Giving up self-discipline for Lent by Mark Galli

Giving Up Self-Discipline for Lent
There is really only one ‘lesson’ I’ve learned in the penitential season.
Mark Galli | posted 2/22/2012 09:51AM

As I begin to pen this little essay, I grab another three Werther’s Original Hard Candies, when I’ve already consumed two over my daily allotment. Such is the state of my personal discipline when it comes to food—I have no discipline.

So maybe this would be a perfect thing to focus on during Lent. I’m really sick and tired of being a person who has no food discipline, and I’m sick and tired of carrying around extra weight. And to be honest, when I think about this part of my life, I’m sick and tired of me. Maybe a little abstinence will do me some good. Maybe I should give up candy for Lent. Or maybe fast one day a week. Or do something hard. Then I might learn a little food discipline. I might even start losing weight. I might even start feeling good about myself again.

This train of despair is no doubt very common this time of year. By mid-February, our New Year’s resolutions are ancient history. Along comes Ash Wednesday and, well, it’s like a reprieve. We get a second chance to discipline some weakness or form a new habit. Another opportunity to improve our flagging self-respect!

Lent is supposed to have more spiritual overtones than the mere self-improvement mantras of New Year’s. But I suspect that for many of us, Lenten disciplines are more about us than about God. More about getting our act together in some area that continually discourages us and repeatedly sabotages our self-respect. The advantage of Lent over New Year’s resolutions is that we can bring God to our side, and the whole church is there to cheer us on. But for many of us, I suspect, it’s one big self-improvement regimen, with God as mere personal coach. But who am I to judge others? I have enough self-centeredness of my own to deal with.

The White Lies of Lent

I know some readers are thinking: Boy, is he being the Grinch that stole Lent. I suppose I am. But I’ve lived through more Lents than most people, and I’ve learned at least two things over the decades.

First, personal discipline gets harder, not easier, as you get older. The little white lie we tell people is that by learning to discipline ourselves for a short period, we increase our ability to be disciplined for longer periods.

For whatever reason, this rarely, if ever, has happened to me. For example, when I was younger, I could easily fast one day a week for Lent. Now the thought of fasting once—on Ash Wednesday—drives me into a deep funk. It makes me dread Ash Wednesday. What has happened? How come all that practice at fasting has only made things worse? Because fasting has only heightened my love of food! I miss it so much when I fast! Food consoles me in sadness and helps me celebrate my joys. When it is taken away, what’s there to live for?

Second, we rarely move on to bigger and better things. This unveils the other white lie we tell ourselves: As we discipline ourselves in small things (eating sweets), it will inevitably help us discipline ourselves in large things (like being generous to the poor). We get this from Jesus, of course (Luke 16:10), but it’s the inevitably that’s the problem. You see, when picking the small thing for self-discipline, we sometimes fail to recognize that it’s not all that small. We pick it because it plagues us, and has plagued us for years. This means it’s likely to continue to plague us for years to come. And so instead of helping us to move on to loving others, our life energy is spent trying to not eat little pieces of candy.

Fasting doesn’t even necessarily lead us into deeper prayer, which is the big twofer of fasting for some people: We discipline the body while immersing ourselves in prayer. But when I fast, prayer is the last thing I feel like doing. I’m tired, weak, and thinking about food the whole time I’m praying.

So, instead of the small thing helping me become faithful in the big thing, it just makes me focus more and more on the small thing. Fasting just reminds me how little I love God and how seldom I live according to his ways. I believe, but O Lord, help the enormity of my unbelief.

To be sure, I have known a few Lenten successes. My wife and kids and I gave up TV one Lent and made a surprising discovery: We didn’t like TV all that much. From that Lent forward, there were very few times when my wife and I had to discipline anyone to stop watching too much TV.

