Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Soaring On Wings Like Vultures

On a recent hiking trip, I became fascinated by some large birds of prey soaring over Eagle Mountain Lake. As I watched them, I realized they rarely flap their wings. They gracefully glided on the currents of the wind, letting it carry them along. I spent hours hiking up to high ground for a brief, but spectacular view. In contrast, they were soaring along with ease experiencing a perspective I could only imagine. I began to understand in a fresh, new way the beauty of Isaiah 40:31:

They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like Eagles. They will walk and not grow weary. They will run and not faint. 

Those birds were not holding themselves up. It was the wind and draft beneath their wings that provided strong support and kept them in the air. When I read this I think about God holding us up with his righteous right hand as He has promised to do. 

The words for spirit and wind in the Bible are often the same word. As I watched the birds riding the wind, I was impressed with the thought that God wants us to allow His Spirit to lead and guide us where he wants us to go in the same way those birds follow the wind. Humming birds and small hard flapping birds don't fly very high, but other birds regularly soar up to 10,000 feet. In fact, the wind can carry these birds up above a raging storm so that they can navigate safely past it. Stop and meditate on that for a moment and think of how God guides us through the storms of life. Entire flocks have been recorded as high as 29,000 feet and a vulture was once encountered by a commercial airplane at an altitude of 37,000 feet. 

I mention vultures for a reason. The noble eagle is a helpful picture for our American minds and rightly depicts the majesty intended by the author. Even the ancient Romans used it as a symbol. But the word translated as Eagle in this text is the Hebrew word Nesher, which also refers to the Griffon Vulture. In appearance, it has some similarity to an eagle, but to the Hebrew mind, this was the king of all birds, with a wingspan of up to 8 feet. These noble birds were revered in Israel. There are a number of qualities about these birds that bring out the magnitude of depth and meaning of this verse.

Lost in translation is the idea of a bird molting. The bird gets old, ragged and nearly dead looking and in no species is this more dramatic than in the Griffon Vulture. After the bird sheds its old feathers, they are replaced with fresh, vibrant, new plumage and it looks to have renewed its youth. I believe it may be the Griffon Vulture that gave rise to the myth of the Phoenix which dies, burns up into ashes and then rises from the ashes renewed. The early commentator Jerome wrote almost as if he believed Phoenixes were real. He certainly understood the symbolism. This passage relates to Isaiah 61:3 which tells us that God will comfort those who mourn and give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit. The head covering and garments being mentioned by Isaiah represent the renewal and refreshing of salvation and priestly garments that are worn by God's representatives. The Griffin Vulture has a white head consisting of downy. It can look dramatically bald, ashen and sickly when molting, but will have a bright, white head covering when it is finished, like the clean, white linen God clothes his people with which represents being forgiven, restored and put into a right relationship with Him. Those who wait on Jesus, or put our hope and trust in Him, will be rescued, comforted, strengthened and upheld in God's hands. 

Last Spring, we took a family vacation to Disney World. During our day at Animal Kingdom, while my niece and nephew waited in line for pictures and autographs with Rafiki , I watched a presentation from a zookeeper holding a vulture. Vultures feed on carrion. They keep our environment clean and healthy and they have a remarkable constitution. She explained that vultures have the incredible ability to ingest a wide variety of diseases such as botulism and other bacteria or viruses and not be harmed. The diseases are neutralized in their bodies. It made me think of Jesus, who took death in His body, in our place, but couldn't be held by it. He defeated death. And it makes me think of us. One day, if the Lord hasn't come back yet, we will all face death. But it can't affect us. Like this bird that conquers death in its body, we will rise again and have eternal life. 

