An Empowering Reply to an Encouraging Inquiry

Dear Sister,

For the message you recently sent me I am downright grateful.. It was encouraging. I pray that you will find this empowering.

Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 9.33.23 AM.pngRegarding women preaching, you’re correct, the current quake finds its epicenter in Beth Moore’s tweet that she would be preaching on Mother’s Day (reportedly at North Point Church where Andy Stanley is). On the heels of this, was news of her invitation to Truett Seminary for their National Preaching Conference”, being listed as a “Guest Preacher.” Many have been supportive of Moore, even out of reformed camps.

Frankly, I’m glad the cat is out of the bag and that she isn’t pretending to do anything otherwise than preach. She’s been flying under the radar for far too long. Calling a missile a bird might fool some, but now there is no excuse. Will we stand on the side of Biblical orthodoxy or join those attacking it?Screen Shot 2019-06-14 at 9.25.47 AM.png

Additionally, I would add that my biggest concern with Moore isn’t that she is a woman. She would be disqualified if she were a man. Mysticism, emotionalism, and poor exegesis permeate her teaching. You mentioned your past experience in the heretical Word of Faith movement and how this all sounds eerily familiar. I believe the Charismatic movement has been subtly making major inroads in Baptist circles for decades (i.e. the soft prosperity of The Prayer of Jabez). We came to a fork in the road way back and chose the wrong path. This is just the latest incident demonstrating that we haven’t turned around. Another disconcerting mark of her teaching noted way back was the use of word studies to find the broad semantic range of a word as leverage for eisegesis, that is, reading her desired meaning into a text. I don’t think Moore’s intent is to be unfaithful to the text, but that is the result.

Regarding the trajectory of the denomination, my biggest concern is how deeply this is tied to feminism, #MeToo, cultural marxism, and intersectionality as driving forces in the culture. The current is strong, and I’m afraid we’re not acting like salmon anymore. I agree, we need to hate all evil acts of abuse, but when you use the devil’s tools to destroy the devil’s works, you need to know you’re just playing around in his toolshed. We’ve come to another fork, and I think the disaster is going to be more severe. If at first fork we chose a path leading to false teaching, we’re now pondering one that leads to apostasy.

Yes, historically it has always been the orthodox belief that the office of elder is limited to qualified men. The main “Biblical” argument for including women is to recall the small number of prophetesses we find in the Scriptures. While there obviously are female prophets, we never find a woman who is “king.” Though Athaliah makes a run as queen and Jezebel is essentially pulling all the strings, these are not exactly positive role models. Nor do we find women acting as priests. The function of teaching is tied to the priests and Levites more than the prophets. The prophets preeminently spoke God’s word, rather than teach it. Also, in this vein, when Paul gives instructions concerning women prophesying in the New Testament, she is to do so manifesting that she is under a head, (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:2–16). This connects to Paul’s prohibition of a woman teaching men or exercising authority over a man in the church (1 Timothy 2:12).

The novel spin being put on 1 Timothy 2:12 today, making room for women preachers, is that it should be read as a hendiadys, that is, two words joined by a conjunction to express a single idea. If what was banned was a woman “teaching and exercising authority over a man” as a single idea, then a woman could be permitted to exercise the function of an elder, teaching, while being denied the office. This is what some are calling “soft complementarianism.” I think it’s rather a hardened compromise.

But this anticipates the question you asked, what of those men who teach in the assembly who are not elders? While it’s understandable that the question arises, as it is deployed by opponents of the Biblical view, it is a smoke screen. When a non-elder preaches he isn’t violating any prohibition. Let me demonstrate with a question. How is one to know if a man is qualified when one of those qualifications is being “apt to teach” if he is never able to teach until he is an elder?

Truly, all teaching in the church should be under the elder’s oversight, as part of his promoting truth and guarding against false teaching. When the elders permit a woman to preach, then automatically, in the very act, they and the woman involved have already violated the Scriptures, however orthodox the sermon may be.

