Top Five Books to Leave off Your Summer Reading List – you’ll be glad you did!

Summer reading is some of the best reading. Choose wisely and – whatever you do! – make sure you don’t read these books:

Pride and Prejudicial Error: In this sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennet’s adventures continue after her marriage to Mr. Darcy. As she sees him carry out his duties as local magistrate, she learns of the law and becomes enamored of the notion she could ascend to the bench. He tries to talk her out of it and that’s when he learns the error of his ways.

Frankenstein’s Monster Truck: In this modern retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic, Victor Frankenstein – a brilliant mechanical engineer – seeks to bring a  truck to life after being unable to find a driver worthy of competing in the championship rally. He tops the truck off with gas and leaves it out in a thunderstorm, where it is struck by a bolt from the sky. The truck awakens but the roar of its engine is more than Frankenstein can take. Feeling the rejection of its creator, the truck roars off and wanders the back roads competing in small town demolition derbies. No one will race against it, as this monster literally crushes every car and truck it faces. Until it ran out of gas and stopped.

The Man Who Would Be King Kong: Two soldier-adventurers in 19th Century India search for fame and fortune, looking for a kingdom of their own to rule. They make their way to a remote Bengali island shrouded in mystery and rumor, hoping their western technology of advanced weaponry will secure their place as rulers. A giant gorilla eats them.

Moby Dick and Jane: Jane is an ambitious marine scientist who wants to find the biggest whale in the world. Follow her adventures as she writes grants proposals, meets with potential funding agencies, and submits government form after government form. This book will have you snoozing in your lawn chair by the third page, guaranteed.

Oliver Twist and Shout: This biography of the young Liverpool orphan who desired  to be a Beatle will strike a chord with everyone who ever dreamed of being a rocker. Oliver grew up down the street from Paul McCartney’s family and hung around the nascent rocker as he started playing music with John Lennon and George Harrison. No matter how much he shouted or twisted in eager anticipation, though, they would not let him join their group as he lacked all musical talent. He went on to invent the air guitar.

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I am always eager for recommendations on other books to avoid. Please leave yours in a comment.

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Looking Out for One Another – beyond manliness and femininity

The Bible says to love each other, comfort each other, lift each other up. It does not say that these are specifically masculine endeavors, even when the two people involved are a man and a woman.

Agatha Christie captured this dynamic perfectly in The Secret Adversary where her two heroes, Tuppence Cowley and Tommy Beresford, meet with the spy master known as Mr. Carter.

Mr. Carter paused. “Well, there it is, you see what you are pitting yourself against? Possibly the finest criminal brain of the age. I don’t quite like it, you know. You’re such young things, both of you. I shouldn’t like anything to happen to you.”

“It won’t,” Tuppence assured him positively.

“I’ll look after her, sir,” said Tommy.

“And I’ll look after you,” retorted Tuppence, resenting the manly assertion.

Tuppence set the record straight for the adventure that followed, just as she had in the earlier conversation leading to their joint venture: an equal partnership or no partnership, and Tommy could take it or leave it.

The relationship of take-it-or-leave-it

This is how relationships between women and men are supposed to work, whether in friendship or romance, just as they do between men and men or women and women. This is how all relationships are designed by God.

Love one another:

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (1 John 3:23.)

Comfort each other:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4.)

Lift each other up:

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10.)

Nowhere do these passages support the notion that men have a special responsibility to care for women that women do not share toward men. Sex and gender are irrelevant to the responsibility people have to one another in the context of those passages. Take it or leave it.

Resenting manly assertions

I join Tuppence in resenting manly assertions of protectiveness. I resent that people would assert there is some exclusively manly responsibility that would mean women cannot come alongside men to lift them up.

Particularly, I resent what this would mean for my marriage.

There are times when I’ve been on the ground and needed someone to come alongside to lift me back up. This love and comfort can take a variety of forms but each of them take strength. My wife is strong, and has carried out her God-given responsibility to be strong in my life more times than I could count. And, rest assured, there are times when I needed to count on God working through her to be strong when I was at my weakest.

Crises that threatened my family and that threatened my career have both hit me in later years. She has shored me up when I was falling over, and lifted me to my feet when I fell anyway. And in those times when I remained down, crushed under the burden, she got down beside me to hold me until I could start to rise again.

This isn’t merely metaphorical either. Her physical strength has taken charge when I’ve been physically weak, battling pneumonia that had me bedridden for days and off work for weeks. She steps up and gets the work done when I’ve been unable to lift a finger to help.

How physically fit is she? This fit:

She’s ahead of me because she’s better at this than me. (Post: My Wife and I Trained to Play Dirty)

Some who insist on gender/sex roles among God’s people would not like what they see in my marriage. We don’t fit the prescribed roles. What we do have, though, is a marriage of over 30 years with a grown son and daughter who are doing fine.

In each year of marriage we’ve had the opportunity to love, comfort and lift up each other, and our children have learned how this works in a godly marriage. If we’d stayed within the gender restrictions some people teach, we’d never have been able to do the things God called us to do for one another. We are not restricted in what we can do for God and the people he’s put in our lives, women and men both.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36.)

Friendships, marriages, joint ventures – all are designed for much more for the women and men of God than can be realized if people are bound by gender roles God never put on them. You are free to be strong for each other and to rely on the strength of one another, regardless of who is the man and who is the woman.

Take it or leave it? I’ll take it.

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I Don’t Read the Bible to Please God

Motivation is odd. Something I find compelling would be a complete bore to someone else. I might say “I like to do this because …” and someone else might respond “I don’t care about either of those things.”

One person’s motivation is another person’s non-starter.

The word “motive” is from the same Latin root from which we get the word “move” and pertains to the things that move a person to action, thought, or desire:

Motive: noun

  • something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc.; incentive.
  • the goal or object of a person’s actions. (Dictionary.com.)

This got me wondering about why I do things that others might call spiritual.

  • Why do I pray?
  • Why do I read the Bible?
  • Why do I go to church?
  • Why do I spend time thinking about God?

I thought about this at length and couldn’t find a motivating factor. Or perhaps I should say I did not find a motivating factor in the usual sense.

The things I listed are what a lot of people call spiritual disciplines, or look on them as acts a follower of Jesus should do. I’ve also heard people say they seek to honor God with these actions. I agree with all of that, I suppose, but the more I thought about it the more I realized these are not the motivations behind them for me.

I’ve also heard people say that these acts lead to great benefit. I completely agree with that as well. The more time I spend in prayer, in reading the Bible, in thinking about God, in spending time with others who know him, the more my relationship with God himself develops. But while those are benefits, I can’t say those are my motives. They aren’t what I think about when I do those other things.

So what is the motivating factor? After all, I don’t do these things by accident. They aren’t purposeless.

The more I thought on it, the more I realized that the motivating factor isn’t a what. The motivating factor is a who.

Moved by the Spirit

When it comes to movement for God, the motivator is God the Holy Spirit.

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28.)

The Spirit guides us in truth:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (John 16:13.)

The Spirit prays for us as he prays with us:

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26.)

The Spirit is the one who transforms us from death to life:

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5.)

This death to life transformation makes all the rest of it possible: prayer, gathering, praise, reading and more are all possible because of the Spirit’s movement first in us.

That’s where the motivation is. I am not motivated because of what I desire. The motivation – the movement – is the Spirit moving within me to glorify God. This is what Jesus promised his friends on his last night with them.

He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. (John 16:14-15.)

I’ve found my motivation. The movement for all I do in my relationship with God is because of God himself moving within me to do these things.

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When Women Are Silenced the Men Will Fail – a lesson learned from SWBTS and Paige Patterson

One of the most basic principles in the courtroom is due process, which at its core provides notice and an opportunity to be heard. Everyone appearing for a hearing or trial is entitled to notice of what is at issue and an opportunity to be heard on the subject. If you have an interest in the matter, you have a say in the matter.

This is the way good leadership works too. Decisions might have to be made by those with the authority to make them, but they shouldn’t be made without hearing from those the decisions will affect. The failure to provide a voice to those affected by decisions is what has led to one of the most recent failures of leadership at a Christian seminary.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), a school within the Southern Baptist Convention, recently announced that Paige Patterson (its president of fifteen years) is now President Emeritus and Theologian in Residence with compensation and seminary-provided housing on campus. This transition came after news reports of – among other statements and actions – his objectification of the young women at his seminary for their looks and his advice to an abuse victim to stay in her home rather than leave to a place of safety.

The SWBTS board claims to have spent thirteen hours deciding how to act in light of the bad press their president had caused. The best they could do is offer the 75 year old leader an extremely generous retirement package and a place of prominence in campus policy-making for years to come.

This is a failure in leadership that could have been avoided if they’d listened to those most affected by Paige Patterson’s words and actions: women.

Patriarchy power run amok

The faculty of SWBTS overwhelmingly consists of men:

Its Board of Trustees is even more lopsided, as there are “just two women on the trustee board and thirty-eight men.” (Wade Burleson.) When women are affected by leadership but not part of leadership, leadership can’t help but fail.

Under a patriarchal system of church governance, men consider themselves fully equipped to make decisions regarding women because they are men and men are meant to have the final say in all matters. Women might be given a token presence, but not in numbers great enough to carry weight.

The extremely small number of women underscores their lack of importance and makes it that much easier to ignore their voice. This means that men end up making make bad decisions.

Imagine how the meeting might have turned out if the forty member board were half women, who knew by their numbers that they were more likely to be heard and not dismissed.

  • Women might have spoken of their own experiences being denigrated, objectified and discriminated against.
  • Women could tell of conversations with students who have suffered demeaning and derogatory comments from their peers and pastors.
  • Women could assure their colleagues that Paige Patterson’s words and actions were not just inappropriate or misspoken, but hurtful, harmful and even hateful for those who suffer from them.

But women are not included in any meaningful way on the board when their number is a mere five per cent of the membership.

This board may have found Paige Patterson to be a liability, but they did not find him to be unqualified in leadership. Rather, they institutionalized his place at the seminary by giving him emeritus status, continuing compensation, a house to live in, and the title Theologian in Residence. He is still a driving force for doctrine and practice at SWBTS.

A good council relies on good counsel

The Bible teaches this wisdom on decision-making:

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22.)

Some might say that a board of 38 men and two women meets the definition of “many advisors.” That’s true in a literal sense, but mistakes numbers for counsel. An echo chamber of like-minded people is not a source of wise counsel.

Even Old Testament leadership knew that the place to get good advice was from the people who had wisdom on the subject, regardless of their sex.

When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. …”

Hilkiah and those the king had sent with him went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter. (2 Chronicles 34:19-22, emphasis added.)

These men knew that when it came to understanding the words of the Lord, Huldah was the person to talk to. The fact she was a woman did not dissuade them from seeking her wise counsel.

Why would a seminary board not recognize that women are as equipped with the wisdom of God as men? Why would they not value them as co-leaders in carrying out the responsibility God gave them? Under the New Covenant, women and men are not just equals in God’s family but also equals in the royal priesthood he has established.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9.)

If women are royal priests and equipped to declare God’s praise, they are worth joining with in leadership for God’s kingdom purposes.

Token memberships are not the answer. Full inclusion in carrying out responsibilities is the way of God. What this means for the board at SWBTS is that they can either double in size to bring in a significant number of women, or half the men can resign their position and women get named as replacements.

Otherwise, men who try to go it alone are setting themselves up for failure.

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Abuse Is Wrong Because Women Are People, Not Because You Have Daughters

CBE International hosts my post on women and men relating to each other in God’s family today. Here’s an excerpt, and you can click over to read the rest.

