Marriage Jobs

April 12th, 2014

I am speaking on marriage at Door of Hope today. The Power Point is here. The basis of marriage is in imaging the Trinity as Genesis 1:26-28 makes clear. As we unpack 1:28, 2:18 and 2:23-25, we discover four “greats” for marriage: great family, great mission, great friendship, and great passion. I noted that for our culture good sex is a pleasurable recreational activity between consenting adults. But biblically it is a whole person connection between a husband and a wife to express, confirm and deepen marital intimacy. So biblically there is no sex outside marriage — only porneia. As we move into the New Testament, exploring Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3 reveals four roles for women: submit, respect, beautiful spirit of purity, reverence, gentle and quiet, and not give into fear. The four roles for men are love by giving yourself, love by nurturing and cherishing, understand, and honor. Submission does not mean do what you are told and smile, but — following the example of Jesus in Mark 14:32-26 — give your feelings, give your desires and give your trust.

Spiritual Warfare Resources

March 9th, 2014

I am speaking on Spiritual Warfare today at Living Hope Church, Vancouver, and there are MANY questions that arise. So I am putting a few good resources up for people to look at. The materials are here.

My articles include “Demon Principles”, “Three Models of Spiritual Warfare”, “Rogue Deliverance”, and “Warfare Bibliography,” as well as a list of passages that might be helpful for children.  There is an inductive study for those who want to examine the key Scriptures. There are also three articles by Sam Storms, Pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City and a set of notes from a psychiatrist to help with thinking through demons and mental illness.

I would welcome interaction. You can append public comments or email me at gbreshears@westernseminary.edu

Proclaiming Justice at Cru

July 20th, 2013

I spoke at the Cru conference in Ft. Collins on July 20 on the topic of Proclaiming Justice. It was an amazing experience for me to share with people who were powerfully committed to going with Jesus into the hardest places – beginning with the Campuses of the world.

The notes from the meeting are here, and the power point I used is here. A very helpful chart is here. I will be glad to send you any of these or converse about other resources. My email address is Gbreshears@westernseminary.edu

 

Mark 3

July 15th, 2013

Here is an outline of Mark 3:20-35. Notes and thoughts here

 

Equal Marriage should be even more equal

July 6th, 2013

I am intrigued — but not at all surprised — to see Slate seriously supporting polygyny. At least I hope they are not going to be sexist and limit it only to polygamy. The article is here

Ironically, in a backward way I am sorta kinda supportive — IF it is marriage which is to publicly proclaimed life long faithful covenant partnership. I do have to say the status of women in polygamy (which is far more common than polyandry) in the world does not give me much expectation that it will be good for women or children. But the rising number of children in single parent homes or shifting partner homes is a very damaging place for children. The research is not ambiguous.

This is from the report of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and the Institute for American Values in New York City:

According to numerous studies, children born or raised outside of marriage are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems – including drug use, depression, attempted suicide and dropping out of high school – compared to children in intact, married families, as summarized in past reports such as “Why Marriage Matters” from the same team. While debates over same-sex marriage have filled the headlines, the rapid hollowing out of marriage in Middle America – more than half of births among women under 30 now occur outside of marriage – has received scant attention from national leaders, the report notes.

Their full report here

I do suspect that equal marriage expanded will be quite different than marriage. I suspect that it will devolve into a temporary living arrangement with one person working and the rest getting health benefits.

Poor children.

Why Does Religion Survive?

December 24th, 2012

Today’s NY Times opinion piece, The Moral Animal, asks the question of the survival of religion: Why does religion survive — thrive in fact — when it is persistently attacked and ridiculed by naturalism and has been predicted to disappear since the Enlightenment? In a neo-Darwinian world, what makes religion so fit? Rabbi Sacks suggests it because community has higher survivability than individuals. Altruism is fitter than egoism and therefore survives. He notes there is now neurological evidence that we are hard wired for empathy. He argues that religion survives because it binds individuals into groups.

He cites Robert Putnam whose Bowling Alone showed the rising individualism was destroying our ability to form community. More recently his American Grace has chronicled the fact that religious communities still exist. His research showed that frequent church- or synagogue-goers were more likely to give money to charity, do volunteer work, help the homeless, donate blood, help a neighbor with housework, spend time with someone who was feeling depressed, offer a seat to a stranger or help someone find a job. Religiosity as measured by church or synagogue attendance is, he found, a better predictor of altruism than education, age, income, gender or race.

But that doesn’t explain why religion survives. It only shows that it results in altruistic community. Community may be a necessary thing, Darwinistically speaking, but religion isn’t.

It seems to me that religion survives because of what Psalm 19 says:

    The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

     Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

     There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

     Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

There is an innate sense of divinity, of justice, beauty, and of community put there by the Living Loving Lord of Advent. It morphs into many different religions which have more or less of the truth. The Word became flesh to reveal the Father (John 1:14, 18), die for our sins and rise to bring newness of life, was exalted above the hostile powers and poured out the Spirit on His Church. We who repent and accept His message and join Him by faith receive forgiveness, new life, join His new community and its mission to bring true shalom to this world.

So at Christmas time, I confidently predict that the worship of the Lord of Creation, the Lord of Advent, the Lord of the community of the Spirit will continue to be worshiped. That worship will be most authentic when it follows the words of our Savior: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. and Love your neighbor as yourself.

This was demonstrated dramatically  in Kristina Shevchenko, the 15 year old who was shot at Clackamas Town Center. She irrationally forgave the man who shot her and two others. You had to listen carefully to find the reason: she and her Russian immigrant family are strong Christians.

So you will continue to see churches proclaiming Jesus as Lord and doing irrational works of service in our communities . . . and loving, wrestling with, and laughing with atheists who can’t join our worship [yet]

Justice Summary

November 21st, 2012

I will be joining John Mark Comer to teach the foundational concept of Justice at Solid Rock this Sunday. The recording will be here. Since sermons go really quickly, I prepared a summary for further study. You can get it MS Word format here.

1. Dimensions of God’s Righteousness

a. Attribute (Character): God is perfectly pure and righteous Ezra 9:15; Dan. 9:7-11, 14; John 17:25; Rom. 1:17; 3:22

b. Actions: God acts righteously and sacrificially. He not only is good, but does good Gen. 18:25; Psa. 71:15-19; 145:17; Jer. 9:24; Micah 6:5

c. God’s righteousness is a gift He gives to faith. Rom. 1:17; 3:21; 10:3-4; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:9

2. Definition of righteousness (Tsedekah) and justice (Mishpat)

a. Righteousness means community life with all relationships – with God, others, self, and the rest of creation – well ordered, full of shalom, all things flourishing as God designed them to be.

b. The righteous person is one who contributes to such life.

c. Doing justice is inconveniencing yourself for the sake of the “worthless person” especially the widow, orphan, stranger, and poor. Injustice is keeping my stuff for my own comfort.

d. The reason for doing justice: loving and being like the LORD who gives Himself in creation and redemption (Psa. 68:4-5; 146:7-9; Jer. 9:23-24).

The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community. The wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves. . . . Righteousness is a pattern of life, not merely specific acts. What is at stake is personhood, not merely performance, disposition rather than mere deeds; character behind and beyond conduct . . . this kind of life and behavior has a religious dimension as well as an ethical one, since the righteous depend on the LORD. . . . “righteousness” refers to the moral quality that establishes right order and “justice” refers to the moral quality that restores order that order when they are disturbed. (Bruce Waltke, Proverbs, p. 97-98)

Righteousness is not a matter of actions conforming to a given set of absolute legal standards as the Pharisees taught, but of behavior which is in keeping with the two-way relationship between God and man. Thus the righteousness of God appears in his God-like dealings with his people, i.e. in redemption and salvation (Isa. 45:21; 51:5f.; 56:1; 62:1). He who longs for redemption calls upon God’s righteousness, i.e. he pleads for God’s intervention (Pss. 71:2; 143:11). Israel’s enemies, by contrast, find God’s righteousness to be the root of their downfall (Isa. 41:10f.; 54:17; Ps. 129:4f.). For Israel’s sake, even the very land itself may be restored through the gift of God’s righteousness (Hos. 10:2; Joel 2:23; Isa. 32:15ff.; 48:18f.). Dwelling in the land as he does, Israel partakes of God’s righteousness (Ps. 24:5) and such righteousness may actually be referred to in spatial terms (Pss. 89:16; 69:28). (adapted from “Righteousness” in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology)

The Abraham narrative is the foundational description of righteousness/justice.

Genesis 12 is YHWH calling a guy to be His tribe through whom He will do His divine rescue mission. YHWH calls Abram, follow Me to Eden as it turns out. He blesses him and says, “I will give you a people and a Person through whom all peoples will be blessed in the divine rescue mission.” This promise of the nation through whom all nations will be blessed is a central theme through the rest of the Bible.

Abram is called to go to somewhere. I will make

Nation

Bless to bless

Name great

Bless all peoples/tribes/nations/families = the Gen 11 one turned over to angels

Offspring = descendents = Nation

THE offspring

What must Abram do? Go (trust), receive blessing,

YHWH calls Abram to be loyal to Him rather than the demon gods that are like pimps and drug dealers in the heavenly realm (Psa. 82 is one of the places that speak of them). Abram does sacrifices to YHWH only when he gets to the land despite the fact that he used to worship other gods (Josh. 24:2), the gods of that land.

Genesis 15 YHWH calls Abram to trust that what He says is true. YHWH will arrange for a son even though it has been a long time since the promise was given, despite the physical fact that he is 90 and Sarai is 80. This kind of trust is a primary dimension of righteousness (6)

Genesis 18:18-19 YHWH choose Abraham to teach his household to follow the way of YHWH and teach them righteousness (Tsedekah) and justice (Mishpat)

Genesis 22 Look to the LORD’s provision in Messiah. Isaac = Son/Jesus, the Abraham = Father. This shows us in dramatic prophecy that the Father and the Son would partner together, both agonizing, to perform the propitiatory sacrifice to satisfy the wrath of the Father and the Son.

Here is the outline:

Gen 12 Loyal (Hesed) to YHWH

Gen. 15 Trust (Amen) the LORD’s promise even when it makes no sense. The LORD says this is righteousness. Live as if His promise is true.

Gen 18 Obey (Shema) = do righteousness and justice

American righteous dude is a decent guy who keeps the rules

Justice is bad dudes getting punished

Social justice is giving handouts [food, welfare, clothing, medical care] to poor people, eradicating classism, doing the Robin Hood thing; stopping sex trafficking,

Righteousness and justice is community life with all relationships – God, others, self, and land – well ordered so that life is full of shalom, all things flourishing as God designed them to be. Shalom is God’s intended state of perfect beauty; peace and completion in all things. Righteous dudes work toward righteousness, in fact they like the LORD, disadvantage themselves for the sake of community.

Gen. 22 = Provide (Yireh) Look to the LORD’s provision in Messiah (Gen. 22:1-14) This pictures the Father and Son partnering together agonizingly to perform the propitiatory sacrifice to appease the wrath of the Father and the Son.

Isaiah

1:10-21 shows that the LORD will not honor “church worship” unless it is lived out. He calls them to “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Chapter 58 shows the kind of fast YHWH requires

Amos

2:4 = serving other gods = idolatry (4:4-11; 5:26-27)

2:6 = doing injustice

They are addicted to comfort (6:1-13) and callous to hurting people 4:1; 5:11-12; 8:4-6)

Job puts it all together in Job 31.

Jesus

Righteousness is helping people (Luke 3:8ff; Matt. 25:31-46) as well as personal piety and loyalty to the LORD

Paul

Is 2 Cor. 5:21 talking about justification (acceptance as child of God and forgiveness of all sin; imputed righteousness of Christ) or all of the Christlike life (justification + regeneration (new heart and indwelling Spirit + sanctification (become Christlike in character and action)? Gerry thinks the latter. It is in the context of a treatment of the New Covenant, beginning in 2 Cor. 3:3 where indwelling Spirit and new heart (cf. Exek. 36:25ff) are realities from the LORD. 2 Cor. 3:18 speaks of transformation into the image of Christ. This clearly includes both regeneration and sanctification. 2 Cor. 5:10 speaks of the judgment of our deeds as Christians. Verse 15 speaks of living as Christians. Verse 17 speaks of Christians as new creation. All of these make it clear that the righteousness of God in verse 21 must be the full righteousness which includes but is not limited to justification.

This is Ian Nelson’s summary of Jesus and the Gospel:

To sympathize means “to suffer with.” Jesus sympathized — he fought injustice by joining people in the affliction of their injustice. He suffered injustice on the cross (he fought injustice by suffering injustice himself). The only way to fight injustice is to in some way suffer “injustice” yourself. You give away (lose) the possessions that others have lost so that they can benefit. You sacrifice the time that others are in need of. You join people in their pain. You inconvenience yourself in order to help those who have been inconvenienced. You “unjust” yourself for the sake of those who have been treated unjustly.

Some Resources

Sermons on Justice: Blackhawk Church, Madison, WI here and Grace Community Gresham  here

Tim Keller, Generous Justice

Chris Wright, Old Testament Ethics for the People of God

Ken Wytsma, Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live and Die for Bigger Things

Jonathan Martin, Giving Wisely: Killing with Kindness or Empowering Lasting Transformation? 

Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts

Robert D. Lupton, Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It)

Resources on Sexual Minorities

November 4th, 2012

I will be participating in a panel on “Faith, Sexuality, and Identity” at George Fox University Wednesday, November 7, 2012. This is part of an ongoing dialogue with OneGeorgeFox, (http://www.onegeorgefox.org/), a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and allied alumni of George Fox University. The official Fox statement on the movement is at www.georgefox.edu/onegeorgefox. I will be dialoguing with Nathan Meckley, Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church here in Portland. The other two panelists are Erica Tan, a licensed clinical psychologist who often collaborates on research projects with Mark Yarhouse, and Judge Darleen Ortega, current Oregon Court of Appeals judge. This is a list of resources related to the issue.

I posted a draft recording of my presentation here. The Power Point is here.

Books

Stanley J. Grenz, Welcoming but Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality, Westminster John Knox Press, 1998

Mark A. Yarhouse, PsyD, Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends, Bethany House Publishers, 2010

Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan, Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope, WaterBrook Press, 2011

Robert A. J. Gagnon and Dan O. Via, Homosexuality and the Bible: Two Views Fortress Press, 2009

 

Robert Gagnon, has an excellent summary of his major book, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, Abingdon Press, 2002 here. There is a good video presentation called, “What Does the Bible Teach About Homosexuality?” here. Matthew Vines has an hour long teaching on the Bible and homosexuality from the perspective of a Gay Christian here. Gagnon’s website is here.

Mark Yarhouse is the executive director of The Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity (http://www.sexualidentityinstitute.org/) at Regent University. The mission of ISSI is to further our understanding of sexual identity, its development and synthesis, and to be a resource to students in training and those in the community who are stakeholders in these discussions. “At the Intersection of Religious and Sexual Identities: A Christian Perspective on Homosexuality” is a helpful article here. His blog is here

Stanton Jones, Provost & Professor of Psychology, Wheaton College, and Mark Yarhouse authored Ex-Gays?: A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation IVP Academic, 2007. Jones summarizes five major failures of the Evangelical Church in approaching the contentious issues of homosexuality and sexual identity in a chapel talk at Dallas Seminary. Video and full text is here. He has an article summarizing the current state of same-sex attraction in social and biological scientific perspectives here

Rick McKinley preached an outstanding sermon on the question of homosexuality at Imago Dei here in Portland. It is here. Chris Dolson of Blackhawk Church also has an excellent sermon here.

Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, confessed the sins of the church in relation to homosexuality before the SBC National Convention here.

Peter Ould, http://www.peter-ould.net/ is post gay. He refuses the ontological polarities of straight, gay or bisexual or whatever desires one may have. The biblical categories are chaste or sexually immoral. With God’s help, one can be chaste and have any kind of sexual desires. Your desires do not define a person, no matter how many people say they do. Ould believes human personhood is defined by relation with God, our choice of lifestyle, and the direction of our journey not our sexual attractions. He has a great video “Post Gay – A Lecture at St John’s Nottingham, 6 Nov 2008” here. His blog on being post gay is here. It includes posts by many who come from the LGBTQ perspective.

One example of this is Wesley Hill, author of Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality Zondervan, 2010. Author’s video is here. Dr. Hill is open about his sexual attraction to men but lives a very successful life as a chaste man. He is on faculty at Trinity School for Ministry, an evangelical Anglican seminary. His faculty profile is here

“I, Josh Weed, am homosexual.” He is also LDS (Mormon), married, the father of three children, and a marriage and family therapist. In his blog he and his wife, Lolly, tell their story here. Their Nightline story is here.

Christopher Yuan http://www.christopheryuan.com is the author along with his mother of Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope, WaterBrook Multnomah Press, 2011, The book is a very personal account of their journey from atheism, his homosexuality, and her sucidiality to their conversion to Christianity and him becoming a celibate man with homosexual attractions who is a follower of Jesus.

Portland Fellowship is local ministry https://www.portlandfellowship.com/ for those who have been wounded by past hurts and taken captive by the desire to fulfill unmet needs for love and affirmation through (unwanted) same-sex desires and relationships. They have an excellent program for people struggling with unwanted homosexuality called taking back ground at https://www.reachtruth.com/

If you really want to be in an embattled minority, try being an ex-gay man! That challenge is recounted in the Op Ed in the New York times here.

Sy Rogers (http://www.syrogers.com) and Joe Dallas (http://www.joedallas.com) are two of many who have changed their life style and identity but not their attractions and are engaged in ministry to help people struggling with sexual addiction, homosexuality and other sexual/relational problems.

The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (http://narth.com) is an association of psychiatrists and psychologists who believe that if a person comes to them wanting change in sexual orientation, they are ethically committed to try for that change. Although they are not a “religious” organization, there are Christian, Jewish and Moslem resources and links on this site. NARTH’s whole site is full of resources and research. Other useful resources include http://www.desertstream.org/ and http://www.newdirection.ca/

I would be deeply grateful for other resources or suggestions.

Here is one dialogue from William Jessup University suggested by a friend. Another friend suggested this older but well thought out report from the Christian Reformed Church which is  here. There are others in the comments. The NY Times article on “My Ex-Gay Friend” about Michael Glatze is particularly intriguing.  His recent statement on the power of the gospel to heal is here.  

Acton 2012

June 13th, 2012

I am at Acton University in Grand Rapids. the people here describe it as a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. Guided by a distinguished, international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology and sound economics

Network with people from diverse backgrounds who share a concern about issues at the heart of faith and freedom. The goal is that I/we will be better in articulating my understanding of the Judeo-Christian view of liberty and morality and its application in a free and virtuous society.

Acton gives me a chance to reaffirm some friendships and meet interesting new people while going to classes where I am stretched in areas I know little about. At yesterday’s reception for those of us who are Kern Fellows, I met Dr. Roland Hill, Director of Development and Stewardship for the Seventh Day Adventists of Texas. Fascinating conversation around theology and economics.

I had very much looked forward to the opening session with Michael Novak. Unfortunately it was just a personal remembering of people and events rather than a lesson from the history he has been involved in.

The geese greeted me at the end of the day as I walked back along the Grand Rapids River on the River Walk that takes me right down to water level. Beautiful!

Defining “ordain” and “pastor”

May 22nd, 2012

Evangelicals are wrestling with what to do with these two terms. Grace is typical of many other churches. Our by laws define “pastor” as a full time paid ministry staff who is also an elder. Since Dennis retired our only official pastor is Jay. Gerry Smith is now full time paid ministry staff and an elder, but not yet congregationally voted to be a pastor (we overlooked the congregational vote required in the bylaws). He will soon be Pastor Gerry. Then he will be Pastor Gerry though not ordained and I will only be Elder Gerry though I am ordained. 

Here is our current definition of “ordain:” When appropriate, the elders shall call for the public ordination of a pastor. Ordination means that a man (1) satisfies the biblical qualifications for an elder, (2) is considered by the elders and the church to be called by God to the ministry of the Gospel, and (3) is commissioned by the church to an appropriate avenue of such ministry. The appropriateness of ordaining a man serving in a non-pastoral ministry (e.g. missionary) will be evaluated by the elders."

At the time this definition was written ordination (an extra biblical culturally defined term) was almost always for pastors (another extra biblical culturally defined term), usually meaning a preacher, the leader of the church in our church or as missionary sent from our church. It was normal to commission chaplains who hadn’t already been ordained as pastors. The government currently recognizes both terms.

What do we do with other full time ministry staff who are shepherding people but not elders? They are not “pastor” but people are calling them “pastor.” What term do we use when we introduce them when they are doing something on stage in a Sunday service?

“Pastor” is also changing to mean a full time ministry professional who does shepherding of people in a church, not just the preacher dude. The professional norm for chaplains is now ordination. Virtually all chaplains are now ordained though most had never been or will be pastors of churches.

I want to see evangelical churches go with the current professional standard rather than the older professional standard. What makes that hard is that we still have in our minds and emotions that “ordain” means “pastor” which means a person is or could be the preacher, leader of a church. The change is wrenching because the terms have strong emotional attachments. The older definitions have almost biblical authority for people who came into leadership in the church a couple of decades ago. The emotions get all the higher in churches with a complementarian view where elder is an office reserved for men.

Wish we were going with biblical terms like elder and deacon. The God would tell us what to do and it would all be easy – well easier. There are huge cultural ramifications to those terms too!