The eggs of the Griffon Vulture have a longer incubation period than most birds and both father and mother spend a lengthy amount of time caring for their offspring. I have read that this vulture will guard its eggs to the point it would even die protecting them. Perhaps it was this fact that led to the idea of a Phoenix dying and coming back to life as a baby. Maybe someone saw a body combust, who knows? I would imagine they can get looking pretty awful by the time their young are ready to leave the nest. The ancient world was intrigued by this bird. It's dramatic rejuvenation and willingness to sacrifice for it's offspring provide an important object lesson. Jesus died and then rose again, glorified, to give new life to us, his offspring. We will also rise again and receive glorified bodies in heaven. But even now, on this earth, we are blessed. In the same way that a vulture receives new feathers, Isaiah uses clothes to describe what God does for us in the here and now: 

He has clothed me with garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a groom wears a priestly headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Isaiah 61:10)

The symbolism of a bird receiving new feathers, being refreshed, restored and renewed is a picture of the way that Jesus works in the hearts and lives of anyone who places their trust and hope in Him. Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, He will bring us out of despair and restore us to be all that He meant for us to be. We can journey through this world with wisdom and a birds-eye perspective that comes from a higher purpose found in Christ. In the same way the birds are guided by the currents of the wind, He will lead us through His Spirit. While we wait for His coming, He will hold us up like the wind upholds the birds. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Problem with Saddleback Sam and Super-Rich Seminary Donor Dave

Last week a pack of prosperous patrons attempted to Blackmail and Bribe a Baptist Seminary into Un-Firing Paige Patterson. They threatened to withhold all future donations, while indicating that TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS might be acquired if The Red Bishop was re-hired. What is even more disgusting than their indecent proposal is that they slandered the names of godly trustees and viciously attacked victims who bravely spoke up about the mistreatment they received when seeking help from school officials. 

might sicken you to find out that for the past 23 years, one of the most popular church-planting books and methods teaches its adherents to plan, design and market churches toward uber-rich men. It's no wonder so many millennials are fed-up with organized religion. It's no surprise that we have problems with the way women have been treated. And of course, since most of those wealthy men being catered to are white, the church has a problem relating to minorities. Generations of church members have been lost since these techniques came into use 38 years ago with the founding of Saddleback Church in California. 

In this post, I will address what the Bible says about showing preference to the rich. I will also discuss the various problems this approach has caused and the ruin it has brought to churches. 

In his book, The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren includes a chapter called "Who is your target?" After carefully researching the area where he wanted to plant a church and going door to door meeting people, he describes the "average" man living in the Saddleback Valley in this way "He's either a professional, a manager, or a successful entrepreneur. "Sam" is among the Most Affluent of Americans..." (Emphasis added) Here is a picture of Sam:

In his defense, Rick Warren did not suggest that all church planters everywhere should cater to Sam or to rich people, because all communities are different. He was very successful in building a rapidly growing church and he has done good and admirable things, especially sending missionaries all over the world. He is a faithful brother, but because of his success, many others have followed his example and have taken this one part of the book to an unhealthy extreme. Here is an example of a pastor from a church where I was involved for 5 1/2 years, where I have dear friends and love some of the pastors, but have also seen the problems this causes. This is a video of Bobby Bogard, who was a Senior Pastor at Gateway Church when this video was made, practically quoting from page 169 of Warren's book:

We're always asking ourselves who's our target? Who's our bullseye? ...our bullseye is the business professionals...I'm talking about people with influence and large capacities of wealth.

He speaks very clearly about ministering to people from all backgrounds and walks of life and Gateway does. But according to Mr. Bogard, rich and influential people get the most attention and are clearly the first priority. It's true that the church is in Southlake, which is an extremely wealthy community, but the congregation of the church comes from all around the area and represents a wide variety of people. 

There is no difference between what these men are doing and a first century church sucking up to wealthy and powerful Sadducees or influential Pharisees. These people had completely corrupted the Jewish religious system and, along with Herod, used the temple to gain profit and power. They enjoyed extravagant clothing and sumptuous meals payed for with money that should have been used to help widows and orphans. Here is what the Bible says about catering to the rich and powerful:

God is not partial to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of His hands. -Job 34:19

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and accepting no bribe. -Deuteronomy 10:17

And now, may the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice, partiality, or bribery -2 Chronicles 19:7

You must not pervert justice; you must not show partiality to the poor OR favoritism to the rich; you are to judge your neighbor fairly. -Leviticus 19:15

