What the church needs is Jesus

What if when Jesus returns, there is nobody to meet him in the air?

What the church needs is Jesus. Jesus was a Jew who came to change Judaism. Today Jesus is needed to change Christianity.

Churches are emptying out all across America. It is estimated that in only 35 years, church attendance will be at 11.7%. Right now it is thought that small churches are emptying out as their members decide to ‘upgrade’ to a larger church, which gives the appearance of growth in mega churches, but is actually just a relocation of people.

In a few years the small churches will be emptied, pinching the bloodstream that flows into these mega churches. Then the mega churches will become the empty shells that we see all across America today, the ones that used to be thriving churches.

David Olson, the Director of Church Planting for the Evangelical Covenant Church, wrote about churches in crises in his book, The American Church in Crisis: groundbreaking research based on a national database of over 200,000 churches. According to reviews I have read of his book he believes that planting new healthy churches is the solution.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, and known for his church planting expertise, says in a study that he did in 2009, that 4,000 churches were planted and 3,500 churches closed. Stetzer is also committed to new churches being planted.

I, too, have a heart for new church starts.  The burden for new churches entered my heart three years before I began working for Baptist General Convention of Texas in the Church Starting Center.  For almost 15 years, I read thousands of new pastors’ monthly reports and prepared requests for millions of dollars for those new churches.  It is doubtful that most of those churches still exist, and in the association where I live, many of them are still classified as mission churches.

Texas has 25,150,000 people and ranks 11th in church attendance. According to Pew Forum, 78.4% of adult Americans identify themselves as being Christian. Other religions account for 4.7% while 16.1% claim no religion at all. Yet, 61% of those identifying themselves as Christian do not attend church.

Let’s look at Texas. In Texas, the five largest Southern Baptist churches endorse (by actions or statements) the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. These five churches account for 86,000 people in church attendance each week in their 21 campuses in Texas (plus overseas). These locations reflect the sameness of their parent church and have the same pastor.  In their mission churches abroad, they carry this same message of male headship and anti-science. Since 73% of Southern Baptist pastors do not believe in evolution, it is likely that these churches are also anti-science. From their websites we can see that they allow women to teach kids and other women, but will not allow women to be a minister or pastor to men. That is exactly what we would expect from an SBC church.  Two of these churches are affiliated with Texas Baptists, but that has not changed their stance on women being subordinate to men.

Pastors and church leaders see the empty pews. Books and blogs are written about the declining church.  They start new worship services, they begin community projects, and they change their worship style in order to bring people in, or to keep them from going out the back door. They plant new churches, or expand their campuses. The problem with new church plants is that they are coming from the seed that has failed.

David Platt, newly elected president of the Southern Baptist International Missions Board, wrote a book about Jesus that he called Radical. He contends that the church is missing the radical Jesus. Platt says that Christians have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. But the Jesus that David Platt offers is not the whole Jesus of the Bible.  Platt believes and teaches male headship. The radical Jesus, the one we need back in church, does not fit Platt’s model.

However, David Platt is right about one thing. We have manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences. We prefer women to live in the culture of the First Century while men move along in this 21st Century. We embrace science and technology when it suits us, all the while denying the revelation that God created the universe and earth and man in His own way, and in His own time, which fits the description of evolution. We seemingly prefer to believe that God is lying to us in these revelations, and we have land-locked God.

As a result of our manipulation of the gospel, Christians are now at a place where people do not want to go to church. Church is irrelevant in their lives. Caley Nieuwhof said in January 2014, “We will see great moves of God, but they will not primarily be based on calling people back to what they have left, but instead be based on calling people into something they have never experienced.”

Marv Knox, editor and publisher of CommonCall and the Baptist Standard, said, “These days, Christians often lament the widening gap between church and culture. We contrast burgeoning population growth with plateaued and declining churches and denominations. We juxtapose secular philosophies and other religions with Christian doctrine. From podiums and pulpits, our leaders challenge us to double down on doctrine and argue unbelievers into God’s kingdom.” (CommonCall “Community.” Fall 2014)

Knox goes on to say that “Doctrine matters, but doctrine never will fill the “God-shaped hole” in so many hearts.”  He suggests that when the Christian community is “open and outward-facing, unconditionally loving and sacrificial, others will long to experience relationship with God, which we experience in Christ.”

