Let it snow …

This morning the dog woke the household at 5am, desperate to go outside. Well the Arctic Vortex delivered as promised, and we had a very thick blanket of snow. It does normally snow here in the Central West of NSW in winter, but not a lot. Last winter it snowed three times, but it was a poor effort. This morning the snow cover was thick and consistent — everything was covered, not just a sprinkle. We live on a mountain so we actually received more snow than they will have in town, and we are right in the path of another much higher mountain where it snows every winter.

We took the dog for a run in the snow and he ran with childish abandon, leaping, frolicking, and then of course, sliding around when he lost traction. We had to come inside when it got too cold and my face was coated in snow. It was such a refreshing way to start the day, and even though the roads are closed and we can’t get to church, it’s lovely and warm inside. As soon as it lightens up outside we’ll venture out again and give the dog another run.

It’s funny when something as simple as a heavy snowfall can bring unexpected joy and a break from the day to day. Although I will miss church, spending the day with my family snuggled up inside with the heating and steaming cups of tea will be precious. We’ll read the Bible together and pray, and simply enjoy each other’s company. I think we all need days like this from time to time.

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Stay Out of the Ghetto

The Wittenberg Door

resistance

I was concerned when I learned recently that some states in the US are considering legislation to protect ministers of religion from civil and criminal penalties, if they refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages. I think this is a bad thing that appears tempting to the fearful. This is because it creates a safety zone for a very small percentage of Christians, the professional clergy, to operate within the very small confines of their churches; and by “church,” it will be most often restricted to physical property set aside for religious purposes. Churches that rent school space, for example, may not get off so easily.

This is good news for mega-church and small-church clergy alike: They will enjoy “freedom of worship” (to use President Obama’s phrase) and agree to give up actual religious freedom. In fact, by accepting this sort of thing, clergy is supporting a rending asunder of the church…

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The Role Of Women by John MacArthur

A GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH DISTINCTIVE

Although women have traditionally fulfilled supportive roles in serving the church and gained their greatest joy and sense of accomplishment from being wives and mothers, the feminist movement has successfully influenced many women to abandon these divinely ordained roles. Unfortunately, this movement has made headway even in the church, creating chaos and confusion regarding the role of women both in ministry and in the home. Only in Scripture can God’s intended design for women be found.

The Old Testament and Women

In the creation account of Genesis 1, God’s first word on the subject of men and women is that they were equally created in the image of God (v. 27). Neither received more of the image of God than the other. So the Bible begins with the equality of the sexes. As persons, as spiritual beings standing before God, men and women are absolutely equal.

Despite this equality, there is in Genesis 2 a more detailed account of the creation of the two human beings that reveals differences in their God-given functions and responsibilities. God did not create the man and the woman at the same time, but rather He created Adam first and Eve later for the specific purpose of being Adam’s helper. Eve was equal to Adam, but she was given the role and duty of submitting to him. Although the word “helper” carries very positive connotations—even being used of God Himself as the helper of Israel (Deut. 33:7; Ps. 33:20)—it still describes someone in a relationship of service to another. The responsibility of wives to submit to their husbands, then, was part of the plan from creation, even before the curse. The first books of the Bible establish both the equality of men and women and also the support role of the wife (see Exod. 21:15, 17, 28–31; Num. 5:19–20, 29; 6:2; 30:1–16).

Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command resulted in certain consequences (Gen. 3:16–19). For the woman, God pronounced a curse that included multiplied pain in childbirth and tension in the authority-submission relationship of husband and wife. Genesis 3:16 says the woman’s “desire” will be for her husband but he shall “rule” over her. In Genesis 4:7 the author uses the same word “desire” to mean “excessive control over.” Thus, the curse in Genesis 3:16refers to a new desire on the part of the woman to exercise control over her husband—but he will in fact oppressively rule and exert authority over her. The result of the Fall on marriage through history has been an ongoing struggle between the sexes, with women seeking control and men seeking dominance.

Throughout the Old Testament, women were active in the religious life of Israel, but generally they were not leaders. Women like Deborah (Judges 4) were clearly the exception and not the rule. There was no woman with an ongoing prophetic ministry. No woman was a priest. No queen ever ruled Israel. No woman wrote an Old Testament (or New Testament) book. Isaiah 3:12 indicates that God allowed women to rule as part of His judgment on the sinning nation.

