Lent Part 2. Destination the Garden

Jesus is headed to the garden, this time to the garden tomb of Lazarus, where something very important is about to happen. There is to be a resurrection, a small demonstration of what is to come.

It is a familiar story. You know it well. You know Lazarus died, Jesus wept, Lazarus came forth from the tomb. And you know that Martha and Mary were at odds with each other because Martha needed help in the kitchen and Mary was sitting down and not helping.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” But every story has a back story and that story is most often ignored because the significance doesn’t fit with today’s male headship teaching.

Mary and Martha are the sisters of Lazarus. Apparently they live together. But it is not Lazarus who appears to be the head of the household, it is Martha. The stories in the Gospels do not attribute one word spoken by Lazarus, either before his death or afterwards. He does nothing to indicate he is the “head” of this family. Jesus speaks and interacts with Mary and Martha, and even this resurrection of Lazarus is overshadowed by Jesus’ talking with Martha, and his special notice of Mary.

Most of the people Jesus comes into contact with have only one story recorded in the Gospels. But Mary and Martha have at least four stories about their encounter with Jesus. When we first find Mary and Martha, Mary is at the feet of Jesus and Martha is fussing in the kitchen.

Mary was learning from the Teacher himself which was an enormously big deal in that time. It was said that for women to be taught the scriptures from men was similar to teaching them about sex – it just was not done. But here Mary is sitting at the Master’s feet alongside the men.

She is also the same Mary who, six days after the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, pours expensive alabaster oil on Jesus’ feet and dries his feet with her hair. Jesus rebukes those who seek to stop her by saying she is wasting the oil that could be sold to help feed the poor. He tells them “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”(Matthew 26:11-13).

Mary and Martha send for Jesus, but he waits until Lazarus is completely dead (it was believed by some Jews that the spirit hung around for three to seven days after death). It is Martha who runs to Jesus when he arrives after Lazarus’ death. If he had only gotten there earlier, Lazarus would have been healed but here he was dead and in the tomb and stinking for four days.

The bible makes the point that “ when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house.” Mary remained at the house with the neighbors who came to comfort her. We know that Lazarus’ death and resurrection is one illustration Jesus wants to make, and we are going to see that there is one more connection to be made.

Here it is:

“After she said this, she went and spoke privately to her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he’s calling for you.” Jesus was headed to the tomb where Lazarus lay but it was important that Mary who had a hungering for the Scriptures and the things to come, be there when he brought Lazarus forth from the tomb. Thus, he said six days later, “she has prepared me for my burial.”

Just the facts, ma’am. Women had gone every step of the way with Jesus. They did not abandon him at the time of his trial; they did not deny him. Jesus is headed toward the tomb where at least two Marys will be the first to see him after his resurrection.

It is 2016. Jesus has been resurrected and the New Day dawned over 2,000 years ago. Are you still denying women equality in your church or in your home?

(reprinted from my post in 2016 Lent. Destination the Garden series)

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Lent Part 1. Destination the Garden

You see, it began with the Garden of Eden and it culminated in the Garden of the Tomb and with the resurrection. That is no coincidence. And it is no coincidence that a woman was the one who was there when the Lord was revealed.

It was all leading up to that, of course, but they didn’t see it and I can bet your pastor doesn’t see it either. The scriptures pointing the way have been used for other illustrations if they are mentioned at all.  Rarely will you hear a sermon on the four women Jesus chose to lead the way.

But first, we must go back to that first Garden. This is a story the Jewish leaders and every household knew very well, just as we Christians know it and teach our children.

Man and woman were banned from the Garden. The man was to till the soil and the woman was to give life. Her name was now Eve which means “life” or “life-giving, or “mother of all who have life.”

Tears come into my eyes for all the Eves of the world. Eve wanted knowledge. She would be the one giving birth to future generations, but those same sons and daughters would curse her. God did not curse her. He cursed the snake and the ground that would be tilled, but he did not curse the man or the woman.

In this series “Destination, the Garden” we will see how Jesus, the “second Adam” demonstrates  redemption to the woman. And we will learn that yet, again, those sons and daughters still curse the woman who gave them life.

(this is a repost of my Lent February 12, 2016 Destination, the Garden series)

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Separation of Church and State

Trump wants to repeal the Johnson Act which would allow churches to become political advocates and enforcers and changers of government. Lest this sounds good to you, we must always remember that government when ruled by religion, becomes the oppressor where everyone suffers. Most often these countries oppress women.

