28 November 2011

Do you know what I mean when I say I don't wanna be alone?!!!

In every man there is a loneliness, an inner chamber of peculiar life into which God only can enter.
 –George MacDonald

I learned that if you TEACH what you just learned, you retain 90% of it, as opposed to only 5% from just hearing a lecture, or 50% from a discussion group. Since a biblical response to my own LONELINESS is something I really need to learn & retain right now, I wanted to teach you all what I just studied. I hope it’s a blessing.

What NOT to do when you feel alone:
1) Keep it to yourself. The devil might trick you into pretending you’re okay. When you hide, you’re feeding your own pride, trying to protect yourself, and only feeling more and more miserable by the minute.

2) Listen to love songs/watch romantic movies/read romance novels/WHATEVER you do to distract yourself or fill up the void. This creates what my friend Karissa calls “false saviors” (little “s” because, like U2, you won’t find what you’re looking for). I have a few songs I really like to listen to, but I know they don’t make me look to God.
  • “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, And rely on horses, Who trust in chariots because they are many, And in horsemen because they are very strong, But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, Nor seek YHWH!” (Isa. 31:1)
  • “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right.” (Song of Solomon 2:7)
3) Surf the internet so you can see how everyone else’s life is more interesting/ happier/ busier/ more fulfilling  than your own.  (Preaching to myself here…)
  • “I who am Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If I live in the Spirit, let me also walk in the Spirit. Let me not be conceited, provoking others, envying others” (Gal. 5:24-26).
4) Complain.
  • “And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age”(1 Cor. 10:20-11).

What TO DO when you feel alone:
1) Tell God!
  • “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).
2) Ask God to keep you company. Ask Him to make His presence very real to you. He will! I started praying this recently; and He is definitely coming through. Just ask in faith and God WILL come.
  • “Look, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and will eat with him and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).
  • “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov. 18:10).
"Your presence is all I'm longing for here in the secret place. Your nearness is all I'm waiting for here in the quiet place. Here in the secret place...Here in Your presence God, I find my rest." 

3) Praise Him! He inhabits the praises of His people! (Psalm 22:3, KJV) Praise --> God’s presence --> You’re not alone anymore! And you’re not thinking about your pitiful little lonely self anymore!
  • "The real test of being in the presence of God is, that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether." –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
4) Get a Bible and read it!
  • “ For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
You gotta replace those lies with some Truth!
  • You are not alone: Jesus says, “I am with you always, even until the end of the world” (Mat. 28:30).
  • You are not forsaken—God will never leave you nor forsake you! (Heb. 13:5)
  • You DO have what you need! “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust” (2 Pet. 1:3-4, The Message).
  • You are not rejected—you are CHOSEN! “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. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:9-10, also see Isaiah 43!!!)
  • You are not weak, you are strong in YHWH! “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” .  . . For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Cor. 12:9-10).  
  • You will never be fulfilled with more approval, respect, affection, money, or success. You will only be fulfilled in God. “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You…My soul will be satisfied as with the best foods; and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips” (Psa. 63:3,5).
5) Find families who are living for God. You can learn so much by being around them.
  • “You set the solitary in families” (Psa. 68:5-6).
6) Seek God with other people.
  • “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Mat. 18:20).
7) Find someone else who feels alone or sad, and spend time with them. Tell them about how God has helped you and will help them! Let them picture God’s love for you in the way you show it to them!
  • God’s cosmic plan expressed through Abrahamic promise was to bless the whole world through God’s chosen people! We fulfill that now, since we are His chosen people, grafted in by the blood of Christ in the New Covenant. “This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise” (Isa. 43:21).
  • We (the Church) are the body of Christ, so we have the same mission (bringing reconciliation between God and man) that Jesus did! He accomplished it on the cross, but we have to spread the news and do what Jesus did! The Messiah was anointed “to preach good tidings to the poor, … to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion,To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified”(Isa. 61:1-3). 
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit." --Jeremiah 17:17-8

24 November 2011

My cup runneth over.

This Thanksgiving, tengo muchos motivos para agradecer a Dios… I have a lot of reasons to thank God.

I am thankful to be home, after being away from my family for two Easters, two Fourths of July, one Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, and birthday.

I am thankful for all the awesome friends that celebrated those days with me. Who am I to complain that I spent January 1, 2011 relaxing on a tiny island in the Pacific? Or that I celebrated my birthday with Spanish food in a restaurant in Panama, surrounded by good friends from my Bible Study? Or that I visited the mountains in Chiriqui, Panama on the Fourth of July? Or that I got to share our mashed potato recipe with my coworkers on Thanksgiving? Or that I got a glimpse of Jesus’ suffering and love for humanity, portrayed through the Holy Week pasos on the streets of Seville, Spain? If you were one of those people God put in my path while so far from everything I knew, “Bendito Dios por encontrarnos en el mismo camino…”

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:3-6).