I thank God for your recognizing the rightness and goodness of God’s order and recognizing the lies of the world and your desire to mortify them as they seek to take root in your own heart. “Feminism” is a peculiar word for that which is an attack on the feminine, saying that if womanhood is to have any value, it must be equivalent to manhood. I’ll allow Douglas Wilson to colorfully reiterate the point: “Ironically, we call this attempt by some women to be more like men “feminism,” which is a bit like calling an attempt by cats to be like dogs felinism.” And thus we have already tilted the hat to gender confusion in the church.

In reply to the accusation of belittling women, I believe the Biblical view bebigs them. Womanhood, motherhood, and sisterhood are glorious things in which women are immeasurably superior to men. Chesterton nailed the disparity when he said, “Nothing can ever overcome that one enormous sex superiority, that even the male child is born closer to his mother than to his father. No one, staring at that frightful female privilege, can quite believe in the equality of the sexes.” Equal in value, dignity and worth? Certainly. In roles? Heaven forbid!

Yes, the serpent is whispering in Eve’s ear again as you suggest, and the blame still lies with Adam, but at least in the Garden his sin was one of passivity. Now he is actively inciting his wife with snake’s crafty lies. “Become like me, and you’ll be like God.”

Dear sister, I thank God that you are feeding on that which is far more nourishing and empowering, the Word of truth.

“I Never Understood a Single Word He Said” (Jeremiah 1:1–19)

For the unaware or the novice to these parts, most of these posts, notably the ones with a Biblical text pinned on the title, are an overflow of my preaching ministry at my local church. That’ll explain some things as you proceed.

bullfrog-1369128-1280x960.jpg

“Why Jeremiah?” one might ask. The best reply might be, “Why not? Is not this too the Word of the Living God? Why would we think this, or any portion of God’s Word odd?” But perhaps the question is less a prideful indictment and more a humble inquiry. Perhaps the sheep queries the shepherd, with a mouth full of grass, “May I ask why you have now led us to this particular pasture?”

“Yes you may.” I am an undershepherd. I don’t presume to know exactly which portion of God’s Word would be best for us, but I know do takes the whole Word to make whole Christians. Because of limitations of time, the elder’s aim and method is simple. We want you to have a balanced diet. If we just started preaching straight through, some of you would hear nothing but law during your time here. Thus, we chew on some Old and then some New. We munch on poetry and then prose. We devour an epistle, then a prophet. After a bite of the historical, we chomp on some wisdom.

This being said, perhaps there is no genre of Holy Writ more neglected today than the prophets. Oh, they are certainly cherry picked, but when you see the tree as a whole you cannot but notice how very little fruit has been picked. The prophets contain much bitter medicine that would do our souls good, but we have been fed only the most sugary portions. If a poll were taken in the average Evangellyfish church to cite passages from Jeremiah, I’m certain Jeremiah 29:11 would be to most cited and nearly the only cited portion.

There is likely no genre more neglected, and also, none more needed. Not merely because our diets have been imbalanced, but because disease is rampant, and the prophets shout the cure—repentance. The whole of God’s Word is enduringly relevant for the church, but when the church has apostatized and committed adultery with the world in unfaithfulness to her Betrothed, then we had best go to Jeremiah and not Philippians, for such is a time to mourn and not rejoice.

Here we have not only medicine, but a lot of it. What is the longest book in the Bible? Perhaps you answered Psalms, and by chapter count that is correct. But man inserted the chapter divisions (though in the case of the Psalms their work was simply one of counting the divisions already there). If we count by God’s inspired words in the original languages, the Psalms fall to third place, behind Genesis in second place and Jeremiah in first.

There is not only much medicine, but there is potent medicine. The American church is riddled with cancer. Jeremiah is chemo for those who would receive it. 

“But are not we as a church celebrating a time of health?” Yes, but we are not immune from nor are we innocent concerning the sickness we see around us. Further, my zeal and hope is that our fellowship have a prophetic voice, speaking God’s Word into the nonsense that pervades in the American Church.

