A View From The Coal Face

viewThe often told story in John chapter 8 of an adulterous woman brought before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees is familiar to many of us. In this post I want to focus in on something Jesus said to the woman after those who demanded her stoning had quietly left the scene: “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?” (John 8:10a NKJV).

Jesus knew a little bit about being the focus of accusation. No. He actually knew a lot about it. John tells us the main reason the religious authorities had engineered this situation was in the hope Jesus might say or do something for which they could legally accuse Him of law breaking (Jn. 8:6). Surprisingly, Jesus in His righteousness, and the woman, in her presumed guilt, had something very much in common that day. They were both the subjects of serious accusation. 

Woman’s accusers are not hard to find. Throughout human history those accusing voices have become very familiar to womankind. You may have heard them. They can present themselves in subtle whispered tones or loud shouted proclamations. They make themselves known to us from pulpits, theological volumes, church policy, seminary rules, church gossip and a multitude of other platforms. They can come from total strangers, or from well meaning Christian friends or relatives. They are both historical and contemporary. They may sound something like this: 

“Woman, if you desire to teach men, you are guilty of desiring more than God has ordained for you.”

“Woman, if you do not acknowledge your husband as your spiritual leader, you are guilty of disobeying the Bible.”

“Woman, if you think you have leadership skills that would benefit this church, you are clearly guilty of being rebellious.”

“Woman, if you dare to think you were created for something beyond the role of helpmeet and mother, you are guilty of being prideful and in serious error.”

There are many more accusations that can be added to this ‘guilty woman’ list. But I want to return to Jesus’ question: “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?” Because the truth is, for many Christian women, the accusers are everywhere. The passage of years since Jesus posed that pointed question to the frightened woman before Him has not dimmed either the question or the accusing voices.

Accusation.

It is condemning, crushing accusation that is at the heart of the continuing oppression and subjugation of the female sex within the Christian church. The essence of the accusation is this: “Woman, you are not enough. You are not sanctified enough, trustworthy enough, knowledgeable enough, wise enough,  good enough, and most of all you are not man enough.”

Of course these accusers believe they have scripture squarely behind them and are suitably horrified at the idea they are suggesting women are not equal to men. It’s merely a matter of God’s order they tell us, not a matter of equality. But at the end of the day what they are really saying is “Christ is not enough.” His redemptive work on the Cross was not enough to fully restore woman into the image of God as it did men. His resurrection means something different for females than it does for males. And “in Christ there is no male nor female” does not imply the same level of freedom on gender grounds as it does for class or race.

So we are left with the confronting question: what is lacking in the finished work of Christ that it does not include women to the extent it does men?  Or is Christ’s redemptive work really incomplete for a very sizeable portion of the human race?   I believe that suggestion, however subtly presented, should be rejected by sincere followers of Jesus Christ.

I am not writing as an academic, because I am not one. I do however speak with the authority of a woman who has labored at the coal face.  

I began my Christ journey unquestioningly accepting the traditional teachings I was handed concerning my place as a woman in the home and the Body of Christ. Over more than fifty years of discipleship I have studied, researched both scripture and academic resources, and prayed, and am fully convicted that the Bible teaches nothing that would limit me, a woman, from all that Christ has provided for me to be a fully functioning disciple with no restrictions related to my gender.  I care deeply about the multitudes of women still stifled by the bondage of false teaching and am burdened to advocate for them whenever possible.¹

In obedience to God’s call on me I have travelled nations to teach the word of God, and spiritually hungry men have gladly received it and begged me to return. I have prayed over countless emerging church planters, apostles, prophets, teachers, and pastors, male and female. I have witnessed the Holy Spirit powerfully convict, save, heal and deliver as the Word went forth. I have led teams of disciples to remote international locations and watched them transformed into ministers of God’s grace. 

I have faced loneliness, sickness and dangerous, personally threatening situations for the sake of the gospel. I have done all these things without asking for the approval of anyone but God, and through it all He has faithfully provided for, protected and encouraged me. I bear convincing testimony of His faithfulness.

Yet I have found no functioning place in the Body of Christ in my own town or nation because, apparently, as a woman I need male ‘covering’. Evidently Christ’s covering is inadequate.

Whether I am perceived as just another rebellious woman, or as an experienced elder in the Body of Christ, I have this to say to those condemning voices that continue to echo the same old accusations that women are somehow ‘less than’ : in your quest to keep Christian women in what is to you their ‘rightful’ place, be careful you do not find yourself opposing the very Spirit of God. As a wise man in another place and time once warned: “if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it – lest you even be found to fight against God.”²

As one who has been accused of having ambitions beyond my God ordained female role, I urge you to understand that it is the Spirit of God Himself unfastening the chains that have restricted the functioning of women in Christ’s Body for so very long. We who know well what it is to be set free by the Son can no longer, for the sake of His Body, remain silent in the face of your accusations. Though you may dress them up with a kind smile and pious attitude, they remain accusations.

We do not wish to usurp you. Our preference is to walk beside you, but we will no longer walk behind you. We do not wish to replace you, but we will not stay in the place you have assigned for us.   We acknowledge your authority, but we will no longer be intimidated by its misuse. We welcome your fellowship on a level playing field, but we will not stop playing while you decide whether or not we can join the game. 

No longer are we defined by the trembling, helpless and accused woman thrown at the feet of Christ. We are defined by the dignity of Mary of Magdala, the wisdom of Priscilla, the leadership of Junia and the passion of the countless martyred female disciples who have testified to the resurrection of Christ throughout history and continue to do so even now. 

Finally, thankyou for making us stronger, braver, and more aware of who we are in Christ by means of your resistance. That resistance has honed us, driven us more deeply into the Word of God, and caused us to value our freedom in Christ more than we may have without such determined opposition.

It has impelled us to become the talented and dedicated scholars, fierce spiritual warriors, prophets, pastors, leaders and functioning servants of God we may never have otherwise become.

We intend pressing onward into all our God calls us to be.  We hope you will join us.

 

¹If you seek to study academic research supporting a more egalitarian view of gender in the scriptures there are many resources listed on our Resources Page.   New Life and CBE are especially recommended..

²Acts 5:38-39

 

The Gentle Gale of God

As we enter 2016 there remains no less need or desire for discovering God in new ways. The following post is from the archives of Desert Days at Wellspring of Life; first posted there in May 2011 at the end of my second breast cancer journey and treatment year. May the Lord reveal Himself to us in this new year with fresh awakening and a deepened knowledge of Who He is in the midst of our present and daily sands of time. ~ NancyThe Gentle Gale of God

There’s a commercial that’s been running on television the past six weeks or so. The few times I’ve happened to catch it I’ve thought to myself, “There’s a blog post in there.”

The setting is the desert with sand as far as you can see. In one quick scene there are two four-drawer file cabinets sitting side by side, plunked in the dirt. In another few-seconds scene you catch a glimpse of a big desk with a person seated behind it. They are presumably conducting business in the middle of the swirling dirt stirred up by all the commotion going on around them in this ‘out of office’ experience.

Can you relate to the sense of disorder and confusion this scene evokes? Are you picking grit out of your teeth? Do your eyes ache from squinting through dust-filmed eyeglasses, making clear vision nearly impossible? Does the wind shift at whim and blow choking dust up your nose? If so, there is a reason…

Because some facets of who God is can only be discovered in the desert.

We enjoy His wonderfulness in our mountaintop experiences. We receive His refreshing rest by cool streams. His companionship is precious during our valley passages. But the desert provides a backdrop second to none for a revelation of God in ways we have not known Him before.

The desert daily, if not hourly, reminds us that our dependence is and must be on God. However, we choose how we’ll go through the desert.

Considering that God’s nature is the reverse of this gritty TV commercial, what facets of His character does He want to develop in and through us in the middle of this desert sandstorm?

*God is a not a God of disorder or confusion, but of peace. Obviously, the swirling dust and commotion that has everything in a tizzy is not originating with Him. That leaves three options: it’s from others without, including the enemy; it’s from within; or both. Running an internal ‘wellspring scan’ might be quite revealing. That’s a good place to start before looking outward for reasons behind such disturbance in the atmosphere and one’s circumstances. Sometimes, “I’ve seen the enemy and the enemy is me,” has more validity than we care to admit.

*As for sand-blasted teeth, Christ took it in the teeth more than a few times. Yet He had no need to defend himself. He knew who He was, is, and ever will be. And we are His offspring. To the degree that we struggle with knowing who we are in Christ our counter-measures of defense will be creative and prolific.

*The only one who sees things as they are is God himself. The only way we can view things as they are is if He becomes our vision. Be Thou my Vision is more than just a beloved old hymn. It is a necessity if we’re to closely follow His footsteps in the ever-shifting path through the sand. We must trade in our grimy, pitted eyeglasses of earthly solutions and lean in to Him as He leads, for He alone is mysteriously capable of making a way in the wilderness where map and compass have no bearing.

*The remedy for clogged up nostrils is not smelling salts. No, it’s fragrance of another reviving kind. It is the heady scent of God himself; the perfume of the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys. Cultivating a habit of lingering in His presence cannot help but bathe us in His fragrance, letting others know we have been with Jesus.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of who God is in the desert. It’s merely the tip of the sand dune. But I pray it will give you a starter list to consider that in discovering God in new ways, He enlarges your capacity to ‘do business in the desert’ in a spirit opposite than what is swirling around or inside you.

Whether you labor in a literal office environment, work at home, or toil in the field in any given vocation, there are desert gifts waiting to be unpacked – attributes of God you would not otherwise come to know, embrace, and embody. Where do you start?

Don’t look for the gifts; look for God.

He will come and bring His gifts with Him. Sometimes in ways we may not expect, but He comes and shows Himself as we look for Him.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (I Kings 19:11-12)

Praying for a fresh wind of the Spirit and the gentle gale of God over your heart and mine in 2016,

~ Nancy

Scripture references: I Corinthians 14:33; Matthew 26:62-64a; Acts 17:28; I Corinthians 1:30 & 12:27; Isaiah 43:19; Song of Solomon 2:1; John 12:3; Proverbs 4:23

photo credit: Sandstorm in the Gloaming, Thar Desert via photopin (license)

The Woman Who Touched God

To all our Ishshah’s Story readers and supporters we wish you the very best of everything for Christmas and the coming year.  We look forward to sharing, fellowshipping and hearing from you in 2016.  This last post for 2015 was recently shared at Bread for the Bride and poses the question if Jesus was not offended by the touch of a woman on His body of flesh and blood, why do some continue to teach that He is offended by a woman’s touch on His spiritual Body, the church.

May this post help encourage you, whether you be male or female, to seek to be all your can be in Christ and to help others, regardless of gender, to do likewise.


dollarhandtouchedgod

There came a day when a woman, ritually unclean, dared to approach Jesus, and with trembling hand, reached out and touched His rabbi’s garment¹. Defying all convention, disobeying the Law, risking sudden and violent death, she carried within those tremoring fingers years of hope unrealised, nights of anguished tears, and one last act of final desperation.

She hoped, no doubt, that no-one would notice: that she could just brush those fingers momentarily against the fringe of His robe and slink away, face covered, unknown and undiscovered within the pushing, trampling mass of bodies pressing together to see Him, hear Him, and petition Him.

And so she would have if He had been any ordinary rabbi. But He was not.

Who touched Me?” she heard Him call out as she struggled to make her way back through the crowd. But they, trying to hear what He was about to say, only pushed back harder, enclosing her like a trapped, frightened rabbit in a cage of flesh and human odour. She turned fearfully towards His voice, part of her desperate to hide in anonymity among the swirling mass, another part of her longing to throw herself at His feet begging for forgiveness and mercy.

She had come searching for Him that day in one final attempt to end the misery of her daily life. She had no right to be among this crowd. Indeed, if they knew her condition they would draw back in horror: some may take up stones. She had wondered if that should happen if it could be any worse than returning to this life that was not life that had seemingly become her destiny.

It had been many years since she had felt human touch, even from those closest to her.   Like the lepers confined outside the city gates, her condition had made her untouchable. She was unclean and nothing could deliver her from the stigma of that uncleanness except a miracle from this strange and unfamiliar rabbi.

Now He was making His way through the crowd, moving towards her. Without looking up, she knew that He knew what she had done. She knew also that He had healed her, for she sensed the change in her body. Having received her life back, would she now be condemned to lose it? “Rabbi, it was I” she blurted, her voice breaking with sobs as the story of her long shame and despair tumbled out.

We are familiar with the rest of the story. That same day the woman with the issue of blood was restored to her community. That same day the word ‘unclean’ was replaced with another word: “daughter”. And on that day, in word and action, Jesus made clear to all who witnessed, that a woman’s life, wellbeing and dignity were as deeply valuable to Him as any man’s. On that day God affirmed a woman as His own beloved daughter.

On that day a woman touched God and God was not in the least offended.

And yet, there are those in the Body of Christ who would still, by various means, infer that women are in some way ‘spiritually unclean’. “Woman is a temple built over a sewer” stated church father Tertullian, and similar sentiments have been uttered by male church leaders throughout history². Recent statements from influential male leaders such as Mark Driscoll (former pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle), and teachings regularly churned out by others (see here and here) bear witness to the truth that women are still regarded as ‘less than’ by many Christian leaders, who continue to pass on their biased opinions to the crowds who follow them.

This post is not about debating the scriptures that are still regularly used to limit the ministry and gifts of women in church life. Pat Joyce and I have provided a full examination of those scripture passages elsewhere. (Furthermore, there are abundant materials available from respected theological scholars that competently and forcefully challenge the traditional interpretations of such passages for anyone who wishes to undertake a serious study on gender issues.)

But I am moved, when thinking again about the woman with the issue of blood, to ask when will the daughters of God be recognised by some sections of the Body of Christ as full and equal joint heirs in all areas of church and family life?

If Christ Himself was not offended by the touch of a woman, in a culture where a ritually unclean woman may not touch a man, when will women be allowed to touch the spiritual Body of Christ freely and fully, without limitations being put on what they may do and to whom they may minister?

Moses, who was called a friend of God, sought to see God’s face and was granted only a glimpse of His back. But a woman, deemed unclean by her religious leaders, touched God and was received, healed, restored and affirmed as His daughter. It’s the difference between Law and Gospel we are talking of here my friends. It’s the finished work of the Cross. It’s the miracle of being ‘in Christ’ where there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. It’s the power of the Blood of Christ that makes all who will believe clean, worthy, righteous – equally.

To those who still believe they have a right to limit the ministry of women: who taught you that you may call unclean that which God has called clean? Though you may not say it in those words, and may even object loudly at such a suggestion, in effect that is what you do when you continue to dictate exactly what women may or may not do in Christ’s Name, based on your, and their, gender.

A grave injustice is taking place in the Body of Christ. The elevation of male over female is bearing horrible fruit. The tree is bad and thus its fruit is rotten. Women are suffering ongoing abuse because they are ‘biblically’ counselled to remain with violent husbands. Children are suffering trauma and life-long injury at the hands of abusive ‘heads of the family’. Little girls are being primed by extreme submission teaching to enter marriages in which they will suffer emotional, sexual, spiritual and/or physical abuse, and fear of displeasing God will keep them there.  All in the Name of Christ.

