The “Nashville Statement” Fails to Understand God’s Plan for Women and Men

I will soon write my own post about the Nashville Statement, but I must also share Tim’s post with you. It is an alert most necessary…

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

Most people reading theNashville Statementrecently published by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) will notice the repeated uses of the words “homosexual” and “transgender” in its fourteen articles, which might cause the reader to skip past the importance of Article 4:

We affirm that divinely ordained differences between male and female reflect God’s original creation design and are meant for human good and human flourishing.

We deny that such differences are a result of the Fall or are a tragedy to be overcome.

What are these “divinely ordained differences”? The statement doesn’t say. Other CBMW writings, though, show the difference is that women are subordinate to men in all things: home, work, play, education. If a man and woman are involved, the man takes the lead and the woman follows. Always.

I disagree.

The Bible shows a lot of men and women working and living together…

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If you abide in Me…

 

“What does it mean to abide in Christ?” I have learned a lot of things from a lot of teachers, from elementary school to graduate school, but I have never had an invitation from any of them to abide with them. No doubt I would have learned a lot more if I had but, of course, that would be so very impractical. But, throughout scripture we find the call to abide, or, to remain in relationship and in fellowship with God. To make it all happen, God has come to us in the person of Jesus. Let’s look at what he says about it.

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7

The Greek word for “abide” is not an unusual or special word. It simply means, “to remain”. Jesus describes this in John 15 when he says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

“However strong the branch becomes, however far away it reaches round the home, out of sight of the vine, all its beauty and all its fruitfulness ever depend upon that one point of contact where it grows out of the vine. So be it with us too.”
Andrew Murray, Holy in Christ

While the word for “abide” is simple, the invitation and the urging of Jesus to remain in this fellowship with him is life changing, day after day. Our relationship with the Savior cannot be ended (John 10:27-29), but the quality of our daily fellowship is a product of our daily walk with him.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,… Colossians 2:6

Look back at John 15:7. There is something else to learn here. Jesus tells of a crucial factor of abiding… that of his words abiding in us. Jesus uses an unusual Greek word here for his “words”. I hesitate to talk about this different word, because many religious groups have exploited this word, and have misinterpreted it. They have turned it into a cultic and almost magic but mythical concept. (If you don’t know about the misuse, you are better off. Suffice it to say, that I do not hold to that idea.) While the common word for “word”, Logos, and this different word, Rhema, are often used interchangeably, there is a truth to be found in Jesus’ use of the word. Logos can mean a person’s words, but it can also mean wider concepts, philosophies, systematic teachings, and more. Rhema, simply, is the word that means one’s own personal words, spoken or written in time. One of the most tender moments of a friendship comes when we say to the friend, “I remember when you said to me…” We are often referring to some words we shared, words that we now cherish, words which continue to change our lives. I believe this is the sound and meaning that Jesus brings to John 15:7. It was the same sound and meaning found in Psalm 119:11.

“Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.”

Abiding is about remaining in active fellowship, communicating genuinely with Jesus, and taking in his words, letting them change us. This is a walking and praying life, in fellowship with Jesus. John talked about it later when he wrote to the early church.

“As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. …….Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”  I John 2:24, 28

We often hear the question, “What would Jesus Do?” The truth found in this concept of abiding is that the answer is, “Ask Him.” We learn what he would do from studying his Word, and we learn what he would do from communicating with him, praying, walking in fellowship, and growing in his grace.

The purpose is His, He will carry it out; the fruit is His, He will bring it forth; the abiding is His, He will maintain it.”
Andrew Murray, The True Vine

[See John 8:31; John 15; I John 2:6; I John 4:13; Colossians 1:27; 2:6; 3:16]

 

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Teach us to Pray, and to be a Love Group

 

We have been looking at the instances of Jesus praying, and those passages where Jesus taught us more about praying. I am looking at the shorter passages, because the larger passages of Matthew 6, and John 17 need longer development. We looked at Matthew and Mark. Now, let’s look at Luke and John.

(Lk 6:27-28)    27“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

(Lk 11:1-13)
1It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” 2And He said to them, “When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 3‘Give us each day our daily bread.  4‘And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.  And lead us not into temptation.’”

5Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.8“I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

9“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10“For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12“Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

(Jn 14:13-14, see also the fuller context of 8-20)    13“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

(Jn 15:7-8, 16) 7“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

16“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.

(Jn 16:22-24) 22“Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.  23“In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24“Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.

 

The words of Jesus speak for themselves. Permit me a brief summary.

There are so many truths that can be studied here, but let’s look at key words. Like the passages in Matthew and Mark, I see Love your enemies, Bless the curser, and Pray for the mistreater, as well as Forgive, Abide, and the call for persistent prayer. Without repeating myself too much, let me focus in on what John reports in chapter 15. If we abide in Jesus… then all he says about prayer comes together, and so do the passages about the kingdom coming on earth as in heaven. Abiding in Jesus makes it all possible, for us to love even our enemies. In these days when we hear so much about “hate groups”, I could wish the church stood out more as a “love group”.

 

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Learning to Pray, from Jesus

Besides looking at the instances of Jesus praying, there are several challenging passages where Jesus taught us more about praying. I will look at the shorter passages, and not deal with the larger passages of Matthew 6, and John 17, since they can take up more than a few blogs all by themselves. First, here are some from Matthew and Mark.

(Mt 5:44) “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

(Mt 7:7-11)  7“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9“Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10“Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

(Mt 18:19-20)  19“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

(Mt 21:22) “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

(Mark 11:24-26) 24“Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26[“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”]

 

These speak for themselves, of course, but at first look some key words jump out at me… words like- ask, seek, find, knock, believe, forgive, and a startling phrase, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.

The verse, “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Mt 21:22), sure looks like a blank check for the person who wants God to be a heavenly gift dispenser. But, what did Jesus mean when he says to “ask, believing”? I need to understand that more fully, and I need to understand it in the context of all these other words, like ask, seek, find, knock, forgive, and love.

To ask believing, suggests commitment and a trusting heart. The Greek word for believing is the same word translated in other places as commitment or trust. This “believing” part of Matthew 21:22 connects it, as I see it, with all those other words, the asking, as well as the forgiving and the loving, and the seeking and finding that shows these promises are not for the shallow free gift collector, but rather, they belong to the true disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus, the one who showed, more than any other, the wonder of committed love.

Next… a look at similar passages in Luke and John.

 

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Like Jesus Prayed…

Recently, while studying for a class I am teaching about the Lord’s Prayer, I came across a simple and beautiful observation about Jesus and his prayer life. I’ll share it with you.

Now, I will tell you something about my experience in preaching, teaching, or studying the Life of Jesus in the four gospels. This circumstance alone has always made me feel a sense of walking on holy ground. Then particularly, when I look into the discussion of prayer, and when I look at the scriptures about the crucifixion of Jesus, I am peculiarly aware of the need to walk humbly here, and let my soul look up in worship.

But, I often discover that simplicity and beauty go together, and this insight was certainly that kind of insight. While thinking of how to discuss the prayer life of Jesus, I came upon something obvious. There are not many places where the prayers of Jesus are recorded.

There are prayers around mealtime (Matthew 26:26; Mark 8:6; Luke 24:30; John 6:11), and there are those before or after major events such as the calling of the Twelve (Luke 6:12-16), or his Baptism (Luke 3:21). We read prayers of Jesus on the cross (Luke 23:34; Father, forgive them; Matthew 27:46; My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me… quoting Psalm 22; Luke 23:46; Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;) I see 12 places where he taught wonderful things about prayer.

But, I say again, there are not many places where the prayers of Jesus are recorded. John 17, a passage known as the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, is the only lengthy prayer recorded in the Bible, a chapter of 26 verses.

 

 

Then came the insight I am talking about; the beautiful and simple insight. Of course there are not many examples of the prayer times of Jesus. Of course there are so many references to Jesus slipping away to a quiet place alone where he prayed for a time, perhaps all night (Luke 6:12, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.”)

 

 

Yes, of course we don’t have many verbatim recordings in scripture of Jesus’ prayers. He was doing the very thing he had prescribed to us about our prayer life.

  • To pray genuinely and not for show… Many religious leaders in the day of Jesus would have their servants sound trumpets in the streets to announce that the leader would soon be praying there, and that all should come to hear the epic prayer. But Jesus told his followers to pray privately, trusting that the Father would hear and reward them openly. (Matthew 6:1-15)
  • To pray honestly and free of phony religious phrases. (Matthew 6:7) Many shallow religious habits existed in the world of the first century, and still do today. Jesus warned against believing that we will be heard just because we talk a lot.
  • To pray for the kingdom and its coming. As Stan Grenz said in his book, Prayer… The Cry for The Kingdom,

 

“The initial requests —  ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.’, form one overarching petition that is then elaborated in the subsequent supplications. The requests for sustenance, forgiveness, and deliverance are the marks of the presence of the kingdom among us. In this manner, the entire prayer becomes a single petition for the in-breaking of the kingdom into the present.”

When I pray privately, with all the openness and honesty required of a follower speaking with the Lord, Himself… wonder of wonders… I am praying like Jesus prayed in private, and He lovingly hears me.  “Thank You, Lord.”

 

Next… more of Jesus’ words about our prayers.

 

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What Do You Say, Then?

Gerald Ford

There comes that moment when someone we know suffers a loss. A loved one dies, or there is a diagnosis of an awful disease … perhaps there is a loss of a career, or a loss of relationships (divorce, or estrangement in a family). When we find ourselves not knowing what to say, maybe that is just the thing. Maybe we should start with listening. Yes, we begin with an expression of empathy, but then we listen. We find our way to engage and we let the person who is grieving be the main voice. Behind those many things that a person really shouldn’t say, there are some errors, not the least of which is an error about the purpose of these moments.
I may want to tell this person many things, but I am not here to teach. They may need to learn some things, but I am not here to teach. Grief is the result of a loss. It is not a spiritual problem, nor is it a lapse of faith.

When I am experiencing my own grief, the person who helps me the most is the person who is trying to sit with me, and hear me, and encourage me. But the person who helps me the least, and may hurt me, is the person who believes they are the stronger brother or sister trying to “restore” the weaker brother or sister. To that, I have to say that grief is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of a loss… an experience that will become a part of who I am, but not a foreign object which must be cut away. No, don’t take my grief away, and don’t tell me I am a weaker brother. My sadness, when I feel it, is just as “Christian” as is my happiness.

But, while I am at it, let me recall that I am the person with whom I talk the most. I help myself the least when I treat my grief like it is something I am doing wrong, and have got to stop. I help myself the most when I can sit with myself, hear myself, and find encouragement in the truth I know. So, some of my grief is private, some of it can only be done by and for myself. That’s why we call it “sitting with our grief”.

That’s why we should listen with love to our own inner selves. That is also why we need to be mostly a listener when sitting with someone in grief, for while we are doing this, they are talking both with us and with themselves. How can I, or anyone else, fully process anything that I do not first fully experience.

For those who fear that my grief will take over and consume who I am, let me relieve your fear. When I grieve with the kind of grief I am discussing, grief does not consume me… rather, who I am, fully am, consumes the grief, and it becomes an enriching part of who I am.

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Don’t Say It… Don’t Say It…

I am no expert at this, thankfully, but I think I must have picked up some difficult to understand things about grief. I hear it called “sitting with grief”, and maybe we can share our various definitions of it. I get a mental glimpse of it when I am listening to a client talk about their grief, and I am “just sitting there”, but inside myself I am praying with all of my might, and with all of my strength, “Please give me something good to say, and don’t let me say something wrong or insensitive.” Provided I don’t say something insensitive, I will usually hear something about someone who did. It is often about a Bible study group concerning grief. There are many wonderful ones in which people get a lot of help. Yet, my client is highly distressed over what they heard. They heard someone say to them that God will repay them for their grief some “doublefold”, “fourfold”, or even “hundredfold”. But what does that mean? Does it mean they will get two children back for the child they lost, or does it mean they will get one hundred times the “value” of the health they have lost? No, there is no payback that makes grief become acceptable or somehow quick to go away. Comfort, resolution, deep peace; none of these are about payback.

