The God Who Is For Us: When God Enters Into Our Chaos

Recently, I was asked to speak at the Cathedral Church of the Advent’s Episcopal Church Women’s Fall Luncheon. It was a great privilege and humble experience to be able to share from God’s Word to women I go to church with and who I love. It was also an act of God’s grace that I was able to stand and speak coherently as I had only just recovered from the stomach flu.

So I share the audio with you and pray it will bless you. I always tremble when I teach God’s Word, for who am I to speak on God’s Word? But God is gracious!

I pray you will walk away with this:

“God’s with us is God’s for us in Jesus Christ.”

~Kristen

 

 

Book Recommendations on Homosexuality

Jen Hatmaker is back in the Christian news, in particular for her comments on gay ‘marriage’. I may or may not say more about that later. Christians are still torn on this issue, in part because there is so much pressure to accept same-sex ‘marriage’ at the risk of not being loving. To put it negatively, to say same-sex ‘marriage’ is not biblical marriage you are a bigot and stumbling block to the gospel. This kind of language can make Christians feel timid, confused, and scared to speak.

So instead of spending time reading Facebook comments, the Twitter feed, or blogs, I’d encourage you to exercise your mind and read deeply and widely on the topic. I want to offer four books from those who hold to a traditional view of marriage and who I trust/found helpful, one which is by a gay, celibate Christian who is also a New Testament scholar.

Lastly, the Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Timothy George, has written on the topic here.

I hope these recommendations are helpful. (Click on image to go to Amazon.)

 

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Recommended: A Peace Plan for the Gender War

By Timothy George
November 17, 2005

There’s a story about a Texas rancher who threw a big party and filled his swimming pool with man-eating sharks. When the guests had all gathered, he announced that he would give anyone who swam the length of his pool the choice of $50 million or the deed to his ranch. Before he could finish speaking, he saw someone swimming furiously across the pool. When the swimmer arrived on the other side, the rancher said, “I’m astounded. I didn’t think anyone would try that, much less do it. But I am true to my word. Now tell me, what do you want: $50 million or the deed to my ranch?”

“What do you mean?” the swimmer exclaimed. “I want the guy who pushed me into the pool!”

I won’t accuse anyone of pushing me into this pool, but I confess that I would not be writing on this topic if I hadn’t recently been invited—even prodded—to give a plenary address on it. I am not a card-carrying member of either party in the evangelical gender wars. I have no special expertise in this issue; I have read widely but not deeply in the enormous literature it has generated. I have no new interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 or headship or submission to offer. I am merely a participant-observer in the evangelical family who recognizes that in the polarization over gender, something crucial is at stake.

That polarization is found even in our seminaries. Evangelical theological schools tend to fall into one of three camps. Some are unequivocally egalitarian and would not likely hire a faculty member who did not share this commitment. Fuller, North Park, Palmer Theological Seminary (formerly Eastern), Ashland, and the Church of God School of Theology are among the schools that hold this view. Other theological institutions take the opposite view. Westminster, Dallas, Covenant, and, more recently, the six seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention fall into this group. Beeson, my school, belongs to another group of theological institutions, including Trinity, Gordon-Conwell, Denver, and Regent College (Vancouver), which do not make this matter a test of fellowship but welcome faculty and students who hold differing convictions. Read the rest at Christianity Today.

The Lost Women of In-Between Land

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Peter Pan was a favorite fairytale of mine. The idea of being able to fly away from one’s problems and fears (in Peter’s case, of never growing up) was appealing to me even at a young age. I also related to the fictional Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. They didn’t belong. Of course they thought (or perhaps pretended) that they were having the time of their lives in Neverland, but throughout the story there are glimpses of sadness and a longing for home—to belong. We catch these glimpses in Peter’s desire to hear stories and to find open windows, and in the Lost Boys’ reaction when they were given a “mother” and when Wendy had to leave.

The analogy isn’t perfect but the feeling is comparable. The feeling of not belonging. The feeling of being lost and exiled to another place.

I’m talking about my reality and the reality of so many women called to gospel ministry.

I have been thinking about the role of women in ministry before I ever publicly surrendered to God’s call on my life at 15. As a small girl I cried, “I wish God had made me a boy so I could grow up to be a preacher.” The call I felt at such a young age didn’t seem to fit with my gender.

Over the last 10 years I have been thinking, researching, and talking about the issue of women in ministry. The issue is important because I believe God calls women to ministry and because I believe the Church and the World need God-called and trained women to take the gospel and disciple others.

