The place of women in the Temple (and why that’s not true any longer!)

In his book,  The New Covenant, Bob Emery dramatizes the story of the New Testament through the eyes of the apostle, John. It contains many fascinating insights–ideas I had not seen before in my reading of the New Testament many of which I found myself researching and coming to an “Aha!” moment.

Here’s one of Bob’s insights into the Temple and the role of women (used with permission). Remember, this is John speaking:

“Now, as we are here in the outer court, look at this dirt upon which we stand. Strictly speaking, the outer court is not part of the temple, for anyone may enter here, except menstruating women. Its dirt is not sacred. But consider the soil on other side of the wall. That is thought to be holy dirt!

“And beyond that there are fourteen steps leading up to the court of the women, where there is another wall. There the ground is even more holy, because any ritually cleansed Jew, man or woman, can enter there.

“But beyond that are another twelve steps, and another wall, leading to the court of Israel—male Israel, that is. There the ground is even holier still.

“And further and higher yet are another five steps, and another wall, leading to the court of the priests where the sacrifices are performed,   and the stones upon which the Levitical priests walk. These stones are considered even more holy!

“All of this—the hierarchy, the subtlety, and the image it all projects—reinforces the height of false religion. The Gentiles are the farthest away from God. They are the dogs. Where their feet walk is unholy ground. A step up from the Gentiles are women. Fourteen steps, to be precise! And on higher ground yet are men, because they are closer to God. But the average person is still not holy enough, because higher on the rung, and closer to God, are the priests. And above the priests is the high priest, who alone can enter the holy ground of the Holiest of All.

“Does not all that this temple projects corrupt the minds of all the people, so that in fact they believe that this is the manner in which God views all humankind? The sin of it all! The utter blasphemy and stench that rises from this beautiful, so-called monument to God!”

The inspiration of the words Paul had written to the Ephesians about God breaking down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile was becoming clearer to me by the second! Yes, God did want to destroy this temple of stone. He must be at the limits of his patience, I thought, not to have come in judgment already. How anxious he must be to erase this last remaining vestige of the barriers and walls that stand between Gentile and Jew, man and woman, priest and pauper!

Never had it been so clear to me: what Jesus did at the cross was to bring into existence a new creation in which there are no denigrating distinctions. In this new species—the invisible head in heaven joined with his visible body on earth—there is no one holier than another, no one of higher rank than another before God. What Jesus paid for by his precious blood was to make all of his people one by his Spirit and to replace the enmity, the barriers, and the divisions with the unity, peace, and love found only in him.

Wailing wall and Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

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The Wailing Wall is considered to be the remains of the Western Wall of Herod’s Temple

Our chocolate lab and slavery

Tony and I used to have a dog called Sugar—a faithful and loyal companion, though of dubious parentage and limited intelligence. Sugar had one major character flaw. She loved to wander. We live in a house with a fenced yard and an electric gate across the driveway. Sugar used to hide, lying in wait, until a car went through the gate. Then, just as the gate was closing the final few inches, she would make her bid for freedom. She would return several hours later, exhausted but happy.

When we decided to put a stop to her adventures, we installed an invisible fence across the driveway. If dogs approach an invisible fence too closely, a little battery on their collar gives them a small jolt of electricity. They soon learn their boundaries.

After a couple of, shall we say, shocking experiences, Sugar learned to stay within the confines of our yard. In fact, long after the battery in her collar had died, Sugar would sit, wistfully gazing at the liberty that lay on the other side of an open gate without making any attempt to escape. She had become conditioned to her limitations.

Chocolate lab

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As women in the church, we too, have been conditioned to live within boundaries.

Harriet Tubman, who led many slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad, said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I would’ve freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

After the Emancipation, most slaves stayed where they were. Some had no idea they were now free, and others had no idea how to survive outside of slavery. Many entered into sharecropping arrangements with their former masters, getting paid a pittance for the same work they had formerly done as slaves. It took generations for the reality of freedom to take effect.

The worst kind of prison is that of the mind, where a person accepts adverse circumstances as the natural order of things without realizing the perceived cage bars don’t really exist. They are held captive only by their own thoughts.

As women, many of us are imprisoned by what we have known from the past.

