RSS

Category Archives: Preaching

A brief reply to Mark Keown’s, Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?

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:

Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian : A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate

Different by Design : God’s Blueprint for Men and Women

God’s Good Design : What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women

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:

God, Marriage, and Family : Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation

God’s Design for Man and Woman : A Biblical-Theological Survey

Women in the Church : An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15

Jesus and the Feminists : Who Do They Say That He Is?

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.

As someone in full-time Christian ministry it is critical that they never begin to think that their identity is tied up in their ministry or their ministerial role.

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.

Advertisements
 

My Last Sunday PM Service at Howick Baptist Church

I joined the pastoral staff at Howick Baptist Church in December, 2010. At that time they were not having Sunday evening services, so we decided to start them the beginning of 2011.

It’s been just over three years but this Sunday will be my last PM service at Howick. Partly due to my family moving to Rolleston, New Zealand for a new church plant in July, but also due to what has been our normal “winter break.” We have generally taken a break in the winter due to the cold weather and the building being too hard to heat.

Certainly this service has not achieved all I hoped it would. I had hoped more of the folks from Howick would eventually make it part of their normal Lord’s Day routine to begin and end the day with the gathered church, yet I realise changing family schedules and routines is hard work and doesn’t happen quickly. I had hoped the service might provide a place for others to serve in music or sound, etc. yet, I was committed to not loading up the same people who serve in the AM with more work. I had hoped there would be a place for younger guys to preach in this setting and yet for various reasons this didn’t happen past the first year, really. In the end, I acknowledge my contribution to many of these failings.

Yet, I am still thankful for these 3+ years of services.

Those who have attended regularly have enjoyed genuine fellowship at a deeper level with others than is often possible when only attending the morning service.

We have made the sharing of prayer requests and prayer a regular part of this service. This has allowed us to learn from others when hearing them pray (and there are some ladies that when they pray you really learn how a mature, lover of Christ prays), along with hearing how God is answering prayer.

We have enjoyed singing some great hymns together. Even as a small group often singing with no instruments we have experienced some great times in corporate song. (Even with me leading singing out of tune, although there have been some attempts which have been complete failures!)

Since the beginning we have included a Q&A time during the service, usually at the end. This has allowed people to ask questions related to the sermon/teaching or anything else they wanted to ask. This has ranged from basic followup questions from what was just taught to some big questions about life and the Scriptures. Of all that we’ve done during this service this is the aspect for which I have received the most consistent, positive feedback.

There have been a handful of young adults and a couple of guys in particular which have been very faithful to this service from the beginning. This has been hugely encouraging.

A couple of our elderly ladies, even widows, have attended very faithfully as well. I have found this to be both humbling and a wonderful example.

Also a few ladies who are married to non-Christians have been very faithful. Their cheerfulness and thankfulness has been a real blessing.

I don’t have an exact number, but I can think of six to eight people who started attending the PM service and then began attending the AM service as well. This was unexpected but something that I found very encouraging.

Finally, this service has provided a wonderful opportunity for me to preach/teach more regularly than I have in years and, as a result, to grow substantially for which I am very thaknful.

In these 3+ years I have preached through Colossians, Porverbs, The Gospel of Mark, and a series through the Minor Prophets. In addition, I taught through a lengthy series on Ethics, and Doctrine.

I have been blessed, equiped, and encouraged. I think I am more prepared for church planting as a result of the experience this service has provided me and my family.

We will miss these folks and this service very much. We are very thankful.

I am very committed to the idea of two services on a Sunday and look forward to seeing how we might provide for this in the coming years in Rolleston Baptist Church. In the early months we are looking to have an afternoon service after a shared lunch, but we will see what The Lord does.

 

Psalm 46 – “Be still and know that I am God”

This Sunday AM I will be preaching one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 46:

ESV  Psalm 46:1 To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

As a church we will also begin memorizing the next hymn in our monthly, hymn memorization project, again a favorite – A Mighty Fortress Is Our GodThis is Luther’s hymn loosely based on Psalm 46.

The first part of Psalm 46:10 is a much loved statement, one often included on cards or little trinkets to hang on your refrigerator.

“Be still and know that I am God”

Is this meant to be a a soft word of calm and assuring comfort or a word of rebuke?

Is it “Be still and know that I am God” to those who are suffering, or “Be Still! Know I am God!” to those who are raging against God?

Which fits the context of the Psalm? Which do you think Luther saw in this Psalm?

