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?

The top three reasons it’s important to include women

Women are often undervalued and sidelined in the church, especially when it somes to strategic thinking and planning. Leadership equals servanthood (Matthew 20:25-28), and  we, the church, are supposed to be listening to our head, Jesus, and following what he says. Since women are used to serving, and they often hear him more clearly, it therefore seems very short-sighted not to include them. (If you have questions about the theology of this, check out a series of posts starting here.)

But there are more important reasons to include women. Here are the top three:


Photo Credit: Gerry Dincher via Compfight cc

 1.  The Harvest: When women co-labor alongside men, the workforce for the harvest potentially doubles.

2.  The Harvest: Psalm 68:11 (NASB) says this–The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host.

3.  The Harvest: Wherever we see a massive harvest going on around the world, women are often in the forefront. For example, in China, especially during the revival in the 1980’s and 90’s, female pastors and evangelists outnumbered males 3:1. In India, women apostles are responsible for thousands of churches. Women can often get into the places where men cannot go with the good news of the Kingdom. As Dr. Yonggi Cho once told us, “If you want to see a move of God, use your women.”

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.

Is your glass half-empty or half-full?

Do you want to be happy or sad?

While there are some people who are unhappy because they need emotional healing from a broken heart, others choose to be pessimistic, to look on the negative side of life.

There are a couple of very interesting verses in Proverbs 15. Verses 13 and 15 say this:

A glad heart makes a happy face;  a broken heart crushes the spirit.

For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

The impression, especially from verse 15, is that we can choose what kind of heart we have. Are we going to choose to be glad, or sad? Some people perceive the same event as a negative; others as a positive.

Do we choose to see the glass half empty or half full. It makes a big difference. In general, people prefer to be around someone who is encouraging and has a joyful outlook on life. Jesus was “anointed with gladness more than his companions” (Hebrews 1:9). If we want to be winsome to those who don’t yet know the Lord, we would do well to have a joyful attitude towards life.

Photo credit: Jim_sama (Creative Commons)

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)

 

 

Bringing our faith into our working lives

When we worked and ministered in the UK, our lives were very blessed. Everything we touched seemed to “turn to gold”–in the spiritual rather than physical sense. Tony, my husband, was leading a ministry that worked among doctors and others in the caring professions and extraordinary things were going on all over the country. The ministry taught these professional how to bring their faith into their working lives in a sensitive and relevant way. We ran conferences that showcased examples of doctors who were doing something meaningful. As others professionals saw what was going on, their response was often, “I could do that in my practice.”

For example, I remember one family doctor giving a report on what he had seen the previous year. He had kept a record of every patient he had communicated the good news about Jesus to over the course of that year–about 150 people. Of those, around 50 had become followers of Jesus the first time he spoke with them, and another 50 had become believers some time during that year. The remaining 50 were an ongoing story. All over the country, doctors were seeking to communicate the Gospel in effective ways to their patients.

When Tony was practicing medicine, he probably saw several hundred of his patients find the Lord. In the UK, in part because of socialized medicine, the family doctor handled far more than the typical medical problems. If someone had a kid who was using drugs or had marital difficulties or any other social need, the GP was usually the first person they went to for help. Often, when his patients came to him with needs that were not really medical in nature, Tony would say to them, “You know, I don’t have a pill I can prescribe that will sort this out, but have you ever thought of praying about this situation?” The most common response was, “Doctor, I’ve prayed about it, but I don’t know if anyone is listening.” That was an open door for a spiritual conversation. During one memorable six week period, a person became a follower of Christ every day his office was open.

Other doctors moved into the very poor and socially deprived area of London where we lived and worked and had our church. One day, we did the math. In our (more traditional) church, there were 14 family doctors.  Our area had around 120,000 people living in it. Between the doctors in the church and their partners, anyone becoming sick in our area had a one in three chance of sitting down next to a Spirit-filled doctor who was looking for an opportunity to share about Jesus.

Other doctors around the country were running Bible studies in their offices, or referring the social needs of their patients to their churches. In fact, the impact was such that even the medical authorities were beginning to take notice. We heard one day that a family doctor, in his final oral exam in front of the licensing board was asked this question: “What would you do if you found yourself in a practice with doctors who were evangelical Christians who took every opportunity to speak to their patients about their faith?”

Our conferences were attended by around 5,000 people per year. I remember a particular conference we ran for consultants. At one stage, this group of 50 or so eminent consultants were asked to stand on their chairs and praise God at the tops of their voices. If these distinguished professionals were willing to humble themselves before God in this way at a weekend conference, it was easy for them to speak to their patients about the Lord during the following week.

So when in 1987, the Lord spoke to us that we were to move to the USA, we assumed, naively, that God wanted us to do the same kind of ministry among professionals here. Were we in for a shock!

Have you found effective ways to communicate your faith through your working life? I’d love to hear the story.