A woman’s place (Luke 8:1-3)

Soon afterward [Jesus] was traveling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the Kingdom of God.  The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary, called Magdalene (seven demons had come out of her); Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Susanna; and many others who were supporting them from their possessions.  (Luke 8:1-3)

In a culture that told women to stay at home, Jesus invited them to come along with Him on His travels.

In a culture where women were relegated to “women’s work,” Jesus allowed them to support the most important work of all: His.

If the question is asked, “Where is a woman’s place?” the answer is clear.

A woman’s place is with Jesus, valued and vital to the Kingdom.

–Pastor Phillip

In the Kingdom, your labor is never in vain

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Corinthians 15

IN THE KINGDOM, YOUR LABOR IS NEVER IN VAIN

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.  (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)

Do you ever get tired of sharing God’s love with others, or doing the things Jesus has called you to?  Do you ever grow weary in serving the church or doing the work of the ministry?  If you’ve ever been in that place, here’s some good news…

Your labor is not in vain, because God gives you the victory.

Your labor is not in vain, because Jesus is the guarantee of your success.

Your labor is not in vain, because nothing matters more than the Kingdom of God, and no other enterprise is closer to His heart.

Your labor is not about growing an organization, it’s about building a Kingdom.  It’s not about keeping rules, it’s about resting in relationship with Jesus and sharing that love out of the overflow.

Be encouraged, because if you’re in Christ, you are already victorious!  This means that you can rest in the hope of this simple truth: in the Kingdom, your labor is never in vain.

-Pastor Phillip


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God gives you power to strengthen His Church

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Corinthians 14

GOD GIVES YOU POWER TO STRENGTHEN HIS CHURCH

So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the Church.  (1 Corinthians 14:12)

Jesus never intended His Church to be a people who only pursue Him with their minds.  He did not send the Holy Spirit simply to help us live moral lives.  No, Jesus gives power to His people so that He would be glorified by building His Church.

The Church is a people among whom God wants to reveal Himself in deep and glorious ways.  He wants to display His love to the world by the way we love each other.  He wants to show His generosity to the world by the way we give.  He wants to show His compassion to the world by the way we serve those in need. And, He wants to show His power to the world by the way we walk in the supernatural.

This means God is ready and willing to give you more power to the degree that you’re ready to steward it well.  It means He wants to pour out His Spirit on you with as much abundance as you’re able to handle!

God’s power is awaiting a people who will direct it to the place He wants it to go, to the people who are the passion of His heart.

Open your eyes and your hands today.  Receive this gift and seek to use it for the goal God intended.  As you do, you’ll discover the hope found in this truth: God gives you power to strengthen His Church.

-Pastor Phillip


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Your work for the Kingdom has infinite worth

God’s Hope for Your Heart from 1 Corinthians 9

YOUR WORK FOR THE KINGDOM HAS INFINITE WORTH

Do you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)

Everybody likes rewards.  When we do something difficult or pursue a significant goal, we expect there will be a reward for our effort.  Not only that, but usually the greater the reward, the more valuable the project and the work required to obtain it.

Look, then, at the reward prepared for the Saints of God.

It is eternal.

It is unfading.

It is a glorious new life in the presence of Jesus, loved and embraced for eternity—an infinite reward.

If that’s how great the reward is, think how valuable your work for the Kingdom must be!

Press on in serving God today.  Push ahead in all the things to which He’s called you.  Don’t let discouragement or doubt rob you of the hope of this empowering truth: your work for the Kingdom has infinite worth.

-Pastor Phillip


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When God is your priority, He gives you His ability

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 20

WHEN GOD IS YOUR PRIORITY, HE GIVES YOU HIS ABILITY

I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.  (Acts 20:24)

There is great power in having right priorities.  When the pieces of your life are aligned with God’s purposes, that alignment produces an energy and momentum that can carry you forward to do things you never thought possible.

For example, the Apostle Paul was used by God as one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever known.  God did extraordinary miracles through him, and used his hand to write much of the Holy Scriptures in the New Testament.

Why did God bless Paul with so much fruitfulness?  One big reason is simply this: Paul put the first thing first.

