Category Archives: Christian Life

Strive For Peace With Some People – Hebrews 12:14-16

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal (Hebrews 12:14-16).

PeaceButtonStrive for peace with whom? Well everyone. It says so right there. If you prefer another translation over the ESV like the NASB then it is “all men” while the KJV renders it as “all”. Simple right. Not really because of the phrase that follows: “and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” We certainly should strive for peace wherever possible, but never when it requires us to sacrifice the holiness that is our calling in Christ Jesus.

When we run into these “everyone” type clauses in Scripture, one helpful method I learned somewhere was to try to better define the “everyone” and re-read the passage with the fuller definition. For example, let’s replace “everyone” with “everyone in the entire world” in those verses quoted above. We want to use this method of expanding the definition in the full context in cases like this where the same group is being talked about. If we stopped at the end of the first clause of verse 14, it would not help us. So, let’s give it a try:

Strive for peace with everyone in the entire world, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one in the entire world fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up in the entire world  and causes trouble, and by it many in the entire world become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy in the entire world like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

We can see that verses 15 and 16 are continuing the same thought because the author is still covering the topics of peace and holiness. Does it make sense for us to be commanded to see to it that no one in the entire world fails to obtain the grace of God? Or to see that no one in the entire world is sexually immoral? Of course not. So the “everyone” in this context cannot be referring to every man, woman and child in the entire world. So who is it then? Let’s try our little exercise again using “in the Christian church”:

Strive for peace with everyone in the Christian church, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one in the Christian church fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up in the Christian church and causes trouble, and by it many in the Christian church become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy in the Christian church like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.

That makes perfect sense. Of course we want to strive for peace with every true believer. Of course we do not want bitterness between believers in the church. Of course we do not want to have peace with the sexually immoral who may be residing in our churches. And the author was writing this to a group of Christians.

A lot of times these days we Christians are made to feel guilty if we do not embrace sin or if we condemn false teachers. Somewhere this idea began floating around that we sheep must make peace with the wolves who are trying to devour us! But, we can look to the example of Jesus who did NOT pursue peace with everyone in the entire world:

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:13-17).

The wolves had invaded the temple. Jesus, the shepherd, did not invite these wolves over for a nice warm cup of coffee and some pastries to discuss peace terms with them. And neither should we! He drove them out because they were putting a barrier between the people and God. These were enemies of Jesus and the Father. Jesus could not have peace with them because it would have required sacrificing his holiness and turning his back on the unholy activities that were polluting God’s house. Jesus would have had to sacrifice his love for the Father, his love for those who were trying to come to worship, and even his love for these sellers and money-changers that perhaps had never even stopped to think of the wrong they were doing.

Armored_knight_2Do not let the world condemn you for not seeking peace with them. Remember that we are at war. It is a spiritual war, but a war none the less. And there are people and powers that want nothing more for God’s children and God’s church to lay down our weapons and accept their peace terms. Peace terms that require us to turn our backs on God and the only gospel that saves. Rather than always pursuing peace, sometimes we must pick up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God and fight because the gates of hell shall not prevail against us!

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Yet I Will Rejoice – Habakkuk 3:17-19

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

This passage, and the book of Habakkuk in general, has at times been both my most favorite and least favorite in the whole Bible. We can all relate to the cry of Habakkuk at the beginning of this book:

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? (Habakkuk 1:2).

Unfortunately, the Lord’s answer to Habakkuk was not very satisfying. God only told Habakkuk things would be getting worse, not better. I was reminded of this passage last night when I learned that a dear friend was diagnosed with cancer. Why Lord?

Not many of us today have vineyards or stalls for our livestock. However, we all have the things of this world that are important to us and even dear to us. Our jobs, our homes, our health, our friends, and our families. If those were to be taken from us, then what?

Habakkuk realized that even if everything else was taken from him, the Lord God would remain. And that was enough. Enough not only to survive, but enough to rejoice. Rejoice in Him. Rejoice in our God who is also our Savior. Rejoice in His promises. Rejoice that we are merely pilgrims passing through this sinful land on our way to the homes that Jesus has prepared for us.