James, the brother of Jesus, directly addresses the issue of favoring the rich at church, writing: 

My brothers and sisters, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. For if someone comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and a poor person dressed in filthy clothes also comes in, if you look with favor on the one wearing the fine clothes and say, "Sit here in a good place," and yet you say to the poor person, "Stand over there," or "Sit here on the floor by my footstool," haven't you made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen my dear brothers and sisters: Didn't God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom that he has promised to those who love Him? Yet you have dishonored the poor. Don't the rich oppress you and drag you into court? Don't they blaspheme the good name that was invoked over you? Indeed, if you fulfill the royal law prescribed in Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. If, however, you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors...

Any situation in a Christian institution where a person is given influence, attention, position or preferential treatment because of their wealth or power is a sin. 

In his book, Warren also mentions Dallas Doug, Memphis Mike and Atlanta Al. Obviously, these cities are home to people from a tremendous variety of socio-economic backgrounds, careers, cultures and all sorts of variables. These mythical men aren't even stereotypes, they are just made up fiction. Some have used the idea of Saddleback Sam as an elaborate excuse to favor and cater to rich businessmen in the church. Why? Their money makes it easy to grow a church rapidly. Some of these so-called Mega-Metro pastors have misapplied Warren's techniques to make themselves rich and famous for their fast church growth and used that success to sell books, gain influence and collect speaking fees. Even if a person does not seek personal financial gain, while it might be easy to justify using that money for ministry purposes, that is no excuse for showing preference.

Here are some of the key problems with Saddleback Sam:

1. Sam Does Not Like Small Groups
Because Saddleback does not have Sunday School, many churches have stopped as well. We have raised a generation that is biblically illiterate and easily led astray by smooth talking, charismatic personalities who don't know the Bible. Deep spiritual growth takes place in small groups where everyone has a voice, everyone has an opportunity to teach and everyone is part of the discussion. 

2. Sam Doesn't Have Time
The current trend is to shorten services to an hour or less. Drive-Thru church doesn't allow time for worship and meaningful fellowship. Short services might be favored by business men who think they are too "busy," but I have personally endured the frustration of shortened worship times, chopped worship sets and a rush-through approach to church. Fortunately, my current church, NRHBC, takes time to do things right. Church is a chance to slow down, connect with other believers, and worship God. It takes a little over two and a half hours to attend both a Sunday Service and a Bible study class and it is wonderful. Whether participating in one or both, we have time to stop, fellowship and enjoy life together. 

3. Sam Likes Practical, Topical Teaching
I enjoy good systematic teaching when a topic is given a thorough, Biblical examination. But most topical preaching is merely a 3 point Ted-style talk which includes just a few Bible verses, ripped from context to back up the speaker's point and/or agenda. This type of teaching does not foster spiritual growth or Biblical understanding and it is almost never Gospel-Centered. Biblical preaching and teaching explains the meaning and nuance of a text and always points to salvation through Jesus Christ. 

4. Sam Likes Contemporary Music
This one point has caused what have been termed the "Worship Wars." Many churches now have separate services for older members--what a travesty. Music has become a gimmick that is used to get people into the seats. That absolutely wrong and shameful. Church music should not be contemporary or traditional, pop or classical, country or rock and roll. It should be beautiful and skillful. Lyrics should be deep in meaning, rich in content and high in melodic quality. Voices and instruments should be used in a way that brings God the highest glory and helps people to connect with Him through worship. When the conversation is about "style," worship is corrupted. 

Donor Problems
When donors are given special access and influence because of their money, or when they determine how that money is to be spent, everything is corrupted. People often donate for pet projects, but not for the things the school actually needs. It is wildly inappropriate for donors to have influence over hiring, firing and other personnel decisions. 

Leadership Problems
When wealthy and influential people are allowed to make decisions about the direction of churches and religious institutions, The Bible, the Gospel, and Ministry can sometimes take a back seat to business acumen or personal agendas. Even within the practice of good stewardship, the guidance of the Holy Spirit might lead us in a very different direction than a business model or someone's personal plans. 