Paul understood that Jesus didn’t come to help us accomplish our own personal missions, but to invite us to participate in His.  When Jesus said to “seek first the Kingdom of God,” He meant it, and that’s exactly what Paul did.  Even life itself was secondary to Paul’s sense of mission, and because of that, his impact has echoed through the ages and will continue in eternity.

Don’t listen to the lies our culture tells about what you should give your life to.

Don’t believe the slogans of the advertisers about what matters most.

Don’t trust even your own feelings or what your family says is most valuable.

Trust what God’s Word says about what is of greatest importance, and as you do, you will find hope and power in this life-changing truth: When God is your priority, He gives you His ability.

-Pastor Phillip


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God has prepared a harvest for you

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 18

GOD HAS PREPARED A HARVEST FOR YOU

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”  (Acts 18:9-10)

Jesus said the harvest was plentiful so workers were needed.  It turns out He could say that because He is the one who prepares the harvest in advance!

When God called Paul to share the Gospel, it wasn’t a mission with only a possibility of success.  It was a calling to a certain victory!

Now, God has called you to share, and here’s the great news: the same truth applies.  Jesus has prepared people to receive and respond to the Gospel, now, if you’re willing to take a step of faith to reach out and share, you get to see it happen.

God’s done the hard work already.  Now you can do your part with confident hope because of this truth: God has prepared a harvest for you.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus chooses the anti-qualified

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 9

JESUS CHOOSES THE ANTI-QUALIFIED

But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”  But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”  (Acts 9:13-15)

It’s often said that God chooses the unqualified.  Saul, however, was anti-qualified to be a follower of Christ.  His whole life was centered around his opposition to the Way of Jesus, and he was only increasing in his efforts to stamp out what he believed to be a group of heretics.

Then he met Jesus.

In that fateful encounter, Jesus completely overwhelmed Saul and overcame his disbelief.  In that instant, Jesus not only changed what Saul was believing, but who he was becoming, and the world has never been the same.

Maybe your story seems like the opposite of what you’d expect from a “good Christian” and you don’t feel you could be used much by God.  Maybe there’s a person in your life who is so set against following Jesus that you wonder if they could ever really change.

If that’s you, let go of your doubts and take heart from this example of the transforming power of God.    As you do, you’ll find hope in this peace-producing truth: Jesus chooses the anti-qualified.

-Pastor Phillip


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Jesus has a mission just for you

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Luke 8

JESUS HAS A MISSION JUST FOR YOU

The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.  (Luke 8:38-39)

All the man wanted to do was be with Jesus.

After all, with such miracles happening and such love demonstrated, who wouldn’t want to be a part of the Messiah’s mission?

But Jesus had a special mission, just for him.

The man wanted to leave the place he was to be where the Master went, but Jesus had other plans.  He wanted to the man to be His representative where he already was.

Nobody could give a more compelling testimony to the man’s friends than the man himself.  Nobody could witness to his family better than him.  Nobody could be a better testimony to God’s saving grace than the man all the people had known before grace entered the picture, because in him they would truly see the difference.

Maybe God is calling you to a far-off land or a faraway mission somewhere.  He does that, and we need that.  But maybe He’s calling you not to go away and find some place else where Jesus is, but stay right where you are and bring Jesus there.

Your family and friends, school and social activities, neighborhood and job aren’t somebone else’s responsibility.  They are yours, and Jesus gave them to you because He believes in you even more than you believe in Him!

May you be faithful to the call of Christ to be who you are, where you are, and bring Jesus into your circumstances.  As you do, you’ll experience the hope that comes from this truth: Jesus has a mission just for you.

-Pastor Phillip


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When you do what you can, Jesus is blessed

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Mark 14

WHEN YOU DO WHAT YOU CAN, JESUS IS BLESSED

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”  (Mark 14:8-9)

This woman caused a stir by how she responded to Jesus.

She was surrounded by people who were saying nice things to Jesus, giving polite pleasantries to Him, and listening to Him speak.  But this woman, she showed her devotion in a different way.

Maybe she wasn’t much good at conversation, but she did what she could.  Maybe she wasn’t well suited for study or teaching, but she did what she could.  Maybe she wasn’t able or willing to go out and serve the poor (a fact which her critics were all-too-happy to trumpet), but she did what she could.

