Contested territory

Some time ago, I watched a fascinating video by Lance Wallnau called Piercing the Veil. Here’s what I understand to be his basic concept.

“Once you reach critical mass on a revelation, everyone gets access easily to what was once contested territory.”

Up until recently, the idea of women co-laboring alongside men equally has been contested territory. Strategic authority in the church, has, with notable exceptions, been the domain of men. I believe God is bringing fresh revelation to the Scriptures whereby they can, with integrity, be interpreted in such a way that women are not relegated to following men, but under the direction of the Holy Spirit, can initiate and lead Kingdom ventures. God”s gifts to his people are not based on gender. And, like the parable of the talents, whoever uses their gifts wisely will be given more responsibility.

When I was in medical school, only around 10 percent of the students in my year were women. Being a physician was thought to be a male profession. In one short generation, that has changed, and now in the UK, more than 50 percent of medical students are women. 

I always hesitate to use the word “leadership” in these posts, because it can be so easily misinterpreted. Leadership is about servanthood and going lower; it’s not about hierarchy. But God does entrust certain people with more influence. I believe that God is changing the perception that church “leadership” has to be male. He’s doing it by giving fresh revelation on the Scriptures (just as he has done throughout history–for example, with the understanding that salvation is by faith and cannot be earned.) We are fast approaching that critical mass, the tipping point where it’s generally accepted that women are valued and equal co-workers in the Kingdom. And we can all gain access to what was once contested territory.

What image does a Christian woman convey?

Since I’m working very hard on completing the book on women that I’m compiling, this morning I decided take the easy way out for the next few blog posts and find some quotes about women. So I googled “quotes, Christian, women” looking for inspiration. The majority of what came up was I’m sure really good, but everything struck me as sickly sweet, sugar coated, milky, vanilla. Maybe it’s just me, but I found the quotes incredibly unattractive. They were mostly about being a good wife and mother–don’t get me wrong, these concepts are all vital–but so stereotyped.

Then I came across these quotes by John and Stasi Eldredge, from their book,Captivating Revised & Updated: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul. This was more what I was looking for.

“A woman is a warrior too. But she is meant to be a warrior in a uniquely feminine way.”

“You see, women have been essential to every great move of God. Yes, Moses led the Isaelites out of Egypt, but only after his mother risked her life to save him! Closer to our time, Clara Barton was instrumental in starting the Red Cross. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin put fire into people’s heart to end slavery in the United States. Rosa Parks kicked the Civil Rights movement into gear with her quiet act of courage. Eunice Kennedy Shriver created the Special Olympics. Mother Teresa inspired the world by bringing love to countless thought unlovable. And millions of other women quietly change the world every day by bringing the love of God to those around them.”

This last week I had an email conversation about the type of image a Christian woman conveys, especially in leadership. The man commenting wrote that he didn’t want a woman leader to have “a masculine message with a masculine demeanor… deep authoritative voice… in a women’s body. Not repulsive, just not attractive.”  He linked to a picture that he thought demonstrated what a Christian woman might be like that at first shocked me–it was of a fairly provocatively dressed but very beautiful woman who I doubt is a believer. But the image has not left me, because the message it conveyed was very feminine and yet very powerful. A woman can be strong, a warrior,  and yet retain all the beauty of her femininity. The warrior princess that Stasi talks about.

This picture is of a famous statue in London. A warrior queen named Boadicea

 Photo Credit: victoriapeckham via Compfight cc

What do you think?

Some feminine wisdom

In the church that meets in our home, we’re studying through the book of Proverbs. We came across some interesting verses last Friday on the topic of wisdom. There was some lively and spirited discussion. At the end, someone commented, “I predict a blog post coming on!” They were right, and here it is.