Churches designed to cater to rich, influential men have been alienating young adults, senior adults, women, teens, children, minorities and the rest of us for far too long. We should always seek to understand the area where we are called to minister and we should seek common ground to build rapport, but Churches should never be designed to cater to a specific group or stereoptype, but rather to give an equal voice, equal input, equal authority, equal attention and build equal relationships with all people. All churches have the same target: Sinners. 

For God does not show favoritism. -Romans 2:11

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Double Meaning: Sharing Good News with Jews through God's Covenant with David

Sometimes, Bible passages have more than one meaning. One of the most fascinating ways this happens is with a "Dual Fulfillment Prophecy." This is when a prophet made a prediction which came true, but which also broadcast the future coming of Jesus or forecasts something about the End Times. Sometimes the first fulfillment would be partial and the second complete. It is also common for a text to have both a literal or immediate meaning and then have a second meaning which is spiritual, symbolic or prophetic. These are especially useful when ministering to Jews. It is always good to connect the Old Testament with the New Testament. It helps to build bridges and encourage faith. 

Testament is another word for Covenant. 2nd Samuel Chapter 7 describes the Covenant God made with King David. He makes 7 promises to David about his future and the future of his descendants, but first, he reminds David of something very important, where he came from:

God said to David: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, to be ruler over my people Israel. 

Jesus, who is frequently called the Son of David, said: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep (John 10:11). 

Here are the 7 Promises God made to the Shepherd of His people, David:

Promise #1: I will make a great name for you like that of the greatest on the earth.

Fulfillment #1: David is revered as the greatest King of Israel and one of the greatest Kings the world has ever known. His name is known throughout the earth.

Fulfillment #2: Jesus IS the name above all names. Philippians 2:9-10 declares: God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth

Promise #2: I will designate a place for my people Israel and plant them, so that they may live there and not be disturbed again. Evildoers will not continue to oppress them as they have done...I will give you rest from all your enemies.

Partial Fulfillment #1: God did give the people rest during Solomon's reign. No wars were recorded during that time and they had great peace and prosperity. But God's covenant was conditional and Solomon disobeyed, so enemies were allowed to rise up. Later, all the people would disobey and have to be punished by being turned over to various enemies and ultimately to the Assyrians and Babylonians. God always keeps his promises. But this one could not reach it's ultimate fulfillment because of the sins of ancient Israel.

Complete Fulfillment #2: Ultimately, this promise will be fulfilled completely in Heaven. God has not forgotten His promise. It is still valid and will be honored through Jesus. (Revelation 21:1-22:5)

Promise #3: I will raise up after you your descendant who will come from your body and I will establish his kingdom.

1st Fulfillment: David's son Solomon became king over Israel. He reigned over one of the wealthiest empires that ever existed and was highly exalted. God established His Kingdom....So the Kingdom was established in Solomon's hand (1 Kings 2:46).

2nd Fulfillment: Jesus, was also a direct descendant of David, legally through Joseph's lineage and physically through Mary's bloodline. Jesus is called "The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords" (Rev. 17:14, 19:16, 1 Tim 6:15) 

Promise #4: He is the one who will build a house for my name.

1st Fulfillment: Solomon built God's temple. (1 Kings 6-8) When Solomon finished building the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all that Solomon desired to do, the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time... (1 Kings 9:1)

2nd Fulfillment: Jesus is building God's church and a place for Him to dwell, as prophesied here and in the *quotations below. I've included the OT Scriptures referenced in this passage because they are so important in proving Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy:

You, yourselves, like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame. Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." and "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense," They stumble because they disobey the word.... (1 Peter 2:5-7) *Isaiah 28:16, *Psalm 118:22, *Isaiah 8:14

Paul's letter to the Ephesians elaborates on this same concept and on the unity between Jewish and Gentile believers. (Chapter 2:19-22)

You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been BUILT on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a Holy Temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. 

Promise #5: I will be a father to him and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will discipline him with the rod of men and blows from mortals.