If you are a woman reading this, whether you are in such a situation or not, know that in God’s sight you are not ‘less than’. God has not limited His love, His giftings, His calling on you because you are female. God does not condone destructive relationships or require that you continue to submit yourself or your children to a relationship in which you or they are unsafe.

Friends, who the Son makes free is free….indeed. It’s time for hearts to be examined, and for the war against women that has been plaguing the Body of Christ for centuries, to be confronted, called for what it is and outrightly rejected.

It’s time for the daughters to go free.

¹Mark 5:25-34

²For more such negative statements about women see here: https://ishshahsstory.com/2014/08/13/who-do-we-think-we-are/

Further Reading: Are Women Also Sons?

Bread in the Land

Bread in the Land II - Unsplash by Olenka Kotyk

Cradled babe in cattle’s buffet
hay Your bed, but You the Bread
for the hungry, the greedy, the underfed

‘Feed on Me,’ You did proclaim
but love-starved scorn kept ones away
to toil for crumbs another day

To others the smell of fresh-baked Bread
enticing and warm, too hard to resist
gave new meaning to live and exist

Aroma of life and smell of death
Your scent aromatic wherever you trod
‘Fragrance of Christ’ so pleasant to God

Cradle to Cross, multitudes fed
then Bread consumed, Your body exhumed
Death couldn’t win, Life was resumed

Now multiplied loaves in multiplied lives
there’s bread in the land, not just in the hand
Kernels of wheat repeat Your great Plan

One seed not enough unless it first die
Your method reversed, save life and be cursed
lose it for You and new Life is birthed

Planted first then in bed of hay
fields of wheat ripe for harvest today
Bread of Life risen in hearts that proclaim:

‘No need to go hungry, live a malnourished life
Organic from heaven, without any leaven
He’s the fresh Bread of Heaven!’

~ You’re the Bread in the Land ~

Unsplash free photo by Olenka Kotyk

A note of encouragement: Sometimes being ‘bread in the land’ as a Christ-follower means we cast our bread on the water in various situations and relationships. I invite you to further encourage your heart in the Lord and in the waiting by reading Bread on the Waters over at nancybentz.com.

Celebrating Christmas

christmas tree

The day after our American Thanksgiving,[1] I climbed up into the attic and retrieved the stored Christmas tree parts and two boxes of tree decorations.  I am amazed at the tree.  I bought it 25 years ago because our granddaughter had asthma and we were concerned about having a “real” tree.  Hard to believe that it is still quite presentable, probably because it has to be assembled each season.

The decorations are filled with memories.  Many were gifts from my mother who sent one each year, a tradition that I have continued with our children and grandchildren who now have homes of their own.  On some, she wrote the date and if she didn’t, I did it last year, usually adding the words mom or granny.  Our hospice also has ornaments in remembrance of those who have passed and the memories come as I place them on our tree.  In addition, we have the ones made with our kids when they were young, or special ones purchased at an after Christmas sale and lovingly kept and added to the collection.  One cow reminds me of a gift to an African friend from our family—a moose remembers our Canadian son-in-law—airplanes are gifts my pilot husband received from friends and Christian symbols and white lights lift out our faith.   The tree is a family history and decorating it has always been a joy.

I know trees are considered pagan by some. My research however, makes me think that unlike many customs they make a far better Christian symbol than a pagan one.  Think about it; the evergreen does not die or fade away or lose its needles in the winter making it an excellent symbol of everlasting life in the resurrected Christ.  As a person in the winter season of my earthly life, I smile at this!  Jesus called us the light of the world in Matthew 5:14, and the lights on the tree and all around remind me of our calling to be light in the darkness.

History tells us that December twenty-fifth was chosen around 350 AD because it was the birthday of the Roman sun god, Sol, and the increase of daylight after the winter solstice. Light overcoming darkness isn’t too bad a choice.  Could God have been responsible for this choice?  It is probable that His conception rather than His birth happened during this season.

December twenty-fifth correlates with Hanukah, the eight day Jewish Festival also known as the Feast of Dedication and Feast of Lights.  Hanukah begins on the twenty-fifth of the Hebrew month Kislev, which falls sometime in late November or December.  It celebrates the cleansing and rededication of the second Temple following the desecration ordered by Antiochus Epiphanes. Hanukkah is also called the Festival of Lights.  According to tradition, there was only enough purified oil left for the eternal flame in the temple to burn for one day yet God caused the flame to burn for eight days[2] while new supply of sacred oil was being prepared. …the light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome itJN 1:5

Clues from the Word let us know that the birth of Christ actually came during the Lord’s fall Feast of Tabernacles in 4 or 5 BC.  If you’d like to check this out, look at http://biblelight.net/sukkoth.htm and http://biblelight.net/year.htm or google it for yourself.  The feasts are an enlightening study—highly recommended, but not for this post.

Obviously I love this season.  Loving Christmas doesn’t mean loving the commercial event that it has become.  I’ve been doing some reading on the book of Daniel and one point that sticks out is that Daniel shows us how to live in a pagan society and yet be faithful to the one true God.  It’s a lesson we need.  So, is celebrating at Christmas pagan, maybe it depends.

Does the way we celebrate Christmas glorify God?  What does it teach our children? How do we handle the pressure of the season?  I don’t know about you, but I have to admit that there are some things that need to be deleted and maybe some added.

Keeping in mind that I can’t change anyone but myself, I’m taking a prayerful look at Christmas and finding that attitude–the intent of my heart–is critical.  My desire is for all that I say and do be done unto the Lord—that means no sloppy, half way efforts.  If it’s worth doing, it’s worth giving it my best, doing it “as unto the Lord.” Obviously that’s a goal, not a reality.  For all of us being molded into His image is a work in progress.

God knows our failings, but He rejoices when our hearts are turned to Him.  Could this be our gift to the Most High?  Isaiah tells of His gift to us, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given…” Isa.9:6  Think about that, a baby boy, fully human, was born but the Son, fully God, was given.  Given not only by the Father and Holy Spirit but by the Son’s own choice.

Celebrate Christmas! Celebrate the Gift!  Rejoice that  “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Jn 1:4-5 NKJV

_________________________

[1] November 28 this year

[2] Eight is the number of new beginnings

 

 

Celebrating ‘The Trio’ – Mildred, Eva and Francesca – Of China

thetrio

From Etzingol to Turpan, from Spring of Wine to Chuguchak, we … spent long years in following trade-routes, tracing faint caravan tracks, searching out innumerable by-paths and exploring the most hidden oases. … Five times we traversed the whole length of the desert, and in the process we had become part of its life.”  Mildred Cable*

Mildred Cable was born in 1878 in Guildford, England, the daughter of a wealthy draper. An adventurous child, her family tried hard to suppress her ‘free spirit’, preferring that she apply herself to academic studies. She gave her life to Christ in her teen years and before long, after hearing a visiting missionary from China, announced her intention to become a missionary with the China Inland Mission.

Mildred went on to study pharmacy and human sciences at London University and became engaged to a young man who also intended to serve as a missionary to China. However, when news of the Boxer Rebellion reached England, in which thousands of foreigners were murdered, (including 58 adults and 20 children from the China Inland Mission), her fiancé changed his mind. The young man announced he would marry Mildred only if she renounced her plans to become a missionary. At this Mildred was brokenhearted and, missing her final exam, took herself into isolation for a short period to seek God’s will. In 1901 she sailed for China.

Evangeline (Eva) and Francesca French were born into an Anglo-French family and were educated in Geneva, Switzerland, later moving to England. Evangeline was a rebellious child, described by some as ‘outrageous’. Her family were therefore stunned when she became a Christian and not long afterward stated her desire to become a missionary to China. Francesca, Evangeline’s younger sister, loved music, art and reading. She was a skilled debater as well as a trained nurse with a sensitive and compassionate nature.

Eva French arrived in Shansi, China, in 1893, seven years before the Boxer uprising and eight years before the arrival of Mildred Cable. When Mildred arrived in China Eva, already an experienced missionary, was assigned as her supervisor. Francesca, who had remained in England to care for her mother, joined them in 1908. Together the three women missionaries, who travelled, wrote and laboured together for the rest of their lives, became affectionately known as ‘The Trio’.

Initially Eva and Mildred co-laboured among the local women, who could not read or write and rarely left their homes, in the city of Houzhou. Convinced that the key to advancing the gospel in China lay with the education of women and girls, in 1904 they opened a girl’s school. Mildred designed the curriculum, which included literacy, science and Chinese classics and discouraged the Chinese traditions of foot binding of girls and female infanticide. After Francesca’s arrival in 1908 the Trio held a six day mission which was attended by 500 women from the surrounding region, a noteworthy accomplishment in a culture where women were traditionally confined to their homes.

The school was a resounding success, producing Bible women and teachers and teaching an estimated 1,000 girls over a period of twenty years. Many of the graduates became teachers, educating thousands more. Over that period the school gained a reputation for being a major center for Christian women’s work. As a result of the Trio’s work in Huozhou many Christian women emerged as leaders in the Chinese church and Chinese education advanced significantly. However, when the provincial governor decided to open 70 new girls’ schools in 1923, he seconded teachers and students from the school to staff them, leaving the mission school without staff or students.

Sensing God wanted to move them into new areas of ministry, the three women decided to abandon routine daily life at the mission station to reach out to more remote and unevangelised areas of China. In June 1923 the trio set out along the Silk Road for the province of Gansu. After nine months and 800 miles travel, they settled for a while in the town of Zhangye, where there was a small church and a very welcoming pastor. They conducted a Bible school, teaching both men and women, and soon 50 new disciples had been baptised, doubling the size of the congregation. Many of these were trained by the three women as evangelists, so they themselves could move on to more remote areas along the Silk Road.

They moved on to Jiuquan, the last town before the Gobi Desert began and a hub for travelers and traders. They continued to disciple the small company of believers they had brought from Zhangye, sending them out in the afternoons to preach in the streets and visit women in their homes. Using Jiuquan as their base the trio moved out further along the Silk Road, sharing the gospel with travelers on the road and in the many inns along the way, stopping often in remote places to reach more people. They stayed for a while in Dunhuang, a crossroads town between India, China and Tibet where they were able to share their message with Muslims as well.

Each of the three women was known to be independent and strong-minded. Eva French was criticized for giving communion to her Chinese congregation on Christmas Eve 1924, as giving communion was considered to be solely a male responsibility. Unmoved by the criticism, Mildred Cable also celebrated communion the following Easter.

After spending winter teaching the Bible in Jiuquan, they once again set out, north west across the Gobi Desert this time. Following the advice of other travelers they had a wooden travelling cart made with wheels eight feet high. They sheltered in smoke-filled primitive inns where clean water was scarce, and travelled at night when the weather was cooler. Their habit was to gather with the many travelers resting around the campfires in the courtyards of the inns, sharing food and talking. They traversed dangerous and uneven mountain roads, singing songs and preaching at every opportunity. They carried on through sand storms, bitter cold and searing heat, and once became stuck in three feet of mud. The threat of bandits was a constant danger.

Once, coming upon a pilgrim who had been walking for six months prostrating himself on the ground every few steps, they showed him a copy of John’s gospel. On reading the words “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” he asked “Who is this about?” “His name is Jesus,” they replied. “Tell me how to believe in Him.” At another point they were greeted by two male missionaries and granted an audience with the governor of the province. They then continued their ministry for 700 miles until they reached the Russian border, after which they returned to London for furlough.

trio2

Returning to China in 1928 they set off again along the Silk Road, again spending their days and nights traversing the exotic trade routes and remote towns and villages in their quest to bring the gospel to the Chinese people.  In later years Mildred Cable would write : “From Etzingol to Turpan, from Spring of Wine to Chuguchak, we … spent long years in following trade-routes, tracing faint caravan tracks, searching out innumerable by-paths and exploring the most hidden oases. … Five times we traversed the whole length of the desert, and in the process we had become part of its life.” (There is not space here to describe in more detail the amazing travels of these three adventurous and faith-filled women, but a small list of resources for further reading is provided at the end of this article for anyone interested in further reading.)

By 1932 the political situation in China was becoming increasingly unstable. The Trio realised war was inevitable and trained local disciples to take over their work. Mildred had also been seriously injured by a kick from a donkey.

They left for Britain, returning in 1935 when they found much of the countryside had been destroyed by war and typhoid had wiped out great numbers of the population. As determined as ever, they baptised new believers, and set up children’s classes, Bible studies and literacy classes. However, in August 1936 the Communist government ordered the departure of all foreigners from China, and, after thirty six years in China, the Trio made their way back to England for the final time.

By the time the Trio left China, they had traveled the Silk Road five times, and were widely known among the Muslim population along the road as “the Teachers of Righteousness.” They had made Jesus known to both Chinese and Muslim traders along the main trade routes, and the literature they distributed in several languages was carried throughout Asia.

thetrio3

In her later years Mildred helped establish the Bible Society’s women support groups and worked for the Women’s Voluntary Service during the Second World War. She lectured to the Royal Geographical Society and was invited to tea with Queen Elizabeth. Together with Francesca she wrote a number of books. She died in 1952 at age 74. Eva settled in Hampstead to care for the little deaf mute girl the Trio had adopted in China, whom they affectionately called Topsy. Eva lived to the age of ninety, and during her final days Francesca slept on the floor beside her to care for her. When she was scolded for sleeping on the floor, Francesca replied, “I’ve been sleeping on floors all my life.” She outlived her older sister by only three weeks.

The names of Mildred Cable, and Evangeline and Francesca French, are little known or remembered. They are not famous and celebrated names like William Carey, Hudson Taylor or David Livingstone. Yet, in my estimation, the hardships experienced, exploits undertaken and courage demonstrated by this amazing trio of women are just as worthy of note as those of many of the male heroes of the faith we hold in such high esteem. Only God truly knows the extent to which the seeds these women sowed have helped reap the Chinese church of today, which in turn sends missionaries all over the world.

In every sense of the word these women were apostles, as well as evangelists of extraordinary commitment and valour. For me, they are among the first saints I want to have a long conversation with when I step from this life into the next.

Mildred, Eva and Francesca, we celebrate your faithfulness, your courage and your legacy. Thankyou also for providing living proof that, where women are concerned, the preaching of the gospel knows no barriers.

*The Gobi Desert, p. 276

Sources Referenced for this article:

https://urbana.org/blog/mildred-cable

http://www.bdcconline.net/en/stories/c/cable-mildred.php Martha Stockment, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity

http://www.bdcconline.net/en/stories/f/french-evangeline.php

http://omf.org/us/the-trio-and-topsy/

 

Further Reading:

The Gobi Desert Mildred Cable and Francesca French

Not Less Than Everything  Valerie Griffiths

Across China’s Gobi  Linda K. Benson

Star Over Gobi   Cecil Northcott

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quiet Revolution

A Quiet Revolution - ISFeathers were getting ruffled on both sides. I realize that infers an invisible line in the sand. The dangerous thing about an invisible line is that it is like electricity. You can’t always see it but you can sure feel it when you reach out and God forbid, touch it.