I have to admit that I do not feel like rejoicing much today. However, just like the Apostle Peter responded when times got tough and many other disciples were turning away,

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68).

I can look to the world and there are no answers. I can look to myself and there are no answers. I can look to Jesus and there are promises of eternal life. To whom else could we go? No one else. Because “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

So, in the end, I can only look to Jesus and that empty cross and, with Habakkuk, take joy in the God of my salvation.

 

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Let Us Not Grow Weary – Galatians 6:9

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:9-10).

It has been over a month since my last blog post. It started off as a couple of days of sabbatical while I traveled for work. It continued a little longer while I took care of a number of busy home and family things like moving. And then was compounded by a weariness from fighting and seemingly losing every spiritual battle.

whack-a-moleIt had begun to feel like I was playing Whac-A-Mole trying to fight off the false teachings and teachers that were popping up from every corner of my life. And every time I turned one way to beat down one of those pesky moles, someone would sneak up behind me to lovingly caress those moles and give me and my mallet the evil eye. And that does not even begin to address the sinful thoughts in my own life that pop up. Hitting my head with the mallet is not very productive.

But the time away from writing on this blog also meant less time in God’s word. Less time reflecting on how God is at work in my life. Less time pondering his holiness and the goodness of his mercy. Less time in marveling at his perfect plan of salvation. And a surprisingly fast drift away from God. Kind of like the book of Judges. Only faster.

choc_chipsIt was basically like my physical exercise. The less I exercise, the more tired I feel and the less I feel like exercising. It is a downward spiral that ends with my hand rummaging around the bottom of an empty bag of chocolate chips while I loosen my belt another notch. Not good. Eventually I have to decide to just get on that treadmill and run even when I do not really feel like it.

How much more damaging when I weary of being with God? I finally decided that I have to get back to this spiritual exercise of writing merely to keep me drawing near to God. It has meant some changes to my comments policy to try to fight off the weariness. But I have learned that this blog is one of the ways that God has equipped me to fight my own spiritual battles by forcing me to continuously pick up the sword of the Spirit.

So, God willing and whether any one reads them or not, on this blog I will be back to rejoicing in the goodness of the almighty, unchanging, sovereign, holy God and his perfect plan of salvation. And back to whacking those pesky, heretical moles. Universalism – WHACK! False prophecy – WHACK! Evolution – WHACK! Roman Catholicism – WHACK! Women pastors and elders – WHACK! Mormonism – WHACK! Homosexual marriage – WHACK! Prosperity gospel – WHACK! Aigghh! They never stop!

Come Lord Jesus!

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When Old Words Become New

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11).

toothThis past Sunday, a friend at church described her recent discovery of a teaching in Proverbs that contradicted both her own beliefs and what the world regularly teaches. There were three aspects of this brief conversation that really stood out to me:

  1. Her joy and amazement in learning something new from the Bible after studying it for years. She even happily remarked that Proverbs is one of her favorite books, but that she had missed this teaching for so many years.
  2. Her willingness to throw aside her old beliefs and happily grab on to God’s teaching.
  3. Her openness in sharing this event.

Now, this was not a major shift like moving from a false gospel to the true, live saving gospel. This was merely a little nugget she had discovered in a single verse of Proverbs. It would have been so easy for her to simply keep quiet, think this was not a major discovery worth sharing, or perhaps be too embarrassed to admit she had held some wrong ideas in the past.

neon_signBut her willingness to share her joy in this new discovery was a great encouragement to me. To hear her passion about God’s word provided motivation for me to continue to study Scripture. There are so many similar nuggets just waiting for me to find! To see how easily she cast away falsehood to grab onto God’s truth was inspiring. And it was a neon sign reminding me why God’s saints should join together in worship, study and fellowship each Lord’s day.

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Errors at The Junia Project – Part 5

This is the 5th and final post in a series reviewing a recent blog article entitled God Sends Both Men AND Women by Susanna Krizo published at The Junia Project. Here are the links to parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this series.

More than one woman found herself [after the Civil War] without a suitor—and a purpose for her life (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

Straw-manOur purpose in life is to glorify God—whether married or single. Many women (and women) desire to be married, but do not believe they have no purpose for their lives. Again, it appears the Krizo has set up another straw man argument that she can easily attack. On the contrary, the apostle Paul was single, did not lack for purpose in his life and even commends the unmarried:

But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I (1 Corinthians 7:8).

The Bible never teaches that a woman without a suitor (or a man without a wife) has no purpose in life. On the contrary, the Bible makes it clear that the unmarried have some advantages in being able to better focus on serving the Lord outside of their families:

But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.  This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

Returning to Krizo’s article:

Necessity should never be a guide for morals, for truth must be obeyed regardless of circumstances. Yet, sometimes necessity forces us to give up beliefs and practices that are against God’s will (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

I agree that perceived necessity must never be a guide for our morals—this is pragmatism. Unfortunately, Krizo has employed pragmatic argumentation at many points in her article. But which beliefs and practices are against God’s will? I think she is referring to the belief and practice that women cannot be missionaries. But, because she has brought in the subject of marriage and used inaccurate definitions of apostles, it is not immediately clear what belief and practice she is arguing against. Nor has she demonstrated from the Bible how any particular belief or practice is against God’s will.

If a woman can choose missions and remain single for life, is a woman’s created role, her purpose, solely that of a wife and a mother? How can it be? (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

Again, who is Krizo arguing against? Are there people who argue that a woman’s sole purpose  for life is to be a wife and mother? Perhaps. But that position can be easily refuted from Scripture. Also I do not understand the mixing of missions with singleness. How is that relevant?

Singleness is a gift from God. It allows people to follow God wholeheartedly without distractions (1 Cor 7:32-25). But when marriage is presented as the only success story  for Christian women, it is almost impossible for those not married not to view themselves as failures. Of course family is an important part of life, but it isn’t the only thing, nor was it meant to be. The church needs women willing to shoulder responsibilities where married women with young children cannot; there are more opportunities available than there are hours in a day. If marriage was the answer to all of life’s problems, God would have told us so. But he didn’t, so why insist he did?

Now, I am not sure who is teaching that marriage and family are the only success stories for Christian women. Nor have I heard anyone teaching that marriage is the answer to all of life’s problems. Such a person could not have ever been married and could not have actually known any married couples! Unfortunately, Krizo provides only a reference to her own book here, so I cannot comment on the possible sources of these comments.

Let’s not waste any more time. There is so much to do, so little time. Dear sisters, if you have heard the voice of God, embrace your calling, your place in the Kingdom. The church needs you, the world needs you, and God is more than willing to send you. Why shouldn’t you go? (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

Agreed. To a point. There is much to do and so little time. However, we must remember that this blog article was posted at The Junia Project. They are teaching that “women are called to serve at all levels of the Church.” There are countless unique callings available for both men and women. However, it is always within God’s guidelines. For example, since no woman can be a husband, that means no women can be pastors or elders or deacons. No matter how badly it may appear that the church and the world needs them. No matter how strongly it feels like God is calling them or gifting them for that type of service. No matter what percentage of so-called “Christian” churches may be putting them in their pulpits today.

targetNow, this may come as a surprise, but I believe that both married and single women can serve as Christian missionaries, as long as the specific missionary tasks and roles are not specifically prohibited by Scripture. We have to define what we mean by missionary. My point of this series was not to argue against women serving as Christian missionaries, but to point out the poor method of argumentation used in this particular article. We need to understand how to think rather than just be told what to think.

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Errors at The Junia Project – Part 4

This is part 4 of a series reviewing a recent blog article entitled God Sends Both Men AND Women by Susanna Krizo published at The Junia Project. Here are the links to parts 1, 2 and 3 of this series.

As was discussed previously in this series but will be repeated here, we cannot universally equate the term apostle with church leaders such as pastors and elders:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12)

The apostles Paul and Peter were certainly prophets and evangelists. But not all evangelists are prophets. Both Peter and Paul were part of the special classes of apostle that were called directly by Jesus. Peter and Paul performed miracles and wrote Scripture. This type of apostle no longer exists today. We cannot use the examples of Peter and Paul to define modern missionaries. They are a completely different category of apostle and basically irrelevant to the discussion of whether or not God sends men and women as missionaries today. This is a category error.

