Tuesday, October 29, 2019

My Thorn In The Flesh?

     For years, since I have become a Christian, I have prayed for God to "crush all pride" in me, to keep me humble. The Bible has a lot to say about "pride." God hates it (Prov 6:16-17). It is sin (Prov 21:4). Pride goes before destruction (Prov 16:18). I list more verses on "pride" here.
Since God is so averse to pride, I do not want to be proud. 

     In relation to this, it is also interesting to look at what the Bible says about Paul's "thorn in the flesh" in (2 Cor 12:7-10). In short, in the preceding verses (2 Cor 12:1-6), we see that Paul had been taken up into Heaven, and "heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak." As a result of this experience, Paul was given a "thorn in the flesh" to keep him from being proud of the "revelations" he had been given by God. While we do not know for sure what this "thorn" was (I believe it was an affliction of his eyes), we do know that it was debilitating to Paul.

     Are some people today being given a "thorn in the flesh" from God (or Satan depending on your point of view) to keep them from being proud? Have I been given a "thorn in the flesh" to keep ME from being proud? I don't know for sure, but I have been thinking about this for a while now. Let me explain.

     Most who read this probably already know that I run a Christian website: JesusAlive.cc. Many of you may have come to this blog from the site. I have answered hundreds of Bible questions, and written Bible studies for the site since August of 2002. If you spend any time on the website, you will probably leave with the impression, "Steve knows the Bible really well." I have spent thousands of hours in God's Word to write what I write. I "seem" to be a Bible scholar. However, there is a problem: I CAN'T REMEMBER WHAT I WRITE! 

     Frankly, this isn't the only problem either. I have a "scrambled up brain," and honestly, I am beginning to think that God is behind it. That it is my "thorn in the flesh." Let me explain.

     I have a learning disability. This has been a problem for my whole life. I barely got through school because of it. In some areas of my brain, I might be considered brilliant. For example, I know more odd bits of trivia than almost anyone I know. Most people refuse to play me in Words With Friends (a game like Scrabble) after a few games because I don't lose much. I have a gift for remembering people's names and faces for years (I see people years later, and call them by name and they have no idea who I am.). Cool, right?

     But, then it comes to the other part of my brain. This part literally "embarrasses" me on a regular basis. For one, I have a HUGE problem talking. I stumble over words. I make no sense sometimes. I often cannot convey what I want to say. If I get too flustered, my brain basically just "shuts off" - literally! (In moments like these, I have forgotten things like the name of the street I live on, or the name of a person I see on a regular basis.) Honestly, if this was not a problem, I would almost certainly be a pastor today. However, with my brain the way it is, I could never stand in front of a church congregation and preach. It is a constant problem even trying to teach my Bible studies. People have left because of it. 

     In addition to this is the "not remembering" problem I mentioned above. It happened again this week at Bible study. We came to a section on "crowns." We had discussed "crowns" a few weeks earlier, so I asked the class what they remembered about our discussion. I had followed up that earlier discussion by writing a specific study on "crowns," and I mentioned that. A lady who had joined us for the first time asked me what I had learned in my study. I had almost completely forgotten what I had just written on. I fumbled and stumbled over a few bits I did remember, then I had to jump to my phone and go to the website to pull up what I had written. This happens constantly! WHY??? How can I have such an amazing ability to remember odd bits of trivia, and names and faces, but yet I can't remember something I just finished studying??

     I may be way off here, but could God be using this to "crush my pride?" To keep me humble? If I had the ability to remember everything I have written on, like I can remember trivia, names, and faces, or if I could talk as well as I seem able to write, perhaps I would be prideful, "puffed up" in my knowledge and ability to speak. Not being able to remember, and not being able to talk well "crushes" me. It also keeps me from thinking too highly of myself. I hate it at times (like this week). It can also be depressing. 

     Here is what Paul said about his "thorn" in (2 Cor 12:8-10)(NIV): 

"Three times I (Paul) pleaded with the Lord to take it (the thorn) away from me. (9) But He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. (10) That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in my weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

     Paul did not want his "thorn." If this is my "thorn," I don't want it either. However, if Christ's grace will carry me through, if Christ's power will be made perfect in my weakness, then I must be "glad" and "delight" in my weaknesses. I am not quite there on this..., but I am working on it. For those of you who have persevered with me as I deal with this, thank you! For those of you who have separated from me because of it, I am sorry!