A Drink from Brooks: Christ the Greatest Good

“Christ is the greatest good, the choicest good, the chief good, the most suitable good, the most necessary good. He is a pure good, a real good, a total good, an eternal good, and a soul-satisfying good (Rev. 3:17, 18). Sinners, are you poor? Christ has gold to enrich you. Are you naked? Christ has royal robes, he has white clothing to clothe you. Are you blind? Christ has eye-salve to enlighten you. Are you hungry? Christ will be manna to feed you. Are you thirsty? He will be a well of living water to refresh you. Are you wounded? He has a balm under his wings to heal you. Are you sick? He is a physician to cure you. Are you prisoners? He has laid down a ransom for you. Ah, sinners! tell me, tell me, is there anything in Christ to keep you off from believing? No! Is there not everything in Christ that may encourage you to believe in him? Yes! Oh, then, believe in him, and then, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool’ (Is. 1:18). No, then, your iniquities shall be forgotten as well as forgiven, they shall be remembered no more. God will cast them behind his back, he will throw them into the bottom of the sea! (Is. 43:25; 38:17; Micah 7:19).” —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices

Swim by Swimming (Psalm 30)

A Psalm of David. A Song at the dedication of the Temple.

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. —Psalm 30.

Perhaps the most overlooked portion of Scripture is the headings to the psalms. Though they are in the manuscripts there is some debate among scholars as to whether or not they are part of the inspired text. Because the New Testament often recognizes the authors ascribed to the psalms by their headings, I believe it is clear that we should consider them as Holy Script.

That being so, the first thing to settle about this Psalm is that the heading isn’t multiple choice. This is both a psalm of David and a psalm written for the dedication of the temple. Further, it is a psalm written by David for the dedication of the temple. It wasn’t posthumously designated as such.

Some want to change “temple” to “house” or “palace.” These are legitimate translations but my beef is that they are too apologetic. Some scholars are thereby trying to get this psalm out of the dock instead of letting it testify. They’re fearful the witness may contradict himself. They’re afraid that the title, as it stands, is something like speaking of Honest Abe’s speech at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. Honestly? So they say that this psalm was perhaps written at the dedication of David’s palace or the tent-house that David had erected for the ark when he brought it to Jerusalem.

Let the heading testify! Is it any stretch of the intellect to think that the same David who prepared a hundred-thousand talents of gold for the building of the temple (1 Chronicles 22) could also prepare twelve verses for its dedication? This was something dear to David’s heart (2 Samuel 7), and poetry is the language of the heart, right?

Besides unapologetic zeal for the inerrancy of the text in every jot and tittle, this has significant implications for your Bible reading and comprehension. There are only a handful of headings in the Psalms that mention a historic setting and when they do I take it that that setting must be significant for meaning. For the specifics in relation to this psalm, check out the sermon linked below. Rather than tease out the details, I want to use the remainder of the post to work out a principle at work underneath all of this. Here it is:

The best way to read your Bible is to have read your Bible. 

Or, the best way to read your Bible is with a whole lot of Bible floating in you noggin.

Just like the best way to swim in the water is by being in the water, so the best way to read your Bible is by reading it. There are far too many Christians who just have their feet in the pool. They’re occasionally dipping into the Bible for some cool refreshment, but they don’t swim in it. Then, there are a few who analyze it from the concrete and run tests telling us whether or not the water is safe. Such are the sort who tell us that David couldn’t have written this psalm.

But if you swim in the Bible, then you can swim the Bible. Got it? Those who swim, can swim. Every time you read the Bible, you’re better equipped to read the Bible. This is because when you come back around to a particular passage, you’re reading it in light of the Bible itself. The stump-water of stagnant thinking is getting diluted by the influx of the fresh waters of the Word. When you remember that part of the Bible while reading this part of the Bible you’re going to read the Bible better than when you’re solely remembering something extra-biblical while reading the Bible.

When you come to this text with Ichabod, the ark being brought to Jerusalem, the Davidic covenant, David’s sin in taking the census, the threshing floor of Obed-Edom, and David’s preparations for building the temple all floating in your head rather than a bunch of textual-critical sewage, your going to read this Psalm having no problems with the fact that this is a psalm of David written for the dedication of the Temple.