Christian leaders will often appeal to men’s sense of responsibility for the women in their lives in order to inspire empathy toward women in general. But the implication of statements like these is that women are extensions of their fathers, brothers, and husbands and that’s how we know it’s wrong to mistreat them. Women become men’s possessions instead of independent people who deserve respect simply because they too are created in the image of God. … [click here to read the rest]

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Forgiveness For Unconfessed Sin – a forever gift for God’s people

Forgiveness for sin is an ancient concept, dating back thousands of years. The Israelites found that God was not only willing to forgive them but that he would be generous in doing so. All they had to do was acknowledge their sin before him as soon as they became aware of it:

If any member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, when they realize their guilt and the sin they have committed becomes known … . (Leviticus 4:27-28.)

But what of sins that they were unaware of, or had not yet acknowledged before God?

God forgave those as well. Every year the High Priest would sacrifice a bull and goat for his own sins and for all the sins of all God’s people, whether their sins were known or unknown.

He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness in the care of someone appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place; and the man shall release it in the wilderness. …

The Scapegoat, William Holman Hunt 1854 (Wikipedia)

This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites. (Leviticus 16:21-22, 34.)

By the time Jesus was born there had been approximately 1500 annual Days of Atonement, each year for one and a half millennia. Imagine if there had only been one, and it was all that anyone ever needed even for sins they never confessed.

One eternal sacrifice

The annual sacrifices – each and every one for 1500 years – were foreshadows of Jesus, only he did it better because the original system could not achieve eternal forgiveness.

But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:3-4.)

It took the work of Jesus – a one time work that supersedes the original system – to achieve eternal forgiveness.

He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. …

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. …

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. (Hebrews 10:9-10, 15, 17-18.)

Jesus’ single act of atonement takes the place of the annual sacrifices of bulls and goats, dying once for all sins, known and unknown, confessed and unconfessed. This is how it worked in the annual system for the Israelites and this is how it works for all time by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.

Your sins – past, present and future – are all atoned for whether you become aware of them or not, whether you acknowledge them before God or not, whether you confess them or not. One atoning sacrifice for all means just that: once for all.

You are forgiven, now and forever forgiven, because of Jesus. This is indeed good news.

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Rooting Out the Gossip Supporting the Billy Graham Rule

A few weeks ago in an online exchange about the Billy Graham Rule (a man must never meet alone with a woman, whether in private or in public), two pastors gave a perspective that grieved me deeply.

They did not defend the rule as necessary for their own purity or the honor of their wives. These far-fetched excuses are heard often, but the two pastors did not rely on them. They also did not deny that restricting women from having the same access as men they work alongside hurts women and is insupportable.

Rather, the two pastors spoke of gossip.

It is all well and good, they said, for people who are not pastors to insist that pastors should ignore gossip about who they meet with, but the reality for them as small town/small church pastors was that gossip is a powerful force in bringing down pastors.

As one pastor put it, “All it takes to ruin my ministry is for one little old lady from my church to start gossiping about seeing me out to lunch with a woman other than my wife. It could even cost me my job.” He could not take the risk of a man’s or woman’s gossip ruining the ministry and so adhered to the Billy Graham Rule out of necessity.

I pray for those two pastors and others like them. They do not want to suppress women, but what are they to do in the face of ministry-destroying gossip? The solution is radical in its most basic sense: Gossip has to ripped out by the roots.

Silencing the Gossips

Gossip is a betrayal carried out by untrustworthy people who lack sense and understanding:

Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense,
but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. (Proverbs 11:12-13.)

Gossips are perverse scoundrels whose words burn people and destroy relationships:

A scoundrel plots evil,
and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.

A perverse person stirs up conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends. (Proverbs 16:27-28.)

A gossip’s words may sound sweet but they sink deep within the listener and burn them up from the inside out:

As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife.

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to the inmost parts.  (Proverbs 26:21-22.)

