The "Next Chapter" starts again on Nov 23

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Women In Ministry - Where WBF Stands

WBF is a complementarian church, as are all churches in the EFCA. This means we are and elder-led church where pastors do the bulk of the teaching. While the elders and pastors are male (1 Tim 2:11), we want to recognize that our precious, godly women are vital, valuable, contributing and spiritually fruitful members of our church body. Understanding the complimentary position should free women to operate in their areas of gifting and still fall within the guidelines of Scripture in how the church is structured and governed.

We want to look closely at the blessing our women are and see what Scripture says they can do in the church and during the assembly. Our only objective measure of this should be Scripture. So, Sunday morning we will look closely at what the Bible says about our ladies on this issue.

Knowing this can be controversial with some very deep seated traditions and opinions on every side, it might be beneficial to get familair with some of the passages we'll be looking at Sunday morning. 

Read the passages, but read what comes before them and after as well. Pray about the services Sunday morning. Then join us with an open mind and willing Spirit. Let's learn from the word together. 

Here are the passages:

  • 1 Tim 2:11-15
  • 1 Tim 3:1-7
  • Titus 1:6-9
  • 1 Cor 14:33-35
  • 1 Cor 11:2-16
  • Ex 15:1-21
  • Micah 6:4
  • Luke 2:36-38

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ananias, Sapphira, a Blunder and an Apology

In my mind, I'm a great communicator, orating with crystal clarity and astounding profundity in nearly everything I say. After all, I completely understand all I share with amazing lucidity and a total lack of ambiguity. 

If only that were my reality!

In truth, there are times when my alleged "clarity" lets me down and I'm not clear at all. There are times when the things I say do not line up with my intention in saying them. One of those instances occurred a few weeks ago when I spoke on giving. The sermon was called "The Giving Principal".  The primary point of the sermon was that tithing is a "beautiful and biblical way of expressing our thanks to God for saving us and providing for us." 

After establishing the basis for tithing in the Old Testament, I was pointing out that tithing was a core value of the church in the New Testament as well. I went to Acts 4 and the story of Ananias and Sapphira. I was in the middle of explaining how the infant church brought their offerings to the apostles (you can hear it at the 28:45 mark in the sermon audio). I make the point that the early church was bringing everything. But Ananias and Sapphira deceptively hold back some. I label that as a sin. Here's what I said, 

"...when Ananias and Sapphira hold some back…in ch 5, they die! Death is a consequence of sin, Ananias and Sapphira sinned by holding back..."
Even now, I look at the words I said and shudder at what I put out there. It certainly sounds to me as if I just taught that we all have to bring all we have into the church or God will kill us.

This is a mistake and I regret saying it. It was not what I intended to teach, at all. All I can do is ask forgiveness and promise to be more careful as we go forward. 

I had hoped to make the point that Ananias and Sapphira were relying more on taking care of themselves than they were on God taking care of them. Their sin was rooted in self-reliance and they expressed that self-reliance by lying to the Holy Spirit. I communicated that point very poorly. 

One of the things I try to do when helping others learn how to preach is show them that it's easy to fill in the blanks in our minds while leaving our listeners in a fog. To us, we make perfect sense because we have wrestled with the text, done our study, immersed our self in it,  outlined it, written down out thoughts and then brought it together in a sermon. We understand ourselves perfectly fine! But those who are listening on Sunday morning do not have the benefit of our thought-process. Because they come into it cold, we,as preachers, have to strive to bring complete thoughts and expressions, being careful to explain ourselves at every point.  Otherwise, we can leave someone with the wrong impression. Worse than that, we can do damage when we are trying to teach and nourish. 

I thank God for those who came forward and were willing to dialogue in a mature, respectful way. People who handle things this way become part of the teaching/equipping process, helping to refine us as pastors and preachers. It would have been much easier to whisper in the corners, complain and create a much larger problem. The harder, more mature approach is to assume better of the teacher and the leaders and become part of a solution that moves the body of Christ forward and closer to the Father. 

I'm humbled, edified and greatly encouraged by how all this has transpired. I take my responsibility seriously, knowing I will answer, one day, for all that I teach. I am grateful to those that come alongside our staff and leaders, with patience and constructive input and help us become better teachers and pastors. I thank God for an awesome congregation that loves enough to be patient as God continues to mold and teach us all.    

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Next Chapter -Taking God at His Word, Ch 1

Kevin DeYoung begins his book with a look at the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, which he calls a love poem. However, this poem is not about the type of romantic, wide-eyed love we usually associate with a love poem. It is a love poem about the Bible itself and it's vital role in the life and heart of the psalmist. 

DeYoung says there are typically three responses Bible readers have to Psalm 119, each of them revealing our heart's approach to the word of God:

  • Skepticism or cynicism - a lack of belief or conviction about the divine inspiration  of the word. 
  • Boredom or tedium - a lack of enthusiasm for the word of God. 
  • A true, heart-felt resonance with the word, allowing it to nourish our spirits and to become the song of our hearts.
According to the author, Psalm 119 shows us what to believe about the word of God (it is true, right and provides what is good). It also shows us what we should feel about the word of God (delight, desire and dependence). Perhaps most importantly, Psalm 119 shows us what we should do about the word of God (sing it, speak it, study it, store it up, obey it, praise God for it, pray it.)   

