Sunday, March 31, 2013

Garth Young: The Things You Have Been Taught

Today's guest blogger, Garth Young, addresses the lack of religious instruction at the Oregon City F.O.C. To read previous guest blogs by Garth, enter his name in the search box.

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At the F.O.C. in Oregon City after the last elder died, the closest thing we had to a pulpit preaching ministry was a wedding ceremony. At a wedding there was a certain predetermined line spoken by the F.O.C. man performing the ceremony: “It’s been proven, if you do the things you have been taught you will have a long and happy marriage.” On its face this sentence has all the makings of a great message: (1) Desire for life and happiness. (2) The necessary teaching to satisfy that desire. (3) The proof that life and happiness has been achieved.

Sadly, all we received from the pulpit was that hollow sentence; there was no explanation, exhortation or application.  It was just one sentence meant to fulfill the duty of the man overseeing the marriage, and equip the man and woman for entering into a lifelong relationship. Like many things at the F.O.C. this vague sentence seems to imply an answer while the actual answer to life and happiness isn’t given. Such statements are confusing and misleading unless the teaching and proof is specifically addressed. The proven and sure hope of eternal life and happiness is what I’m interested in addressing here. 

It was a tremendous breakthrough for me personally to discover there is such a thing as certain hope. Before this I had always put hope in what others said that made me feel confident in my own position and ability, I then used that teaching of man to interpret the bible and make it fit my own self-centered understanding-- trusting in the words of man is anything but certain. That all changed when grace became a reality, my life was no longer about justifying my position because I knew my position was indefensible. The scriptures have shown me what is true; trusting in what God has said is the only way for hope to be certain. It is with that certainty that our existence and purpose ought to be interpreted, anything else is folly. The following three points and conclusion is my outline of the certainty of God as seen in the resurrection.     

(1) Desire for Life and Happiness

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
1 Corinthians 15:17–19

It may seem selfish for me to start with the question of man’s personal happiness but it’s not a selfish pursuit if we understand that God is glorified when we are satisfied in him. Jesus said: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” John 15:11

It would indeed be “most miserable” if Jesus hadn’t been resurrected, but Paul gives great hope to believers by assuring them that the death of Jesus was the effective substitutionary sacrifice for their sins. The believer’s pursuit for joy can be satisfied now and in the life to come because God’s righteousness was satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus.

(2) The Necessary Teaching That Satisfies the Desire for Life and Happiness   

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
1 Corinthians 15:1–5

There is only one source of information that can save a soul and give ultimate joy, it is the gospel. The only means by which anyone can be saved is faith in Jesus. This Gospel information that Paul received and delivered to them personally contains life altering good news… that Jesus died and paid the debt of those who believe in him, that he was buried and rose again from the grave, all according to the scriptures.

Paul doesn’t say here or anywhere else that having faith in your church, yourself, your lineage, your works, or anything else will save you, anything else would be a different gospel and a different Jesus. Paul isn’t saying we should seek after signs, he’s saying this is it. Everything Jesus said would happen has happened and the scriptures have been fulfilled. The only thing that can save is belief in the gospel of Jesus, the same gospel Paul delivered.

(3) The Proof That Life and Happiness Has Been Achieved

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:20–22

His resurrection is the biggest and most important event in human history; it is the central event of the gospel. Because of the inherited death from Adam all of mankind is under the penalty of sin but Christ’s resurrection grounded in eyewitness testimony changes everything. There is now a sure hope of being made alive and has been evidenced beyond any doubt. Paul says Jesus is the “firstfruits”, His resurrection and life indicates what the rest of the crop will look like, He has obtained victory over death for all who believe.  And we can know for sure that God was satisfied by Jesus work on the cross because he furnished proof by raising him from the dead.

Conclusion:  “If you do the things you’ve been taught…” I have a pretty good idea what you were taught at the F.O.C. in Oregon City, I know the doctrine that was passed down from generations before and I understand it to be lacking the essential gospel message that Paul taught above. Am I wrong? You tell me, how is it that a group of people who call themselves ‘Followers of Christ’ can be so separate and exclusive and don’t associate with anyone outside of their group, or try to convince others of the hope they have? And what’s worse is you don’t even know why. How is it that you have no elders, no teaching, and no open reading of the scriptures?  Why is it that so many anonymous OCFOC members who comment here spew poison, hatred, or insult? These are the fruits of unregenerate people under the curse of Adam. Until you come to grips with your own sinful estate and embrace the gospel of Jesus you will remain on the other side of the curse.

