Sunday, May 30, 2010

Women in Leadership

I enjoyed the Gifted to Lead conference I attended last week. It was particularly focused on women in leadership in churches and I was personally challenged about using my gifts. One of the things that was said was in regard to the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). When we get to heaven and God asks us what we did with the gifts he has given us I won’t be able to say I didn’t use them because I’m a woman.

In the booklet we were given there was a statement from the Willow Creek Community Church Elders about women and men in ministry and I have copied part of that statement here:

In the formation of the church at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on women and men alike, as had been predicted long before the coming of Christ (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:18). In the New Testament, women as well as men exercise prophetic and priestly functions (Acts 2:17-18, 1 Corinthians 11:4-5, 1 Peter 2:9-10). Further, the Spirit bestows gifts on all members of the New Community sovereignly, without giving anyone preferential treatment based on gender (Acts 2:1-21, 1 Corinthians 12:7,11). Every believer is to offer her of his gifts for the benefit of the Body of Christ (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Peter 4:10-11). To prevent believers from exercising their spiritual gifts is to quench the work of the Spirit.

In all attempts to understand and put into practice appropriate relationships between genders in the body of Christ, our sole authority is the will of God as expressed in Scripture. A few isolated scriptural texts appear to restrict the full ministry freedom of women. The interpretation of those passages must take into account their relation to the broader teaching of Scripture and their specific contexts. We believe that, when the Bible is interpreted comprehensively, it teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness, and opportunity of ministry.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gifted to lead

I'm attending the Gifted to Lead Conference where Nancy Beach from Willow Creek is the speaker. I'll be back in a couple of days.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 11:25

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 1 Corinthians 11:25

We have taken communion so many times it is easy to take our forgiveness for granted. We may even start to feel entitled to God’s blessings. We get lulled into thinking that because we believe in God in a godless world; because we adhere to moral absolutes in an immoral world; because we treat others well in a loveless world, we are somehow entitled to God’s blessings and protection.

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, the minor prophets, all dispel the myth that God promises a reasonable limit on catastrophes for his people. Back then the Jews thought they were safe in Jerusalem. After all God had promised David that one of his descendants would always sit on the throne and the Messiah would come from his line. They thought God had guaranteed them protection. However they found themselves living in exile, with no king, Jerusalem in ruins, and the temple destroyed. Some days we may feel the same. Where is the blessing and protection of God?

We underestimate our sin and God’s determination to rid us of all that is unholy in our lives. It seems God will use crises and tragedies to achieve our sanctification. Hannah Hurnard describes God’s love like this, in Hinds’ Feet on High Places: Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible – terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.

Communion eliminates any sense of entitlement to God’s blessings. Communion reminds us it was our sins that put God’s Son on a cross. We are not entitled to anything; however He is entitled to our very lives.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

What helps you hear God?

I am looking forward to the French Open which starts tomorrow night (my time) and it started me thinking about training. Tennis players put in a lot of effort to be physically fit for the two week competition and we often use physical training as an analogy for spiritual disciplines, such as Bible reading, studying, praying, fasting, meditating etc. While analogies are helpful and useful, at some point they usually break down.

Tennis players rely on doing certain exercises, certain drills, and certain work outs to get the results they want. However, spiritually we can’t rely on a certain spiritual discipline to get us the result we want. The purpose of a spiritual discipline is to put us before God so He can work on us. So it is not about us becoming proficient at a particular discipline, but rather about being open before God. It is not about which particular disciplines we are good at, but rather which ones help us to hear God.

I’m not dismissing the value of spiritual disciplines but it is important not to get so caught up in the practice of a discipline that we forget why we are doing it. We need to remember that it is God who sanctifies us, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). So it is not so important which spiritual disciplines we embrace because, unlike the training tennis players do, any spiritual discipline, done with the right attitude, can achieve the purpose of putting us before God.

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Will you come to the banquet?

"For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Gilbert Bilezikian has captured the essence and significance of these words...he points out that the "king had not predetermined the decisions of those who turned down the invitation or of those who accepted it. Becoming part of the "chosen" had been their choice all along.

From Truth Aflame by Larry Hart (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005). Pg 452

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 12:22-24

On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body… 1 Corinthians 12:22-24

Paul begins this chapter by saying he does not want us to be ignorant about spiritual gifts and then moves on to talk about the Body of Christ. By beginning with spiritual gifts Paul is pointing out that we all have at least one gift and therefore a part to play. Then Paul uses the analogy of the Body which teaches us that while everyone has a part to play not everyone gets the same attention. Some roles are more public or more “presentable” and get noticed, while others perform roles that are rarely seen.

In the Message, Eugene Peterson makes the observation, “You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach.” So just because someone plays a background role it doesn’t mean it is not important. Yet even if God asks us to play a role that never gets any attention, we know God notices. For we have a “Father, who sees what is done in secret” and he will reward us (Matthew 6:6).

Paul points out that it is God who “has combined the members of the body” and the way God puts together a team is not the way we would. The 12 disciples were an odd group of people to bring together – uneducated fishermen, political activists, and a Roman collaborator. Nevertheless we honour God when we have “equal concern for each other” (v.25) and commit to working together as the Body of Christ.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

God has his eye on us

This week at work, I had the opportunity of telling one of my favourite stories, There’s no such thing as a dragon by Jack Kent. It was written in 1975 but I believe it has been republished. It’s a great story and the pictures are terrific too.

The story begins with Billy waking up one morning to find a small dragon on the end of his bed. His mother insists there is no such thing as a dragon and proceeds to ignore it. But the more Billy and his mother ignore the dragon the bigger it gets, until it chases a bakery truck down the road taking the house with it. After that the dragon can no longer be ignored and it shrinks down to its original size. The story finishes with a great line. When Billy’s mother asks why the dragon grew so big, Billy replies: I’m not sure, but I think it just wanted to be noticed.

