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Mine! Mine!

Alternatively titled, “What you won’t hear the Apostle Paul say.”

I’ve been chewing on this for a little while as I work my way through Paul’s epistles. During this project, I’ve discovered a funny side effect of getting to know the biblical authors better: I get annoyed when people say things about them that I don’t think are true. In this case, I found myself chafing at a rather pervasive idea commentators seem to have have about Paul. Many of them consider him to be quite possessive of the churches he planted.

At one level, I can see how they could arrive at this conclusion. With texts like these…

Ga 4:16-17; 5:12 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. …I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!

2Co 10:13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us–a sphere which especially includes you.

2Co 11:5 For I consider that I am not at all inferior to the most eminent apostles…

2Co 12:11 …I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles…

…it’s easy to walk away with the idea that Paul was a little jumpy about losing his ministry base. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians

 

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The Offensiveness of Truth and the Truth about Offense

Seeker-friendly. That title alone is enough to induce a bitter taste in the mouths of a lot of Bible-believing Christians. While no one will argue against increasing accessibility for those who want to be saved, that goal has been pursued in a lot of unhelpful ways. Too often, churches have compromised or abandoned their message in order to avoid accidentally offending someone. Too many preachers have focused so hard on making their hearers feel comfortable that they neglect to actually say anything of substance.

In reality, there is an inherently offensive dimension to the Gospel. Self-righteous, independent humans don’t like being told they’re lost sinners who must cast themselves on the mercy of a God they’ve never seen, and thereafter obey Him. People overly concerned with being nice and inclusive chafe at the idea that there is only one Way to the Father. Naturalistic intellectuals will scoff at the idea that some God-Man will come in the sky and set up a thousand-year kingdom. God Himself, speaking of the first coming of His Son, said, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense…” (Rom 9:33). He knew that many pride-blinded sinners would not be willing to receive Him.

Thus, it is more than fair to say that the Gospel — undiluted and straightforward — is offensive to the unredeemed human heart. It may even be fair to say that a presentation of the Gospel that does not strike that chord of, “Wait… what?!” very well may have missed the way Scripture speaks of it.

Truth is often offensive. Messengers and leaders in the Body of Christ ought not to shrink back from being truthful for fear of bothering someone.

However, and equally importantly, not all that offends is truth. Messengers and leaders in the Body of Christ (especially the younger ones) do well to take this seriously. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in My Two Cents, Theology

 

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Saying “Don’t despise me, old people!” probably won’t work

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

Currently, I am on a study track that is taking me through Paul’s epistles. This started by remembering being in one of Allen Hood’s classes about six years ago, when he told us, “You need to make friends with some dead guys!”

Now, before anyone gets too weirded out, this is not in the Sixth Sense vein (“I see dead people!”) or in the light-some-candles-and-get-out-the-Ouija-board vein. What Allen was talking about is getting to know the Biblical authors and characters. This means seeing and being inspired by their lifestyles, successes, struggles, hardships, and victories. It means observing how God moved in them and through them in their unique lives and personalities. If all we do is sift through their works looking for quotable soundbites and cut-and-paste sermon illustrations, we are significantly losing out on some of the richness that God has packed into His Word.

So right now, I’m being intentional about making friends with Paul. We’re presently hanging out in 1 Timothy. I’m finding that the pastoral epistles are incredible opportunities to get to know Paul as not just the powerful apostle, but a father in the house of God. In these books, we get to see some very personal stuff regarding how he cares for the churches, as well as how he cares for the leaders of those churches (Timothy and Titus).

So it’s in writing to Timothy, a “true son in the faith” (1:2), that Paul gives a bit of fatherly advice. This is perhaps the most-quoted — and most-misquoted — verse in the history of church youth groups: “Let no one despise your youth”. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2011 in 1 Timothy, Bible

 

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The Great Equalizer, Illustrated

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “equality” lately. You can’t do even a cursory study of the gender debate without running across this word a lot. There are so many arguments about it — what groups are actually equal with each other; what groups need to be; what groups claim to not have equality, but really do; and, “well, what is your group to tell me that my group doesn’t need it anymore?” etc. etc. There are tons of ideas of how to achieve equality, countless articles searching for the cause of its absence, and lots and lots of finger-pointing and/or self-pity regarding those who get the short end of the stick. It is such a dicey subject.

On one hand, I definitely agree with the overall concept of equality. We in the church are supposed to love, honor, and submit to one another in Christ, so we really should not be seeing vast swaths of people who are being systematically oppressed. We need to treat even unbelievers with kindness. Defending the oppressed is biblical, and it’s a great thing.

But on the other hand, it’s hard to justify by the Sermon on the Mount how it’s okay for any of us to stand up and demand our fair and equal rights. Although it’s right for us to be treated well, it’s not our job to fight tooth-and-nail to make sure that happens. The Bible actually seems to assume that we’ll be mistreated (Matt 24:9; John 16:33; 2Cor 4:8-11; 2Tim 3:12; 1Pet 4:12…just to list a few)! And then it tells us to do ridiculous things like turn the other cheek! But shouldn’t we stand up for what’s right?

Holy ideological minefield, Batman! What do we do now?

As I was mulling over this topic the other day, it struck me how I was coming at it from completely the wrong angle. The Bible actually gives us a really clear picture of what Christ-centered equality looks like. And it looks something like this:  Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2010 in Theology, Women in Ministry

 

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Approaching Gender and Leadership – Part 2

In the previous post, we looked at how our Greek mindset affects the way we view gender. In this post, I want to look at how it affects our view of leadership. We don’t even have to look at the history of Greece to get an idea of what the Greeks thought about it — Jesus told us. “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them” (Mark 10:42). When we do look at history, though, it completely agrees with this witness. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2008 in Women in Ministry

 

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