But churches are not listening to the heart of the people. It is no wonder then, that in the book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, authors Thom and Joani Schultz say that the church is viewed as being hypocritical, judgmental, and irrelevant.

We have lost Jesus in the process of defining our doctrines and writing our statements of faith. This is catching up with us now. Prior to 1964, women had few legal rights and less education than men. Today more women than men are in college, and women make up one-third of all seminary students. We find ourselves with women educated, secularly and theologically. So Monday through Saturday, women are equal. How long do you think it will be before the majority of women decide that they are also equal on Sunday? Perhaps they already are, because churches are emptying out. It is women who teach children, and it is women who carry the kids to church.  When only 11.7% of the population goes to church, it will be because women have finally had enough. As it stands now, 10% more women go to church than men do. Yet is the men that we cater to, by telling them that it is biblical that they are the heads of women.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (2:12-13), he welcomed the new Gentile Christians into the faith, “Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.” Those words are still critical today. We, too, should be welcoming new converts. However, church membership is declining.

Pastors must speak out for women’s equality in the church because of the great falling away from the gospel that has already begun in their churches. When asked to identify with a religious belief system, more and more people are checking the box that says “none.” Thus a new name, “Nones,” has been created. That is a sad indictment against churches.

Remember, Paul began his letter to the Ephesians with Christ’s love for his people. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, in chapter 3 verses 26-29, also expresses Christ’s love for his church. He wrote, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

While churches are busy with building programs or are wrapped up in self-preservation mode, the people who they hoped to connect with have already left. Pastors scratch their heads and wonder what is happening, and then they purchase greater pyrotechnics.

With the focus on getting men to come into the door, the church has lost focus on the women who are walking out the door and taking the kids with them. The “Nones,” who profess no Christian affiliation, say they still pray to God and God is important in their lives, but these parents will not necessarily teach their children to pray, and the next generation will not be supporting the mega churches that demand female submission. They will be absent in both city and country churches that are still pushing legalistic laws against women. A church is hypocritical when it binds its women while the men go free, and this hypocrisy is not lost to the younger generation.

At a time of great enlightment and technological advances, we have held on to a restrictive and unloving culture against women, along with a narrow-minded view of God. We cannot sing “How Great Thou Art” and then deny God’s revelations in the earth through science. We cannot sing “Here I am Lord” unless we are willing to send women – not across the foreign seas – but to the church house next door to preach and to pastor.

It is not just SBC churches and other fundamentals that are declining.

It is not just SBC churches and other fundamentals that are declining. All denominations and non-denominational churches are declining, and will continue downhill to get to the 11.7% in 2050 of people who are still attending church. Many of these churches in decline already embrace women fully (or they say they do) and many tell their members that God and science can co-exist.

However, these churches are also chasing their tails trying to figure out how to keep their members and draw the younger generation into a worship relationship with God.

They have the answers, but they don’t know what to do with it. They are succumbing to wringing their hands because the big boys – Roman Catholics and Southern Baptists – can’t seem to stop the decline, causing them to think they can’t either. The truth is that they can’t stop the decline as long as they shy away from what makes them different in the first place from Catholics and Baptists.

I want to close this by recounting the story found in Acts 3, 4:1-18 when the church was just getting started.

It was destined to be an extraordinary day at the temple. Peter had just healed an adult man who was crippled from the time he was a child. And now he and John were telling people about Jesus and his resurrection. The people assembled there were listening because of what they had seen.

Guards always get suspicious when a group of people are intently listening to one person speak, so they slipped closer to hear what was being said, and then reported back to their captain. As you can guess, the captain of the guards did not like what they were saying so he came over to have a little chat with them. They not only chatted, but the guard took them and put them in prison overnight.

“By what power are you doing these things?” they asked Peter and John the next day.

