Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Role of women

I have read this passage before and just scratched my head, because I felt like it was odd and inconsistent with the holistic Biblical narrative.

1 Tim 2:11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Recently, I read some commentary about this passage in the book Eldership and the Mission of God by Briggs and Hyatt, which explained that Paul was responding to some specific false-doctrines in the church. Here is my edited brief of the salient points:

[Paul was] correcting heresy (actually raising women's status) and [this passage] is notoriously difficult to understand in English without a proper cultural background.
v 11-12
First Timothy was written to a pastor (Timothy) in Ephesus, a center for the worship of the goddess Artemis. The word translated "exercise authority" [αὐθεντεῖν] appears only here in Scripture, so it's hard to get a handle on.  It could mean "dominate" or "exercise authority in a domineering way" [or "usurp" or "coup"]. It seems that in Ephesus, where people were coming out of pagan goddess worship, women, feeling their newfound freedom in Christ, were taking a dominating attitude, claiming a privileged position. Paul said they, like anyone else, should learn from their teachers quietly and submissively; he did not permit women to teach men in a domineering way.
v 13-14
Paul then corrected another heresy that was circulating, taught by the Sophists in a culture that was accustomed to goddess worship: that it wasn't Eve that sinned first, but Adam, and that in fact she was the one created first. It's foolish of us to get caught up in the "who sinned first" argument. Paul wasn't basing a prohibition of women in leadership on the order of creation; rather, he was reminding them of the facts of the biblical narrative and asking them to keep it straight. He was dealing with an early form of extreme religious feminism.
v 15
Paul responds to a protognostic heresy that women should abstain from intercourse and become male to be saved (e.g. Gospel of Thomas).   Women can be saved through (not "by means of," but "through the middle of"— that is, "in spite of" not only intercourse, but even childbirth.
In essence, Paul wrote, "I don't allow women to dominate men, and these ideas going around are incorrect. Eve was the one who sinned first and wasn't the one created first. But, lest you think I buy into the other side that says women are evil, let me correct that as well."

This background on the false-doctrines that Paul was responding to is essential to interpret the passage according to what he was actually saying. Otherwise, you end up with a conclusion to demote women, which I don't think is consistent with God's restoration of all people, male and female.

Heavenly Father, thank you for truth, and thank you for the opportunity to learn and grow in understanding your Word.  Please continue to guide me and lead me to a more accurate understanding of your character and work.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

worthwhile investments

It has been a while since I went for a walk.  I want to be consistent in this discipline. 

As I was waling back up the hill, I was thinking about all of the new hotels that I saw in south Texas when I drove to my Uncle Larry's funeral.  With the low price of oil these days, I can imagine that most of those new hotels have very low occupancy. This led me to think about how we invest in things that don't pay off; we see such a short time horizon, yet we spend ourselves so heavily on risky enterprises.

Then I realized how true this is in my own life with respect to how much time and effort I invest in building my little fiefdom in academia instead of focusing on investing in the Kingdom of Christ.  It sure is easy to listen to the worldly influences around me, telling me that I need to publish more papers, I need to bring in more money, I need to graduate more students, ...  It is not that there is anything evil about publishing papers or securing extramural research funding; I think the evil is in the "more".  At some point, I am over investing myself, when I should be investing my time loving my wife and children, and being a friend and disciple-maker.

1 Tim 4:7 ... train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the reminder for me to focus on investing in your eternal Kingdom, not worldly things that will fade away.  Lord Jesus, thank you for salvation and hope.  Holy Spirit, please empower me to live a godly life.  May I set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

familiarity breeds contempt

When I traveled in an airplane after I had taken fluid mechanics, I was so impressed with the phenomenon of aerodynamic lift every time we took off.  How is it possible that something as dense as a plane could fly in something as thin as air?

Yesterday, I was reading one of the chapters in Duncan Smith's book about Christ's substitutionary sacrifice and how incredible it is that Christ paid the penalty for all of our sin in His death so that we could have all of His life.  I realized that my heart is calloused.  I want to be moved by that reality. 