Gossip reveals a depraved state of mind:

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. … They are gossips … . (Romans 1:28-29.)

Gossip grieves those who love God, as Paul told the Christians in Corinth:

I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented … . (2 Corinthians 12:20-21.)

The answer to gossip is not to give in to the gossips. It is to root out the evil entirely.

Teaching the truth about how women and men relate to each other

The way to root out sin is to rely on the Holy Spirit as the one who leads people into the truth. This is what Jesus promised his friends:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (John 16:13.)

The truth is that God’s people are not to be slaves to gossip because they are no longer slaves to sin.

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18.)

The truth is that gossip is a sin, while men and women working together in God’s family is not a sin. The pastors who fear the gossip, who fear the ruin of their ministry because of what someone might say, face a formidable task but not an insurmountable one.

  • The task is to teach people not to gossip and not to listen to gossip.
  • The task is to teach that women and men are to work together in the freedom of Christ for the blessing of God’s people.

There are no spiritual chains that prevent any man or woman from working together, because, as Jesus himself said:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36.)

Still, some men continue to follow the Billy Graham Rule because, as one man asked in another online discussion, “Why would I want to be alone with any woman other than my wife?”

Why? For the same reason you’d want to be alone with a man. Get work done, catch up about life over lunch, plan a celebration, whatever.

“But people still might get the wrong idea,” they may say.

People can get the wrong idea no matter what you do. Giving in to those people means hurting women by excluding them from meetings and other interactions which you allow men to attend. This is not how a family is supposed to operate, and especially not the family of God.

The answer is not for pastors to give in. The answer is for pastors to teach rightly about the freedom the people of God have in Christ through the Spirit, and to teach about the sin that gossip is. This might take a lot of time and a lot of effort, but if the congregation is so prone to the devastating effects of gossip as stated by the pastors at the top of this post then the pastor has a duty to the people to teach them correctly just as Paul corrected the Corinthians.

After that, if someone gossips about the pastor being seen with someone of the opposite sex then the congregation knows what to do: ignore the gossip, pray for the gossiper, and tell the person to stop spreading gossip.

And maybe take the pastor out to lunch.

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Harem Building – the revealing patriarchy at Paige Patterson’s seminary

There are men who preach that women are made by God to be subordinate to men in all matters – home or church, work or play. Some of these men run seminaries where they teach other men the same, and any women who might be allowed to attend the  seminary are taught likewise. This is how Paige Patterson runs the Southern Baptist Convention’s seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

A Seminary President’s Subjugation of Woman and Elevation of Men

According to a Washington Post article by Sarah Pulliam Bailey (a widely respected Christian journalist on religion and society), Mr. Patterson repeatedly looks upon women as mere supports for men and at times appears to elevate their looks over their abilities.

In 2014, Patterson used a story in one of his sermons about an interaction he witnessed. In the story, a 16-year-old girl walked by and, Patterson said, “she was nice.” One young man commented, “Man, is she built.” A woman nearby slapped her hand over the young man’s mouth and scolded him. Patterson said he responded to the woman, “Ma’am, leave him alone. He’s just being biblical.” The audience laughed. (Southern Baptist leader who advised abused women not to divorce doubles down, says he has nothing to apologize for, Washington Post, May 4, 2018.)

In looking at that scenario it’s clear the one upholding God’s ways was the woman, not Mr. Patterson or the young man. The underage girl objectified for her looks is a victim of misogyny. So is the older woman.

That Mr. Patterson considers himself the arbiter of what is biblical and yet gets it completely backwards reveals much about his warped priorities. This next scenario is even more telling.

And in 2010, Patterson called out female seminary students for not doing enough to make themselves pretty, saying, “It shouldn’t be any wonder why some of you don’t get a second look.” (Id.)