Peter looked them in the eye and said that it was by the power of Jesus Christ, who they had killed, but who had resurrected and now they were able to do this good deed in his name, (based on Acts 3, 4:1-18).

Uh, oh.

If these unschooled and untrained men were able to do this, then what else could they do? After all, these men had been with Jesus.

So they talked, and they talked some more, and came up with the only thing they could think of: “in order that it may not be spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any man in this name.”

Peter and John said: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge.”

Like Peter and John, we women cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.

Women are powered by the same Source. Like Peter we, too, have walked with Jesus. Peter and John couldn’t quit telling about Jesus. They were told to stop, but they couldn’t because they were just getting started. We, who believe in equality, can’t quit now as the battle is not yet won for women’s equality. We, too, have been with Jesus. Saved by the blood of the lamb and a witness to what he has done through his Word, and to how he has spoken to us.

Jesus is our standard, and since Jesus did not commit women to husbands, or to males, and because Jesus did not deny women anything based on their being women, then we cannot in good stewardship of the gospel, do so either.

What the church needs is Jesus.

Shirley Taylor – Street evangelist for women’s equality. www.bwebaptist.com



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Speech at El Buen Pastor Baptist Church

On February 6, 2015, I spoke at El Buen Pastor Baptist Church in Katy, Texas, at the invitation of the pastor’s wife. This is a church that I knew from my days at Baptist General Convention of Texas in the Church Starting Center, when it had its beginning. The church now has a Sunday morning attendance of around 300. Both men and women were in attendance.

Following is my speech to this group. 

Thank you all so much for inviting me to speak with you. I am happy to be here. You have chosen the right thing to come out tonight.

My name is Shirley Taylor and I call myself the street evangelist for women’s equality.

Last week I went to an office to do business.  I had been there before.  I had talked about women’s equality with Pam, the manager.  So last week I was back and we talked about women’s equality.  I gave her my card which says “Shirley Taylor, street evangelist for women’s equality.” She said, “You need to meet my cousin. She has a Street Evangelist ministry in Houston where she feeds the homeless.”

I leaned over to her and put my hands on her hands and looked into her face. I said, “My ministry is not to the homeless, it is to people like you. In offices, at the grocery story, the library, while buying a blouse at J C Penneys.” I told her that God has called people to minister to the homeless, but that I am not one of those people.

Many years ago my son went off to a Baptist College. He called home one day and said that he wanted to be a minister to the elderly. He asked me to call the pastor of our little church to see how he could become a minister. I called our pastor and he said that he would take it to the deacons and get him licensed. With that one phone call, my son was licensed to preach.

What if it had been a daughter who wanted to be a minister?
What if it is your daughter who is called to be a minister?

 (Mary of Bethany)

In Luke chapter 10 we read the story of Mary and Martha of Bethany. Jesus and his disciples arrived and Martha was busy in the kitchen. She looked around for Mary. She should be setting the table, and putting the ice in the glasses, but she was nowhere in sight.

Martha knew that Mary was in the living room listening to Jesus. Martha bunched up her apron in her hands and stormed in to tell Jesus to send Mary back to the kitchen to help her. What was Jesus going to do? Was he going to send Mary to the kitchen?

Both Mary and Martha knew that Jewish women did not study the Scriptures. In fact, the common knowledge of their day said, “Let the words of the Law be burned rather than committed to women.” And even something more outrageous than that: “If a man teaches his daughter the Law, it is as though he taught her about sex.”

Listen to what Jesus said back to Martha.  Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, slow down. Mary has chosen what is better.” All the men sitting there heard that.  And Jesus says those same words to you and me today. With those words, Jesus not only allowed Mary to learn the Scripture, he was welcoming her into the presence and equality with those men.

You are mothers, and daughters, and many of you have been told what you cannot do. I am here to tell you what you can do. I am here to tell you that you are equal – no buts. You are equal before the Lord, and you are equal in your own home.

There are those who want you to believe that you cannot have any authority over a man. They tell you that you can’t teach men or preach. They tell you that you must obey your husband. They tell you he was designed by God to be your leader.

For some reason, women have listened to those things.  Even though Jesus never said such a thing. Jesus never told any woman that. I choose to listen to Jesus. The last thing these women needed was another law on marriage and housekeeping.  They had enough things they couldn’t do without Jesus putting one more burden on them.

There is a church in Conroe that posts on its website the roles of husbands and the roles of wives. He is to love her, listen to her and to inspire her. Pure romantic poetry!

You know what she is supposed to do?  KEEP HOUSE! That is what she is supposed to do. I wonder if he is inspiring her while the vacuum cleaner is running? Or while she has her head bent down cleaning up the floor around the toilet.

When Don and I got married 53 years ago, we never heard such nonsense as men’s roles and women’s roles. My father helped my mother cook. Canned jams and jellies and tomatoes for the winter. He helped her wash clothes in the big black washpot.  My mother helped him in the fields, picked cotton, and raised 8 kids.

They both worked hard. I thought all families were like that. I soon discovered that my husband did not know how to cookDuring the past 53 years I have learned that is much more than household chores that make a marriage.

A woman wrote to me. We wrote back and forth a few times, each time she quoted more scriptures at me. Finally, she said, “One last reply and I do not care to hear from you again.” (I love hearing from women who get mad at me!)

She said, “I am a woman – a very equal woman within my church and my home. My husband is the head of my home and I have no trouble submitting to his authority as he submits to Christ. I am loved! I am honored! I am respected!”

I wrote back to her and said, “Honey, as long as you stay in your pen, you will be respected. Get out, and the dogs start barking!”

I want you to get out of your pens! I want to hear the dogs barking! I want you to be free in Christ, in your church, and in your home.

 (Gentile Woman)

Let me tell you another story about Jesus.

Jesus, for reasons unknown, decides to take off one day and go visit a Gentile village. Gentiles were called impure and unclean. When he gets there, a woman comes to him and asks him to heal her daughter. We don’t know how old the daughter is. We don’t know if this mother is married, or is widow, or what.

What we do know is that she saw an opportunity and she took it.

Her daughter was sick. You are mothers. You know what it is like to have a sick child and no medicine. But she had heard of the Jewish Messiah who could heal her daughter.  She marched right up there to Jesus even though neither Jewish nor Gentile men would normally speak to women in public. At first Jesus said no. He said that he had been sent to the people of Israel. She pestered him. The disciples wanted to send her away, but Jesus wasn’t ready to do that. He said something about giving the food to the dogs, and she told him that the dogs got to eat the same food that the people sitting at the table ate. She said there was more than enough food for Israel. She could be given some and nobody would miss it.

Jesus healed her daughter. Those who know the Bible better than I do agree that this means that Gentiles will no longer be separated from Israel. Jesus healed other Gentiles, but Bible commentaries do not give that the same significance to those encounters.

There is a common theme whenever women talk with Jesus. They argue! They talk back! They ask questions. But most importantly, they don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

A friend told me that one Sunday in his church, a little 11-year old girl asked her mother if she could hand out the registration books in church. Only young boys in that church were allowed to pass out registration books. So her mother told her she could not do that. She asked her mother why and the mother told her they would talk about it when they got home.

Somebody show me where it says in the Bible that girls can’t hand out registration books! We start limiting women when they are still little girls.

This has got to stop. It is not what Jesus intended. It wasn’t the daughter who asked for healing.  It was her mother who asked for healing for her daughter.

That is what I want you to do. I want you to stand up and speak up! I want you to not give up. Don’t take ‘no’ for answer. There is a healing that needs to take place for yourselves, and your daughters, your daughters-in-law, your sisters.  You are equal! No buts!

 (The Woman at the well)

Let’s add another woman. The Woman at the well. Jesus gave her the same kind of news that he gave the Gentile woman. She was a Samaritan.  Samaritans were poor Jewish cousins so to speak. Samaritans thought theirs was the true Jewish religion. They were expecting the Messiah, too. Jesus told this woman that he was the Messiah.