Fulfillment #1 When Solomon sinned, was unfaithful to God and worshipped other gods, God raised up enemies against him. (1 Kings 11:14-40). God used Assyria as his rod to punish Israel. (Isaiah 10:5)

Fulfillment #2 Jesus is called the Son of God. Matthew 3:17 records that God's voice spoke from heaven saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 

Unlike Solomon, Jesus did not sin. But he took our punishment anyway: For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:21) Isaiah had prophesied:

He was pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was on him and by his stripes, we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5) 1 Peter 2:24 quotes this passage as being true about Jesus. 

Jesus was beaten (Luke 22:63), palm slapped (Matthew 26:67), scourged/striped (Matthew 27:26) beaten with a staff in the head repeatedly (Matthew 27:30) and ultimately killed on a cross, then pierced with a sword to verify his death.

The punishment Jesus took fulfilled this prophecy, even though He didn't deserve it. You see, there came a time in David's life when he and Israel had sinned greatly. I will be writing in depth about this later in the summer, but for right now it is sufficient to explain that David basically says to God, Wasn't I the chief around here? Aren't I responsible? He asks God to let all the punishment be on him and his descendants and God says, Yes. The covenant He made with David was modified---Jesus as a descendant of David, took all the punishment for us and fulfilled that part of the covenant.

Promise #6: My faithful love will never leave him.

Fulfillment #1: Even though Solomon was unfaithful to God. God remained faithful to him

Fulfillment #2: God did not abandon Jesus or leave him dead, He rose Him up from the grave. 

Promise #7: I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever....Your house and kingdom will endure before me forever and your throne will be established forever

This promise is fulfilled through Jesus. It looks beyond Solomon and all other Kings to the promised Messiah. Because of Solomon's sin, the kingdom was torn in two after his reign. Ultimately, because of their sin, the people of Israel and Judah were taken into captivity and the line of Davidic Kings was cut off. There has not been a King from the Davidic line to sit on the earthly throne of Israel since 586 B.C. because the Covenant was broken. But God remained faithful. He remembered His promise to David. Isaiah 11:1 prophesied that from that cut off line of Kings, or stump, a shoot would grow. Revelation 5:5 and Romans 15:12 show that Jesus is that shoot, that new tree. He will reign over both Jews and Gentiles. Isaiah also prophesied:

Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. 

Luke 1:32-33 records these words to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of God's covenant with David:

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end. 

This passage, like many Old Testament prophecies, will not be completely fulfilled until Jesus comes again and we are with Him in heaven. But we can see how many of these promises have already come true through Jesus. And we can have great hope for the future because God always keeps His promises.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

What If She Was Your Sister?: Paul's Advice for Men

Ok brothers, whether you are a teacher, pastor, or work in a secular vocation, there is one piece of advice that we all need to heed. In Paul's first letter to Timothy, He writes:

Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity....Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but appeal to him as you would a father. Talk to younger men as brothers. Treat older women as mothers. Treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters. Support widows...

Over the past few months there have been a disturbing number of prominent male Christian leaders who have resigned, been fired or disqualified themselves from ministry by making inappropriate comments about women, straying from their marriages, mistreating victims of abuse and assault and other issues regarding their relationships with the women entrusted to their care. We need a change in attitude and action, beliefs and behavior. As a leader, the most important piece of advice I have found comes from Paul's instructions to Timothy to treat the women under his care and in his ministry as his own sisters. Here are a series of questions we all need to consider:

Would you ogle your little sister and comment on her body?
Job said: I have made a covenant with my eyes, not to look lustfully upon a young woman. 

Jesus said: I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

There is no sin in recognizing that a woman is beautiful. But we have to discipline our eyes not to look them up and down. We have to avoid indulging in the lingering gaze. It is normal, natural and healthy for a young man to notice attractive women. But I will never forget the moment in High School when, at the commenting, elbowing and insistence of a friend, I took a lengthy look. A well respected teacher discretely called us on it and told us to "Do the right thing." He didn't humiliate us, but he admonished us to show the proper respect. He had seen me at FCA meetings and told me that he expected more from me. None of us are perfect, but we can all discipline our eyes and comments

Should you joke inappropriately in front of our about your sister?

