Friday, May 27, 2011

Women In Ministry

With having the opportunity to teach women in Kenya, and in the United States, I can say that the topic of Women in Ministry is of great interest to all women who love the Lord and want to serve Him wholeheartedly. If we asked what the common factor is that prompts us, we would discover the internationally answer is, "my heart was touched". But emotionally stirred is not always Spirit lead.
When we are emotionally stirred, it becomes easy for us to insert our self wholeheartedly into the endeavor of service, believing that this is what we need to do, but is it God’s will or self-will? Both are satisfying and rewarding but only one is right, and that is God’s way.

The most difficult thing about correctly discerning God’s will for our life is first getting self-will out of the way. This means re-evaluating our emotions with Biblical understanding and direction, and committing ourselves to be lead by godly principles.  This means accepting the fact that if it’s not Biblically correct, then it’s not correct.
Knowing what is Biblically correct is not difficult, but it does require diligent study of the Word of God.

Christianity today is stronger than ever in making the ministry a unisex endeavor by giving women the same position as men in the church. Women are peaching, pastoring, leading the song service, teaching Bible doctrine to men, and leading the mixed congregation in prayers and this is not Biblically correct. Spiritual equality is not role equivalency.

Women and men are spiritually equal with God; both are sinners in need of a Saviour; both are able to pray and receive answers to their prayers; both have the ability to read and study the Word of God with discernment. But spiritual equality is not role equivalency and God is very gender specific.

Leadership is male and God has never changed His mind on this distinction. God’s place for women is a place of protection, you cannot be protected if you are in the position of leader or leadership. For an understanding of this Biblical principle (leadership is male and God has never changed His mind on this distinction), consider the Prophets and Prophetesses that are mentioned in the Bible.

Prophets and Prophetesses were not the same. Aside from the obvious, that prophets were male and prophetesses were female, there were some very significant differences between the two.  And, when we fail to understand and appreciate the differences, we also fail to understand and appreciate God, as He established these differences between the two.

The first difference is limitation in number - there are 39 named prophets (male) and hundred’s more unnamed prophets mentioned in the Bible, but there are only 7 named prophetesses (female) and four unnamed prophetesses in the entire Bible. The 7 named prophetesses are: Isaiah’s wife (because she was a prophet’s wife); Jezebel and Noadiah both false prophetesses; Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Anna are the only godly prophetesses.

The second difference was the God-given gifts to perform miracles and healings, only prophets of God, such as Elijah, Elisha performed miracles and healings. Miriam, Deborah Huldah, and Anna never had such God-given gifts to perform miracles and healing.

The third difference was the penning of the Holy Scriptures. God used (male) Prophets to pen the Holy Scriptures, God never used (female) prophetesses to pen the Holy Scriptures. Prophets had the gift of prophecy (to predict coming events) and were allowed by God to give God-given prophetic utterances; the was revelation of scripture. This prophecy became written Scripture; "holy men of God" penned the Word of God (II Peter 1:21; Palms 45:1b). This prophecy was known as foretelling, and was inspired by God as God revealed previously unknown truth to His prophets. Now, with the complete written Word of God this prophecy gift is no longer given, there is no new revelation of scripture.

Prophetesses had the gift of wisdom and understanding (discernment) to make clear (clarify) that which had already be spoken. For example: When the lost books of the law were found by king Josiah, Huldah told him what would happen, not as a prediction or foreknowledge of future events, but as a clarification of what God had already said would happen to the Nation of Israel, if they forgot God (II Kings 22:1-20). This had already been recorded by Moses in Deuteronomy chapters 28 through 32.

