What’s a woman to do?

When I describe some of the amazing things being done by women in the Kingdom of God, or when I explain an alternative understanding of the challenging passages on women, I sometimes hear this comment from both men and women who are trying to be obedient to the Scriptures:

“It’s more important that a woman obey the Scriptures.” The obvious implication from the context of the comment is that a woman should stop what she’s doing if it involves teaching or having any kind of authority over men in order that she can observe 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

So what’s a woman to do?

It gets up close and personal.

Should I stop writing books? Should I stop blogging? (I can’t help it if men choose to read the stuff I’ve written!) Should I stop training church planters around the world? Should I not give advice to men when they write and ask me questions? That’s the logical conclusion of the argument.

I’ve come to peace with it all. The challenging Scriptures are not unequivocal, and they go against the general trend and tenor of the overall message of the Bible. They can be understood, with integrity, to have an alternative meaning that doesn’t inhibit women. I’m free to obey the Holy Spirit’s leading.

How do we respond when life gets tough?

The part of ourselves that controls our reactions to life has a huge impact on us.

According to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 we have a spirit, a soul and a body. Our body is physical and receives stimuli through our senses. Our soul is generally thought to consist of our mind, will and emotions. Our spirit is that part of us that is made alive when we become followers of Jesus. We can choose which part of us we live from.

Some people choose to live from their body. They are dominated by their appetites–for food, sex. bodily comfort etc. Others choose to live from their soul. Their emotions dominate their lives, or sometimes their intellect. (I don’t feel like praying. It’s not logical, therefore I don’t believe it.)

We are supposed to live from our spirit. How can we tell if something comes from our spirit? It will be Scriptural, and it will be accompanied by the fruit of peace. The vehicle it comes through is our soul–frequently our thoughts.

A (heartfelt) example: You’ve been on an international trip and you’re suffering from jetlag. Yet you have a busy day ahead. You can decide you need a nap and tune out for a period of the day leaving others to carry your workload (living from the body). You can allow yourself to become crotchety and make sure everyone around you knows you’re suffering from a sleep deficit (living from the soul). Or you can choose to be thankful and trust God to help you through your day (living from the spirit).

As you willingly choose to live according to Scripture, even if you don’t feel like it, you will find your attitude changing. To live from the spirit brings life and peace (Romans 8:5-11)

(If you are interested to read more about this, you can download my e-book on hearing God by subscribing to this blog by email)

Photo Credit: Francois Roche (Creative Commons)

Principles or techniques?

Which work best: principles or techniques?

This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a Momentum conference in San Francisco. (If ever you have the opportunity to attend a Momentum conference, I highly recommend it. It was warm, inviting, participatory with plenty of time for the Holy Spirit to lead–and he did, in extraordinary ways.)

One of the speakers was Ross Rohde, author of  Viral Jesus: Recovering the contagious power of the Gospel  who blogs here.

Ross shared about the danger of turning success into a technique. Someone listens to the Lord, obeys him and sees outstanding results. Others, seeing their success, assume that if they copy what that person did, they will get the same results. The problem is, all they have done is copy a technique without listening to the Lord, who may have a totally different strategy for their situation.

Principles, on the other hand, apply in any context.

An example: you hear about someone who has great success starting a church in their local Starbucks.  It’s easy to think: here’s the answer to our group’s problem with reaching out.  Everyone in our home church should spend time in a coffee house.

It may or may not work–I’ve come across wonderful churches that have started out of the harvest when the Lord told a group to change the place where they get together to the local Starbucks. The technique is in always using the local coffee house for evangelism.

The principle is that if you want to see people become disciples, you have to get outside your Christian ghetto and into a world that so desperately needs Jesus.

How do you avoid techniques? The answer is to listen to Jesus and do what he says.

 Photo credit: pierofix (Creative Commons)

 

 

Spiritual warfare–offensive or defensive?

It’s 1981, and race riots are spreading across London. One of the riots is centered on the East End where we live. The  fear in the air is palpable. Listening to the radio, where a reporter is on the ground, we realize that the riot is coming our way–rapidly.