This is easily applied to children who misbehave simply to gain attention but I wonder if adults do it too?

Some people act smarter/dumber than they are; poorer/richer than they are; or simply more helpless than they are, in order to gain attention. Yet if we are Christians we are growing in our understanding of God's acceptance of us and even when others ignore us we know that God still has his eye on us.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Heidelberg Catechism re: faith alone

The Heidelberg Catechism was written in 1563. This particular question/answer explains the Christian viewpoint of salvation being my faith alone.

Question:
How are you right with God?
Answer:
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ
Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments
and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil
nevertheless
without my deserving it at all
out of sheer grace
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner
as if I had been perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient to me
All I need to do
is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 10:1-3

…our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food… 1 Corinthians 10:1-3 (my emphasis added)

Despite the Israelites all going through the same experiences they did not all have the same response. Some responded in faith, most did not. We may sit in church week after week with the same people and go through the same experiences but it doesn’t mean we are all responding to God.

We may have heaps of spiritual experiences like the Israelites who saw many miracles, the Red Sea parting, water from a rock, manna that appeared daily from heaven. Yet seeing miracles was not enough to change them. They were involved in partaking of the manna, drinking the water, walking through the Red Sea on dry land but even that was not enough to cause them to act in faith and in the end “their bodies were scattered over the desert” (v.5).

What about us? How will we respond? Will we respond in faith, regardless of other people, regardless of whether we see God work in amazing ways or not? When things go badly will we continue to believe in God? Will we become disillusioned with God when He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we think He should? Likewise if things go well in our lives will we continue to believe in God? If we have no need of God, will we continue to respond in faith?

In v.11 tells us: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.” Will we take the warning and regardless of circumstances and other people’s responses, have our own faith in God?

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Philanthropy

Today I was reading a book at the library where I work about philanthropy. It is quite remarkable the number of trusts that have been set up by wealthy people with a view to providing funds for charitable works. Getting a grant from these trusts requires meeting certain criteria and writing a detailed submission. Maybe creating a trust is a way for people to feel they can have significance after they have died. Perhaps leaving a legacy makes them feel that their life continues after they are gone. So while are newspapers are filled with so much bad news there is a lot of good things going on which gets very little airspace. Yet in spite of this there seems to be needs everywhere. I guess it just goes to show we need more than money to solve people’s problems.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

God's will

What I’ve been reading about God’s will:

God’s will can be summarized under three rubrics:

1) There are some things that God decides will happen, and they do happen (eg. Jesus’ crucifixion, Acts 2:23)
2) There are things that God desires but he allows a decision on our part (eg. It is not his will that any should perish, 2 Peter 3:9)
3) There are some things that we desire and God permits (eg. Do your best to get here before winter, 2 Timothy 4:21)

God’s will is not some rigid blueprint in which one wrong decision ruins his plans for us for the rest of our lives. God is more like a master chess player who is about a million games ahead of us…God knows how to get us where he wants us. He knows how to complete his purposes for our lives. He can even turn our blunders into good.

And also this:
God’s Sovereignty is so powerful that he does not need to micromanage to have everything under his control and working towards his chosen ends.

Excerpts from Truth Aflame by Larry Hart (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005). Pg 183 & 56

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Devotional Thought : 1 Corinthians 9:6-7

Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? 1 Corinthians 9:6-7

When you read these verses it becomes apparent that Paul and Barnabas were the exception. Paul and Barnabas worked at tent making (Acts 18:3) while they preached the gospel. However it seems “the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas” (v.4-5) did not have secular jobs. It shows us the very individual nature of the call of God.

We know from Acts that the apostles knew the importance of giving their “attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:3-4). Yet Paul was able to combine tent making with an effective ministry. I’ve noticed when listening to missionaries speak, that there are a variety of ways they gain financial support. God seems to enjoy diversity.

We cannot put God in a box and insist that everyone does ministry the same way. I’ve heard people say that all pastors should be like Paul or that all churches should be like the New Testament church. The problem is that we see so many different leadership styles and models in the New Testament and God used them all. Our focus needs to be on how does God want us to minister to our community in our culture?

Furthermore what is God saying to me? I can’t assume that God’s plan for me is going to be exactly the same as someone else’s. I have to discover how God wants to equip me for the things he has called me to do. I have to find the particular path God wants me to follow.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Theology : Trinity

Lately I have been writing a few posts about theology and today I thought I would write about the Trinity. I typed “trinity” into clip art and this picture appeared. It’s one of those clever things; what you focus on determines what you see. It seemed an appropriate diagram to begin a discussion about the Trinity.

Basically the Trinity means three persons in one Godhead. Some people don’t believe in the trinity because the word is not in the Bible; however the concept is. I don’t think God would objective to us coming up with a word to help us understand him better. Nevertheless if you have a problem with the word, trinity, that’s fine. If you have a problem with the concept than that is a more serious concern.

The Trinity emphasizes an important truth which is God the Father is God (1 Corinthians 8:6), Jesus Christ is God (John 20:28), and the Holy Spirit is God (Ephesians 4:30). Yet we believe in one God. While this is hard to comprehend I think we need to bear in mind that if we could understand God with our finite minds then he wouldn’t be much of a God.

Some say that Jesus never claimed to be God which I find quite strange. I mean the very reason the Jews orchestrated his death was because he was claiming to be God (John 5:17-18).

It is also interesting that in Genesis 1:1 we find: “In the beginning God created…” The word for God is plural but it is followed by a singular verb. In v.26 we find: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image…”

These verses have led some to refer to God as “they” which isn’t unscriptural as God has used plural words to refer to Himself. As long as we remember, “…the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mark 12:29).

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