The females in the office were in a touchy-feely mood and it wasn’t because it was ‘that time of the month.’ They had had it up to there with being patronized by the opposite gender on the other side of the line. Against some of the males’ better judgment, some of the women reached out and touched a few of the sacred things.

Not the least of which was asking – after they were thoroughly chewed out up one side and down the other – why they were relegated to the proverbial ‘standing around the water cooler’ instead of allowed active participation.

That these women had the audacity to actually come up with an idea and fashion a ‘vehicle’ to pull it off was, after all, not in their job descriptions. Their stated and approved job functions, roles and responsibilities were listed right there, with a jab of the index finger for emphasis. Nor was the generic ‘other duties as assigned’ license for this undertaking either.

All of that over a tea party.

What in the name of office-ville was going on?

Simply put, a quiet revolution.

On their own time – after working all day, over lunch hours, and on weekends – these women created a space to share the beauty of the gospel and purchase a well for clean water in an African village. Not ones to hoard that goodness to themselves, they planned a Saturday high tea complete with program, and extended invitations to area churches’ women’s ministry groups and local female donors.

After all, this was the heart of the place they worked. Outreach and engagement of ones to come alongside and support the work of indigenous ministries overseas. And yes, they procured appropriate permission first.

All was well until in the minds of some, said women were found to be splashing around in a water cooler that was clearly off limits – if they’d read their job descriptions lately. Other departments already had it covered.

Besides, surely they were taking time away from their duties of caring for the complainants. Never mind that they said they were planning and creating on their own time and not office time. This was not to be tolerated!

Reading this sounds as ridiculous as it was. But the feathers being ruffled – on both sides – crackled with the current of unresolved issues between the sexes and in some cases, between co-workers in particular.

All this indignant posturing, huffing and puffing in a faith-based organization no less. God would be proud. Not.

***

So what came of the whole episode? Which was just one of many stories that could be told…but please don’t because it might give people the wrong impression. And behaving that way didn’t?

There were a number of outcomes from that water cooler transgression – when talk became heart became action.

The tea came off but not without confusion clouding efforts the day of the event. The women had bathed in prayer the planning, responses, and message of the need for fresh, clean water and the gospel in that African village. Prayer that could otherwise have been added and effective was withheld by a spirit of competition in the ranks. Healthy competition can be a good thing, but this type only served to squash the hearts of godly intention, fire up unresolved tension, and highlight the disparity of gender roles operating in the family of God.

Enough funds were raised from sales of tickets to the tea and generous gifts given at the event to purchase that fresh-water well. II Corinthians 9:7 tells us that ‘God loves a cheerful giver.’ The heart the Lord gave to the women in the office was shared by those who came and heard. Like throwing a rock in the middle of a pond, the ripples widened, women engaged and gave, and the life-giving water cooler flowed all the way to Africa.

The major brouhaha took place after the event. Joy over bringing in enough funds for the well quickly dissipated. Had it not been for the fact that the Lord brought about the primary goal the women had set out to achieve, they might have deemed it a huge failure. But it wasn’t. At all. A godly sense of satisfaction and the Lord’s pleasure in it all remained intact despite the cranky clouds hanging low in the office.

The surprising hurtful response from some of the males in the office provided an opportunity to meet with the president, who had initially signed off on the idea. In an open, frank talk about the issue of value and respect in the ranks – more precisely, between the males and the females – the invisible line in the sand was voiced.

“Whether you realize it or not, there is a quiet revolution going on among the women in this office.”

You can call it whatever you like: dense, oblivious, top-down management style, bigger fish to fry, emotions run wild, chip on the shoulder, bad attitude, need to take a chill pill … the list is as long as the labels we can come up with. But labels don’t change anything. They’re merely identifiers that point to a deeper root issue.

These women decided to try digging a new trench for change and in the process touched some electrical wires.

Change did occur. Having had their hands roundly slapped, the women never again engaged in such an endeavor on behalf of the ministries their workplace represented. They were admin with job descriptions to prove it. If they wanted to raise funds, well then, they could apply for the job. The sad thing is it was never about the funds. It was about needs and hearts of faith that the funds would follow. There’s a well to prove it.

Major change followed over time as the quiet revolution of hearts continued. The organization was caught, as many were, in the financial instability of the times. Downsizing followed. Job descriptions and responsibilities were absorbed by those remaining. Stress skyrocketed.

Three of the four original water cooler team with the tea party idea are gone. Fully three-quarters of the female staff employed at the time are no longer with the organization. Some were laid off; others actively sought other employment or major transition that took them elsewhere. The organization continues today under new, all-male leadership.

Having stayed in touch with many of the women now gone, I have yet to hear one look back with regret that they are no longer there. Some employed at the time had higher hopes to be valued and respected as a viable change agent with wisdom, leadership graces, and worthy of trust.

Here’s the key, though. No label nor title – either end of the spectrum – is a true identifier of a woman’s worth. Only the Lord Jesus has earned that right and privilege.

Today, as each one’s face comes before my mind’s eye, I can mentally recount how the Lord opened up other doors and led down different paths of His choosing. As Ishshah’s Story team member, Pat Joyce, told me after reading and relating with the draft of this post, “The good thing is that every time I had to leave the nest, or got kicked out, the Lord had something for me that I would not have done if I had stayed.”

Each one that walked out those office doors for the last time has a similar testimony. The Lord met them with next steps as they took their box of belongings and heart of love for God with them.

They might have been seen absconding with parts of the water cooler too. 🙂

~ Nancy

photo credit: Stop Action! via photopin (license)

Scrubbing The Competition

old boxing gloves hang on nail on texture wall with copy space for text. Retirement concept

Ishshah’s Story is delighted to present an insightful guest post today from Tiffany Clark. 

Tiffany teaches (and is taught) Spiritual Formation in an M.A. program offered for Christian leaders throughout Africa and Asia. In her various writing projects, Tiffany prefers grappling with the Scriptures in the context of messy life struggles to tidy, simplistic answers. Her current office is her kitchen in St. Andrews, Scotland, which is also her classroom for her three children, her counseling office for university students, and on rainy days, her laundry drying space.   Tiffany blogs at Messy Theology. Why not head on over and say hello!

I’d like to think that I am not competitive, that I have learned to love others to the point that I can pursue my own personal excellence while rejoicing when they achieve the same. But then I run smack into the glass door of reality. The truth is that I sometimes look around a room and find fault with each person present. I struggle to celebrate when my peers get recognized or promoted beyond me. And I find ways to justify in my own mind why I am more deserving than they.

At the heart of all this I recognize a deep selfishness which hinders true community. As long as my self-interests are not threatened, I am free to love, to affirm, and to promote those around me. But as soon as their success impedes my agenda, the warm fuzzies evaporate and my green-eyed monster is laid bare.

Despite my life-long efforts to fight this tendency, I was recently ashamed to discover it still at work in me. O wretched friend that I am—who will save me from my critical, competitive self?

All of a sudden the disciples incessant bickering about which of them was the greatest doesn’t seem so ridiculous to me. They were merely saying out loud what I valiantly try to mask. At least they weren’t hypocritical about it!

But our jostling for position must put a dagger through Jesus’ heart. After all, isn’t the kingdom all about Him? There He sat at the table the night before He died, grieving over His impending suffering, savoring His farewell dinner with His friends, and predicting one’s betrayal, and all they could talk about was which of them was most important.

The answer was staring them in the face. God was sitting there in the flesh, the Creator of the Universe passed them the bread. But rather than exert His position as Potentate of Time or rebuke them for their petty arguing, Jesus simply got up from the table and silently made His point.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. John 13:3-4

He knew who He was. As painful as it was to be perpetually undercut by His leaders, misunderstood by His family, questioned by the masses, and even doubted by His friends, Jesus’ identity was firmly rooted in who the Father said He was. He didn’t have to put His disciples down to establish His worth. Because He was secure in His own position, Jesus could voluntarily lower Himself to elevate others.

After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13:5

And that is exactly what He did. Jesus made His way around the table of squabbling subordinates, kneeling before each one and serving him in the most menial way possible. The hands that flung stars into space scraped the scum from between their toes. The back that would soon bear the weight of the world bent in bared effort before His uppity inferiors.

Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him…John 13:10-11

Not even His betrayer was excluded from Jesus’ tender service that night. Who could fault Him for refusing to stretch out His neck before the man who had already sold Him to His murderers? But Jesus showed the full extent of His love by washing the feet of both His competing friends and His conniving enemy.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. John 13:12-14

Jesus washing feet of Saint Peter on Maundy Thursday - Stained GHaving made His point with His hands, Jesus reinforced it with His words. Yes, He was rightfully their superior, and it was important that they all remember that. But His exalted position was merely a platform from which He chose to raise up those around Him. If His disciples wanted to honor Him, they would have to do so by imitating His example of honoring each other.

I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. John 13:15-16

And this is where Jesus’ words lodge with me. There is nothing wrong with desiring greatness. But I am going about it all the wrong way if I seek to promote myself at other’s expense. There is no room for that sort of competition in God’s Kingdom. If coming out first involves putting others down (even in my own mind), then I have effectively made myself last.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:12-13

The road towards greatness in His kingdom is paved through the laying down of my own self. My pursuit of excellence in His eyes should lead me to wash my competitor’s feet, not trounce them under mine. Jesus calls me to pursue the enhancement of the whole Body, of which my fellow disciples are an integral part.

After all, I am not the Bride of Christ.

We are.


*This post has also been published at the Bread for the Bride blogsite.

Musical Memory

Mixed race woman sleeping in bed

I love music.  Probably because it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  When I was two, my folks moved from Louisiana to Colorado by car.  One of the first things they bought was a “Victrola,” the old name for a radio, record player (not CD).  It came even before practical things that they needed.

Mom was tone deaf but music filled the house as soon as my dad came home.  He played classical music at decibels that came close to ear damage.  There were a variety of other selections of folk, popular, and all the nursery songs.  I still remember them.  My memory seems tied to music.  If it’s a song, I remember it, but when I try to memorize, it just doesn’t stick.

At the time I came to know the Lord, back in the 70s, much of the worship music was scripture songs.  Today, I can still know those songs and most of the Bible that I can quote comes from them.

I also found deep truth in the old hymns where the Lord used lyrics to open my eyes and give new understanding.  For example, the Christmas Carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing with the phrase “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity!”  Through that carol John 1:1“…the Word was God” and 1:14 “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” could ring out in joyful praise.

I love waking in the night to find myself singing one of the Lord’s songs.  Often part of the same song will run for weeks.  I know it may come from being a song that I listen to, but often the words seem the Lord’s answer to a need or brings me to see with fresh light.

For a good while my spiritual life has been predominantly dry.  Not Sahara dry, but dry.  My usual escape from “dry” through the Bible or books hasn’t worked.  My prayer life is not what I desire.  Short term relief has been found in encounters with the beauty of creation, the smell of delightful things like rain or cookies baking, the warmth of relating with those I love—yes, the Lord too, and His music.

I believe that wilderness times like this have a purpose.  I suspect that I know why this one has lasted so long, but I can’t seem to “fix it.”  One song has continued to come and go through this drought.  Not the whole song, but just a few lines at a time.  The song, by Vikki Cook and Charitie Lees Bancroft, is Before the Throne of God Above.  I figure you want to see all of it, so here it is but I have taken out repeated lines and just left the meat.  I love the truth it presents, but long to get to the point where, as another song says, “it’s all about You, Jesus.”[1]

Before the Throne of God Above.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea
A great high Priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me

My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin

Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there the risen lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
King of glory and of grace

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased with His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God

The first section I remember singing over and over states, “For God the just is satisfied, To look on Him and pardon me.”  Reminding me that once I accepted the sacrifice, God really was satisfied.  While God does not want us to remain newborns, the work is done.  Scripture says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” Phil. 1:6 (NKJV) Over and over the words were sung until they truly are written on my heart.

Another section came repeatedly that reinforces these words, “I know that while in Heaven He stands No tongue can bid me thence depart.”  He is Lord of Lord and King of Kings and we, who are His, have a security that is beyond understanding.  Glory—if we just think on that it seems a contradiction to be dry.

Then there was this one, “When satan tempts me to despair.”  It’s easy to be in despair today as we look at the world around us and see the chaos.  When temptation comes there are a number of scriptures that give hope.  One of my favorites is from Psalm 2, stated most clearly in the Message,

1-6 Why the big noise, nations?
Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth-leaders push for position,
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers:
“Let’s get free of God!
Cast loose from Messiah!”
Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing.
At first he’s amused at their presumption;
Then he gets good and angry.
Furiously, he shuts them up:
“Don’t you know there’s a King in Zion? A coronation banquet
Is spread for him on the holy summit.”

 A couple of weeks ago I found a spot on my back that really looked like melanoma.  While I waited to get it checked out, I was surprised (and pleased) at the total calm I felt.  Then came these words from the song, “One with Himself I cannot die.”  The Lord’s reminder that I am in Him who is life.  How can I die?  Too often we forget our citizenship is not earthly and cling to what we know.  The spot has a long name, but is totally harmless.   For years I’ve been saying that physical dying is graduation day.  This experience confirmed that I really believed what I said.

I thank God for music, for the songs that run in my head day as well as night.  Truth is that despite the dry, there is great peace and rest.  It’s just that my soul longs for more of Him.  Which reminds me of another song,

To know Him, to know Him is the cry of my heart,
Spirit reveal Him to me
To hear what He’s saying brings joy to my bones
To know Him, to know Him alone.[2]

Amen

Footnotes_________________

[1]  It’s all about You  by Michael W. Smith lyrics http://www.lyricsfreak.com/m/michael+w+smith/all+about+you_20609001.html

[2] Author unknown

Is It Time For You to Be Our Guest?

Pretty girl shouting into megaphone on copy space background

Got something that needs saying?

A lesson learned, an inspiration, a moment of wisdom, a revelation, a story to tell, a beautiful creation?   There will be no better time than now.

Take a look at the multiple ways you can share on our Ishshah’s Story blog site.

Ishshah’s Story is your story!  We want to hear it, we want to see it, we want to celebrate it with you.  We are waiting with excited anticipation for your contributions.

So let us encourage you, on behalf of the many women still subjected to silence……rejoice in your voice!

In Whose Image?

Ceramic dishware arranged on shelf in pottery workshopOne of the most common accusations levelled at women by those who advocate male leadership in church and home (and some would add society in general), is that Eve (Ishshah) disobeyed God and led Adam into sin. For this reason, they say, God ordained that ‘her husband would rule over her’ (Gen. 3:16). In fact, God was not condoning male rulership at all.  That particular discussion is not, however, the subject of this post but you can check it out further here , here and here.

1 Timothy 2:14 tells us that Eve was deceived, but that Adam was not deceived. If Adam was not deceived by Satan, then he made a conscious choice to disobey and rebel against God. Yet this obvious Biblical truth is brushed aside by those who insist that God has entrusted males with authority over females.

If we are to accept the argument that Eve’s failure in Genesis 3:6 is evidence that all females are prone to deception, reason dictates the same guiding principle should apply elsewhere in scripture. With that in mind let’s take a look at the hours surrounding Jesus’ last moments on earth.

We find that at Jesus’ arrest at Gethsemane, eleven of His close friends just hours after pledging they would die with Him, scatter in all directions.   Fearful of dying like common criminals beside Him, they betray their Lord by deserting Him at the moment of His greatest test (Jn. 16:32; Mark 14:50). One of Jesus’ closest disciples verbally denies knowing Jesus three times.

Not long after, we find the nation’s highest spiritual authority, the Sanhedrin, actively seeking witnesses to give false testimony against Jesus, despite the fact that bearing false witness was against the Law they so piously upheld (Matt. 26:59-62). The Bible says many false witnesses came forward and finally two were chosen to duly deliver their false testimony. Apparently there was no shortage of men needing favour with the powerful Sanhedrin who didn’t mind breaking the law to lie about Jesus, thereby betraying their Messiah (women were not legally recognised as witnesses in Jesus’ time).

Then there’s the High Priest, the scribes and religious authorities. Their great fear was that the people would rise up to enthrone Jesus, bringing the wrath of Rome down upon the nation, stripping them of their positions, power and influence. They had decided it was more convenient to betray one man, whoever He was, than face the growing threat of that potential scenario (Jn. 11:47-50). They were bent on removing the threat by having Jesus executed.

One of the twelve, Judas, had also been considering his options. As the realisation set in that Jesus had no intention of leading a popular rebellion and may even be executed, Judas decided to swap sides. It was the actions of Judas, one of Jesus’ chosen inner circle, that opened the way for the religious authorities to swoop and carry out their plan. For thirty pieces of silver Judas betrayed His Friend, His Teacher and His Saviour.

Finally, there’s Pontius Pilate. It’s clear he does not want to execute Jesus (Luke 23:20). He goes so far as to declare Jesus innocent (Luke 23:4, 14). He recognises that the Jewish authorities want Jesus executed out of jealousy (Matt. 27:18). He is even warned against treating Jesus unjustly by the one woman who would have had any influence over him, his wife (Matt 27:29). But when the Jewish leaders cannily imply Pilate may be accused of treason for freeing this so-called ‘king’, his own political future becomes his main concern, for none but the Emperor could claim the title of king (John 19:8-13). Knowing Jesus has committed no crime, he betrays the Lamb of God and orders His execution, then symbolically washes his hands of Jesus’ innocent Blood.

Now I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that in all of these dramatic developments, male after male betrayed Jesus. Where, apart from Pilate’s wife, are the women in the story?

The women of Jerusalem are there weeping and mourning as Jesus carries His Cross to Golgotha (Luke 23:27). Women disciples are standing by His Cross, hour by hour, agonizingly witnessing His torturous death with the one lone male disciple who dared to show up (Mark 15:40; John 19:26). They are watching on as wealthy men remove His body and place it in a garden tomb (Matt. 27:57-61). They are quietly making their way to that same tomb at dawn to anoint His broken body for burial (Luke 24:1). One of them, Mary, is the first to speak with the risen Christ, and the first sent by Him to proclaim the gospel (John 20:14-17).

But not one woman is recorded as betraying the Lord.

Referring back now to our guiding principle, it would appear the scriptural evidence indicates males in general may be prone to disloyalty and betrayal. Should they therefore be trusted with the weighty responsibilities of shepherding the Body of Christ?

But my intention here is not to play a blame game. My intention is to advocate for balance and call out injustice.

Who among us would dare venture an opinion on which is worse, being deceived or betraying Christ? And who among us would pass sentence on an entire gender because of one individual’s sin? Yet, this is exactly what has been done, and continues to be done, to countless female members of Christ’s Body on earth.

After His resurrection, Christ held no grievance with those of His followers who had betrayed or abandoned Him. The very ones who had failed Him were the ones to whom He entrusted the growth of His Kingdom.

What happened in that first Garden is completely cancelled by Christ the Last Adam, the Firstborn from the dead, who triumphantly leads a new creation of individuals bearing no trace of the old order. To not understand this is to not have understood the gospel.

The Cross cancels every debt. The Resurrection promises new hope, new life and new creation. The Gospel declares a new day of reconciliation between God and humanity, and between male and female. The Spirit bears witness that “behold: all things are new”.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he/she is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Cor. 5:17

Let no-one hold you back from what God has called you to pursue, for you are neither Eve nor Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-49; Rom. 8:29). You are a new creation, bearing the image not of Adam, not of Eve, but of the heavenly Man Christ Jesus.

Accept nothing less.

This article has also been posted at Bread for the Bride.

Mothers and Daughters

PicMonkey Collage - Mothers & DaughtersIn the family tree, there is no relationship quite like that of mother and daughter. As ishshahs, we are not all a mother, but we are all someone’s daughter.

No two – or two million – mother-daughter relationships are alike. They cannot be nor should they try to be. But it certainly raises the question – What then should they be?

The answer to that is as varied, complicated and/or blessed as there are relationships – or not. Each is uniquely a life journey in itself.

Since I’m not here to offer you a psychology degree in the feminine psyche, allow me to share a bit from my own journey befitting Her Journey. You may recognize some similarities to your own passage, either or both as a mother and a daughter. Or, yours may be diametrically opposite or perhaps a blend of both.

in any case, in some fashion the Lord brought about our beginnings from the roots of mother and daughter.

Growing up’s rites of passage cover a multitude of layers and themes, awakenings and threads, grace and mercy, love and tears. It also includes wounds and hurts, shared and unshared pain and resentment, and differences of opinion and perspective. How can it not when two like yet separate individuals collide in every area of life they do or don’t spend together, starting in the womb?

Both at Ishshah’s Story and Shammahs Field, we are keenly aware that some readers didn’t grow up with their biological mother or suffered abuse at their own mother’s hand. We also know there are ishshahs who are close to their moms, some of whom have developed healthy relationships and others bordering on becoming or producing mini-me’s. The following nuggets from my own life experience are prayerfully offered, trusting Holy Spirit to reveal and lead each reader’s heart to truth that accomplishes His loving intentions and purpose.

Diaper Days

It is well-known in psychological circles and beyond that the first five to six years of life set much into a child. If we take an honest look, most of us don’t need to read a dissertation to know that is a fact. We are living proof.

The reality that we are here today is a nod to that someone who was a primary caregiver in our diaper days and on into toddlerhood. It may have been our biological, step, foster or adoptive mother, or a select guardian.

Few there are who remember the first years of life from birth to three or four years old. Sometimes we rely on the one who mothered us to recall for us those early days until even her memory begins to fade. At times, the stories are not as personal for us until we become older and begin to embrace our own life story.

My first clear memory is somewhere about four years old, with one special ‘memory snapshot’ of my paternal grandfather who died when I was only two. That one is simply a gift from the Lord, for my memory from birth to four is largely composed of ‘short stories of Nancy’ as told me by my mother, herself now 85 years old.

Reams have been written and are currently blogged about raising children of the daughterly kind. Mothers everywhere across the world have the privilege and the hard work of raising up daughters. It requires fortitude and the ability to keep going when sleep deprived and battling one’s own emotional state at any given time.

It matters not if they are only tiny little girls. They have hard-wired into them the budding of a woman. Regardless of whether they are two months, two years, or two decades old – they’re connected to mother.

But they are also their own unique person growing through seedling, leafing, and budding stages of their life.

Early on, their health and safety, training, protecting, loving, nurturing needs are found and rest on ‘mama’.

Another proven psychological certainty is this:

Babies, beginning in the womb, become a barometer of their mother’s emotional and mental phases. We now know they hear, sense and feel. Though still developing, they are nonetheless very aware – soaking in mother’s sadness, laughter, anger, stress, contentment…a powerful few among the many emotions of life.

By the time of its birth, baby has had several months’ lead in detecting the emotional atmosphere. We’ve come a long way in discovery of the things that have never been a mystery to our Creator when He knit us.

‘The Sponge Effect’

In my elementary school years I became more aware of my mother’s way of meeting and embracing life. This is where my memories become more distinct. So much so that I have imprinted in my mind’s eye various times I took note of her reactions and responses and adopted them as my own. Later, I coined it ‘the sponge effect’.

When operating in a negative manner, I made childlike determinations as to what emotion should be displayed when; which male leadership I should and should not regard; what was fearful (water over one’s head, so I never learned to swim), among others. It was only when I reached adulthood it became evident. To me.

True, a sensitive nature is part of my makeup; not everyone absorbs quite as deeply as others. But don’t think for a moment there is no absorption going on. All manner of beliefs, judgments, and inner vows begin here.

Equally impacting were the things that brought her joy. I love fresh flowers because I grew up with rooms full of small bouquets from our yard. Make my bacon crispy and serve real butter. Eat a good breakfast. Share a sense of humor! Learn to love and study the Word of God. Create things. She crafted beautiful wedding cakes for nearly thirty years. I often craft with words. Watching her, I learned a strong work ethic of excellence…and what to do when a sheet cake hit the pavement upside down (have a backup in the freezer). There was usually a solution to be had.

Just as the ocean is full of various kinds of sponges, I think ‘the sponge effect’ impacts us all in varying degrees. It is a fact of life that none of us experience mother-daughter relationships in exactly the same way. But there is a constant factor Who does not change – even as we continue to.

Same Song, Second Verse

My maternal line is a mix of mother-daughter relationships. My mother was the only daughter sandwiched between two sons (her brothers). Her mother (my maternal grandmother) died at 56 when my mother was a young woman not quite 37 years old. The loss of her mother while both of them young, went internally deep. My grandmother died before her mother; another loss as my great-grandmother grieved her own daughter going before her. My mother’s experiences with her mother and grandmother helped shape her sponge effect.

Connected to my line are my two sisters; I am the youngest of three daughters. We all grew up in the same household, yet our adult years have proven that no two – or three – mother-daughter relationships are alike. We each are unique daughterly offspring of our mother. Shared memories with some similarities, yet different.

When I became a mother my generational line lengthened. I first bore a son, then two daughters. True to form, no two – or three – mother-daughter relationships are alike, including my own with my two daughters and my daughter-in-law. Last but not least, at present my maternal line includes our 5-year old granddaughter.

In each unique relationship and every daughterly heart there is hard-wired the budding of a woman.

Constant Factor

For many of us, God’s love was first made manifest in the mother-daughter relationship. Where that has not been the case, He has revealed His love through others placed in our lives in those formative years. Even when one has felt most alone, someone has held us in their heart, not the least of whom is our heavenly Father.

Though our earthly life started with a mother and a daughter, Father fashioned His eternal outcome in such a way that each would only be completed in relationship with Himself.

Mother or daughter, we are all His beloved ishshahs. Two like yet separate individuals, in Him.

Autumn background with colorful leaves and ripped paper. Vector illustration.

Exploring the Greek Word Kephale Translated “Head” Part 2

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In part one of the study on kephale, the Greek word for head, we learned that kephale means physical head or when used figuratively; originator, competitor, source of life or simply source and should not be translated authority over.[1]

In Ephesians 5:18-24 tradition supports looking at the word head as meaning authority over, but is that what Paul had in mind?  Let’s read the passage and then break it down for better understanding

18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wivesbe to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The verb for verses 18 through 22 is found in verse 18—“be filled.”  Filled with what?  Filled with the Spirit and, because you are filled, what else will you do?  Do what it says in verses 19 through 22 (speak, sing, give thanks, submit) where this crazy long sentence finally ends.

In the Greek there is no period after verse 21 and the word submit has been added by translators to verse 22.   This means that the “submission” expected of wives to husbands in vs. 22 is the same as that required among all believers in vs. 21.

Understanding what Paul meant when he used the word submit is critical to grasping his meaning in this passage. It will help you tremendously if you will go back and read the blog post entitled Submission in order to understand why the Greek verb hupotasso, translated submit or subject in the New Testament is an incorrect translation.  Hupotasso [2] actually means give allegiance to, identify with, tend to the needs of, be supportive of, or be responsive to depending on context.

As you can see, the context in Greek does not support understanding head in verse 23 as an authority word. Paul is using a head and body metaphor [3] to show the oneness of Christ and His body the church which parallels with the oneness that should be found in marriage. The play on words is easy to see in the Greek, but is lost when translated to English.

23 For the husband [4] is head (kephale) of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject (hupotasso) to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (NKJV)

Kephale means source, completer, originator or source of life.  The words husband and wife can also be translated man and woman making the meaning similar to the passage in 1 Corinthians 11:3 discussed in Part 1 on Kephale.  There we saw that the source (kepahle) of the woman was the man and the source of Christ was God.  But here Paul is making a point about marriage so we must look further into the passage for understanding.

What is clear in the Greek in verse 24 is that in the same way that the physical body hupotasso(s) (supports) the physical head so the wife supports her own husband. We can also understand, that in the metaphor, His body, which is the church, supports the head (Christ).

In this whole passage Paul is using the head and body metaphor to show the oneness of Christ and His body the church as an example of the oneness that should be found between the husband and the wife in marriage.[5]

In their outstanding article “The Head of the Epistles” [6] Berkley and Elvira Mikelsen put it this way,

“Christ does have authority over the church (Matt. 16:18).  But most of the passages that deal with Christ as the head of the church do not point to his authority over the church, but rather the oneness of Christ and the church.  In Ephesians 5:18-33, this oneness is applied to husband and wife.

If we are to see a meaning in “head” in Ephesians 5:23 beyond the head-body metaphor of mutual dependence and unity, we must do so on the basis of the immediate context.  Christ’s headship of the church is described like this: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25).  Christ gave himself up to enable the church to become all that it is meant to be—holy and without blemish.

As Christ is the enabler (the one who brings to completion) of the church, so the husband is to enable (bring to completion) all that his wife is meant to be.  The husband is to nourish and cherish his wife as he does his own body, even as Christ nourishes and cherishes the church (v. 29).”

In the last sixty or more years many word definitions have been found that should by now be part of every Bible translation.  Tradition dies hard, but the Spirit is moving to shine the light on false doctrines that promote hierarchy or chain-of command structure within the Body of Christ.

Footnotes

[1]  There is a very rare use of kephale to mean authority, but it would not be a usage familiar to Paul’s audience. If Paul wanted to convey the idea of authority he would have chosen the word archon which means authority, rulership, or leadership.

[2] Hupotasso has this meaning when used in the middle voice which is the only way Paul used it.  See the article on Submission to understand what is meant by the grammatical term middle voice

[3] A metaphor is a way of using language where you make a comparison to let people understand something as it relates to something else. It is sometimes called a parable.

[4] In verse 23 the word aner translated husband can also be translated man and gune translated wife can also be woman.

[5] Ephesian marriage was not like marriage described in Genesis where a man leaves his parents and becomes one flesh with his wife.  In secular Ephesus oneness was not the purpose of marriage.  Men had wives for the purpose of producing legitimate children.  To make matters worse, the wife was closely related and dependent on her father not her husband.  For further discussion see “Who’s the Boss” by Eddie and Sue Hyatt.