Is Mr. Patterson a matchmaker, charged with making sure the women who attend his seminary can find a man and who is therefore free to criticize women for not being attractive by his standards? Apparently this is an avowed purpose of the seminary as it tells women they are welcome to achieve a degree in homemaking, also known as “Family and Consumer Sciences.” (SWBTS Women’s Programs.)

When Mr. Patterson shows so much concern for a woman’s looks and chastises an older woman for not allowing a young man to express out loud his appreciation for an underage teenager’s body, he is setting himself up as the arbiter of how women are valued in view of their relation to men.

He reminds me of a harem master.

Seminarian Harem Building

In ancient Persia, Queen Vashti came under King Xerxes’ ire when she refused to give in to his drunken desires. He banished her and started looking for a younger and more compliant version to act as his consort, holding auditions by ordering all the attractive virgins to be brought to his palace to have sex with him until he found the one who met his approval.

A young Israelite named Esther was among the young women subjected to the king’s scrutiny.

Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem. (Esther 2:8-9.)

Esther evetually had her turn with King Xerxes, was chosen to be his next wife, and eventually acted to save her people from annihilation. This last part is a good thing. But Hegai’s role should not be taken as God’s approval for what he did, nor the king’s establishment of a harem in the first place as a model for God’s people to follow.

God used them. He didn’t approve them.

Yet here is a modern seminary president encouraging his students to adopt the oppressive patriarchal values of Hegai and Xerxes.

  • Women are viewed as adjuncts to men.
  • Women should make the most of their looks in order to please men.
  • Women should welcome a man’s appraisal of their looks: if the man appreciates that a teenager is “built” the older woman should encourage him in his assessment; if the man finds a woman’s appearance does not meet his standards, that woman should welcome the appraisal and strive to please him.

In setting women up to be appraised in regards to how they relate to men (offering a homemaking degree, chastising them for not taking steps to be more appealing in their physical appearance) Mr. Patterson is the modern embodiment of Hegai and Xerxes rolled into one. And in embodying their values – a woman’s worth is judged by her ability to attract a man – he rejects God’s ways.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7.)

Mr. Patterson turns this around completely. Women are told to look good for a man, and if a man thinks they look good they should applaud the man for “being biblical.” Yet the only way this is biblical is if what you mean is that Hegai and Xerxes are two men found in the Bible and this is the way they acted. But merely being in the Bible’s narrative is not an indication that God’s people should emulate them. (Sodom and Gomorrah are in the biblical narrative too but no one thinks people should follow their example.)

The emphasis on a woman’s looks and their worth as they relate to men – taught repeatedly and used as sermon illustrations by a seminary president – is nothing short of harem building. It might be done in one on one relationships but it follows the same practices found in Esther’s life.

It’s up to those who worship God to reject Mr. Patterson’s worldly teaching and instead follow the Lord’s ways.

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Beth Moore’s Letter Draws Fire From a Man Writing Without Substance

Jesus said that those who abide in him will bear good fruit. (John 15.) I sometimes consider that when I see how two people address the same point. It came up the other day with Beth Moore and Seth Dunn.

Beth Moore wrote an open letter to men in her circles about how some of them have treated women in ministry. She probably expected to get flack for it, but had the courage to write it anyway. Some men took it well and expressed their appreciation, even asking forgiveness for how they have mistreated women in ministry. The number who have not responded at all is unsurprising, as well, since this type of information can take a while to digest for those who need to rethink their thoughts and actions.

But the response from one “ministry” is astounding for its unbridled vitriol and hubris. Seth Dunn from Pulpit & Pen took Beth to task in a vitriolic polemic riddled with ad hominem attacks set against a glaring absence of evidence. There is a constant criticism of Beth’s teaching with no citation to specific teachings. It’s all accusation and no substance, with self-congratulatory references scattered here and there as filler.

A comparison of spiritual fruit indicates who bears the fruit of the Spirit and who doesn’t. As Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians, the sinful

“… acts of the flesh are obvious: … hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy … .” (Galatians 5:19-21.)

But when it comes to the Spirit of Christ, the fruit is

“… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23.)