I just reread the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 on separation of church and state. It appears to mean that we want the government to stay out of church affairs, but we want to retain the ability to enforce religious restrictions on congregants. Read this sentence “A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power. You know what that means? It means men can have as many wives as the church decides. It means that if we wanted to have slaves, we could do so. It might not be popular, but we could. If we want to ban Blacks from our church houses as we once did, we still can. In other words, it means that the church is above civility in matters such as human rights. The church has stepped aside from multiple wives and from slavery, but it retains the right to hinder women in any way it chooses, in defiance of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which gave women the same rights as men.

Separation of Church and State in the BF&M 2000 means that in the name of religion, the church can go back to undoing any civil rights they do not agree with.

Look at those countries where religion rules. Many are Muslim where women have few rights, cannot drive cars, cannot attend school, and where a man can have four wives at a time. Israel is ruled by religion and women cannot pray beside men at the Wailing Wall, cannot ride on certain bus lines (The High Court of Justice ruled Thursday that public bus companies could continue the practice of gender segregation on dozens of lines serving the ultra-Orthodox sector, as long as there is no coercion or violence involved. 2011).

Roman Catholics ruled during the Inquisitions where thousands of women were burned or killed because of religious fanaticism. Mexico sought to break from the Church’s influence on schools and government. However “A major change came in 1992, with the presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988–1994). In a sweeping program of reform to “modernize Mexico” that he outlined in his 1988 inaugural address, his government pushed through revisions in the Mexican Constitution, explicitly including a new legal framework that restored the Catholic Church’s juridical personality.”

Over 50 years ago, preachers were preaching that America was no longer a Christian nation. That was before Roe vs Wade, before same-sex marriage, before women had the same legal rights as men. If, as those preachers said, we were not a Christian nation before those changes, what makes us think we lost our Christian nation status after those laws were passed?

It is 2017. Do you want the church to rule? Christ came to turn upside down the restrictive rules of religion.  We have not followed His example. If you think it is time we try to become followers of Jesus, will you stand up and say so?

 

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We are just plain tired of it

The Women’s March may have little effect right now, but the tsunami has begun. The first wave has washed over. The second wave will come.

Many berated the women. Legislators, others face discipline for sexist remarks reported the Houston Chronicle. Fat women, too ugly for sexual assault and cartoons of women sprayed by pepper spray are only a few of the responses. Letters to editors and facebook brought on a slew of lewd comments about the Women’s March.

A former Girl Scout Troop leader came into my office and of course the conversation turned to the Women’s March. She was excited about it. She told me she knew many fundamentalist Christian women who believed their place was in the home, and were against this March.

I gave her a copy of my book Women Equal – No Buts: Powered by the same Source.

She reached over the desk and took my hand and said that she had heard so much on facebook by Christian women against the Women’s March that she was afraid she was losing her Christian faith.

Another woman told me her granddaughter was eager to do something now. I gave her their website for 10 Actions, 100 Days so her granddaughter, too, can make a difference.

Another woman’s granddaughter who lives in Virginia went to Washington DC and marched.

My letter in our local paper said,

We are tired of it. We are tired of letters to the editor demeaning women We are tired of governmental leaders surrounding themselves with religious leaders who preach male superiority (Rubio and Trump). We are tired of those religious leaders who are telling women they must submit to their husbands in the home, and to all males in the church and elsewhere. We are tired of hearing that women’s work is in the home. We are tired of radio preachers spewing out their misogyny over the air, and we are tired of it behind pulpits.  We are just plain tired of it.

It is 2017. If you are tired of it, too, join with us. Email me. Visit my website . Click on “Printable Postcard” and mail it to your pastor. The time is now. Be a part of the second wave. 

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How women are affected by male headship rules

It’s a good chance that you might know more than your pastor about how women are marginalized and treated by everyday living and society in general. This week I had my eyes opened further by a 30 year old woman regarding discrimination that women are still going through. I learned that men can have vasectomies at any age after 18, but that women are treated as if they are children when it comes to their birth control decisions.

This young woman said to me, “I keep hearing from women your age how you were discriminated against when you were young. But women are still being treated as if they are children by doctors and health clinics.”

There’s no legal requirement for spousal consent and no minimum age for vasectomy other than the minimum age of consent. But while it’s not necessary to have spousal consent, it’s a really good idea, and involving the spouse in the decision is encouraged. https://goodmenproject.com/newsroom/are-men-legally-required-to-ask-their-spouses-permission-for-a-vasectomy/

For women, it is a different story regarding tubal ligation and other surgical birth control procedures:

Despite federal court rulings against spousal consent laws, some hospitals still have policies against performing the procedure without the signed consent of both spouses. Publicly owned hospitals are not legally allowed to maintain such a policy, but private hospitals are. Despite the illegality of spousal consent policies at public hospitals, doctors may still refuse to perform the procedure, especially if the woman requesting it is young or has not yet had children. http://oureverydaylife.com/married-woman-need-her-husbands-consent-her-tubes-tied-29832.html

It is 2017. Join me as we explore other ways that women are affected by male headship rules.

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My blog is #45 in Top 50 Christian Women Blogs

My blog is in the Top 50 Christian Women Blogs Winners. Imagine my surprise to learn that I am #45 in the Top 50 Christian Women Blogs That Every Christian Woman Must Read. The notifying email was from Anuj Agarwal, Founder of Feedspot.

Top 50 Christian Women Blogs Winners

The Best Christian Women blogs from thousands of top Christian Women blogs in our index using search and social metrics. Data will be refreshed once a week. These blogs are ranked based on following criteria

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Christian Women Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Christian Women blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world. (Anuj Agarwal, founder)

We all want to know the company we keep, so I looked to see who was ahead of me in blogging. Judging by their blog’s description, I found three kinds of bloggers: Complementarian, Christian encouragement for women, and 2 (only 2) Egalitarian bloggers.

#44 is Ain’t I a Woman. The Ain’t I a Woman blog examines the many ways Christian culture lets women know exactly who they should be. We deconstruct those messages that we find troubling–and, in the process, construct a different message: one that allows Christian women to be all that God intended. (http://ifeveonlyknew.com/)

#45 is Baptist Women for Equality (bWe Baptist for Equality). Shirley Taylor writes with humor and common sense, challenging the church body to reclaim equality for Christian women. (That’s me!)

That was it. If you want to feel submissive, and feel good, read their blogs. If you want to get stirred up, and want to do something good about equality, read #44 and #45.

Only 2 more days in 2016. Still time to do something before the year is over. What will you do?

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Another year lost for women

The birth of the greatest human rights activist, Jesus, is a good time to take stock of what Christians have become. Looking inward, will the church recognize when it is out of touch with the people it serves? When will the church recognize that it is out of touch with the Jesus it serves? “That’s medieval,” a man told me when I said that most of the churches around our city restricts what women can do. It may be medieval, but it is also 21st century Christian America.

Jesus told the Jewish leaders in Matthew 23 that they were out of touch with the people they served.  He called them vipers and snakes because in their intent on following their interpretation of the letter of the law they were deadly to the people’s spirit.

Jesus was always about people. He told us to ‘do good unto others,’ and to ‘love one another.’ He told us not to boast of how religious we are in comparison to others who love God, and he told us not to Lord it over others.

Churches are emptying out across America and the younger generation cannot be bothered with church.  We must listen when they say “It’s medieval” when the church seeks to withhold service and responsibility from women just because they were born female. We must listen when we are told that our Christian practices seek to do harm. We must listen when our laws become vipers and snakes that destroy Christians who desire a closer relationship with our Lord.

It is 2016. A new year is on the horizon. Take stock of who you are and what you believe in the light of the greatest human rights activist who ever lived. It is Christmas. Do your actions reflect Hope, Peace, Joy and Love?

I am #45 on the list of the Top 50 Christian Women Blogs. Click to read.

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Advent Love – It’s personal

Franklin Graham has it wrong. God did not intervene in the selection of this president. Jesus was not concerned about  governments, either Jewish or Roman. Jesus was concerned about the heart of the people. As we know from history, the heart of the people can be very hard and unforgiving, lacking justice and mercy. It is doubtful that God would have given this as a Christmas present to us.

We are one week before we celebrate the birth of Jesus. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Jews were looking for a Messiah who would bring the kingdom of God to earth.

The great hope of Israel centered in the kingdom of God which would change the course of history by inaugurating the period of justice, peace and prosperity announced by the prophets, the more strenuously since the bitter experience of the deportation to Babylon. (The Jewish world at the time of Christ)

They wanted justice, peace and properity. Who doesn’t want that? The problem with wanting justice and peace is twofold: 1) we want to determine what justice is; 2) we want to determine what peace is.

When I think of justice, I immediately think of women’s equality and how women have been mistreated, marginalized, abused, and discounted by government and by religion, and how that continues today. I think of homosexuals who have also suffered greatly and still do. So it is with trepidation that I look at our newly evangelically-voted for government. The people chosen to represent the nation have a history of misogyny against women and hatred against homosexuals. Justice?  I see no way to justice.