I’ll give my answer Sunday morning… 🙂

 

Jephthah’s Vow was Rash, but not a Burnt Offering

Earlier this morning I saw a link to this blog post by David Murray: Jephthah’s Perfect Vow

I very quickly posted the following on Twitter:

“This has been my understanding & what I’ve taught for years – headhearthand.org/blog/2014/02/2…. Glad to see others discussing this view.”

This is a perfect example of doing too many things at once, not reading carefully, and tweeting too quickly!

I do agree with Murray, Jephthah probably did not offer his daughter as a burnt sacrifice, but rather dedicated her to a life of perpetual virginity as a temple servant. However, I disagree with some of Murray’s reasons along with whether Jephthah’s vow was rash or not.

So, I do believe his vow was rash, yet I do not believe the daughter was offered as a burnt sacrifice. Here are the reasons I have given for this interpretation for nearly 10 years as I have taught OT Survey, Conquest & Settlement, and preached from Judges.

Linguistically:

The word Jephthah uses in 11:31 that is generally translated “burnt offering” literally means simply, “wholly dedicated”. A form of the same word is used in the Sampson account (chapter 13) to describe Sampson being “dedicated to the Lord” – clearly Sampson was not offered as a burnt sacrifice. Context must determine if the word means wholly dedicated in the form of a burnt offering or wholly dedicated in some other way.

— A Friend pointed out a problem with the above —

It is the noun form which is used in 11:31 and in fact this form is not used in chapter 13 referring to Sampson. Moreover it is only used one other time in Judges (6:26) where it clearly refers to a burnt offering.

Even more, the noun form, according to HALOT (the generally accepted comprehensive Hebrew Lexicon) attributes the noun form to only those uses meaning burnt offering.

— Therefore linguistically the weight is in favor of “burnt offering”. I am still in favor of my conclusion for the following reasons. However, I am thankful for this correction.

Exegetically:

Clearly in the passage the emphasis is on the daughter’s virginity and lack of marriage, not on her death. Within the flow of the text one is left to understand the terrible thing this girl is experiencing is the lack of opportunity to marry and have children. This would be an odd thing to mourn over year after year (vs. 40) if this girl was burned alive.

Historically/Genealogically:

Verse 34 seems to go out of the way to emphasis this was Jephthah’s only child! To have her killed or to dedicate her to perpetual virginity in the temple would be genealogical suicide. Jephthah would have no descendants to carry on his name, no one to receive his portion of the land inheritance (and yes, God had provided a way to daughters to receive the land inheritance from their father when there were no sons). As a result Jephthah’s vow was terminating his family from the genealogical records of Israel! Regardless of how the vow was carried out this was rash indeed.

Structurally:

The books of Judges is structured in such a way that the character and actions of the judges go from bad to worse. Jephthah is no hero himself to be sure, but Sampson is coming and he is far worse. The book ends with a depiction of the Levites doing things that are almost unmentionable (except they are in the Bible). So structurally the books isn’t yet to a level of depravity where one would would expect to find something so horrific as a child sacrifice. (BTW: I would suggest we don’t see child sacrifices in Israel until much later in their history as this is something God so seriously hates – Lev. 18:21; Deut. 12:31; Ez. 16)

I’ll also say here, this is why I don’t find Murray’s “filled with the Holy Spirit” argument helpful. Even Sampson was filled with the Holy Spirit on occasion. It seems clear that, in Judges, the Holy Spirit “came upon” (probably a better translation here than “filled”) for occasions of power and authority and then departed. This is why we see people who have the Spirit on one occasion doing magnificent things, and then the same person later doing horrific things.

Theologically:

God provided a payment to redeem oneself from a vow of this type – Lev. 27:1-8; 28-29.

Many have observed God’s silence in the rest of chapter 11 regarding the outcome of this event. Based on God’s very loud and powerful statements regarding his hatred for human (and child in particular) sacrifice elsewhere, it is difficult for me conclude that He would be silent if that is what is going on here. I certainly cannot see how one can conclude that God would have “accepted” a human sacrifice here as fulfillment of this vow. From my reading of the passage it seems like God does indeed accept Jephthah’s payment – his daughter’s whole dedication unto the Lord in temple service resulting in her perpetual virginity and the end of Jephthah’s family line.

A couple of years ago I was at a conference where someone was preaching from Judges. He happened to preach the Jephthah narrative. In his sermon is essentially said, “Oh, yeah there are some who think maybe Jephthah didn’t offer his daughter as a burnt offering, but that’s nonsense and silly, they just have weak stomachs.”

Not only in that attitude uncharitable and unhelpful. It also shows an ignorance of the arguments others have put forward for this interpretation, at best, and, at worst, an arrogance in one’s own view.

It is far better when teaching/preaching a passage like this to give the arguments on both sides clearly & helpfully, then conclude with which view you hold and why. As a result people are not just taught to think what you tell them, but they are taught how to think and how to think carefully from the text.

 

2014 Equip Conference Reflections

This year marked #5 for me spending my first week of the year with a bunch of great Christian folks in Christchurch from all over New Zealand. Up until this year, this conference has been known as YLC (Youth Leadership Conference). This year it became known as Equip Conference.

This was the third year for the whole family to attend. This alone is a true blessing.

For two years my wife and I have be privileged to lead a Strand #1 group where we have helped a small group (approx. 10) work through the principles of Bible study and interpretation for a New Testament passage. This year my wife did this with a group of young girls as I was occupied elsewhere.

Our children have come to look forward to this week more than Christmas! They have the time of their life running around camp with heaps of friends and learning from the great leaders who oversee the children’s program.

The week is truly a blessing for us as a family. It must be said that our attendance to this each year is only possible due to the generosity of God’s people. It generally costs us about $2,000.00 as a family to attend and each year the Lord has provided for this through the kindness of His people in specific giving. We are very thankful.

This year, in addition to leading a Strand #1 group, Mandy also played piano for the morning sessions. Though this involved practices, etc. it was a great opportunity to serve God’s people with an ability He has given her.

This year also marked our third year to “celebrate” our wedding anniversary while at conference! The way the dates have fallen the past three years the conference occurs in the week of our anniversary. So, this year on Wednesday, we enjoyed celebrating 14 years of marriage with about 200 other people!

(By way of full disclosure, this was the first year I can remember when I woke up not remembering it was our anniversary! I remembered when I went to bed the night before, but it had evaporated out of my head by morning! In addition, one of our children fell ill on Wednesday, so Mandy spent part of the day at the doctor. Yes, for those who don’t know, every year one of our children has ended up sick and we’ve been either up all night, in hospital or the doctor!)

A big difference this year, for me, was that I served as one of the main speakers. I was given the opportunity to preach four sermons from John’s Gospel Monday – Thursday morning.

You can download the message here:

Equip Kaiapoi 2014 
New Beginning, Same Old Story?
Peter Adam on Ezra and Joe Fleener on John

The Incarnation of the Everlasting Son Play Download

Jesus: The True Temple Play Download

Jesus: The Saviour of All Those Who Believe Play Download

Jesus: The Promised Redeemer, A Friend to Sinners Play Download

Being a main speaker changed the “dynamic” of the conference week for me in ways I hadn’t expected:

  1. I was made to answer questions regarding my wife in front of everyone the morning of our anniversary to see if I would give the same answers as she after 14 years! I think I only scored 50%.
  2. More seriously, the opportunities to interact with attendees were fewer. As a Strand leader you are spending significant amounts of time each day with a small group of people. As a main speaker you are in front of everyone but are more limited when it comes to personal interaction. It took to about Wednesday afternoon before I was really connecting with people like I had in previous years from day #1.
  3. I was able to enjoy one-on-one time with the other speaker which I have not generally been able to do in previous years. This was actually a highlight for me as Peter Adam is one of my heroes. I benefited from his wisdom and counsel.

Find Peter’s five messages from Ezra here:

Trust the powerful word of God Play   Download

Receive God’s grace promised in his word Play   Download

Face opposition to God’s word Play   Download

Set your hearts to study, do and teach God’s word Play   Download

Repent of your sins because of God’s word Play   Download

I also serve on the Board of The Gospel Training Trust which oversees equip along with serving as part of the team planning to start a North Island version of this conference at the end of 2014. As a result a good bit of my “free” time is spent in various meetings and planning discussions.

Personally I am thankful for this year’s conference:

  1. In preparing for my four sermons from John’s Gospel I was able to spend extended time thinking hard about the person and work of Jesus Christ. As I, once again, thought carefully about the gospel and its implications to my life, I was convicted of my own sin and captivated by the majesty of Christ.
  2. I had never preached from John’s Gospel before (other than an occasional “one-off”). I found preaching through Mark’s Gospel a couple of years ago very challenging, so this was a great growing opportunity for me as a preacher.
  3. I was particularly challenged as I sat under Peter Adam’s preaching from Ezra to examine my own heart in considering how I face opposition, my desires as I study the Word, and the ongoing need for repentance in my own life.
  4. I was very encouraged to see my wife serving so capably and enjoying every opportunity to serve others.
  5. We were very blessed to see some old, dear friends from other places around New Zealand. Some we only see this one week each year. Others we haven’t seen in several years. The fellowship was precious.
  6. My children have made and continue to make some wonderful friends through this conference. For this I am very grateful.
  7. As the conference progressed I was so encouraged in engage in conversations with folks who truly desire to know God through His Word by accurately handling His Word, apply it to their lives through the lifelong process of repentance and faith, and to teach others what they have learned!

