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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Beyond the Grave: A Christian Dilemma

My latest book is now published on Amazon in print and ebook. I am not a biblical scholar and most people I know are not either. But we are all touched by death, and we all have some belief regarding what happens.

What happens to our bodies and souls when we die presents the biggest dilemma that Christians face. It would appear to be simple, but it is far from that. In addition to the Bible, Christians have incorporated theology, cultural beliefs, songs, movies and mysticism into what is believed about heaven and hell.

We are reading the same Bible, but what we accept as truth varies from one church to another, from one person to another, and from one generation to another.

This book is written in a conversational style by a church secretary. It has a little bit of humor, and a whole lot of scripture thrown in. You will discover 5 commonly held beliefs about death, and 5 distinct beliefs about hell. You will learn that Christian theology about what happens after death continues to change. You will be challenged to fire the devil.

Most of all, this book will give you hope and help you come to terms with death and dying. You will find God’s love spread throughout these pages.

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Book Review Redemption from Biblical Battering

Many years ago, I sat in my best friend’s home, and she said, “last night my husband got so mad because dinner wasn’t ready when he got home, that he threw the pot of chili against the wall.” I was horrified and could not imagine how someone could throw food and make such a mess and then walk away from it as if nothing had happened while she cleaned it up. My friend stayed with her husband and I am sure the chili incident was just one such event in their many years of marriage. Eventually he had a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair and she had to take care of him for years.

In the 10 years I have been working for women’s equality, I have heard many such stories. It could just as easily be blood splattered against a wall. Christian families are as prone to these abuses as those who never attend church. The bible is quoted and used against the wife when she speaks up for herself. She is accused of not submitting to the husband. She lives on tenterhooks not knowing what the night will bring when he walks through the door.

Shirley Fessel writes about spousal abuse in her workbook Redemption from Biblical Battering (available on Amazon and on Kindle). You can find more on her website

Married to a minister who abused her while quoting scripture for over 10 years, Shirley writes of her experience and deliverance from the marriage and her personal journey to finding freedom. The book leads the reader in examining what is happening to her and how she feeds this emotional abuse.  I think of my friend with the chili against the wall. He knew she would clean the mess up and make him another pot. This book will show women how to change their reaction to such behavior.

This subject is hard to read about, but there is a pattern that abusers take, and there is a pattern that those who are abused follow. This book will help you recognize what is happening.  Understanding how the abuser works and your natural response to this abuse will lead you in your path toward wellness and eventual redemption from biblical battering.

While Shirley Fessel does not outright recommend leaving the abuser, I do. Children grow up and can leave an abusive home, and a wife should be able to do the same. This book will help her as she grows in wisdom and maturity.

I highly recommend this book Redemption from Biblical Battering. Those who are currently being abused should read this book (I recommend hiding the book and reading it in secret). Children who were raised in a home where their mother was abused should read this book as it will help them recognize what was happening. Those who have family members who are being abused should read this book as it will help them understand how a wife can stay with a husband who is abusing her.  Pastors should read this book and acknowledge what is happening in Christian homes and make every effort to help women who are being abused. Counselors should read this book and even though they know it already, they need to see a new perspective on it.

I am not a counselor and have no knowledge of the course women should take when being abused. What I do know is that the Bible was never intended to be a hammer over women’s heads.

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Book Review “Once an Insider”

In one of my books, I declared that if I were a Calvinist, I would be out fishing instead of working for Christians to get their act together and allow women the full equality God gave them. So I was intrigued when I received an email from an author asking me to review her book, Once an Insider, Now Without a Church Home.

She described the book as “One couple’s faith crisis due to the infiltration and spread of authoritarianism, Calvinism, complementarianism, and covenants in the American Evangelical Church.”

Amanda Farmer writes about her experience when her church in Minnesota began to change its original mission and vision to embrace Calvinism, and the pastor’s supreme authority over a congregation, which led to teaching that women were to be in submission to male leadership in the church.  Where women once had a voice in the direction of the church, they no longer did.

Amanda and her husband Gordon were both very involved in their respective faiths. Amanda was a Mennonite and Gordon was Lutheran when they met and married. They decided to find a different faith they could both feel comfortable in and devote their lives to by serving in all phases of a church life. The church started out small and these two were involved in all the ministries such as being on the Elder Board and the Administrative Council. Amanda was the church Treasurer for most of those years and Gordon served on the Elder Board. Gordon used his skills each year to design and make various Vacation Bible School props, even making a roller coaster one year. They loved their church pastor, the church family and their part in the church ministries.

For over 25 years of faithful church service, and with the service of several pastors, they served faithfully. That began to change when one of their pastors began to lead the church toward Calvinism. As is expected, most of the congregation had no idea what the change was all about and did not see it coming, but Amanda did, and began writing the Board and the pastor asking for clarification in what was being taught.