Ephesians 5:4 teaches: Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

Don't make jokes that insult the intelligence of women, or the theological capability, emotions or interests of women. Don't mock women's programs or belittle any work done inside or outside of the home by women. Don't make crude or sexual jokes. View women as equal heirs of the grace of God. And here is the hard part: Don't Laugh. It can feel awkward not to laugh when someone tells a joke. But think about how awkward she feels. Don't Laugh. Let him feel awkward. Lovingly confront and correct as you would a brother. Don't Laugh. 

If your sister was raped, how would you respond? 

Would you "break her down?" Would you confront her for "her" sin? Would you tell her to be silent and not go to the authorities? Would you coerce or convince her to retract? Would you put her under church discipline or on probation at her school? Would you tell her it was God's plan or His will for her life? I didn't think so. But these things have happened. And if you would say that last one, you're a Heretic.

Crisis Counseling: Sexual Assault

Would you talk dirty in front of your little sister?

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

All of our communication needs to be respectful and encouraging of the callings and giftings of women and protective of their reputations, feelings and future ministries. 

Never engage in gossip or lower your level of conversation to that of students/congregants, etc. You can be friendly and relational to build positive interpersonal relationships. But elevate their conversation to your level, not the other way around. Crude talk is out of place, even among men, and should never happen around women. The things we talk about and the conversations we participate in display the level of respect and honor we have for the hearers. 

How would you want another man to treat and talk about your sister if they were dating?
For this is God's will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passions...This means one must not transgress against or take advantage of a brother or sister in this manner... (1 Thessalonians 4)

We should treat all women with the level of purity, honor and respect we would want our own sister to be treated with. The purpose of dating is to find someone to marry. Christian men should only date Christian women and we must, first and foremost, treat them as sisters in Christ. The marriage bed is holy and pure. It needs to be respected in dating relationships. Unless you have made the promises and covenant of marriage with a woman, you have no right to touch her. You are stealing something away from her if you do. I'm not suggesting you think of a woman you are dating as you would a biological sister--that's creepy and weird. But our behavior needs to be pure and we need to treat women with the same level of respect we would want our own sister to be treated with. 

We know that sexual immorality is wrong. But what about our conversations? Most of us have had or heard conversations we aren't proud of--whether with women or about women, especially when we were young. I've tried to be careful not to talk about women I dated disrespectfully, but I havn't always spoken up against others who did. One of the worst feelings I ever had was walking up in the middle of a conversation between some friends. The speaker was not a Christian, the listener claimed to be. It was kind of loud around and I laughed along before I became aware of what they were talking about, and I didn't know who they were talking about. I walked away the moment I realized they were discussing an intimate encounter between boyfriend and girlfriend, but just around the corner was the girl they were making fun of, devastated, crying her eyes out, and she was a friend of mine. She had heard me laughing and I couldn't do or say anything to minister to her or to help. If only I had made them stop. Don't Laugh.

As an adult, years ago, during a time when I wasn't attending church, I had a few conversations with women (adults of course), which might not have been dirty or explicit, but they weren't full of respect and honor either. They might have been normal conversations coming from an unbeliever, but did not meet the standard required of God's men. I'm sorry. I'm ashamed. And I know that I'll never be able to minister to them without seeming like a hypocrite. 

It's time to stop and ask ourselves this question: 

If a woman's only way of learning what Jesus is like was by looking at our lives, what conclusions would she draw? 

We have to make it a priority to protect the purity, honor, dignity, future family, reputation, self-respect and ministry of any woman we date or talk to. We need to see the purpose God has for her life, value her future ministry and actively promote and protect her. And we need to teach this to young men from an early age.

Would you want men viewing your sister in pornographic scenes?

1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us to Flee Fornication.

The word fornication is the Greek word PORNeia. Viewing porn is a sin. Even if you don't purchase it, when you visit a website, you increase the number of hits they receive and increase the influence and marketability of the website. Those views support the sex industry and human trafficking. Those girls are somebody's daughters, somebody's sisters, someone created in the image of God with a purpose and a plan for their lives and that purpose does NOT include selling themselves to survive. Viewing them is taking advantage of the most vulnerable. Run away from pornography. It is poison to the soul. 