Jesus did not tell men this. He could have waited until he found a group of men to this extraordinary news to. This is big stuff! Particularly in a day where a woman could not even testify in court.  This is incredibly important because these women’s words are now testimonies to the whole world.

You know what happens when you tell women anything! She tells everybody. Jesus knew women were like that. Sure enough, she throws down her water jar, and takes off running down the street.  She spreads the news that she had met  the Messiah. She tells men. Decent women in town wouldn’t have followed this woman. It was men she told, and it was men who believed her story, and it was men who went back to see this Messiah.

When the disciples got back to the well with food, Jesus wouldn’t eat. He said that he was not hungry. Jesus said that his body and soul were ‘filled’ because he was doing his Father’s business. There is no other story of Jesus being so touched and moved by anything else.

She, too, had chosen the ‘right thing.’

 (Mary at the Tomb)

Finally, we come to the woman who is mentioned each year at Easter, and then put away until the next year. We hear her voice “He is risen!” and we repeat back “He is risen, indeed!”

One time my pastor preached on the plan of salvation and he made this remarkable statement: “There was only one plan, and after Jesus was crucified, it was up to the disciples to tell everybody about his resurrection.”

Well, not exactly, preacher. Jesus had another plan up his sleeve. “Tell a woman!”

You know, if I were a man, I would be ticked off. Women got all the good news!

  1. Women could be taught the scripture
  2. Jesus was the Messiah for Gentiles
  3. Jesus was the Messiah the Samaritans were expecting
  4. Jesus had risen from the dead.

They got the Big story.  But men had a way of getting even. Shhhhhhh! They put a clamp on women’s mouths.

 (The Advocate – The Holy Spirit)

Mary at the tomb completes the picture of Jesus and women. But the story doesn’t end there. This is where you come in. This is how I can assure you that Women are equal – No Buts.

Jesus promised an Advocate, the Holy Spirit. He told them to wait for the Holy Spirit.

Women, Jesus did not promise you a husband to lead you! He promised the Holy Spirit to lead you and advise you. Listen to what Jesus said.

John 14:16

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.

Ladies, that Advocate is not your husband. It is the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t mention husbands, and why would he? Nowhere does Jesus tell women that they are to be ruled or lead by their husbands. In fact, these 4 women had no husbands leading them.

“Jesus is our standard, and since Jesus did not commit women to husbands, or to males, and because Jesus did not deny women anything based on their being women, then we cannot in good stewardship of the gospel, do so either.”

Women are Equal – No Buts: We have been powered by the same Source.

Thank you.

Shirley making speech Feb 6 2015

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Mothers Speaking Up for Daughters

Of the various stories told of Jesus’ encounters with women – Mary of Bethany, the woman at the well, Mary at the tomb – my favorite is the story of the Gentile woman. I can identify with her. I am not a Jewish woman and this Gentile woman speaks for me.

You know the story. Jesus, for reasons unknown, decides to take off one day and go visit a Gentile village.  When he gets there, he meets a woman who pleads with him to heal her daughter. We don’t know the age of the daughter, nor what her particular ailment was. We don’t know if this mother is married, or a widow, or if she was ever married.

What we do know is that she saw an opportunity and she took it.

She wanted something for her daughter and she had heard that this man could make it happen. Jewish men, or Gentile men either, for that matter, did not speak to women in public. But here was this mother getting right up and personal with Jesus and pleading for her daughter.

At first he said no. He said that he had been sent to the people of Israel. She reasoned with him. He said something about giving the food to the dogs (Gentiles had been called dogs), and she told him that the dogs got to eat the same food that the people sitting at the table ate. It was crumbs, but it was the same food they put into their mouths.

There is a common theme seen whenever women talk with Jesus. They argue! They talk back! They ask questions. But most importantly, they don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

That is what I want you to do. I want you to stand up and speak up! I want you to not give up. Don’t take ‘no’ for answer.

Over at Equality Junction, we have listed under the tab “Actions” a section devoted to Mothers Speaking Up for Daughters. Will you join in and speak up for daughters?

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A license to hate

I wonder how many stories have been started this week about the terror attacks in Paris, and then deleted before they were ever finished because they may have offended someone? I have done that. I have been very careful of what I say.

But what I am not going to delete is this: Christians have a message to tell the world, and it is time that we do it. Over 800 years ago, Christians decided to force Christianity upon people by the sword. Then we tried hellfire and damnation. None of those worked. Somewhere along the line Jesus was lost, and it is up to this generation to find Him.

We have just come through the Christmas season and we have sung songs about the declaration of the angels: Peace on earth! Goodwill to men. Go Tell it on the Mountain, that Jesus Christ was born.

Every day I speak against injustice toward women. And I am here to tell you that at the root of all these religious attacks are how women are viewed. When a nation and a people and a religion can hate over one-half of the world, that hate extends to anybody else they choose. It gives license. That license to discriminate against women is found in churches, in mosques, in temples, and on the street. Christians need to examine their hearts and accept complete equality for women in churches and in their own homes. The concept of male headship, which is also seen in putting burqas and scarves on women, has no place in Christianity.

If American churches would lead the way, change would happen. As it is, the majority of religions in the United States today will not allow women full equality. Until we do, we give license. We cannot say that we are different, until we resolve our feelings about male headship, in light of the actions and teachings of Christ.

The reality is that most Christians cannot condemn this teaching against women because, they, too, believe it and teach it. However, they are still leaving Jesus out of Christianity. Jesus is our standard, and since Jesus did not commit women to husbands, or to males, and because Jesus did not deny women anything based on their being women, then we cannot in good stewardship of the gospel, do so either.

When we are willing to withhold the complete God from women (which we do when we deny that women can serve God in every capacity), that is hate. It is also obstructing the message of Christ.

Will you speak up for women? Will you determine that people will know that we are different?

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Equality events to watch for in 2015

I am excited to announce that January 15, 2015 will be the beginning of a new venture between Jocelyn Andersen and me. On that date we will reveal Equality Junction, where ideas and people meet to discuss women’s equality.

Our discussion forum is up and running now. We have begun Christian Women Today open group facebook page. We welcome you to join our facebook page and commenting on the forum.

We will be listing egalitarian resources.  If you have an egalitarian book you would recommend, please let us know so we can add it to our site. We do not sell books, all we do is point readers to resources. Knowing that there are few websites and almost no Christian bookstores where egalitarian books can be found all in one place, we hope to make titles and authors visible to those who are looking for resources.

Let your friends know. Send us an email at equalityjunction@gmail.com. We want to be your source.

This past month, I

  1. Sent three letters to leaders. Did not hear back from them, but that does not stop my efforts.
  2. gave away many of my books to those I talk with about women’s equality.
  3. spoke at the Northern Colorado Christians for Biblical Equality Chapter meeting via Skype.
  4. worked on Equality Junction website with articles and books, etc.
  5. wrote a Bible Study for Gender Equality called Reclaiming Equality: A 5-week plan for reclaiming our newbirth right. This Bible study will be available free on Equality Junction.

I want to thank all my readers for reading my blog, and also thank you who have just come across this. I work every day without fail for women’s equality. Together we are all building the net.

Calling myself ‘the street evangelist for women’s equality,’ I am speaking up. Will you join me?

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The Christmas Gift

Thirty years is a long time to wait to see what your Christmas Gift will actually do. Two thousand years ago, the Christmas Gift came with no instructions but with lots of promise. Kings journeyed far in order to see for themselves this Gift, and to bring gifts of their own in honor of this birth.

The people wanted a mortal savior, but their hero arrived as a baby and with his own life in danger. What could he do to help them against their enemy? They expected their savior to be a man among men and they would rally behind him. They wanted another David with a bag of stones.

Jesus did not have a bag of stones.

Suppose one of you has a friend who comes at night when the house has been closed and the doors have been locked, and everybody is sound asleep. He knocks on the door. He tells you that someone has just arrived at his house from a long journey and he needs some bread to feed them. Will you tell him that it is late at night and that the kids are in bed sound asleep, and to quit knocking at your door because he will wake up the whole household?