The forth difference was that God never used prophetesses (females) in the role of leadership. The (male) prophets of God were God’s spokesman to His people, these Prophets were confrontational as they publically lead, directed and gave instruction, from God, to His people. For example:

a. Elijah with Ahab and the confrontation with the prophets of Baal. - I Kings chapters 17 and 18
b. God’s calling of (and instruction to) Samuel for the nation of Israel. - I Samuel chapter 3
c. Isaiah and Hezekiah, as a sign of God’s promise the sun went back ten degrees. - II Kings chapter 20

These (female) prophetesses were only used by God to clarify known scripture to a few individuals and did not lead the people. For example:

a. Deborah, while she "dwelt under the palm tree" was a judge, an arbitrator to those who "came up to her for judgment". Judges 4:5
b. Huldah spoke only to the five men sent by Josiah. - II Kings 22:14-18
c. The only group of people lead by Miriam were other women during a time of celebration of how God had saved them from the hand of Pharaoh. - Exodus 15:20, 21

These (female) prophetesses never usurped authority over a man, nor did they foolishly assume a leadership role.

a. The first time Miriam became head-strong with Moses was her last time, God plagued her with leprosy and made her to be shamed for seven days. - Numbers 12:1-16; Deuteronomy 24:9
b. The only woman to assume a leadership role, as a prophetess, was Jezebel. - Revelation 2:20; I Kings chapters 18 and 19.
c. God never held a woman accountable for the failure, or the neglect of leadership, God always holds the man accountable in his role as leader. For example:
1. Adam was accountable to God for sin entering the world, not Eve, even though Eve took the first bite. - Romans 5;12; Genesis 3:6-11
2. Abram (Abraham) was accountable to God for Hagar, not Sarai (Sarah), even though it was Sarah’s idea. - Genesis 16:1-6
3. Moses was accountable to God for neglecting to circumcise his son, not Zipporah, even though Zipporah was the one who refused to circumcise her son. - Exodus 4:24-26
4. David was accountable to God for his sexual sin and murder, not Bathsheba, even though Bathsheba submitted to the seduction. - II Samuel 11;1-57; I Kings 15:5
5. Barak was accountable to God for his neglect of duty, not Deborah, even though Deborah was a judge she was not the leader and she was not answerable to God for this role of leadership. Had Barak failed, Deborah would not have been blamed. - Judges 4:6-16; 5:1, 7, 12; Hebrews 11:32

Every godly woman of the Bible submitted to a male leader: Phebe submitted to Paul (Romans 16:1-27); Miriam submitted to Moses (Numbers 12:1-15); Deborah submitted to Barak (Judges 4:6-16; 5:1, 7, 12; Hebrews 11:32). These male leaders submitted to God.

Now the question that must be asked is, what are the ministries that God has ordained for women? That is a topic for another blog.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bible Reading and Bible Study... there is a Difference

In April (2011) I finished my 8th time reading completely through the Bible (both the Old and New Testaments of the Authorized King James Version) and started my 9th time through in May. These were eight purposely recorded times, so I’m not just guessing that I’ve read the Bible enough to call it eight times through, I actually did.

I don’t say that to be bragging, to be honest, I’ve been saved more than 40 years and I should be able to say I’ve completely read through the entire Bible more than that. So, this post is not about bragging, it’s about encouraging one another.

If you’re like me, you study your Bible often because you have a Sunday School lesson to prepare for, or you have a devotion to give at a Ladies Fellowship, or somebody asked you a Bible question that you’re seeking an answer for, but I often used my Bible study time to count as my Bible reading time, after all, it’s pretty much the same thing... right? And that’s the mistake I think too many Christians make.

Bible study time is not the same as Bible reading time... yes, you have to read to study... but when you study, your mind is focused on one particular topic, unlike when you read and your mind is open to different topics and thoughts. We need to do both, read and study the Bible. There have been many times that the passages of scripture I was reading for the day, were just what I needed for the topic of study I was preparing for, and it could have been missed if I was studying without reading.

I hope you have been encouraged... but I really hope you have been challenged by this posted.

God bless.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

“The Only Way to Heaven... through Jesus,” were the words I heard the preacher say.  It was 1969 and I was a little over 12 years old.  Going to church was a new thing for me, as were the Bible lessons and sermons that I was hearing and learning for the first time. 

