Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Women, Ministry, and the New Covenant

I originally wrote the following to only two people in my life who were willing to listen last month.  I was pretty much banned by my elders to write anything of substance on my Facebook notes page so now I am back to writing things that matter to me on this anonymous blog!  I truly believe that women are being underutilized when it comes to spreading the gospel.  My aim to show my reasons for believing that women should be taken more seriously by church leadership, and at the very least encouraged to give more of themselves to the task of world missions in some form or another.
"Originally I was going to write an in depth note outlining what I believe concerning the ministry of women in the new covenant age, but I do not think it would be a productive use of my time. However, I will share a few of my beliefs without adding a large of amount of detail. The main principle governing my beliefs concerning the role of women in ministry is that we are living in the new covenant age. I do not believe that women can be pastors, but I believe that women can be called and enabled to do ministry that specifically relates to the sharing of the gospel. It is my understanding that the reformed divide "ministry" in to two categories: general and special. All Christians are called to general ministry which includes any good works done for the glory of God. The other category is "special" ministry, which refers to the ministry of a teaching elder. The ministry of a teaching elder means that one has been called to "gospel ministry". This calling consists of an inner call and an external call. It is my understanding that the inner call involves God working in a man's heart to give him the desire to "preach the gospel" and the external call is the Church's recognition of that calling. So how does this relate to ministry of women in the new covenant age?
First, I believe that one of the many blessings of the new covenant age is that there is a fuller enjoyment of the Holy Spirit's ministry than that enjoyed by saints in general under the old covenant when it comes to rendering spiritual service to God. For example, all Christians in the new covenant age have spiritual gifts whereas only a few saints prior had spiritual gifts. Only a few were prophets, others divinely enabled craftsman, Solomon had exceptional wisdom, etc. This fuller expression of service that Christians enjoy in the new covenant was anticipated by Joel and other prophets (see Joel 2:28-29). Under the new covenant saints enjoy the fullness of revelation because Christ, who is the Word, has come. The diverse spiritual gifts attest to the Lord Jesus' supreme role of being the one by whom God spoke the final word (Heb 2:3-4). I affirm along with the reformed community that the office of apostle and prophet are non-extant and that the gospel must go out to all nations, but it seems that I differ in that I still affirm that women can be called and enabled to share the gospel. This has to do with what I believe the purpose of prophecy is, that is to testify of Christ (Rev 19:11). Some women in the old covenant were enabled to be prophetesses but considering the clear doctrines concerning the roles of men and women, I believe that the way in which they served was different than the way that male prophets did. So although I believe that women cannot be pastors, I still believe that it is possible for women to be called to spread the gospel. Considering the fullness of the new covenant age when it comes to the knowledge of Christ and the saints service to Him it is hard to reconcile that with the idea that women are no longer called to ministry that specifically relates to spreading the gospel of Christ. There are other differences that I have when it comes to ministry and spiritual gifts, but this is the difference in a nutshell."
I am a PCA deacon's wife and this is what I believe.  I believe I have such a calling but am well aware that the church believes that my calling is not valid.  But I cannot help but think about what happened immediately after God called me to "Preach the Lord to everyone", the enemy immediately began to persecute me heavily attempting to get me to doubt my calling.  And the enemy has never left me alone but changed strategies to get me to doubt the calling.  The fight has never been more difficult than it is now when it seems entirely plausible (humanly speaking) that I may never fulfill the call of God due to the Church's low view of women when it comes to the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Grieving Over My Situation

My faith journey sure has been an interesting one.  When I began this blog I was just coming out of a spiritual pit, during the vast majority of the time I posted was recovering from my spiritual depression, and just last year I fell yet again into a depressed state.  I have not written much since.  I am depressed that it seems entirely plausible that me and my gifts do not matter much to the Church.  And that hurts knowing how much of myself I invested in trying to be a part of the gospel enterprise.  It hurts even more knowing that I actually have useful gifts for the accomplishment of the Great Commission.
