December 23rd, 2011
A whole sermon could be taught on the passage in Hebrew 11:24-26 where the author says, “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.”
When have I ever heard a message on what is being said about Moses in this passage and yet it is a huge step that he has taken here and a rich lesson to us all. We all know so well the story of Moses as an infant being laid in a basket and floated down a river, only to be rescued and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in the king’s household. Most of us today would view this situation as a rare act of God in his life. All Moses’ financial needs would have been met from that point on. He would have received a top notch education – and who knows, he may have even have wound up being king of Egypt one day! Many would have called him a fool to throw this gift away – but Moses did just that. In Moses’ view, all that he stood in line to receive from this inheritance would amount to things. Instead Moses opted for something much richer. He would follow the dictates of his heart and honor God over putting things as dictator of his life.
Today especially in the Christmas season, we are inundated with messages of a plethora of things we need in order to be happy. If we honor those messages, we actually move into more shallow living. Things don’t satisfy, they are placebos at best. Only honoring God and doing as His Spirit dictates will ever satisfy. God’s will and plans for our lives are meaningful and give us reason for living. They are far superior to being a stuff magnet or being relegated to functioning as a manager for our stuff when our lives were meant to change the world through Christ’s Spirit in us.
Lord, today I want to step down from being a stuff magnet or stuff manager and move into the business of ministry I have been created for which is to partner with Your Spirit to change the world. You have promised to meet my every need as I engage fully in Your work that is deep and fully satisfies as nothing else can. Be glorified in my life I pray.
Love, grace and peace,
September 15th, 2011
Ephesians 5:22-23 says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to “love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify her and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word …”
These are challenging words to be sure. Many interpretations have been made and I claim no corner on the market of most likely to succeed interpretations. Firstly though, I think it well worth keeping in mind that the whole book of Ephesians seems to explore the great spiritual heritage that believers – male and female alike, have through Christ and to examine proper conduct according to that heritage. It is significant then that in Eph. 4:15, Paul explains that Christ’s desire is that believers (both male and female), speak truth in love to one another so as to bring growth and unity to the body of Christ.
It is important first of all, to put this passage in the context of Paul’s day and understand that women and children were considered as possessions. Wives were bought and paid for by the groom. They had no financial inheritance and no voice in their fate. They were specifically chosen to enhance the reputation and wealth of the groom. Women were then kept indoors and their role was simple. They were to serve their husband, meeting his every need and desire and to produce many children so that their husbands could be faithful to the Word’s command that they “fill the earth”. Wives were enhancements for men and not persons.
When Paul was addressing the Ephesians, he was saying something quite radical to their culture. Men had not been accustomed to loving their wives at all. This new perspective would require men to begin to see themselves in a different light. No longer were they to see themselves as superior to women, but to make themselves equal to them – even a little lower than them, and serve them just as Christ did His church and thus was willing to give His life for His bride.
There was also another way in that day that women were put at a disadvantage. It was shameful for a woman to study and learn and furthermore, men were shamed if they taught their wives. Spiritual matters were out of bounds for women, as were any other types of formal training. As a result, most women were illiterate, they were virtually kept in the dark. In those days they had no newspapers, no email or websites to access to get or stay in touch with their world. Most were only allowed out of their homes only occasionally and with a male escort. They were prisoners in their own homes. Unity was completely broken down and growth in women had been seriously stunted.
Paul saw this and his heart was broken. As a result, there was much ground to cover in building them up, particularly in the area of their spirituality. Paul’s words express his concern that men also be concerned for the health of their wife’s spirituality until they learned enough to care for their own spirituality. Men were to wash their illiterate wives with the water of the Word, so they might become holy and blameless, and while they were still so vulnerable and disadvantaged, men should be their spiritual covering. Paul was telling men of that day to stop lording it over their disadvantaged wives and to start caring for them as Christ cared for His church. Later Paul exhorts women to learn for themselves, just as Jesus did in the account of Mary and Martha.