I had started going to the Baptist church at the invitation of my friend, Millie, and over the past few months, questions started to stir in my mind.  I was a good girl, shy and quiet, a low-maintenance child, didn’t give my parents trouble, seldom heard from and it was easy for me to get lost in a crowd.  So when I began to hear that sin would keep me from going to heaven, I wondered what the limit was and had I reached it... how bad did a person have to be before they would not be allowed to go to heaven.

Then I heard the preacher say, “The only way to heaven is through Jesus.”  and I knew I had never done anything to get Jesus. I couldn’t get those words, or that thought, out of my mind and I wondered... if Jesus is the only way to heaven, how do I get Jesus?

Mrs. Larry Warren, the pastor’s wife, was the lady that talked with me about salvation.  Salvation... that was a strange word to me, but if it was about getting Jesus and going to heaven, I wanted to know more.  As she talked I was still getting over my timidness and didn’t quite get what she was saying, but her kind and gentle manner put me at ease and I began to listen and understand.  “We are all sinners” she said and began to explained that telling lies was an evidence of sin.  Lies... I was a good kid but even I couldn’t say that I had never lied, I was sure that would’ve been a lie!  After all, my Dad had taught his children the value of truth.  Dad used to tell us, “You kids better never lie to me.  I’ll beat you if I catch you in a lie.  If you get in trouble, I’ll do my best to help you through the trouble, but don’t you ever lie to me!”  Our Dad never lied to us, and when Dad said it, we knew he meant it.  And then I reasoned... if my Dad hates lies that much and wouldn’t put up with lies in his house, then it was equally true that the Heavenly Father would not want lies in His heaven.  I was sinner... I wasn’t going to go to heaven... it wasn’t about how much bad I had done, it was about not being good enough for heaven... that’s why I needed Jesus; “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

Jesus died on the cross... I always knew that, but I never understood why He had to.  Then I began to understand, sin is a debt that must be paid and the price of sin is death; “for the wages of sin is death...”.

Jesus rose from the grave... I always knew that, too, and I always knew it was bodily that Jesus lived again, He was not just a spirit, but the impact of what that meant was something I did not understand.  He was, and is, the conqueror of death, the grave could not hold Him.  He is the only one who could die to pay the penalty of sin and live again in victory over death to make salvation the gift of eternal life; “...the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ...”. (Romans 6:23)

Most people know John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” but few understand its meaning.  For the first time, as simply as I could understand it, I would never be good enough for heaven because I was a sinner and the fact that I was able to tell lies was evidence of this truth. Jesus could take me to heaven as the One who had died and paid the penalty of sin (as well as the entire world) and lives again, but I needed to believe and put my trust in this truth.  “...if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  (Romans 10: 9, 10)

The things I knew (Jesus died on the cross... Jesus bodily arose from the dead...) and the things I had learned (I am a sinner... The only way to heaven is through Jesus.) began to come together in my mind and I understood my need.  Then, beyond the understanding part was the confession and calling part, and I needed to pray.  “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  (Romans 10:13)

I had never prayed before and so Mrs. Warren gave me the words to say, but the words would have been empty without the sincerity of my heart making my request to God, and I knew this.  The prayer was something like this:
Dear Jesus,
I know I am a sinner, and I know I cannot go to heaven without You. I believe You died on the cross for my sins, and I believe You rose from the dead to live again.  Please forgive me of my sins, and take me to heaven when I die.  I trust completely in You.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

We had been kneeling at the church altar when I asked Jesus to save me, we then stood, and I remember a feeling like a weight had been taken off of my shoulders.  I remember rolling my shoulders backwards at relief from the weight, and I said to myself, “So that’s what it feels like to have the burden of sin lifted, and I didn’t even know the burden was there, until it was gone.” and it felt good.  I began to cry because I was thankful, but I didn’t tell anybody about the lifted weight feeling, I thought they would tell me I was just dizzy from kneeling down and standing too fast.
This moment in my life was more than 40 years ago, but it’s a moment that I have never forgotten.  Now that I’m older, I know I’ve had that dizzy feeling from kneeling and standing too fast often enough to know the difference.  The burden of sin was lifted from my shoulders years ago... and it still feels good.