P.S. I also have another "brain thing" that I have never known ANYONE to have. I will forget a person's name, or the name of a place or thing, but I will remember how many "letters" the person, place, or thing has in it. This happens constantly. It happened last night. My wife asked me the last name of a person we used to go to church with years ago. I couldn't remember, but I said, "I think it has like 8 letters and it may start with an "M." My wife said, "McGinnis." Yup, that's it! If my wife hadn't gotten it, it eventually would have come to me. It almost always does. Crazy, right? I only mention this because if anyone reading this knows another person like this PLEASE let me know! There must be someone else like me out there!

Update: Oddly enough, before I had a chance to post this, I ended up going to a local restaurant with my wife and a group friends last night to play a trivia game. Everyone has a little computer box and it asks you a question, then you answer. The faster you answer with the right answer, the more points you get. So, the guy (me) who is supposed to know a lot of trivia, and usually wins, lost to almost everyone in the first game. I thought about this blog. Then we played a second game. I was leading everyone with 5 questions left, on my way to victory. Then, for some reason, I was given "0" points 4 times in a row on answers I had right, and I lost! How did that happen?? I have played trivia at this restaurant probably around 50 times and have never had that happen before. Honestly, I think I know how it happened. Lesson: I need even more "pride-crushing."
(Also, I mentioned in conversation that a car repair place we use is on "Mason Ave." when it is on "Ridgewood Ave." because there is a business called "Mason's" near our car repair shop. Mason Ave. is on the other side of town...)

Sunday, October 27, 2019

"Outraged!" - The John MacArthur & Beth Moore Controversy

     Let me begin by posting this study I wrote: "Should a woman be a pastor/elder?" At this link is a study I wrote on why I believe from a Biblical standpoint that a woman should not be a pastor or elder. You may or may not agree with my position on this, but I am not going to argue this here. I simply post the link to show my position on this issue.

     The issue I DO want to address here is the recent comments John MacArthur made at a conference concerning Beth Moore. If you don't know who these two are, (in short) John MacArthur is a well-known pastor from Grace Community Church in California. Beth Moore is a well-known Bible teacher from Houston, Texas who founded Living Proof Ministries. 

     John MacArthur was asked by the moderator of the conference to give a one-word response to a word he said. That "word" (two words) was "Beth Moore." MacArthur's response was "Go home." He followed that with the sentence: "There is no case that can be made Biblically for a woman preaching: period, paragraph, end of discussion."

     As you can imagine, the "outrage" that followed has been enormous. Frankly, I believe that MacArthur's "two words" were foolish, condescending, and rude. I can certainly understand the criticism he has received from that, and he deserves it. Personally, I think it would have been way more appropriate for MacArthur to simply say: "I disagree" in response to Beth Moore.

     Since this has happened, it has been all over the internet and social media. Dozens of blogs have been written about it. I have spent a lot of time looking at how people have reacted to this. Interestingly, while there is a fair amount of "outrage" over MacArthur's comment for Moore to "go home," the far greater "outrage" has been over his view that a woman should not be preaching. 

     This has been a controversial subject for a while now. If you took the time to read my link above, you will see I "somewhat" agree with MacArthur on this view. I would not say that "no case can be made Biblically for a woman preaching," but I would say that I believe it isn't a real strong case. But again, that is not where I want to go here. What I want to discuss is the "outrage."

     Predictably, much of this "outrage" is coming from women. They have accused MacArthur (and those who think like him) of destroying the lives of women and little girls. Here is a list of "some" of the things that he has been called in the comments I have read for his view on this subject: a misogynist (hater of women), ignorant, prideful, self-righteous, egotistical, arrogant, a pseudo-Christian, a relic, evil, corrupt, a Pharisee, a false prophet, an abuser, and a troll.

***Note: Just because someone believes a woman should not be a minister does not mean they are a misogynist any more than someone who believes homosexuality is wrong is homophobic, or someone who believes Islam is wrong is Islamophobic. (Yes, there are some exceptions.)
Because one disagrees with a person's views does not mean that person "hates" them.

