Lent 4. Destination, the Garden

If the first thing you think of when you remember the woman at the well is “the man you are living with now is not your husband,” then you have missed the whole point of Jesus’ visit to this Samaritan woman.

The Danvers Statement Affirmation #9 says: “With half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world.”

No matter what shape the world is in, the writers of The Danvers Statement would never have chosen the woman at the well to be the instrument God used to win lost people to Christ.

But Jesus did.

Everyone knows her story. In fact, hers is one of the longest detailed stories of an event in the New Testament. It was her story. She told it to everyone who would listen. This man she had just met at the well knew that she had had five husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband.

Jesus was not judging her for that. He was offering her something that no man could offer a woman. He was offering her living water—from a well that would never run dry. And he told her that he was the source of this living water.

This was a woman experienced in the ways of men, and she knew this conversation was different from any she had ever had. She was certainly not the one who would be expected to announce the news that prophecy had been fulfilled and that the long-awaited Messiah had finally arrived. No one would even listen to a woman proclaiming this momentous event, would they? But for some reason, Jesus chose her to reveal his true identity.

She took that message and ran with it.

It was Jesus who brought up the subject of living water. He told her that if she drank from the water he gave, she would never be thirsty again.

She wanted that. She said she did not want to keep coming to the well to draw water. She was probably teasing him at that point as she had no idea what he was talking about. Then Jesus did something surprising. He told her to go call her husband, and then to come back.

Aha! Finally Jesus brings male headship into the conversation! “Go, call your husband and come back,” Jesus said.

The woman answered, “I have no husband.”

Was Jesus was surprised at this? Did he ask her to go call her husband just to embarrass her?  No, its significance is greater than her confession that she was not married to the man with whom she was living. She was worthy in her own right, as a woman, to be told directly by him that he was the Messiah. They engaged in a theological discussion. This woman was not learning in silence. And Jesus did not rebuke her for it. She talked back and told him that she could see that he was a prophet. She declared “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

And he did explain—right then and there—to the woman at the well, a woman who did not have a husband to tell her if what she was hearing was right or wrong. She heard, she accepted, she told.

This story of the woman at the well is found in John 4:4-42 and begins by saying, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” It is best translated that “he purposed in his mind” to go through Samaria, because the Jews had found a way, even though it was inconvenient, to avoid Samaria. They thought they were better than these poor cousins, the Samaritans, and for a Jew to deliberately go through Samaria was unusual.

There was something in Samaria that Jesus needed to do in order to complete his earthly work.

With this story of the Woman at the Well, we see how the picture of Jesus is coming together.

  • The Jewish woman, Mary of Bethany, who Jesus permitted to sit at his feet right beside the men, and learn at a time when learning scripture was forbidden to women
  • The Gentile woman to whom Jesus revealed that he was not sent only to Israel, but to all people, which included her
  • The Samaritan woman to whom Jesus revealed that he was the Messiah, who the Samaritans were also expecting, since they claimed theirs was the true religion of the ancient Israelites.

These are pivotal stories because they show that Jesus gives the voice of the gospel to women just as he gives the voice of the gospel to men. These stories also set the stage for the empty tomb where it was women who first encountered the resurrected Jesus and where the full gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus would unfold. So, yes, Jesus purposed in his mind to go through Samaria, because he had something to complete in Samaria.

The completion of this mission was so satisfying to him that he told his disciples, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” The conversation he had with this woman had an effect on Jesus that was profoundly different from his other encounters with men or women. This is the only scripture passage in the Bible where Jesus said that what had just happened was so meaningful to him that he felt that he had been fed. In other words, mission accomplished.

Verse 42 says “…we no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” These men first heard the words of Jesus from a woman, and then they heard the same message from Jesus himself.

Jesus is headed to the garden tomb and the final meeting with a woman who steps into the Christian era with the news “He is risen!”

It is 2016. What will you do? 

(This is a repost of my Lent series in 2016)

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Lent Part 3. Destination, the Garden

There are four women to whom Jesus tells that he is the Messiah, the Canaanite woman being one of them. Most often we hear of her great faith, but when we concentrate on the faith of this woman, we diminish the message Jesus gave her. She was given the news from Jesus himself that he not only came for the Jews, but for the Gentiles also – and that meant her. Her story is found in both Matthew and Mark.

She asked Jesus to heal her daughter, but for some reason, he was not going to do it.  Jesus told her “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” She was a Gentile, and Jesus was telling her that he was sent to save the Jews only. But if that was the case, I wouldn’t be here writing this and you wouldn’t be reading it. So we see that while Jesus said that, it did not tell the whole story. And then by healing her daughter, he is showing her that he is also the Messiah of the Gentiles. That is Big News! We must never forget that this extraordinary news was told to a woman who had no husband nearby, or possibly not at all.

But right now, this woman did not need some idealistic prophecy of what was to happen in the future. Her daughter lay in bed very ill and she needed help now. So she argued with this man Jesus in whom she had placed her hope. ‘Help my daughter! Surely you have enough power within you to give a small portion to us Gentiles.’

 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.”  He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed. (Common English Bible)

This story is very similar to the story of the first miracle when Jesus turned the water into wine. His mother (remember she had first argued with the angel Gabriel when told she was going to have a baby who would be the Messiah?) In the Wedding story Jesus says almost the same thing to his mother as he says to the Canaanite woman.

When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.” Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me? My time hasn’t come yet.” His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did.  The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine. He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. (Common English Bible)

Just as his mother had asked for a special favor “even though the time was not right,” Jesus did as she asked. He does the same with this Gentile woman, showing that his right time had no beginning or ending.

Jesus told women his Good News, and he did not tell any one of those women to go home and ask her husband, brother, or father what he meant. He did not tell any one of these women not to tell the Good News of the Messiah. If he had, we would have never heard these stories. The Gentile woman went home and found her daughter healed. The disciples didn’t see that ending. She told it to whoever would listen.

It is 2016. What stories are you telling about your relationship with Jesus?

This is my post I posted last year for Lent.

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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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