The book chronicles Amanda and Gordon’s service and what brought about their dissatisfaction and uneasiness in the theology change they saw taking place. In their minds (and I will admit, in my own mind) this church was going backward to a time of John Calvin and the cultural mores of the day, to a time when women were not respected or valued for their leadership or voice. Instead of moving forward they became cult-like in their restrictive covenants and methods.

I recommend this book. Amanda is honest in telling her story. She made mistakes in what she said and did, but she knew in her heart that something was wrong. I admire her and her tenacity.

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Read Matt 23 before saying anything

Einstein may have said it first and we have latched on to it: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” That is what came to mind this week as I read an article in the Baptist Standard.

They asked the same questions they always ask 1) What are the key issues – opportunities and/or challenges- facing Baptist churches?; 2) What are the key issues facing Baptists as a people or denomination?; 3) What would you change about the Baptist denomination – state, nation or local?

Fair questions and the answers are standard. Don’t rock the boat. Keep doing the same thing over and over again, and expect different results.

I would suggest that every Baptist who is asked these questions read Matthew 23 before answering. This chapter is probably the least preached chapter in the New Testament, in my experience of listening to sermons for 57 years.

Start at the beginning and pay particular attention to verse 23 and 24:

23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! (NRSV)

Digest that and finish the chapter with verses 37-38:

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you, desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Now go back to questions 1,2, and 3. How are you going to answer them? Declining churches, growth of non-denominational megachurches, a new generation of “nones” all demand something different than a generic stock answer.

Think carefully about your response as you remember what Jesus said in verse 30 “and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 

Then look at verse 34 and see that you are doing the same thing: “Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town…”

God is sending women – yes, women! – to preach, to pastor, to serve as deacons, yet you turn them away. You accept them into your seminaries and then you kill their spirit because you have led the congregation to believe that women cannot serve a church as a deacon, much less as a pastor!

You really want to answer these questions about Baptists! Read Matthew 23.

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Women are not prey

Women are not prey. Or, are they? Women seem to have a built-in fear response as if we were likely to be somebody’s dinner. Every time I get on an elevator, I am hoping that I will not be there alone with a male. I walk with my keys in my hand to my car. I am constantly looking around me to see if there is anyone nearby.

I don’t live in fear of men as these responses are normal to women. Just as normal as breathing and taking care of children. We look out for our children and for ourselves.

Because we may be prey.

If we let our guards down, we may get hurt. We may be pinned upon a bed with a strong male laughing and having fun at our expense. The fear will never leave us, but that same fear was never in the male who was just being who he is.

John Piper said “But this deeper meaning of manhood does not lose its significance when he walks out of the door of his home. Men, as men, everywhere, all the time, bear a burden, under God, to care for the well-being of women, which is not identical to the care women owe men.”

Piper makes this claim using Ephesians 5:25-30. “Modeling the peculiar summons to the man in marriage, Christ dies for his bride to save her, beautify her, nourish her, and cherish her.”

A claim that equates males with Christ, which Piper and his followers do.

So, if we as women have this God-given built-in fear of being prey, of protecting ourselves and protecting our children, how can we then look to males as being our protectors?

I am not sure what kind of care that Piper thinks women owe men (probably cooking and cleaning). What I do know is that in general women outlive men and are often left alone to take care of themselves. And we do this with the built-in God-given fear of being prey.

As usual, the secular world has led the way for social change. Many evangelicals are willing to blame the woman as we are taught to do because she is the instigator of sexual misbehavior. But these same women hold their keys in their hands when they go to their car, they watch out to see who is getting on the elevator with them.

We have to look back at history to see what made the great change. It is my hope that women have finally risen up and spoken up and declared “We are not prey. But we will never let our guard down, because the lamb cannot yet lie down with the lion.”

It is time. It is time to stand up. Speak up. 

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Teaching human precepts as doctrine

Sitting in church last week, I heard the words “teaching human precepts as doctrine” and immediately my mind went to “graciously submit to their husbands” as is written in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”  He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me;
 in vain do they worship me,
    teaching human precepts as doctrines.’

 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” Mark 7:1-8 NRSV

I don’t live in the First Century. I am a 21st Century woman. I live in the here and now. I wear modern clothes, I drive a car, I work outside the home, I think like an educated person and see a much larger world than my First Century Jewish/Christian predecessors.

Nowhere did Jesus tell women they must submit graciously to their husbands, and in effect, submit to all males, which is also defined in the BF&M 2000 when they limit women leadership roles such as pastor.

We are holding on to human traditions. We are making those human traditions doctrine.

  • We are ignoring Jesus when he gave the message to Mary of Bethany when he told her to sit at his feet and learn from the Master the same way the other disciples were doing.
  • We are ignoring Jesus when he gave the message to the Samaritan woman at the well when he told her – before he told any Samaritan man – that he was the Messiah they were expecting to come.
  • We are ignoring Jesus when he gave the message to the Gentile woman when he told her that the Messiah had come to her people, just as he had come to the Jews.
  • We are ignoring Jesus when he gave the message to Mary at the tomb that he had risen and to go and tell the men the good news.

We are holding on to human traditions. We have made those human traditions doctrine, and have posted those human traditions and teach them in our churches. We have chosen to live in the First Century when it comes to males and females.

What kind of world do you want for your sons and daughters? Do you want your sons to be rulers over women? Do you want your daughters to be in constant submission to all men all the time? More than likely, that is what your church is teaching. That is what you giving your money to, and that is the message you are spreading across the world through international missions.

If you are willing to go back to Jesus and look at his message of freedom, stand up and say so. The time is right. The time is now.

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“If I could have a beer with Jesus”

A popular song is “If I could have a beer with Jesus” by Thomas Rhett. If I could have a beer with Jesus, my lyrics would be totally different.

I’d ask him why there is a tear in his eye
I’d ask him why women have been pushed aside.

If I could have a beer with Jesus,
I would ask him why men teach they are the only ones who can preach. 

If I could have a beer with Jesus,
It would not be all about me.”

Rhett thanks Jesus for saving him and asks Jesus about his family that has gone on, and wonders what heaven is like, and ends with thanking Jesus for saving him.

We all think about those things, but those are not the most important things to ask if you are sitting down with Jesus for a few precious minutes.

If you have a few minutes to drink a beer and talk with Jesus, don’t be selfish about it. Sure, there are things you want to know, and I would have a thousand questions, too.  But spend those few minutes over a beer asking how you could make the world a better place to live, how you could show love for all your neighbors, how you could acknowledge that men and women are created equally, and how you could help bring about equality.

Sit down, son. Have a beer with Jesus. By the way, why do you think Jesus wants beer? Because you do? Order him a glass of wine.

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When there is no voice raised in protest, it is assumed no one protests.

The report released this week about the six dioceses in Pennsylvania that covered up the fact that 300 priests abused over 1,000 children in my lifetime is shocking. There was no immediate response by Pope Francis whom we generally think is for the people.

More shocking than that is that few Roman Catholics will write their priests, bishops, or the Pope to make their concerns known. How do I know they won’t? Because I know that Christians will not stand up for what we see is wrong when the church does it.

  • Christians did not stand up when women were burned at the stake.
  • Christians did not stand up and demand an end to slavery.
  • Christians did not stand up to give women the right for full citizenship by allowing women to vote and run for elected office.
  • Christians did not stand up and demand that women be included in juries.
  • Christians did not stand up when churches began teaching that women must obey their husbands.
  • Christians did not stand up when women were abused in churches.

Of course Catholics knew about these abuses. When I was 18 years old in 1961 and moved from the country to the city, I met Catholics for the first time. For the first time, I heard that priests had “nephews.” Everybody knew it, but nobody stood up.

The secular world brought these things to our attention. The secular world said “times up!” The secular world voted for women’s equality.

The church still will not give women or children equality. They will continue to give men the power over women and children.

Until we stand up.

When there is no voice raised in protest, it is assumed no one protests.

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Stirring the anthill, now what?

Growing up in the country I learned that you do not stir the anthill. The ants minded their own business but when they were stirred, they scattered and went everywhere. The #metoo and #churchtoo has stuck a stick in the anthill.

An official in the 2,100-church South Carolina Baptist Convention has stepped down for unspecified reasons, adding to a number of men quietly leaving Southern Baptist jobs in recent weeks. (click to read)

The article in Baptist News goes on to list several men who have quietly left their jobs recently amid the recent focus on sexual misbehavior in churches. The sexual problems are not new, but the focus on those situations is new.

It is new enough that a survey company called our church asking a multitude of questions regarding how the church handles such a thing and if it has ever happened there and also wanted to know how the church handles abuse in the family. In the 12 years I have worked there, this is the first time we have received such a call. Which indicates to me that the anthill has been stirred.

Now what? Will church members finally get enough gumption to stand up to their pastors, to their denominations, and demand real accountability from these leaders?

Apparently not. The “For such a time as this” rally was not for women pastors or for women deacons. That was left off the table. So the people inside the building praising God and themselves, felt safe and secure.

Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded, “We established that every professor in our School of Theology must be qualified to serve as pastor of a Southern Baptist church.” Therefore, every faculty position in the School of Theology is “going to be held by a man. And we say that without apology.”

Chuck Kelly, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “we are committed to the complementarian model of leadership as taught in Scripture.” Therefore, there are roles at the seminary for which a woman is not eligible by virtue of her gender, he said.

David Platt of the International Mission Board wants more missionaries, “With 2.8 billion in the world who have yet to hear the gospel and a room of 10,000 people who have the gospel, God may be calling out more than just these 79,” Platt said.

Neither the Southern Baptist Convention nor the International Mission Board wants women to be the ones who will preach that gospel.

If I had one question to ask SBC pastors, it would be: How does it feel to know that “by virtue of your gender,” you are not denied anything?”

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