Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reverential Respect?

Lately, I've heard the use of the phrase "reverential respect" when people are attempting to describe their "fear" of the Lord.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not enough!  I have reverential respect for a number of people. I would say I have that for several preachers and pastors that I know.  I would describe my feelings as reverential respect for the president, for our state officials and lawmakers. But the Lord, God Almighty?   Reverential respect?  Are you kidding me?  Nah. I have fear. Outright, undeniable, indescribable, bone-chilling fear.  I don't have a leg to stand on in His presence, and neither does anyone else.

Daniel, that great prophet who was described by God, Himself, as one who was beloved and righteous, quaked in fear before the presence of just the angel of the Lord.  In Daniel chapter 10, Daniel describes himself as "without strength" and "trembling" and "vigor turned to frailty"......fear.  He feared this angel of the Lord - and that was just an angel of the Lord, not the Lord, God Almighty Himself!  Daniel was without strength until the angel actually touched him and that touch strengthened him. Read Daniel chapter 10 and makes notes about Daniel's responses.

We want to talk about and dwell on the love of God - after all, He loved us enough to send His only Son to die for us.  However, He sent Christ to die because that was the only satisfaction for His holiness.  There was no other way to appease Him for our sin. Not only did He show mercy by giving us a Solution for our sin, He sacrificed Himself to make that Solution a reality for us.  Mercy. Love. Compassion. Grace. Salvation.  He is the Author of it all.  Reverential respect does not do it justice.  The only One Who is able to justify us requires much, much more than reverential respect.

What if He came to your house today?  What if the Lord, God Almighty stopped you on your way somewhere?  What if He came to your job?  Don't expect me to believe that you'd be swooning with reverential respect.......ah, no.  You'd be prostrate on your face in fear, without a leg to stand on, trembling, quaking, hoping beyond hope that you could gather the strength to run and hide......

...............until He touches you.

Even then, reverential respect doesn't do it justice.

The fear is turned to awe ................and we are silent from a mix of fear and awe and absolute wonder.  Nah, I see no reverential respect here.  That phrase minimizes His holy righteousness and that has repercussions that no one can live with.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Where's The Meat?

Give me meat to chew. The meat of the Word of God.  Hebrews 5:14 says, "But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."  "Strong meat" literally translates "solid food."  We know that babies need milk and spiritual babies need the "sincere milk of the Word" as stated in I Peter 2:2. But, once we grow to a certain point, we need meat, not just milk, to continue healthy growth. 

For the most part, women's event speakers are lacking meat.  I've attended these events, whether it be a Mother/Daughter banquet at church, a workshop at a conference or an event designed and arranged just for women, such as a rally or seminar.  These events are geared toward women, but they often miss the mark when it comes to meeting the real needs of women.  I've been struggling with these events and have mostly avoided them for lack of substance in the content. Now, when I do go to a conference, I generally choose the same workshops and lectures as my husband, instead of the ones geared toward women, because the men's speakers have meat in their content.  I've never seen men in the women's workshops, by the way.

Women's needs are not specified in Scripture to be any different from men's needs.  We ALL need the Gospel of God. We ALL need a Redeemer. We ALL need the whole council of God by the preaching of the Word. Some might argue that women think differently than men, therefore, our needs aren't the same.  But, God does not specify a different type of teaching for women than men. The Word of God is sufficient to us all, regardless of our gender, place in life, etc. 

It's hard to write about this because women's events are very prominent, women's "Bible" study books are very prominent and women speakers at women's events are very prominent.  But, they have taken on what I believe is a dangerous practice and our women are starving.  But, they don't have to be starving.  The solution is at our fingertips.

Identifying the Problem

In order to solve the problem, we first have to specifically identify it.  I see two main issues:

1. Women generally address the perceived felt needs of their audience.  In doing this, they fail to present the Word of God as It is written, but they attempt to "help" women by making the Word fit their agenda. One fault with this approach is that the only help to any woman is the Word of God, yet it is essentially being "set aside" for the convenience of the speaker so that she can address felt needs.  We don't know the heart needs of the women in our audiences, but the Holy Spirit of God does . When we teach His Word the way He intends - as it is written - then the needs of every woman listening will be met because the Word is alive,  and powerful to do so.  Our words are not. God's Words are.  It's that simple.

Another fault with this approach of addressing felt needs shows lack of confidence in God's Word. If I think that I can take God's Word and improve upon it by taking it out of context, using it to tell women what they should do, think, say or feel, and twist it in any way to fit my own agenda, I have a worse problem than any of my listeners.  I would be far better off sitting down, shutting up and allowing my listeners read the Word on their own.  Then at least my empty, hollow noise won't block out what God is trying to say.

2. Women generally focus on application during their talks.  This is a huge mistake because the application of the Word of God is not our job....it is the job of the Holy Spirit of God.  Our job is to present the Truth as it is given to us in the Word.  The rest - what He does with His Word in the hearts of the hearers - is His business and He will see to it in His timing.  This, again, comes back to confidence in the Word of God and in the Holy Spirit to do what He has promised He would do.

Is this happening because women are treated as an afterthought?  Are they treated as secondary to the men, thus the importance of their doctrinal understanding is secondary?  Historically, women didn't used to go to seminary; that was a man's world.  Have we allowed ourselves to be put in a secondary position, which has led to compromise?  This trend could be a product of its own environment, no doubt, but if we sit back and let it happen, we are just as responsible as those who plan events and put women on the back burner while planning!  If, indeed, that is what is taking place.