I glance out of our living room window. The Indian owner of the little corner shop across the road is nailing boards across his windows. His store is a likely target. A couple of doors down, a boy who can’t be more than 12 or 14, is gathering together a stash of weapons, mostly broken bricks and rocks and putting them in a pile behind a wall. Both are ready for whatever is coming.

The phone rings. It’s the other couple with whom we started the church. “This is our territory they’re encroaching on. It belongs to God. We have to stop what’s going on.”

So we conduct spiritual warfare. We use the spiritual authority Christ won for us in his death on the cross to tell the enemy that these streets belong to us and he has to leave. The riot ends just before the very street that we regard as marking the beginning of “our territory.”

This is clearly defensive warfare. It’s interesting that of the spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6, all but the sword are for defense.

Fast forward a few years. The unemployment rates are at a high in the area–more than 20%. Several of the people in our network of home groups have been unemployed for months with no prospect of any jobs on the horizon. One Sunday morning when we all come together, we decide to pray about it. The Lord leads us into a prophetic type of warfare.

We put all those who are unemployed in the center of the room while we enact the battle of Jericho around them. Everyone marches silently round them six times. On the seventh time round, we raise the roof with our praise. Within a few weeks, all but one of them have jobs.

This was offensive warfare. (I’m not aware that we’ve ever repeated that prophetic act since then and I’m certainly not suggesting this is any kind of formula. As always, you have to listen to Jesus and do what he tells you.) In Matthew 16:16-20, Jesus says to Peter about his declaration that Jesus is the Christ, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

In this analogy, gates are defensive and the church is going to breach them. It reminds me of a battering ram. As the Lord leads us to hammer repeatedly against the forces of darkness, eventually they give way before us. We are on the offensive.

Have you seen anything similar?

Photo Credit: sludgegulper (Creative Commons)

The end of the wilderness

Whenever I share about the nine years of wilderness we experienced when we first moved to the States, something about the story resonates with other people–especially the length of time we were there. It seems to give people hope that they, too, might emerge from their own desert experience with their faith stronger, and prepared for the next stage on their spiritual journey. I would make one comment here from our experience/mistakes: learn the lessons the first time round–it saves God having to repeat them!

Photo Credit: Gita Rau (Creative Commons)

For us the end of the wilderness came in a way that I can neither recommend nor endorse.

We gave God an ultimatum.

In the March or April of 1996 we told God that whether we heard him or not, if things hadn’t changed by Christmas, we were going back to the UK where at least we could make a living as doctors.

There were three areas where we asked for change:

  • That he would speak to us again
  • That we would find a means of making an adequate income
  • That our church situation would change

That Spring, we were invited back to the UK to share at a conference. I remember standing at the window of the conference accommodation we were staying in, gazing out at the beautiful British countryside when a thought from left field came into my mind:

“You will be part of a move of my Holy Spirit again a second time.” I instantly recognized this as God speaking to me. What a relief to hear his voice again!

We had lived through the British charismatic/house church movement–wonderful times of God’s blessing which had changed the face of British Christianity. Could God be about to do something in the States? Another move of his Spirit? What would it look like?

From that time onwards, Jesus started speaking to us again.

Back home in Texas, Tony was acting the teenager one day, playing basketball with the kids when he injured his knee. After two or three months, there was no improvement, and so he finally went to see an orthopedic surgeon who advised surgery. The forty-five minute operation was a success, but the bills were a shock. We were part of a Christian sharing co-operative where believers donated to cover each others medical costs every month. Tony was so horrified at the bills that he called the surgeon and explained how the bills would be paid, and suggested the doctor might like to lower the cost. Much to his surprise, the doctor asked how much he felt comfortable paying and they finally agreed on a healthy discount. Every other provider did the same.

