Monday, October 25, 2010

Notable Quotable: Ken Gire

"When suffering shatters the carefully kept vase that is our lives, God stoops to pick up the pieces. But He doesn't put them back together as a restoration project patterned after our former selves. Instead, He sifts through the rubble and selects some of the shards as raw material for another project--a mosaic that tells the story of redemption."

Do you agree? How might your personal suffering tell the story of redemption? Do tell...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Do angels believe in you?

That's right. I believe angels exist whether you believe in them or not. But do angels believe IN YOU?

A few weeks ago, my mom pulled into the Arby's drive-thru and waited and waited for the van in front of her at the window to pull forward. A woman got out of the van, obviously in deep distress--and mom, seeking to comfort her, got out of her Taurus and offered her . . . coupons. The woman said she had no money, no way to get food, and so she was going to go inside the restaurant to ask if they would give her something to eat.

Compelled to act, mom handed her $5. The van pulled through and took off without mom getting any further details on their plight. When mom pulled up to the drive-thru, however, she was told that someone had paid for whatever she wanted to order. She was shocked. Now, is it possible that someone saw her comforting that woman and interceded to reward the kindness of a stranger? And is it also possible that something supernatural was going on? That God was showing up through an angel to remind mom and all of us to be loving givers who go about doing good? I believe only God knows for sure.

"Keep on loving each other as brothers, for by so doing, some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:1-2

We've been studying angelology, or the study of angels, in my systematic theology class. One of the things that has surprised me the most is that I'm a little jealous of the angels, to be honest. I mean, we learn from the Bible that God created us as humans in His image, and we sometimes feel this tremendous pride and awe because of it. Now to study how God created angels, and how they get to fight the good fight in the spiritual realm, is a little crazy to contemplate. Honestly, we either think about angels too little or too much it seems to me. 

They are not worthy of our worship; only God is. Still, they are His messengers, and they do protect us and work among us, though as one scholar notes, they more likely offer "zone" rather than "one-on-one" protection. Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate we have a personal guardian angel.

Definition of angels – A biblical term describing God’s messengers or ambassadors, belonging to his heavenly court and service. They are non-human beings created with personality who assist in Christ’s work of reconciliation— praising Him in heaven, and doing His will on earth.[i]

It's interesting to note that the Bible's description of angels, for whatever reason, seems to describe them as distinctly male. We have Michael the archangel who leads the angelic armies against Satan and Gabriel, the angel who announced the Virgin Birth.

An author friend of mine, Trudy Harris, wrote a compelling book called Glimpses of Heaven. As a hospice nurse, she shares the dying stories of many who experienced supernatural events in their last days and hours. At first she thought many of them were just dehydrated or medicated when seeing visions of angels at the foot of their bed, until she realized patients across the board were having these types of experiences. Interestingly enough, the patients always insisted that these angels were tall, dressed in white, and distinctly male. Even when Trudy prodded them, asking if they were sure. 

Angels remind us that we are in a battle of spiritual wills--Satan, the fallen angel has come to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus has come that we may have life, and have it abundantly. His heavenly messengers fight on our behalf and bring glory and praise to the One who was poured out for us. I, for one, am grateful.

And let me assure you: as God's messengers of reconciliation, angels most certainly believe in you--while giving all glory and praise to the One who was slain.

"And they were calling to one another: holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." Isaiah 6:3

[i] Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, (Baker Reference Library). 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2001, 60.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Seminary word of the week #2


a) Word used by a junior high youth leader when asking for testimonies from the group: "Dude, anybody up for a testimonium?"

b) A word of Christian testimony that includes the use of a musical instrument, preferably a harmonica.

c)  The internal testimony of the Spirit to confirm within us the reliability of the Scripture, giving us certainty that the Bible is the Word of God. 

Note: if this were a quiz and you didn't guess "c," you would be hopelessly wrong.

So what do you think about the concept of testimonium? Have you personally experienced it?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Things I Learn in Preaching Class

Last night in preaching class, I learned that I can get 10 out of 12 on a quiz and live to tell about it. That I can refuse my perfectionistic tendencies and embrace the fact that I am learning. That I can get an imperfect score on a quiz and still become a better and better preacher of His Word, by God's grace.

I am also learning that I have true friends and cheerleaders in the many males who populate the class. We are all in this together, in such a positive way, and since the preaching experience can be so scary and overwhelming and huge (as in, I have to GET THIS for my ministry), we commiserate and grow together. We are stronger because of the community aspect of the class. For which I thank God.

For awhile now, I think I have believed (without admitting it to myself), that men can teach and preach better than women, that they somehow carry more authority in their preaching. They have stronger voices and heartier constitutions, etc., but this is not all of it. This is the way I have been raised to think, of course, and so I, unconsciously, do.

I am starting to see, however, that truly effective preaching is not a function of gender. It is a function of getting the point across, of skillfully applying the cutting truth of God's Word to another's heart, in such a way that preaching becomes a redemptive experience.  Ask Anne Graham Lotz or Beth Moore.

At this point, some of you will be tempted to say that I should cultivate this skill to minister to women. And I understand where you are coming from--I've lived there. This last weekend, I attended a women's conference called Come to the Fire, where woman after woman got up to preach and share testimonies to 1,500 other women, and it taught me something, too.

That a sister can bring a message that will transform hearts and lives, displaying the image of God, and in a truly feminine way, pointing others to His truth and grace. There's little difference between teaching and preaching, anyhow, but these ladies were preaching. How do I know? They were proclaiming instead of just imparting truth.

Before the event was over, there was a healing service, in which ordained elders from different churches (all of them female) prayed for individuals who were confessing sin and asked for God's healing (James 5:13-16). I am naturally skeptical of healing services, but this one was entirely different, and very biblical. I felt God telling me that I need to trust Him, and so I confessed this to an elder, and she prayed for me and anointed me with oil, also praying for my struggle with infertility.

And so we stood, nose to nose, ezer to ezer, both of us with tears on our faces and hope in our hearts. The words this woman prayed to God were so specific and genuine that I almost crumbled under their weight.

And all of this reminded me of the power of God's ezers, women made in His image and set aside for His purposes. I suppose this is a circuitous way of telling you that I will teach and preach to women when given the opportunity to do so. I will also preach the beauty and truth of God's grace to anyone I can, male or female. To do less would be to ignore God's calling and His good gifts.

Acts 2:17-18
“‘In the last days, God says, 'I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.'"