[6] Berkeley and Alvera Mikelsen, “The Head of the Epistles”  God’s Word to Women Website.  The Mikelsen article gives every figurative scripture using “kephale”.  I highly recommend that you read it.  www.godswordtowomen.org/head.htm

Exploring the Greek Word Kephale Translated “Head”

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When we read the word “head” most of us think of our physical head. This is by far the most common use of the word in the New Testament. In English, the word “head” can also mean someone who has authority like a leader, boss or chief. However, this last definition is not true in Greek.

The word translated as “head” is “kephalē” in Greek. If we are to understand what Paul was teaching, it is important to know what this word meant to Paul and to the converted gentiles, former pagans to whom he was writing.  These people were native Greek speakers. For them, the common meanings for “kephale” were the physical head, or when used figuratively;  originator, competitor, source of life or simply source.[1] If they wanted to say someone was the boss they usually used the Greek word archon meaning leader, ruler or commander.[2] “Head” can mean source in English, like source of a river, but it is not the common meaning as it is in Greek.

Traditionally, the biblical role for men in church, society and home is based on verses that contain the word “head” defined as authority or leader. The husband is said to be the head, meaning he’s the “boss.”  Using this definition, 1 Corinthians 11:3:“The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God,” and Ephesians 5:23, “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body,” have been used to support a patriarchal chain-of-command structure in the home and the church. Even in society as a whole, men were supposed to be “in charge.”

The idea of a divine chain-of-command that is to be duplicated on earth is said to be supported by 1 Cor 11:3 (“The head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God”). But there is no ranking in the Godhead–no divine chain-of command! God the Father isn’t the boss of Christ or Holy Spirit.  They are co-equal and co-eternal—they are GOD—the Trinity. Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah, is the Word made flesh. He chose to take on the limitations of mankind during his time on earth. Phil. 2:5-11.[3] However, this was for a limited time and purpose and not an eternal position.

Translate the passage using “source” for “head” and Paul’s meaning is easier to understand. It reads: “The source of every man is Christ, and the source of the woman is the man, and the source of Christ is God.”

[In these next paragraphs I have added clarifications in parenthesis]

“The source of every man is (the eternally existent) Christ. . .” From eternity, Christ has always been Christ. We also know Him as the Word.

“. . . .and the source of the woman is the man, . . .” woman was taken from the side of Adam,

“. . . and the source of Christ (Messiah) is God.” (the totality [all] of the triune God.) God – the Trinity is the SOURCE of Christ.” Jesus, the Christ (Anointed One),[4] the God-Man, is the Human Being (Son) sent forth out of God to accomplish our covenant redemption.

Again, there is no hierarchy in the Godhead. By using the order, Christ-man-God, Paul was careful to not indicate a chain-of-command which would have been God-Christ-man. Notice also that Christ as the source of man, man as the source of woman, and God as the source of Christ is chronological (time) order.  In other words, man was first, woman second and Jesus Christ the Messiah third in order of their appearance on earth.  God formed man, then woman and finally sent the Son, Jesus Christ.  Clearly, Paul did not mean a chain-of-command authority structure!

However, the most compelling argument by far is that scripture simply does not support the “authority over” interpretation of “head.” John 1:3 clearly states that Christ is the source of all life? “All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” Throughout the New Testament kephale has the meaning “source” or “physical head,” not “authority over” or “leader.”

Remember, Paul was writing to former pagans. He carefully chose kephalē to challenge two pagan beliefs. One, that men and women came from two different sources with the source of men being superior to that of women, and second, to refute (prove false) the Gnostic belief that Adam was brought to life by Eve. which is discussed in our article on 1 Timothy 2.

1 Corinthians 11: 8, 9, 11 & 12 reinforce the use of “source” as the intended meaning of kephalē, and show the interdependence of men and women. They read:

8. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. (Woman was taken from the side of man)
9. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. . . (Woman was created to be his counterpart – his completer)[5]  11.Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.  12. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. (Men and women need each other. They are interdependent upon each other.)

To get a real grasp of what Paul is saying you need to go back to Genesis 1 and 2 which lay out God’s original plan.  For a quick refresher read Challenging Tradition in Genesis 1 and 2.

Another scripture where “head” is taught as meaning authority over is Ephesians 5:23, “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, and He is the Savior of the body.”  Let’s take a deep breath and digest this much and leave that one for the next artcle.

Footnotes

[1] Berkeley and Alvera Mikelsen, “The Head of the Epistles”  God’s Word to Women Website.  The Mickelsen article gives every figurative scripture using “kephale”.  I highly recommend that you read it.  www.godswordtowomen.org/head.htm

[2] Unfortunately, the reference works commonly used by those of us who are not Greek scholars hold the traditional view and define “kephalē” as superior rank or final authority when it is not used of a person’s physical head.  These include Strong’s Concordance, Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words and Bauer’s Lexicon.  We will find tradition taking precedence over scholarship to be a common problem throughout our studies of the Epistles.   There are other excellent sources that disagree with their findings including, Liddel, Scott, Jones, and McKenzie (A Greek-English Lexicon, ninth edition, Clarendon Press, 1940.  Another outstanding place to find Greek word meanings is the Septuagint which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.  The Septuagint was the version of scripture used by Jesus, the apostles and Paul.  The translators of the Septuagint generally chose the Greek word archon when the meaning was authority over.

[3] Philippians 2: 5-11 “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
[4] Christ means Anointed One.  It was also used for Messiah.

[5] When we see the translation of the Hebrew ezer kenegdo as help meet of helper suitable applied to the creation of the woman, it is easy to form an idea that she is one who assists from a subservient position. However ezer means to surround with protection and aid.  Every other use of ezer in scripture refers to either God or military allies.  Kenegdo modifies ezer to mean neither superior nor inferior but one of equal status—a perfect counterpart.

Celebrating: Jackie Pullinger of Hong Kong

jackie-pullingerNow and again, people would say “Isn’t it wonderful that God would choose a woman to go? I would say, “No, it’s not wonderful.  Excuse me for being rude about God, but He can pick who He likes.” I mean, it’s no more wonderful for Him to send a woman than a man, or an old man or young woman.  He picks who He wants.  That’s His business.  It was God’s wisdom that sent me.  I was just doing what He made me for.  That’s no credit to me; it’s all credit to Him.  If He’s made you for something, you just do it.” Jackie Pullinger

In 1966 a 22 year old young woman from London, England stepped off a boat in Hong Kong with just ten pounds in her purse. She didn’t know it, but she was about to make history.

As a child Jackie Pullinger had sensed God calling her to mission work. After finishing school and studying music at London’s Royal College of Music her conviction grew stronger. She thought God would send her to Africa, but after several attempts to be accepted as a missionary there every door slammed hard in her face. She was either too young, too inexperienced or too unqualified, and nobody wanted her.

Most of her friends and acquaintances discouraged her aspirations for missionary work, but a trusted friend, a rector, gave her some counsel that changed her life. He advised her to buy a boat ticket for the longest journey she could find, pray, and trust the Lord to show her where to get off the boat. Jackie put her faith in God, bought the cheapest one way ticket she could find on a ship sailing from England, and disembarked in the Asian metropolis of Hong Kong.

Jackie was almost turned back by immigration officials, but God made a way for her to enter Hong Kong, where she found work with a mission run school as a music teacher in the notorious Walled City of Kowloon. The Chinese name for the Walled City was ‘hak nam’, meaning darkness.

The British had taken over Hong Kong many years before, but the walled area of Kowloon had been left under Chinese rule. When the government appointed magistrate died he was not replaced by the Chinese government.  Criminal gangs, called Triads, soon took over.

At the time of Jackie’s arrival in Hong Kong, the dark, narrow alley ways of the Walled City were ruled by these brutal Chinese Triads whose business was drug smuggling, prostitution, gambling dens and every kind of vice imaginable. Neither the Chinese nor the British authorities were able to govern the Walled City, and the police avoided it as much as possible.

Describing her first visit to the City Jackie later wrote: “We squeezed through a narrow gap between the shops and started walking down a slime covered passageway. I will never forget the smell and the darkness, a fetid smell of rotten foodstuffs, excrement, offal and general rubbish.”

Jackie soon found the Walled City was one of the poorest places on earth. The City housed 50,000 people in huge multi-story slums thrown hastily together, which kept the alleys beneath darkened even in daylight. Open sewers crisscrossed the alleys and huge rats ran freely. Many inhabitants survived in the bleak day to day misery of slave-like sweatshops, drug dealing and prostitution. Jackie later said she could walk down any ally and see more than 100 people ‘chasing the dragon’ – shooting up opium or heroin.

Undaunted, Jackie was determined to bring the gospel to the Walled City’s inhabitants “I loved this dark place” she later wrote.  “I hated what was happening in it but I wanted to be nowhere else.  It was almost as if I could already see another city in its place and that city was ablaze with light. It was my dream. There was no more crying, no more death or pain. . . . I had no idea how to bring this about but with ‘visionary zeal’ imagined introducing the Walled City people to the one who could change it all: Jesus.” [Jackie Pullinger, Crack In the Wall: Life and Death in Kowloon Walled City (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1989), 16.]”

Immediately Jackie faced opposition from both the Triads and the established Hong Kong church, who felt the Triad members were beyond salvation.   She struggled with the language and with the apathy of both the local churches and the Hong Kong authorities.

walled city

Jackie started telling people in the Walled City about Jesus but made little impact. The only Christianity these people knew about was a Christianity that looked down on them and considered them worthless. Realizing she needed to demonstrate Jesus rather than talk about Him, she started a youth club to reach out to the thousands of young men whose only future lay with the Triads. Most of these young men were addicted to heroin or opium.

Jackie learned some hard lessons. Talking with a young man who expressed interest in Christianity one day she handed him a gospel of John to read, whereupon she did not see him again. Encountering him unexpectedly two years later she asked why he had stayed away so long. He answered: “I wanted to know Jesus and you gave me a library.”

His response was an eye opener for her. “I re-examined some of my concepts about studying the word of God. The early Christians certainly had no Bibles; they must have learned another way”, she later wrote. [Chasing the Dragon, 77.] From then on she became more focused on personal interaction and less on distributing reading materials.

Jackie faced much discouragement and many setbacks. For some time the youths rejected all of Jackie’s attempts at sharing the gospel, exiting the club with loud catcalls whenever she prayed. Some of the boys destroyed the club and the games equipment that Jackie had purchased for their use, smearing the walls with sewage from the alleyways.

Jackie did not give up however, eventually earning the respect of both the Triad leaders and the Hong Kong authorities. The Hong Kong government even began to pay her a wage, making it possible for her to focus on full time missionary work within the City.

A Triad boss, unsolicited by Jackie, sent guards to protect the youth club from further vandalism. When a Triad leader asked her to help his men get off drugs Jackie refused, saying she would only help them to follow Jesus and to reject both narcotics and organized crime. Amazingly, the crime boss continued to support her and renounced all claim on the boys who became Christians.

Jackie later shared that her breakthrough came after a Chinese Christian couple laid hands on her and prayed for her to be filled with the Spirit. Not long after this Jackie began to see people responding to her invitation to follow Christ. One Triad member who had made several attempts to come off drugs decided to trust Jesus. As she prayed for him he was immediately delivered from his addiction and healed. This pattern began to occur frequently with long term addicts surrendering to Jesus and being set free from their former addictions without pain or trauma.

In time Jackie opened a home to help her young men learn to live in the community outside the Walled City, find jobs and continue to follow Jesus. At first she sent them to church, but finding the local churches did not receive the boys well, she started her own Bible studies where they could grow in faith and be nurtured in a safe spiritual environment.

Jackie found her most effective co-workers were those who had been converted through her ministry. With their help, Jackie was eventually able to outreach further afield and expand her work.

Since those early days Jackie Pullinger has continued to focus on evangelism and drug rehabilitation. In 1981 she established St. Stephen’s Society in Hong Kong which is an international ministry to drug addicts, reaching out into other nations including The Philippines and India.

Through 1993 and 1994 the Walled City was demolished by the Hong Kong government and the residents were paid compensation. Some, however, had to be forcefully evicted. A park now stands where the old Walled City used to be.

Jackie Pullinger, a woman whose faith led her into a lawless and dangerous urban jungle on the other side of the world, continues her ministry to those affected by addictions and poverty both in Hong Kong and many other parts of Asia. Her life is a living testimony to the faithfulness of God, bearing witness that God is not influenced by those who would restrict women from following their callings in Christ to the utmost.

Thankyou Jackie for your courage, your commitment, and your ongoing legacy!

Sources and Further Information:

Jackie Pullinger Woman of God (Short Video)    

http://www.amazon.com/Chasing-Dragon-Struggle-Against-Darkness/dp/0800797035

http://womenmissionaries.blogspot.com.au/p/jackie-pullinger.html

http://godswordtowomen.org/Pullinger.htm

https://eromedaniel2.wordpress.com/2015/05/04/jackie-pullinger/

http://noskopinsnipars.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/great-faith-bio-jackie-pullinger.html

http://www.ststephenssociety.com/index.php

 

 

 

 

Surrounded by You

Surrounded by YouSurrounded by You – who could ask for more?
And yet we do – why are You not enough?
Hot and stifled in fires of our own making
We nearly beg you to be rough.
For where we’ve known no different
The pain flares up irreverent –
The shaking fist of anger makes You hold on only stronger
Heart’s fury is confounded when
Surrounded by You

Surrounded by You – dry ‘really?’ rolls off to land
For life feels like one long stinging whip –
Though outstretched and steady is Your nail-scarred hand,
Must hold on harder with reinforced grip.
To let go control is lethal
Still You beckon, ‘Come to Beth-El’ *
To resentful soul in such need, You offer fully paid deed
Soul’s fearing is unfounded when
Surrounded by You

Surrounded by You – You long to take us in
In spite of self, You spread your wings to hide –
Your nature soft and tender like a Mother Hen
Coaxing, loving, drawing to abide.
To resist is vainly futile,
You’ve already won the battle –
To strong emotion needing Your calm, You soothe with Gilead’s balm
Stiff stance is ungrounded when
Surrounded by You

Surrounded by You – we achingly creep closer
With longing, bringing to You unmet need
Where whispered softly to our person, ‘Yes, I chose her’
Becomes acceptance truth on which we feed
Softened, yielded we surrender
With every victory grow more tender
With seeking spirit find in our Maker, the true and not the false her
Re-claim is resounded when
Surrounded by You

Surrounded by You – our journey does continue
With grace and mercies new for every day
Bolder grow in throne’s approaching, looking to You
Shod with shoes of mercy on the way
Righteousness becomes our garment
Songs of praise replace our lament
Prison bars break down before us as we raise the Victor’s chorus
Our joy is unbounded when
Surrounded by You!

*Beth-El = House of God

What Jesus Taught on Marriage and Divorce

Young Woman Thinking --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Jesus taught on divorce in Matt 19:1-11, Mark 10:1-12 and Matt 5:31-32.

Matt 19:3 The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”  NKJV

 Divorce for “any reason”, also called “any matter divorce” was supported by those who followed the teachings of Hillel, a famous teacher who maintained that Moses allowed a man to “put out” his wife. If she displeased her husband in any way, he could simply evict her from the home. Those who followed the teachings of Shammai said the primary scriptural reason for “putting out” was infidelity.