Paul’s heart would not likely be to exhort men today to put their wives in a disadvantaged state by lording it over them as that would be putting in reverse what he was attempting to set aright in his day. His message for us today would be the same as it was to the Ephesians – that men should care for their wives and serve them – to humble themselves and see themselves as a little lower than their wives so as to be willing to die for them. This of course is not a one way street, but a message also for wives. With this new view in mind, a pathway would be set in place on which unity and mutual growth could take root and begin to grow.
It is so awesome that today so many women are entering seminaries and universities to study the Word. We have come a long way yet in many countries, men continue to hold their wives hostage in order to preserve their reputations and perceived superiority. These are ones that we need to be continuously uplifted in prayer!
Love, grace and peace,
September 3rd, 2011
Galations 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Living by faith is like using a muscle, whereas living by the law is like setting up a wooden booth around you to keep you on the straight and narrow. For a time, the law was the booth around people. It served to define their parameters of Godly living and was therefore a form of covering for them. However these booths were cumbersome. People stumbled over them and fell and failed to live within its parameters. When Jesus came, the booths were removed from them altogether. The time had come for them to begin to build their own muscles of faith and live under the covering He provided them.
It reminds me of children who are required to live under the rules of the parents in the home. This is like the wooden booth; but these rules are only to serve until the children develop the muscle they need to build their own disciplines necessary to live Godly lives.
Knowing all of this, Paul is asking the question, once that faith muscle has begun to take effect in a person’s life, what would be the purpose of going back to living in that wooden booth? (I say these things for my own good.) Nothing at all is accomplished there except a form of self flagellation and mistrust of self and others. This is not pleasing to God as it is not the plan of God, nor the hope of God for our lives!
Furthermore, Paul is saying that this message applies to every man, woman and child on the planet. No one is exempted for any reason. This means that all are to come to live by faith and none are to be more subject to living in the wooden booth any more than any other … no race, gender, age or socio-economic status is to be more subjected to the law than any other. In this Paul is saying to any who may believe that women or slaves must be kept under the booth – that this is not the heart or plan of God. All are to flex their muscles of faith and live fully devoted to Him and He will be their covering.
All who choose to live according to faith are considered righteous just as Abraham was. Women and men alike, slave and free alike are all invited to live in this liberty that Jesus has granted us.
Love, grace and peace,
June 21st, 2011
The Proverbs woman is virtuous and given much praise for her industriousness and selfless giving to her family and others. She is a provider. Proverbs 31:5 and 8 tell us that “she seeks wool and flax”; “she is like the merchant ships” and she “brings her food from afar”. All of these activities are considered a virtue by the writer.
Providing takes two people. One to bring in the means and the other to know just how to rightly distribute it in order to nurture and provide for each family member. Both roles are necessary, but both must take care to keep their role in balance as both have the capacity to do as much damage as good when not brought into proper perspective.
Generally speaking, men are wired to bring in the means. Matters of making ends meet and having sufficient funds to meet the needs of the family are big for them. These matters weigh so heavily on them that they will sometimes keep them up at night or drive them to take on extra jobs in order to fulfill the needs they perceive the family has. Some are so driven to provide that they lose track of the importance of maintaining healthy family relationships with their loved ones in the process in order to fulfill that perceived obligation.
Generally speaking, women are wired to rightly distribute the means in such a way as to make sure that all aspects of home life are provided for. They are sensitized to the particular needs of each family member and ways in which they can provide a nurturing environment for them. These desires for their families keep many on the lookout for such items and a constant list of up and coming items they will need. Some women take these matters so seriously that they will put their finances in jeopardy in order to meet these perceived needs of their family.
How many men would prefer shopping to bringing home the means? Not many. In the same way, how many women would prefer bringing home the means to shopping to provide for the needs of the family? Many women must work to supplement the family income and others choose to pursue a career, but my guess is that most are more inclined toward having an eye toward how they can use the provision to nurture their families.