(Excerpts from The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church by Felicity Dale)

To all the ladies: forgive us (Brandon Chase)

This last weekend, we had a round table in Dallas based on our book, The Black Swan Effect. It was an extraordinary time, with a sometimes overwhelming sense of the Lord’s presence. God spoke to us clearly. The climax of the day was a powerful time of ministry led by Brandon Chase, where on behalf of men, he spoke to women, “Forgive us!”  Many of those present were profoundly touched, healed and set free. Brandon blogged about what he shared and has graciously given me permission to use his post. 

Having now run several of these round tables in Texas, the team now feels ready to offer them in other parts of the country. If you’re interested in facilitating one in your area, please get in touch with me.

Here’s what Brandon shared:

As I think back upon my life, and spiritual journey, it is not a stretch to say that a majority of any fruitfulness can be traced to Seeds of Sisters that were planted in me:

  • I can remember from my earliest years, as a boy, running into the room where my Great-Grandmother, Granny, lived with us. She would either be doing one of two things, watching Geraldo, or reading her beat up Bible. She would routinely scoop me up into her lap and tell me about Jesus.
  • As a pre-teen, when the rest of my family had stopped attending “church,” for some reason, I would often want to go, still. My Grandparents, and in particular, my Grandmother, Maw Maw, would make sure that I was there.
  • I love both of my parents, and respect them deeply. But I was always closer to my Mom. It was with her that I would spend hours on baseball road-trips, and evenings into the early morning – talking about life and all of its dimensions.
  • My greatest failure in life involved hurting my greatest love, my bride. Gloriously, it was in the healing after-effects of this where I really came to know Jesus for the first time. It was in His eyes of Grace, through my wife, that I saw Him.
  • During this same time frame, the person who was single-handedly most impactful in pointing not only me to Jesus, but both Marie and I, was our counselor, Beverly Ross. She was Christ incarnate to us, and we are eternally grateful.

All of these were “Spiritual” in the sense of growing me into a knowing of God, but none were in the context of how we have commonly seen “ministry” or “church.” But it was, however, Life.

I see it as no coincidence that I am a Daddy, raising two Ladies in the Kingdom.

A little more than a year ago, I wrote what amounts to a letter to them, in which I expressed my heart, a Father’s Heart, for them in the context of their Life in this Kingdom, the Church. When I read it back to myself, it dawned on me that I also see this as Father’s Heart for all of His Daughters. I have a lot of new readers since I wrote that, so if you haven’t, you may want to take a minute and do so now.

I have a dream, and my dream is Jesus.

He has a dream, and His dream is you.”

This is my heart for my daughters, and this is my understanding of Father’s heart for His Daughters. But, I know this hasn’t always been your experience, or reality. Sadly, more often than not, it has felt like what my friend Kate Wallace poetically wrote recently. It has felt like a box.

…I came to you, and you met me

You loved and cared for me

You grew me and taught me

You fashioned me and called me
 
And I took what you had given me and went back to the place I had first heard about you

I was filled with anticipation – what would they have me do?
You had given me so many gifts
 
Perhaps I could speak about you

Perhaps I could teach others to follow you

Perhaps I could spread your message to the world

Perhaps I could invite others to your table, to take part in your supper
 
For they had always prayed for you to raise up people of my generation

They had always said how desperately your Kingdom needed more voices, more hearts, more hands, and more feet
 
So, with anticipation I presented myself to them

Only to be confused by their response
 
For when I offered them this voice that you had given me

When I offered them these hands that you had strengthened

When I offered them these feet that you had guided
 
They gave me a box
 
They gave me a box in which to keep my passion

They gave me a box in which to store my wisdom

They gave me a box in which to put my words

They gave me a box to hold my hands and my feet
They gave me a box and they told me it was your “will” for me as a woman
 
When I asked if they had a box that fit a bit better, they told me to be happy with what you had given me

When I told them you had given me things that wouldn’t fit inside the box, they told me I must be mistaken

When I asked if there was anything else they could offer, they told me the box was a perfect place to keep my questions…

Ladies, I know that many of you would say that you feel this. That this has been your experience, your reality… your pain.

I want you to hear, I need you to hear – that what has caused your pain is not right. It is not ok. It is not your fault.