How would you want your little sister to interact with men in authority on social media?

Through experience, I have learned to make it my personal policy to politely decline to be connected on social media with students. They can be my friends when they graduate--but only if they initiate the request. Ministers should not send friend requests to female congregants and every word posted on social media should be posted with the Gospel in mind. Of course I post vacation pictures and share life events. It is great to be relatable and friendly. But I rarely share links, never share memes, and over time I have learned to carefully consider every post, trying not to put anything out there that could be a stumbling block to my friends, but rather a stepping stone toward faith or a deeper understanding of the Bible. I never allow anyone to post on my timeline except for Birthday wishes one day a year and I monitor all tagging. 

If you are in a position where it is necessary to communicate electronically with women under your care, then it needs to be brief, informative, professional and ministerial. Don't use textspeak or emojis. That is too "cute" and informal. Spell words out. And do not engage in texting conversations with women under your care or authority. Obviously, If someone in crisis reaches out for help, help them--if you're married, bring your wife in or be accountable to someone. But don't engage in regular, long-term electronic communication with someone under your care or oversight.

If your sister was beat up by her husband what would you do?

If your little sister came to you for help because she was afraid of her husband what would you do? If she sought refuge and protection from you after being assaulted by her husband what would you do? Would you send her back into that house? Of Course Not!!! Consider this: Every woman you minister to IS your sister in the family of God. 

Crisis Counseling: Abuse and Abandonment

How would you like your sister taught and preached to?

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God... (1 Peter 4:10-11)

There is a reverence, awe and respect that should be employed when teaching as God's representative. Don't joke in ways that demean women. Don't make jokes at the expense of your wife or any other woman. Don't joke about gender stereotypes. And when you hear those types of jokes...Don't Laugh. Give a fair amount of sermon time to the important ministries entrusted to women throughout scripture. Give a proportionate amount of teaching space to female Bible heroes as compared to male Bible heroes. Don't take things out of context. Recognize, honor, respect and highlight the many valuable contributions women made in Scripture.


All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) 1 John 1:9 teaches: 

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

That's really great news. You can seek forgiveness from God and anyone you have wronged. The moment we confess and repent, is the moment we stop being the problem and become part of the solution. We've got to learn to protect, encourage, teach, support and honor women. We should treat younger women the way we would want our own sisters to be treated, because they are. I leave you to think on the words of Romans 12:10:

Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor.

The Southern Baptist Convention has responded with strong resolutions about ministering to and respecting women:

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Broken Nose Story: Praying In Agreement

My nose is fake. When I was a sophomore in High School, there was an "accident" at baseball practice. A couple of good friends, who grew up to be great men, let's call them Thad and Tosh, were warming up next to me--like 3 or 4 feet away. We were playing 90 foot catch while the coaches were in the concession stand strategizing. Tosh had a particular proclivity for pestering. He decided to improve Thad's throwing accuracy by refusing to move his glove to catch the ball. After each failed throw, he would What-About-Bob it, taking teeny tiny baby steps to fetch the ball before taking his own sweet time getting around to throwing it back. Now, Thad was a catcher and he could pop up and fire a canon down to 2nd base faster than anyone I've ever seen. After a while, even Thad's trustworthy patience grew thin and he began playing Hot Potato, Hurling the ball back as Hard and Hurriedly as He could at Tosh's Head. One slipped. As I turned around from picking up a bad throw, Thad lost control of the ball and a 90 mile-per-hour rocket hit me directly in the face, or more specifically, the Nose. 