I have been praying for Oregon City for many years and I don’t write here to make enemies or beat you down, I care a great deal about you. I write because I have a message and I know that some will read it. If you want to escape the condemnation upon yourself because of sin you must heed the biblical warnings, you can’t be good enough! You can’t pay the debt! I’m pleading with you to consider the seriousness of your situation because you can’t escape the holiness of God, His eyes can pierce to the very center of your heart and He knows everything about you. You’re not good enough and you know it, you can’t flee from his presence and you know it, what will you do?

The angel was very intentional in pointing out the empty place where Jesus was laid in the tomb, saying: “he is risen, he is not here” if we miss the significance of this event we miss everything. The resurrection was powerful and amazing not just because it happened but because it’s a fulfillment of everything Jesus said would happen. It actually happened; Jesus truly is the son of God who came to die for us as the propitiation for our sins. And with the resurrection God sent a message that is certain and proven: The debt is paid in full. Those who hope in this message are free because they trust in what the Savior has done.

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
John 11:25–26

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What Is Good Friday? Was it Really Friday? Why is it Good?

Do you know what Good Friday is? I didn’t know until I was twenty-seven years old. No kidding. And I certainly never understood the math of Jesus’s crucifixion on a Friday night followed by His resurrection three days later. I’m not the best mathematician (lol – I’m not a fan of math at all), but my calculations tell me that is two days. The author of the following article attempts to clarify this discrepancy.

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Why Good Friday?
I was brought up within the confines of the Catholic Church and, like most supposed Christians, I always observed the most important days of the Christian calendar, those of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. While the events of Easter Sunday have never been in dispute, there is an ever increasing debate raging within Christianity as to whether Good Friday is a valid day of celebration for a Christian. The evidence would suggest otherwise.
Good Friday is traditionally held as the day that a certain carpenter from the tiny northern Judean town of Nazareth was nailed to a tree by the Pax Romanus two thousand years ago on a series of lies and trumped up charges, to fulfil what the scriptures had said about Him. But this man, Yeshua prophesied to His followers that He would be in the "heart of the earth" for "three days and three nights, just as Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights."
Always supposing that Yeshua had been crucified and buried by 6pm on that Friday afternoon and that He rose sometime Sunday morning, then the total amount of time spent in the tomb would have been no more than 36 hours and not the 72 hours that Yeshua and the scriptures were adamant about. To explore this further, we must first understand that the Jews did not measure time the we way do in the modern world.
The Jewish day began at sunrise and ended at sundown. From sundown to sunrise, was the night period. One day encompassing a 24 hour period. It states in the Gospels that Jesus was crucified on the preparation day" before the Sabbath but this is often taken out of context. Although the Jewish Sabbath did, and indeed still does, fall on a Saturday, the Jews have more than one Sabbath. They also have what they call "High Sabbaths" and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread that Jesus was executed prior to is one such Sabbath. In John 19:31 we see, The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was a High day) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.
The 1917 edition of the Scofield Reference Bible has a centre column that states that word "Sabbath" in this context, is plural; from the Greek, "sabbata". This is also backed up by Young's Analytical Concordance. So, the day after the crucifixion was not on the eve of the weekly Sabbath but on the eve of a special, High Sabbath. As we shall see, the Sabbath of the Feast of the Passover, was immediately followed by another High Sabbath, that of Unleavened Bread.
Our April coincides with the first Jewish month of the year, that of Nisan or Abib. This is the first month of the Jewish year. On the 14th and 15th April respectively, they celebrate the Feasts of the Passover and Unleavened Bread. The latter feast is a week long celebration. Now, by knowing that Jesus escaped the tomb, sometime in the early hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning, for the two Mary's reached the tomb just before dawn on the day after the Sabbath and found it empty, we can back track, three whole days and nights to the day of His crucifixion.
To the Jews, a day comprised the daylight hours. Everything after that was night. If Jesus rose from the dead, anytime after twilight on Saturday, say from 6pm onwards, then if we backtrack from 6pm we hit 6pm Friday, one whole day and night. From 6pm Friday to 6pm Thursday, is another full day and night, making two. And from 6pm Thursday, to 6pm Wednesday, is another full day and night, making three in all, 72 hours, just as Yeshua and the prophets had predicted. So, Yeshua was crucified at 8am on a Wednesday morning. But the Gospels all agree that this was a preparation day for the High Sabbath. He also shared a Passover meal with His Disciples. But how could they eat a Passover meal before the actual feast day? It makes no sense. Again, we need to address how the First Century AD Jews measured time.
This means then, that the Lord's Last Supper, Passion in the Garden and subsequent arrest and trial, all took part on Tuesday, the day of the Passover. From 6am to 6pm on Tuesday, during the hours of daylight, the Jews would have seen this as preparation. From 6pm Tuesday to 6am Wednesday morning, would have been the actual Passover celebration. This fits in with a night time supper and the fact that God loosed His last and most terrible plague upon Egypt, the Death of the First Born in the hours of darkness. So, from 6am Wednesday morning to 6pm Wednesday evening, the day of his execution, this would have been classed as a preparation day for the High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, purchased oils and herbs before the Sabbath with which to anoint the body of Yeshua. Yeshua had been placed in the tomb sometime after 6pm on the Wednesday. The following day, Thursday, was the Sabbath of Unleavened Bread and no Jew would risk breaking the law by either selling or buying on a holy day. So, they must have purchased these things on the Friday which fits in with scripture that says "they [the two Marys] reached the tomb of the Master just before daybreak after the Sabbath." This being the weekly Sabbath of Saturday. And, as we know, the tomb was already empty.
At the end of the day, it matters not, on which day Our Saviour died. Had it been of grave importance, God would have let us know the exact day. The fact that God tells us exactly on which day His tomb lay open and empty, tells us that He puts far more importance and relevance on the fact that He raised His One and Only Son from the dead, as we should, For God is LIFE. Yeshua did ask us to remember His sacrifice however, and to meet in His name when we break bread and drink wine in fellowship, peace and love. So, may the Peace of Christ Yeshua be with you all, now and forever.
God Bless
Randall Stone