Jesus and Women

In the midst of the Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultures, which viewed women almost on the level of possessions, Jesus showed love and respect for women. Though Jewish rabbis did not teach women and the Jewish Talmud said it was better to burn the Torah than to teach it to

Without making one inferior to the
other, God calls upon both men and
women to fulfill the roles and
responsibilities specifically
designed for them.

a woman, Jesus never took the position that women, by their very nature, could not understand spiritual or theological truth. He not only included them in His audiences but also used illustrations and images that would be familiar to them (Matt. 13:33; 22:1–2; 24:41; Luke 15:8–10) and specifically applied His teaching to them (Matt. 10:34ff.). To the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), He revealed that He was the Messiah and discussed with her topics such as eternal life and the nature of true worship. He also taught Mary and, when admonished by Martha, pointed out the priority of learning spiritual truth even over “womanly” responsibilities like serving guests in one’s home (Luke 10:38).

Although men in Jesus’ day normally would not allow women to count change into their hands for fear of physical contact, Jesus touched women to heal them and allowed women to touch Him (Luke 13:10ff.; Mark 5:25ff.). Jesus even allowed a small group of women to travel with Him and His disciples (Luke 8:1–3), an unprecedented happening at that time. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and sent her to announce His resurrection to the disciples (John 20:1–18), despite the fact that women were not allowed to be witnesses in Jewish courts because they were considered liars.

In Jesus’ treatment of women, He raised their station of life and He showed them compassion and respect in a way they had never known. This demonstrated their equality. At the same time, however, Jesus still did not exalt women to a place of leadership over men.

The Epistles and Women

In the Epistles, the two principles of equality and submission for women exist side by side.Galatians 3:28 points to the equality, indicating that the way of salvation is the same for both men and women and that they are members of equal standing in the body of Christ. It does not, however, eradicate all differences in responsibilities for men and women, for this passage does not cover every aspect of God’s design for male and female. In addition, there are many other passages that make distinctions between what God desires of men and what He desires of women, especially within family and within the church.

The Family

While Christian marriage is to involve mutual love and submission between two believers (Eph. 5:21), four passages in the New Testament expressly give to wives the responsibility to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1). This voluntary submission of one equal to another is an expression of love for God and a desire to follow His design as revealed in His Word. It is never pictured as demeaning or in any way diminishing the wife’s equality. Rather the husband is called to love his wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25) and to serve as the leader in a relationship of two equals.

While husbands and fathers have been given the primary responsibility for the leadership of their children (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21; 1 Tim. 3:4–5), wives and mothers are urged to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5), meaning managers of the household. Their home and their children are to be their priority, in contrast to the world’s emphasis today on careers and fulltime jobs for women outside the home.

The Church

From the very beginning, women fulfilled a vital role in the Christian church (Acts 1:12–14; 9:36–42; 16:13–15; 17:1–4, 10–12; 18:1–2, 18, 24–28; Rom. 16; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 1:5; 4:19), but not one of leadership. The apostles were all men; the chief missionary activity was done by men; the writing of the New Testament was the work of men; and leadership in the churches was entrusted to men.

Although the Apostle Paul respected women and worked side by side with them for the furtherance of the gospel (Rom. 16; Phil. 4:3), he appointed no female elders or pastors. In his letters, he urged that men were to be the leaders in the church and that women were not to teach or exercise authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12). Therefore, although women are spiritual equals with men and the ministry of women is essential to the body of Christ, women are excluded from leadership over men in the church.

Men and women stand as equals before God, both bearing the image of God Himself. However, without making one inferior to the other, God calls upon both men and women to fulfill the roles and responsibilities specifically designed for them, a pattern that can be seen even in the Godhead (1 Cor. 11:3). In fulfilling the divinely given roles taught in the New Testament, women are able to realize their full potential because they are following the plan of their own Creator and Designer. Only in obedience to Him and His design will women truly be able, in the fullest sense, to give glory to God.

For further study, consult John MacArthur, Different By Design: Discovering God’s Will for Today’s Man and Woman (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1994).

© 2002 Grace Community Church. All rights reserved.

Hell

Repent and believe

Absolute Dominion

by R.C. Sproul, excerpted from Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 1992), pp. 215-218.

