What in the world is God up to?

God is doing incredible things all around the world.

  • There are probably more Christians in China now than members of the Communist Party.
  • In Asia, the T4T training has resulted in more than 1.7 million baptisms over the past 10 years.
  • In India, a Hindu nation, one house church network with which I am familiar, is seeing around one million baptisms per year.
  • Now seems to be God’s time for the Muslim world. In one nation we know, there are thousands of house churches. In another area of the Middle East, there is a movement that has more than12,000 house churches.
  • A Buddhist nation has seen more than 110,000 new believers in the past 10 years.
  • In 1991, when the Communists lost control of Mongolia, there were maybe 4 or 5 known Christians. Estimates are that now, just over 20 years later, there are around 100,000.
  • In Africa, Rolland and Heidi Baker have seen more than 10,000 new churches formed in Mozambique and the surrounding nations.

A few years ago, all of this would have seemed impossible. We may not be seeing huge numbers here in the West, but God is on the move in much of the rest of the world. Most (not all) the examples I’ve given here have occurred with disciple making movements/church planting movements. In these movements, the emphasis is on what is going on outside of the traditional church building. Ordinary believers are making disciples and leading small groups that eventually meet as churches.

I know that numbers are not everything, but they are an indication of what God is up to. Several years ago, Wolfgang Simson did a survey of the largest churches in the world. If you include networks of churches that meet in homes, then numbers one through 19 are networks of house churches and number 20, at the time of his survey, was Paul Yonggi Cho’s church in Seoul, Korea.

Throughout the world, God is using ordinary people—just like you—to start churches. What is there to stop you doing the same?

Dandelion seeds

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To all the ladies: forgive us (Brandon Chase)

This last weekend, we had a round table in Dallas based on our book, The Black Swan Effect. It was an extraordinary time, with a sometimes overwhelming sense of the Lord’s presence. God spoke to us clearly. The climax of the day was a powerful time of ministry led by Brandon Chase, where on behalf of men, he spoke to women, “Forgive us!”  Many of those present were profoundly touched, healed and set free. Brandon blogged about what he shared and has graciously given me permission to use his post. 

Having now run several of these round tables in Texas, the team now feels ready to offer them in other parts of the country. If you’re interested in facilitating one in your area, please get in touch with me.

Here’s what Brandon shared:

As I think back upon my life, and spiritual journey, it is not a stretch to say that a majority of any fruitfulness can be traced to Seeds of Sisters that were planted in me:

  • I can remember from my earliest years, as a boy, running into the room where my Great-Grandmother, Granny, lived with us. She would either be doing one of two things, watching Geraldo, or reading her beat up Bible. She would routinely scoop me up into her lap and tell me about Jesus.
  • As a pre-teen, when the rest of my family had stopped attending “church,” for some reason, I would often want to go, still. My Grandparents, and in particular, my Grandmother, Maw Maw, would make sure that I was there.
  • I love both of my parents, and respect them deeply. But I was always closer to my Mom. It was with her that I would spend hours on baseball road-trips, and evenings into the early morning – talking about life and all of its dimensions.
  • My greatest failure in life involved hurting my greatest love, my bride. Gloriously, it was in the healing after-effects of this where I really came to know Jesus for the first time. It was in His eyes of Grace, through my wife, that I saw Him.
  • During this same time frame, the person who was single-handedly most impactful in pointing not only me to Jesus, but both Marie and I, was our counselor, Beverly Ross. She was Christ incarnate to us, and we are eternally grateful.

All of these were “Spiritual” in the sense of growing me into a knowing of God, but none were in the context of how we have commonly seen “ministry” or “church.” But it was, however, Life.

I see it as no coincidence that I am a Daddy, raising two Ladies in the Kingdom.

A little more than a year ago, I wrote what amounts to a letter to them, in which I expressed my heart, a Father’s Heart, for them in the context of their Life in this Kingdom, the Church. When I read it back to myself, it dawned on me that I also see this as Father’s Heart for all of His Daughters. I have a lot of new readers since I wrote that, so if you haven’t, you may want to take a minute and do so now.

I have a dream, and my dream is Jesus.

He has a dream, and His dream is you.”

