A double blessing!

 This past week, we have been doubly blessed. Both our daughter and our daughter-in-law were due to have babies at the end of May. Kristen, who is married to our son Matt, went into premature labor about a month ago. Thankfully she did not deliver at that point, but has been staying with us because she has been on complete rest.

Last Tuesday, she went into labor and delivered a baby girl, Kaylee Marie, weight 5 lbs 12 oz. Kaylee is adorable as you can see  (the unbiased grandmother speaking here).

Photo
  
 

 Two days later, our daughter, Becky, went for her routine prenatal appointment, and they discovered that her baby had stopped growing. Because the baby was a breach, she was scheduled for a C-section next morning. So on Friday, William Clayton was born, weighing in at 5 lbs. 3 oz.. He too is an absolute delight. Here is his photo:

Sweet baby
 

 We are truly blessed!

Kaylee and Clay 2
The cousins meet!

Kaylee and Clay
  

Tony (my husband) is a Barak!

I am totally blessed to be married to someone who is completely supportive of women being able to do anything that God is calling them to within the Kingdom.  

A few weeks ago, a group of women came together to wait on God about this topic.  One of the things the Lord showed us is that there are Baraks out there–men who will stand with us in this venture.  If this is a movement of women only, it will degenerate into a feminist movement.  But if the Baraks will join us (think of the story of Deborah and Barak working together to defeat the enemy in Judges 4 and 5), it will become a Kingdom movement.

I am married to a Barak!  Here he is:

Women as helpers?

Another Scripture that is used to “keep women in their place” comes in Genesis 2:18, God says “I will make a helper (ezer) fit for him (Adam).”  Women have long been told that this is their role—to be a helper to men, there to serve them.  It is an enlightening exercise, however, to look at the other occasions on which this word “helper” is used.  Of the 21 times, the Hebrew word “ezer” is used, in all but six it refers to God.  Typical examples include, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence comes my help.  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1, 2) or “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).  The impression is more of a valued consultant brought in to assist where man is lacking than some kind of divinely appointed personal assistant.

Change is in the air.  There is currently a ground swell—a sense of the brooding of the Holy Spirit—over the topic of women in ministry.  It’s like the calm before the storm.  I believe that very soon we are going to see a movement of men and women—not a radical feminist movement of women reacting to the injustice of the past, but a move of God’s Holy Spirit where both men and women work together to free women into their destiny.  We will see Galatians 3:28—“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians – you are one in Christ Jesus”—fulfilled in our lifetime.  What might happen when the other half of God’s army, the female warriors, begin to take their rightful place alongside the men to follow the Holy Spirit’s strategy in the world?


Female archer
 

A commercial break!!

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A new version of "An Army  of Ordinary People" is being released on May 3rd.   it has been completely rewritten and updated and is being published by Tyndale House Publishers.

Here is what  is written on the back cover.

"This inspiring collection of real-life stories introduces you to ordinary people who've practiced "simple church" — in their own homes, workplaces, or neighborhoods — and the remarkable things that have happened as a result. You will meet people instrumental in leading others to God — even helping to free them from addictions or the stigma off their criminal pasts; parents teaching Bible lessons to kids; a couple inviting their neighbors over for dinner and conversation. You'll see that the gospel spreading and lives being changed.

"And the only question remaining is code on are you ready for your story to begin?"

I have been humbled and blessed by people's response to the older version of Army. I am praying that God uses this new version even more than the older one. You can help by getting hold of a copy and, if you like it, giving it away to your friends or letting others know about it. 

The book is available at the House2House bookstore and other locations.

 

The parallel of slavery


Slavery

In 1833, slavery was abolished in the British Empire.  The person responsible for this immense change in society was William Wilberforce, who fought at times almost singlehandedly over many years to accomplish this feat.  He was a committed Christian. Many of his antagonists, those who wanted to keep slavery in place, however, were also Christians.  They were very vocal and clear that the Bible supports slavery.  After all, the Old Testament gives laws about it, Jesus mentions it without any apparent condemnation, and the apostle Paul discusses it in his letters.  Therefore it has to be something God approves of.   

Both the Old and New Testaments say more about slavery than they do about women in the church.  

I have never met a Christian who believes that slavery should be reintroduced in society.  The reason?  We know the character and nature of God.  We understand instinctively and through His word that God desires all of His people to be free, no matter what their race or background.  The whole tenor of Scripture is towards liberty.   Jesus came to bring freedom to the oppressed and to set the captives free.   The reason the Bible mentions slavery is because the culture of the day accepted it as normative.  It does not imply God’s approval or condoning of it. 

