Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for May, 2012

‘Authority’ in the Bible

Okay, answer me this: If women cannot have ‘authority’ over men, and the Bible never contradicts itself, then what in the world did Paul mean when he said that a woman could not have authority over a man?
He obviously did not mean that she could not lead a country. Deborah did, and Miriam (according to Micah) is listed as a ‘leader’ in Israel as well. (Mic 6:4) Junia is an apostle (church-planter) and Phoebe is a deacon, so church leadership is obviously not prohibited, unless the person who gets people saved, organizes the church, puts others they have taught into positions and then moves on to do it again is not really a ‘leader’ and has no ‘real’ authority.
‘Authority’ cannot be listening to God and instructing people (men) regarding what God says or Philip’s four unmarried daughters would not have been given prophecy, it would have been wrong for the men to seek Huldah when there were other male prophets at the time, Miriam would not have been given prophecy since Aaron and Moses were around, and Isaiah’s wife would not have been known as ‘the prophetess’ since Isaiah himself could have done the job. (Do you see where this is going?) So God talks to women, and He expects the men to do what He says through them. Hmm… and this is not authority?
Could it be that Paul was talking about authority in the home? Should women have no authority there? Was God wrong to tell Abraham to listen to his wife and do what she says regarding Ishmael (Gen. 21:12)? Was God wrong to give instructions to Samson’s mother instead of his father when his father was begging to be told as well (Judges 13:8-11)? Was God wrong to give the prophecy about Esau and Jacob to Rebekah rather than Isaac (Gen. 25:23)?
Or, could it be that the KJV actually got it right? That the correct translation of the word here is that women cannot ‘usurp authority’? Could it be that Paul was talking to people, some of whom grew up in a culture where the women ruled the pagan churches and the men were made into eunuchs and he did not want to see that happening in the church? Could it be that he told the women to be silent and ask their husbands because he wanted them to stop talking in church so they would shut up and actually learn- especially if they were to be ‘workers’ in the church? Could it be that the Jewish women, used to being segregated in the synagogues and Temple were used to gossiping and not paying attention and that this is what Paul was trying to change? God knows it would have been difficult for Phoebe to deliver the letter to the church at Rome if she was not to speak!
‘Silent’ can also not mean that women cannot spread the gospel or Jesus would have been in error sending that Samaritan woman away from the well without clear instruction about not telling anyone, and the women at the tomb should not have been entrusted with the first report about the risen Lord. John should also not have written that scandalous letter to the woman in 2 John- according to the ‘rules’ he should have written it to the man of the church who was over her. Unless she was the head of the church that met in her home…

Stress Free Christian Living

The Christian life should be easy, at least when it comes to relationships. Matthew 18 promises us that we cannot be kicked out of fellowship unless we have been more than adequately warned when we mess up. We are also told that all we need to do is repent and we will be forgiven seven times seventy times (which I am told is not a finite number, but actually means ‘a lot’). 2 Corinthians 2:7 also tells us that, when we do repent and come back into fellowship Christians are to ‘forgive and comfort,’ so we can be sure that, if our heart is right, we will be treated with kindness, love and mercy- correct? We are not to judge, unless we really want to be judged by God by the standard we impose on others, and we are always to remember that we too were once sinner, and that it is only by the grace of God that we do not find ourselves in the other person’s position, doing the same things, or worse. So what’s the problem? Why are Christians known as judgmental and unloving? Come on people, relax and love! (I’ve got my ‘hippie’ shirt on today- Can’t you tell?)

Recognize When You Are Just ‘Muddling Through’

God just brought to mind a time when I was talking to a woman I know. She was distraught. She felt like a failure. She could not keep her house clean, her kids looking like angels etc. I laughed. I told her that’s because that’s not how God made you!
Some women are good at being housewives. They love to clean, organize, shop and their house always smells like freshly baked something. Others of us are more like the Proverbs 31 woman. We would rather be out, making our own money, buying a field and managing the vineyard. And that’s okay.
So, what if you are an out and about person who has decided that, based on current circumstances, it is best for you to be home with the children and not conquering the world? You ‘muddle.’ You use your skills the best you can in your current situation. You make it fun- your home does not have to resemble anyone else’s! (novel concept, I know.) Your children are likely like you, and your husband feels blessed to have you, so why not just be- you! But know that you are in the situation with a ‘servant’s heart.’ You are not the woman who paints her wall four times because it is not the right shade of puce (whatever that is). You are who God made you. Figure out who that is, get the stuff you ‘muddle’ with through quickly, and then enjoy, doing the things in life the way only ‘you’ can! (And if you are an awesome housewife, congratulations, enjoy it, but you will have to tell me what that’s like! Though some of you may be an awesome housewife, aching to be home full time, but cannot. You will need to ‘muddle’ too, in a different way…)

Are We Trying to Be Better Than God?

