Good morning Noah (@noah-cochran),
Here is the passage containing an example of a deaconess:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cen’chre-ae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well. [Romans 16:1-2 RSV]
The word deacon/deaconess comes from the Greek διάκονος (diakonos) which means “servant”.
In the early church, there were deaconesses, however, they were not in positions of leadership over men, but rather rendered service as an expression of their ministry.
That aside, I have not specifically addressed your questions, because I was focused on what I sensed was going on behind Lona’s challenges. I knew if I pressed her a little she would feel the need to own up to it. This is not a physical conflict, but merely a confrontation of ideas, and it is okay if it heats up a little.
That is what bringing the “Refiner’s fire” does. It burns away the dross and reveals the silver. Too often the “sensitivity of the world” makes this process seem unkind, but I assure you it is not. This is something that Jesus did, as well as the disciples. They exposed the lies others believed by bringing them into the light of Scripture. What one does with that exposure is up to them. Jesus did not chase down the “rich young ruler”, when he went away sorrowfully in Matthew 19:22, and alter what He had told him to make him stay. Neither did He apologize to the scribes and Pharisees when He called them children of the devil or any of the other titles He ascribe to them when they tried to deceive to crowds to keep power over the people. Yet Jesus knew He would die for their sins as well, for His death was for the sins of the world, applied to each one’s life debt by a pure and honest faith in Him as Savior.
Perhaps you have forgotten that even the unpopular things that Jesus did (as viewed by the outside world) are still a model and example for those of us who believe in Him.
Tough love often seems to be “unkind” by those who pass by and observe it in action.
How do you think Paul’s ascension and speech on Mar’s hill was taken by those who worshipped in the edifices to pagan deities that surrounded it?
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, [Ye] men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. [Acts 17:22 KJV]
Talk about stirring up a crowd.
Or when Elijah threw down this challenge:
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD [be] God, follow him: but if Baal, [then] follow him. And the people answered him not a word. … And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he [is] a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, [or] peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. [1 Kings 18:21, 27 KJV]
Often times a provocation to debate and a heated exchange can bring to light those things that were hidden in a person’s heart.
Heat softens a hardened vegetable and sometimes we are more hard-headed than that and God has to bring the heat.
James explains it this way:
Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. [James 1:2-4 CSB]
If a heated debate is all that Lona suffers under to bring her to face bad ideas honestly in the light of Scripture, that is a good thing. There are must greater and more severe tests ahead for those in the faith who choose to be obstinate when shown the truth.
Let this play out, even though it may make you uncomfortable as a spectator of it. I do not subscribe to the definition of “Mercy” which lets a fellow member of Christ believe in a lie and gleefully watch the result by not issuing a warning, uncomfortable as that process might be.
Have often have you regretted not speaking up to warn your friends of their lost condition when you later learned of their passing? I have known that pain too often, to let another one of my friends find out the hard way the end of their skewed thinking.
This verse must be taken seriously by those “watchmen” who find it more “comfortable” to simply not engage:
“If I say to the wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die,’ but you do not speak out to warn him about his way, that wicked person will die for his iniquity, yet I will hold you responsible for his blood. [Ezekiel 33:8 CSB]
In the Branch and Vine relationship, too many churches have allowed the “little foxes” of seemingly innocuous modern thought to enter into their teachings.
Catch the foxes for us — the little foxes that ruin the vineyards — for our vineyards are in bloom. [Song of Songs 2:15 CSB]
I see so many Christ-professing church leaders who are promoting non-biblical views and it is deceiving many. I fear Lona may be one of them and God does not want her to be deceived. Look carefully at her list that would not have come out had I not provoked her to respond. Think carefully about it. Look at how she lured you into defining a word and then employed it to mischaracterize scripture and counter clear biblical teachings.
I am gladdened to see your response above for this tells me you didn’t fall for the trap she unwittingly laid.
I have cited many verses of how severely the Apostle Paul dealt with peddlers of false doctrines who attempted to twist the gospel in the churches on his missionary journeys.
My challenges to Lona are so far less severe than that because I do not believe Lona is deliberately trying to deceive others.
As writers we deal in concepts as well as in characters and plots, but there needs to be a solid and uncompromising grounding behind what we write for we are also creating a theater that models workable and non-workable philosophies.
If we come onto that stage without a humble reverence for the Word of God such that we are willing to defend it at all cost, we are already ceding the battlefield to the ideologies that oppose our pure faith and sure doctrine revealed by Scripture.
We are in an age that abounds with deception because those called by Christ’s name have forgotten that we are in the midst of spiritual warfare, and are charged with not merely countering false doctrines but demolishing them.
We do this with the “Sword of the Spirit” which is the Word of God, and its Author is the One Who Defines Himself as Love. Scripture will offend those who have compromised and adopted a worldly mindset. It must. A sword has no use if it cannot cut, and the Sword of the Spirit cuts through concepts that are untrue.
The problem is too often people become so enamored with their sinful mindset that they come to the place of allowing it to become part of their identity.
This is why it is so difficult to witness to the homosexual. They have erroneously believed that they ARE their sin and that their sinful urges are part of who they were born to be. Does a person who steals one small seemingly low-value item willingly and proudly identify themselves to the world as a thief? Do we have a whole month dedicated to “Thief Pride”? How ridiculous would that be?
It is easier to witness to a thief than it is to a homosexual because the thief, at least in the early stages, refrains from identifying their one action as part of their identity. A thief may agree that theft is wrong and harmful to society. If a thief has something stolen from them, they are more inclined to admit theft is wrong in principle.
The political left has tried to insinuate that in disagreeing with them “speech is violence”. The reason is they know their ridiculous ideas do not stand up in a debate or in scrutiny, so they attempt to shame people away from challenging them. Don’t let “trying to be nice” paint you into a corner where you cannot engage passionately in a debate with them. Don’t vacate the battlefield, to avoid contentious discussions. Hold your ground and be assured in your diligent study of Scripture, and know that contending for the truth is a righteous act.
Allowing others to drive headlong toward a broken bridge while you sit in silence is not kind. Speak up. Engage. Challenge. Keep your motives pure and don’t let others redefine what loving a person means by a definition that does not align with God’s definition.
Listen to Jude’s appeal:
Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. [Jude 1:3 CSB]
In the garden deception, Satan offered Eve a chance to be “like God” and in the process impugned God’s character as withholding and unloving. He offered her another route to becoming like God, that God had supposedly hidden from her.
On the surface, Eve’s desire to become more like God seems a good thing. Aren’t we called to be more “Christ-like”? The problem was the method that excluded God’s authorization and went against His prohibition.
We can seek a good thing, but if we choose to get it by theft, it defeats the goodness of the yearning.
When people have bad ideas become part of their belief system, they are like leeches that attach themselves to their host and cut into them and feed off of their lifeblood. One knows that a friend cannot simply watch the leech grow fat on their friend’s face, they must call attention to it. The friend cannot merely tug the leech by its slippery tail, because the head of the vile thing will separate from its body and leave its jaws in the wound it inflicted, opening that person up to infection. One must apply fire to the leech’s tail to get it to open its jaw in pain and come off of its victim. This is the same thing that must happen to bad ideas. You have to put fire to them. Jesus will one day come back to this earth to judge it and from His mouth will come fiery words, that repel all deceit from the face of this fallen world. By that time, repentance is over and the earth will be cleansed by Holy Fire.
By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. [2 Peter 3:7 NIV]
If I put scriptural fire to the leech that is bleeding Lona, it is an act of kindness.
Brian Stansell (aka O'Brian of the Surface World)
I was born in war.
Fighting from my first breath.