For several years, we had been crying out to God, asking him to provide us with an idea to create wealth. The basis of our praying had been Deuteronomy 8, especially verse 18 which, in the NKJV, says this:

 And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

I had the idea that maybe we could discount the medical bills for other members of the group too. Tony called the company with the suggestion and they jumped at the idea of a doctor discounting their medical bills. The phone call was on a Thursday; Tony started working out of our tiny spare bedroom on the Monday; by the following Friday it was obvious that this was a way we could make a living.

Over the past fifteen years, The Karis Group has expanded to offer a variety of services and we now have around seventeen employees. God answered that cry of our hearts.

For those of you who have been through the wilderness, how did the Lord lead you out?  Do you have any advice to offer to others who are still in the middle of their wilderness?

 

Free e-book on hearing God

A year or so ago I wrote an e-book entitled A Simple Guide to Hearing God. It’s designed to be a very practical look at how to hear God’s voice. However, I decided to take a different approach.

I have many friends who know how to hear God clearly–some of the stories they tell are remarkable. Armed with my iphone, I interviewed these people asking them how God speaks to them. (The videos I produced are amateur, but what the people I interviewed say is not!) How to hear God is also a subject I have studied and practiced for many years, and the text comes out of what I have learned.

The result is an enhanced e-book–a combination of video and writing. (It therefore has to be viewed on a computer rather than a kindle).

I would now like to give this e-book away. If you subscribe to my blog, you will receive a link to the free download.

 

 

An evening to remember

Last Friday the church in our home had one of the most beautiful times together that I ever remember in more than 20 years of meeting in house-church sized groups. The presence of Jesus was so real, it was almost tangible.

Young kids (three of them aged around five) were there, watching spellbound as things unfolded. The two toddlers went from one adult to another as they needed attention. The older kids were fully engaged in what was going on.

As usual, we started with a meal. Over dessert, the usual question: “What God events have there been in your life this week?”

First was Rosaura. Those of you who follow this blog will recognize her story. She was a crack addict for 30 years who was instantly delivered from her addictions during a meeting of our church. We were away in Russia at the time, so it was a group of new Christians and young people who prayed for her to be set free–all in response to the prayers of her 15-year-old son, Jose.

Rosaura shared that for her birthday that week, three of her old friends came round to celebrate and they wanted her to do drugs with them. She was very tempted, but went outside to ask God for help. When she came back in, her friends had decided to go somewhere else. “We’ll be back later,” they told her. They never returned and Rosaura is rejoicing. She is only a few weeks away from a full year of being clean and sober.

We’ll throw a party for her that day!!

We praised God for keeping Rosaura safe and laid hands on her, praying that she not only makes a year drug free but a lifetime.

Jose had asked God for something impossible–his mom set free from drugs. So using that example, we broke into six or so smaller groups to pray for the “impossible situations” amongst our families and friends.

Next came a couple of students who are holding a student CPX this week at their university. They sat on the “hot seat” while people prayed for them and shared any impressions God was giving them. They will be bold in following the Holy Spirit this week, and it will result in more churches on their campus.

One of them had finally graduated from college. Applause and praise.

A young Hispanic couple shared how since they had started coming to the church about two months ago, their lives had totally changed. Their faith had become real to them. They had been struggling financially, but now the husband has a new job. This week they have been able to purchase a second car, and their young son has been accepted into a charter school.

More praise and thanksgiving.

A young man who became a Christian around two months ago when he was homeless shared how his faith has been real, even through difficult circumstances. This week he has a job and is now back with his family.

Applause and thanksgiving.

Then Tony asked, “Is there a passage of Scripture that has been on anyone’s heart this week that fits in with what the Holy Spirit has been saying so far?” Someone shared that the verse from 1 John 4, that perfect love casts out fear, had been on her heart. We studied that passage of Scripture together, different ones commenting on parts that were especially relevant to them.

A description of the highlights we experienced doesn’t begin to do justice to what happened in our midst on Friday evening. How do you accurately convey the sense of God’s presence, the leading of the Holy Spirit, the friendship, fun and camaraderie?  The glow on people’s faces as no one wanted to leave because the presence and power of Jesus was so real.

Do you have similar stories? I’d love to hear them.