Perhaps, like me not even noticing that our airplane had taken off, I am so familiar with the Story that I take it for granted.   I think if I had a deeper sense of ownership of my sin and the terrible wrath that was due to me, maybe I would be more appreciative of the incredible grace of God.

Heavenly Father, I want to be filled with genuine gratitude for your mercy and grace.  Holy Spirit, please fill me with joy.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Equipping and building the church toward unity and maturity

Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV 
And [Christ] 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, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

APEST servant-leaders

  • apostles (church-planters, missionaries, initiative-starters)
  • prophets (God-speakers, Spirit-revealers)
  • evangelists (Gospel-sharers, freedom-proclaimers)
  • shepherds (herd-tenders, soul-carers)
  • teachers (truth-explainers, trainers)
This sentence is a bit of a run-on, which makes it tough to diagram, but I think that the two functions are equipping and building with goals of unity and maturity.

Christ gave APEST servant-leaders to the church for the functions of (1) equipping (καταρτισμὸν, perfecting) the saints for the work (ἔργον) of service (διακονίας) and (2) building-up (οἰκοδομὴν, constructing a dwelling-place [for God]) the Body of Christ (the Church).

Our goals are (1) unity (ἑνότητα, harmony, oneness, and cohesiveness even with our inherent diversity [not uniformity]) in the faith and knowledge of Christ and (2) maturity (τέλειον, full-grown, complete, end-goal), that is, measuring-up to the complete stature of Christ and also filled completely with Christ.

Heavenly Father, this is pretty heady.  As we ordain new elders for our church tomorrow, please inspire us and bring us to an understanding of this truth, and may we continue to fully commit ourselves to this eternally-valuable work.  Holy Spirit, please show us our giftings, and grow us in growing others.  Lord Jesus, we love you, and this is all for you.  I pray in the name of Jesus.

Monday, October 12, 2015


I listened to a sermon today about having a strong core.  The speaker focused on the importance of having a core group of deep friendships to share life with.  The speaker also discussed the importance of knowing your priorities so that you can be strategic in the investment of your time.  Knowing what you are saying "yes" to means that you know what to say "no" to.

I say "yes" to too many things.  I consistently overcommit myself.  I need to learn to say "no" without feeling like I am a failure.  And I need to focus on high quality to the things that I commit to.  I want my "yes" to be a significant "yes".

Heavenly Father, I want to be about your business.  Jesus knew how He could join you in your work; Holy Spirit, teach me to commune with the Father.  I want to invest my time in efforts that matter for eternity.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Emulating Jesus

Acts 28:7-9 NIV
There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.

Paul emulates Jesus.

Like 4:40 NIV (and similarly, Matt. 8:16)
At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.

I now believe that healing ministry is available for all believers, and some are especially gifted.  So, how do we grow in maturity in knowing when and how to heal people.

Heavenly Father, thank you for these examples.  Holy Spirit, please show me the way.  I love you, and I ask in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dealing with problems

Yesterday, Beau told Brandi that he didn't want to go to AWANA.  Last week, he cried a lot and said that He missed his mom. 

I tried to reason with him and explain the value of memorizing Scripture and learning about God, but logic didn't seem effective.

I asked him if something had happened to upset him.  He didn't tell me anything. 

Finally, I told him that I am his father, that I love him, and that I want him to grow to be a strong man.  I told him that in life, he will face many challenges, and he can't run away from them, that he needs to face them and deal with his problems, and that I am always here to help him through that.

As I was saying this to Beau, I felt like the Lord was saying it to me.  But like Beau, I think many times, it seems that I don't know what the problem is.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for me.  Thank you for your patience.  Please help me be more spiritually self aware and discerning of problems.  And please lead me to breakthrough.  And Beau, too.  I love you, and I didn't mean to rhyme. In Jesus's name.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rhema and Logos

However, as it is written: "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" — the things God has prepared for those who love him—  these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV

We commune with God through our regenerated spirits, and God desires that we receive spontaneous rhema from Him in our spirits and combine that with rational processing of logos in our minds.