And Jesus was blessed.

In this hyper-connected, social media-driven, constant-comparison world, don’t let yourself get drawn in to the trap of comparing your service to others.  Jesus has called and empowered you uniquely, and He’s not looking for you to be like everyone else.  He doesn’t want you to serve exactly like everyone else, either.

He wants you to be faithful to who He made you to be.

As you seek to live your life to honor Jesus (which you should), may you resist the pressure to try and copy the successes and sacrifices of others.  Instead of trying to measure up to other people’s expectations, may you respond to His worthiness in ways that are as unique as you are.  As you do, you’ll discover hope through this truth: when you do what you can, Jesus is blessed.

-Pastor Phillip


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Should Women Be Allowed to Preach?

I love getting “theological” questions because it gives me a chance to dig into subjects that I don’t always have occasion to explore.  If you like that sort of thing, welcome to “Theology Thursdays!”  If not, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post.

— Pastor Phillip


QUESTION: My cousin was asking about 1 Timothy 2:8-12 because it makes it sound like women shouldn’t preach.  How would you respond?

Well, good thing THAT’S not a loaded subject…

The other day a friend of mine sent me this question via text message, and I replied that I wanted to make sure and do my research before replying.  Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve run across this issue, but I always try to get a “refresher” before commenting on things that have the potential for controversy, and this is definitely one of them.

Let’s look at the text in question, but let’s expand it two verses to get a fuller picture.  I have formatted the text to better break up the thought patterns.

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;
likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel,
with modesty and self-control,
not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
but with what is proper for women who profess godliness:
with good works.
Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve;
and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
-1 Timothy 2:8-14

Now, let’s work on this…

SECTION 1, “in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands…”
Starting with Paul’s instruction that “in every place the men should pray,” the classic text-analysis resource Vincent’s Word Studies says “Wherever Christian congregations assemble.  Not every place indiscriminately.”  Of course, we are encouraged elsewhere to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), which would of course include EVERY place we go, but to think that men should walk around with their hands held high everywhere they go is just silly.  Therefore, we see that the context of Paul’s instructions in this section is related to “every place” that the Church is gathered for the exercise of corporate worship.

SECTION 2, “likewise also…women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel…”
Paul then addresses the issue of how women are to dress, that it should be in “respectable apparel.”  He goes on to talk about modesty, self-control, and good works, things which obviously are not literal “apparel”, as much as they are outward indicators of the inward state of a woman’s heart.

Is Paul saying women should never braid their hair or wear jewelry?  No, he’s saying that true followers of Jesus won’t let those become the main focus of their life and won’t use the assembly of the Church as an avenue to draw attention to their own ego.  He’s saying that the way of the Kingdom is not to refuse luxuries, but to let them take a back seat to more important things like good works that benefit others.

SECTION 3, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.”
In a culture that often did not permit women to receive any kind of education, Paul writes that women absolutely should have the opportunity to learn, but that they must do so with a respectful attitude, not causing a scene and constantly questioning what is being taught in the assembly (I’m sure you’ve met those women…)  His point is not that women have no right to open their mouths, but that they shouldn’t be interrupting and disrupting the flow of the gathering.  This is the same principle as his instruction about adornment, that it’s about a heart that desires to behave in a way that benefits others.

Now, as a side note, Paul’s teaching as a whole extends this instruction to men as well.  Here’s what he writes in 1 Corinthians 14:26-30.

“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent.

A few verses later, Paul writes the reason for all of this: “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…But all things should be done decently and in order.” (1 Corinthians 14:33a, 40)

He continues in 1 Corinthians with another instruction that is related to our primary text of 1 Timothy…

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?
(1 Corinthians 14:33-36)

On the surface level, it seems like Paul is saying women should indeed keep their mouths closed whenever the Church comes together, but looking at one more passage reveals this cannot be the case.

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.
(1 Corinthians 11:3-5)

When Paul writes about head coverings, he’s assuming that women WILL not only pray, but “prophesy,” that is, share a Word from God with the assembled Church body.  What he’s doing, though, is tying the way in which these things are shared to three important principles.