Acceptance may be the first thing to define. Acceptance doesn’t mean we approve of something, or that we no longer feel pain from it. It means that we take it on and experience it with our full mind and spirit. It means we don’t resist it with anger, or avoidance, or demands that the truths change. We sit with it. We experience it and look inside ourselves and then to God to grow in wisdom and in peace. Grief changes over time, as we sit with it, changes into a memorial for our loved ones (or our lost dreams). We feel peace made, and we see a long story, not a short story, of life and love being told.

Explaining God can be a pretty formidable job. If I really was smart, I probably would not try, but my soul has these questions and I have to look into them. Other people ask them, too, and I just can’t leave them with an “I don’t know.” Of course, I know I don’t explain God, but I must grapple with the questions. That’s one way I grow. We live around no end of easy answers, and people who want quick solutions to difficult pains. Maybe people think they have to justify God or make him look good to all, with an assurance that all sorrow will be turned inside out and into something happy. But, I have never seen God work that way. In fact, and here comes a shocking statement… I have come to realize that not even God gets the big things he wants in little periods of time. He wants holiness from us, and that job isn’t through as yet. No, God’s plan of redemption is a long, long plan. One day there will be the fulfillment of his promises to do for our bodies what he has already done for our souls. But, in the meantime, there is grief.

Yes, we grieve not as those who have no hope. But we do grieve as those who do have hope. Hope doesn’t blind us, nor does it show up in clichés or a salve that makes us stop hurting by the end of the day. We sit with grief, with God, and with one another, but not always with answers or quick relief. We heal because of gracious love, because we accept grief, and because we hand compassion back and forth between ourselves as grief does its perfect work. Sometimes we just outgrow the questions. Sometimes we find the search more rewarding than the answers.
More to come…

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Women, Men, and Language: Four Easy Steps to Better Church Leadership

May I share an especially good article by one of the best writers and theologians I know. He says this important information so simply, yet so completely. It is useful for everyone who walks through a church door.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

Naming Rights – what’s in it for women and men?

Which of these sounds most natural to you:

  • Women and men.
  • Girls and boys.
  • Ladies and gentlemen.

If you say the last one, you are probably in the majority of English speaking people. The other two are written in the reverse order of their usual appearance, in that we usually hear or read Men and Women or – perhaps not quite as consistently but still predominantly – Boys and Girls. (Don’t get me started on Ladies and Gentlemen; that phrase carries its own baggage we should dump at every opportunity.)

For the sake of God’s people – women and men both – it’s worth coming out of your comfort zone with language about men and women.

language on women and men.jpg

Tips for doing that well in church are coming up a bit later in this post. First let’s take a look…

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The virtue of Father Christmas

… one of the best I’ve read on the subject. Let me share a blog from Laura Droege.

Laura Droege's blog

tosantaornottosantaThe Christmas conundrum: To allow Santa or to not allow Santa, that is the question.

Of all the things that divide Christians, this has to be one of the most seasonal controversies. Along with Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas,  whether or not to sing Christmas carols in the worship services, etc., this one appears for one month of the year (possibly two, if you begin Christmas festivities before the Thanksgiving turkey is properly digested), disappears for eleven months, and then reappears, just as contentious as before.

Frankly, I’m ambivalent. I’m neither pro-Santa or anti-Santa. My parents believed that it would be too damaging if they lied to me and pretended Santa was real. So I never did the Santa photo or cookie plate on Christmas Eve or had presents under the tree labelled from Santa. Besides, I was terrified of the Santa in the mall. Go sit on a…

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How To Get Along With People Who Voted Differently-5 Suggestions For Saving The World

Good Reading… Let me share

Amy R. Buckley

healthy-conversations“Who’s your candidate?” A Facebook friend asked me last week.

“Only God and the angels know,” I responded.

Truly, only God and celestial beings saw the boxes I colored in, with a black marker, inside a cardboard voting booth. Not even my husband knows. And I’m keeping it that way though anyone who follows me on social media might figure it out.

In our polarized world that rarely practices the discipline of listening—for the sake of mutual understanding—I’m keeping the hard choices of my soul private.

This doesn’t mean I believe politics should be private. It’s just that spilling my thoughts, feelings, and political opinions to everyone has never gone well.

I pause because it’s hard to have healthy discussions. Others react, and I’m tempted to react. These days, it seems the whole world has forgotten that jamming opinions down others’ throats—religious, political and otherwise—does nothing to win friends or…

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