Matt 19:4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female,

When Jesus said “at the beginning,” He ignored Hillel and Shammai and even Moses and went back to God’s original plan which is found in Genesis 1 and 2.

In these early chapters we learned that male and female were created at the same time and together they were given dominion over everything except each other.  By going back to this truth, Jesus has focused on how God intended for men and women to relate to each other.  In the next verses, Jesus went further and gave God’s intention for marriage.

Matt 19:5 “… ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Jesus’ words were radically different from the culture of His day. Here it was the man who was told to leave his father and mother and to make the relationship with his wife his primary human relationship. It is second only to his relationship with God. Marriage is a three-fold relationship—a man and a woman held together by God. Like it says in Ecclesiastes 4:12 “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

With these revolutionary words, Jesus had come against hundreds of years of Jewish teaching and tradition.  Then quoting the Law from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy,[1] the religious leaders asked,

Matt.19:7. “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

  1. He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

Again Jesus refers back to Genesis before The Fall. He does not rely on the teaching of the rabbis or even the words of Moses or Abraham. He returns to God’s original plan. The importance of these first two chapters of Genesis is critical. Every move of Jesus, as He related to women, reinforced God’s original plan.

The word translated “hardness”  is a term meaning stubborn continuation of a particular action without wishing to change. This definition gives us a good place to look at some of the traditional teaching on divorce that needs to be corrected. We need these corrections in order to understand what Jesus is about to say.

There is a widely-used verse in Malachi 2:16 where most modern translations say, “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce…” What God says He hates is not divorce but the “putting out” or “putting away” of a woman. The Hebrew word shalach is only translated divorce in this Malachi passage. Shalach is translated “send’ 566 times, “send or put forth” 54 times, “send away” 48, but shalach becomes divorce only in modern translations and only in this one scripture.

The King James Version and a a few of other translations get it right.

”For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away…”  Malachi 2:16

“Putting away” or “putting out” is altogether different from divorce in Jewish culture. When a man “put out” his wife, he would send her away, denying her the Jewish divorce certificate. This woman would still be legally married but with no home. The husband would keep her dowry and children. She would have already surrendered her virginity to him. She would be ineligible to remarry, since technically, she was still legally bound to her husband. Further, her culture would label her as an adulteress since she did not have a valid divorce certificate. If her family did not take her back, a woman couldn’t just get a job. There was seldom work for a “put out” woman in Jewish culture of that day except prostitution.

Since most marriages were arranged by the family, meaning she did not choose the man herself, this whole horrible chain of events would have been completely out of her control. The husband, however, was free to marry again and to do this as much as he liked since polygamy was an accepted practice. That is why Moses required a divorce certificate to be given . . . so that the marriage was legally, fairly, and religiously terminated, and the woman would be free to remarry and go on with life.”[2]

Matt. 19:9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

 The mistranslation of the Greek word apolyo as “divorce” in this passage and in Matthew 5:31-32 (NKJV, NIV, RSV and many others) has led to a total misunderstanding of what Jesus means in these verses. The word apolyō in Greek means to send forth or put out or away. As we have said, a woman who is “put out” does not have a certificate of divorce and is therefore still married. Clearly, a man would commit adultery if he married a “put out” woman as she is technically still married!

Only in cases of sexual immorality was it permissible to “put out” a woman. This is because a woman, who had committed adultery and was brought before the courts for a divorce proceeding, could be stoned to death. This is why Joseph, being a righteous man, planned to “put out” Mary, the mother of Jesus, secretly (Matt. 1:18-25, particularly v. 19). He did not want her to face stoning. In the Jewish culture being engaged was to legally enter a marriage contract. So even though they had not been through the marriage ceremony, some action would have been necessary to free Joseph from the contract.

In Jeremiah 3:8 when God says, “I have put her away and given her a certificate of divorce…,”[3] He is speaking of Israel. If divorce were never justified, would God have used these words? In an absolutely perfect world, the union between a man and a woman would be God’s perfect choice for each individual without any destructive forces tearing at the bond. Marriages would never break down. But, this isn’t a perfect world, and some marriages become so emotionally, spiritually, and/or physically destructive that divorce can even be lifesaving. That is why it is dangerous to put legalistic judgment onto yourself or others.”[4]

” Matt 19:10 “His disciples said to Him, ‘If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’

This response is not surprising. Looking at the whole discussion we see that Jesus has rejected the privileged position of men over women found in the traditional lifestyle of His day. He has used scripture to declare the holiness of the marriage covenant in the sight of God. By going back to Genesis, Jesus has stated God’s original plan while rejecting the traditions of men. Are we willing to do the same?[5]

_________________

Footnotes

[1] The Law of Moses concerning divorce is found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The first verse says, “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some uncleanness in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house,”

[2] Francisco, Wendy, Does God Really Hate Divorce, God’s Word to Women website is part of a composite on divorce.  Choose title of interest from this link. http://godswordtowomen.org/francisco1.htm

[3] It is interesting to note that the word for divorce, keriylhuwth, means a cutting off of the matrimonial bond and comes from the root word karath which means to cut covenant.

[4] Francisco, Wendy, Is Divorce a Sin?, God’s Word to Women website. http://godswordtowomen.org/francisco1.htm

[5] While many of the quotes used in this teaching are from the same author, her statements have been researched for accuracy and found to be true.

Young Woman Thinking — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Are Women Also Sons?

Dollarphotoclub_galatians3Recently someone expressed concern when I posted a scripture reference to Galatians 3:26 on the Ishshah’s Story Facebook page. The verse says:

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.’ (NASB)

Some translations use ‘children’ rather than ‘sons’, but I deliberately chose that particular translation in an attempt to open up a discussion about ‘sonship’ and what it means in the New Testament. The concerned person felt that the word ‘sons’ in this context is simply another example of biased translation in favour of males and therefore should be rejected. And trust me there are plenty of examples of inaccurate and biased word/phrase translations in the Bibles many of us use. However, I respectfully disagree with the viewpoint that the use of the word ‘sons’ in this verse is faulty, and here’s why.

The New Testament often uses metaphors to convey a specific idea. Sonship as referred to in Galatians 3:26 is a metaphor conveying a specific spiritual concept, just as ‘bride of Christ’ and ‘body of Christ’ are also metaphors conveying aspects of life in Christ. Metaphors are not gender specific. When Jesus was in the flesh, He had a male body, but no one would suggest that Biblical references to ‘the body of Christ’ include only males.

When Jesus spoke of the woman who searched for the missing coin He wasn’t speaking specifically about females, He was conveying a lesson using contemporary cultural customs (Luke 15:8-10). In Jesus’ day it was women who lit household lamps and kept the home clean. If he had described a man sweeping His house His listeners would not have related to the parable.

Similarly, when Jesus wanted to teach about perseverance in prayer, He used the example of a widow who pestered the judge to give her legal protection (Luke 18:1-8). Everyone in that time and culture knew that a vulnerable widow, more than a man, could very well find herself needing legal protection from her oppressors and having no other recourse but the local magistrate.

The metaphor of a devoted, adoring bride is used in the New Testament in relation to covenantal relationship with Christ (Jn. 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev: 21:2,9). Most of us accept that male believers may have difficulty embracing this bridal metaphor from a cultural and experiential viewpoint, but this does not cause us to say only females can be regarded as the bride of Christ. We also know there are many Christian men who do not consider being part of Christ’s Bride an affront to their manhood.

Some other New Testament metaphors for God’s people include ‘temple’, ‘vessel’ ‘vineyard’, ‘flock’, ‘household’, ‘city’, and ‘light’.

The problem seems to be the word ‘son’. The Greek word ‘huios’ used in this verse is commonly used for male offspring (e.g. Gal. 4:30), and sometimes also for multiple, non-gender specific children (e.g. Rom. 9:27). There is another New Testament Greek word for ‘children’, ‘teknon’, but this is not the word used in Galatians 3:26.

When the Bible speaks of God’s fathering relationship with His individual people it is clear that relationship includes both sons and daughters. For instance when Paul was imploring the Corinthians as his spiritual ‘children’ he reminded them that they belonged to God by paraphrasing Jeremiah 31:9 “‘And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me’ says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor. 6:13, 18). Jesus also used the word ‘daughter’ and the phrase ‘daughter of Abraham’ (Mark 5:34, Luke 13:16). There is no question that God delights in all His children, both daughters and sons, and loves and equips them equally.

But there is also a metaphor of sonship in the New Testament which relates specifically to a believer’s spiritual inheritance and authority in Christ.

Jesus used this metaphor in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons (huios) of God’ (Matt. 5:9, see also Matt. 5.45). Here He used the phrase ‘sons of God’ to teach that all believers can inherit their Heavenly Father’s likeness. To the people He was teaching, inheritance was for sons. However, it would be foolish to say Jesus meant only males could be peacemakers based on this verse.

In Romans 8:14 Paul writes ‘For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons (huios) of God.’ He goes on: ‘For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons (huios) by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”’

The comparison here is not between males and females, but between sons and slaves.

In the Roman ruled culture in which Paul was writing, everybody understood that a slave was one who was bound to a master and was not free to follow his/her own pursuits. Everyone also understood that an adopted son was a male chosen by a Roman citizen to inherit his estate and perpetuate his name.

Under Roman law an adopted son was legally entitled to all the rights of a naturally born son with no exceptions. Additionally, every debt formerly owed by the adopted son was wiped out. He would forego all rights of a natural son in his former family and gain all rights of a natural son in his new family. His former life was literally no longer existent.

The cultural metaphor of an adopted son in Roman law was used here by Paul as the clearest way to explain the finished work by which every believer has now become a joint heir with Christ. This spiritual concept of sonship is not about gender but every believer’s new position in Christ. In the setting in which Paul was writing, sonship was necessary to become an heir. If he had written in terms of an adopted daughter, His readers would not have understood the concept of full inheritance he was trying to convey.

Paul then continues by using the progressive terminology of children, heirs and joint heirs. We first become children of God when we believe in Christ, but God also makes us heirs (sons) and, even better, joint heirs alongside Christ, meaning nothing that is Christ’s is withheld from us – male or female.

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children (teknon) of God, and if children (teknon), heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Rom. 8:16-17)

God the Father has adopted all believers as His children, and also made all believers His heirs (sons) in the sense that He has guaranteed us a spiritual inheritance that cannot be taken away (1 Peter 1:4). Slaves on the other hand had no inheritance.

I believe Paul was using the same metaphor when he wrote to the Galatian believers: ‘you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

New Testament “sonship” is a spiritual position that clearly belongs to all who believe in Christ Jesus, male or female, in the same way that brideship belongs to both His female and male followers. It is not about male or female gender, it is about being joint heirs together because we are now ‘in Christ’. And that is cause for celebration!

Not Quite Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe foot in heel statue II“Inner beauty won’t get you free drinks.”

Some of the most enlightening conversations are those engaged in by other diners sitting within earshot of your own table.

On two occasions in a matter of months, this type of overheard commentary un-graced the breakfast I had just asked the Lord to bless. Sadly, both times it was at my favorite ‘family’ restaurant, a thriving eatery with good food, friendly servers, and a comfortable atmosphere.

Apparently quite comfortable for some of the general public.

Call me naive, but it seems that the sort of talk that has long taken place in bars and man caves has migrated out to booths and tables laden with pancakes and mugs of hot coffee.

Never mind if the next table over is a family with three assorted kids and a baby trying to engage mom in a tireless game of ‘pick up spoons’. Or, the grey-haired elderly couple that shuffled into the booth three feet away and overhearing, are already rolling over in the graves they aren’t even in yet.

Or ones like me and you. Full of opinions ourselves, but  a while back learned lessons in common courtesy about what made for public consumption and what was best kept in bars and man caves.

Meanwhile, back to the ‘other diners’ …

“She didn’t have much on top but she made up for it in other ways.”

Six young adult to early forty-something guys were seated at the big round table a biscuit’s throw away. On a different schedule for the day, I had brought a book and was enjoying my breakfast, ie. minding my own business.

This particular comment garnered an eye-roll from me and a silent sigh of gratitude that my husband’s 28 years of employment at the aluminum plant were long behind us. I can’t tell you how many times he came home in disgust because women’s anatomy and men’s conquests were the only topics over which some could even hold a conversation.

At least the hot and grimy aluminum plant was a more fitting atmosphere than being seated near the restaurant wall painted with an encouraging verse of scripture. On a side note, I silently agreed, albeit from a different take, with “she didn’t have much on top…” since I’ve had a bilateral mastectomy due to breast cancer. One never knows who’s listening.

But wait. There’s more.

“It’s sad what women have to go through to get [taken to bed]. (I’ll spare you the exact quote). I ’bout spit out my coffee over that one.

Followed immediately by, “I had to go to a museum to seal the deal!”

As if visiting a museum was a fate worse than death for someone who simply wanted to get picked up and get on with it.

The saddest part that got to my heart was this last two-line commentary, as well as the disparaging opening line about inner beauty, was uttered by a 50-something woman expounding ‘pick-up’ wisdom to a younger couple with a child in a nearby booth. The disparity didn’t escape me.

 I am a 50-something woman who promotes inner beauty.

Lord help us! and pass the maple syrup.

***

Though it may sound like I’ve been living with my head in the sand, nothing could be farther from the truth. The ministry the Lord has called my husband and me to is filled with real people with real stories. Some of which would curl your hair and drive you to murderous thoughts if not for the Lord’s grace and the occasional angelic hand clamped down on our shoulders or over our mouths. We know about this.

Then we leave our counseling office where we at least somewhat know what to expect (ie. anything) and venture into public. There are far greater numbers of anything out there than we will ever come into contact with or offer help. But it also makes us thankful for the ones the Lord brings directly to us.

In the teeming mass of the general public and Christian community, though, here’s the kicker for me …

All the ishshahs who fight the battle of being a woman in myriad ways, only to have succumbed to the lies about their supposed value. That doesn’t leave too many women – like stones – unturned, does it?

Females have been the brunt of male humor and lust since the near-dawn of time. That doesn’t surprise us. But when women regard themselves in such a manner as I heard described above, it cuts even more to the quick. Our own have a deep, infected wound that cries silently for an equally cleansing healing.

Except they’ve clamped a hand over its mouth. And some have adopted a brassy bravado as their weapon of choice:

  • If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
  • Better yet, beat ’em at their own game. Be proactive and give it away. That way you at least maintain control.
  • Bring it on, big guy. And don’t take me to no museum.

The picture it brings to mind is ishshahs‘ souls wearing combat boots while trying to fit in Marilyn’s high heels.

***

I live in the land world-famous for Hollywood. Not many people are unfamiliar with Marilyn Monroe, the quintessential American sex symbol. While reading about her early life though – before she was ‘discovered’ – it was evident she suffered as deeply as the next general public person, perhaps more.

By the time she had been re-crafted into a blonde bombshell and starred in many films designed only to exploit her sexuality, she tired of how everyone viewed her. In her own words …

“I want to grow and develop and play serious dramatic parts.
My dramatic coach…tells everybody that I have a great soul,
but so far nobody’s interested in it.”