On behalf of all of the Brothers throughout the Church:

I confess, that we have believed a lie, we have been deceived away from Father’s Dream for His Daughters, our Sisters – one of inclusive inclusion in His Oneness of co-equality, co-creativity, and co-reign. We have instead accepted an un-reality of separation. We have caused you much pain.

I repent. On behalf of Brothers everywhere, we choose to change our mind about Father, about you, and about us. We agree with Dad that He has included all His kids, male and female, into His Family, equally.

I ask for your forgiveness. On behalf of all the Brothers, we desire reconciliation. We desire unity, togetherness, inclusion, co-___, Oneness. We desire for The Box to be forever dismantled.

Earlier, I stopped short of including the finale of Kate’s poem:

…And so I come to you
 
Me, and everything you have given me

Me, and everything you have created me to be

Me, and everything you have called me to
 
And the box
 
I’m a bit bruised from trying to fit inside of it
 

And now that I’m standing in front of you, I realize that you don’t want me to
And I see that I have a choice
 
I can keep this box they have given me and throw out all the things that don’t fit

I can ignore the time I spent with you, the gifts you have given me, the calling you gave me

I can dismember my soul in order to fit into the dimensions of the box

I can live for them and let their box define me
 
Or
 
I can trust the way you made me, the way you prepared me, the way you called me

I can lean on you for guidance and walk in the footsteps of brave women who’ve gone before me

I can live fully alive in you and trust that you are a God who is bigger than the box
 

I can set the box down and walk away

I can live for you and let you define me
 
They gave me a box – and called it yours

You offer me freedom – and call it mine
 
So I take the box

And put it on a shelf

And label it history
 
Then I take your hand and we walk away, because life with you is far better than life in a box”

Here’s the beauty of the Gospel – The Box died with Christ on the Cross.

What we hear as the Good News is that all are included, equally, from before time.

We are all created in the image and likeness of God. We exist in the Fellowship of the Divine, together. This is our Objective Reality.

But we’ve been living a lie.

The Fall veiled our Reality – and moved us into an existence of un-reality.

This un-reality of “the knowledge of good and evil” is hallmarked by fear, the need to control, shame, hiding, scapegoating, comparing, desiring what another has, defining….separating.

This un-reality created boxes – one of which was rift between man and woman.

The essence of religion is mankind working, efforting to get back, to get right with God.

Religion (wrong tree) creates “right/wrong,” “in/out” – it says man is greater than woman, in authority over woman, can do things for God that women cannot.

Religion is existing in an un-reality in our minds of separation from God… and from each other. And we’ve read all of this into our Bibles and understanding of who God is, and what He has for us.

But – the Lamb…

The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. We all died in Christ – therefore, so did the Box, so did the comparisons. So did the un-reality of separation.

We all are raised in Christ, and in Him live. The veil of un-reality in our minds has forever been torn so that we can subjectively experience and manifest what objectively, eternally always has been, and already is.

We are One with Divine (Father, Son, Spirit) – and One with each other.

We share THEIR image and likeness. We have been reconciled. It is ours now, to be in our reconciled Truth (reality) with and in God, and each other. We must reconcile in our own minds the Truth of our inclusive inclusion in Trinitarian Life.

So…..

I want to practically, and supernaturally practice this ministry of reconciliation, together.

Ladies… If you have never had a man, a Brother, confess for the wrong, the pain, the sin committed and caused toward you – I am that man. I stand in the gap on their behalf. I confess, that I have believed and acted out of un-reality toward you.

If you’ve never seen repentance from a man, a Brother, who has made you to feel “less than” in the Body – I am that man. I stand in the gap on their behalf. I repent. I change my mind. I see, believe and will live from Divine Oneness and Inclusion in the shared image and likeness. I turn away from separation from each other, and choose to see the Divine imprint in all humanity, especially the female form.

Finally, on behalf of all men, I am the man who humbly asks your forgiveness. That, together, we move forward in Unified Oneness – in Love – that a hungry and broken and watching world that is still living a veiled un-reality – may see and know that our Father is Love, that by our Love of one another, we too, are Love – and that in seeing Love, they too would know Him – Love – within.

Then I take your hand and we walk away, because life with you is far better than life in a box.”