1) Act in a way that the culture recognizes as respectful (in that day, head coverings),
2) Act in a way that promotes order and peace in the gathering of the Church, not disorder and confusion, and
3) Act in a way that is in line with God’s established order of authority and responsibility (“the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”)

Now, let’s go back to the passage in 1 Timothy and look at it again in light of these principles.

SECTION 4

“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve;”  (1 Timothy 2:11-13)

In our culture, is it disrespectful or disorderly or disruptive for a woman to be educated?  Of course not.  Do any of those negative elements come into play when women teach in general?  Absolutely not!  In fact, many women are such excellent teachers that to deny them that right would be an insult to the God who made them that way.

The two keys to understanding Paul’s intent —and more importantly, our responsibility today— are about order and authority.  In Paul’s letter to Timothy, in his letter to the Corinthians and in many places all throughout Scripture, we see that God has designed a beautiful world of harmonious cycles and systems, of rhythms and hierarchies that are designed to maximize the joy and purpose of all of His creations.

Ants and bee hives have queen bees because that’s how God designed them.

Elephant herds and prides of lions have alpha males that ensure order within the group because that’s how God designed them.

Even within the Godhead, we see that the Son chooses to be in subjection to the Father (John 8:28, John 17:1), the Spirit flows out from the will of the Son (John 15:26), and the Father serves both the Son and the Spirit in the way He loves and gives to them (see John 3:35, John 5:20, John 8:50).

God’s design for the universe is patterned after His own essence: not a hierarchy of importance or value, but a particular order of roles and functions in which everything flows in harmony.

Because we are far-removed from the culture and context of Paul’s day, we have to dig a little deeper into what he means when he writes, which is what we’ve done.  We see, then, that for a women to “be silent” is like the way she “adorns herself.”  Yes, it’s about actions but it’s more about the attitude of the heart.  We see that women have a right both to pray and to bring Words from God (to prophesy), and that when they do so it should be done in a way that is orderly and respectful (an instruction that also is given to men in multiple places.)

We see also that for “a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” is not so much about whether she stands up and shares something from the Lord or from her heart, but is much more about whether or not she is over-reaching in the role that God has assigned to her.  It’s like Jesus the Son trying to call the shots instead of God the Father.  Nobody would say that the Son is any less important than the Father, but they each have their part to play.

In the same way, God has laid a foundation of a flow of authority from Himself to His Church.  Then, in the Church it flows from male elders (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9) to the other gifted people who exercise their gifts and individual authority under the protective umbrella of the spiritual authority of the men God has appointed to the role of overseers.

Finally, Paul writes one more thing to elaborate the importance of this point.

SECTION 5: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
I like how the ESV translation of the Bible renders the account of the Fall of Mankind in Genesis 3:6.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”  (emphasis added)

Think about that for a moment.

Adam was right there and he said nothing to his wife about what she was about to do.  He did nothing to prevent her taking a step that they had both been warned against and assured would lead to their death.  Yes, Eve took the fruit and ate, but Adam failed in his responsibility to fulfill his role in the creative order, which was to protect and care for all of God’s creation and especially his wife.

The principle is that as the Son and Spirit play the role of partner and “helper” to the Father as the Father oversees to ensure the good of the others, so it is in the family and so it is in the Church.

It is the responsibility and burden of men to be overseers and shepherds, caretakers and providers for their homes and their Churches, and to do everything they can to maximize the joy and effectiveness of everyone under their care.  They must seek to provide and promote opportunities for women to exercise the gifts God has given them for the building up of the church, and also must try to protect them from absorbing more weight, responsibility and authority than they were designed to carry.

Women should share Words from the Lord publicly as He gives them, and should instruct and give insight into things as God has enabled them.  They should not, however, have to or try to take on the weight of the primary “teaching authority” or “senior pastor” of the Church.  This has nothing to do with capability or privilege and everything to do with calling and protection.  It is not because they have less value or ability then men but because they are too valuable to be placed in situations where their gifts would be overshadowed by a yoke that their shoulders were not designed to carry.

So, speak up, sisters, and rejoice in the fact that like the metal setting of a precious jewel, our Father has provided in the Church a setting of authority designed to highlight you and make sure that whatever your gifting is, it has the opportunity to shine.

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