In reading Beth’s letter and Seth’s response, one person consistently exhibits the Holy Spirit’s fruit in her writing while the other person’s writing exhibits the other type of fruit. One is consistent with the New Covenant model for God’s people and the other isn’t.

I hope my writing is consistently more like Beth’s than Seth’s.

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When Burdens Finally Yield

Detectives in mystery novels carry quite a burden. They not only have to solve a mystery but must also overcome sometimes violent resistance and hope no one, including them, gets killed before the mystery is solved. It takes resolve, courage, and a willingness to stick it out to the end. As Jacqueline Winspear’s detective Maisie Dobbs learned from her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche:

“Everything yields to pressure, Maisie,” Maurice had taught her. “The slow drip of water on stone will, in time, wear away a ridge. Even the strongest metal, if enough weight is applied, will start to bend. Some cases will begin to give quickly. But do not despair of the assignment when it seems to defy every effort. Just give it time. Continue with your work, with your questions and observations. Wait for the yielding.” (Jacqueline Winspear, To Die But Once.)

This is a hard lesson, and not just for mystery novel detectives. Life brings hardships you won’t be able to understand, somewhat like a mystery in a novel. These hardships can take time to overcome, to resolve, to understand, or perhaps only to learn to cope with. Taking the time can itself be a hardship.

How are you to persevere, to be “The slow drip of water on stone [which] will, in time, wear away a ridge”? It is with Jesus.

The Rock and the Water

When it comes to spiritual rocks and water, one passage that comes to mind is when God brought water from a rock for the Israelites in the desert. The people faced true hardship – nothing to drink in a vast desert wilderness – and Moses faced a mystery he could not solve. How was he to save God’s people from dying of thirst?

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”

Then Moses cried out to the Lord, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.”

The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. (Exodus 17:3-6.)

The mystery of how to bring water to the people is solved. God knows stone and water. He created them both, and they both are clues to who God truly is. After all, Jesus provides the water of life:

“… whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well, by Giacomo Franceschini
(Wikipedia)

And Jesus is himself the rock, the foundation all God’s people stand upon:

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11.)

As Paul explained, all of this was foreshadowed in bringing water to the thirsty Israelites in the desert:

… they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4.)

The water and rock in the wilderness are both real and are both revelations – clues, if you will – of Jesus. The rock does not hold the water back but allows it to spring forth for God’s people. This is an eternal reality:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb [Jesus] down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2.)

The mystery of where to find water to satisfy your thirst is solved.

Pushing Forward with Jesus

Yet does Jesus solve all mysteries while we merely sit down and watch it unfold, like readers waiting for the detective to find the clues, endure the dangers, and reveal the mystery at the end of the book?

As Maurice told Maisie, “Everything yields to pressure.” He mentored her, teaching her how to press on despite not seeing where the solution might be found. She worked alongside him as she learned his methods, to exercise his patience, to allow clues to reveal themselves while continuing to press on. This is how people learn from others.

Jesus calls you to learn from him, too.

Bullock Yoke (Wikipedia)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30.)

Jesus’ invitation recognizes that life can be wearing and burdensome. Yet in finding rest in him you will not be a passive observer like the reader of a novel. His yoke moves you forward. You learn how to make progress, one step in front of the other, with Jesus right there alongside you every step of the way. Your part – among other things – is to “Just give it time. Continue with your work,” as Winspear put it.

Or, as the Bible teaches:

Whoever is patient has great understanding,
    but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
(Proverbs 14:29.)

Quick-temper is more than merely lashing out angrily. Its folly shows itself in jumping to conclusions, assigning blame, even in giving up too easily. Patience leads to great understanding when it is a matter of continuing the work, waiting for clues to reveal themselves, allowing the water to proceed from the rock.

Jesus’ yoke moves us forward while giving us rest and peace. It’s a conundrum, but truth as well. You find that all mysteries yield their secrets under its weight.

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