Here are the points that we noted:

  • Wisdom is personified. The Greek word is Sophia.  I, Wisdom live together with good judgment (Proverbs 8:12). Listen as Wisdom calls out!… She takes her stand at the crossroads (Proverbs 8:1-2)
  • Wisdom is female. She offers you long life in her right hand…Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire compares with her (Proverbs 3: 14-15)
  • We are to seek Wisdom, and in doing so find life.  Those who search will surely find me (Proverbs 8:17) Whoever finds me finds life (Proverbs 8:35)
  • Wisdom helped create the earth. The Lord formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else. I was appointed in ages past at the very first before the earth began (Proverbs 8:22-23)  I was the architect at his side. I was his constant delight,
        rejoicing always in his presence. And how happy I was with the world he created; how I rejoiced with the human family! (Proverbs 8: 30-31)
  • Wisdom sounds remarkably like Jesus. In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him,  and nothing was created except through him. (John 1:1-3)  …Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30) I am the way, the truth and the life (John 10:10)
  • Wisdom sounds like the Holy Spirit too. She will guide you down delightful paths (Proverbs 3:17) When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)  I know where to discover knowledge and discernment (Proverbs 8:12) Think of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

One can come up with some interesting ideas about the interplay of the feminine with the godhead from this. What do you think?

Why I submit to my husband

I’m so thankful for my husband, Tony. The blessings of being married to him are beyond words.

 Photo Credit: 96dpi via Compfight cc

It’s my delight to serve Tony and submit to him. And it’s his joy to serve me and lay down his life for me. Really, it’s a race to go lower. A mutual submission.

It wasn’t always that way.

Early in our marriage, I might have been sitting down on the outside, but inside I was standing up. I might have appeared to be quiet and submissive. Inside, I was screaming, “But it isn’t fair!”

What’s the difference?

Early in our marriage I was taught a legalistic hierarchical view. God is over man. Man is over woman and specifically husband is over wife. Jesus said, “It shall not be this way among you” (referring to hierarchy).

When hierarchy is removed, it’s easy to obey Ephesians 5–Submit yourselves to one another, wives to husbands, and husbands laying down their lives for their wives. And it makes for a wonderful marriage relationship.

 

What we can learn from Priscilla

Priscilla worked with Paul. She and her Jewish husband, Aquila, who was born in Pontus, were living in Rome, but had to leave Italy when Claudius Caesar deported all the Jews from Rome  They arrived in Corinth, Greece, where they set up a tent-making business. Paul arrived in Corinth on one of this missionary journeys, and met them both. He lived and worked with them because he was a tentmaker too.

When Paul left Corinth for Cenchrea (where Phoebe was a deacon), they accompanied him. From there he set sale for Syria, taking Priscilla and Aquila with him.  They arrived in Ephesus, where Paul left the couple to oversee the work there while he traveled on to Jerusalem and Antioch.

Apollos, a Jewish speaker arrived in Ephesus from Egypt. He knew the Scriptures well and was eloquent and enthusiastic, speaking out boldly in the synagogue. But he had some areas of weakness in his theology. Priscilla and Aquila explained (the verb here is plural) the way of God to him more accurately.

Paul specifically mentions Priscilla and Aquila in three of his letters. In Romans 16:3 and 2 Timothy 4:19 he greets them.  In 1 Corinthians 16 he sends greetings to the Corinthians from them and the church that meets in their home.

In every context where active ministry is concerned, contrary to Greek and Hebrew custom, Priscilla is mentioned first. This means she had a significant, probably even the dominant role in what went on. Luke speaks of her teaching Apollos with approval. Paul describes her as one of his co-workers in ministry.

Priscilla and Aquila are a great example of a married couple working together in ministry. It appears that Aquila encourages Priscilla to take an active, if not the most prominent role, in ministry. We need more examples of this.

I am very blessed that my husband, Tony, has done everything he can to make sure I play as active a role as the Lord leads me in ministry. Tony is a gifted speaker and communicator. A number of years ago, he realized that if he did everything, I would always remain in the background. So he started sharing his platform with me. In the beginning, I didn’t communicate nearly as well as he would have done, but over the years I’ve gained in confidence. Now we are both active in the Kingdom, each in our own right and in our own spheres.

(This story comes from Acts 18)

Map of Paul’s missionary journeys from bccfbroadcasts.com

Phoebe–a leader in the church

Phoebe is mentioned only once in the New Testament, but a large amount of information can be garnered from that one passage.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me. (Romans 16:1-2)

Phoebe obviously played a key role in the early church in Cenchrae.