When I think of peace, I think of living peacefully in our own country. My children were born during the great Civil Rights demonstrations and conflict. I was fearful for my children being born in such an unsettling time. As a mother, I desire peace. Sure, there are times I would like to get even, strike back, and win above all. But as a mother whose son has gone into a battleground in Iraq, I don’t want to see other mothers suffer during wars. So, yes, I desire peace.

Jesus did not come to change Jewish government or Roman government. He came to change the hearts of people. Through love. He said it himself “Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Love – it’s personal.

2016 is coming to an end. What did you do this year to promote love towards people? Did your heart change in thinking about women’s equality or gay rights? The two are tied together, you know. Because when we feel we can hate one group because the Bible says so, then we can restrict the other group because “the Bible says so.”

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Advent Joy – Bringing joy

It is nearing Christmas Day and the bundle of joy – the Babe in the manger – will be making His appearance. All month long we have decorated our churches and our homes, our cities and offices in joyful celebration. We have gone caroling, listened to cantatas and hummed Christmas songs in our cars.

But it is not all joy. When Mary was told that she would give birth, this young unwed mother surely endured sneers, teasing and cruelty at the hands of the religious folk. I fear we have not changed as much as we would like to say we have.

“A woman’s greatest calling is in being a wife and mother” a young Christian woman was near tears when telling me what her women friends at church said to her.

There was no joy in her voice as she related those words to me. She was married but could not have children. Unlike Sarah, Hannah, and Elizabeth, there would be no bundle of joy from a barren womb.

But here she was, in this 21st Century being told that she was missing out on God’s call to be a mother and by inference, was an incomplete woman. Just like religious women have been made to feel for centuries.

Jesus was born into a world much like ours today. Wars, turbulence, anger, helplessness, sickness, poverty and greedy governmental control. Yet we hear the proclamation “Joy to the World! The Lord has come!”

We are Christians and it high time we began acting like it. This Babe came to tell us “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Do good to those who hurt you. Don’t be the one who is hurting others. Don’t destroy their joy but bring joy to them.

2016 is almost over. What joy have you brought to the world? Have you told a woman that her worth is in giving birth? Have you stepped on women in order to elevate men? Or have you told women that they themselves are joy, made complete by their Creator, the Lord God!

Note:

“The Last King of Israel: Lessons From Jesus’s Final Ten Days” by Michael Chung would make an excellent Christmas gift. 30% off & FREE media mail SHIPPING in U.S. Use code ‘JOLLY’ at checkout http://wipfandstock.com/the-last-king-of-israel.html. “As death draws near, life will be lived differently. The Last King of Israel explores how the king of kings chose to live his final ten days culminating in the resurrection. Lessons like spending time with loved ones, dealing with difficult people, handling criticism, resting despite enormous stress, and handling affliction are some of the areas addressed as Jesus faces imminent death. Easter is one of the world’s most revered holiday seasons; this book will enhance understanding of this truly holy week. Including the two days before Palm Sunday and continuing through the evening of his resurrection, The Last King of Israel takes the reader on Jesus’s epic final ten-day journey as his mission on earth comes to an end. Seeing how he died will teach all of us how to live. Challenging both the heart and the mind, The Last King of Israel is a must-read for those who desire a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and the life he lived.” Give the gift of Easter for Christmas and landing page: http://wipfandstock.com/the-last-king-of-israel.html . Also available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Last-King-Israel-Lesso…/…/ref=sr_1_1…. Share this book with a pastor and let them know there are accompanying sermon outlines if interested.

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Advent Peace. What did the angels know?

Every year at Christmas we look at the world situation and wonder if the angels knew what they were proclaiming when they said “Peace on earth, goodwill among men.” We are not sure exactly what the angels did say as it is interpreted in many ways. The NIV version says, “Peace to those on whom his favor rests.” That sounds Calvinistic, but in the name of goodwill, today we will let that pass.

Since that is so, and because I am not a scholar, but an ordinary person reading the scriptures, I choose to read this meaning into those old familiar verses: The angels came to earth announcing the birth of a savior who is Christ the Lord. In proclaiming his birth, they were saying that God is Peace and has come willingly to the earth to be among men, and that he brings with him goodwill (that is to say, he does not bring harm to them.)

We usually take those scriptures to mean that there would be no more wars and strife and all would be joy now that Christ was born. The angels did not say that all would be rosy now. They called him Peace, and because of the great joy they have with the Father, they knew Who was arriving and they expected us to have the same great joy (Luke 2:10-11).

I think the angels may have given us more credit than we are due.

2016 is drawing to a close. But as we celebrate Advent again this year, we see a new beginning, a new year to get it right. A new year for peace in the church where both men and women are equal children of God.

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