I am thankful for my church. Where else could you go for 8 months, disappear for 7, come back for 2, and then disappear for another 11… and still be welcomed with open arms when you come back? Where else do you hear the Word of God clearly spoken, praise God and pray with your brothers and sisters, and get a lifetime’s worth of hugs in one morning? (Hopefully a lot of places! But this one is God’s gift to me so I think it’s pretty special!)

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” 
(Psalm 133:1)

I am thankful for my family. They are 7 people + 2 brothers –in-law who have to love me no matter what…and they do a pretty good job at it. We are broken, but still held together by a love greater than ours. We make mistakes, but grace covers all. We fall down, He gets us up. We are a testimony to what Jesus can do. And we are a work in progress.

“And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 20:31-32).

I am thankful for God. He keeps me company when I feel lonely. He is my Sustainer. He surrounds me with songs of deliverance. He is my Savior. I know that He is for me—and if God is for us, who can be against us? I am His child, and He delights in me! He also protects me from my own stupidity. He does not lead me into temptation, but delivers me from evil. He knows exactly what I need—which is not always what I want—and He always gives it to me. He answers prayers in some pretty nifty, specific, and jaw-dropping ways. Try Him. He is my Provider—my Jehovah Jireh.

YHWH is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving” (Psalm 28:7).

20 November 2011

Women in the church?

The complementarian view of women in church ministry states that women can teach men unofficially. They cannot teach men as ordained leaders, or have official authority over men. This is my own explanation of my views on the subject, written for my Christian Worldview Development class at Cedarville University.

The most-disputed Scripture references on this topic are 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. While these both seem to say women cannot teach in the Church, Paul elsewhere recommends that women cover their heads when they pray or prophesy in the church (1 Cor 11:5, 13), and Galatians 3:26-29 says “there is neither…male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of spiritual gifts and notes that “the same God works all things in all persons” (NASB, vs 6). The historical context of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 could be that there was chaotic worship and a need for organization and order within the Church.

In the 1 Timothy passage, the original Greek words used for man and woman are aner and gune. Aner is found in the New Testament around 150 times, and is translated as “husband” 40 times. Whenever “it wasn't absolutely clear that the woman with the man in the context was his wife, it is almost always translated "husband" and "wife." If this translation is applied 1 Timothy, it could be concluded this is talking about marriage roles—“the woman is actually under the teaching authority of her husband. He is the head of the household, spiritually speaking” (from transcript of the radio show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl). Further difficulties with verses 9-15 make this passage’s interpretation highly debatable.

Traditionally, women have not been allowed to hold official authority in the Church—and their service has at times been restricted to a mere presence in the Church. But Jesus’ radical ministry to women—and the examples of women in both the Old and New testament who served and taught the people of God—should be the standard—not fallen cultural norms. Examples include the judge and ruler Deborah (Judges 4-5); Phoebe, the female servant or deacon (diakon) and patron (prosta = protector, helper, patron) of the church (Rom 16:1-2); Priscilla, who taught another man alongside her husband (Acts 18:24-26), and Junia, who is called “notable among the apostles” (Rom. 16:7).

If women can and do serve in the Church, the passages left include those which give qualifications for church leaders: Titus 1:5-9, and 1 Timothy 3:1-13. The first uses masculine language for the elders and bishops, which implies women do not fulfill those roles. This is one reason why I do not believe churches should advocate women serving as ordained pastors or official teachers over adult men.

But the latter passage describes the office of episkopo or bishop/overseer and then that of diakono or deacon. Both leaders must be the husband of one wife. But women are introduced in verse 11, using “likewise”—the same word used in verse 8 to transition from speaking about bishops to deacons. Rather than merely referring to the wives of deacons, “this Greek preposition refers the women to the deacons in 3:11, just as it refers the deacons to the elders in 3:8… [and] in Rom. 16:1, Phoebe is referred to as a "deacon", in the masculine (technical) sense” (1996, Graeme Codrington). John MacArthur posits that since qualifications parallel those of male deacons, gender is the only distinction—and “they are thus equal in their status, function and authority. If Paul had intended these women to be distinguished, would he not have specifically stated this fact at this point in his instructions regarding qualifications for service?” (ibid).

                In the church, women may serve as deacons, and official teachers over children and youth. We can encourage them in this by public teaching and prayerfully approaching women who seem to fit biblical qualifications for these positions. Women can also be encouraged to work with and under the spiritual leadership of their husbands, where applicable, to teach both men and women in a God-honoring, orderly way. Women who are unmarried or with unbelieving husbands should be permitted to teach from time to time. In all of these positions and opportunities, women are held to the same standards as all believers—they must exercise their gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:11), study and prepare diligently (2 Tim 2:15), and be led by God (1 Cor 12:4-6). (Dr. Robert D. Luginbill). Opportunities for women to teach include writing devotionals and books, occasional Sunday morning messages from missionaries, evangelists, authors, or teachers; adult and older youth Sunday school teachers in husband-wife teams; and teachers for younger youth and children. “Yet the distinction remains: those not called as authoritative teachers of the church, men or women, serve the church in a different capacity from those who are so called. Rule in the church always aims at encouraging all Christians to grow in the use of the gifts the Lord provides” (Clowney, The Church, ch. 15 p. 230).