But that exception proves the rule. The other times I have successfully fasted or made strides in serving my wife, for example, I became quite proud of my improvement. My right hand definitely knew what my left hand was doing. In short, what my Lenten successes have done more than anything else is inculcate pride and self-righteousness. Spiritually speaking, that’s one step forward and two steps back.

So Lent for me has generally done just the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. It’s made me more aware of my sinfulness, selfishness, and lack of faith. It’s made me a worse Christian in some ways.

And this may suggest the real point of Lent.

Thank God, Easter Is Coming!

I grant that there are superstar Christians whose motives during and after Lent are more purely God-driven. And I ask for their prayers. But I suspect that most Christians are like me, and being inveterately selfish people, we naturally try to turn Lent into an exercise of self-improvement, though we do give God a supporting role. But why bother with God at all if mere self-improvement is the goal? There are plenty of helpful self-improvement programs out there—to help us lose weight, to help us organize our schedules, to help us have better sex, and so on and so forth. Most never enlist God’s help, and I don’t have a problem with that. I take it that God planned it this way. Maybe he’s saying, “Hey, when it comes to small things like this, I’ve given you sufficient abilities to manage your lives on your own. Why are you bothering me about this?” In short, I don’t believe we need Lent or God to improve ourselves in these small matters.

But we need Lent and God if we’re going to get saved.

Here’s the one invaluable thing that Lent teaches: Yes, Martha, you are the undisciplined, self-centered human being you suspected you were. Yes, Frank, you are in many respects a miserable excuse for a human being. Yes, we are sinners, and sinners without hope. When it comes to the really important things—like learning to have faith, hope, and love—we can’t do a blessed thing to improve ourselves. These come as gifts or they don’t come at all.

To me, participating in a Lenten discipline is my chance to do a little play acting. What would it be like to live as if the law were in fact sufficient? How about for 40 days I pretend that I really can improve myself in the sight of God? Let’s see how that works for me.

What I find Lent after Lent after Lent is that Lent is a miserable way to live! This is one reason we’re so glad when Lent is over! If Lent were such a great idea, if it really did make us better Christians, you’d think we’d want to turn Lent into a lifestyle. But no, we don’t want to do that precisely because Lent is an onerous form of existence. It’s the life of duty. Life under law. Life as a death march.

Easter is the perfect day to end Lent because it’s the day when we recall that the chains of law and death have been broken by Jesus, the one who fulfilled the law and conquered death for us. We recall it in worship, with trumpets blaring and choirs singing and (in my church, sans yours truly) dancing in the aisles. We do it after church by gathering with friends and family and eating and drinking as if gluttony were a virtue.

So for me Easter doesn’t become a day when I thank God that he has made me more disciplined, not like those non-liturgical folks who don’t even observe Lent. Instead, it becomes an occasion to celebrate the fact that my self-respect does not hinge on my self-discipline, and that my very lack of discipline is the paradoxical sign of the gospel. Indeed, while we were gluttons and prayerless, while we didn’t give a rip about the poor, Christ died for us. It’s not for the spiritually fit and healthy that he came, but for the unfit and unhealthy. We may be faithless in areas small and large, but he remains faithful through and through.

So I end this little essay by grabbing two more pieces of candy, for Ash Wednesday comes tomorrow! It will be time to give myself again to disciplines great and small. I do that partly because, in the end, it is probably better to be a little more disciplined or loving and self-righteous than undisciplined, unloving, and merely lazy. And who knows, by God’s grace, I may lose track of what my left hand is doing!

But I do it mostly to prove once again the impossibility of living up to God and the gracious necessity of being down to earth, of remembering that I am dust and weak and desperately in need of a Savior.

And recalling that I have one.

Mark Galli is senior managing editor of Christianity Today. He is author of Chaos and Grace: Discovering the Liberating Power of the Holy Spirit (Baker).