There are three kinds of love that we commonly talk about (even though they are not in the Bible this way).

1. Unconditional Love- Unfortunately we often confuse unconditional love with agape love. God’s love is ‘unconditional’ in that it is available to every human being, but that is not how ‘unconditional’ love is usually defined. When people tell others that they are to love ‘unconditionally’ typically they are telling the other person to act like a doormat. They are to put up with whatever someone does and not say, or do, anything that might upset them. This is not how God loves us, and not how He tells us to love others. In the Bible we are clearly told to do justice, to warn people when they are doing things that are destructive (sinful) and to avoid people who refuse to repent. We do this to protect the innocent (which is sometimes ourselves) as well as to cause them to see that their actions are not good. These are loving gestures. ‘Unconditional love’ causes there to be no consequences for their actions. It is showing partiality, or ‘favoritism’ since the rights of the person who misbehaves on a regular basis are placed above the rights of the person who has done nothing wrong since the innocent person is being asked to just shut up and take it. Shutting up and taking it is not love, and is not Biblical. Sure, there are times to turn the other cheek and to show mercy, but there are also times when justice must be done. (Remember, Jesus also overturned some tables, hit people with his coat and called the Pharisees some not so nice names. He will also come back to finish the war between good and evil and judge, condemning those who would not repent.) Loving people ‘unconditionally’ (not saying anything no matter what they do) is not Biblical, but it is common Christian advice. By loving in this way, we are telling God that we ‘love’ better than He does, since we ‘judge’ no one. Not good.

2. Conditional Love- This love is when a person will only be your friend if you do what they want and agree with everything they believe. While we do not often label it, it is the type of love most often exhibited in our society today. You believe in gay marriage, our relationship just got strained. You vote Republican, while your friend is a Democrat, then you will not be hearing from that person quite as often. Conditional love is controlling. It forces the other person to reconsider sharing their thoughts for fear you will not like them anymore. It causes people to conform. Everyone must keep their house as clean as Martha Steward, breastfeed their babies (which is a great thing, but not something to end a friendship over), wear suits and dresses to church (or not) etc. Why? Why is it so important that we agree on every little thing? Why can’t we sit down and discuss current issues and respect the other person even when they have a different opinion. Why can’t we admit that God made us all unique, and that we will do things in different ways for different reason, and that is okay? By loving in this manner, we are telling God that His love is too freely given, and we can do better by limiting who we put up with.

3. Agape Love- This is the love of God, but often it is defined in ways that are not completely ‘godly.’ Why? Because we like some aspects of God better than others. And at times we wish to apply only certain aspects of God to any given situation. When we want mercy (so we, or people we like, can avoid consequences) we preach a merciful and loving God. When there is a behavior we detest, fear or do not identify with, we want the God of judgment. Rarely do we balance the two. God is a God of mercy. He would like to see us come to Him without much prodding and punishment. But, He is also a God of justice. He knows that if He does not punish sin things will only get worse. So how do we balance the two? We must remember that God’s ultimate goal is for all people to be in a relationship with Him. Where mercy furthers the relationship and leads to repentance, then mercy should be shown. When punishment and harsh words will wake the person up and cause them to realize their mistakes and turn to God for help, then that is the godly solution. Agape love requires wisdom and a knowledge of the situation and the person. (You will find that very little of the Bible can be lived without close relationships.) The person may not always like your decisions when you love them this way, but you are always working towards what is best for them. (Think: parent/child relationships- when you punish a toddler they do not understand or like it, but it is for their own good.) This does not mean that you know it all, are better than them, or even more mature than they are. Loving someone with an attitude where you feel superior and are condescending does not help the situation. God, as Jesus, became a friend and servant to many, never taking the status He deserved. You must make decisions on how you will deal with other people’s actions in your life. Even ignoring things is a decision. Keep in mind though, that in making these decisions you are just doing what every human being does. Do not start thinking that you are the ‘better’ person, or soon it will be you, and your less than humble attitude that other people will be making tough decisions about!

