It’s A Woman’s World… Too

Women in MinistryThe Gospels reveal that Jesus emancipated first-century women from second-class citizenship in God’s Kingdom; he challenged the dominant culture of his day and overturned the accepted interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures.

For Jesus, we see in the Gospels that his radical inclusion of women and his elevation of their status in society was in keeping with his overarching ministry to defeat Satan and heal the destructive consequences of the Fall.

So why have so many in the church failed to accept women as equals? Is this really a conservative versus progressive issue? And what about those restrictive verses in Paul’s letters (1 Cor 14:34-35; 1 Tim 2:11-15)? Did the Apostle Paul believe and teach in accordance with Jesus and his example?

A couple weeks ago I preached a message entitled, It’s A Woman’s World… Too: A Christ-Centered Case for Women in Ministry.

This message has seen more traffic than I usually get with sermons, so I thought I’d post it to the blog for those who are interested.

Click here for sermon audio and link to slides.

Here are a few excerpts from the message:

“When we look at the ancient world of the Scriptures, whether we are talking about ethno-centric theology (racism), the evil institution of slavery, or the oppressive view of women in a male-dominated society, the clear trajectory set forth by Jesus and the apostles (particularly Paul) is one of liberation and equality. I think this is an important point that antagonistic Bible skeptics and extreme feminists need to understand about the New Testament. Both Jesus and Paul see themselves making all things new in the midst of a fallen humanity that is in full stride with practices that don’t line up with God’s original design for creation.”

“We would do well to look not for those things in the NT that reflect first-century patriarchal society, but those places where Jesus and Paul are breaking from the norm and patiently infusing the leaven of the Gospel into what were already accepted social structures.”

“So, the trajectory of freedom is there, if you’re paying attention to the original context. Then you can see the raging current of equality that Jesus began in his life and ministry.”

It’s a Woman’s World… Too
(last preached on November 26, 2017)

D.D. Flowers, 2016.


Discipled to Christ in a Post-Christian World


According to missional leader Mike Breen, a disciple is someone who is learning to have the character and the competency of Jesus. It’s about faithfulness and fruit. Or as Dallas Willard once described it: a disciple is what it would look like if Jesus were you.

“As a disciple of Jesus… I am learning from Jesus to live my life as He would live my life if He were I. I am not necessarily learning to do everything He did, but I am learning how to do everything I do in the manner that He did all that He did.”
Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy

This requires that we exercise our spiritual muscles so that we might flex our God-given imaginations, seeing ourselves in what the New Testament calls our “glorified” state, where and when we are fully formed into the image of Christ.

A New Identity in Christ

Have you ever considered that? What would it look like for you to live like Christ? If Jesus were living your life, what would it look like?

If we can’t see in our mind’s eye what that would look like, to live into our new identity free from the power of sin and death, how can we ever hope to become like Christ? What are we aiming for if it’s not the image of Christ?

I’m convinced that visualizing our inclusion into Christ was everything for the Apostle Paul. The mistake we make in the West is only to think of an abstract, theological position. But instead, Paul is advocating for disciples to actually “see” themselves in Christ with a disciplined imagination.

“Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
Romans 6:3-5 NIV

You see, when our sights aren’t really on Christ, we run the risk of settling or selling out for a more culturally palatable message that says you should merely seek to be a better version of yourself.

But please understand, that message is much different than saying you should die and become like Christ, which is the calling of all disciples.

The gospel and the culture are still very much at odds when it comes to our identity. Who are you? What about you is to be accepted? What is to be rejected? And what does the Lord Jesus think?

When Peter watches Jesus miraculously provide fish, despite his skepticism, and then recognizes that Holiness is in the boat with him, he tells Jesus to go away from him for he is a sinner (Lk 5:1-11).

Notice that Jesus doesn’t deny this. He doesn’t try to affirm Peter with, “No.. no.. you’re just the product of your environment” or “I like you just the way you are, Peter. Besides, all those impulses you have were given to you by God.”

Instead, Jesus invites him and the others in the boat to a life of discipleship. He wants them to embark on a life-changing journey that will result in “catching people” up into God’s Kingdom, a path that begins in cross-bearing and the denial of self (Lk 9:23-26). The cross will be a help or a hurdle to you.

Christ gives us a new identity. Please hear that. You’re made in God’s image, but you’re also broken and not as you should be. Don’t expect to hear that message from the world, cause you won’t.

Jesus loves you the way you are, but he cares too much to leave you that way. Yes, Jesus affirms that you’re a product of the divine, but you’ve also been born into a world that is presently groaning and longing for release from its decay (Rom 8:18-22). Therefore, be prepared to lose some things.

So you can’t become like Christ as his disciple without repentance, divine power, and a little imagination. Imagination is critical as we visualize for ourselves what it would look like if we lived in love and in perfect faithfulness to God, if we grew up into Christ. We can do this work together.

Make Disciples, Not Converts

Discipleship is the word we use to describe that journey of becoming more and more like Jesus. It isn’t optional for Christians. It is the very reason for which we’ve been included into his Kingdom, and of course is visibly made manifest in the community life of the local church.

If you’re not cool with that calling, if you’re not willing to sacrifice your life and agenda to walk this road of discipleship, I’m afraid that you’ve misunderstood Jesus and his eternal purpose for the church.

Then Jesus came to them [his disciples] and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

Jesus isn’t interested in religious converts or simply acquiring members for your church roll. He isn’t looking for a few conservative pew-sitters, nor is he looking for progressive social activists only interested in baptizing their justice efforts with Jesus-lingo. Far from it.

Jesus is interested in your self-denial and radical regeneration. 

He is calling disciples to follow him daily and take on a new identity and a new allegiance with others in the church. It’s his authentic recipe and his sanctifying way for seeing all things made new in the world. Period.

Discipleship is about taking off the old and putting on the new (Eph 4:22-24). We are called to manifest new creation right here in the midst of the old one.

If we’re going to be obedient to Christ’s command to go and make disciples (Matt 28:18-20), we must first be personally undergoing the sort of training that leads to our own inner transformation.

Disciples are learners. But we do not make disciples by teaching folks abstract concepts in a classroom. Discipleship is about learning from Jesus in a real master-apprentice relationship and learning from others who are a few steps ahead of us in the pursuit of Christlikeness, mentors if you will.

We need faithful (not perfect) examples of Jesus that we can engage in relationship and emulate as we’re working out our salvation.

Are you being discipled this way?

This way of discipleship demands humility, teachability, patience, and perseverance—the kind where you put your hand to the plow and don’t look back (Lk 9:62). This was Jesus’ invitation to his first disciples.

Discipleship isn’t for the faint of heart or for those who are only interested in keeping up appearances in church by attending some worship services, participating in some meetings, and going through the religious motions.

No, Jesus wants more than that. The world can do all of that “religious stuff” in its own strength. Nothing to see there.

As Jesus modeled for us with his first disciples, we need churches that are intentionally calling people out of the social and public spaces where we “fellowship” and enjoy corporate worship. Jesus invited people out of those spaces, be it in a synagogue or on a hillside, for the deepening of discipleship within intimate and personal spaces.

Who do you think knew Christ best? Was it the fans who followed at a distance, only showing up for some singing and open-air preaching, or those who met around the campfire with Jesus? Why would it be any different today?

Let’s be clear. Jesus wants you to do everything with him.

Jesus invites you into his inner circle with other disciples. He is interested in followers, not fans. He isn’t looking for folks satisfied with religious services. If you don’t come closer than that, you’re not putting yourself in any relational context that allows for deep spiritual growth.

It’s within the intimate and personal spaces of the church where we can build trust and discover what it means to confess, practice accountability, discern the Scriptures, share our joys and struggles, and learn to pray together.

Where are those places in your church? Are you present and active there?

Abiding in Christ

Jesus wants you to abide in him; to live and move and have your being in him. He isn’t to be contained in a family or an ethnic tradition; our faith isn’t to be relegated to a Sunday morning or whenever it suits our schedule and level of comfort. Jesus must be more if we’re going to be his disciples.

To be a disciple, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “he [Jesus] bids a person come and die.” Your person, your plans, and your preferences must be nailed to the cross with Jesus if you want to follow him. He becomes Lord over all of your life, not a therapist for some of your life. And this is good news!

Jesus said he has come to give us life to the fullest (Jn 10:10). If we want to experience the abundant life of Jesus, we must first recognize, as Paul did, “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). If we want to live, we must die first.

We must be willing to say “No” to all that conflicts with God’s best for us. This means we must surrender our lives to Christ.

It’s in this state of surrender that we are able to abide in Jesus.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 NLT

Jesus makes it crystal clear that if we are not abiding in him, we cannot bear the fruit of discipleship. For every Christian that hears that, there should be a deep concern to not only understand this “abiding” business, but to be about whatever this practice looks like.

So what does it look like to abide in Jesus like branches in a vine?

It’s simple, really. It’s an answer that might seem ho hum to those who have grown up in the modern church, but nevertheless, it’s still the way the historical church has always taught we come to have an active relationship with Christ.

If you want to remain in Jesus like a fruitful branch getting its life from the tree trunk, you must be practicing some basic spiritual disciplines. These practices shape our identity, our character, and bring order to our scattered lives. Only then can we become competent like Jesus and be about the Father’s work in the world.

They are the spiritual disciplines of daily prayer & meditation, Scripture reading and study, fasting, worship, communion, etc. These practices exist for our spiritual formation as disciples, for the deepening of a real relationship with Jesus. Without them, we invite the world to shape us instead.

Discipleship Requires Resistance

Without a regular practice of the spiritual disciplines, we will inevitably fall prey to the spirit of the age and the forces of culture that are always at work to form us into the mold of the world. You literally must do nothing to be formed by the world. If you live in it, it’s working on you.

While not all of culture is malevolent and hostile to our faith, much more of it is contrary to Christ than we’re often comfortable admitting today.

Therefore, if we aren’t intentional about doing contextual theology and working at the discipled-life together, we will succumb to the prevailing secular liturgy of the day. At most, the church will become a nicer version of our fallen human selves–no good to Christ and no good to the world.

Like the decline of mainline liberal Protestantism has shown us over the last 50 years, people eventually wake up and see if all we’re calling them to is to be nice and care about social justice, then Jesus isn’t really needed. You don’t need to believe in the resurrection or in resurrection living brought about through discipleship. You don’t need the church calendar, communion, or her liturgy.

If all that is needed for energizing people spiritually is to read some poetry or hear a motivational speech one day of the week, you can get that in a book club or by watching TED Talks on YouTube.

The sort of church that discards the commands of Jesus and opts for a more user-friendly, do-it-yourself spirituality, is powerless and pointless, according to Jesus. It’s there that spiritual disciplines and Christian theology and liturgy in time become irrelevant. You won’t find disciples there. Not for long, anyway.

But, if Jesus and what we call the Christian faith is about becoming like Christ, in character and competency, through the process of discipleship, then we must hold fast to what rests at the heart of our faith: an insistence that being a Christian is about knowing the resurrected Christ in community and becoming like him in everything. All of this to the glory of God for the sake of the world.

And we can’t be disciples and do what disciples do without being intentional in resisting the pattern of this world.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Romans 12:1-2 MSG

Church, if we aren’t abiding in Jesus regularly, if we aren’t being disciplined in our spiritual formation, we will have nothing to help us discern and filter out all of the messages thrown at us today. We’ll have nothing to offer the world.

If we aren’t full of prayer and Scripture, if we aren’t committed to worship and Christian discipleship, we step out into the world spiritually unarmed and unable to discern what God’s will is for our lives and humanity.

What happens when we’re not being discipled? We are left with no choice but to operate off of our own sin-saturated thinking, our own feelings, and what is acceptable and deemed tolerant by society and culture at the current time. We then forfeit our power to shape the culture for Christ.

Throughout the history of the church and her engagement with the world, it has always worked this way. We will be discipled by Christ through our intentional efforts to be spiritually formed, or we will be discipled by the world.

Where We Go From Here

I suspect this has much to do with where we are today.

When I look at the current state of the church in North America, I think to myself: Why does the church lack the life-changing power of the early church? I know it’s really multi-faceted, but the simple answer is:
We’re not being discipled to Christ.

It’s not that the church isn’t doing some good things. On the contrary, many folks in the church are running crazy trying to make a difference in the world. But this is what I’m getting at: we have put the work before the worship; the doing before the being; busy religious life before discipleship.

If we want to influence our world for Christ and do the faithful work of disciples, we must first be a disciple. We will go out with power if we’ve been consistently living life as a disciple. Jesus sends out his disciples only after they’ve spent significant time with him in the intimate and personal spaces.

A simple reading of the book of Acts reveals that the Holy Spirit is the one who empowers a movement of God. The Spirit comes upon those who are committed to Christ as his obedient and submissive disciples.

Discipleship is how we raise the sails so that the Spirit has a way to move the church forward into God’s good future.

Jesus shows us that discipleship propels mission and evangelism. In other words, it’s transformed disciples that transform the world. All good things follow from discipleship. Really? How so?

When folks are being discipled to Christ they are getting in touch with God’s voice and his will for them and the church. It’s from that place that he sends us out to continue his mission in the world.

So where do we go from here?

(1) I think the church needs to recognize that she has largely lost sight of the Great Commission; (2) we would do well to repent of the many ways we’ve tried to change the world without first being willing to change ourselves; (3) we must seek to prioritize our lives and our local churches around the matter of discipleship–seeking to be disciples who make disciples.

Finally, I think our increasingly pluralistic and secularized culture will present us with some exciting new opportunities in the years ahead.

I’m hopeful that after losing the culture wars and whatever Christian power and privilege once existed in the US, we may soon be led by the Spirit to return to our primary calling that will surely revive the sacredness of our assemblies: making disciples.

So in the meantime, while we wait expectantly on a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and for a movement of God to sweep the dry and barren landscape of American spirituality, my prayer is that we recognize that now is the time to return to our first calling to do the patient work of being discipled to Christ.

I’m looking forward to being a part of that kind of Kingdom revolution.

D.D. Flowers, 2016.

Exciting News & Upcoming Changes!

Hello friends and followers of the blog,

I wanted to share some exciting new developments in the life of my family and ministry. As many of you know, my family left Texas at the end of 2013 to follow the Spirit’s leading to reenter vocational ministry. In January of 2014, I began pastoring Christiansburg Mennonite Fellowship in Southwest Virginia.

The last few years have been a blessing. While we came intent on staying a good while, the Lord has made it clear to us that he is moving us on to another place.

On Sunday April 3rd, an announcement was made that I have received the call to become the next senior pastor of Grantham Church in Mechanicsburg, PA.

[Watch the announcement at Grantham Church]

Grantham Church is a historic Brethren in Christ Church (BIC) located next to Messiah College in South Central Pennsylvania, just 10 minutes from Harrisburg, the state capital. This strategic Anabaptist church of about 400 people serves Messiah College and the surrounding community.

Please pray for us in our transition. We are expecting our second child, Judah Lee, any day now. Thankfully, my wife Lanna will get to stay home with our boys. But in the meantime, I know she would be especially grateful for your prayers toward a joyful birth experience and quick recovery. Also, pray that our 3 year old Kainan (pron. “Canaan”) will adjust well to his baby brother.

My last Sunday in Christiansburg is June 26th. We will be moving the following day. I’ll begin work at Grantham on July 1st and preach my first sermon on July 17th. Your prayers and support are greatly appreciated during this time.

Thank you for walking with us on the journey of faith.

Grace & Peace,
David Flowers

How Jesus Rope-a-Doped the Devil

victorThe phrase “rope-a-dope” refers to a boxing tactic of pretending to be trapped against the ropes, goading an opponent to throw tiring ineffective punches.

Muhammad Ali popularized this technique in his 1974 boxing match against George Foreman. Ali allowed Foreman to angrily swing away at him against the ropes, leading Foreman to eventually punch himself out in the process.

It recently occurred to me how this boxing technique is a lot like what Jesus did on the cross. On the cross God absorbed all the sin of the world, allowing evil to do its worst to him (1 Jn 2:2). The devil unleashed his fury on God’s Messiah and he thought he had punched his lights out.

The “ruler of this world” thought it was all over. No contest.

In the gospels we read how Satan went to work on Jesus from the moment he is baptized in the Jordan to his last breath on the cross. The devil was swinging for Jesus’ gut in the wilderness, maneuvering him into the corner with the sinister traps laid by the Pharisees, and had Jesus up against the ropes in his mock trial, dehumanizing torture, and brutal execution by the Romans.

A dead Messiah is no Messiah. It means God loses. Right?  Wrong.

Just as it seemed like the Father had lost the struggle of good over evil with the death of his Son on the cross, the victorious Christ came bursting forth from the darkness of the tomb.

The apostle Paul marvels at this upside-down wisdom of God when he writes:
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col 2:15 NIV).

This seemingly foolish response to the horrific violence Christ endured on the cross was the counter-attack of heaven. In this way, Jesus smashed the head of the serpent and brought the devil down from his high place, falling from his lofty position like lightening (Lk 10:18).

The enemies of God never even saw it coming.

The demons shrieked, “What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matt 8:29). The dark powers were oblivious to the divine strategy that was being used against them.

Jesus told the Pharisees, “If I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you” (Matt 12:28).

They would thus seek to kill him. In their demonic state of delirium, they set out to unleash hell on Jesus of Nazareth. Knowing this, Jesus readied himself for the relentless blows of the unseen principalities and powers.

The devil would inflict pain on Jesus by the hands of men, those whom he loved. But Jesus recognized this tactic and spoke over those crucifying him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing” (Lk 23:34).

It was the devil’s work the Son of God came to destroy (1 Jn 3:8b). It was the real and ultimate battle for the salvation of humanity, and for the promised renewal of all things (Eph 6:12; Rev 21:5). And Jesus accomplished it.

It was the fight of the ages… when the lamb defeated the dragon. It will forever be remembered as the time when Satan punched himself out.

And that’s how Jesus rope-a-doped the devil.

So the next time your enemies come swinging at you and have you up against the ropes, remember that the real enemy is unseen. If you will wait on the Lord, new life will come forth out of what appears to be your defeat.

Let your accusers punch themselves out. Let the Father raise you from the dead. You may have to take some hits, but the victory belongs to the Lord.

D.D. Flowers, 2016.

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