She died at the tender age of 36. Pictures of her deathbed nude body were snapped and published. No one was interested in her ‘great soul’.

Or, apparently, her inner beauty.

That breaks my heart. For her and all the women resigned to believing that “inner beauty won’t get you free drinks.”

What if Marilyn could know, decades later, that the story of her life impacted some ishshahs in a manner opposite to for what she was known, salivated over, and jealously regarded?

That there were some ishshahs who, though well aware they are ‘not quite Marilyn’, do identify with her desire for someone to take an interest in their great soul?

Perhaps it’s time to be the first to take an interest in one’s own great soul. The one bought and paid for with the precious blood of Jesus.

***

For the ‘not quite Marilyn’s’ out there – inner beauty gets you far more than free drinks. It gets you a well of living water that never runs dry.

Straightening up, Jesus said to her,
“Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”
John 8:10-11 NASB

Please drop your self-condemning rock and pass the maple syrup.

~ Nancy

photo credit: “Forever Marilyn” statue in Chicago via photopin (license)

Another look at Genesis 3:16

Open_Torah_scroll

One of the problems we all have when reading familiar scripture is not really paying attention to what the well known verses say.  I’d like to challenge you to read carefully Genesis 3:11-16 along with me.  For ease of understanding we’ll break it into relevant sections.

Genesis 3:11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” 12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” NKJV

Starting when God comes to the garden after Adam and the woman had eaten from the forbidden tree, He questions each participant starting with Adam.  Who does Adam blame?  Read carefully! That’s right, primarily he blames God for giving him the woman.  Note that he doesn’t say a word about Satan’s part in this fiasco.

13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Most teaching says that she blamed the serpent, thus making both man and woman guilty of putting the blame elsewhere.  However, had you ever noticed that her statement is made with Satan right there to hear her?  Notice that God confirms that her words about being deceived are true:

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life. 

God continues,

And I will put enmity between you and the woman And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Gen 3:15

The enmity of Satan has been hard on women – consider it.  Also consider that if there is enmity between Satan and the woman, she is on God’s side.  Pagan religions teach that woman is aligned with evil.  True Christianity does not!

The last half of verse fifteen is the first Messianic prophecy.  We know that the “Seed of the woman” refers to the Lord Jesus Christ.  God promises that the Messiah will come through woman.  What a promise! Is it logical that God would then “curse” the woman with His next words? 

In Genesis 3:16, the Lord gives a prophetic word on what is going to happen, not what He commands to happen.  There is a tremendous difference, and it is a critical distinction.  Translators and theologians have made it seem that conception is a curse and that God intended for man to rule over woman.  Is that true?  Let’s take a look.

Gen 3: 16  To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”  KJV

The translation of five words or phrases shown in bold in this verse should be questioned.  Let’s start with the phrase, “I will greatly multiply your sorrow .  .  .”

Hebrew and Greek scholar Katharine Bushnell, author of God’s Word to Women,[1] holds that the first section should be translated “a snare has increased your sorrow . . .”

(In the explanation below, Upper Case represents the original Hebrew letterLower Case represents vowel signs, which are a relatively recent invention added to make the language easier to read.  Remember, if you read the original Hebrew, there are no vowel signs and it is read backwards. )

Bushnell gets “snare” from the Hebrew word ARB translated “ambush” and  “liers in wait” or “in ambush” fourteen times in Joshua and Judges.

The difference between the two translations given below is only in the vowel signs. Originally they both would read HRB ARB.

HaRBeh, AaRBeh, “multiplying I will multiply,” which is usually translated as I will greatly multiply your sorrow

and

HiRBah AoReB, “has-caused-to multiply a lying-in-wait.” Remember that “lier-in-wait” can also be translated “an ambush or snare”[2].  So this phrase can be translated “a snare has increased your sorrow,” or it could read, “A lier-in-wait (the serpent) has increased your sorrow.”

Regardless it does not say that God is planning to greatly multiply her sorrow.  It is falling for a snare set by Satan that has put her in this place.

Then, we are told that God also plans to multiply her “conception.”

To translate the Hebrew word HRN as “conception” two letters had to be added.  The word for conception is spelled HRJWN. We don’t know for sure what the word “HRN” is, but it is not conception.  “Conception” is spelled correctly in Ruth 4:13 and in Hosea 9:1.  The Septuagint[3] translates HRN as “sighing”.

“A snare hath increased your sorrow and your sighing” is a probable translation of the first section of Genesis 3:16.

In pain you shall bring forth children.”

While it is true that having a child is painful, the word translated “pain” means far more than physical pain.  It connotes a deep grieving or sorrow of spirit and can also be translated sorrow, and probably should be in this case.  “The root from which it is taken, along with its derivatives, signify physical, mental, and spiritual anguish ranging from sorrow to bitterness or despair, to feeling disgust, trouble, turmoil, indignation, even terror.  It is used less of physical pain than of mental pain.”

Women have brought children into the world when they knew they could not provide for them, when they had no say in their lives or what would happen to them.  Even in the best of times there is pain and sorrow in raising children.  Note that the word is translated “sorrow” or “toil” when it relates to Adam in verse 17. 

Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”

“Shall” is an imperative–a command word in English.  The word in Hebrew is “will,” which simply tells of the future, in this case the consequences of an action.  Many recent translations have changed shall to will, but the damage done by considering this verse a command cannot be measured.

The word desire (teshuqa in Hebrew) should be translated turning—women will turn to or reach out to their husbands instead of the Lord and when they do he will rule over them.[4]

Why so many translation errors on one verse? The source is probably a rabbinic teaching that God pronounced ten curses on Eve (something that Scripture does not teach).

These are the Ten Curses of Eve

1 ‘Greatly multiply’ followed by words having to do with ministration;
2. ‘thy sorrow’ in rearing children;
3. ‘thy conception’;
4. ‘in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children’;
5. ‘thy desire shall be unto thy husband’; [followed by profanity leaving doubt of the rabbinical interpretation of “desire”];
6. ‘He shall rule over thee’ [more profanity] ;
7. she is wrapped up like a mourner, i.e.
8. dares not appear in public with her head uncovered;
9. is restricted to one husband, while he may have many wives;
10. and is confined to the house as to a prison.”

The incorrect translation and interpretation of this verse has brought negative consequences that are still being felt today.  Genesis 3:16 is referenced in the margins of many translations to support the doctrine that men are to rule over women.  Amazing, since Genesis 1 & 2 do not say that, and Jesus opposed the traditional treatment of women throughout His ministry.   Even today His teaching on equality and mutual submission is often ignored.  God grant that the days of believing a lie are coming to an end.

Footnotes

[1] Bushnell, Katharine. God’s Word to Women. Eagle Lake: GWTW, 2005.

[2] See Strong’s Concordance and Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon for confirmation of snare as a translation–available on the https://www.blueletterbible.org/search/search.cfm?Criteria=ambush&t=KJV#s=s_primary_0_1website

[3] Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek done in Alexandria Egypt by 70 Jewish scholars two or three centuries before Christ.

[4] To look at the chart developed by Bushnell to show how the translation of teshuqa changed over the centuries.  The chart includes the Ten Curses of Eve.  http://www.womenforthenations.org/#!teshqua-chart/c1lg8

Let Me Not Forget

Psalm 103Ishshah’s Story is pleased to feature a guest submission from another voice new to the blog. Cindy Bishop is from Washington State, USA and is, in her words, a ‘poet, nurse, mother, grandmother, and daughter of the Most High King‘. Join us in welcoming Cindy as she shares a bit of her testimony and the story surrounding the song the Lord gave her from Psalm 103. May her song lyrics to Let Me Not Forget lift your heart in praise as you recall all His benefits.

***

Thank you for this opportunity to share my heart with you. I am a child of the 60’s and praise God, the Lord wooed me and won my heart during that time of peace, love, and rock-n-roll! I am one who loves adventure, and attempt to live life to the fullest. The Lord has taken me on mission trips to Africa as well as Europe. As a nurse, my work place has been prison, psychiatric and chemical dependency facilities, and people’s homes. I love the fact that Jesus embraced  the unlovely and those that most society rejected. I am glad that He has called me to do the same.

For years, Psalm 103 has held a special place in my heart. I was so blessed when the Lord gave me the song Let Me Not Forget, for it was one of those days that I had a million other things I could have been doing, but that morning I chose to spend time with Him. He again met me right where I was at. I find that when I take a step towards Him He leaps towards me!

I so easily get distracted when I become focused on the trials and troubles of the day, and forget His benefits to me. I feel strengthened, renewed, and encouraged when the Lord gives me hope through poetry and song that is birthed from his Spirit and His Word.

Going through a season where ‘the waters have come up to my soul!’ (Psalm 69:1), I desperately needed to be reminded of these benefits and let the truth of His Word quake my spirit and renew me. As the Lord was giving me this song I was reminded I am forgiven and He has cast my sins into the sea of forgetfulness, where they can never be recovered (Micah 7:19). While writing, I also recalled the song Keith Green sang years ago, Trials Turned to Gold. What a benefit – that the Lord has the ability to transform my trials into something precious! He also reminded me of my identity and that I am always on His mind and ever before Him; so much so that He has engraved my name on His hand.

I love it when the Lord makes reference to the eagle. Eagles actually get excited when they see a storm brewing, because they know that it is their opportunity to take advantage of the raging winds – which will lift them up to new heights, above the clouds.

I find that the Lord goes above and beyond my wildest imagination (and I have a very active one!) when it comes to fulfilling my desires and hopes (Ephesians 3:20). Where there once was sorrow and sadness, the Lord enables me to dance and sing! Then there is the fact that nothing is wasted in God’s economy – He even catches my teardrops and saves them in a bottle! (Psalm 56:8)

The Lord is faithful in reminding me that He and His benefits are always with me. As I was driving in a nearby town one day, I noticed that the license plate in front of me said Psalm 103. And because the Lord is so consistent in reminding me of His loving presence, I saw this car and the license plate, Psalm 103, more than once! ~ Cindy

LET ME NOT FORGETPsalm 103

Let me not forget
All Your benefits.
Let me not forget
What You’ve done for me.

You’ve cast all my sins
Into the deepest sea.
Your love unconditional
Has set me Free!
Has set me Free!

I look in the mirror
and now know who I really am.
Your daughter, my name is
Engraved on Your hand.
Engraved on Your hand.

You’ve healed my heart
And help me fly with eagle’s wings!
Above all the storms
All the storms in my life.
All the storms of my life!

My desires, my hopes
You go beyond my wildest dreams!
You fill me with joy
I now dance and sing!
I now dance and sing!

Every tear that I cry
Your hand is there for it to hold.
Even my trials
You turn into gold!
You turn into gold.

Let me not forget
All Your benefits.
Let me not forget
What You’ve done for me!
What You’ve done for me!

– by Cindy Bishop / May 2015

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly
beyond all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works within us,
Ephesians 3:20 NASB

Complementarianism: Three Great Weaknesses

A standing man in Suit with a Bible and a wagging finger

Jory MicahIshshah’s Story is pleased to share this guest post from Jory Micah of Pittsburgh, USA.  Jory Micah is a Bible teacher, preacher, and writer at www.jorymicah.com. She has obtained an AA in Practical Theology (Christ for the Nations Bible Institute), a BS in Church Ministries (Southwestern Assemblies of God University), and an MA in Christian Doctrine and Church History (Regent University). Jory wrote her master’s thesis on women in church leadership during the first and second centuries of the Christian Church, using the Bible as her primary source. Her mission is to empower women to chase their God-dreams, use their voices, and shake off man-made chains that inhibit their purposes. 

There have been many dishonest attempts to overthrow complementarianism all over the internet; but in my opinion this approach is unwise. Before we can examine the weaknesses of this newly formulated word and idea, we must understand what it actually is and do our best not to misrepresent John Piper’s and Wayne Grudem’s theology of biblical manhood and womanhood.

Complementarianism should be understood as “soft” patriarchy. It never promotes abuse of women or abuse of power. Piper and his friends have sought to inspire men to be “servant-leaders” of the household. This means that they are to be the primary financial providers, protectors, and Christ-centered leaders. Sounds great, right? What woman wouldn’t sign up for this?

In fact, many large churches are following the complementarian agenda and are teaching that God has designed men to take responsibility, work hard, provide a great life for the family, love their wives, and actively guide their children.

The ideal complementarian man can be compared to the coolest, kindest, most generous boss one ever had. 

The mother passage for complementarianism is Ephesians 5:22-33, in which the Apostle Paul compares wives to “the Church of Jesus Christ” and husbands to “Jesus Christ” Himself. The passage seems clear, except one notion: husbands are not Jesus Christ Himself. Even the most wonderful Christian husband is still a human, made of flesh and blood, corrupted by sin and selfishness. Complementarians take this passage to its most literal extreme, encouraging men be mini-gods in the flesh.

The greatest weakness of the complementarian agenda is that mere men will always fail to love as Christ loved His Church (His “bride”), which makes this an unattainable doctrine.

When we pressure men and women to adhere to an unattainable doctrine, we are asking for marriage and home troubles. As a Christian woman, I most certainly desire my husband to love me as Christ has loved me, but to expect Him to do this is unreasonable because it is impossible for him to do this. He can try. He does try. But he will fail. If we submitted ourselves to the complementarian ideal, I would always be frustrated with my husband’s failure, which would make me disappointed in him. He would sense my disappointment (even if I tried to hide it) and it would crush his spirit. In time, this theology would cause an emotional disconnect between us.

The reason complementarianism is often misrepresented is because human beings are generally self-centered and can and will corrupt such an interpretation of scripture. This doctrine is the perfect breeding ground for selfish men to gain complete control over women. What better way for a corrupt human being (all human beings are corrupt) to get their way but to say, “My way is God’s way” and “God says I am the boss?”

The second greatest weakness of the complementarian agenda is that mere men will always pervert any system of hierarchy – even if it is supposed to be a “loving” system of hierarchy. 

Many Christian singles and married couples are accepting this theology without reading the fine print. Often, women enjoy being taken care of by a man and men enjoy taking care of a woman. This is OK. This can be a beautiful expression of love and trust (what Paul is actually referring to in Eph. 5), but complementarians have added man-made rules to their doctrine that women do not realize they are signing up for. Mainly, women are signing over many ministry rights and opportunities to men; while men are signing NO ministry rights and opportunities over to women.

Within complementarian thought it is completely acceptable for a man to teach a woman the scriptures, but it is forbidden for a woman to teach a man the scriptures. Men are literally permitted to serve in ANY role they please in Jesus’ Church, but women are extremely limited in the roles they can serve in.

The third greatest weakness of the complementarian agenda is that it teaches men, women, and children that God is a God of double standards.

Both men and women detest double standards and so does God. All throughout the Gospels, we can see Jesus putting His finger on hypocrisy and exposing double standards. Our Savior came to earth to even the playing field; not to add more legalism, oppression, and injustice. Complementarianism has some convincing arguments, but its weakest areas are seriously damaging to both men and women when actually practiced.

Many couples who claim they are complementarians are actually egalitarians in practice, which is why their marriages work well. This model can also work well if the husband is an inborn leader and the wife is an inborn follower because no one is being forced to change their personality and giftings. But, if a theology cannot work for all people, couples and churches, it is a bad theology.

Complementarianism is a bad theology created by brilliant theologians. There is no doubt that John Piper and Wayne Grudem have contributed awe-inspiring work to the 21st century Christian Church, but complementarianism is not among their greatest contributions. Two men have set out to recover the complexities of biblical manhood and womanhood and although I applaud them for their audacious efforts, it is clear that the roles of men and women and how the two relate to one another still appears to be quite mysterious.

 

The Personhood of Ishshah

Graceful Woman - The Personhood of IshshahThe struggle is as ancient as the Fall: the need of woman to be viewed first and foremost as a person. The solution from a fallen world has been to classify her in roles that designate her perceived value and in functions that define her limit and scope of interactions.

For the female heart that suffers in such a manner, the answer is in the Source, the Ancient of Days. There is no other place than looking upward to the Lord God for one’s identity to be restored and becoming a whole woman.

Becoming takes time. For the one who looks to Him, it’s as though the Lord places this beloved half of His heart very near His own full one, personally instructing and leading the way – sometimes accompanied with or attended to by others – into a healing and healed heart. He joins back together what humanity has for eons put asunder. Becoming is worth the time it takes.

Meanwhile, for many an ishshah whose heart longs to be in Christian community, there are some all too familiar scenarios. Where options are few, woman has often leaned in to acclimate or struck out in search of freedom from the restraints. As a result, the Body of Christ as Elohiym intended has suffered.

***

Leaning in to acclimate has led to viewing oneself through the eyes of those in the church who promote, either overtly or unwittingly, woman’s place – in which she is allowed what is assigned. Commonly, scores are kept, report cards compiled. How well and religiously correct woman performs her ‘Christian duties’ helps determine whether she is graduated to a more visible level of service; tucked away in the kitchen or the nursery; or worse – ignored as much as possible. It’s that last one that strikes deeply at her personhood.

When not embraced first as a person to operate in her God-given gifting and calling, the vision (revelation) of the Lord in that place is subdued and people are found perishing (unrestrained).
[from Proverbs 29:18 w/Strong’s notations]

Blessing will come to her and to the people if her gifting and calling is indeed providing hospitality and good food to the Body of Christ or nurturing with a mother’s heart the babes in the nursery.

What blessing of fulfilled vision may come to her and to the people if her gifting and calling is that of an apostle, prophet(ess), evangelist, or pastor and teacher?

The word some in the Greek in the following Ephesians passage denotes and includes masculine, feminine, and neuter.

11And He gave (Gr. to give) some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 NASB

At the discretion and unction of the Lord Himself, He gave and gives men and women as the gifts of becoming and being apostles, prophet(s/esses), evangelists, pastors and teachers.

Do you know what manner of gift you are? Perhaps you are not of the above; nevertheless, there is a place for which the Lord has fashioned you. Only He and not man can fully reveal and bring you into it.

***

Sometimes an  ishshah chooses to strike out in search of freedom from the restraints. When driven by her fleshly reactions, frustration or willful independence apart from the direct leading of the Lord, she unwittingly distances herself from the God-given strength of who she was fashioned to be. Though it may be difficult to perceive, it is the same spirit driving, in an opposite manifestation, the assigning of  woman’s place. If the Enemy prevents her from finding her way back to the true Source, her misguided search accomplishes his objective.

When institutionalized religion and humanity at large (both men and women) have done a fine job of putting asunder what was originally intact before the Fall, to what place does woman have to flee?

There are many: the arms of men; the draw of other women; the halls of academia; the world of fantasy; the vicarious living of life; the coveting of one’s own self; the proving ground of one’s worth…

When it comes down to it though, there is no place one can flee from the Spirit of the Lord or from His presence.  Psalm 139:7

***

Prior to the Fall in the Garden, man and woman freely enjoyed the Presence of the Lord God. They knew what it was to dwell in harmonic companionship, with each other and with Elohiym.

Woman was an equal partner in Elohiym’s divine order – bearing the specific design for which He fashioned (literally built) her. When He brought her to the man, the man recognized and stated of her, “this is the other [on this side] selfsame substance and freshness of flesh” (Heb.) as him.

And the man said, This now at last is bone from my bones,
and flesh from my flesh.
For this shall be called Woman, because this has been taken out of man.
Genesis 2:23 LITV

Taken from out of him, she was the completing half – the female counterpart of the male; the mirror image possessing the necessary uniqueness to balance the other beloved half of Elohiym’s heart. Without each other, they would limp. Together, they stood tall and unashamed, of one flesh.

Sadly, by reason of the Fall, woman became bent toward the man with whom she once freely stood.

He [the Lord God] said to the woman, I will greatly increase your sorrow and your conception; you shall bear sons in sorrow, and your desire shall be toward your husband; and he shall rule over you.
Genesis 3:16 LITV (emphasis mine)

This once-good gift of standing tall before the Lord with her male counterpart was now perverted (distorted, misrepresented, altered, spoiled, led astray) because of sin. The first ishshah’s loss triggered woman’s search to become and need to be viewed as a person created in Elohiym’s image.

Bent as she is, woman’s identity cannot be fulfilled outside of becoming one with Christ alone.

Certainly not in futile attempts to find her identity in a man, humanity, or religion. She may find for herself a group that seems to fit her now distorted beliefs. All it can ever be, though, is an idol – no matter how much self-satisfaction or acclaim it may bring.

Since the Fall, the Lord God has been calling woman in her bentness to straighten back up into a vertical, listening relationship with Him – wherein she is given enabling grace to receive from and respond to Him in love and obedience.

By choosing to maintain a bearing of desire now turned up toward the Lord, what was bent begins to straighten and come into alignment. However slow or imperceptible it may be, desire to trust the Lord in the face of everything untrustworthy moves the hand of God. Becoming is occurring.

***

We at Ishshah’s Story are well-acquainted with woman’s struggle to become. In whatever woman’s place you identify with, wherever it is ‘less than’ or still wounded and unhealed – our heart is that you would know the healing, wholeness, and fulfillment that is only found in and through relationship with the Person of Christ – your Healer and the one true Source of everything that is ishshah.

~ Nancy

photo credit: water carrier via photopin (license)

The Parable of Bonnie

bonnie early ccBonnie came to sleep on our porch last February.   We live in Texas where it seldom gets cold enough to freeze.  When it does we cover our plants to protect them.  We had a cold snap and following the freeze it rained and the sheets I had used to cover the plants got wet.  I drug them on the covered patio to dry and they remained there far longer than necessary.  It was a good thing.

One evening my husband looked out and saw a small black dog curled up on the now dry sheets.  She had pushed them into a pile and was bedded down.  I was thrilled as I had been trying for months to convince him we needed a dog.

However, our new dog was not interested in anything but food and a place to sleep.  There was no getting near her.  Poor little thing was terrified of people.  I put out food morning and evening and it disappeared.  She didn’t object to us watching her eat or sleep through the windows but just touch the door and she was long gone.

This little stray took over the neighborhood.  She was so tiny fences didn’t slow her down.  She played with the big dogs, ate their food and was fed by those who did not have a dog, but no one could catch her   I let everyone know we wanted her and they agreed to stop feeding her so she would bond with us.

Late one afternoon, with the goal of developing some trust, I put out food and sat absolutely still waiting for her to come.   She showed up, took one bite, saw me and retreated.  She would start for the food, then look at me and back up.  Finally she glowered at me, growled and ran across the yard barking.  It was the first time we had heard her make a sound.  She let me know just how angry she was with my interrupting her dinner and intruding on her sleeping spot.  She didn’t come back until the wee hours of the morning.  It was a harbinger of things to come.

Bonnie as puppy cFinally a young neighbor lured Bonnie with food and managed to catch her.  She called, I came with a carrier and Bonnie spent a couple of days at the vet getting shots, a bath and starting treatment for puppy mange. The vet figured she was about six months old—still a puppy.  I brought her home expecting it to take at least a week to win her over but was I surprised!  Within a few minutes she was in my lap and the relationship has done nothing but deepen. Until she came home that day we had never seen her tail anywhere but between her legs or straight out behind her.  We rejoiced to see the tail come up and now it is in an almost constant wagging state.  But there was still a problem.

My husband wanted to be included in all this loving, but it didn’t happen.  It took weeks before she would even take food from his hand.  He has always had a way with animals and her attitude was a real blow.  He loved her, but she continued to reject him.  Only when I left for ten days to visit my brother did a breakthrough come and then only after a week with a broken-hearted dog.  On the eighth day she finally began to warm, and by the time I got home, she was in his lap.

Bonnie currently trusts two people, but only two.  At first when anyone came to the house she went under the bed and didn’t come out until they were gone.  Only in the last few weeks has she decided that this is her house and they don’t belong, so she growls and barks—not much but enough to let them know her displeasure.  Just as she had with me when I came on “her porch.”

Bonnie is now somewhere close to a year old, a bit larger as she is physically mature, smart, strong willed and stubborn.    We have decided that she is mostly Min-Pin and Dachshund and she has traits of both breeds.   Her personality continues to emerge as she begins to heal from the hurt that happened early in her life.

bonnie on bed croppedI don’t know about you, but the Lord uses all sorts of things to speak to me and Bonnie has been one of them.  As I thought about the battle we had to get her to trust, it reminded me of our difficulty in trusting God.  Here she was, a tiny puppy trying to take care of herself, filled with fear, obviously unhappy (remember the tail) but refusing to accept help and going it on her own until she was caught.

How was she caught, by something she really wanted—food.  How does He catch us—same way, though the thing wanted differs.  The end result for her was a relationship of love with me.  For us it is a relationship with Him.

At first it was all fun for Bonnie, nothing required but to see her happy as she showered me with kisses, played with her toys and showed her delight with a wagging tail.  Her response reminds me of my first months in the Kingdom.  What a time of joy and discovery.

My husband was the one who was left out even though he made a valiant effort to win Bonnie’s trust.  It took a hard time for her to give in and accept the love being offered.  Her experience with men must have been like many have with their fathers. Our spiritual life is not complete without the Father.  He will do what’s necessary to draw us to Him though, like Bonnie, it may not seem like love to us until we get  through it.

Bonnie is an escape artist who had learned to quickly spot any places she could squeeze through.  One tiny hole in the fence and off she would go.  We fixed the old fence and gave plenty of space to run but with safe boundaries—He does that for us.  She still spends time looking longingly out the window or through the fence at life outside our loving care.  It looks like such fun and certainly not dangerous.  Been tempted lately?

Bonnie learned the play part of life all by herself.  She is really good at it but the discipline and responsibility facets could use some work.  Sound familiar?

We have tried since Bonnie came to housebreak her.  She agrees only half way—outside is good only if convenient.  Since she always accompanies us on our bathroom trips, I think she has made the connection and claimed a spot in the house as her own.  It is on one throw rug in front of a bathroom door. We love Bonnie and are willing to put up with her disobedient act while we work to convince her otherwise.  Damage to the carpet is prevented by putting training pads under the throw rug and keeping things clean with two extra rugs that go down as needed.  She is a dog not a human—we are humans, not God, yet we far too often with the best of intentions usurp territory that is His alone. The Lord has waited for me to become obedient on many issues, how about you?

Bonnie still has a long way to go as her obedience training proceeds. Coming when called, even when she doesn’t want to, is next on the list.  This may turn into the ”Parables” rather than just the “Parable”  of Bonnie.  God still has a lot for me to learn.

The Reluctant Bride

Author’s Note: The following was recently published on Wellspring of Life in a continuing series entitled Vineyard Days, featuring teaching posts from the Song of Songs and John 15 – Jesus and His church, the Bride of Christ.

Reluctant BrideUntil when does the day blow,
and the shadows flee away?
Turn, my Beloved, and be like a gazelle,
or a young deer, the stag,
on the cleft mountains.
(mountains of Bether – NASB)

Song of Songs 2:17 LITV

***

Months ago, in part three of Through the Lattice, we readers were introduced to the reluctant Bride. Somehow I think she is familiar, for she is us. We can identify with her reluctance but why, why did she send Him away? Why do we ‘send Him away’?

The story of the reluctant Bride did not begin with our friend the Shulamite. By the time Solomon wrote the Song of Songs, many moons had passed since Jehovah Elohiym had strolled in His garden with eager companions who looked forward to His arrival in the cool of the day.

The atmosphere He created – this cool of the day – had been a time of refreshing; an occasion of joy and anticipation; a daily communion, when the breath-blow of the Lord God brought their senses alive and quickened their understanding. It was never His intent that separation occur, though He knew it full well.

They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Genesis 3:8

The Bride has with slow reluctance been coming out of hiding ever since. But, she is emerging. This too He knew full well.

***

Outside of the Literal used above, most translations do not have the Shulamite posing a question. Yet, isn’t that where our minds often go?

“Until when?” “How much longer?” And on particularly whiny days, “Aren’t we there yet?” (I’ve been learning not to ask, “What else?”)

It is not that the reluctant Bride is without desire to know and walk with her Beloved. It is that detaining influences surround her, both within her own heart and without. How difficult it is at times to want to swim upstream in the world around us in order to lay forth new life.

Then there are the shadows. The shame and fear that took hold of the first Joined Ones in the Garden is referenced in the drilling down of the Hebrew meaning of shadows. If there are two things that have most held back the Bride, the Church, from stepping fully into her divine position in Christ Jesus, I suggest shame and fear would land near the top of the list.

Today’s cultural mantra of No shame! and No fear! is an upside-down attempt to throw off the restraints of shame and fear that still bind from the first hiding in the Garden. Only the Agape love of the Lord God truly sets the prisoner free of shame and casts out fear. (I John 4:18) It is His love that in-courages us.

In the natural sense of the marriage covenant, how often have shame and fear dampened godly desire for one’s spouse? Where shadows have come, retreat and ‘sending away’ the other from oneself is commonly practiced. The longer it is indulged, the wider the division and sense of separation. Continued on, whether through divorce or emotional separation while remaining married, in slips the twilight. What was once the anticipated cool of the day in the marriage relationship is now a prelude to long, cold nights.

Unfortunately, practicing retreat and sending away is too easily projected onto our spiritual bridal covenant with the Lover of our souls as well. Shame and fear may no longer look like shame and fear. Instead, they may take on the form of independence or control, reliance solely on the Daughters of Jerusalem instead of the strong arm of the Lord, or sending Him away because we think He has failed us.

How quickly we forget that only He can bridge the gap of the mountains that separate and divide (Bether = division).

Night closes in deeply in the mountains. We need the One we love.

“I, Jesus, am the Root and the Offspring of David,
and the bright Morning Star.”

Revelation 22:16
***

Until when do the shadows flee away?

So questions our friend the Shulamite. I’m glad she asked as it will help us to listen in the darkness.

~ Gracefully Free (my pen name for Wellspring of Life)

Photo Credit: morgueFile free photos – Salto-Angel
Shammahs Field LLC/Shammah Ministries is the biblical counseling, life coaching, and spiritual growth ministry entrusted to Wayne & Nancy Bentz. You can learn more about the resources they have to offer at shammahsfield.com and nancybentz.com.
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