Today we hear jokes about women’s spending habits, about husbands not allowing their wives to go shopping or use the credit card. We hear some complaining about their wife’s spending and at times see some controlling behaviors around the topic of spending. How is this seen as a virtue today in light of these attitudes?
Healthy communication is not incidental in the matters of money and many courses are available today for the benefit of families who must deal with financial matters, but it seems to me that couples are most likely to succeed when they seek to esteem the importance of the role their partners play and when each member seeks to understand and respect the limitations of their own role.
Just as men need to be affirmed in their strong efforts to bring in the means for the family, so do women need to be affirmed in their strong efforts to sensitively divide the means among the needs of the family, just as the virtuous woman in Proverbs did.
Love, grace and peace,
April 1st, 2011
Some say that Barak of the OT was not demonstrating manly strength or faith in God when he requested that Deborah accompany him in battle. I wonder … could it be that Barak was keenly aware of Deborah’s tremendous leadership gift and prophetic insight and did not want to be without those gifts in battle? Is that so wrong to want to go into battle as well equipped as possible? All in all, I believe that this is not an account meant to describe how Barak was a wimp, but recorded for us to realize what happens when women and men lead TOGETHER!
To me, Barak was not hiding behind Deborah’s skirt, but recognized what happens when men and women go to battle together, each bringing the weapons God has equipped them with. After all, in the beginning when God created man and woman, He commanded them, both Adam and Eve to rule the earth and subdue it. He appointed them to put their heads together and with the power of the Spirit see that the results could be spectacular, and spectacular they were. Judges 4:23 says, “So on that day God subdued Jabin king of Canaan in the presence of the children of Israel. AND THE HAND OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL GREW STRONGER AND STRONGER … until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan.” Where in the OT do you read of this happening to the people of Israel?
In response to this great victory, Judges 5:1 says that Deborah worshiped the Lord, singing, “When LEADERS LEAD in Israel, when THE PEOPLE willingly offer themselves, Bless the Lord.” In the face of victory, Deborah sang in praise of God. She did not trump up the victory on account of her role in it, but sang about what happens when men and women offer themselves in service together as God ordained it – victory happens! BLESS THE LORD!
In my reading of this passage, I also can’t help but notice the strength of Jael’s courage to drive the tent peg through Jabin’s temple. This could easily have been inspired by the courage of her leader Deborah. Not only do we see the results of men and women working together and on the same playing field, but we see the side benefits of the strength of courage imparted to Jael from Deborah’s influence. That is what I call a win-win situation. If we keep the bottom line in mind which is the victory of the Kingdom of God, what will matter most is that God gets the glory.
Love, grace and peace,
March 21st, 2011
In the beginning when God was just finishing up breathing life into His creation, He let Adam and Eve know that His plans for maintaining what He had created was being bequeathed to them. Genesis 1:28 says, “The God blessed THEM, and God said to THEM, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Two things are quite remarkable about this statement. The first is that from its inception, God intended to hand over the reigns of oversight of all He created on earth to one of His creations – a staggering idea. The second idea is that He did not hand them over to one or the other of man and woman, He handed them to both. That means that they were both to carry the responsibility of leadership and oversight. I do not believe God has changed His mind on that decision.
I also do not for a moment believe that God’s intent was only that whatever man and woman put their hand to would grow, but that man and woman would grow in their relationship together as they sought to discover how it was that God intended they were to work together. He also must have meant that man and woman’s relationship with God would grow as well, as they would be required to seek the counsel of the Creator to learn the best practices for maintaining the earth and all that was in it. Man and woman did not have the blueprints and instruction manuals, God did – an unfathomable idea, but not at all unlike God.
All scripture is given as revelation of who God is and scripture is clear to point out that the highest value God has for His people – men and women alike, was to learn to love Him first and foremost and then to love one another as ourselves. In fact Jesus told us that all of the law and prophets could be summed up in those two commands. Is it any wonder then that Satan would want to mess things up right there at the very heart of God’s design for mankind?