So I wrote about it on Facebook get some sort of response out of my fellow believers and the elders of the church were not happy about it.  The only thing that mattered to them was that I am a deacon's wife and should not say anything negative about the Church on Facebook.  Or at least that is what I gather.  I only stated that "I do not matter to the Church" and gave my well backed up reasons for saying that.  They did not address that issues I brought up but were fixated on the fact that I posted anything at all negative.  So I took everything "good, bad, and ugly" off of my account because I now know for sure that almost no one in the church cares that I am so hurt by what happened to me in the past when it came to sacrificing myself only to be slighted by the Church.
There is no compassion for me only elders trying to get me to conform to who they want me to be and that's a pew warmer and nothing else.  I'm there solely to make my husband look good.  It does not matter how much I tell the pastor and others that I want to use my gifts they simply put me on the backburner everytime while giving all their attention to helping other people use their gifts.
So there.  That's depressing.  Who could blame me? 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Focusing on What Really Matters and Update on Committed Christian

Nothing earth shattering has happened since I last posted but the Lord has focused me on what really matters, loving Him.  That means willingly and eagerly obeying Him in all that we say, do, and think.  That is a high calling and that involves loving people.  It means showing kindness to the person in church that everyone seems to avoid.  It means giving it everything I have to use my spiritual gifts even if I have never been discipled in using my gifts.  It means valuing what every brother and sister in the Lord brings.  It means faithfully going out and reaching the lost with the gospel.  It can mean any number of things.  I just need to be focused on pleasing the Lord Jesus and not even think about how others are judging me...
By the Lord's grace I have been given the opportunity to go with a few others in the church to evangelize a nearby apartment complex.  We have some interesting conversations ranging from a man who asked about aliens from space to a genius woman who preferred her liberal Presbyterian church to a woman that listened to the entire gospel message, which included a little instruction about the Trinity, who had several Jehovah's Witnesses in her family.  In all those efforts, no one came to church, but that should not deter us from trying to reach people with the gospel. 
Also by the Lord's grace I have endeavored to keep on studying Matthew's gospel and writing a Bible study/commentary on it with the hope that it will be used for an actual Bible study.  I have never been mentored by anyone to accomplish such a feat, but have been encouraged by a friend of mine recently to keep on studying.  He also mentioned that it takes practice to become a good teacher.  The idea is that it is important to keep at it.  I also spoke with a few relatives who accomplished being accepted for missionary service by the International Mission Board recently and it made it clear to me that it is very difficult to become a missionary, but that should not deter anyone from serving the Lord with all their might anyway.  All I can do is what the best of the opportunities He gives me and let Him be the judge of the results.  It may not look like much is accomplished for Him but I believe it pleases Him to keep at it anyway.
Another thing that has happened is that my views concerning the spiritual gifts got the attention of the church elders.  Two wanted to talk about it with me and my husband, since my husband was nominated to become a deacon.  They recommended that I attend a Bible study on the spiritual gifts that one of the two elders was doing.  I agreed wanting to be cordial and because I wanted to know more about what the PCA believes on that.  The pastor never spoke to me directly about it but decided to indirectly put me down (or so I think) in a Sunday school class and a sermon.  About two months ago he said something about me to someone who was talking to me after a Sunday service.  He said, "Stephanie just wants to be needed".  I replied, "Don't we all?"  He just laughed and walked off.  I am tempted to think he looks down on me.  Perhaps he does not but I no longer trust that he really has my best interest in mind anymore.  That's quite different from what he told my parents when they visited a few months before that saying to them, "She's a leader."
Last week I heard in Sunday school a lesson on how the church offices are viewed.  That was helpful because I finally was able to hear it straight from the pastor what the church teaches.  Before, I had pieced it together from reformed sermons and online articles that were only peripherally related to the subject.  I asked about it a year ago but he passed me off to someone who was not helpful and made me sound stupid to a group of women during a Bible study.  Perhaps that was too much detail but it was a frustrating thing to get a straight answer.
I am beginning to suspect that some of the uber-Reformed Christians have pride issues that need to be dealt with.  I cannot even trust that anyone would want to treat me like a living breathing person and talk to me directly even if they want to put me down.  That being said, I still think that the pastor is generally a good pastor, but his faults are becoming more evident.  One being that he tends to be callous to people that disagree with him.  He is actually the best one I have had unless you count the youth pastor I had during the first few years of my Christian walk.  I still want to think the best of him and his intentions but I am suspicious.  It could be that he is so "doctrinally treated" that he does not realize that he is being unloving to anyone that does not fit the uber-Reformed mold doctrinally and think the same way that the uber-Reformed do.  And good luck trying to talk with him about something theological if you do not use "reformed speak" and think on the same wavelength he does.  Perhaps my questions baffled him but at the very least my great desire to reach the lost seems to be lost on him.  But he is still someone to admire for his diligence in preaching and teaching the Word and attempting to get to know people in the church enough to relate to them.
With all that being said, my calling to "preach the Lord to everyone" is probably going to be viewed as invalid until the day I die and see my Lord.  But when I stand before Him I know that I want to have served the Lord in a way that was no less diligent than if the calling were viewed as valid.  That means loving and serving the Lord to the best of my ability even it will remain lost on everyone in the church until the day I die.  That sounds depressing but it isn't if I just focus on my kind and gracious Savior who sees me and regards my service.

Friday, August 9, 2013

An Addendum to my Treatise on Spiritual Gifts-Concerning Prophecy

It seems possible that my only spiritual gift is teaching, so I am risking being useless to my church by writing this, but I will write it anyway because it may serve to enable other believers to be more useful to their churches. I am not a cessationist and the spiritual gift being examined today is the gift of prophecy. I'm finding that this one spiritual gift has a lot to do with the cessationist/continuationist debate. I read literature and even one book, D.A. Carson's "Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14" on the subject. The main issue is the gift of prophecy and how it relates to sola scriptura. Based on what I heard in my Sunday school class last week one cannot affirm both the continuation of the gift of prophecy and the doctrine of sola scriptura. I have been a Christian for eleven years and affirmed both, so this was an interesting revelation (pun intended). Perhaps I was biased from the start because God used a man that claimed he had the gift of prophecy to save me, give me a solid foundational knowledge of the Bible, and the only teacher I had that made it a point to teach me and others how to serve the Lord. So yesterday, I looked at passages where the gift was being exercised in the book of Acts and made a few observations. These are only a few and more will probably be added to this post in the future.
The gift of prophecy in the New Testament, especially since the closing of the canon, seems to be different from the type of prophecy in the Old Testament. However, I affirm that the Apostles and other inspired New Testament writers gave us authoritative Scriptures in the New Testament. The canon is closed and there is no more new revelation to be had. So why do I still think the the gift of prophecy is still a valid gift today? The reason is that there were times in the New Testament book of Acts where the gift served a very practical purpose and was not tied to the giving of new authoritative revelation. In short, I believe that the true debate should be along the lines of what type of prophecy is given in the New Testament since the closing of the canon versus the type of prophecy given by the Apostles, their companion prophets (for lack of a better term), and Old Testament prophets.
Acts 13:1-3 - The gift served the practical purpose of guiding Barnabas and Saul to the work that the Lord had them to do next. It was a specific incident for the direction of specific people. Though God may not normally use such means to direct His people I do not believe it necessarily means that the canon of Scripture is in jeopardy.
Acts 11:27-30 - God used to Agabus to foretell the famine which He used to send relief to the church in Judea.
Acts 21:10 Agabus warns the Apostle Paul concerning persecution if he were to go to Jerusalem. (For some continuationists out there, I believe that Agabus was accurate). Paul decided to go to Jerusalem anyway. Perhaps the Lord was testing Paul and the Scripture does not speak to that, but we do know that the Lord's will was done.
The above examples are all prophecies that dealt with specific incidents and served very practical purposes.
When it comes to prophecy I have another observation worth pondering and it is that the examples given in Acts seem to buttress the idea that Joel's prophecy was being fulfilled. Here is a portion of the prophecy, and I encourage any readers to look it up and read it in it's entirety:
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit". Joel 2:28-29
In Acts 13 Simeon was possibly a black African in the church at Antioch, Lucius was from Cyrene, Barnabas was from Cyprus and a Jew, and Manaen was a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and we all know of Saul, a Jew. There is great diversity even among this short list of prophets and teachers which is consistent with Joel's prophecy that God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh.
In Acts 21:8-9 we read about Philip the evangelist and his four prophetess daughters. Which is consistent with the fulfilling of Joel's prophecy in that even females are represented by not just one daughter, but four of his daughters. In just the following verse we read of Agabus' warning to Paul.
There may be nothing to the next observation, but I found it interesting enough to mention. It has to do with the actual gifts as delineated in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12. Romans 12 lists spiritual gifts that are all affirmed to be valid gifts at the present time, except the gift of prophecy, by cessationists:
  • Prophecy
  • Service
  • Teaching
  • Exhortation
  • Giving
  • Leadership
  • Mercy
1 Corinthians 12 lists gifts that are all thought to have ceased since the time of the Apostles, except the gift of faith, by cessationists:
  • Word of wisdom
  • Word of Knowledge
  • Faith
  • Gifts of healing
  • Working of miracles
  • Prophecy
  • Discernment of spirits
  • Various kinds of tongues
  • Interpretation of tongues
As a side note, it is important to note that I am not a cessationist because I believe that the Bible itself gives no warrant to believe that God would cease to give people certain gifts prior to the second coming of Christ (1 Cor 13:8-13) and that the evidence does not entirely match up with cessationist teaching. I have known several people with discernment of spirits over the years. Many times they have the hard work of serving the Lord behind the scenes through much prayer for their churches and enduring the pain of being part of a "sick" church that seems to marginalize them. As for prophecy, I heard of believers that have received a timely, and oftentimes pointed words, from someone that they did not know and that the Lord used it to convict them of some sin or even bring them to repentance and faith in Christ (specific incidents). I recently heard the conversion testimony of a woman and that the Lord used a man to say something that clearly applied to her to convince her to trust in Him for salvation. That reminded me of what 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 has to say,
"But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you."
And the following, which I believe to be the chief purpose of prophecy,
"Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy...the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation...the one who prophesies builds up the church." (1 Corinthians 13:1-4)
As for the man that God used to save me, I previously believed that I knew all that there was to know about Christianity. It was all about being a "good person" and I was already doing that. Or so I thought until this man came along exegeting the Scriptures and taught like no Sunday school teacher I had before. God also used the same person to preach really convicting sermons to the church I attended. Coming to think about it, I think he has a lot to do with my passion for the Scriptures and for my zeal to serve the Lord. This was by no means a full examination of the gift of prophecy, but it was a start. It would take a lot more time to give the gift of prophecy the attention it deserves. Perhaps I will do so at another time.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 2013 Update-Outreach Begins Tomorrow and Study on Spiritual Gifts Continues

Tomorrow I will be assisting with, Lord willing, in an outreach headed by a friend of mine who was a pastor.  There is going to be a kick off BBQ tomorrow night and the Bible study begins on Saturday.  My friend will be teaching through the book of John, over the course of several weeks, to those invited from near by apartments who decided to attend.  Another friend of mine did the hard work of inviting everyone she could from her apartment complex to come.  It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
While that is going on I am going to begin exercising my spiritual gift(s) and begin writing lessons on the book of Romans.  Once that is completed, the book of Matthew.  Depending on whether the lessons are used, I will consider doing the same with the book of Hebrews and Isaiah.  I also want to complete Bible lessons that go through the major themes of the Bible which could be used for the benefit of Christians and for evangelism purposes.
Since it is a topic that I am passionate about, I am continuing to study on the subject of spiritual gifts.  I just completed reading D.A. Carson's book, "Showing the Spirit".  The book confirmed to me many of the convictions I have concerning the spiritual gifts including the idea that there is no Biblical warrant for writing off the gift of tongues completely.  Carson made the point that the gift of tongues is primarily a gift used in prayer, since it is addressed to God.  This seems to address the fact that there seems to be more than just the former International Mission Board President that spoke a "private prayer language" in their devotions.  The anecdotal evidence seems to be that there are those who speak tongues primarily in prayer.  The book addressed the idea that God sovereignly distributes spiritual gifts but that Paul also encourages believers to seek the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1).  This reminded me of Jesus' admonition, "seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be open to you", in that we are commanded to pray diligently and ask Him of things even though He is sovereign and already knows what He is going to do.  I believe that all Christians have permanent spiritual gifts but that we may ask God for some gifts to be used on a temporary basis.  The distinction between permanent and temporary gifts was not made in Carson's book but it seemed to be hinted at.  Anecdotal evidence also seems to suggest that Christians may use gifts on a temporary basis.  I believe that I am an example of a Christian that had some gifts on a temporary basis.  It seems that my permanent gift is the gift of teaching.  I seemed to have had the gift of discernment and prophecy on a temporary basis since I have not used the gifts in a long while.  I have always been passionate about exposing false teachings even to this present day.  There has not been any time recently when the Lord gave me the words to say to encourage any church I attended since my first church.  I ask for gifts since I have this burden to be useful in contributing to the spread of the gospel, and I believe that my calling to "preach the Lord to everyone" is still valid.   Perhaps the gifts I presently have are all I need to fulfill the call.
Lately I have been reflecting a lot on what I long for the most, having a more intimate relationship with the Lord.  I am thankful for everything He is doing to free me from the false ideas I had about Him, for example, thinking that He does not want to be as close to me as He would other believers.  I am still struggling to trust that He loves me as He say He does, but there are times when I am more aware that He is actively at work in my life to open my eyes to see Him for who He is more clearly.  He recently freed me from a bad job situation very rapidly, causing me to thank Him for hearing my cries for mercy and quickly coming to my aid.  The way that the situation went also caused me to fear Him more in that He takes does not take it lightly when professing believers refuse to hear His words.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I Want to Hear Jesus Say, "Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant"... Committed Christian Is Back!

Today I attended a memorial service for a dear friend and sister in Christ that had passed away recently.  She was a devout Christian having lived her life to the fullest loving God and loving all people that the Lord brought into her life.  She was a woman of great faith and her last words were words of submission to her previous Savior Jesus Christ.  Without a doubt she heard the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant... enter into the joy of your Lord" (Matthew 25:24).  In memory of such a devoted Christian and friend I decided that I will do all I can to make every moment of my life on this earth be Christ glorifying.
I bought a new Bible shortly after the Lord pulled me out of my spiritual pit in 2008.  In the midst of my trial of unemployment I wrote a prayer in the back and ever since then wrote short entries concerning what the Lord was convicting me about at the time. 
Lord Jesus, please make me fruitful (1 Corinthians 12). July 17, 2012
"Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit" says the Lord of hosts" (Zech 4:6). October 25, 2012
'I will be glorified', I believe that the Lord convicted me about. December 1, 2012
1 Peter 4:10. December 9, 2012
"Apart from me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5). December 26, 2012
One day I will give account to Christ for all my works.  I want to present to Him an abundance of good works.  I must be diligent to serve Him faithfully no matter what people think of me-if I'm worth investing in or not.  The Lord evidently believe that I am worth investing in as He is using circumstance to build my character. March 24, 2013.
And today another entry:
Are God's words (of promises, etc.) louder than man's words? March 30, 2013
God's words were certainly louder than man's words to my dear friend and the Lord used such a trusting disciple to love and be a witness to a host of people over the years He gave her.  So in memory of my friend and in obedience to my precious Savior who loved and gave Himself for me I am back to blogging because I trust that no matter what man may say to me my dear Savior is calling me to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and is ready to reward it richly.  May the Lord reward richly by granting me richer communion with Him.  And may He always remind me of the first sermon He used to draw me to Himself in which the pastor preached Jesus saying, "Apart from me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5).