Regardless of why or how it's happening, the lack of spiritual depth and Scriptural Truth at women's events is not good for women.  We need the meat of the Word of God, not the fluff & stuff of modernism, secular humanism and the result of catering to felt needs.  In Scripture, we find many examples of women who were very grounded in their faith, who did not settle for fluff & stuff and who were leaders in doctrine.

Look at Priscilla in Acts 18.  She, along with her husband, corrected Apollos in his doctrinal errors and he took it from her (them) and went on to become a great, eloquent preacher, reaching many with the gospel.  Priscilla was grounded in her faith, not filled with emotionally-charged fluff & stuff that had her trying so hard to live for the Lord.  Her doctrine allowed her - rather, caused her - to live for the Lord and she was grounded enough to recognize error.  She fit our starting verse well because she had had her faith exercised enough to discern good and evil.  She not only recognized it, she acted upon it so as to keep the doctrines of our Lord and Savior pure.  Priscilla did not have time for fluff & stuff.

The solution: 

Women need to stop being afraid of doctrine and, instead, stand firm on the doctrines for which our Savior died.  In my experience, doctrine has been a forbidden topic of discussion among many women.  They simply don't want to discuss doctrine because they feel it's controversial.  Well, it certainly is controversial when a person's doctrine does not line up with Scripture!  The solution is not to avoid doctrine; the solution is to make our doctrine front and center of our focus, our message, our reason for being.  He did not die for fluff & stuff.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bold Faith

I've been thinking about the bold faith of a friend of mine recently and every single time I think about it, I'm even more amazed.  This friend of mine purposely provokes people to think about Jesus Christ.  He's relentless; he provokes people ON PURPOSE!  He said to me once, "Oh, I've been provoking my brother-in-law with the Gospel and I will keep on provoking him."  Can you imagine?  He's not from the US, so  I have to wonder if that's why he's so bold.  In his country, is boldness more required? Or is it a case of reception, i.e. how he's received?  Do people condemn him, start rumors about him, shun him, or lie about him because of his boldness?  In the US, that's what often happens when we speak boldly about the Gospel and provoke anyone.  It has happened to me and I wasn't even purposely provoking anyone!

Here in the US, we don't provoke people.  Oh, a preacher might - from his pulpit.  My husband has had people walk out on his preaching more than once because of his bold, direct message.  Yet, he continues to preach the whole council of God, with or without the hearers' approval.  But, as a general rule, the vast majority of the Christians I know don't purposely provoke people.  When people don't receive our message, we tend to tone it down to make it more palatable.

The main reason we don't provoke people seems to be fear.  We fear rejection. We fear being labeled. We fear losing a relationship.  We fear.  Ok, I get fear.  Fear runs rampant.  We tolerate even heresy within the church because of fear.  Is our fear bigger than our burden?  Oh, I hope not!

Most people don't think there's heresy within the church.  I see it all the time, however.  I see it when a preacher promotes a political agenda rather than a Gospel agenda.  I see it when major doctrinal heresy is tolerated in the church in the name of "Christian" love. If we first love Christ, we will not tolerate or allow false doctrine within the church.  We will stand against it, not openly tolerate it.  Is it hard to speak out?  As my fellow Minnesotans would say, "You betcha!"  But, as hard as it is, it's necessary for the Gospel message to get out and remain pure.

I recall once when a lady in a Sunday School class stated, as part of a discussion, "Well, it doesn't have to be all about Jesus all the time!"  I was shocked at a statement like that, but didn't say anything.....(fear).  A couple of weeks later, she repeated the same thing and that time, I did not stay quiet.

I said, "Yes, it is all about Jesus, all the time. If it isn't, we can all just go home now."  The lady who spoke out was not happy with me.  My boldness for pure doctrine cost me that relationship; she walked away.  So be it.   Another time, a lady stood up and said, "We need to set aside the Word of God and love one another." At the time, I said nothing, but the next morning, I called her on the phone to clarify what she said. I thought certainly she didn't realize what she had just said, or that I had surely heard wrong.  Well, not only did she reiterate what she said the night before, she got even bolder about it!  So, I knew where she stood.......she set aside God's Word.  Was I bold for calling her on it?  You betcha!  Did I have a choice?  I don't think so. Does someone who truly knows Jesus Christ openly and intentionally set aside His Word?  Oh, my.  She desperately needs the Gospel.

So, that is why I will continue to be bold.  Plus, on the day when I meet Him face to face, I won't be ashamed - at least of that.  I truly admire my bold friend and hope that I can follow his example and step it up.


Monday, April 4, 2011

This & That

We are surviving the "living in" arrangement with our daughter and her little boy.  It has not been easy.  The main thing I've lost - everyone has lost - is privacy.  Our new master suite helps with that - for me - but I don't have much time to spend there.

One thing I have NOT lost is my temper.  I am my grandson's primary caregiver as his mother is working full-time. He's active and precocious, but a pleasure once he follows the rules.  My daughter has different rules, a more relaxed approach, whereas my approach is firm and sure, something he had to get used to.

Oddly enough, he doesn't cross me; he sighs once in a while at my rules, but he has yet to actually defy me or cross me.  He obeys well enough and he's happier overall when he does.

My theology has played into this a great deal.  When things are hard, and they get hard, I'm reminded from His Word that He has allowed the hardness for a reason; that He has promised to see me through anything and that knowing that - even when I can't see it in action - helps.

Is that not true for all of life?  He has promised; that is enough.  If I can't see His promises at work, it's no matter because He promised and He cannot lie.  So, the promise rings more loudly than my hardship and doubt.  My relationships stay more connected and less tension-filled because my theology rules them as well as my response to them.  Theology.  It sees me through each day/trial/mood/happening.  And I am so very thankful!