     So, in short, because they believe John MacArthur has attacked women, they have decided to attack him back (by attacking his character). How is this attack on MacArthur any better than his (perceived) attack on women? Is this not the definition of a hypocrite?

     Because we disagree with someone does not mean that we need to personally "attack" them. Honestly, I have several disagreements with John MacArthur over his theology, especially some of his teachings on "reformed theology." I have BIG problems with aspects of reformed theology, which I think are cold and destructive. Because he teaches and practices them, am I "outraged?" No. Because he teaches and practices them, do I hate him? No. Because he teaches and practices them, do I personally attack him? No. Do I tell him to "go home?" because I believe he is wrong? No. My "two words" to him are "I disagree." And, I will show from the Bible why I disagree.

     I also do not agree with Beth Moore on some issues, and I have the same "two words" for her: "I disagree."

     Everyone seems to be "outraged" these days. Among non-Christians there is "outrage" against anyone who disagrees with the LGBTQ movement, or who is against abortion. This is to be expected. However, we also have "outrage" within the Christian community. There is "outrage" over a Christian who supports our President (or who doesn't). There is "outrage" in the church over what kind of music should be played, what spiritual gifts should be practiced (i.e. tongues), what version of the Bible should be used, what "end times" view is held, etc.... And, there is "outrage" over our subject of "women in ministry."

     Working in ministry, I have people who are "outraged" with me constantly. It is a part of the life. Usually, people are "outraged" with me over my teaching on a certain topic. Sometimes, they are "outraged" over my strong views on living a "conservative" life (believing I am a "legalist"). Sometimes they are "outraged" if I disagree with a choice they have made. Some people who have known me personally have been "outraged" because they believe I should have made more money to "provide for" my family. A few years ago, a guy saw me for the first time at Bible study and said he had to go outside and "throw up." Some people are going to be "outraged" over this blog post.

     May I offer my solution to all of this?

     I feel very confident that God has called me to ministry. I believe He has called me to do exactly what I am doing. Your "outrage" is not going stop me from fulfilling this call. You can refuse to financially support my ministry, and you can refuse to go to the JesusAlive website if you disagree with me. You can leave my Bible studies if you don't like what I teach. Will that stop me from continuing with my ministry? No! God called me, and with God's help and guidance, I am going to pursue that call with all that I have. Nothing you say will stop me!

     Turning to Beth Moore, she believes God has called her to ministry. She believes that she is doing exactly what God has called her to do. Is she right? I don't know for sure, and honestly, that really isn't for me to decide. But, I do know this: if a woman, feels SURE that God has called her to do something, then she needs to obey God! Whether John MacArthur disagrees with you, or anyone else disagrees with you, you are accountable to GOD, not to man! John MacArthur is also accountable to God.

     People need to stop being "outraged" and attacking those who disagree with them. Your "outrage" is not going to stop Beth Moore, and it is not going to stop women who work in ministry or who are pastors. They are going to pursue the call God they believe God has placed upon their lives. In addition, your "outrage" is not going to stop those who believe women should not be pastors or be in ministry either. In the end, your "outrage" is almost certainly going to hurt you the most. (Yes, it does hurt those you inflict it on some too.) 

     Instead, regarding this issue, if you don't believe that a woman should be a pastor or elder, then don't go to their church. This is one reason why we have different churches. If you don't believe a woman should be in ministry at all, then don't support their ministry.

     If you believe that a woman "should" be a pastor or elder, and should be in ministry then support them. Join their churches, give financially to their churches and ministries, pray for them, and encourage them.

     Let me close with this warning! For those who believe women should not be pastors or be in  ministry, you better REALIZE THIS: women in ministry are still your sisters in Christ. God holds you accountable for how you treat them. On the other hand, those who disagree with women being in ministry are your brothers, and sometimes sisters, in Christ. God holds you accountable for how you treat them as well.

***P.S. Much to her credit, Beth Moore just posted this comment on Twitter two days ago: "Hey, y'all. Let's cool it on the slander toward JMac et al. Doesn't honor God. Let's move on." 

     Hey "JMac," might you have something to say to Beth Moore too?

My Thorn In The Flesh?

      For years, since I have become a Christian, I have prayed for God to "crush all pride" in me, to keep me humble. The Bible h...