Our Life, our Reality, is in Him, with Him, One with Him. There is no Box, only the lie of a Box that has been allowed to be told, and lived in. The Truth is, we can only Really exist, together. I need you. You need me. We need each other. We are better (The Best), together. As we take His hand, let us do so hand in hand, unboxed, and walk with Him… with each other.

I love you. God bless you.

///

Brothers, I urge you, to ask Holy Spirit about the Ladies in your life. Consider your legacy and lineage. Consider what you’ve seen, what you’ve experienced, what you’ve done. Then, ask Him to show you what they have seen, experienced, and had done to them. In His mind, weare reconciled, One. If you can see that, it may be yours now to supernaturally allow space for that reconciliation to be subjectively received, experienced, manifested. In my experience, this starts with your humble confession, repentance, and appeal toward forgiveness and unified Oneness.

Freedom!

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The stained glass ceiling

Like it or not, for most women in the church there is a stained glass ceiling. Women have limits. In most churches, they are not allowed to baptize or to give communion. In many other churches they cannot teach from the pulpit or hold a position of authority.

The stained glass ceiling is a reality, and it’s painful for women to keep hitting their heads against it.

Even within the house church movement, where there are generally no barriers for women, those of us who were brought up in the traditional church still find it difficult to initiate or lead out. We have been conditioned to live within stained glass limits. As I observe the simple/organic/house churches I am familiar with, I find it’s usually the women who either were brought up in the simple/organic movement, or those who became followers of Jesus within it, who plant churches.

We recently held a round table at our home where people from many different church backgrounds came to listen to the Lord about where God is taking this movement of men and women working together as co-equals in the Kingdom. Several of the women described the stained glass ceiling they still experience in their churches, and the  incredible pain and frustration it causes them. These are women of caliber with professional qualifications who, in church, cannot fully use their considerable gifts and talents solely because of their gender.

Some of the men present described how, in the past, they have been responsible for creating a stained glass ceiling for women. They repented very specifically to the women for their personal role and for the church’s patriarchal attitude. They deliberately dismantled the stained glass ceiling for the women present.

I’ve been in meetings before where this has happened and witnessed firsthand the healing that this brings to women. I’ve experienced it in my own life too.

As I look around the world, it appears that the Holy Spirit is in the process of shattering the stained glass ceiling. As Gamaliel said in Acts 5,

“If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”

If this move of men and women partnering together for the harvest is something God is doing, nothing can stop it!

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My latest book, The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church is now available. Check it out.

Happy Easter

This Easter weekend commemorates the most important event in history–the death and resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate the victory Jesus accomplished for us over sin and death and the forces of darkness.

The Easter story is also one where the role of women comes to the fore:

  • A woman anointed Jesus for burial
  • Women watched as Jesus died
  • Women followed Joseph of Arimathea to see where Jesus was buried
  • Women bought and prepared spices for his body
  • Women were first to the tomb after the Sabbath
  • A woman was the first person to whom Jesus revealed himself after his resurrection
  • Women were entrusted with the message that Jesus had risen

Have a blessed Easter!

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How Moses is a foreshadowing of Christ to women

Someone recently pointed out an interesting passage to me. I think there are some good lessons to learn from it.

When Moses arrived in Midian, he sat down beside a well. Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came as usual to draw water and fill the water troughs for their father’s flocks. But some other shepherds came and chased them away. So Moses jumped up and rescued the girls from the shepherds. Then he drew water for their flocks. When the girls returned to Reuel, their father, he asked, “Why are you back so soon today?” “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds,” they answered. “And then he drew water for us and watered our flocks.” (Exodus 2:16-19 NLT)

Reuel, who we see from Exodus 18 was also called Jethro, later gave his daughter, Zipporah, to be Moses’ wife.

Here are several points:

  • Women as well as men were shepherds in Moses’ time.
  • Their father, Jethro, was the one who assigned them this task
  • These seven young women cared for their father’s flocks, bringing them regularly to get water
  • Other shepherds, not wild animals, made their task much more difficult by chasing them away from the well. (Was this because they were women?) One has the impression from Reuel’s comments when they arrive home that this was a daily occurrence. How sad!
  • Moses, who is a type and foreshadowing of Christ, rescued the women from the other shepherds and helped them with their flocks by drawing water for them
  • By Exodus 3, Moses is looking after those same flocks. It’s while he’s doing this that he sees the burning bush
What  can we learn from this?

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