On Sunday, 17 March 2019, less that 48 hours after the horrific attack in two Christchurch Mosques resulting in the massacre of 50 people created in the image of God, I preached this sermon as part of this service.
Today, 22 March 2019 when marking one week since this evil attack, New Zealand’s media outlets (online, TV, radio) will broadcast the Islamic “Call to Prayer” (adhan) at 1:30pm.
An English translation of this prayer is as follows:
“God is the greatest (4x)
I acknowledge there is no deity but god (2x)
I acknowledge that Muhammad is the messenger of god (2x)
Hasten to the prayer (2x)
Hasten to the salvation (2x)
God is the greatest (2x)
There is no deity but god (1X)”
I offer the following as a suggested “Christian Call to Prayer” at this time of sober reflection and meditation:
“Dear God, you are the one true and living God – Father, Son and Spirit. You alone are God and you alone give mercy and grace. We praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ – fully God and fully man – who died and rose again so all those who turn from their sins and trust in Him can find forgiveness and eternal hope.
We pray that those who do not yet know you, as you have faithfully revealed yourself to us in your word – the Bible – may come to know you by faith and in knowing you will know comfort and peace that transcends the evil of this world.
Dear loving, compassionate Heavenly Father, we pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Saviour by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The very fact that in less than 30 minutes, New Zealand will broadcast the Islamic Adhan is as unprecedented as the wicked attacks that took place here just one week ago. This is a crucial and important time for New Zealand and for New Zealand Christians to stand together with all those created in God’s image against evil and wickedness.
Yet, it is also important for Christians to lovingly and carefully hold fast to the truth claims of the Bible and the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. We do this because we love Jesus more than anything in this world and we love others more than we love ourselves, so out of love we honour Christ and desire all people to know Him and love Him.
Fleeners: Going to America
Time flies… September 2017 marked 11 years since we moved to New Zealand as a family for gospel ministry.
Our lives have changed radically over these years. We are not the same people we were then. Clearly some of that is due to the simple passing of time and the normal changes that occur in life. Yet, much of who we are today is a result of becoming New Zealanders and serving together as a family as we’ve sought to be faithful servants of Christ.
One significant aspect of our life and ministry in New Zealand is that we’ve never returned to the US as a family in all these years. We have been happy to call New Zealand our home and Lord willing will continue to do so for many years to come. Another aspect has been the fullness and pace of our lives in ministry. We’ve been in fulltime ministry for nearly 15 years and have only ever had a two-week holiday and those didn’t happen until the last three years.
We’ve come to a time when we believe a family trip back to the US is overdue and we realise our window of opportunity to do so is closing. We also realise we are all very tired and overstretched. By August 2018 Mekaela will be 17 with only one year left of school. Mandy has one grandmother who is still living. We have nieces and nephews/cousins we’ve never met. We have siblings and parents we haven’t seen in many years.
I (Joe) have received approval from the Gospel Training Trust which oversees the Tim Training Course (where I teach) to have the 4th Term of 2018 off from my teaching responsibilities. I have also received affirmation from our church’s Elders, Deacons and congregation to be free from ministry here for December 2018 and January 2019.
Our plan is to return to America for those two months. Lord willing, we will be able to see all of our immediate families, visit Eastern Pennsylvania to show the children where they were born, etc., do some sightseeing along the way and have two or a bit more weeks for R&R together.
Though we have the time now in our schedule for a trip like this, we do not have the finances to make this happen. Like always we are dependent on the Lord for His provision. Like so many times in our lives we know He often provides through the kindness and generosity of His people.
If you are someone who has been blessed by our ministry over the years and are in a place to help us financially, we would be truly blessed.
You can give to our “Fleeners: Going to America Trip Fund” via this account – BNZ 02-0644-0073993-013.
If you are outside NZ and would like to contribute please contact me and I can send you details in an email – jfleener5 AT gmail DOT com
I’ve just realised the blog where these articles were posted in 2013 is no longer online. I wrote these articles at the time when New Zealand was debating and finally legalising same-sex marriage.
I was prompted to consider these articles again after watching a 16 minute human interest story broadcast last night (Sunday, 16 July 2017).
An enormously complex issue; socially, politically, culturally, theologically, relationally, etc. covered in the mainstream media in 16 minutes!
