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?

Were there women among the “seventy”?

I’ve recently become fascinated by the life of a woman I call Mrs. Zebedee, mother of James and John, wife of a fisherman from Galilee.

 

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This is what Matthew’s gospel says about Mrs Zebedee on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion:

And many women who had come from Galilee with Jesus to care for him were watching from a distance.  Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee. (Matthew 27:55-56)

When did Mrs. Zebedee join Jesus’ group? When he left Galilee for Jerusalem.

The first part of Luke 9 clearly takes place in Galilee. Then Luke 9:51-53 says this: As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival.  But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem.

This passage obviously refers to Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem. If we marry these two verses, it sounds to me as though Mrs. Zebedee was with Jesus from this point onwards.

The remainder of Luke 9 is the passage where Jesus talks about the cost of discipleship. Luke 10 then goes straight into the story of sending out the seventy or seventy-two “other disciples.”  It’s hard to know if the rest of Luke’s gospel is in chronological order, but the end of Luke 9 and the first part of Luke 10 are clearly linked in time.

There’s no way to prove it, but it seems likely that Mrs. Zebedee and the other women were among the seventy that Jesus sent out to all the places where he planned to visit. They went out two by two, praying for the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest. They put into practice the teaching about the “person of peace.” healing the sick and telling the good news of the Kingdom. They reported back to Jesus how even demons were subject to his name. And Jesus told them too that they had authority over all the power of the enemy.

And Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, thanking God for revealing truths to the childlike (Luke 10:21).

 

5 signs that God may be on the move re women

In my last post, I suggested that the releasing of women to co-labor alongside men in the Kingdom may be one of the next moves of God. Here are five (somewhat subjective/anecdotal) reasons I believe this:

 Photo Credit:psd viaCompfightcc

    1. The  increasing number of respected theologians and leaderswho are vocally expressing their support of women–theologians such as Ben Witherington, N.T. Wright and Scot McKnight through their clear exposition of the Scriptures, leaders such as Bill and Lynne Hybels, Alan Hirsch, Dave Ferguson through both their words and actions.
    2. The number of books being written. Thirty plus years ago, when I first started examining this topic, it was hard to find a book written on this subject. There are an increasing number coming on the market–both theological such as Man and Woman, One in Christ by Philip B. Payne, and What’s With Paul and Women? by Jon Zens, and experiential–I think of Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church by Pam Hogeweide and The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules by Carolyn Custis James. (And yes, I ask myself, is there a need for one more–the one I’m in the process of compiling? I hope so. It will take a different approach.)
    3. I’m beginning to see tracks for women in leadership at conferences, and seminars designed specifically for women who are taking a lead. Conferences that traditionally only had male speakers on the platform are making room for women too. It’s a small number, but it’s a start.
    4. An increase in opposition. The conversation is becoming more heated, which often happens when something worthwhile is about to break.
    5. The number of both men and women who are changing their minds about women in ministry. I hear this quite often at a personal level, and the book, How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership details a number of stories from prominent evangelicals who describe their change in belief.

Are there other signs that I’ve missed?

 

Another movement?

A fascinating video on Youtube called Piercing the Veil by Lance Wallnau expresses this concept:

Certain Kingdom truths are veiled—the enemy keeps them hidden from God’s people  who have a veil over their minds and spirits. If someone tries to break through,  they hit a barrier. Finally a few pierce the veil, but at great personal price. Then it seems that God opens people’s eyes–gives them revelation from the Scriptures–and  the floodgates open. Anyone can walk into the “new” truth. Whole movements begin.

Wallnau’s conclusion?  Once you reach critical mass on a revelation, everyone gets access easily to what was once contested territory.

Here are some examples:

Justification by faith: Prior to Martin Luther, the church taught that people could “buy” their salvation–hence the sale of indulgences. Martin Luther knew that this wasn’t the way to salvation but he had many years of doubt and questions as he struggled to understand the truth. Finally God opened his eyes to “see” justification by faith. At a similar point in time, others, like Zwingli, came into the same truth. The truth spread rapidly as the Scriptures were made available in the language of the common people. From that point onwards, salvation by faith has been a truth open to all. It’s so obvious in the Scriptures that you wonder how people could have missed it.

Being filled with the Holy Spirit:  The Pentecostal/charismatic movements began in Azusa Street in 1906. Prior to this, a few people, after days and weeks of tarrying, might be filled with the Holy Spirit. Once God illumined the Scriptures, it became easy for people to experience. Now, the reality of the Holy Spirit, including the spiritual gifts, is widely accepted and people  are easily filled with the Holy Spirit.

I would put simple/organic/house church into a similar bracket. When we first became involved in this movement nearly 20 years ago, the idea that it didn’t take specially trained clergy to start a church was revolutionary and controversial. But again, God illumined the Scriptures. Now the concept has become mainstream, (according to the Pew Forum, 9% of Protestants meet this way) and its acceptable for ordinary people to gather in their homes to worship and to start churches working primarily with not-yet-believers.

I believe we are on the verge of the same thing happening with women. God is illumining the Scriptures. It may just be that I’m more aware of it, but it seems that everywhere I turn, people are interested in this topic. God is in the process of bringing this subject to the forefront. There’s a groundswell–a huge change of opinion, an awakening to its relevance to the Kingdom.

God is in the process of piercing the veil, and women everywhere will be set free to co-labor alongside men in the Kingdom.

What could happen as a result?

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Heroines of the faith: Corrie ten Boom

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still,” were among the final words to her sister, Corrie, as Betsie ten Boom lay dying in a German death camp, a victim of starvation and torture.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who worked in her father’s watch repair shop in Haarlem, Holland. When the Germans invaded Holland in 1940, the whole family became involved in the Dutch resistance movement. They constructed a secret hidden chamber, thirty inches deep, in Corrie’s bedroom on the top floor of their home above the shop where they hid Jews and others from the Nazi SS troops. Throughout 1943 and 44 there were usually at least 6 people hiding in their home. Additional refugees were given temporary accommodation until other places could be found for them.

In February of 1944, an informant betrayed them. The entire family was arrested, although the Nazis didn’t find the Jews hidden in the secret room. They were rescued later by members of the Resistance. Their elderly father died 10 days later in prison. Other members of the family were released, but Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp. There they endured unspeakable horrors, but held onto their faith. They were even able to conduct Bible studies using a contraband Bible.

Betsie died on December 16th 1944, and due to a clerical error, Corrie was released two weeks later, just one week before all women prisoners her age were executed.

After the war, Corrie set up rehabilitation centers for concentration camp survivors, and also for Dutch people who had collaborated with the Germans and were unable to get jobs. She spoke everywhere about the need for forgiveness.

In 1947, this was put to the test. She had just finished speaking at a meeting in Germany when a man in an overcoat and brown hat came up to her. She recognized him instantly as one of the guards who had abused her and Betsie.

“I was a guard in Ravensbruck, but since then, I’ve become a Christian. I know Christ has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there. Will you forgive me?” And he put out his hand.

This was the most difficult thing Corrie had ever been asked to do, but as she, by choice of will, gave him her hand, the love of Christ flooded her whole being, and she was able to say, “Yes, brother, I forgive you, with all of my heart!”

Sometimes there are books that have such an impact on your life that you can remember them decades later.  The Hiding Place  Corrie’s autobiography, became a best-seller that was later made into a movie.  I still remember its story and message.

Corrie traveled to over 60 nations, preaching the message of Christ’s forgiveness. Thousands became believers through her many books and her speaking.

Among her awards:

  • Israel honored her by giving her the title “Righteous Among the Nations.”
  • She was knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands for her work during the war.

Corrie died in 1983 on her 91st birthday.

(Information for this post came from here and here)

(Photo from Christianity.com)