Why would it be any different with what the Bible says about women?  Jesus’ attitude towards women was remarkable.  He willingly put Himself in what might have been considered compromising situations in order to minister to them (think of a Jewish man having a conversation with a Samaritan woman of doubtful reputation alone without a chaperone!)  We never have any impression from Jesus that the women he worked with were of lesser value or served lesser roles than the men.  It instinctively goes against all one knows about God’s character that half of His people would be marginalized. 

What about the verses on women in 1 Timothy 2?

I have had others ask that I go into more detail on some of the challenging passages, so here are some thoughts on 1 Timothy 2.  (If you are not interested in the details of this subject, I suggest you skip this post!)  I am no Greek scholar, but I have had an interest in the topic of women in ministry for many years. The book I wish I had written on this subject is called, "Why Not Women" by Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton.  Here is their take on 1 Timothy 2:8-15

 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

David Hamilton, who wrote his master's thesis on these difficult passages, describes the structure of the passage in 1 Timothy 2 as "particularization and chiasm using an A-B-A-B interchange" (two well known literary devices that Paul used on other occasions). "The overall principle is, God wants to save everyone. The particular examples are what God wants to do with men and women. Within the last example, women, Paul used a mini-chiasm. He began talking about women in general, then switched back to a particular woman, then switched back to women in general." David goes on to diagram this out, and to explain in considerable detail why he concludes this. 

Again I quote from him:
"The structure of Paul's communication has been very clear so far. Paul laid out the general principle–God's redeeming love for all humanity and our need to pray. Then he gave two examples of how redeeming love should look like when it's lived out: first for the men of the church and then for the women. In verse 10, Paul spoke to women involved in spreading the Gospel. As he did so, he remembered one woman who had perhaps played a prominent role in the church at Ephesus. So in verse 11, he stopped speaking in broad, general terms (everyone, men, women) and addressed the case of this one woman. 

How can we say that? This is based on a very clear grammatical shift in the Greek. From verse 11 to the middle of verse 15, the plural nouns are gone. They're all singular: "a woman." "she must be silent" and "she will be saved through childbearing." Then in the second half of verse 15, Paul returned to the plural, "if they continue in faith…" So as Paul spoke to the women again, his grammar formed a small chiasm:
verses 9 -10 "women" (plural)
verses 11-15a "a woman" (singular)
verse 15b "women" (plural). 

"Why did Paul make this dramatic switch from plural to singular and back to plural? I suggest he had a specific Ephesian woman in mind… The context suggests she was a vocal promoter of the false teaching troubling the Ephesian church. Perhaps she was one of the leaders of this heretical group.  

One of the major theses of this entire passage was stopping deception in the Ephesian church. Eve was deceived and so was this woman who was to be silenced.
Hamilton then goes on to describe Paul's response. Again I quote:
"Even though the woman was deceived and had deceived many, Paul gives wonderful, redeeming instructions on how to deal with her.
"Paul's first word was that "a woman should learn." This phrase would better reflect the original Greek if it were translated "must learn." It is not a suggestion but an imperative…the only direct command in this whole chapter. By implication, this woman must be instructed. Timothy was to make sure this woman was given an education.
"What a gracious response toward someone who had been causing so much harm. Paul realized the problem lay primarily in the fact that like all the women of her day, this woman… was at an educational disadvantage…Because Paul understood this, he extended more grace to her than he did to Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus who had sinned knowingly…. The antidote to deception is learning the truth. Therefore Paul demanded that this woman be taught…
Paul went on to say how this woman should learn "In quietness and full submission." Again, this qualification was not a rebuke. He was not saying she should just sit down and shut up. The noun used in verses 11 and 12 is related to the word used in verse 2 of this same chapter where Paul said that the goal of all believers was to live "quiet and peaceful lives." 

I highly recommend the book by Cunningham and Hamilton to anyone who is interested in understanding the issues involving women.

Another book I would like to highly recommend is a new one by Jon Zens called, "What's with Paul and Women?" Jon has been a great resource on this subject for years.  He takes a different tack to come to the same conclusions based on the word "authentein."

Another look at the challenging Scriptures on women (part 1)

One of the main reasons that women are so restricted within the church is that certain Scriptures apparently forbid their taking any role of significance.  And all of us, both men and women, want to obey the Bible.  But these challenging verses can, with integrity, be understood differently. 

Let’s take, for example, this passage from 1 Corinthians 14.  At first reading it is quite clear: women are not to speak in church!

Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says.  If they have any questions to ask, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings (verses 34-35).

The first clue that there might be some other interpretation than the obvious one is the fact that nowhere does the Old Testament talk about women being submissive. 

The context of these verses is a letter, a response by Paul to some questions posed to him by the believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 7:1).  Other passages, however, make it clear that women are not expected to keep totally silent.  For example, 1 Corinthians 11 tells us that women are to pray and prophesy with their heads covered.

There are actually three sets of people who are told to be silent (Greek sigao) in 1 Corinthians 14.  In each of the other two situations, the problem is mentioned, they are told to be silent, and then a solution is given.  The first occurs when someone wants to speak in a tongue but there is no one present to interpret (verses 27 and 28).  The solution?  They are to be silent and to speak to God privately.  The second happens when more than one person has a prophecy (verses 29 and 30).  Solution?  The first person is to be silent and the second deliver what God has given them.  However, in the verses about women, Paul doesn’t describe the problem, perhaps because he thought it was obvious from his answer.  Presumably some women were causing a disruption by asking questions loudly in the meeting.  Solution?  Rather than cause a disruption, they were to ask their husbands at home.  No one assumes in either of the first two situations that the instruction to be silent was for every situation and for all time, but these verses on women have been used to keep them silent for centuries.

The verses in 1Timothy 2 can be equally interpreted in a different way.  Clarity comes in the singular and plural uses of the word “woman.”   There are certain instructions given that apply to women (plural), but the challenging verses apply to a woman (singular).  A good explanation would be that there was one particular woman who was causing problems with wrong teaching, and a description of some disciplinary action taken to stop her is described in this passage. 1  This would be similar to the discipline prescribed for an unnamed man in 1 Corinthians 5.

Could it be that the attitude of the church in the West towards women is actually preventing the move of God we all long to see?  Could a fresh look at the challenging passages with an open mind change this situation?

The role of women in revival

In 1983, the insurance money from a robbery gave Tony and me the opportunity to travel to the Far East.  While we were there, we spent four days at Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho’s church in Korea, at that time the largest church in the world with around 350,000 members.  We learned many lessons from our time there.  One morning, we were wandering through the administrative building, when someone approached us offering an interview with Dr. Cho.  During our 20 minutes with him, one of three things he said to us was, “You will never see revival in the West until you are willing to use your women.” 

A small group of women with whom I work closely, recently looked at revivals from the perspective of women.  One of the things that struck us was that moves of God that seem to last for decades rather than being a quick flash in the pan, use women in strategic roles.  Examples include John Wesley and Methodism, Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, or more recently, the Pentecostal movement that started in Azusa Street.  (Other common features include a small group structure and the development of an infrastructure.)  China, of course, is the same way.   Over 80% of the churches there are started by women.

Could it be that the classic church attitude toward women here in the West is preventing God from moving in power?

An encouragement to Kingdom women from an apostolic statesman

I received this email in response to my first blogs on the subject of women.  Dan Hubbell has been used around the world to teach and encourage leaders.  He is a man of the Word, an apostolic father in the best sense of the term, and one whose opinion I value on any topic!

Felicity, thank you for sharing your heart about the need for the church to release and bless both the sisters and brothers to be all that our Lord called and gifted them to be and do in His Kingdom for His glory! 

As you know, I came from a very traditional Baptist background, and I am grateful for my Christian heritage.  On our spiritual journey we are continuing to learn more and more about God's giftings and ministry of both brothers and sisters. 

The most effective way I have had in encouraging the release of our sisters in ministry is to use the scripture in teaching about the role of women in the life of Jesus as well as with the disciples. 

In addressing this issue with traditional believers, I use the Acts account of what happened on the Day of Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all who were in the upper room which included men and women.  Both men and women were filled with the Spirit and all began to speak in languages as the Spirit gave them utterance.  

Peter, according to Acts 2:16-21, stated that what was happening was based on the fulfillment of the scripture according to Joel 2:28-32, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in thelast dayssaith GodI will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on your handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy…" 

I believe we are a part of those "last days" and God is restoring both men and women in gifting them by His Spirit to whatever ministry He calls them.  As you know, I have traveled to many nations over the past 30 years of mission work and have seen women and men ministering powerfully in their giftings especially in China and India.  

God has, is and will continue to minister through His servants, whether men or women, for His glory in whatever role or gifting He chooses.  He is the giver of the gifts and we as men or women should receive with joy whatever gifts he chooses to bestow upon us.  We also need to learn to gladly receive and encourage one another as men and women to be all that our Lord has designed and called us to be in His Kingdom for His glory.  

So, Felicity, I want you to know that I receive you and encourage you to be all the Lord has gifted you to be and do in His Kingdom, and not allow anyone to discourage or hinder you from fulfilling His calling and gifting on your life, my dear sister!