In the best of times it is sad and painful to see real-life, family struggles rehearsed on TV, let alone on today’s crazy world of “reality TV”.
New Zealand politicians (many) pride themselves on being progressive. The media (seemingly the world over) pride themselves on being culture changers/influencers.
For those who believe God’s good design for men/women and marriage is universal and timeless, we must be wise, loving and yet clear in this new world in which we now live and minister.
These were originally published a four seperate articles. I am now including them all here as one post.
To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question
It is the first week of July, 2013 in New Zealand. You go to the letterbox and there it is. You’ve been expecting it, but in some way hoped maybe… just maybe, they wouldn’t invite you. It would have made things a bit easier.
But, you are. You are invited to your sister’s wedding. The date is set for the 24th of August. She is planning to marry her long-time partner, who happens to be another woman. Yep, this will be one of the “same-sex” weddings performed in New Zealand within the first week they are legal.
You and your sister grew up in a “church going home.” Over the years your understanding of the Gospel and the Scriptures has grown stronger and clearer. At the same time, your sister, though still calling herself a Christian, has drifted away from a commitment to Christ-alone for salvation and trusting Him for joy and fulfilment within His holy will for her life.
To add to it, the phone rings the next week. It’s your sister… She explains that since Dad passed away last year, she can really only think of one person who she’d want to walk her down the aisle… you.
Now, she knows your view on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. You’ve shared with her over the years, with patience and compassion, how God’s Word is very clear on this, and an active, practicing homosexual relationship is sin and displeasing to God. You’ve shared with her over the past year or so that marriage is defined by God, not man, and therefore by definition must be between a man and a woman.
The truth is, in the past when seeking to explain these things to your sister you have become angry and even harsh in your tone towards her. This has grieved you and you have sought her forgiveness, yet still affirming your conviction on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
She knows this will be something you will take seriously and therefore doesn’t expect an answer straight way. You hang up the phone… What’s next?
The first passage that floods your mind is James 1:5, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
So you pray, “Lord, you know I lack wisdom, please help me.”
You love your sister, you really do. How can you best love her at this time? Do you attend and walk her down the aisle? Do you attend, but don’t walk her down the aisle? Do you not attend at all?
Other passages come to mind:
Romans 1:32, Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Will your attendance be seen as giving approval for something God condemns, as you are called upon to be a witness to the union? If attended alone wouldn’t, would walking her down the aisle, having to say publically you willing give your sister to another woman in marriage?
Is this one of the areas where I am free to choose either option? Go or don’t go? Yet, what if my choice to go would cause another Christian to stumble? One who has been saved from a lifestyle of homosexuality and still struggles with same-sex attraction (Romans 14:20, 21; 1 Corinthians 8:13).
What about Luke 14:26 & 27 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Is this a matter of competing allegiances between Christ and your family?
This, like many of the more complex issues in our lives, is better thought about before it happens rather than waiting until we’re in the middle of it.
Over the next few posts, I would like to consider how a Christian might think through this very real and difficult scenario Biblically.
To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #2
(In this post I switch to first person pronouns throughout, not because this scenario actually relates to me or either of my sisters, but simply for ease of writing and a more personal form of communication.)
As I try to think through this very real scenario, I find myself very torn. This is only the beginning of the complications that will arise as our culture shifts further and further from a sense of Biblical norms.
It seems like we must, firstly, acknowledge that for those who are in this type of scenario, this is very difficult on a number of levels. Even after thinking things through carefully and prayerfully, regardless of the decision there will be an awkwardness and unsettledness.
It seems to me that Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” is going to provide a grid for me to think through as I consider my role in a situation like this.
Would my actions in this scenario, in any way, be understood to be granting approval for a known, public sinful lifestyle?
If my sister had participated in the filming of a pornographic film, would I attend (whether I am male or female) a “premier” showing of the film to celebrate her success?
I would think not…
Let’s consider the “attend and walking her down the aisle” option…
It seems that in any wedding ceremony, even the most irreligious, the role of the one walking someone (historically called the “bride”) down the aisle has a generally understood purpose: the giving of the “bride” to the “partner” (in this case another female).
To walk my sister down the aisle and give her away in marriage to another woman seems to me to communicate several things. Firstly, I agree that what is happening here is a marriage. Secondly, I am willingly supporting an active homosexual lifestyle. Thirdly, I am publicly declaring that the union of this couple is a good thing and should not end until the death of one of the parties.
To actively participate in anything that communicates even one of the above points in regards to a same-sex marriage would be to go against the clear teaching of Scripture.
As a result, it would seem clear, that I cannot walk my sister down the aisle and “give her away.”
In my next post, I will consider whether or not to attend even if I cannot walk her down the aisle. (The more common and complicated scenario that people will be facing in the very near future.)
To Attend or not to Attend? This is Soon to be the Question – Part #3
Since the first post in this series, I have received emails, FaceBook messages, Twitter Direct Messages, etc. all from people who are facing a scenario very similar to the one I’ve described, or they expect to before the year is over.
This is no hypothetical dream world. There are real people, real families, real relationships affected by what we are discussing.
So, my heart is heavy. I find myself weeping over the brokenness of our world, the damage due to sin, and rejection of Christ and His will. Firstly I weep for what I see of all of this in my own heart, then for what I see all around me. I long for Christ’s return. Even so, Lord Jesus come…
Yet, He has not returned, not yet. And in this window of time in which we live, we are called to live faithfully for Him, to Him, and by His strength.
It is after a long discourse, where Paul reminds us of our risen, returning Saviour that he encourages us with these words, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Having already established that I cannot walk my sister down the aisle and “give her away in marriage,” I still have the question; “can I attend?”
Ironically this question would be answered very simply by Christians a generation ago, though there would not have been a scenario for the question to arise.
Here’s what I mean.
Today a wedding is seen by most as a spectator sport. It is a place to see and be seen.
However, it wasn’t that long ago (even still in many Christian wedding ceremonies), when the attendees saw themselves as witnesses. Sure only two people actually sign the wedding license as legal witnesses, but all present are witnesses to the making of vows.
Even in a secular wedding ceremony it is common for the celebrant to say something like, “We are gathered here together to unite in marriage — and —.” You see the “we” in that statement? Although many who are in attendance may not consciously see themselves this way, they are a part of the ceremony. They are being asked, either implicatly or in some cases explicitly to witness this couple making their vows and to serve them in the future by holding them accountable to those vows.
Even if we were to acknowledge that this aspect of attending a wedding ceremony has so been lost to our culture, we can safely assume no one will see my attendance as a formal statement of approval to the wedding, marriage, or the vows, does this remove all concerns?
I don’t think it does…
It seems to me that if we were to look for a cultural synonym for how weddings are generally viewed today, we could use the word celebration. Surely, most everyone would agree that a wedding of any kind is understood as a time of celebration. You will even find on invitations, often, something like, “come celebrate with us…”
Celebrate… Hmmm… Can I celebrate with this couple? Can I celebrate the public display of an open homosexual lifestyle? Can I celebrate the denial of God’s design for marriage, sex, and personal intimacy?
I know I cannot partake in a role when I am seen as giving my approval for and even declaring right and good something that God calls sin. If my attendance were to be perceived as such, I could not attend.
Yet, even if I knew everyone present (or at least everyone I knew personally) would not take my presence as approval, can I join this celebration?
It seems to me like I have found myself right back at Romans 1:32 & Luke 14:25 & 27.
I love my sister, but I love Christ more. I long to maintain a relationship with my sister where I can continue to show her deeds of kindness and share the Gospel of Christ with her and her partner. Yet, I cannot celebrate, let alone, approve of something for which Christ says is sin.
The next phone call will be mine to initiate and it is one I don’t look forward to. To tell my sister I cannot attend her wedding will not be received well. Not by her, our Mum, or extended family (remember this is written first person, but hypothetical for me). I am likely to be the recipient of direct anger and indirect avoidance.
Yet, I have often observed that long-term family division does not, generally, result from one single event where there has been offence.
If there has been general strife and tension within the family (even if under the surface) for years, then something like this may result in very long term or even permanent division.
If, we have been able to maintain loving family relationships through the years even when we’ve had significant differences, the division that comes as a result of this may be longer than previous periods of tension, but may not be long-term.
However, even if it is, if I have come to this conclusion because I believe it is what is honouring to the Lord and pleasing to my Saviour, I have to trust Him for the outcome.
In the strength that Christ provides through His Spirit I can follow Romans 12:17-21 and within a few weeks of the wedding invite my sister and her partner around for tea (dinner).
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I have endeavoured to write a “kind of thinking out loud” type blog post on a very delicate issue. Not because I am actually “thinking out loud”, but to show the kind of process I might go through in considering such a scenario. In this type of detached format, it can all come across rather clinical and seemingly without feeling. I do understand, when one is facing this situation for real, there will be much emotion and wrestling. Firstly, I believe that is why it is imperative for Christians to think carefully about these things before they find themselves deep into it. Secondly, I believe a Christian can think carefully and prayerfully through all of this and come to a different conclusion than I have presented here. Though we may differ in our conclusion, I believe they will be better off having thought through it carefully.
Everything’s Different… Nothing’s Changed…
Did you notice this morning as you woke to a new day that everything was different here in New Zealand?
Last night the New Zealand parliament voted to pass into law the Marriage Amendment Bill, making New Zealand the 13th country in the world and the first in Asia-Pacific to legalise same-sex marriage.
We should expect to see the first same-sex/transgender weddings in New Zealand in August.
A term and a societal institution which has been understood and practiced a particular way in all of New Zealand’s history along with all of human history across all cultures has just been disregarded, redefined, and dismissed. The word marriage still has the same definition in my dictionary today as it did yesterday “the formal union of a man and a woman, typically as recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife” (Oxford English Dictionary), but according to our government and society at large this is no longer the definition.
Yet, nothing’s changed…
As a Christian, I recognise three significant items that are as true today as they were yesterday.
Firstly, God is sovereign and He does all things well. Most of the members of our parliament would not see themselves as serving the sovereign and good purposes of the Creator of the Universe, some may even be purposely attempting to work against Him, yet they are His servants. His will is being accomplished and He will use even human government with all of its inadequacies to glorify Himself.
God hasn’t changed.
Secondly, the definitions of terms can change over time, but when something has been instituted by God its meaning cannot be altered regardless of what politicians, cultures, or even dictionaries say. Marriage is still and will always be an institution designed by God for the lifelong, convental commitment between one man and one woman for His glory in order to picture the love Christ has for His church. You see, marriage has been marginalised and maligned in or society for decades. It has been seen as a disposable commodity or something that can simply be bypassed for cohabitation, etc. The passing of this bill is significant to be sure. Yet, it is not an isolated event. It is the next step in an erosion process that has been picking up speed for decades.
God’s hasn’t changed His design for marriage.
Thirdly, our opportunity as Christians, to speak boldly and clearly into our culture with the truth of God’s Word continues. We’ve always been called to be lights in a dark world. As moral darkness grows deeper around us, our light can show brighter and brighter.
Yet, here is the sticking point…
If we have not been upholding and celebrating God’s design and purpose for marriage before today; if we have not been boldly & clearly challenging our culture and those around us with the transforming power of the Gospel without concern for personal ridicule before today; if we haven’t been speaking out against sin publically and privately before today, we won’t suddenly start now.
Our commission hasn’t changed.
My Christian friend, my pastor/minister friend. If, over the past year or more you have been unclear on God’s design for marriage; if you have cowered from boldly proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and calling people to repentance, please repent. You are very close to looking no different than the culture around you. There’s no light left to shine.
Do not lose hope. Do not bow to the idols and pressures of this world. We serve a resurrected, returning Saviour and therefore can “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58 ESV)
If you are reading this blog as a non-Christian, scanning websites on this historic “day after” please know our commitment to Jesus Christ compels us to speak clearly and boldly on those things He has ordained. He is our Lord and Saviour. He died for our sin so we could be forgiven. He rose again from the dead so we could have hope – a hope that is not rooted in this world. You can have this same forgiveness and this same hope by confessing your sins and trusting in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
If you do this you will see that everything is truly different and everything does change!
According to my blog is seems like we were reading through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress as a family four years ago. I can’t actually remember how many times we’ve read through this book together as a family, but we are again!
A section that really struck me this time through is the story of “Little-Faith”. I found his story such a wonderful encouragement. Here it is in full.