Heavenly Father, please help me set my mind on the Spirit and stay in fellowship with you.  Lord Jesus, I want to follow your example of walking in communion with the Spirit and demonstrating His power.  Holy Spirit, please help me listen to you in my spirit.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

work paradigm

I've been in a slump for several weeks, and I think it is because I submitted my application for tenure and promotion from assistant professor to associate professor.

When I was in junior high, my dad told me that he didn't have enough money to pay for me to go to college, so I needed to work hard and get good grades so that I could get scholarships.  My parents had taught me how to work hard on the farm, so that conversation significantly influenced me.  I did work hard in junior high and high school to get good grades, and the pattern that I set for myself continued into college.  

At each academic phase, I had a clear goal.  In high school, I was working hard to be valedictorian.  (I came up short by three one-hundredths of a point.)  In college, I worked hard for the "four-point-O", which cost me a lot of late nights of studying.  In grad school, I worked hard for the thesis, and then again for the dissertation.  

And I think my task-oriented, goal-driven personality and work ethic metastasized into workaholism in the context of tenure-track assistant professor expectations.  Looking back now, I am ashamed of how many days I would work 10-12 hours at work, get home, eat dinner, and then ignore my family while I worked on my laptop until late in the night.  This was the effect of my unbalanced "do your best" effort in the absence of clear expectations.

But now that this work is behind me, and I submitted my dossier for evaluation, now what?  I realize that I made a significant mistake.  Humanly speaking, I was working for tenure, and not working for me.  Spiritually speaking, my motivation was to please someone else (i.e., all of the people who would review my tenure application), instead of working for the Lord.

Col 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

The reason in verse 24 is as important as the directive in verse 23.  I know this in my mind, but actualizing it into behavior is actually believing it.  I don't think I have done that.

Consequently, I think I have been going through withdrawals the past several weeks.  I have been unconciously frustrated and depressed.  But I really didn't know why until Friday morning, when I started talking out some of what I was thinking/feeling with RF.  (He really has been a great friend and counselor to me; reminds me of the verses in Proverbs.) That conversation helped me realize that I was frustrated/depressed because I think that much of what I have done is wasted effort or worthless because I did it with the wrong motivation.  I am also questioning my impact and significance, sort of like a mini-mid-life-crisis.  (I think I should buy a Corvette.)  Maybe part of it is me feeling like I was investing my God-given in efforts tangential and distracting from what God wants me to focus on.  I have spent so much of my time operating in an opportunistic way of bringing in whatever extramural research funding I could that I wasn't operating in a strategic way according to how God is leading me.  To be honest, I don't think I have spent much time seeking God to lead me in my work.  Part of my frustration could also be an artifact of this pervasive Western perspective of God having a specific plan for our lives, and we feel like we are missing out if we miss God's will for our lives.  

All of this frustration led me to even question whether or not I should actually be a professor.  I see all of my mistakes and weaknesses in research and teaching.  What am I doing?  Why am I continuing to pretend to be a researcher and teacher?  Why am I continuing to work so hard and still miss the mark?

I talked out some of these thoughts with Brandi in the car on the way to meet with our church on Sunday morning.  Then we got to discuss them over lunch with Steve and Tamara.  These conversations were helpful for me to vocalize and externalize what I was thinking/feeling.  Brandi and Steve reassured me that God has indeed given me a gift of teaching and not to doubt that.  

On Monday, I ate lunch with Isaac.  He really encouraged me about being a good teacher and professor.  One of the things that he said that really struck me was that me helping one of my students is worth more than all of my academic accolades.  That really helped me to think about myself and my work from a Kingdom perspective.  It is so easy to slip into a worldly view of keeping track of my accomplishments (research funding, journal papers, etc.), but the reality is that each student is made in the image of God and I can treat them with respect, dignity, and love.  My fundamental mission is to love people and make disciples of all nations.  I hope I can keep that perspective and live that out.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and patience.  I trust that you can work all things for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose.  Lord Jesus, I want to work for you and not for men or myself.  Holy Spirit, please help me listen to your directions for me.  I believe that you are trying to guide me, and I want to keep in step with you in attitude, character, and action.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.