The word “deacon” here is translated in other versions as “servant” (for example, the NKJ version), but it is more likely that she is being described as a recognized leader in the church, similar to the 1 Timothy 3:11 use of the word about women as deacons. (NB: It takes being a servant to lead.)

Another word used to describe Phoebe  is prostatis, translated here as helpful. It is a feminine word, which according to Strong’s concordance means “a woman set over others, or a female guardian, protectress, patroness.” It is a feminine version of the word proistemi which means “to be over, to superintend, to preside over” amongst other things. It’s from the same word used in Romans12:8–”he who leads, with diligence.” The word certainly  holds connotations of leadership. Paul includes himself as one who has been “helped” (led) by her. Interestingly, it’s not the same word used for help earlier in the sentence. That is a word meaning “one who stands by.” Paul could have used that word again, but instead chose prostatis.

Since Paul commends Phoebe, and asks people to receive her, as opposed to sending her greetings as he does to the other people listed in Romans 16, most people think that Phoebe is the one who had been entrusted to carry the letter to the Romans.

(I obtained much of the source ideas for this from Philip B. Payne’s book  Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters.)

Stories from the church that meets in our home

I love the church that meets in our home. We are so blessed! How does one communicate the fun that we have just being together–the laughter and warmth as we share a meal? The joy in having visitors with us?

Usually we start the “spiritual” part of our time together by asking a question: “What has God done for anyone this week?”

This last Friday the following happened:

  • The “miracle baby” was with us for the first time and we celebrated God’s goodness to the family again.
  • A businessman shared how he had held a grudge against someone who had cheated him over a year ago. This week he finally forgave the person and his business took a sudden upswing.
  • A young woman shared how God has just set her free from years of incredible darkness with many medications. She’s a completely different person. It all happened following prayer.
  • A lady who was given a Bible at her baptism in December just finished reading the whole book through for the first time.
There were other great things shared too and we spent most of our time in praise and thanksgiving for God’s love and mercy and in prayer for each other.

God is so good!

 

 

Women as elders and deacons?

Many people say that women can be deacons but not elders. There is clear scriptural precedent for women as deacons. For example, in Romans 16:1 the word used to describe Phoebe is diakonon (sometimes translated servant).

One of the arguments used to say that women cannot be elders is that the qualifications for being an elder includes being the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:1). A woman cannot have a wife–therefore she cannot be an elder.

However, one of the qualifications for deacons is that they, too, are to be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:12).

Follow the logic. Deacons have to be the husband of one wife, and we know that there are female deacons. Elders also have to the be the husband of one wife. Why should there not be female elders too?

First Timothy 3:11 says, “let the wives (women) also be temperate… faithful.” This verse is often applied to female deacons. Why not to female elders too.

Just saying…

(Thank you to Neil Cole for this idea)

God’s Favorite Place on Earth

When Frank sent me a copy of his latest book, I was keen to read it because I knew it looked at the lives of Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus.

God’s favorite place when he lived on earth was their home in Bethany, the place where Jesus was accepted unconditionally and where he returned, time and time again. Part fiction (the moving story of Jesus in Bethany is narrated by Lazarus) and part insightful theology, Frank uses the story to help people facing many kinds of challenges–doubt, discouragement, fear, materialism. He demonstrates in a practical way how to deal with offense, both by God–when he doesn’t meet our expectations or doesn’t show up on time–or from others who may hurt or reject us. He challenges us to live a life free from offense.

I’ve studied the Gospels on many occasions, but certain things became clearer to me as I read this book. I saw details that had escaped me before. Example: I’d never noticed that Jesus’ ascension occurred in Bethany. The conversation between Jesus and Martha about his resurrection took on fresh power.

Frank writes powerfully and poetically. He challenges  us, both as individuals and corporately, to love and follow Jesus wholeheartedly and to be a place where Jesus “feels at home.”

For those who purchase God’s Favorite Place on Earth between now and May 7th, you will get 25 free gifts. You can find out how to claim these here.

It takes both men and women

When women fight for justice for themselves in church circles, they are perceived as militant feminists. If men stand alongside them, shoulder-to-shoulder, then something that looks like “Kingdom” will result.

Where are the men who will champion women, standing up for their rights? Where are the Baraks who recognize women in leadership and refuse to go into battle without them?

What is God about to do?