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!

Amy Carmichael–Plowed Under

A few weeks ago I posted about one of my heroines, a missionary in India by the name of Amy Carmichael. The post received a comment from someone at Christian Literature Crusade who publish some of Amy’s books, saying that they were about to produce another one and asking if I would  be willing to review it. I am delighted to do so. I love these old missionary writings, and this was a story I hadn’t seen before.

Plowed Under tells the tale of “Star,” a girl from a Hindu background who becomes a believer and is discipled by Amy. Told with the charm and innocence of a bygone era, this book nonetheless packs a punch. Through it, Amy reveals her passion, not just for the Lord but also for the lost. We catch a glimpse of life in a missionary community and of life in India including an extraordinary and isolated Hindu citadel. We see the impact of disease, of Hindu tradition. We feel with her the challenges of working cross-culturally and facing the persecution experienced by new believers in nations hostile to the Gospel. We share her wonder at God working sovereignly in a young life.

We have much to learn from her about a life sold out to Christ.

India is seeing an incredible harvest. I believe what is going on there currently is rooted in the soil of the lives of those who, like Amy Carmichael, laid down their lives for that nation. Let’s learn from her example.

Four reasons women don’t embrace their apostolic call by J. Lee Grady

I was just recommended this outstanding post written by J. Lee Grady posted on the SpiritLed Woman site of Charisma Magazine. I highly recommend you take the time to read it. It is so good, I scrapped my original ideas for today’s posts in order to encourage you to enjoy it.

Here is the link: Four reasons women don’t embrace their apostolic call

Tell me what you think. Do any of these examples fit your own life or that of others you know?

But I digress… a Jewish betrothal

Several years ago I was captivated by John 14 to John 16.  I found myself meditating on these verses, attempting to memorize them. I would go to sleep at night thinking about them and wake up in the morning doing the same. (Please don’t assume I was being spiritual–it was a God thing!) But I always puzzled over John 14:2-3:

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (NIV).

The verses were inspiring, but I always wondered about them–is this talking about heaven? Is it referring to the Holy Spirit?

The first inkling I had of what lies behind the verses came a few weeks ago in an e-letter from John Fenn of Church Without Walls International. I’ve since done some research on it. Here’s what I now understand:

In Jesus’ day, if a man wanted to marry a girl, he would go to her home with a “bottle” of wine. (This would be an arranged marriage.) The girl’s father and brothers would negotiate the terms of the betrothal contract with him. The girl was then called in. If the girl agreed to marry him, they would seal the contract by drinking a glass of wine together. This was now a binding covenant. The man would then tell her, “In my father’s house are many rooms. I’m going to prepare a place for you, and then I’ll come back for you.” He would return to his father’s home and prepare the bridal chamber, which would only be ready when his father told said so. One day the groom would return for his bride, taking her back to his father’s house with him where there was a wedding feast and the marriage was complete.

So what Jesus said at the beginning of John 14 is a foreshadowing. Jesus has returned to his Father’s house to prepare a room for us. One day, we’ll see him face to face as his bride and there will be a wedding feast.

What  an amazingly beautiful portrayal John 14 presents of Christ and his bride.


 Photo Credit: dlisbona via Compfight cc

Heroines of the faith: Maria Woodworth-Etter

I have been in great dangers; many times not knowing when I would be shot down, either in the pulpit, or going to and from meetings…But I said I would never run, nor compromise. The Lord would always put His mighty power on me, so that He took all fear away, and made me like a giant…If in any way they had tried to shoot, or kill me, He would have struck them dead, and I sometimes told them so. Maria Woodworth-Etter (1844-1924)

Maria was born again at the age of 13, and immediately dedicated her life to “going out in the highways and hedges and gathering in the lost sheep.” Her first plan was to marry a missionary but her father died suddenly and she was faced with the task of supporting her family. She had six children by her first husband, P.H. Woodworth who was a farmer. Five of her children died young, leaving her with a daughter.

As Maria studied the Bible diligently, she concluded that God had used women as ministers, prophets and leaders and that Joel’s prophecy that God would pour out his Spirit on all flesh specifically applied to women. Then she had a vision. Angels took her over a long field of waving grain. In the vision, she began to preach and the grain began to fall like sheaves.

Soon after this vision, she began ministering to small groups in her community. Everywhere she went, people would fall to the floor, weeping, under a deep conviction of sin. She began traveling and wherever she went there was a demonstration of the Holy Spirit with hundreds miraculously healed and hundreds finding Christ.

By the time she was in her early 40s, she was preaching to crowds of over 25,000 without a public address system in crusades around the country. Hundreds fell to the ground under the power of God and the secular world was amazed at the demonstrations of God’s power as people were healed and set free. Thousands found Christ during these meetings.

Eventually, Maria divorced her husband for infidelity. She later became Maria Woodworth-Etter when she married Samuel Etter, who became a partner in her work for the remaining 12 years of his life.

Maria Woodworth-Etter has been called the grandmother of the Pentecostal movement. She had a profound influence on people such as Smith Wigglesworth, Aimee Semple-McPherson, John Alexander Dowie, John G. Lake and Kathryn Kuhlman.

For the last years of her life, she ministered from one of the churches she had started in Indianapolis. As she became weaker, she would be carried to the pulpit and finally ministered from her bed. She died at the age of 80.

Photo credit: www.icwhp.org

Information for this post obtained from here and here

Women with an attitude…

As God releases women into their calling and destiny, it’s vital that we maintain a right attitude:

“We have seen how many men have led down through the centuries–through rivalry and competition, position grabbing and control, ego promoting and a quest for the limelight. Women can learn from this. As we have opportunity to take strategic positions, let’s deliberately opt for the path of humility and service.

As women, we are now faced with some choices. We can decide that the church owes us some status, that we deserve position and authoirity, and that we have the right to take what is legitimately ours. Or we can willingly choose to lay down our rights and to serve with humility in whatever God is doing. We have the advantage of centuries of learning how to serve and lay down our lives for others. The body of Christ will be richer as we willingly embrace that calling, moving ahead into whatever he would have us do.”


(Excerpted from our book, Small Is Big!: Unleashing the Big Impact of Intentionally Small Churches)

5 activities women can do

There are a number of activities that have traditionally been limited to men. However, I find no scriptural warrant for not including women in them:

  1. Baptism: this is traditionally done by the pastor. When baptism is delayed so that it can be performed by a special person, it slows the growth of any disciple making movement.  In some countries, like India, women are not allowed to be touched by a man unless they are a family member. Although there are no Scriptural examples that specifically describe a woman baptizing, the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) indicates that the person who leads someone to the Lord should be the one to baptize them.
  2. Teaching: First Timothy 2:11-12 is often used to stop women teaching. (See my posts (beginning here) on a different interpretation of this passage.) But there are plenty of indications to the contrary. For example, Priscilla (mentioned first) and Aquila taught Apollos. First Corinthians 14:26 encourages everyone to take part in the meetings including teaching (no mention here of this being a “men only” activity). Other lists such as 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 that list teaching include activities we know were open to women.  We are to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16).
  3. Giving communion: Our traditional practice of communion with a wafer and sip of wine is probably unscriptural. Communion was more like a meal (otherwise why does 1 Corinthians 11:21 talk about some going hungry and others getting drunk). While there is nothing to say that women are allowed to “give communion” there’s nothing to say that men are either.
  4. Leadership: Leading is one of the gifts given to the body of Christ. In Romans 12: 6-8, it is included in a list of things that God gives to us. Included in that list are gifts that we know women can use–for example, prophecy (Acts 2:17-18) If women were to be prohibited from leading, that might have been a good time to mention it!
  5. “Government”: There are examples of women in government. For example, Deborah led and judged the nation of Israel. We see Junia as an apostle, Philip’s daughters prophesied, Phoebe was a deacon (Jesus used the same word in the context of leadership.) I find nothing that says that women cannot be elders. (There are no examples of women elders, but I can think of no named examples of Gentile ones either.)

What similar activities can you think of?


 Photo Credit: Mars Hill Church via Compfight cc

Heroines of the faith: Catherine Booth

“… The “unjustifiable application” of Paul’s advice, “ ‘Let your women keep silence in the Churches,’ has resulted in more loss to the Church, evil to the world, and dishonor to God, than any of [its] errors.” From a pamphlet written by Catherine Booth in 1859.

Catherine Booth was born Catherine Mumford in England in 1829 to Methodist parents. Her father was a coach builder and preacher. Despite (or perhaps because of) long illnesses she is said to have read the Bible through eight times by the age of 12. Because of a spinal curvature, she was unable to take part in many of the normal activities of adolescence and became a fierce proponent of temperance.

In 1851 she met William Booth, a preacher with similar interests. They were soon engaged and married three years later. They had eight children.

One of Catherine’s role models was Phoebe Palmer, who caused quite a stir by preaching at a time when women were not expected to take an active role. Catherine became convinced of women’s rights, and wrote a pamphlet (Female Ministry: Women’s rights to preach the Gospel) from which the above quote was taken. She was convinced that women have an equal right to preach in public meetings. Her arguments for women in ministry were:

  1. Women are neither spiritually nor morally inferior to men
  2. There is no Scriptural reason to deny them public ministry
  3. What the Bible urges, the Holy Spirit has ordained and blessed and so must be justified.

William and Catherine Booth worked as partners in a traveling evangelistic ministry, and Catherine was soon recognized as a powerful speaker in her own right. Initially speaking in homes and at cottage meetings, eventually she held her own campaigns. Many think she had more influence than any other men (including her husband) of her time. Her life demonstrated the validity of women in ministry.

In 1865, William and Catherine Booth began the work of The Christian Mission in London’s impoverished East End. (Note: this is the area where Tony and I practiced medicine and started a church. Even when we were there it was known as the “trash can” of London, where people who couldn’t go any lower lived. Traces of William and Catherine Booth’s work were evident even then. The area has now become gentrified.) William worked with the poor, and Catherine spoke with the wealthy urging them to help them financially. They provided social help as well as preaching the Gospel.

When the name  of the mission changed to The Salvation Army, William was known as the “General,” and Catherine became the “Mother of the Salvation Army.” She was an important contributor to the changes made, not just in their uniform but also in their beliefs. She died at age 61.

Photo Credit: www.salvationarmy.org.uk

Information for this article taken from here