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Dear Readers,

Please tell me: what does Good Friday mean to you? What do you think of this article? What questions, if any, does it bring to mind.

Thank you for leaving your thoughts - the comments are always the most interesting part :)


P.S. Former FOC member, Garth Young, will be guest blogging on Sunday.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Man Who Danced in His Undies

            Today is Palm Sunday.  Palm Sunday falls on the Sunday before Easter. It was the day of Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey. The crowd was filled with adoration and worship for Jesus the King; they threw down palm branches and their own cloaks (coats) and sang  Psalm 118: 25–26: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord.”

The word “worship” can mean a lot of things – depending on the person using it and their religious beliefs. The word is overused in post-modern American culture.  We hear about sun-worshippers (people who enjoy sun bathing), and of men/women who worship their love interests.  But, my question for today is how do you worship God?

            When I think of true worship, I think of abandon. I think about that Pentecostal church where everyone went wild. But the crazy “holy-rolling” style of worship rubs me wrong. I just have a bad feeling about it. On the other hand, the worship I grew up with is not very different from the way I still worship in church.  When we sang hymns at the FOC, we were calm and in control. Nobody lifted their hands in worship or harmonized. We sang the words in the hymnal along to the piano accompaniment.  Now, I attend a church with a worship band and the words to the songs are projected onto huge overhead screens. Some people in my church – I’d estimate a third of the people – raise their hands when the spirit moves them. Some clap their hands during some songs. Nobody dances. We are calm and in control. Can you really worship while being “in control”?
            When I think about worship, I also think about the story of David worshipping in his underclothes:
And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.
So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.
And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.
2 Samuel 6:14-16

            Can you imagine? A man – a leader – out in the courtyard dancing in his underwear? How could you NOT judge? Well, we know that Michal Saul’s daughter was smitten with a barren womb as the punishment of her judgmental thoughts.
            So where is the middle ground? Should I rethink my own attitude about the way the Pentecostals worship? Should I lift my hands during worship services? For me, it isn’t a question of how I worship, it is where I worship. I worship at home while listening to worship music and washing dishes.  And sometimes during church services, I close my eyes and just sing to God. So, I’m not there yet. I’m not even close to understanding how to worship authentically. 

How do you worship? Where do you worship? What does worship mean to you?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Domestic Violence and The Christian Church

The topic of domestic abuse has come up on this blog in the past week and I began thinking of cases of abuse I've heard about not only in the FOC, but also in the other churches I've belonged to since. It is a nebulous issue because the Bible does not specifically give spousal abuse as a legitimate reason to leave a marriage. I remember one older woman telling us in a bible study about her neighbor woman knocking on her door, begging for help against her abusive husband; the end of that story? They gave her some hot tea, prayed with her, and then drove her home. Wow. What would you have done? Please read this article about the subject of spousal abuse in relation to the Christian Church.

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Christian Domestic Abuse: The Hidden Church Disease

One of the most shameful problems facing the vast majority of Christian church congregations is the epidemic of domestic violence that many of its families are suffering from. In the vast majority of cases it remains a carefully concealed sin but occasionally sensational cases become publicly exposed as in this incident which resulted in the divorce of two very prominent ministers:
"The Associated Press is reporting the severe beating of Reverend Juanita Bynum by the hands of her husband Reverend Thomas Weeks III. The couple which has been separated for some time now, met in an Atlanta hotel restaurant in hopes of reconciliation. Something went horribly wrong and a fight between the estranged couple took place in the hotel garage which resulted in Reverend Bynum being battered and severely bruised."
Just how much of a problem has domestic violence become in the United States, the nation that prides itself on being the world's largest exporter of military violence? Try to wrap your brain around this:
"The former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, stated that domestic violence perpetrated by males accounted for more adult female emergency room visits than traffic accidents, muggings, and rapes combined and is now the single greatest cause of injury to American women. He has accordingly declared it as a national health crisis."
Here are some truly astonishing and little-known statistics about this epidemic of raw hatred that is severely straining the moral fiber of the United States:
• 27% of American women will experience abuse (rape or physical assault) during their lifetime
• 16% of American men will experience physical abuse during their lifetime.
• 28% of marriages harbor physical violence while 53% contain abuse in a variety of forms.
• 32% of teens and college-aged adults will experience physical abuse in a dating relationship. 70% of this age group will experience some type of violence.
• 44% of women in domestic abuse relationships are raped by their abuser.
• 2.1 million senior adults suffer physical, psychological, financial, or some form of abuse or neglect each year in the United States.Only 1 out of 14 abuse incidents is ever reported to the authorities.
• The divorce rate for non-abused women is 15%, the rate for abused women is 75%.
• It is estimated that over 3.3 million of American children witness intimate partner violence (IPV) within their families. Witnessing violence is a risk factor for long-term physical and mental health problems, including alcohol and substance abuse, becoming a victim of abuse, as well as perpetrating IPV with other victims.
• 998,000 children are currently suffering abuse and neglect in the U.S.
• 49% of children living in homes where adult abuse occurs also experience direct abuse themselves. 100% experience indirect abuse.
• 89% of women inmates report having experienced sexual, emotional or physical abuse before incarceration.
• Young women in Christian youth groups are less likely to report abuse, especially if they are dating someone in their youth group.
• People with strong religious beliefs stay longer in abusive relationships because of their faith beliefs.
• Abusers are more likely to go for help when their pastor tells them to seek counseling than if others encourage them; even more likely than if they are given a court order which mandates counseling for them.
William Bradford Wilcox conducted a study on the types of Protestants who engage in domestic violence. He examined the relationship between religious affiliation, church attendance, and domestic violence, using data on wife reports of spousal violence from three American surveys. The study found that the lowest reported rates of domestic violence occurred among church active conservative Protestants (2.8% of husbands committed domestic violence), followed by those who were religiously unaffiliated (3.2%), periodic church attending mainline Protestants (3.9%),church active mainline Protestants (5.4%), and periodic church attending conservative Protestants (7.2%).Read over those statistics again,they are truly astonishing!
Many ministers contribute to the problem because they tell the female members of their congregations who are being abused that they should continue to submit to their husbands and to ask God to give them the strength to endure the torture they are experiencing. Many ministers never advise a battered wife to leave her husband or separate regardless of the extent of the abuse she is suffering. By taking this socially and psychologically dangerous position they not only are endangering the lives of many women but they are in addition causing a plethora of mental, emotional and even physical problems to be visited on the children of the battered. Here is a list of the most common:
* low self-esteem
* mixed feelings toward parents
* lack of trust
* anxiety created by anticipating the next outbreak of violence
* guilt and depression in feeling responsible for the abuse
* fear of abandonment

Children living in violent homes usually turn very aggressive or extremely passive in their behavior. They usually experience problems in school not only through falling grades but also because domestic violence homes breed a higher rate of juvenile delinquency and substance abuse among the child observing victims. When they reach their teen-age years, it is common for children in violent homes to try to escape by entering into early marriages or even worse, pregnancies they hope will create early marriages.
So of course we desperately need to seek God's solution to this sickening problem don't we?
Matthew 7:12 (New King James Version)
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Luke 20:34-36 (New King James Version)
34 Jesus answered and said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
Matthew 19:29 (New King James Version)
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or WIFE or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
Dr. Dean Crosby is a published author, instructor in New Testament studies, and Christian therapist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in communication, a master’s degree in counseling, and a doctoral degree in psychology. He is the founder and director of the Christian Caring Center,a non-profit internet counseling agency. Dr. Crosby can be personally contacted at but information about his counseling center should be requested at

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Treat Others as You Would Want to Be Treated

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 7:12

            I am pretty tired of talking about gender equality (or inequality - a message I received constantly while in the FOC). But it’s an issue because there are women and girls who are living with these attitudes and behaviors.
            Men are commanded to love their wives. How loving is it to hit your wife? How loving to tell her she is less than you? Let’s look at some of the potential results of being put down:
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Children feel insecure
  • The victim develops addictions such as: food, shopping, gambling, alcohol, drugs, sex
  • An unkempt home which reflects the victim’s beliefs and experiences

Anyone my age or older, who came from the same group, can recall at least one instance of a woman being beaten into insanity. To any person who has been told that they are worth less than others, please read these words. Please believe this:
  • You are lovable
  • You are valuable
  • You are worthy

            Treat others as you would want to be treated. Do you think you’re better than women because you were born male? If you do, consider this:

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:4

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Women Can't Do That!

Dear Readers, I have lately had some anonymous comments claiming such things as "all women are less than all men." My reaction to that type of statements is of disgust - how sad that a man (or group of men) has to put others down - below himself - in order to feel important. While I have no interest in being a minister or leader in a church, I often get hateful (and, often, illiterate) comments from men who attack me for being a teacher.  And, I do believe in the priesthood of all believers (that believers have a responsibility to share the good news of Jesus' love and sacrifice within their sphere of influence). Today, I am sharing an article on the roles of women within the Christian church. I know that it will be controversial, but since it is an issue (and stumbling block) for many, I'm asking that you read it with an open mind.

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Are Women Supposed to Minister in the Pulpit?

Expert Author Emil Swift
People who become Christians and are filled with the Spirit OFTEN assume God can and does move through the women in a church as well as the men. Typically, it isn't until some older Christian grabs them and starts telling them that "women can't do this" and "women can't do that" -- pointing to an apparently clear Scripture, that they start restricting women in ministry in the church.
Let me lay out a perspective that may appeal to your spirit.
To most Believers (especially new Believers who haven't been taught old customs) the verse that seems most natural (in a supernatural way!) about the ministry of women is found in Galatians where Paul says,
Gal. 3.26-28 -- Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Christian newbies will read this and oddly enough will tend to think that men and women in the Body of Christ are spiritually equal. In other words -- There's a person up front of the congregation, who is declaring the Word of the Lord in the Spirit... Is it a man? Is it a woman? Is it a Jew or Greek, slave or free? Who cares? The only real question is, is it the Spirit of God?
In a sense, it's almost repulsive to claim that the Spirit of the Lord can't flow through a person in ministry to the Body, because she is a woman. It's such a repulsive idea, there'd have to be very clear instruction in the Scriptures to support that exclusive viewpoint.
"But," many men claim, "there are Scriptures that teach the submission of women -- in marriage and in ministry!" Actually, there's just one. Our key verse is found in the letter to Timothy:
1 Tim 2.11-14 -- But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Right off let me point out that this verse is peculiar in the history of doctrine. Most teachings that are broadly accepted by the Church are found in a number of places throughout Scripture -- traditionally, at least three -- places which clarify and confirm that teaching. In other words, if this teaching (that of women not teaching) were found in several places in the Word, these verses could be compared and we'd have a lot more clarity on it.
But this verse stands alone in its apparently misogynist admonition. Curiously, what gives it so much weight isn't that other Scriptures "back it up", but that this one, lone verse is backed up by our culture!
In fact, "culture" is the true key to making sense of this verse. So let's consider the cultural framework in which Paul wrote this admonition.
Paul was writing to Timothy in Ephesus, 2,000 years ago. Ephesus was the world center of paganism at that time, ruled over (in the spiritual realm and in popular worship) by the mother goddess, Artimus (whom the Romans called "Diana" as in, "great is Diana of the Ephesians!" in Acts 19.) This is the same "Diana" whose temple housed thousands of religious prostitutes because they believed that indiscriminate and frequent sexual acts brought fertility and prosperity into the land.
In Ephesus, this cultic, fertility religion dominated the society including its temple life and business activities. Not only did the Ephesians lift up a female goddess into the highest place of worship there, but they taught that women were the true spiritual leaders -- not men. In fact, Ephesian Jews who were bringing out the first teachings of Gnosticism already considered "Eve" to be the true "hero" of the Creation account since she was the one who received True Knowledge and Illumination from the Serpent -- who was superior to God. This embryonic Gnostic teaching fit hand-in-glove with the prevailing, cultural belief that womenwere the only true spiritual teachers.
Into this mass of cultic confusion, Paul brought the Truth of the Gospel. The fact that Paul preached salvation through a "man" (Jesus) in and of itself insulted the female dominated spiritual teachers of Ephesus! When he wrote to Timothy, instead of focusing mostly on the daily conduct of the people of God in that city as he did in most of his other church letters, instead he focused strongly on the need for Timothy to resist false teachers and their false "spiritually enlightened" teachings. That was the greater problem faced in Ephesus.
1 Tim 1.3 -- As I urged you when I was on my way to Macedonia, stay on where you are at Ephesus in order that you may warn and admonish and charge certain individuals not to teach any teaching different than mine.
Or here...
1 Tim 6.20 -- Timothy -- Guard and keep the deposit entrusted to you! Turn away from godless chatter, with its vain and empty phrases, and the subtleties and contradictions in what is falsely called, "knowledge" and "spiritual illumination".
Actually, by taking the stand that he did, Paul also came into a place of violent opposition to his own culture and that of the Pharisees (of which he had been a part) when in 1 Tim 2.11 he said, "Let women learn... The Rabbis and Pharisees in Paul's day had FORBIDDEN WOMEN TO BE TAUGHT SPIRITUAL TRUTH. Women were deliberately excluded from instruction in the Scriptures (Torah) and the study of the things of God. If a woman so much as touched a scroll of the Torah, it had to be burned as unclean! The mere fact that Paul said about women, "Teach them.." in itself had to be shocking!
Jewish women in Ephesus were not taught about spiritual things, and Gentile women were taught the powerful false teachings related to their goddess -- including superiority over men as well as worship of the Serpent as the origin of all Wisdom.
When women -- either Jewish or Gentile -- became Believers, they were at a serious disadvantage in respect to men. The typical method of teaching in those days was a question-and-answer format -- whether in pagan assemblies, Christian churches or Jewish synagogues. In these generally heated debates -- as ideas were tossed back and forth in debate and confusion could pile up on confusion -- these women who had little or no knowledge of Scripture were seriously limited. (In fact, in 1 Cor 14, Paul tried to reduce some of the noisy confusion in Christian assemblies by telling wives to be quiet and wait till they got home to ask their husbands for clarification.)
Both 1 Tim 1.4 and 6.20 speak of these characteristic debates in which Paul says to Timothy to "guard the spiritual Truth which has been entrusted to you. Turn away from pointless discussions and the claims of false knowledge that people use to oppose the Christian faith". And Paul went so far as to demand of Timothy that he "order certain people to stop teaching false doctrine and occupying themselves with myths and endless genealogies. These myths and genealogies raise a lot of questions rather than promoting God's plan, which centers in faith."
Think of the spiritual climate at Ephesus: Women, who were new Believers, had either NO understanding of spiritual things or were steeped in "goddess teachings"... they were sitting in the midst of the newly planted Christian churches... and Paul said the women needed to be "in silence". It already begins to make more sense to understand that the fantastically popular and false teachings about Artimus were endemic in Ephesus, and the open discussion and debate of Christian services were the wrong place for women trained in Artimus worship to be allowed to try and dominate the spiritual teachings.
Actually, there's another serious problem with the "just shut-up" interpretation. The word "silence" doesn't carry the same meaning in today's culture as it did in ancient times.
In fact, "silence" is a good word to show how quickly you and I can make a wrong guess as to the meaning of a word in the Bible. After all, if women are to "keep silent", wouldn't you think that means they have to keep their mouths shut? But the Greek word used for "silence" (hesuchia) is the same word used in 1 Tim 2.2 in which we're told to pray continually "for kings, and for all that are in authority; so that we may lead a quiet[hesuchia] and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty."
The word hesuchia (according to Strong's Dictionary) describes the life of "someone who stays at home doing his own work" and doesn't meddle in the lives of others." In 1 Tim 2.2, it would obviously be wrong to say it means the kind of "silence" that we usually talking about -- you know, "pray for kings, and for all that are in authority; so that we may all shut up and live in peace..."? It doesn't make any sense.
But when you apply the correct meaning in 1 Tim 2.12, it makes perfect sense that Paul would tell women to participate in the meetings "quietly", not "meddling" with the teachings that Paul had given them about the Gospel, Jesus Christ, etc.
"I do not permit a woman to teach"... In the spiritual atmosphere of Ephesus, women (especially women) needed to sit quietly and learn. And Ephesian women needed especially to not be allowed to "usurp authority" over the men who were teaching -- attempting to perpetuate the cultic teachings of female, spiritual authority and thereby taking control of the young, Ephesian church. What Paul is saying here to the Ephesian Believers, in light of the extraordinarily difficult circumstances facing this Asian church, was that women (steeped in these false teachings) needed to just be quiet, sit and learn from the men. Remember: Paul doesn't tell women this anywhere else. It is a word of instruction for Ephesus
"Usurp authority" is also interesting. It's the word authenteo (Strong's again) which literally means "one who acts on his own authority, autocratic; an absolute master."
This phrase, "usurp authority" doesn't refer to a woman -- what, preaching on Sunday? Prophesying? Ministering in a Word of Wisdom or interpreting a tongue? "Usurp authority" means (following the teaching of the Ephesian "goddess" cultus) that such a woman tries to take over the church -- "exercising absolute control and mastery". This, of course, would be exactly in line with what the priestesses of Artimus would try and do!
By the way -- When people are reading this passage and go from "not usurp authority" to "For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression", it just seems really weird. Exactly why does Paul launch into this peculiar argument from Genesis -- an argument he uses here and only here?
It's because the incipient Gnostic teachings -- which fit so well with the Artimus cultus -- taught that Adam was the one who was totally deceived and Eve (by means of listening to the serpent) became the Source of True Spiritual Wisdom and Knowledge!
So, in light of this teaching at Ephesus, Paul says, basically, "NO! Adam was formed first, then Eve, and it was Eve who was deceived!"
Overall, after taking into consideration these cultural issues surrounding these instructions to the Ephesian Believers, the case for male-dominated ministry in the Body of Christ is weak. In a sense, you could say these particular instructions would still apply today to any culture in which women were trained to take over a place of absolute spiritual leadership and teach the doctrine of demons. In such a case -- they need to learn quietly and humbly receive instruction according to the truth!
But this is simply NOT the case in most of the Body of Christ today. In fact, the male-dominated perspective doesn't really fit well with other passages in the New Testament. Some that come right off the top of my head include (a) Acts 16.7 which mentions the apostle "Junias" (which in that day is a typically female name); (b) Gal 2 where there is no "slave nor free" or "male nor female" in Christ; and (c) where the well-known preacher Apollos "spoke and taught the things of the Lord diligently, knowing only the baptism of John. And Aquila [man] and Priscilla [womanheard him, and they took him and expounded to him the way of God more perfectly". (That last one is powerful -- since Jews believed women shouldn't be taught spiritual truth, yet it was the husband/wife and man/woman team of Aquila and Priscilla who corrected Apollos theologically!)
Anyway -- when culture is taken into consideration -- there's just too much uncertainty about the 1 Tim 2 text for me to simply "accept" the teaching of our culture in restricting women from full and free ministry in the Church. It'd be different if there were other verses -- numerous andclear -- to that purpose, but there aren't.
So, do I have any problem with women preachers? I have to admit, there's a whole lotta preachers I have trouble with -- but they're mostly men!
And do I have a problem with a woman prophesying in the congregation? Well -- if Paul finds it acceptable (see 1 Cor 11.5!), then my only issueis testing the Word as to whether it's from the Lord or not.
And that has nothing to do with gender. Just Spirit.
* * * *
"KingdomScribes" is a ministry led by Emil and Michele Swift. Their website can be found at
The Swifts have been called by God to minister together uniquely to the Body of Christ and share a revelatory teaching ministry - gifted in the Spirit to teach mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven in a simple, direct fashion. Emil and Michele are "Kingdom Scribes" whose hearts are to raise every Believer into living and ministering in the power of the Spirit and the Word as "scribes of the Kingdom". A passion to engage the hearts, souls and spirits of their listeners has led the Swifts into a teaching style characterized by its lack of religion, rituals and church jargon. They minister in words easily understood by those to whom they speak.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I Prayed for Her to be Healed

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

James 5:13-16

In 2008, our family moved back to the metropolitan area after spending three years living down in Coos Bay. It was nice to be back within easy driving distance of my parents and my sister. We began attending a new church in Salem and during our first visit to the church, I noticed a distinct family sitting in one of the back rows.
What struck me about this family is that the dad and the two sons all rocked in similar fashion during the entire service, while the mom sat – seemingly nonplussed by the odd behavior of her menfolk – perfectly still and attentive to the church service. The husband and boys were a bit messy looking and it was clear that they shared some sort of neurological disorder. The mom was beautiful and poised. As the months passed, my son became friends with the younger of those two boys and we made plans to spend time together as families.
I learned that the mom had been battling cancer since she was nineteen years old and had recently had another relapse. She was scheduled to have her right arm surgically removed in an attempt to isolate and eliminate the cancer for good. She went through with the surgery and continued working – her job required continual data entry and, although she lost her dominant arm, she adapted to one-handed typing and was able to keep up with her work and continue to support her family and keep her health insurance (her husband also worked).
It was during all this upheaval in her life that I went through some traumatic personal problems – not cancer or any other physical ailment. But my life was turned upside down very unexpectedly. Guess who showed the most love and compassion? This woman who had spent her entire adult life battling to stay alive extended her love, support, and prayers to me while many people I thought were my friends disappeared. It was a humbling experience. I certainly didn’t deserve her friendship, but there it was.
In addition to losing her arm, she had to undergo more chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The therapy rendered her birth control ineffective and the couple conceived a third child during this time. In order to preserve the life of the baby, this woman had to discontinue some of her treatment until after the birth.
Soon after the baby was born – a beautiful little girl – the mom was informed that all forms of chemotherapy and radiation and all other possible treatments were ineffective and there was no more that could be done to cure the cancer.
In the last weeks of her life, my daughter and I spent time with her and her newborn baby. By this time, she had lost right arm and all her hair. She didn’t have the strength to navigate a wig or makeup. Having been beautiful her entire life, the loss of her looks was not easy to take. The impending loss of her life was something she didn’t seem ready to grasp, though.
I have beautiful pictures of her on our trips to frozen yogurt store and to the mall cradling her baby in her one good arm. Up until the end, she was a loving and concerned mom. We talked about how her boys were doing in school and how they  were responding to her death sentence. She had been referred to and end-of-life counselor, which as far as I know, she never called. She wasn’t ready to go. She had a family that needed her.
She died when her little girl was about six months old. She was thirty-six.

Have you ever stood (or sat) and someone’s funeral, saying to yourself, “but I prayed for her to live. I prayed for her to be healed”?
I don’t understand why some prayers are answered and some are not. I don’t get it. In the past few years, several good people my age and younger have died – people I went to school with. People who had kids left to raise. One of my classmates, Brian Cheney, who had an encouraging word of welcome and a hug for everyone at our twentieth high school reunion died a few weeks later. Such a well-liked guy. Another woman, whom I had gone to school with since our days at Beavercreek Elementary, died a few months before our reunion.

I’ve heard that when bad things happen to good people or when prayers for healing are unanswered, it is the most likely time for our faith to be challenged. Do you find this to be true?