A Drink from Brooks: Sin is a Straight Flush, but Faith Is a Royal Flush

“Sin always dies most where faith lives most. The most believing soul is the most mortified soul. Ah! sinner, remember this, there is no way on earth effectually to be rid of the guilt, filth, and power of sin, but by believing in a Saviour. It is not resolving, it is not complaining, it is not mourning, but believing, that will make thee divinely victorious over that body of sin that to this day is too strong for thee, and that will certainly be thy ruin, if it be not ruined by a hand of faith.” —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices

Heavy on the Percussion (Psalm 29)

“The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD, over many waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;
the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, ‘Glory!’ ” —Psalm 29:3–9

My only ambition here is to provide a flyover of this Psalm to prepare you to trek through it yourself. The psalm begins in the heavens (vv. 1–2) and ends on earth (vv. 10–11). In between, seemingly joining the two, is a storm. The storm begins over the waters (v. 3), moves over the mountain forest of Lebanon (vv. 5–6), and ends in the wilderness of Kadesh (v. 7). In this psalm we mover from heaven to earth by means of a storm that traverses sea, forest, and wilderness.

This psalm is full of majesty, glory and splendor. Spurgeon advised,

“Just as the eighth Psalm is to be read by moonlight, when the stars are bright, as the nineteenth needs the rays of the rising sun to bring out its beauty, so this can be best rehearsed beneath the black wing of tempest, by the glare of the lightning, or amid that dubious dusk which heralds the war of elements. The verses march to the tune of thunderbolts.”

This psalm thunders, not as one of those far off peals that rumbles in the distance, but like the deafening clap that reverberates in your chest such that you cannot but involuntarily jolt. Read it, and ascribe to Yahweh the glory and strength due His name. Worship Him in the splendor of His holiness.

A Drink from Brooks: Humility

Labor to be clothed with humility. Humility makes a man peaceable among brethren, fruitful in well-doing, cheerful in suffering, and constant in holy walking (1 Pet. 5:5). Humility fits for the highest services we owe to Christ, and yet will not neglect the lowest service to the lowest saint (John 13:5). Humility can feed upon the lowest dish, and yet it is maintained by the choicest delicates, as God, Christ, and glory. Humility will make a man bless him who curses him, and pray for those who persecute him. An humble heart is an habitation for God, a scholar for Christ, a companion of angels, a preserver of grace, and a fitter for glory. Humility is the nurse of our graces, the preserver of our mercies, and the great promoter of holy duties. Humility cannot find three things on this side heaven: it cannot find fullness in the creature, nor sweetness in sin, nor life in an ordinance without Christ. An humble soul always finds three things on this side heaven: the soul to be empty, Christ to be full, and every mercy and duty to be sweet wherein God is enjoyed. Humility can weep over other men’s weaknesses, and joy and rejoice over their graces. Humility will make a man quiet and contented in the lowest condition, and it will preserve a man from envying other men’s prosperous condition (1 Thess. 1:2, 3). Humility honors those who are strong in grace, and puts two hands under those who are weak in grace (Eph. 3:8). Humility makes a man richer than other men, and it makes a man judge himself the poorest among men. Humility will see much good abroad, when it can see but little at home. Ah, Christian! though faith be the champion of grace, and love the nurse of grace, yet humility is the beautifier of grace; it casts a general glory upon all the graces in the soul. Ah! did Christians more abound in humility, they would be less bitter, willful, and sour, and they would be more gentle, meek, and sweet in their spirits and practices. Humility will make a man have high thoughts of others and low thoughts of himself; it will make a man see much glory and excellency in others, and much baseness and sinfulness in himself; it will make a man see others rich, and himself poor; others strong, and himself weak; others wise, and himself foolish. Humility will make a man excellent at covering others’ infirmities, and at recording their gracious services, and at delighting in their graces; it makes a man rejoice in every light which outshines his own, and every wind which blows others good. Humility is better at believing, than it is at questioning other men’s happiness. I judge, says a humble soul, it is well with these Christians now—but it will be far better with them hereafter. They are now upon the borders of the New Jerusalem, and it will be but as a day before they slide into Jerusalem. A humble soul is more willing to say, Heaven is that man’s, than mine; and Christ is that Christian’s, than mine; and God is their God in covenant, than mine. Ah! were Christians more humble, there would be less contention, and more love among them than now is. —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices