Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You make me want to be a better man.

I'm presently preaching through the book of Judges on Sunday mornings at Providence Church. Consequently, I've spent more time in Judges the past few months than ever before and I've had to rethink some things.

One thing that has become clear to me is a misunderstanding of the role and significance of Deborah in the book of Judges and in the Bible in general.

In Judges 4 & 5 many see Deborah as God's leader appointed over the nation, primarily because there were no men willing to step up.

But, (1) rather than validating the leadership of women, she reveals how bad things are in Israel that the menfolk are such spiritual slackers. In other words, the text is not trying to normalize women in spiritual, military, or national leadership, but is criticizing the state of affairs in Israel.

Couple Deborah's role with that of Jael in Judges 4-5 and you see a woman rallying the men to fight (Deborah) and one getting the glory for killing the enemy leader (Jael), instead of Barak (Judges 4:9).

(2) Deborah is not actually the hero of the stories; Jael is. Jael kills the enemy commander, but she does so using her skills acquired as a housewife. Why doesn't anyone want to emulate she who is "most blessed" among women? (Judges 5:24)

(3) Deborah does not see a lack of leaders and take charge. Deborah is not actually the leader, but God's spokes(wo)man to the leader (i.e., Barak). God uses her, not to lead, but to get the leader to do his job.
"Deborah does not take over when men don't lead. She inspires men to lead. There is a world of difference in those two statements."
- Bob Deffinbaugh

That being said, although Deborah doesn't seem to aspire to leadership in Israel, she is the most spiritual person around. That's why they go to her for a word from God, as His prophetess. She's pretty much the lone spiritual light shining in that darkened land.

In fact, I would submit that God raised up Deborah and Jael to shame Israel and to humiliate Israel's enemies (e.g., Sisera, the enemy commander).
"it was also an act of humiliation for the Jews, for they lived in a male-dominated society that wanted only male leadership. ... For a captain to flee from a battle was embarrassing; for him to be killed while fleeing was humiliating; but to be killed by a woman was the most disgraceful thing of all (9:54)."
- Warren Wiersbe (cf. Is 3:12)

The role of women in Scripture should not be denigrated, but rather applauded, especially the deeds of Deborah and Jael in Judges 4-5. At the same time, we shouldn't make the text say what we want, what it doesn't, in order to make a point of our own.

Click to listen to my sermon on Judges 4, "Girl Power."

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Monday, February 22, 2010

I don't know what the beef is between you, but you better grill it up and eat it

We are about to enter the BBQ season. Therefore, it is important to refresh your memory on the etiquette of this sublime outdoor cooking activity. When a man volunteers to do the BBQ the following chain of events are put into motion:

(1) The woman buys the food.
(2) The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.
(3) The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill - beer in hand.
(4) The woman remains outside the compulsory three meter exclusion zone where the exuberance of testosterone and other manly bonding activities can take place without the interference of the woman.

Here comes the important part:

More routine...
(6) The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.
(7) The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is looking great. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he flips the meat.

Important again:

More routine...
(9) The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.
(10) After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.

And most important of all:
(11) Everyone PRAISES the MAN and THANKS HIM for his cooking efforts.

(12) The man asks the woman how she enjoyed 'her night off' and, upon seeing her annoyed reaction, concludes that there's just no pleasing some women!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I just can't help thinking that somewhere in the universe there must be something better than man.

A passage of Scripture often referred to in order to remind us of our inability to understand the complexities of God and His plans, which we don't understand is Isaiah 55:8-9.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (ESV)

I almost referred to it in Sunday's sermon at Providence Church when speaking of how we often disagree with how God runs His universe. However, I spent a significant amount of time in the chapter and studying the context of these verses.

While I still believe the fault lies with us, and not God, when His ways of doing things don't measure up to ours, I don't think that's a valid application of Isaiah 55:8-9.