Using this Psalm as an example, the book promises to
unpack what the Bible says about the Bible. This is a great start, calling attention to the nature of the Bible and the role it should play in our lives. DeYoung maintains and hopes to prove that the Bible is "knowable necessary and enough". 

The stage us set for a practical discussion about the Bible and how we approach it. What thoughts do you have about the first chapter? Have you read Psalm 119? Perhaps right now would be a good time to pause, read it and leave your thoughts. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Next Book for the Next Chapter!

I hope and pray we all learned some new perspectives on reading the Bible from our time in "God's Big Picture" by Vaughn Roberts.

The primary goal of that book was to show us that the Bible is not a collection of many books, but one book with 66 entries, all of them working together, inextricably woven into one story, the story of God's plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, His only Son.

As I considered what book to read next, I began to see that our group started right where we needed to start, with a good foundation of what the Bible is about and how it should be read. It only makes sense that we should take the next logical step and begin looking at how this living word interacts with our lives. 

I can't think of a better resource to use than Kevin DeYoung's "Taking God at His Word". DeYoung's book takes a close look at what the Bible says about itself and why it should be important to us. Along the way we'll see "Why the Bible is knowable, necessary, and enough and what it means for you and me" as it reads on the title page. 

I went through the book a few months ago. It's a great read, concise and accessible on all levels. There are 8 chapters. We'll be done sometime in January. 

So, pick up the book, read the endorsements and first chapter. Pay attention to the footnotes, they're important to the material.  We'll start posting summaries on Monday, Nov 23. 

I'll be sending a weekly email out to our church group. If you would like to be included in that emailing, let me know. There will also be a link posted on the WBF web site, right there on the slides in the middle of the page. Click on the "Next Chapter" slide and it will take you to the blog. We'll post a link on our WBF fb page, as well. "Like" us and the new postings will show up in your news feed on Mondays. 

I'm looking forward to our time together!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Who Arrived at the Tomb First?

Our sermon yesterday (Nov 8, 2015) was in John 20:1-10, the first depiction of the Resurrection in John's gospel. John shows Mary Magdalene arriving at the tomb "early, while it was still dark."(Jn 20:1). 

It's easy to get confused over the timeline of events in the New Testament, particularly when harmonizing (comparing) the four gospels to each other. One of the primary points of confusion occurs over how the Jews viewed the passing of a day. For them, the new day began at sundown, not sunup. 

This places Mary Magdalene's visit to the tomb anytime during what we would consider to be Saturday evening or even very early Sunday morning. She went "while it was still dark." For the Jews, by the time it got dark on Saturday, it had become Sunday.

There have been many forests sacrificed trying to make all the pieces fit in the puzzle that appears when you read the gospels together. There are a number of excellent harmonies out there covering all four gospels. The problem they all
encounter is in how the gospels are written. They were written with a different (read Eastern) mindset, a very long time ago. This presents some difficulty when we read them with a modern, Western mindset. Trying to lay them out in the order a western mind demands is nearly impossible. In 1st century Palestinian writing, chronologies are sometimes ignored. The eastern mindset was for more concerned with getting the main points of the story told than getting all the events lined up. 

So, is can be assumed that each of the gospels may have gaps that are not readily apparent, depending on what audience is being addressed and what lessons or truths are being conveyed. There may be times when things seem out of order compared to each other.

We do this all the time without really thinking about it. We'll say, "I didn't do much last night. I had dinner and went to bed." We may have had dinner at 6:00 PM and retired early at 9:00 PM. We assume the folks we are talking to realize we did not walk from the kitchen to the bedroom. Our real
message is, "Nothing of any consequence happened between 6 and 9." Anyone trying to reconstruct our evening based on what we said, or maybe wrote, would have a hard time knowing whether our language was literal or figurative, particularly if they are looking back on two millennia from now with a few different languages thrown into the mix just to keep things fun and interesting.

None of this makes one gospel wrong and the other right. None are more accurate than the others. Each of them is precise in the detail needed to tell its particular part of the story of the Resurrection. Piecing them together gives us a better look at it, but will not resolve all the mystery in trying to apprehend a supernatural, world-changing event.

Mystery, when it comes to God and how He functions, can be
a good thing, giving us a glimpse of His glory. It helps to keep in mind that those passages we don't easily comprehend are great ones to strive with, driving us deeper into the word and prayer, frequently showing us "things that are too wonderful to understand." (Job 42:3)

Here's a harmony I like. It has its struggles but they all do.It's one that allows for a few gaps that quite probably exist in each timeline. 

As I mentioned, this timeline, as with most I've seen, has some flaws. If you have the time, it can be fascinating to take the various passages and piece together your own timeline. 

While this can be an interesting exercise, none of the gospels were meant to tell the whole story on their own, just parts of it, the parts pertinent to their designated readers. They are not really meant to be harmonized. They are intended to give us different perspectives on the history-changing events surrounding Jesus Christ, His death and His resurrection. None of them are wrong. All of them were inspired through the minds and hearts of human beings, by the Holy Spirit. 

Ultimately, you don't have to struggle with this. It's not necessary for you to figure out every nuance and detail. Instead, allow it be a fascination, Let some of the mystery keep you in suspense. Marvel in the beauty that, for now, we see some things "in a mirror dimly" (1 Cor 13:12). The important thing to know is not who got to the tomb first, but that it was empty.