When satan spoke to Eve in the Garden of Eden, his questions gave Eve reason to doubt God’s good intentions for her. Is there anything that could mess up relationships quicker than breaking trust? Adam followed Eve’s decision and both found themselves naked and ashamed. Each of them were responsible for their own actions. Both of them were deceived and both made the decision to disobey God. Trust that broke down relations between them and God had now expanded (as sin does), and now mistrust between Adam and Eve took root and began its work of destroying their relationship together.
Restoring trust is precisely what Jesus came to heal – not only between mankind’s relationship with God, but also between men and women. This restoration was then to expand to restore broken relations between the different nations; between the wealthy and the poor; between the young and the old; between the despised and the favored. The great commission of Jesus is much more comprehensive than we have given credit, and the real work is to restore trust or in other words, faith in God first, then see to it that it is expanded to restore trust in the opposite gender.
God is the God of right relations. Right relations with Him and one another are His definition of righteousness. He is glorified when relations are put aright and when love is extended according to His blueprint, regardless of gender. Love is not always easy. The heart is where relations with God to be healed and set to right, just as the heart is also where relations are to be restored between man and woman. Men and women are by God’s design to co-lead and the working out of this begins in learning to trust God’s original design and plan and leaning on Him to learn how that is to be worked out on earth. May God be glorified in us!
Love, grace and peace,
March 3rd, 2011
Miriam and Aaron were suffering from an acute case of jealousy against Moses. Numbers 12:2 says, “So they said, ‘Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” The catalyst seems to be their offense at Moses for taking an Ethiopian wife, but does the reason for the offense actually matter, or were they looking for an excuse to voice their belief that they heard from the Lord as well? What was the real issue here? What do we do when we perceive others being promoted and not ourselves? This is a deadly game as Miriam’s leprosy attests.
It would appear that Miriam and Aaron’s attitudes revealed their belief that the roles given them by God were a direct expression of His value of them and a measure of their ability to hear Him, but was this belief true? Did it create for them a true picture? Was their true value really to be distilled solely from their perceived importance of the tasks God had given them to do or was their value found in the fact that they were part of His chosen people and that He had chosen to communicate personally and intimately with them? Was their concern for the role God asked them to play not more of a concern for their own honor and respect among men and the eyes of those around them?
If we allow ourselves to get into the game of competition among the men and women around us and want ourselves to be respected among them, we can see how easily we can be drawn into the jealousy that Miriam and Aaron experienced. However, if we set our eyes on that which God has called us to do and love the intimate relations we can have with our Creator in the process, we can begin to understand the true value He sees in us and walk in the safety of humility rather than the precariousness of being high on our esteem in other people’s eyes. Jesus’ mandate was to raise up the lowly and bring down the lofty (Luke 3:4-6).
Regardless of our role responsibility, God has chosen to engage in intimate relations with us and to guide us personally. He would ask, is that not enough for you? In Numbers 16:9, Moses says, “Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel to bring you near to Himself …?”
Love, grace and peace,
February 18th, 2011
Leviticus 17:14 says, “You shall not eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is it’s blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.” God is making it pretty clear here that the life in man has been empowered by the blood that has been given them by Him. Therefore, neither blood nor the life of a man is to be taken away by any other person. He has summed this up in His ten commandments by saying we are not to kill another. It is God who distributes to each person their portion of blood and life. No person is to either add to their portion, nor take another person’s portion away from them. I am no medical doctor, but I suspect that eating someone else’ blood would not add to your own blood supply anyway. This speaks of respect for the right reserved other person’s life and also for the right reserved the Creator to give life and take it away as He has sovereignly appointed.
In the New Testament, Jesus then says that unless we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, we will have no life in us (John 6:53). This would seem to be contradicting Old Testament commands. Time after time, Jesus presented teaching that went opposite to what the Hebrews had known since Moses. How could they understand what Jesus was meaning? The only consideration is that Jesus was identifying Himself as the Creator. Otherwise, He was indeed contradicting Himself. Folks in His day would have had much to adjust to in their thinking as He challenged them at every turn. Scripture says that as a result of this teaching, many turned away.
Jesus was both the giver of life at Creation and while He walked on this earth. He Himself identified His whole mission as to give life and that more abundantly. Jesus sought to restore the rightful fullness of life to all people – men and women; young and old; all nations and all socio-economic strata (Gal. 3:27-29) through the life His Spirit brought. Jesus wanted to invest into the lives and richness of the lives around Him. He was the epitome of selflessness. Human nature seems to want to restrict the lives of others in various ways. Why is that? Only Satan in his pride and selfishness would want to engage in those things.
Jesus asked us to partner with Him in this life-giving mission, having an eye out for ways that we can, through His Spirit, invest life into the lives of others. This goes contrary to the sin nature within us. Are we up for the challenge?
Love, grace and peace,
February 1st, 2011
There is something that doesn’t sit right with me when I hear the term Jezebel spirit thrown around. I think I understand what people are trying to say, as Jezebel certainly earned her reputation for being a wicked woman through her manipulations and evil doings. What occurs to me though is that Jezebel was a self confessed Baal worshiper and in no way subscribed to the tenets of the law of the Hebrews. How is it then that we can judge her by a standard she has never chosen to live by?
The Bible is written as a handbook for believers. It portrays historical, theological and spiritual standards for our lives. It contains guidelines for living a life that reflects God to the world around us. Jezebel did not know God, but her husband Ahab did. Despite his knowledge of God, he chose instead to worship Baal. Ahab was responsible for what he knew, but willfully dismissed what he knew in order to appease his wife.
Jezebel will one day have to account for why she chose not to believe in the One True God, but Ahab will have to account for why he chose to believe, but put God on ignore and carried out great wickedness among God’s chosen people. Ahab was wicked too.
Why is it that some within the Christian community will accuse women of having a Jezebel spirit? Are the women being labeled worshiping Baal? Could it be that we are mistaking a genuine God-given leadership gift among women for a Jezebel spirit? Are women who are simply trying to walk in obedience to the call of God on their lives being unfairly labeled? Are Christians shooting their own to the detriment of the expansion of the Kingdom of God?
December 11th, 2010
Luke 3:4-6 … “as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
God loves women and so do I. To me He has created women to be naturally relational and sensitive to how others are doing; creative and colorful; intuitive and intelligent. Women are lovely! I love watching what they put their hands to, what they say and notice, and what they naturally bring to the ministry table.
Unfortunately, many of the offerings God designed women to uniquely bring to the world were shut down and the beauty of what God originally intended for women got fouled up when the first couple sinned and gave the deceiver power in their lives. After that, women’s lot in life took a serious turn for the worst.
Jesus is still working to restore today what has been lost over the centuries. He came to bring a great reversal to the ways man has adopted and begin to restore what He had originally intended.
What does John the Baptist mean when he says ‘every valley being filled and every mountain brought low’? Is He planning to change the shape of the earth? I hope not, I love the mountains! NO, I believe this means that He is going to level the playing field. Those who have been high on themselves will be brought low and those who had been brought low will be raised up!
Here is what Jesus had to say about His own mission in Luke 4:18-19 … “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me (… meaning God’s idea) to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Do Jesus’ and Isaiah’s prophesies sound similar? One must ask, who are these captives and oppressed? Many sectors of society had fallen into the category of captive and oppressed in Jesus’ day, Samaritans were hated, Gentiles were considered a lesser race, tax collectors were despised and women and children ranked along with the poor and deformed. If the enemy wanted to find one demographic that would most effectively shut down the ministry God intended to bring to the world, which one would he pick? Gender would be his most powerful sector, because half of the world’s population is female!
Jesus asked that all who believed would commit to commission with His agenda and spread the good news that all can come into right relationship with God through Himself. He also asks that we come into right relationships with one another as there were two commands that He identified as the most important. This is a worthy work that still has a long way to go to be as God intended. We all play an important role in the fulfilling of this commission!
Love, grace and peace,