This is my heart for my daughters, and this is my understanding of Father’s heart for His Daughters. But, I know this hasn’t always been your experience, or reality. Sadly, more often than not, it has felt like what my friend Kate Wallace poetically wrote recently. It has felt like a box.

…I came to you, and you met me

You loved and cared for me

You grew me and taught me

You fashioned me and called me
 
And I took what you had given me and went back to the place I had first heard about you

I was filled with anticipation – what would they have me do?
You had given me so many gifts
 
Perhaps I could speak about you

Perhaps I could teach others to follow you

Perhaps I could spread your message to the world

Perhaps I could invite others to your table, to take part in your supper
 
For they had always prayed for you to raise up people of my generation

They had always said how desperately your Kingdom needed more voices, more hearts, more hands, and more feet
 
So, with anticipation I presented myself to them

Only to be confused by their response
 
For when I offered them this voice that you had given me

When I offered them these hands that you had strengthened

When I offered them these feet that you had guided
 
They gave me a box
 
They gave me a box in which to keep my passion

They gave me a box in which to store my wisdom

They gave me a box in which to put my words

They gave me a box to hold my hands and my feet
They gave me a box and they told me it was your “will” for me as a woman
 
When I asked if they had a box that fit a bit better, they told me to be happy with what you had given me

When I told them you had given me things that wouldn’t fit inside the box, they told me I must be mistaken

When I asked if there was anything else they could offer, they told me the box was a perfect place to keep my questions…

Ladies, I know that many of you would say that you feel this. That this has been your experience, your reality… your pain.

I want you to hear, I need you to hear – that what has caused your pain is not right. It is not ok. It is not your fault.

On behalf of all of the Brothers throughout the Church:

I confess, that we have believed a lie, we have been deceived away from Father’s Dream for His Daughters, our Sisters – one of inclusive inclusion in His Oneness of co-equality, co-creativity, and co-reign. We have instead accepted an un-reality of separation. We have caused you much pain.

I repent. On behalf of Brothers everywhere, we choose to change our mind about Father, about you, and about us. We agree with Dad that He has included all His kids, male and female, into His Family, equally.

I ask for your forgiveness. On behalf of all the Brothers, we desire reconciliation. We desire unity, togetherness, inclusion, co-___, Oneness. We desire for The Box to be forever dismantled.

Earlier, I stopped short of including the finale of Kate’s poem:

…And so I come to you
 
Me, and everything you have given me

Me, and everything you have created me to be

Me, and everything you have called me to
 
And the box
 
I’m a bit bruised from trying to fit inside of it
 

And now that I’m standing in front of you, I realize that you don’t want me to
And I see that I have a choice
 
I can keep this box they have given me and throw out all the things that don’t fit

I can ignore the time I spent with you, the gifts you have given me, the calling you gave me

I can dismember my soul in order to fit into the dimensions of the box

I can live for them and let their box define me
 
Or
 
I can trust the way you made me, the way you prepared me, the way you called me

I can lean on you for guidance and walk in the footsteps of brave women who’ve gone before me

I can live fully alive in you and trust that you are a God who is bigger than the box
 

I can set the box down and walk away

I can live for you and let you define me
 
They gave me a box – and called it yours

You offer me freedom – and call it mine
 
So I take the box

And put it on a shelf

And label it history
 
Then I take your hand and we walk away, because life with you is far better than life in a box”

Here’s the beauty of the Gospel – The Box died with Christ on the Cross.

What we hear as the Good News is that all are included, equally, from before time.

We are all created in the image and likeness of God. We exist in the Fellowship of the Divine, together. This is our Objective Reality.

But we’ve been living a lie.

The Fall veiled our Reality – and moved us into an existence of un-reality.

This un-reality of “the knowledge of good and evil” is hallmarked by fear, the need to control, shame, hiding, scapegoating, comparing, desiring what another has, defining….separating.

This un-reality created boxes – one of which was rift between man and woman.

The essence of religion is mankind working, efforting to get back, to get right with God.

Religion (wrong tree) creates “right/wrong,” “in/out” – it says man is greater than woman, in authority over woman, can do things for God that women cannot.

Religion is existing in an un-reality in our minds of separation from God… and from each other. And we’ve read all of this into our Bibles and understanding of who God is, and what He has for us.

But – the Lamb…

The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. We all died in Christ – therefore, so did the Box, so did the comparisons. So did the un-reality of separation.

We all are raised in Christ, and in Him live. The veil of un-reality in our minds has forever been torn so that we can subjectively experience and manifest what objectively, eternally always has been, and already is.

We are One with Divine (Father, Son, Spirit) – and One with each other.

We share THEIR image and likeness. We have been reconciled. It is ours now, to be in our reconciled Truth (reality) with and in God, and each other. We must reconcile in our own minds the Truth of our inclusive inclusion in Trinitarian Life.

So…..

I want to practically, and supernaturally practice this ministry of reconciliation, together.

Ladies… If you have never had a man, a Brother, confess for the wrong, the pain, the sin committed and caused toward you – I am that man. I stand in the gap on their behalf. I confess, that I have believed and acted out of un-reality toward you.

If you’ve never seen repentance from a man, a Brother, who has made you to feel “less than” in the Body – I am that man. I stand in the gap on their behalf. I repent. I change my mind. I see, believe and will live from Divine Oneness and Inclusion in the shared image and likeness. I turn away from separation from each other, and choose to see the Divine imprint in all humanity, especially the female form.

Finally, on behalf of all men, I am the man who humbly asks your forgiveness. That, together, we move forward in Unified Oneness – in Love – that a hungry and broken and watching world that is still living a veiled un-reality – may see and know that our Father is Love, that by our Love of one another, we too, are Love – and that in seeing Love, they too would know Him – Love – within.

Then I take your hand and we walk away, because life with you is far better than life in a box.”

Our Life, our Reality, is in Him, with Him, One with Him. There is no Box, only the lie of a Box that has been allowed to be told, and lived in. The Truth is, we can only Really exist, together. I need you. You need me. We need each other. We are better (The Best), together. As we take His hand, let us do so hand in hand, unboxed, and walk with Him… with each other.

I love you. God bless you.

///

Brothers, I urge you, to ask Holy Spirit about the Ladies in your life. Consider your legacy and lineage. Consider what you’ve seen, what you’ve experienced, what you’ve done. Then, ask Him to show you what they have seen, experienced, and had done to them. In His mind, weare reconciled, One. If you can see that, it may be yours now to supernaturally allow space for that reconciliation to be subjectively received, experienced, manifested. In my experience, this starts with your humble confession, repentance, and appeal toward forgiveness and unified Oneness.

Freedom!

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Commercial fishermen in the Kingdom

Jesus told his disciples who fished for a living, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Commercial fishermen are disappointed if, when they pull in their net, there is only a single fish flopping about.  They hope and expect to catch multiple fish at a time. Remember Peter’s dejection when he’s fished all night and caught nothing?

It’s interesting to note that in the Book of Acts, there are only two people who become followers of Jesus as individuals—Paul and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Everyone else becomes a disciple as part of a group.

  • Following a vision, Peter visits Cornelius who has gathered together a group of friends and relatives in his home. When they are all filled with the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by their speaking in tongues, Paul gives orders for them to be baptized. (Acts 10) A whole household follows Jesus in a single day.
  • When Paul goes to Philippi, he speaks to some women at the riverbank. Lydia opens her heart to Jesus and she and her household are baptized. (Acts 16: 11-15)
  • A few days later, Paul and Silas are jailed. A massive earthquake sets them free, but when they don’t take the opportunity to escape, the jailer invites them to his home where they share the word of the Lord with him and his household. Again, the whole household is baptized. “He and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.” (Acts 16:16-34)
  • When Paul finds a group of people (about twelve men) in Ephesus who have only been baptized with John’s baptism, he baptizes them and prays for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6)

What’s the difference? How did those early followers of Jesus get these results?

Jesus had taught his disciples how to be “commercial fishermen” for the Kingdom–not in the sense of making money, but in the sense of bringing in a large catch.

All around the world, God is using this pattern to bring in a massive harvest. Why not here too? We’ll look at how this works in later posts.

Catch of fish

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A Mongolian Dream

Mongolia is a landlocked country. The dream I had while we were there was therefore all the more surreal.

In the dream I was with a small group of people. As I handed them a book, I told them, “This is a book on how to become a commercial fisherman!”

End of dream.

The dream grabbed my attention in the way that only God can do.

The first thing I realized was that when Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” he was talking to commercial fishermen. They would not have been thinking rod and line to catch a single fish, but large quantities of fish.

As I skimmed through the Gospels the following morning looking for all the accounts of fishing, I noticed that apparently different kinds of fishing were mentioned. Sometimes the disciples were fishing in deep water, other times in shallow. Sometimes they let their nets down, other times they cast them out. There were specific nets that only caught larger fish. It was obviously a skilled profession.

A few days later, we traveled to India where we work with someone who trains church planters in the primitive fishing villages of the state of Andhra Pradesh. So I asked him about how these villagers fished. He informed me that there are several different kinds of fishing there. Sometimes they use something like a butterfly net in shallow water. Other times they’ll have a boat go out and lay a net in a circle which they pull in. Sometimes two boats will have a net several hundred yards long that they will again throw out in a circle and pull it in. This last is known as a seine or drag net.

On arriving home where I had Internet access again, I looked up the Greek word for fishing net as used in the New Testament. To my surprise, I found that different words in the Greek are all translated as fishing net in the English. But in the Greek there is a word for a net like a butterfly net, another for a fishing net in general, and still another for a seine or dragnet.

Hmm… Interesting.

Perhaps the most relevant one comes in the verse Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind

This kind of net is a dragnet—it’s even translated as such in the NASV.

So what is the relevance of this?

I’m planning to write another book in “The Simple Guide” series on how to become a commercial fisherman in the Kingdom. So, while I will continue to write about women in the Kingdom, many of my blog posts over the next month or so will be on this topic.

Mongolian boy

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Those veiled women of Corinth–by Gary Shogren

Sometimes the thought crosses my mind, “Are you just making all this stuff up about men and women working together as co-equals in the church? Who do you think you are? You aren’t qualified to make judgments about the Scriptures–you don’t have any training in these areas.” And it’s true. I don’t. So  I love to have the help of theologians. When Gary Shogren contacted me a while back and said, “If I may offer, I do a great deal of work in the Greek New Testament (my field – my PhD is from Aberdeen University) and I would be very happy to serve as a resource if you have any issues dealing with exegesis or early church history,” I took him at his word. Gary and his wife are missionaries in Costa Rica and professors in a Bible College and Seminary. Here’s the latest Gary sent me on the thorny question of veiled women in 1 Corinthians 11:

Part of Bible study is not just understanding what the author was teaching, but what problem the Scripture was intended to solve, and also to apply his teaching in a context today. In this case, we live in a culture that is far removed from first-century Corinth:

…every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. (1 Cor 11:4-6)

My interpretation of this section is:

Paul taught all his churches that in a worship service both men and women are free to pray aloud and to speak prophetically to the congregation. Men should pray and prophesy with their heads bared; women, who arrive already wearing a veil — like a shawl on their head, as dictated the local culture — should continue to wear it throughout the meeting. This rule was given for several reasons: it reflected the created order as described in Genesis; because it was “natural”; because to do otherwise would bring cultural shame. But later on, some Corinthian women wanted to shed the veil. Paul perceives that, while the veil in itself is not a fundamental issue of the faith, the motivations for rejecting the veil were questionable: to declare independence from men/husbands; to reject the relevance of cultural mores for a Christian; to act as if gender differences did not exist. For these reasons he reaffirms that women and men must maintain the status quo that he has established for Christian meetings.

Those women who wish to pray without a veil need to realize that they are obligated to glorify God in part by honoring “the men,” that is their brothers in Christ. Neither man nor woman in Christ is an individual unit; each must come to Christ through serving the other. Thus Paul also reminds the men: if you are tempted to lord it over women, remember that you came from a woman (11:8) and that you too have to answer to a head, that is Christ, and to make very sure that you are reflecting glory to another, not to yourself.

Clothing in some societies conveys strong signals about social position, self-consciousness, and gender. For example, not many generations ago, when a girl reached a certain age and started wearing her hear bound “up,”she was signaling that she was available for marriage. For boys, the purchase of their first pair of long pants was an anxiously-awaited step toward manhood. In Roman society, a respectable married woman or widow went out in public with her hair worn up and covered with a veil or shawl as a sign that she was faithful to her husband and not sexually available to men she encountered. This is not the Muslim purdah, nor is it designed to cover the face — only the top of the head and the hair and back of the neck were covered. A woman without veil and with hair unbound was “loose.”

Therefore, according to apostolic custom, a meeting of the church, though in a private home, was considered a public meeting to which people would walk. A woman would arrive with her head covered; she should stay that way. To remove her veil would embarrass all the men, and her husband, if she were married.

The idea that even in the church women should be women and men should be men may offend some modern people. But let us look positively on what Paul is saying: in the church, women and men remain women and men; husbands and wives remain such. Being in Christ, though guaranteeing equality among believers, does not mean the end of gender nor of marriage, both of which were part of God’s creation before the Fall. One implication is that there is therefore no need for women to assume that being independent or more mannish will in some way make them more Christian. A Christian woman, dressed appropriately, can pray and prophesy aloud, shoulder-to-shoulder with any male in the congregation.

Every human society has social signals, mute messages that help its members to communicate things about themselves. These change radically from culture to culture and over time and place. They can be very useful: they save billions of hours in unnecessary explanation:

  •  It used to be normal for widows to wear black. Likewise, men would wear black armbands. By this they showed their respect for the dead. It also signaled to others, I am mourning a loss; don’t interact with me as if things were normal.
  • In some cultures, a wedding ring is a signal to others that we are romantically unavailable. In North America, beginning in the 20th century, men as well as women might wear them. People who remove their rings in order to hide their married state are considered deceitful.
  • As a North American, I had to relearn certain signals when I moved to Costa Rica. For example, I had to be told that it was rude in Latin America to make eye contact with young women on the street. My own birth culture had taught me the opposite, that it is improper not to smile at and greet everyone I see.
  • There are myriad signals that we communicate via tattoos; earrings, and on which ear; hairstyle; T-shirts; our manner of speaking.

I have taught in churches where women had to wear veils during the church service. My own take is that no Christian women today in cultures where veils do not convey the same message — for example, in Muslin lands — is obligated to wear the veil; but all Christians, although citizens of heaven, still live in the world, and we must pay attention to our social signals so that they reinforce the gospel we want to honor. Our Lord himself was famous for breaking some conventional rules, and sometimes we should as well (see Mark 7:2, 5; Luke 15:2; John 4:27; even John 2:10). But he always did so for a purpose: to serve the Father better, not to prove that he was “free” and that society could not rein him in. Like him, let us send a clear message to those around us, whether it is by word, action or mute signal.

octavia3

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Workplace chaplains

We try to make our company an easy place for people to meet Jesus.  

Mike used to be an Anglican minister. His church morphed into a network of house churches and he and his wife now also work as chaplains for several companies. Mike and Carol come to our company on a regular basis as workplace chaplains. They teach the principles of teamwork as well as being available to our staff  to talk over any issues they might have.  We believe their impact has been to increase productivity and promote company loyalty. They provide support to our employees in times of difficulty. We have won several awards for being one of the best small companies to work for in our city, or for “innovative health and wellness,” and I know that workplace chaplaincy has been a big part of that. 

I’m often asked what a pastor can do if he no longer has a church. So it was with interest that I saw this post from a different Mike–Mike Tummillo. Mike has been a workplace chaplain for some time. Here’s what he says:

Is your church utilizing the services of Chaplains as part of their ministry?

The best thing about Chaplains is they can serve all day long and in places where the local church usually can’t go. I’m sure you’re familiar with the work of Chaplains in the military, law enforcement and in prisons. You’re probably familiar with Chaplains going into nursing homes, jails, and hospitals, too. But did you know Chaplains are in workplaces and at disaster sites, too? Fact is, Chaplains are often officiating weddings and funerals, baptisms and baby dedications so the local church ministers won’t have to.

As Founder of The Church @ Work (TCAW), I received a word of prophesy stating that hundreds of Chaplains would be certified through this ministry. Since then, we have certified more than 50 Chaplains from all over the nation. Many of these Chaplains have been trained in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM), CERT, CPR and, like myself, have used this training in crisis situations including the 2013 Moore, Oklahoma F-5 tornado and the West, Texas, fertilizer plant explosion.

Disasters are on the increase! Jesus said there’d be days like these. A disaster doesn’t have to be a tornado touching down or an active shooter. For many individuals, it’s a marriage falling apart, a pregnant teen, a son killed in a motorcycle crash, or a spouse incarcerated for selling meth, or a bad doctor’s report.

Do you know anyone who would appreciate the opportunity to serve in this way? They do not have to possess a seminary or Bible College background. All they need to be is available. These should be individuals who know God has ordained them and they desire to do more to build His Kingdom… more than tithing and spectating, that is. These are folks with so much to give and, within the church structure, have simply run out of opportunities there. Becoming certified through TCAW will reduce the chances they’ll become dissatisfied with their current church and may reduce chances they’ll look into a larger ministry with more opportunities for them.

Serving as a Chaplain has been the most satisfying ministry I’ve ever imagined. Chances are, someone you know would feel the same way. Pass this message along to them right now. They’ll be very grateful you did!

Every blessing,

Michael Tummillo

Founder, The Church @ Work (TCAW)

MikeTummillo@me.com

Workplace

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Lessons from my vegetable garden

I enjoy gardening–especially when the weather is cooler. Usually I don’t have too much difficulty getting a reasonable crop from my vegetable garden. This year, however, was different:

  • I’ve had a great supply all year of chard.
  • I can’t keep up with the peppers and okra.
  • Tomatoes, not so good this year. Lack of water, perhaps?
  • Fig tree–barren. It gets one more year and then I’ll chop it down!
  • Lemon tree–was doing great until the grandkids picked about 20 baby lemons for a game they were playing.
  • Peaches–squirrels got them over a weekend when I was away :-(
  • Squash of all kinds–zero!
  • Melons canteloupe and water melons–two!
  • Eggplants–one!

These last three vegetables are a little different. They all have distinguishable male and female flowers, and it takes cross-pollination of a female flower to produce fruit. Usually, if I’m having a poor harvest, I’ll cross pollinate the flowers with a brush.

This year, however, that was not possible.

None of my plants had any female flowers! So no harvest.

Makes you think.

Peppers and okra

10 things I enjoy about international travel

Tony and I have had the privilege of visiting many different countries (30+), many of them in a ministry/teaching context. Here’s what I love about international travel:

  1. Hearing incredible stories of how God is at work in different nations. Many of them cannot be publicly spoken of, but they help to raise my faith level and challenge me to believe that yes, God can do it here, too, as well as elsewhere around the world.
  2. Meeting indigenous people and learning about their lifestyles–including spending time in some of their homes.
  3. Having to depend on the Lord for many different things that I take for granted here–like is the water safe or should I brush my teeth with bottled water? (If in doubt, use bottled water!)
  4. Understanding a little more of the culture, politics, economics, etc of different nations.
  5. The sense of adventure–especially when some risk is involved. I guess the Lord created me this way– I don’t mind the insecurity of international travel. And I often find that God teaches me more during those times than when I’m comfortable at home.
  6. Learning how some believers live with persecution–they are among the most joy-filled people I’ve ever met.
  7. Eating what is set before me–sometimes delicious, other times, a little harder to cope with. I remember being taken out to breakfast where my choice was between pig’s intestine, pig’s trotter or chicken feet. (I chose the chicken feet–lots of flavor but kind of chewy!)
  8. Seeing the hunger to learn more that many believers in these nations have. They willingly sit through many hours of teaching per day. And we have to speak in a way that translates across cultures.
  9. Being challenged by the extreme poverty of developing nations.  We have so much wealth in our Western nations. What can we do to help our brothers and sisters in these nations? (The answer may not lie in giving money!)
  10. It’s a huge privilege to see something of the countryside as well as the cities as we travel by car or taxi. Many countries (and their people) are breathtakingly beautiful. Is the country flat or mountainous? How do the people make a living? What can we learn from them? What obvious problems do they face? I love the the opportunity to visit the occasional tourist attraction too, like the Eiffel Tower and Champs Elysee in Paris, or some of the temples in India.

Tony and me outside a Buddhist temple, Taiwan

Tony and me outside a Buddhist temple in Taiwan

To be, or not to be, a feminist

I love Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women. In it, she says, “Jesus loves us on our own terms. He treats us as equals to the men around him; he listens, he does not belittle; he honors us; he challenges us; he teaches us; he includes us–calls us beloved….  Scripture affirms and celebrates women.” She writes a compelling argument for being a Christian feminist.

I agree with Sarah Bessey! And in a secular sense, I agree with equal pay, equal rights, freedom from sexual harassment and abuse, freedom from gender discrimination, the abolition of sex trafficking etc. I especially believe women are equal in the Kingdom and that they are not limited in the role they can play in the body of Christ.

But there’s something about the word “feminist” that has always bothered me. The term “feminism,” especially in a secular sense, can represent things I don’t particularly want to be associated with–like abortion and the whole gender/marriage debate. Feminists are often portrayed as putting down men, or at the very least, not needing them.

So it was with great interest that I learned during a lengthy car journey, that the highly talented musician/singer, Laurie Thornton, who was driving the car, had studied Arab feminist (an oxymoron?) literature in college. We had a fascinating conversation, and she expounded on an idea that made great sense of what makes me cautious about feminism.

Here’s what she said: the problem is that most people believe there’s a finite amount of authority available. (I’m not sure about the word authority here, but I don’t know what other word to use. Bear with me–it will make sense.) The only way that one gender can have more authority is if the other gender has less. So if men are the ones to have authority, then women, by definition, have to have less. In feminism, often the reverse is seen to be true. If women have authority, it comes at the expense of men. There’s only one pie–the question is how is it shared?

But our God isn’t like that. There isn’t a finite supply of authority. He can create more.  The pie is infinite. If women are to have authority, it doesn’t need to be at the expense of men. God will give them an authority of their own without diminishing that of men.

It’s the difference between having a bucket of water and a hose. We treat authority as though there’s only a bucket of water available. In reality, God has a hose and there’s plenty for everyone.

Feminism

Photo Credit: AP Photographie  via Compfight cc

My apologies that the link to the printable version of A Simple Guide to the Challenging Scriptures for Women didn’t work in the last post. That is now fixed.

An update and an invitation


I’m back!!

First, an update. It’s been nearly two months since I last posted–an eventful two months. During that time, Tony and I settled his mom into a rehab facility following a serious fall where she shattered her wrist, and then we closed out her apartment. We’ve  traveled to Kathmandu (Nepal), Yangon (Myanmar) and Bangkok (Thailand). I can’t disclose what we were doing there, but it was an amazing time. I’ve spoken at workshops at the Luke 10 conference and attended  an awesome Captivating conference (my oldest son, Jon, works for Ransomed Heart) in Colorado. I’ve spent time with my grandkids…

Knowing that my time for writing was going to be limited and that in some places access to the Internet would be either limited or nonexistent, I decided to take a break from blogging–the first in about four years. My apologies that I didn’t even respond to your comments during that time. I will slowly get round to replying to them.

Now I’m ready to blog again! But first some practical details.

A while ago I wrote a short e-book called “A Simple Guide to the Challenging Scriptures for Women.” Over the years I have read dozens of books about the role of women, some of them complex theology books.  In the e-book, I examine some of the Scriptures that apparently limit the role of women, and look at some alternative ways those verses can, with great integrity, be interpreted in a different way. That e-book is now available, either via the “challenging scriptures for women” tab at the top of this blog, or a printable version can be found here.

It’s been several months since The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church was released. It’s been wonderful to be able give away all the proceeds to helping female church planters in developing nations, and to victims of sex trafficking.

One of the outcomes of the book has been a series of round tables for both men and women to equip them for the conversation about men and women working together as co-equals in the Kingdom. For some, these have been life-changing as we’ve listened to God and engaged in discussion around the topic.

We have two more of these round tables scheduled for the remainder of this year. The first, here at our home in Austin, Texas, will be on Friday, October 31st and Saturday November 1st. The second will be in Dallas, Texas, the following weekend, November 7th and 8th. If you are interested in attending, leave a comment and I’ll get information to you. We’d love to see you there.

Kathmandu