THE STORY OF LITTLE-FAITH
Then said CHRISTIAN to his fellow, “Now I call to remembrance that which was told me of a thing that happened to a good man hereabout. The name of the man was LITTLE-FAITH; but a good man, and he dwelt in the town of Sincere . The thing was this: at the entering in of this passage, there comes down from Broadway gate a lane called Deadman’s Lane; so called because of the murders that are commonly done there. And this LITTLE-FAITH going on pilgrimage, as we do now, chanced to sit down there, and slept. Now there happened, at that time, to come down the lane from Broadway gate three sturdy rogues, and their names were FAINT-HEART, MISTRUST, and GUILT (three brothers); and they, espying LITTLE-FAITH where he was, came galloping up with speed. Now the good man was just awaked from his sleep, and was getting up to go on his journey; so they came all up to him, and, with threatening language, bade him stand. At this, LITTLE-FAITH looked as white as a clout; and had neither power to fight nor fly. Then said FAINT-HEART, ‘Deliver thy purse;’ but he making no haste to do it (for he was loth to lose his money), MISTRUST ran up to him, and thrusting his hand into his pocket, pulled out thence a bag of silver. Then he cried out, ‘Thieves! thieves!’ With that, GUILT, with a great club that was in his hand, struck LITTLE-FAITH on the head, and with that blow felled him flat to the ground; where he lay bleeding, as one that would bleed to death. All this while the thieves stood by; but at last, they hearing that some were upon the road, and fearing lest it should be one GREAT-GRACE, that dwells in the city of Good-confidence, they betook themselves to their heels, and left this good man to shift for himself. Now, after awhile, LITTLE-FAITH came to himself; and getting up, made shift to scrabble on his way. This was the story.”
Hope. But did they take from him all that ever he had?
Chr. No; the place where his jewels were they never ransacked, so those he kept still; but, as I was told, the good man was much afflicted for his loss, for the thieves got most of his spending money. That which they got not (as I said) were jewels; also he had a little odd money left, but scarce enough to bring him to his journey’s end;
“And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” 1 Peter 4:18
nay (if I was not misinformed), he was forced to beg as he went, to keep himself alive (for his jewels he might not sell). But beg, and do what he could, he went (as we say) “with many a hungry belly” the most part of the rest of the way.
Hope. But is it not a wonder they got not from him his certificate by which he was to receive his admittance at the Celestial Gate?
Chr. ‘T is a wonder but they got not that, though they missed it not through any good cunning of his; for he being dismayed with their coming upon him, had neither power nor skill to hide anything: so ‘t was more by good providence than by his endeavour that they missed of that good thing.
“That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” 2 Timothy 1:14
“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:” 2 Peter 2:9
Hope. But it must be a comfort to him that they got not his jewels from him.
Chr. It might have been great comfort to him, had he used it as he should; but they that told me the story, said, That he made but little use of it all the rest of the way; and that because of the dismay that he had in their taking away of his money: indeed, he forgot it a great part of the rest of the journey. And besides, when at any time it came into his mind, and he began to be comforted therewith, then would fresh thoughts of his loss come again upon him; and those thoughts would swallow up all.
Hope. Alas, poor man, this could not but be a great grief unto him.
Chr. Grief! Aye, a grief indeed; would it not have been so to any of us, had we been used as he, to be robbed and wounded too, and that in a strange place, as he was? ‘Tis a wonder he did not die with grief, poor heart! I was told, that he scattered almost all the rest of the way with nothing but doleful and bitter complaints. Telling also to all that overtook him, or that he overtook in the way as he went, where he was robbed, and how; who they were that did it, and what he lost; how he was wounded, and that he hardly escaped with life.
Hope. But ’tis a wonder that his necessities did not put him upon selling or pawning some of his jewels, that he might have wherewith to relieve himself in his journey.
Chr. Thou talkest like one upon whose head is the shell to this very day; for what should he pawn them? or to whom should he sell them? In all that country where he was robbed his jewels were not accounted of, nor did he want that relief which could from thence be administered to him; besides, had his jewels been missing at the gate of the Celestial City, he had (and that he knew well enough) been excluded from an inheritance there; and that would have been worse to him than the appearance and villainy of ten thousand thieves.
Hope. Why art thou so tart, my brother? Esau sold his birthright, and that for a mess of pottage; and that birthright was his greatest jewel:
“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.” Hebrew 12:16
and if he, why might not LITTLE-FAITH do so too?
Chr. Esau did sell his birthright indeed, and so do many besides; and by so doing, exclude themselves from the chief blessing, as also that knave did. But you must put a difference betwixt Esau and LITTLE-FAITH; and also betwixt their estates. Esau’s birthright was typical; but LITTLE-FAITH’S jewels were not so. Esau’s belly was his god; but LITTLE-FAITH’S belly was not so.
“And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?” Genesis 25:32
Esau’s want lay in his fleshly appetite; LITTLE-FAITH’S did not so. Besides, Esau could see not further than to the fulfilling of his lusts: “For I am at the point to die,” said he; “and what good will this birthright do me?” But LITTLE-FAITH, though it was his lot to have but a little faith, was by his little faith kept from such extravagances, and made to see and prize his jewels more than to sell them, as Esau did his birthright. You read not anywhere that Esau had faith, no, not so much as a little: therefore no marvel, if where the flesh only bears sway (as it will in the man where no faith is to resist), if he sells his birthright, and his soul and all, and that to the devil of hell; for it is with such as it is with the ass, who in her occasion cannot be turned away.
“A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.” Jeremiah 2:24
When their minds are set upon their lusts, they will have them, whatever they cost. But LITTLE-FAITH was of another temper, his mind was on things divine; his livelihood was upon things that were spiritual, and from above: therefore, to what end should he that is of such a temper sell his jewels (had there been any that would have bought them), to fill his mind with empty things? Will a man give a penny to fill his belly with hay? or can you persuade the turtledove to live upon carrion, like the crow? Though faithless ones can, for carnal lusts, pawn, or mortgage, or sell what they have, and themselves outright to boot; yet they that have faith, saving faith, though but a little of it, cannot do so. Here, therefore, my brother, is thy mistake.
Hope. I acknowledge it; but yet your severe reflection had almost made me angry.
Chr. Why, I did but compare thee to some of the birds that are of the brisker sort, who will run to and fro in trodden paths with the shell upon their heads; but pass by that and consider the matter under debate, and all shall be well betwixt thee and me.
Hope. But, CHRISTIAN, these three fellows, I am persuaded in my heart, are but a company of cowards: would they have run else, think you, as they did at the noise of one that was coming on the road? Why did not LITTLE-FAITH pluck up a greater heart? He might, methinks, have stood one brush with them, and have yielded when there had been no remedy.
Chr. That they are cowards, many have said; but few have found it so in the time of trial. As for a great heart, LITTLE-FAITH had none; and I perceive by thee, my brother, hadst thou been the man concerned, thou art but for a brush, and then to yield. And, verily, since this is the height of thy stomach now they are at a distance from us, should they appear to thee, as they did to him, they might put thee to second thoughts.
But consider again – they are but journeymen-thieves, they serve under the king of the bottomless pit; who, if need be, will come in to their aid himself, and his voice is as the roaring of a lion.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:” 1 Peter 5:8
I myself have been engaged as this LITTLE-FAITH was; and I found it a terrible thing. These three villains set upon me; and I beginning like a Christian to resist, they gave but a call, and in came their master: I would, as the saying is, have given my life for a penny; but that, as God would have it, I was clothed with armour of proof. Aye, and yet though I was so harnessed, I found it hard work to quit myself like a man; no man can tell what in that combat attends us, but he that hath been in the battle himself.
Hope. Well, but they ran, you see, when they did but suppose that one GREAT-GRACE was in the way.
Chr. True, they have often fled, both they and their master, when GREAT-GRACE hath but appeared; and no marvel, for he is the King’s champion: but I trow, you will put some difference between LITTLE-FAITH and the King’s champion; all the King’s subjects are not his champions; nor can they, when tried, do such feats of war as he. Is it meet to think that a little child should handle Goliath as David did? or that there should be the strength of an ox in a wren? Some are strong, some are weak; some have great faith, some have little: this man was one of the weak; and therefore he went to the wall.
Hope. I would it had been GREAT-GRACE for their sakes.
Chr. If it had been he, he might have had his hands full: for I must tell you, that though GREAT-GRACE is excellent good at his weapons, and has done – and can do, so long as he keeps them at sword’s point – well enough with them; yet if they get within him, even FAINT-HEART, MISTRUST, or the other, it shall go hard but they will throw up his heels. And when a man is down, you know – what can he do?
Whoso looks well upon GREAT-GRACE’S face, shall see those scars and cuts there, that shall easily give demonstration of what I say. Yea, once I heard that he should say (and that when he was in the combat), “We despaired even of life.” How did these sturdy rogues and their fellows make David groan, moan, and roar? Yea, Heman and Hezekiah too, though champions in their day, were forced to bestir them when by these assaulted; and yet, that notwithstanding, they had their coats soundly brushed by them. Peter, upon a time, would go try what he could do; but, though some do say of him that he is the Prince of the Apostles, they handled him so that they made him at last afraid of a sorry girl.
Besides, their king is at their whistle, he is never out of hearing; and if at any time they be put to the worst, he, if possible, comes in to help them. And of him it is said, “The sword of him that lays at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon. He esteems iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee; slingstones are turned with him into stubble. Darts are counted as stubble; he laughs at the shaking of a spear”.
“The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon. He esteemeth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood. The arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble. Darts are counted as stubble: he laugheth at the shaking of a spear.” Job 41:26-29
What can a man do in this case? ‘Tis true, if a man could at every turn have Job’s horse, and had skill and courage to ride him, he might do notable things. For “his neck is clothed with thunder; he will not be afraid as the grasshopper; the glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paws in the valley, rejoices in his strength, and goes out to meet the armed men. He mocks at fear, and is not affrighted, neither turns back from the sword. The quiver rattles against him; the glittering spear, and the shield. He swallows the ground with fierceness and rage; neither believes he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smells the battle afar off, the thundering of the captains, and the shouting”.
“Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible. He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.” Job 39:19-25
But for such footmen as thee and I are, let us never desire to meet with an enemy, nor vaunt as if we could do better, when we hear of others that they have been foiled; nor be tickled at the thoughts of our own manhood, for such commonly come by the worst when tried. Witness Peter, of whom I made mention before. He would swagger, aye, he would: he would, as his vain mind prompted him to say, do better, and stand more for his Master, than all men; but who was so foiled and run down by these villains as he?
When, therefore, we hear that such robberies are done on the king’s highway, two things become us to do; first, to go out harnessed, and to be sure to take a shield with us; for it was for want of that, that he that laid so lustily at Leviathan, could not make him yield. For, indeed, if that be wanting, he fears us not at all. Therefore he that had skill hath said, “Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked”.
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Ephesians 6:16
‘Tis good also that we desire of the King a convoy, yea, that he will go with us himself. This made David rejoice when in the Valley of the Shadow of Death; and Moses was rather for dying where he stood, than to go one step without his God.
“And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.”Exodus 33:15
Oh, my brother, if he will but go along with us, what need we be afraid of ten thousands that shall set themselves against us? but without him, the proud helpers fall under the slain.
“I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” Psalm 3:5-8
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.” Psalm 27:1-3
“Without me they shall bow down under the prisoners, and they shall fall under the slain. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.” Isaiah 10:4
I, for my part, have been in the fray before now; and though (through the goodness of him that is best) I am, as you see, alive, yet I cannot boast of my manhood. Glad shall I be if I meet with no more such brunts; though I fear we are not got beyond all danger. However, since the lion and the bear hath not as yet devoured me, I hope God will also deliver us from the next uncircumcised Philistine.
Then sang Christian:
“Poor LITTLE-FAITH! hast been among the thieves?
Wast robbed? Remember this: whoso believes,
And gets more faith, shall then a victor be
Over ten thousand, else scarce over three.”
Recently a friend sent me a link to Mark Keown’s blog post “Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?”
In general, Mark’s post didn’t state anything significantly new and revolutionary in the world of egalitarian/complementarian debates. What he writes, for the most part, has been stated by many others who hold an egalitarian view.
Let me state at the outset there are many who would use the term complementarian to describe themselves who are really patriarchy and from whom I would have no fellowship. They say stupid things about what the Bible supposedly claims about woman, the home, the church and society. Their views and practices are unbiblical and harmful.
However, Mark’s post is very unhelpful as well. For, at least three reasons.
- Due to his lack of reference to and interaction with the best of complementarian representatives, one could sadly conclude that Mark’s arguments here have never been addressed from Scripture by anyone and therefore you’d be an idiot to think differently than he does. I know it is only a blog post. Yet, one should, at least show an awareness of the literature and give some indication that there are Christians who love Jesus, the Bible and woman who have come to different conclusions.
Here are just a few examples of excellent books which address every argument raised in Mark’s post:
Notice the above three books are all written by woman, each solidly exegetical, each familiar with the historical arguments and current debates.
Marriage and Family in the Biblical World (a collection of essays, one written by a female scholar)
Here are a few items written by the husband/wife duo of Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger:
Notice that none of the above authors, as far as I am aware, are connected to CBMW. I say that simply to point out that there are solid, robust, complementarian authors and scholars from a variety of sources. I haven’t even included Amiee Byrd and Carl Trueman, who are both complementarian, yet who stirred up a hornet’s nest last year in critiquing CBMW and others in how they often defend their complementarian views.
- Mark makes this statement near the beginning of his post, “However, for women who are called to ministry, this is essential to their identity in Christ, and it cannot be treated as a secondary issue. It is a primary issue where Christian identity is concerned.”
I find this statement concerning on a number of levels which have nothing to do with gender.
As a Christian my identity is in Christ. It’s not in my vocation, my role as husband, father, etc.
For someone training future ministers it would be critical to constantly remind them of this. To send anyone out into ministry where they are thinking that their ministry or ministerial role is where they find their identity is to set them up for great disappointment, frustration, and failure.
- In the last few sentences, just before Mark’s concluding paragraph he makes the following statement, “We may be standing in the way of the Spirit if we block women from ministry. We may be like the Pharisees who thought Jesus was ministering under the power of Satan. Jesus warned them that a sin against the Spirit is the ultimate sin for which there is no forgiveness. That is worth thinking about.”
To give credit where credit is due, this is certainly an original contribution, as far as I am aware, in the whole egalitarian/complementarian debate.
Essentially all of the authors above, and everyone who has ever been a part of Jesus’ church who place some limits on when and how woman can serve in the church may be guilty of the “unpardonable sin”! Wow!
I’ve read some strong statements by both egalitarian and complementarian authors before. I’ve read statements by complementarians that embarrass me. I’ve never read anywhere such an unfounded and frankly ridiculous statement by contributors to this debate on either side.
There is no possible way one can defend this conclusion exegetically. If one handles such an important part of the Gospel’s teaching – “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” – with such a casual and indefensible approach, why on earth should anyone listen to how they handle the rest of Scripture?
To be frank, Mark, suggesting that brothers and sisters in Christ whom you disagree with as potentially guilty of committing the “unpardonable sin” is a serious matter. I obviously have quibbles with the rest of your post, but this kind of statement is beyond excuse. I would beg you to reconsider your words.
This is my favourite John Newton poem…
A Minister’s Burden
What contradictions meet
In ministers’ employ!
It is a bitter sweet,
A sorrow full of joy:
No other post affords a place
For equal honor or disgrace.
Who can describe the pain
Which faithful preachers feel,
Constrained to speak in vain,
To hearts as hard as steel?
Or who can tell the pleasures felt,
When stubborn hearts begin to melt?
The Savior’s dying love,
The soul’s amazing worth,
Their utmost efforts move,
And draw their bowels forth;
They pray and strive, the rest departs,
Till Christ be formed in sinners’ hearts.
If some small hope appears,
They still are not content,
But with a jealous fear,
They watch for the event:
Too oft they find their hopes deceived.
Then how their inmost souls are grieved!
But when their pains succeed,
And from the tender blade
The ripening ears proceed,
Their toils are overpaid:
No harvest-joy can equal theirs,
To find the fruit of all their cares.
On what has now been sown,
Thy blessing, Lord, bestow;
The power is Thine alone,
To make it spring and grow:
Do Thou the gracious harvest raise,
And Thou alone shalt have the praise.