Let me give the verses with the preceding context:
6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (ESV)
(emphasis mine)

The emphasis is not on God's transcendence and imperceptibility because of our small brains, but rather on His prescribed patterns of behavior and righteous thinking which are in stark contrast to the ways of wicked, depraved humans and the devious thinking that leads to such devious behavior.

Rather than a self-revelatory description of God's incomprehensibility, it's an admonition to repentance, to changing thoughts and actions to bring them into conformity with those of a holy God.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Tough guys don't do math. Tough guys fry chicken for a living.

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:

Let me see if I've got this right.

You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning.

You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride.

You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job.

You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure that they all pass the final exams.

You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language, by letter, telephone, email, newsletter, and report card.

You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps.

You want me to do all this and then you tell me . . . I CAN'T PRAY?

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Monday, February 08, 2010

It seems that whenever you ask me a question, you already have the answer.

For your Monday, some good bull I received from Tim "Oilcan" Murray in an email entitled, "Rhetoric Fun for Gunny." He was right; this is right in my rhetorical wheelhouse.

1. Is it good if a vacuum really sucks?

2. Why is the third hand on the watch called the second hand?

3. If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how would we ever know?

4. If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?

5. Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a whack?

6. Why does "slow down" and "slow up" mean the same thing?

7. Why does "fat chance" and "slim chance" mean the same thing?

8. Why do "tug" boats push their barges?

9. Why do we sing "Take me out to the ball game" when we are already there?

10. Why are they called " stands" when they are made for sitting?

11. Why is it called "after dark" when it really is "after light"?

12. Doesn't "expecting the unexpected" make the unexpected expected?

13. Why are a "wise man" and a "wise guy" opposites?

14. Why do "overlook" and "oversee" mean opposite things?

15. Why is "phonics" not spelled the way it sounds?

16. If work is so terrific, why do they have to pay you to do it?

17. If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?

18. If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

19. If you are cross-eyed and have dyslexia, can you read all right?

20. Why is bra singular and panties plural?

21. Why do you press harder on the buttons of a remote control when you know the batteries are dead?

22 Why do we put suits in garment bags and garments in a suitcase?

23. How come abbreviated is such a long word?

24. Why do we wash bath towels? Aren't we clean when we use them?

25. Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

26. Why do they call it a TV set when you only have one?

27. Christmas - What other time of the year do you sit in front of a dead tree and eat candy out of your socks?

28. Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?

29. If pro and con are opposites, wouldn't the opposite of progress be congress?

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

What I've learned from you is that really one of the most important things in life is showing up. I'm blown away by your ability to show up ...

One of the Christianese words that I really don't like is the verb "to minister." I think it's become so cliche' and a word used instead of "serve" because it seems more holy. You know, "I really ministered to her today" or "Come be ministered unto by brother Some Such."

That being said, I realize it's likely here to stay. But, I wonder what constitutes a "ministry" in church. There seems to be the teaching ministry and the music ministry and nursery ministry and youth ministry and children's ministry and deacon ministry, etc.

I'd like to contend for another ministry, the ministry of showing up.

A temptation common to those involved in those various other ministries is to become bitter (or even envious) of those who "just" show up. In my church years, I've even heard sentiment that the church would be better off without those who just show up, as though they're dead weight.

Not only do I disagree, but I appreciate those with the ministry of showing up ... and if you're involved in one of those other ministries, you probably do also.

You know what a whippin' it is to prepare a sermon or a Sunday school lesson and "nobody" shows up. You know how frustrating it can be to prepare a church special event and have a poor turn out, because you weren't ministered to by the show uppers.

Don't get me wrong, the goal is to move those with the ministry of showing up to add other ministries to their church plates, but the church needs people to serve and they serve ... excuse me ... they minister to us when they do indeed show up.

To those of you who think whether or not you show up at church is irrelevant, I heartily disagree. You are needed, even if you have no ministry outside of showing up. In short, we are counting on you to minister to us by your presence, which is an encouragement to those ministers who are ministering in those other ministry areas.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
~ Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV

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