Why I Hate The SAT Style Essay (and think that you should too…)

Okay, google sample SAT essay topics so you are now up to speed (or don’t, you can just take my word for it). If your sample is anything like the many I have seen the first problem is that the questions are leading. They tell you, subtly, exactly what to think. Most high school textbooks are written the same way. This bothers me. Our children are learning how to ‘read’ a situation and provide the ‘right’ answer rather than do research and form their own opinion. Sure, it’s faster to just give the teacher what they want, but is it better?
Next, read the ‘perfect 12’ (12 is the top score) essays. I’ll wait. First, they are all written in the same format: introduction, three supporting paragraphs, conclusion. Who writes like that? Good writers most certainly do not. Where is the creativity that makes an author great? It’s not there. I am assuming that there are talented writers coming out of our high schools still, but the grading formulas we use are obviously not going to reward them for their talent. Apply the standard essay grading system (you can google that too) to any great piece of work. Chance are the author would not get an ‘A.’ Good writing uses words in a way that is unique. In a way that captures a reader’s attention and gets the point across. Standard writing formats inhibit that process, so why are we rewarding them?
Next, notice the arguments in the essay. Most of the essays pair a strength of the thing the writer is for, with a weakness of what he is against. This is not a valid argument. This is called ‘stacking the deck.’ No wonder our kids can’t think. We are teaching them to ‘prove their point’ using unfair methods.
Also notice that the instructions tell you to support your position. Home schoolers especially have a hard time with this. Why? Because they are used to talking to moms who frequently play the devil’s advocate. They learn to be honest about the pluses and minuses of both sides and feel free to admit that in some cases changes in the situation will change which method is right for you. They understand that many times, neither side is all good, or all bad, and are willing to admit it. They do not therefore fully support either side. While their essay is ‘flawed,’ their logic and intellectual honesty is not. But isn’t this what we should be striving for?
The next time your child has to write an essay then look at the question. Ask them what they really think about the issue. Point out words that lead them to ‘know’ which side the author of the question wants them to be on so that they are less likely to fall for these tricks as adults so they can think and not be ‘led’ into an opinion. Then ask them to honestly examine both sides of the issue, stating the plusses, and minuses of each side, being sure to honestly examine the negatives of the side you prefer, since that is the one you will be implementing if this were real. Most things in life are not black and white. In feeding the poor, we take the chance of keeping those who are poor because they are lazy in poverty because we just made life too easy on them. (Yes, there are many reasons for poverty, but lazy is one of them.) In providing mosquito control to save people from malaria we introduce chemicals into an environment and change the eco-system. If you do not want to make big mistakes in life you cannot be in the habit of overlooking the downside of the solutions you like.

Aren’t Christian Men Supposed To Be More Mature Than My Gynecologist?

Okay, I am not for adultery, even on an emotional level, but some of us in the church have gotten a bit nuts over the male/female issue. I’ll admit, if the sight of a woman, any woman, causes you to ‘lust in your heart’ then you need to do something about it. But that something does not involve placing rules on all of the people around you just because you are still thinking like a 13-year-old boy. It means you need to grow up!
My husband is an ER doctor. If he followed all of the ‘rules’ we are now seeing for Christian men he would be out of a job. (We do enjoy laughing about it with our other ‘health-care’ friends as we sit in the pew listening to all of this ‘good advice’ though. Comedy in the church is rare so these ‘talks’ are not completely useless…)
The problem is that many of the ‘rules’ assume that men have not grown up, and will never grow up. Bull! I have seen men go out of their way to love and protect women rather than take advantage of them even though the opportunity was there. (Non-Christian, tough guys, not committed to purity, but with an ounce of decency in their make-up.) These are the ‘real’ men. Truthfully, if I actually felt that my pastor needed ‘rules’ to keep him away from women I would not think him mature enough to be a pastor. Sure he can fail. But for the most part he should be mature enough to overcome his raging hormones, at least for an hour, so that he can talk to a matronly mother of seven without wanting to jump on her! (I am tired of having to bring my husband, keep the door open, or not go to the restaurant where the guys go to talk for fear of impropriety. I was once a physical therapist, trusted to treat partially naked men when they had a groin pull, or worse I was an 18 year old personal care aide who gave sponge baths to men who were confined to their homes. This is just pathetic.)
If these ‘rules’ were applied to the Bible, Paul, a single guy, would have lost half of his work force. None of the prophets would have been allowed to stay alone in a widow’s home. John would not have the affectionate (friend) relationship that he obviously shared with the woman in 2 John. Deborah (a married woman) would have never been allowed to sign a duet with Barak (not her husband). Rebekah, Rachel and Zipporah (unmarried women) should not have been talking to strange men at wells. You see where I am going with this. If we are going to be brothers, and sisters in Christ (like they were in the Bible) then we are going to have to grow up!
Someone once said, ‘If she is not your wife, then she is your sister in Christ. Treat her that way.’ This doesn’t mean avoiding her and acting like she has the plague. This means you love her, care for her and look out for her best interests. What if men actually did this? Got to know the women in the church. Could they stop a naïve girl from falling for some young schmuck before he got her pregnant? Could they figure out that maybe this wife was being abused and beat the crap out of (I mean, nicely talk to) her husband and cause it to stop? Is it really better for everyone that we keep the sexes at arm’s length, or are their benefits to actually acting like one body in the church?

Escape From Pharisee Mountain (Is It Even Possible?)

I came across an old picture of me. We were living in an old farmhouse that we were renovating. It had no dry wall on the walls yet (just insulation) and I was butchering a deer while the children watched. There was an open text book on the counter (I study while I cook.) and the typical chaos that comes with seven kids in the background. I was happy.
Fast-forward ten years. We now live in a really nice house in another state. The kids are growing up and moving out, and life has settled down. Things should be even more wonderful- right? Not so much. Within 5 minutes of waking up I already felt like a failure. I had made some mess I needed to clean up, the ‘bug-guy’ was coming and our pool room (yes, I have an indoor pool) was a mess, and the boys (who do not care what my house looks like) were coming over for chemistry lab (We home school.).
First, there is nothing wrong with my house. It is cleaner and in better shape than anything we have ever owned. The problem: I have moved firmly into ‘Pharisee’ world and don’t know how to fully get out! I have spent the last ten years going to women’s conferences that have (wrongly) twisted verses in the Bible into ‘Thou shalt have a perfect house,’ and have been hanging out with women who know how to subtly look down on you without saying anything. Yesterday my daughter asked to go out with friends. She told me the other mothers were going to be there so we could sit and talk. I groaned. She looked at me. (I am normally very social and love talking with people.) My first response was, ‘I am not like your friends’ mothers. I don’t fit in.’ I then amended that and told her, ‘No, your friends’ mothers lie, and pretend to be whoever they think the person they are talking to wants them to be and I can’t take it anymore.’ She looked at me funny. (The Pharisees would hate me for being that honest with my daughter. I know. How could I tell her- the truth!?) She knows she will still get to go, and I will suffer through it for her. But I worry. Her friends are destined to become just like their mothers. Superficial and constantly worried about what other people think. These are not bad women. They are ‘good Christian’ women who raise good Christian girls. But it is not ‘good.’ It is a recipe for depression. It is a life where no one truly knows anyone. Where you cannot visit with friends and have a cup of coffee without ‘cleaning up’ first. My husband and I have actually discussed not having anyone over to our home, and leaving it as a place where we can just be ‘us.’ We can afford to be ‘social’ at restaurants etc instead and leave our home for ‘us.’ But we love having people over. We are the ones who stay up until midnight talking and laughing- at least we used to be.
I know I am not alone. In moving around the last few years I have noticed that this is the norm for the woman’s side of the Christian and non-Christian world. The question is: How do we change it? How do we ‘get real’ so that we can have real relationships, real friends and really act like the family we are supposed to be? Do we, as women, really want to be running around making sure there is never a dirty dish in the sink, or muddy dog prints on the floor? (Actually, our wonderful mastiff puppy, whom I dearly love, has taken to dragging small trees through the doggy door and mulching them, leaving half masticated wood wherever he last laid down… I am guessing proper Christian wives don’t own big drooling dogs either.)
By the way: The proper ‘Pharisee’ answer to the mastiff problem is, ‘You really should just lock the doggy door until he learns you know.’ The problem: ‘I really should do a lot of things, and when I am perfect maybe I will. But I am not glad that you have all the answers to ‘fix’ my life. I find mulch in the living room amusing and like snuggling with a puppy that thinks he is a lap dog but really should not be. It’s my house, now wipe off a chair, sit down and drink your coffee before I throw it at you.’ (Oh wait, that was not a ‘Christian’ thing to say, was it?)

The Problem With Church Problems

Church problems are the worst. They are messy and painful for everyone involved. But why is this? Shouldn’t we be more mature, more able to deal with our differences, more loving, more merciful and more willing to lay down our lives for another? In many ways we are (and in some ways we are not) but there are some unique challenges when it comes to church issues.

  1. They get blown out of perspective. In our attempts not to ‘gossip’ and to ‘keep silent’ we often bottle up our emotions until we are ready to explode, not realizing that seeking wise counsel and actually talking it through with the person you are offended by until the problem is actually resolved are scriptural principles too.
  2. We have no practice solving problems scripturally. Matthew 18:15-19 tells us how to deal with problems within the church. Rarely if ever is this followed, instead people leave. Getting mad and leaving is not scriptural, but it becomes necessary (for our own mental health) if no one will talk about the issues.
  3. We do not know how to talk about problems without offending someone. There is a fine line between being mean and being honest. Often people are accused of being malicious when they are merely stating a fact- that they did not like something. People hear about what was said and are then offended and WWIII breaks out. We need to learn to tell the difference between a hurting person asking for help, and expressing frustration, and someone whose intentions are vengeful. We also need to learn when to keep our mouths shut. There are times to say things, and times things are best left unsaid. Typically, we do the exact opposite of what is needed, keeping our peace when we should speak up, and then telling people things that are not productive for them to know.
  4. Church is family and everyone wants their family to be perfectly loving. It hurts more when you are hurt by those you love, even if they did not mean to do it. Since church is about deep relationships, feelings run deep. Our expectations of the church, and the people in it, especially the pastor (and his wife) are often too high. (In my experience, pastoral husbands have it much easier!) People are fallible; God is not. You must keep that straight. Expecting people, even pastors, to be perfect is to make them a ‘god.’ If you do this, they will disappoint you! Unfortunately many people do just that.
  5. Churches often have legalistic mindsets. Legalism is great, when you’re on top. It allows you to have a list of ‘sins’ that justifies you’re right to think that you are better than others. The problem with legalism is that no one is perfect. Unless you are really, really good at ‘phony’ someone someday will notice one of your sins. It is then that legalism stinks. The problem is that most people will just storm out mad, join a new church and continue to be very, very happy that they are not like those ‘sinners’ that don’t make the ‘elite’ members list. This legalism also causes potential new believers to walk right out the door, as someone will soon let them know that they do not make the ‘list’ as well. How do you tell if you are legalistic? Some of the ‘catch phrases’ I have heard go like this: ‘I am so glad that our church preaches The Word.’ (What? And what do you think the other churches do on Sunday, sing a few heathen songs and then go home?) ‘So and so’s ministry ‘waters down’ the gospel.’ (Except that you have never heard ‘so and so’ preach.) Phrases like these are warning signs that you like feeling better than others.

So what do we do? We teach, and teach and teach some more until our church culture is to preserve relationships, talk about our problems effectively and confront things head on. We then set an example by being ‘real.’ (Especially those of us who are older, and/or hold positions.) No more phony Christians. No more legalistic stupidity that places the people who hide their shortcomings the best over those who do not. And we help. When we see a shortcoming, our first reaction becomes ‘how can I help them,’ rather than trying to avoid the person for fear our reputation in the church will suffer by association. We need practice being merciful but honest, while also practicing not getting easily offended. It won’t be easy, but if we are to ‘do likewise’ and love our neighbor as ourselves we need to value our relationships the way we value God and try to not let them be destroyed by pettiness. True, scripture says that some people are doing things that are best avoided, but not without our seeking to help them make a change… After we get to a point where our church won’t just drive them further from God, then we are ready to go out into the rest of the world and love people in a way that shows them the real Jesus. Wouldn’t it be great if every Sunday someone, maybe a lot of someone’s, got saved? I’ll give you a hint- the churches that use their baptismal a lot are not the ‘perfect’ churches- they are the ones who actually seem to care. ‘Love’ really does seem to cover a multitude of sins…

Books By Me

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White Wedding Night: A Christian Girl’s Guide to the Wedding Night and Beyond…

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ImageA New Believer’s Bible Commentary Series: Genesis – Deuteronomy, Joshua-Job, Song-Psalms, The Prophets, The Gospels and Letters & Revelation. These are easy to read guides that will help you better understand your Bible no matter what level you are at!

 

 

Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

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Photo by Matija Barrett

Photo by Matija Barrett

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