Paul and Peter weren’t the only apostles. The Bible mentions nearly twenty apostles by name, and one of them is a woman (Rom 16:7) (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

I agree that Paul and Peter were not the only apostles. Does Krizo believe anyone thinks this? This is a red herring designed to further confuse the issue.

For centuries, the apostle Junia has either been transformed into a man by translators, or ignored. But we cannot ignore her anymore (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

Actually, there has been some debate since the first couple centuries of the New Testament church about whether or not Junia was a man or a woman. There is even some debate as to how to render Romans 16:7 as to whether or not Junia was actually considered an apostle or was known merely known by and/or working with the apostles. Junia has not been “transformed into a man” or “ignored.” Krizo is again reverting to inflammatory language. Compare the translations from the ESV, NIV and KJV Bibles:

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me (ESV, Romans 16:7).

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (NIV, Romans 16:7).

Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me (KJV, Romans 16:7).

None of these three translations ignores Junia. But neither do any of the three make it perfectly clear as to whether or not Junia was an apostle or was just highly esteemed by the apostles.

Despite some debate as to whether or note Junia is a man or a woman and whether or not Junia is even called an apostle in Romans 16:7, I am willing to allow for the sake of argument that Junia is a female apostle. Now, we have to look at the list of 6 types of apostles described yesterday and decide which type of an apostle . Clearly she is not one of the original 12, not Matthias, not Paul, not Jesus and not a false apostle. That means Junia is one of those messengers who is sent out by the church. Not the type of apostle who performs miracles or writes Scripture. Equating Junia with the apostles Peter and Paul is misleading and confusing.

We have hundreds of thousands of women apostles preaching the Gospel around the world. If these women exist, why wouldn’t Junia? If our church sends women as apostles, why wouldn’t the early church? (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

cart-before-the-horseThis is putting the cart before the horse. We should never weigh the Bible using our experiences. And Krizo appears to be trying to equate Junia as an apostle with Peter and Paul as apostles since these are the only three she refers to by name. And she does so without delineating that they are different types of apostles.

Furthermore, this twisted form of logic can be used to directly contradict the Bible. We have thousands of women serving as pastors and elders in churches around the world. If our churches today have women as pastor and elders, why wouldn’t the early church? Oh right, because women do not and can not possess all of the Biblical qualifications to be pastors and elders.

Another uncomfortable question raised by the existence of women apostles is the woman’s “role” (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

I am not sure why this is an uncomfortable question. Just because we may disagree with The Junia Project’s stance on women in church leadership does not mean the related questions make us uncomfortable. Again, it appears Krizo is trying to use inflammatory, emotional arguments. And, she never make clears in the article what she means by “role.” She poses the vague question, but never addresses it.

Many of the women who joined missions in the 19th century remained single by necessity. The absence of six hundred thousand men left a vacuum in all of society, not just the church (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

Absolutely true. The shortage of men would prevent some women from marrying. Just as a shortage of women in China today due to sex-selective abortions means that many men are unable to marry. So what? What does singleness have to do with being a missionary? Is that a Biblical qualification?

So, for a quick recap of day 4…continuing conflation of the complex term apostle into a single meaning, red herrings, and yet more inflammatory and emotional language. But no good, clear Biblical argumentation for her position. And here is the link to Day 5.

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Errors at The Junia Project – Part 3

This is part 3 of a series reviewing a recent blog article entitled God Sends Both Men AND Women by Susanna Krizo published at The Junia Project. Here are the links to parts 1 and 2 of this series.

By 2001 nearly 60 percent of the world’s missionaries were women. That trend began during the second wave of modern missions – and was catapulted into being through the American Civil War, when six hundred thousand men lost their lives (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

LemmingsUnfortunately, Krizo does not supply a reference for her data regarding missionaries. Is that Christian missionaries? Appealing to a 60 percent figure is merely the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum. If 60 percent of the world’s lemmings are jumping off cliffs, it must be good, right? Even if the 60 percent figure is accurate, she has still not addressed whether or not it is Biblical. And, I have previously addressed the issue of loss of life during the Civil War as being insufficient to require that women be sent as missionaries. The question we are still waiting to be addressed by this article—is it Biblical?

With such significant loss of male leadership, earning ability, and traditional roles in some families, women stepped up to rebuild both the American nation and also the American church. Facing the possibility of a halted work, the church agreed to send women to every corner of the world to proclaim the Gospel (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

Rebuilding the nation is not the same as rebuilding the church. And, Krizo has not established that the church even needed to be rebuilt. In addition, sending missionaries to every corner of the world would have actually detracted from the rebuilding of the nation and the church. They cannot be in both places at the same time.

Alternatively we could use her argument of the “loss of male leadership, earning ability, and traditional roles in some families” to justify all sorts of behaviors that are non-Biblical. If there were not enough Christian men to go around, why not approve polygamy and move away from those traditional family stereotypes? This would have solved the male leadership problem by letting one male lead multiple women and families. It also would have increased the birth rate to more quickly repopulate the nation and the church. As I hope you can see, appealing to pragmatism can lead to all sorts of problems. We have to use the Bible to guide us.

But why is it that more than a hundred years later, the church hasn’t ceased sending women, although the pool of available men has been replenished? Maybe God likes the idea of sending men and women. Maybe God has always sent men and women (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

Maybe God does like the idea of sending women and maybe God has always sent men and women. But we would need to address the issue from the Bible, not from our personal ideas or feelings. And, just because it has been done for more than 100 years does not make it right either. Thankfully, Krizo will now begin trying to use the Bible.

The word “missionary” isn’t found in the Bible; we get the English word from the Latin missio, “sent” (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

It is true that the term missionary is not found in most English Bibles.

Instead, the Bible talks about apostles, who were entrusted with the preaching of the Gospel to specific people groups (Gal 2:7-9). Paul, for example, spent his life traveling around the Roman Empire preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, while Peter went to his own people living in the Diaspora. (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

Here she is equating our modern English term “missionary” with the the Biblical term “apostle.” However, the Bible uses the term apostle many different ways. The term apostle simply means “sent one.” Depending upon context, the Greek term for apostle is sometimes translated as “apostle” and sometimes as “messenger.” In the New Testament the term “apostle” is used to describe several different types of people:

  1. The original 12 apostles appointed by Jesus (Acts 1:1; 1:13; plus Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus).
  2. Matthias who was selected to replace Judas Isacariot (Acts 1:26). In the Acts passage, this type of apostle must meet specific criteria: “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).
  3. Paul (Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, Galatians 1:1, many others).
  4. Jesus (Hebrews 3:1)
  5. Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and other various apostles who are sent as messengers. For example: “And as for our brothers, they are messengers [apostles] of the churches, the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 8:23). Also, “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger [apostle] and minister to my need (Philippians 2:25).
  6. False apostles. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13).

As you can see, the term apostle can mean several different things depending upon its context. We cannot simply equate it with the English term missionary. And, as was discussed previously but will be repeated here, we also cannot equate it with church leaders such as pastors and elders:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12)

Returning to Krizo’s article:

Instead, the Bible talks about apostles, who were entrusted with the preaching of the Gospel to specific people groups (Gal 2:7-9). Paul, for example, spent his life traveling around the Roman Empire preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, while Peter went to his own people living in the Diaspora. (Krizo, God Sends Both Men AND Women).

Even this analysis of Paul and Peter over simplifies their apostleship. Their apostleship was not limited to preaching the Gospel to specific people groups. For example, while Paul’s focus was the Gentiles he also regularly preached the Gospel to Jews in synagogues in Salamis (Acts 13:5), Antioch-Pisidia (Acts 13:14-16), Thessalonica (Acts 17:1–3), Athens (Acts 17:16-17), and many other places.

So, what have we identified during today’s review of this article? Unsupported and irrelevant data, an appeal to the popular, more pragmatism, and a poor teaching on the topic of apostleship in which the various categories of apostleship is ignored.

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