is an attitude, but I would venture to say that, while an attitude of humility is extremely important, God desires much more from the Church. At the most basic level of faith, God desires a lifestyle of humility from His people.

    In Matthew 23, Jesus is talking with his disciples and the crowds that were following him. In the previous chapter, he had been challenged by the Pharisees and Sadducees. In each instance, Jesus had taken the challenge issued by the men of the law and refuted it so that each group of challengers had nothing left to say. Jesus put them in their place so decisively, verse 22:46 states that, “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” With his spiritual enemies firmly silenced, Jesus was able to address the crowds freely.

    For the next few verses, Jesus rips into the Pharisees and teachers of the law regarding their outward shows of spiritualism and their love of human recognition. He tells the crowds, “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at the banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them Rabbi” (Matt 23:5-7).

    Are we not there today? We love ourselves to a fault and we love to be exalted before men.  This is not what God desires. God would have us to live humble lives as servants. Jesus himself said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his  life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28 ). Today, we live in a society that preaches the need to take care of number one. To exalt yourself to stand out.  We have a corporate world that would have you lie, cheat, and steal to advance up the next rung of the ladder. But Jesus himself stated that he came to serve, even to the point of death on a cross in obedience to the Father as a sacrifice for us. So where does that leave us today? If the Son of Man came as a servant unto this world, how crazy is it for us to be so self-serving! This attitude is even prevalent within the walls of churches today! This has to break God’s heart. We, the body of Christ, are to be His living message to the world today, but it seems like we have forgotten what that message is.

    The attitudes that we express are clearly outside of what Jesus lays out in verse 11 and 12.  “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” See how our self-importance and Christ do not mix? If you want to be exalted before God, you have to humble yourself before men. As Christians, our rewards in heaven clearly outweigh any reward that we could receive here. Earthly reward is fleeting, while heavenly rewards are eternal. I don’t know about you, but I would rather invest in my eternal home rather than the temporal home I have here on Earth.

    God lays it out for us. If we want to be within His will here on Earth, we have to find humility. Let go of your pride. It only serves to hold you back from where God wants you to be. The gains of surrender greatly surpass the penalty of retaining your self-serving nature. The call on our lives is to love the people of the world as Christ did. And how did Jesus love? Through service. How are we then called to love the world? As humble servants putting others above ourselves. Remember, he who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

    All for His glory.

    Jeremy

    Categories: Faith Tags: , , , , ,

    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