The perilous pitch knocked me flat black-out on the ground for a moment. As I struggled to stand, I had a freaky and nightmarish vision. Tuck was walking toward me wearing his white practice jersey with the blue sleeves. As he moved in my direction from several feet away, an invisible monster was slicing him apart slasher-movie style. Through blurry-edged vision, I watched in horror as swipes of red blood appeared across his white jersey. Red--White--and Blue--At least he looked patriotic--and in school colors. I began to realize that the serial killer strokes seemed to be synchronized with my own heartbeat. As he developed a sudden case of Terrett's syndrome and yelled wordy dirds, I realized that the blood was coming from me. Like a bad Saturday night live sketch, blood was shooting out of my face in bursts through a hole in the top of my nose (I still have the scar). I covered the hole and blood gushed like a fountain, everywhere. As my teammates stood stunned, I left a trail of blood across the outfield, through the visitor dugout, past the bleachers, behind home plate as someone went to get a coach.

Coach Lentz (real name) a first year coach and teacher came out to help. He was a powerful guy who had started on the Defensive line at Pitt State and held their bench press record. He was also one of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) sponsors. He brought ice and towels and told me to pinch my nose and lean my head back to get the bleeding to stop. I told him the blood was running down my throat and choking me and that we had learned in Health/First Aid class not to lean back. It pays to be a good student. We compromised by holding my head straight up and down. If you've ever seen a crime scene drama when it shows blood on the ground where someone has died---Each time a see one of those shows, I remember the pool of my blood behind the backstop that day. He told me he was afraid I was going to bleed out and die, that he was surprised I was even still conscious. There seemed to have been some type of artery or something important severed. 

I asked Coach to pray in agreement with me that the bleeding would stop. Had Coach Richardson been there, he was Pentecostal and would have known what to do. But he coached track. Coach Lentz was from a more liturgical denomination if I remember correctly. He asked, will that work? I said yes. We prayed in agreement that the bleeding would stop. I'm sure some of the guys on the team prayed too. It stopped immediately. From an unstoppable flow of life leaving my body, to nary a drip in a matter of seconds. The bleeding stopped.

Matthew 18:19-20 teaches:

Truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in together in my name, I am there among them. 

One of the ways that God works is that His Spirit helps us to remember His word and lead us how to pray in difficult situations. In this instance, He brought this passage of Scripture to mind. We prayed and believed it and God stopped the bleeding so instantly that Coach was amazed. A tiny amount trickled out my nostril occasionally, as I moved to a vehicle, but everyone recognized the conspicuous lack of bleeding. 

When I got to the hospital, the nurse or candy striper who first came to see me, took one look, gasped, and ran out of the room. A few minutes later she came back, apologized, and explained that the ear, nose and throat specialist on duty was Dr. Shagets, the best plastic surgeon in town. He was about to leave, but she knew that if he saw me, he would take my case and see it through. I believe God worked through that young lady because it turned out that my nose wasn't just broken, the bone was completely shattered. He had to remove all of the broken shards, construct a new nose-bone out of putty and then attach it to the little piece of bridge that was left. 

I didn't get to play ball that spring because if I got hit in the face it would have smashed my nose flat until the putty hardened. I've always thought that was funny. Nike came out with an ad campaign using the slogan "I think I broke my face." It was pretty funny. I looked like a giant teddy bear for a few days after the surgery and was able to laugh about it. 

Humor aside, Romans 8:28 tells us:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

God did not cause me to get a broken nose. But He did watch over me and work as much good as he possibly could out of that situation. He gave me a supernatural peace and clarity of mind to know what to do. I remembered what I had learned in Health/First Aid class. He answered the prayer we prayed in agreement and stopped the bleeding. I was very self-conscious about my appearance, but I was able to laugh a little bit at my ridiculous nose for a few days until the surgery. When given the option of picking any shape or kind of nose that I wanted, I realized that I only wanted my own. I wanted to look like me. And that was important. My friends who were involved in the accident were unfailingly patient and slow to anger as long as I knew them. I learned the value of friendship and forgiveness. I have always been able to breathe significantly better since having my nose repaired than I could before it was broken. 

I was unable to perform at the District solo and ensemble contest and the State Concert Band Festival that next week. It was sitting there watching that I decided to pursue music professionally and become a Teacher.

When we pray in agreement, God heals, moves in our lives, fixes our mistakes and knits our hearts together. Prayer changes things. While there are several lessons to glean from this story, if you remember one thing, remember this: God answered the prayer we offered in agreement.