No, he gets up to stop the racket of the knocking, not because it is his friend at the door, but because he wants the knocking to stop.

The Christmas Gift says “I am not that way. Just ask and it will be given, seek, and you will find it, knock and it will be opened. What man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone?”

“Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them; for this is the Law and the Prophets” (paraphrased Luke 11:5-10 & Matt 7:5-12)

Father, we have traveled far and we are knocking at your door. We have been at the church house, but the doors are closed, and the people are inside sound asleep. We are your children and we are asking for a loaf. We have had the stones. We’ve been turned away by men for centuries, and now we are standing at Your door. Hungry for the bread and for a place at your table.

Hear our knock, our Father.

Will you join us in praying to the Christmas Gift for the whole loaf?

(reposted from the past two Christmases)

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The real meaning of Christmas

Years ago I was watching television while wrapping Christmas gifts. There was a television show about the ‘true meaning of Christmas.’ They promoted the popular idea of giving gifts because the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus. I knew they were wrong, but truthfully, I did not know the true meaning of Christmas.

It would be many years before I learned the true meaning of Christmas, and it would happen at the last place you would expect to learn about Christ. I learned the true meaning of Christmas after attending a mosque.

The Missions Division of the Baptist General Convention of Texas took us on a trip to a mosque in Richardson, Texas, near Dallas. The imam met us, asked us to remove our shoes, and then he showed us the shelf where we were to place our shoes. We were led past the wash room where Muslim men wash their hands, elbows, feet, face and nostrils before going into the main worship room.

We women had the option of wearing a headscarf and I did like the rest. We sat on the floor while the imam told us about their worship. He pointed to the upper room where he said the women chose to worship. He said they could worship with the men, but they chose to climb the stairs and privately worship there. The women also had to perform ritual washing of their body parts, separately from the men, of course.

The main worship area was a long rectangular room. The imam pointed out that the room was long so that it made the front row longer and, therefore, more men could be on the front row. He said they all wanted to be on the front row because it showed their devotion to Allah. He made his arms into wings, and he laughed as he showed us how they would nudge the other men out of the way with their elbow, and make their way to the front.

On the wall was the 99 attributes of Allah. My supervisor, who is a Christian Arab, said that none of the attributes said that Allah is love.

After it was over, we thanked the imam and put our shoes back on, we women took off our scarves, and we all climbed onto the bus to go back to our offices. One supervisor who was also a preacher (as they all were) threw his hand up high in the air and said:

“Thank God for Jesus!”

That is when I learned the true meaning of Christmas.

The Jewish people looked for a Messiah like King David. A powerful leader who would take down their enemies, make Jerusalem Jewish again, and who would die a mortal death, as all humans do. The scriptures promised them a savior and they anticipated his arrival.

What they got was not what they expected. Instead of a physical warrior who would defeat the Romans, they got a spiritual warrior who, instead of turning his eyes upon their enemies, turned his eyes upon their relationship to God. In particular, the laws they had expanded to make life miserable, and then the artful and deceitful ways they had of getting around those laws. Read Matthew 23 to see what Jesus had to say about their spiritual condition.

Jesus came to free us from the rigmarole that man had bound God with. All those laws didn’t mean anything (Matthew 23, Amos 5:21-24) because men had found ways to get around them. Jesus told them to love God with all their heart, and to love their fellow man. When love is the motivator, our worship of God, and helping our fellowman, will take on a different meaning. We will feed the hungry, help the poor, heal the sick, treat others as we want to be treated, and give the Good News to everyone.

Instead of being like Jesus, we still desire to make laws for Christians, especially laws about what women can and cannot do, and I wonder if Jesus would have turned his eyes upon us.

The true meaning of Christmas is the freedom that Jesus gave us. No more rigmarole such as the way to wash your hands before eating, and not working on the Sabbath – things that had absolutely no spiritual significance in them. In doing away with these things, Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my load is light.” Matthew 11:30.

Thank God for Jesus!


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