We have often heard statements such as “War is hell” or “I went through hell.” These expressions are, of course, not taken literally. Rather, they reflect our tendency to use the word hell as a descriptive term for the most ghastly human experience possible. Yet no human experience in this world is actually comparable to hell. If we try to imagine the worst of all possible suffering in the here and now we have not yet stretched our imaginations to reach the dreadful reality of hell.

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Cries of homophobia, and unpopularity

I have become very unpopular of late. Apparently my open disapproval of same-sex marriage makes me both homophobic and bigoted, as well as hateful. And this is not just criticism from non-Christians, but also those within the church. But I do understand why.

I come from a Pentecostal background and during those years the word of God was very rarely preached. Instead, little anecdotes, words of encouragement, relevant stories about the Pastor’s kids, and ‘prophecies’ from God were delivered from the pulpit. I was so hungry and desperate for God after a number of years dealing with this, that I left the church and the Lord placed me in a sound Reformed church where the truths of God were preached unapologetically, and the Word of God was our standard for all things. What a relief. What this has shown me is that too many people sit under weak and watery teachings for far too long, having their ears tickled and their self-esteem boosted, so they never actually grow. Some of them couldn’t genuinely even claim to be Christian as their sin has never been exposed, and they have never felt the weight of it and the offence it is to God. Ear-tickling is much more pleasant than conviction, but it leads to death.

Now the church is being bombarded with same-sex marriage issues and not many know how to respond. When a person who claims to be Christian has never felt the weight of their own sin, and has never grieved over how offensive it is to a Holy God, how on earth can they ever recognise the abomination to God that same-sex marriage is? Firstly, it’s not marriage and never will be. And on the other side, those who truly are Christians but are content to sit under weak and sugary preaching, have no idea how to call out sin. Do they even understand why same-sex relationships and marriage are sinful? If they do, how can they share that with others? I think it’s also because too many Christians think no more of Jesus than being the lamb. They are unable to fathom that He is also the Lion! He is Almighty, He is angered, He is just and He will punish sinners. Even the world tells Christians that we are being unloving when we call out sin or disapprove of the world’s standards, and many Christians don’t know how to respond. They don’t understand that telling Biblical truth and sharing the gospel is the most loving thing in the world.

The issue is not just same-sex marriage. The issue is sin and the issue is unbelief. The issue is that the world and some Christians call good, what God calls evil.  The Bible must always be our standard and everything must be measured against it. It doesn’t matter what we think or feel about a topic, our flesh is sinful and our mind always seeks that which brings pleasure and comfort to the flesh. Our human understanding is so deceptive and that’s why we must continually go to the Bible for wisdom and for answers. Added to our fleshly deception is the fact that we live in times of deception. The whole world is deceived and the world hates God. The world sees God as the enemy because He won’t allow or excuse their sin and their desires for pleasure rather than obedience and sacrifice, and I think that Christians can be guilty of buying into the world’s ideologies.

But Christians need to stand and be counted, especially in these dark days. Yes, it means we’ll be persecuted, we’ll lose friends, we’ll be called names, threatened, and many will ultimately end up in legal trouble. And if we don’t experience hardship and suffering for our faith, then maybe we should question our faith. I don’t mean that we should go looking for trouble or be hateful just for the sake of it, but we are called to stand apart and to continue preaching the gospel, preaching the truth, calling sinners to repentance, and declaring God’s word. I will not be told that I have no right to post my Christian beliefs on Facebook or any other social media platform, as I was recently reprimanded by a Christian. I will go out into all the world and preach the gospel as per the instructions of Lord Jesus Christ Himself. I don’t care if the world hates me— Jesus tells us in His word that we will be hated just as He was hated. I don’t care if so called Christians tell me to be quiet and to stay out of the same-sex marriage debate— I won’t. I will continue to declare God’s word and a call to repentance. People will never recognise they are sinners in need of a Saviour if we are being too polite and politically correct to call them out on their sin. Losing friends and popularity is nothing compared to what we will gain in eternity; an eternity with our Lord. Yes, it hurts, and it is frustrating and mostly very unjust, but it is all worth it in the light of an eternity spent with our Lord. That’s what I choose to hold on to as I nurse my wounds and continue to stand strong. It’s all worth it.

#Jesus #Same-sex marriage #homophobia #repentance #Christian