But in American evangelicalism, the line is drawn; the two sides are clear. You must choose between being a complementarian or egalitarian. And not any kind of complementarian or egalitarian. You must meet all the criteria. There’s no room for any “softness.”

So since I do not feel comfortable in either camp nor do I agree 100% with all of their applications, I find myself living in In-Between Land. Like I said, the analogy breaks down with the story of Peter Pan for this land is far from magical, and, unlike Peter, I do not want to live here. But I live in this land because I don’t belong anywhere else.

And I know I’m not alone. I know there are other Lost Women of In-Between Land. The problem, though, with In-Between Land is that—to state the obvious—it’s not a real place. So to find these other Lost Women is sometimes difficult. We often come across each other by accident, in conversations.

Two years ago I spoke at a weekend retreat to a group of around 30 young female students at Ouachita Baptist University who feel called to ministry. The sentiment was the same. They felt called but they didn’t feel like they belonged.

Who are these Lost Women? Most (if not all) are theologically conservative, evangelical, feel called by God to full-time gospel ministry, desire or have theological education, and have a nuanced interpretation regarding spiritual gifts, especially the gift of teaching and preaching.

With complementarianism, most Lost Women feel frustrated by the constant and ever-growing Don’t List. Historically, instead of complementarians telling us what we can do and encouraging and affirming women, the conversation has often been dominated by what we cannot do. We feel frustrated, not at the statement that women cannot be senior pastors (in fact, most of us don’t want to be senior pastors), but that too many complementarian churches have no full-time, called, trained women on staff.

On the other hand, some Lost Women feel frustrated by certain strands of egalitarianism, where there is an overemphasis of the good work of women to such an extent that the good work of men is eclipsed. In addition, women who “merely” teach other women and children can be looked down upon or even discouraged. Sometimes the push is too strong to be a senior pastor, and we feel frustrated also by the lack of jobs in some egalitarian contexts.

The feeling is: We are forgotten. We are discouraged. We are written off if we do not hold to either side completely. We are not only the Lost Women, we are the causalities of this gender war.

What happens to us conservative women who value theological education and the spiritual gifts but who are often ignored in these gender debates? Where do we serve? Who is encouraging us to receive theological education and who will hire us when we are done? Who will publish us or who will ask us to speak and teach?

What about us who are called to a writing ministry? If we don’t hold to a traditional or certain complementarian framework of Scripture or interpretation of 1 Timothy, we will be unable to write for most theologically conservative ministries. If we don’t hold to a traditional or certain egalitarian framework of Scripture or interpretation of 1 Timothy, then we will most likely be unable to write for other ministries.

This should not be! Is there no vocational space for us who are neither complementarian nor egalitarian? Actually, is there little place for women to serve at all even if we are 100% complementarian or egalitarian? How long will God-called women remain overlooked, unheard, lost?

While these two camps continue their debates and wars, my guess is us Lost Women will quietly try to find a place where we can serve (thankfully there are some!). We may leave and go overseas. We may change denominations, even if unwillingly. At worse, we may become embittered or quit the ministry all together.

Please join me in praying that God will move in our churches and in these debates so that more laborers will be able to serve in the field. For at the end of the day what we want is to not be Lost Women of In-Between Land but co-laborers in the Lord Jesus and in his Church.

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Recommended: DeYoung’s 9Marks of Complementarianism

Over on Patheos, Scot McKnight engages with Kevin DeYoung’s recent post on complementarianism on The Gospel Coalition. McKnight raises some really good questions and pushes DeYoung on some points. For one, DeYoung says that 1 Timothy 2 is clear. What he means is that his interpretation is “clear.” With so many respected scholars and serious Christians who hold differing interpretations of 1 Timothy 2 of which they arrived after careful study demonstrates that the text isn’t as clear as DeYoung would have us to believe. DeYoung also says that he doesn’t favor women reading the sermon text, but just because a church allows a woman to read the text (supposedly in a Sunday worship service) doesn’t mean the church is “automatically wed to the spirit of the age.” This statement implies that those who are not complementarian (or the complementarian he describes) is “wed to the spirit of the age.” I might venture my own response on this article later, but for now I recommend you reading Scot’s response.

The False Pursuit of a Political Messiah

The False Pursuitof a Political

It was no typical Sunday afternoon on December 9, 2007, in Charleston, South Carolina. Almost 30,000 people had opted out of or came directly from a local church worship service to attend a different kind of service – an Obama presidential rally featuring Oprah Winfrey. But this rally felt more like a Christian crusade than a political rally. With a crowd peppered in Sunday dress and hats, the Obamas and Oprah delivered evangelistic and messianic messages to those in attendance.