I say it each year. This conference is unlike any I have ever attended. I cannot recommend it enough.

You can find a large photo collection from the conference on FaceBook here.

 

MRBC & GBC Combined Church Camp Sermons

In October last year I was privileged to speak at the combined church camp for Marchwiel Reformed Baptist Church & Grace Baptist Church.

It was a joy for our whole family to attend this camp as we were able to fellowship with the folks and found ourselves blessed by deepening friendships. I am grateful for the churches making it possible for Mandy and the children to attend.

A highlight of the weekend for me, was an impromptu Q&A held with the young people (teens, uni students, and other young adults). There were 50 or more who joined in and we spent 2+ hours wrestling through loads of good questions as we considered God’s Word together.

I’ve only recently learned that the messages (not the Q&A) from this camp are online. Perhaps they will be helpful to others.

MRBC & GBC Combined Church Camp Sermons (25-28 October 2013):

Session 1: Phil 1:1-2 – Introduction
Session 2: Phil 1:3-11 – The Exalted Christ Transforms Our Thankfulness and Prayers
Session 3: Phil 1:18b-30 – The Exalted Christ Transforms Our Priorities & Our Perspective
Session 4: Phil 2:1-11 – The Exalted Christ Transforms Our Preferences
Session 5: Phil 3:12-4:1 – The Exalted Christ Transforms Our Perseverance
Session 6: Phil 4:2-9 – The Exalted Christ Transforms Our Mind

 
 

2013 Teaching Review

It goes without saying the role of a pastor involves much more than teaching/preaching. Yet, the responsibility to teaching God’s Word is a significant part of my calling in ministry. As I look back on 2013 I notice this is seen in the quantity of time doing just that.

  1. I started the year, as has become “normal”, in Christchurch leading a Strand group with my wife as part of The Equip Conference.
  2. According to our church’s website I preached 47 sermons at HBC this year.
    1. I was able to finish a series through The Gospel of Mark which we began in 2012 during our Sunday PM services.
    2. I was able to present a series on Ethics during our Sunday PM services.
    3. I was able to preach a series through the Minor Prophets (1 sermon per book).
    4. I was able to preach a handful of times during our Sunday AM services.
  3. I taught a five-part Bible Study Training Workshop on Saturday mornings.
  4. I was privileged to speak four times through Jonah at a church camp for St. Saviour’s Church in Christchurch in March.
  5. I was privileged to speak five times through Philippians at a church camp for two Reformed Baptist Churches near Christchurch in October.
  6. I was also privileged to preach for three other churches for their Sunday AM services throughout the year.
  7. I have had the honour of leading our Young Adults’ Home Group almost every Tuesday night. This year we have have completed a series through Ruth, Relationships, and Philippians (along with a number of spontaneous discussions!).
  8. I have been privileged to conduct one wedding in 2013 along with conducting pre-marital counselling for two other couples for weddings within the first six weeks of 2014.
  9. I spoke eight times through the year at two different retirement homes for their “chapel services”.
  10. I provided 10 devotionals during two different school holiday programmes for the teen leaders of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
  11. I participated in a “dialogue” with Old Testament scholar, Dr John Walton in July.
  12. I presented a paper to a small group of New Zealand Baptist Union pastors on the subject of confessionalism.
  13. I have written eleven articles for the New Zealand Baptist Magazine.
  14. I have contributed, on occasion, to The Kiwifruit Blog along with my own blog here.
  15. Finally (I think), I re-gave a seminar at this year’s Stand for the Gospel Conference.

Never far from my thinking is James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

To teaching God’s Word is a tremendous privilege and comes with significant responsibility.

I pray those who hear/read what I teach will continue to hold me accountable to the truth of God’s Word.

I pray the Lord will find me faithful with His Word and with the opportunities to teach the Scriptures.

I pray, if I were to ever become an unfaithful servant, He would stop my mouth by whatever means necessary rather than let me destroy His people!

I pray the Lord will use His Word, by the power of His Spirit to call many to repentance and to continually transform His children into the likeness of His Son.

Soli Deo Gloria

 
 
%d bloggers like this: