How I want to cross the finish line

Many people, as they get older, settle back into a life of quiet retirement, enjoying the fruits of their years of labor. They are content to relax, to sit back and savor life.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what I want.

I don’t want to drag myself across the finish line of this life. When that line comes in view in the distance, I want to break into a sprint, flinging myself wholeheartedly into everything God has for me right up until my last breath, even if the only thing I’m physically able to do is intercede for others. I want to finish well.

And as I cross the finish line, I’ll hear the angelic cheers…

(Remind me of that as I get older!)

 Photo Credit: Al_HikesAZ via Compfight cc

Two ways past culture affects women today

In my last post I shared a very funny video–but with an underlying message that affects women in the church today.

For the past few centuries, women have been perceived as having one of two roles (and yes, I know that this isn’t true for those brought up in poverty). But here is what secular culture generally dictated:

  1. Like the video suggests, women are to be mere reflections of their husbands, uninterested in “important” things such as finance, politics or religion. They enhance their husband’s reputations by looking pretty and acting according to convention. They spend their time in fripperies and trivia (I like little kittens). Their opinions are considered uninformed and unimportant.
  2. A woman’s place is in the home. She runs a good household, brings up her children well, engages (if there is time) in wholesome social/church activities. Her concerns are entirely wrapped up in the running of her household. Her opinion on “important” issues outside the home is irrelevant.

These secular views still impact the role of women in the church today. I remember well one of the first women’s conferences I attended in this country. One evening, we painted each other’s nails! Yuk! I hope I’m not treading on anyone’s toes here (pun intended) but to me it seemed a parody, a caricature of women’s ministry, a waste of God-given talent and time.

Many still believe that a woman has no role of relevance outside the home. A woman working outside the home is a necessary evil. A woman should not hold a position of strategic authority in the church (for a treatment of the Scriptures that seem to imply this, check out a series of posts beginning here.)

The Proverbs 31 woman not only ran her household well–she ran a thriving business. Deborah led a nation. Esther saved a nation.

Society today has thankfully changed. But some of these old cultural conventions still linger on.

Let’s get rid of our cultural handicaps.

Photo Credit: Sirsnapsalot via Compfight cc

Women, know your limits!

One of the things I miss most from the UK is the British sense of humor. It’s dry, and often quite subtle.

Here’s a hilarious example–but one that packs a punch. (Thank you, Graeme, for sending me the link.) As women, we may not face social limits in the same way, but we do have boundaries in the church.

An unspoken rule

There’s a (mostly) unspoken rule in Christianity. It goes something like this: God only uses a woman when a man is not available.

It’s a convenient rule because it allows women on the mission field to do things that women are not allowed to do here at home.

Does this seem strange to anyone else?

 

Heroines of the faith: Michele Perry

Recently MIchele Perry  was interviewed on the TV program, 100 Huntley Street. She has an extraordinary story. Watch this video and you’ll see why she is one of my heroines of the faith.

Michele blogs at http://fromtheunpavedroad.com/

Women and the harvest

According to Jesus, if there’s a lack of harvest, it’s not because the harvest is especially difficult, it’s due to lack of workers.

The harvest is great but the laborers are few. (Luke 10:2)

Jesus’ solution? We pray for workers for the harvest. These workers are not only existing Christians, but also those who don’t yet know the Lord. However, in the church, we often sideline half the workers for the harvest—the female half. Their engagement in the harvest is limited to inviting their friends to attend church with them. (I recognize this is often true for the men too.)

If we truly want to see great harvest, then women need to take on roles usually assigned to men. They need to make disciples and baptize them, to teach and train, to start churches, to give Communion, to strategize and plan for the harvest.

 

 

Women and revivals

The temperature was -13 degrees. The church hostel where we were staying was unheated because there were so few visitors in January, and despite wearing several layers of clothing, we couldn’t get warm. It was 1983. Tony, my husband, and I were in Seoul, South Korea to visit the Yoido Full Gospel Church led by Dr. Paul (David) Yonggi Cho— the largest church in the world.

One day, in an effort to get warm, we headed over to the church’s administration building. As we wandered along the hallways between the various offices, someone approached us.

“Would you like an interview with Dr. Cho?”

Much to our surprise, we were ushered into Dr. Cho’s office and had a twenty-minute conversation with him. He said many things to us about the nature of revival and the crucial importance of prayer, but the one thing that has most stood out over the years is this.

“You in the West will never see a move of God until you use your women.”

Prayer is key to the extraordinary growth they have seen in Korea. But women have also played a vital role. Yoido Full Gospel Church began in the home of Choi Ja-shil (who later became Cho’s mother-in-law) in 1958. As the church grew, Cho took on more and more responsibilities until he became exhausted and ill. At this point God challenged him to release women. The church now numbers more than 700,000. Two thirds of the associate pastors are women and 47,000 of the 50,000 cell group leaders are women too.

But three decades later, what Dr. Cho predicted for us has sadly proven true. We in the West have not used our women, nor, with one or two possible exceptions, have we seen any major, long-lasting and wide-sweeping revivals with multitudes being swept into the Kingdom of God. Whereas Korea has gone from around 2 percent of the population being Christian in 1945 to about 30 percent today, we in the West have gone backwards. In the UK where I am from, Christianity is irrelevant to the vast majority of the population. Here in the United States we may be only a generation away from being a post-Christian nation.

The question is, what are we going to do about it?



 

Heroines of the faith: Saints Perpetua and Felicity

I never knew there was a saint with the same name as mine until I started researching Perpetua.

Perpetua was a Christian noblewoman, aged around 22, who was martyred in 202 or 203 AD. She lived with her husband, young son and her slave, Felicitas in Carthage (modern day Tunis). When Emperor  Septimus Severus decided to persecute Christianity, he focused on North Africa. A group of five new converts who were preparing for baptism, including Perpetua, was among the first to be arrested.

Perpetua’s father came to visit her in prison and begged her to renounce Christianity. Despite the fact that she was nursing a young child, she refused to recant. She was allowed to keep the child in prison with her, but conditions in the prison were so terrible, she feared for his safety. She was baptized in prison.

At the trial, the other four in the group were questioned first. Each, in turn was asked if they were Christians. All of them replied, “yes” and each refused to worship the emperor. Then came Perpetua’s turn. At that point,  her father burst into the courtroom carrying her young baby. The judge again asked her, for the sake of her father and her child, to deny her faith. She, too, refused to deny Christ. They were all sentenced to die in the arena.

Felicitas, who was subsequently arrested, was eight months pregnant at the time, and anxious that she, too, be allowed to suffer martyrdom, but the law prevented the execution of pregnant women. She gave birth to her daughter in time to join the others in the arena.

When the day of their martyrdom arrived, Perpetua and Felicitas entered the arena clad in simple belted tunics. Wild beasts and gladiators roamed the arena as the crowd roared for blood. A wild heifer stormed the group and Perpetua was tossed into the air. Blood-stained, she rose to her feet to help her slave.  She called out to the other Christians, encouraging them to keep their faith and to love each other. Finally, a swordsman was appointed to execute her. He missed her neck, hitting her collarbone instead, so she guided the sword to her neck so that he might finish the job.

I sometimes ask myself, would I be willing to face martyrdom rather than deny my faith in Jesus Christ. I hope so.

Photo credit: http://www.rpmministries.org/2012/03/

A moving, and mostly first person account of their last days can be found here.

Other information for this post was found here and here.

 

Update on the book on women

Most people who read this blog know that, although its main emphasis is usually on simple/organic church, for several months I’ve been writing consistently about women. The reason? For the past two years, I’ve been compiling a book on women in the Kingdom. That process is very now very nearly finished. Just the final details on the last chapter to go before the manuscript is ready to send to the publisher (YAY!)

Here’s a little history behind the book.

Five years ago, recognizing my own need for peer fellowship, I reached out to a few women who play a significant role in the body of Christ. We connected via conference call. As our fellowship grew deeper, a natural discussion topic was the role of women in the church. Between us, we were aware of many women who desire everything God has for them, but yet who hang back, waiting for a man to take the lead. What could we do to give them permission to follow the Holy Spirit with all their hearts no matter where he led, even if it meant them taking the initiative? How could we encourage men to stand with them?

We knew from experience that in the church in the West, with notable exceptions, women have been sidelined and marginalized. Because they’ve been taught that they’re stepping out of line if they initiate or lead, they have settled back into passivity. Men lead; women follow. That’s the godly pattern. The result? The mission of Jesus suffers as a large portion of the workforce for the harvest waits for men to take the initiative.

On a couple of occasions, our team of women went away together for several days of prayer and fellowship. Always we came back to the idea that God longs to free women into their destiny, that if they were released, the workforce for the Kingdom of God would potentially double. The obvious follow-up question: is there anything we can do to inspire and empower other women?

Then came a weekend when God spoke to a larger group of 12 of us about Deborah and Barak. As a result of studying that story, we decided to approach some men who we knew stand with us in our beliefs about the role of women. We recognized that if a group of women tackled this subject, we would be perceived as feminists with an agenda, but if both men and women were involved, it had the potential of contributing to a Kingdom movement.

Many men actively advocate on behalf of women. Some take every opportunity to speak about the injustice that exists in the church and do everything they can to promote women. Others have made the study of the Scriptures concerning women a priority.  Still others take practical steps to hold open the doors allowing women in ministry. Several pledged to stand with us and together we would seek to release women.

The group of half a dozen women finally concluded that we would write a book together, and that we would ask men to contribute.

We approached several men who agreed to share from their particular area of interest and expertise. We are so grateful to them for their willingness to identify with us and to actively champion the cause of women.

The final list of contributors to the book apart from myself:

Peggy Batcheller-Hijar, Neil Cole, “Jan Diss,”  Katie Driver, Dave Ferguson, Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch, Suzette Lambert, Floyd McClung, Julie Ross, Frank Viola, and  Jon Zens

 


 

 

A quiet healing

Sometimes healing happens without fanfare, and it’s only later you realize the enormity of what has happened.

A new person came to the church that meets in our home a month ago. We had a time of listening to the Lord, and someone shared a picture about a little fish being gobbled by a shark. It seemed spiritually relevant, so we asked if anyone felt that life was overwhelming them, that they were being “eaten up” by circumstances. Several responded, including the new lady.

She mentioned that she had abdominal pain, and so, as well as her surrendering her life to Christ (the bigger miracle), we prayed she would be set free.

Last Friday, we heard the significance of what went on. The story went like this:

For 10 years, this beautiful girl had had crippling abdominal pain resulting in many visits to the ER–sometimes several times a month. During that time she had not had a single day without pain. She was unable to work or finish school because of it.

Since the day the church prayed, she has not had a single episode of pain.

We serve an awesome God!

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