“We need a leader who’s going to touch our souls. Who’s going to make us feel differently about one another,” Michelle Obama told the crowd.

Taking it a step further, Oprah said that Obama was the answer to the old woman’s question to every child, “Are you the one?” as told in the 1974 film, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” which was based on Ernest Gaines’ 1971 novel. The story continues that the woman, who survived both slavery and the Civil War, also asks the child whether he will “carry part of our cross.” “He is the one,” Oprah told the cheering crowd.

These messianic-type references were not isolated to this one event; it pervaded his campaign.

I remember as Obama was growing in popularity walking down my street only to encounter a neighbor wearing a shirt with a profile of Obama’s face imprinted on it with the word “Hope” underneath. Hope for a new America, hope for racial reconciliation, hope for world peace all rolled up into one man. Supposedly, this one man would bring the hope the world needed. “Change we can believe in” was the motto of his campaign.

An Obama supporter in Colorado once shouted of him, “He’s been sent by God,” which then became the headline of a 2008 article by The Telegraph. More startling was another article written in 2008 by Washington Post reporter Ezra Klein in the American Prospect in which his purposefully-crafted praise of Obama was to elevate Obama to a place greater than Jesus Christ.

“[Obama] is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I’ve heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves, to the place where America exists as a glittering ideal, and where we, its honored inhabitants, seem capable of achieving it, and thus of sharing in its meaning and transcendence.” (Emphasis my own.)

It was believed by many in 2008 that Obama would inaugurate a post-racial society, heal Middle East/Muslim relations and thereby reduce terrorism, and would bring Americans together. To some, he was America’s – more than that, the world’s – messiah.

However, after almost eight years in office, it is clear that while he has done good things as president he was not the “messiah” that everyone – including himself at times – had made him to be.

Race relations did not get better but in some ways worsened. During his presidency we saw the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the shooting massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and police shootings of young, black men in Ferguson, Chicago, and Cleveland, to name a few. These incidents set off national riots and the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.

The situation in the Middle East and acts of terrorism did not improve. During Obama’s presidency, the world watched as ISIS became a power of terror implementing terrorist attacks in France, Belgium, and the U.S. ISIS also was responsible for the mass killings of Christians and other religion minorities in Iraq, Syria, Liberia and elsewhere in Africa. As a result, Europe (mostly) has had a mass influx of refugees from Syria and Iraq.

In regard to bringing together America, we’ve seen some of the most divisive issues come to a head during his presidency – healthcare, gay marriage and abortion.

When interviewed in 2013 by Piers Morgan on CNN, Barbara Walters admitted that many Americans were feeling disappointed once they realized that Obama was not the next messiah.

“We thought that he was going to be — I shouldn’t say this at Christmastime — but the next messiah. And the whole Obamacare, or whatever you want to call it, the Affordable Health Act [sic], it just hasn’t worked for him. And he’s stumbled around on it, and people feel very disappointed because they expected more.”

Our desire to look for a political messiah of our own making is nothing new.

In the Gospel of Luke we are told that the people were “in expectation” and “questioning in their hearts concerning John whether he might be the messiah.” But John, recognizing his humanity and limitations, truthfully replied that he was not the messiah but someone greater than him, who was the messiah, was coming.

When Jesus, the true messiah did come, however, they wanted a messiah that fit their own ideas and fantasies instead of the kind of messiah that Jesus claimed to be.

They imagined a messiah who came from Jerusalem; Jesus came from Galilee. They wanted a messiah who only gave them physical bread; Jesus came (ultimately) to give them the bread of life. They imagined a messiah on a horse; Jesus came on a donkey. They imagined a messiah who would come bearing a sword and would deliver them from political oppression. Jesus came to die so that he could deliver people from sin. When Jesus perceived that the crowd wanted to force him to be king of their own making, he withdrew (John 6:15). Ultimately because he claimed to be God (and he definitely was not the political messiah they expected), they rejected and killed him.

Since then people have continued looking for the political messiah that Jesus refused to be. As Jesus warned in Matthew, many will come pretending to be the messiah but they will be perpetrating a lie. History has something to teach us, if only we will be teachable, and that is all attempts at making someone a messiah other than Jesus are futile and dangerous.

As I consider this coming election I see a similar cycle. No doubt most likely every presidential candidate sees themselves, in part, as a political messiah. The most obvious of these is Donald Trump, who draws the kind of large crowds that Obama did. Donald Trump, whose campaign motto is, “Make America Great Again,” implicitly communicates that only he can make America great again. And it is obvious from Twitter that many of his fans believe that Trump is the solution or “savior” to America’s problems.

“@redneckgp: All you haters out there, STOP trashing the only candidate @realDonaldTrump that will put ALL OF YOU & AMERICA FIRST #trump”

“@R_U_OK_UK: @realDonaldTrump @glozee1 @PaulManafort @CNN @DanScavino Vote trump to save the west. Don’t become like Europe – #WakeUpAmerica”

“@governor_savage: @realDonaldTrump is the only person who can save us from this corrupt political mess. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain”

But no matter which candidate has your vote please consider this – no man or woman will ever or can be a political messiah. No one other than Jesus will be able to bring peace, safety and harmony to this world. The Bible is clear. Only Jesus Christ is the messiah. Only in God and in the second coming of his Son Jesus will the world one day be made perfect and right and good.

As we consider who we will vote for president, choose someone who is (the most) virtuous, whose philosophy and policies you most agree with, and who you think will do the best job at representing you and our country to the world. But do not vote in vain that this person will save you, this country or even the world. Do not place your hope on any one candidate. If so, like Barabara Walters, you will eventually be disappointed. Instead, place all your hope on the only One and True Messiah – Jesus Christ. There you will not be disappointed.

Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
For only in thee can we live in safety.
Lord, keep this nation under thy care;
And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
Let thy way be known upon earth;
Thy saving health among all nations.
Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Create in us clean hearts, O God;
And sustain us with thy Holy Spirit.
(Suffrage, Book of Common Prayer)

Tomorrow Will Be Anxious for Itself: Finding Grace and Peace for Today

“Life is lived forwards but understood backwards.”

I believe that my Christian preaching professor was quoting someone else when he spoke these words in class more than eight years ago, but I attribute them to him and have never forgotten them.

Back in perhaps late October or early November (I don’t remember now), the women’s minister at my church called me. The speaker they had lined up for their Fall Women’s Coffee event had cancelled; would I step in. I agreed. With less than a month to prepare I prayed for a text for the coffee event. The Lord kept leading me to Matthew 6:25-34, “Do not be anxious…”.

By God’s grace, I gave the same talk at two different times on this passage on November 13. I said that the answer to incessant anxiety or worry even when our circumstances are grim is believing and knowing that God is a good father who loves us.

Life was going pretty well, by the way.

Then four days after I gave this talk, I had an unusual thing happen that prompted me to seek a colonoscopy.

The colonoscopy showed I had ulcerative colitis (UC), an auto-immune disease that attacks the colon. Ironically, my husband had suffered from the same disease for the past 12 years and we both had UC in the same spots of our colons!

On the heels of grappling with a new diagnosis, just two weeks after my colonoscopy, our 4 year old son went to the bathroom and also had an unusual thing happen. He was too young to have this disease and it would be too coincidental if he and I would “get” it at the same time!

After a tumultuous two months and some odd weeks of doctor’s visits, blood work, stool samples and tears, he finally had a colonoscopy two weeks ago that revealed colitis. Three days after his colonoscopy, he began having abdominal pain. This led to him being hospitalized last week with pancreatitis and learning that his colitis is in fact Crohn’s colitis. Two days after being home from the hospital, I fell ill very quickly. I went to the doctor just this Saturday and learned I had bronchitis and what she thought was a virus. She didn’t test me for the flu. Sunday I thought I was going to die. Yesterday I tested positive for the flu.

Two Mondays ago, hours before we took Philip to the ER, I listened to the talk I gave that November morning for the first time despite the fact that I hate listening to my voice. I listened to myself, an earlier self without any real problems, talk about trusting in God’s goodness and his love for us as our Father. I listened to myself say that when we take our eyes off of our circumstances and place them on the goodness and love of God we find relief from our anxiety and worry.

I believe often times it is the teacher who learns the most when he/she prepares to teaches. I don’t know if God gave that message for anyone in those rooms on November 13, but I do know I needed the message. Perhaps I didn’t need the message on Nov. 13, but I needed it last week, this week, and even today. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the Fall Women’s Coffee speaker cancelled or that God put the Matthew 6 text  on my heart. He knew that I was about to enter into a time when I would possibly question his goodness and his love for me. He knew that I was about to face a diagnosis of my own and of my beloved son’s. He knew that I was about to go through the ringer of physical exhaustion and face situations that would cause great worry.

Perhaps I still don’t understand looking backwards why these things have taken place (I don’t know if I ever should), but I do understand looking backwards that God was reminding me of his goodness and love (and even had me teach on it!) on the cusp of when I would need reminding of it the most.

I don’t know what’s going on in your world, but perhaps you, too, need reminding of God’s love and goodness. If so, you can listen to the talk I gave here.