Brave New Women

• Consider the following list of Opportunities:
o Spiritual Opportunities – Women’s ministry develops communities in which women experience life transformation and produce spiritual fruit
o Empowerment – Instead of passively participating in prescribed programs, women are encouraged to pursue their gifts and passions through a variety of opportunities
o Lateral Hierarchy – Lay leaders are effectively trained and equipped by staff to empower all women to be ministers in their church and community
o Creativity Leaders – They are not bound by old paradigms but support new ideas and outlets for accomplishing the goals of the ministry
o Unity – The women’s ministry is not only aligned with the mission and vision of the church but integrates with the church culture and direction
o Diversity – Women of different ages and backgrounds benefit from participating together in the ministry activities
o Influence – Women use their collective voice in the church, the larger body of Christ, and the surrounding community to address issues that matter to them
• Consider this list of Challenges:
o Change – Leaders must guide women through the transition while maintaining the impact of the ministry
o Disconnection – Women’s ministries must never be so big & influential that they become the sole driving force or branch off in their own direction. Leaders must tactfully re-integrate the ministry without losing the power and enthusiasm of women.
o Traditions – You want to attract new generations of women while retaining the values of elder members.
o Relevance – All church activities compete for space in peoples calendars. Be sure to offer them opportunities that they will find essential for life.
o Resources – The dreams of many leaders stretch far beyond their limited budgets and capacity of staff. Reaching these goals requires creativity and support from the church decision-makers.
o Accessibility – Leaders must foster inclusive communities of women while eliminating ministry constructs that lead to insularity & cliquishness
• You have to make people uncomfortable with the present; otherwise, they don’t know why they should change.
• A buffet of programs to attend does nothing to facilitate spiritual growth and transformation. Steward their gifts and their time and disseminate the women as mature Christians in their neighborhoods and workplaces “Go out and be Jesus in your community”
• There is a global shift towards “missional” models so consider supporting more community development at the grassroots level.
• Another emerging shift is that people don’t want to be forced into a building to experience God. We don’t want processed people but rather a community who learns and engages together in order to speak into the culture.
• Social awareness is on the increase globally and many churches are moving towards a greater focus on community outreach.
• To make this happen and equip workers in the field, ministries are teaching deeper spiritual principles, encouraging stronger and multi-generational relationships and adapting for change.
• Its time to cross lines, adapt, borrow, reinvent and confront the change monster!
• Whether a ministry s on the cusp of change or a whole system is on the verge of revolution, dealing with the human element of the change process is the number one challenge in realizing future plans.
• But be warned and be prepared to be
o Trailblazers (Pioneers)
o Lonely
o Ostracized
o Criticized
o Marginalized
o But it will have eternal impact and it will make a difference and achieve the purpose for which God intended.

Empower Me!

Empowerment refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, educational, gender or economic strength of individuals and communities.

Empowerment is a process that challenges our assumptions about the way things are and can be. It challenges our basic assumptions about power, helping, achieving, and succeeding.

At the core of the concept of empowerment is the idea of power. The possibility of empowerment depends on two things. First, empowerment requires that power can change. If power cannot change, if it is inherent in positions or people, then empowerment is not possible, nor is empowerment conceivable in any meaningful way. In other words, if power can change, then empowerment is possible. Second, the concept of empowerment depends upon the idea that power can expand. This second point reflects our common experiences of power rather than how we think about power.

Empowerment is a construct shared by many disciplines and arenas: community development, psychology, education, economics, and studies of social movements and organizations, among others. How empowerment is understood varies among these perspectives.

As a general definition, however, we suggest that empowerment is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power (that is, the capacity to implement) in people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important.

Empowerment is multi-dimensional, social, and a process. It is multi-dimensional in that it occurs within sociological, psychological, economic, and other dimensions. Empowerment also occurs at various levels, such as individual, group, and community. Empowerment, by definition, is a social process, since it occurs in relationship to others. Empowerment is a process that is similar to a path or journey, one that develops as we work through it.

Seeing people empowered is at the core of who I am!
I love to see people succeed!
I love to see them flourish!
I love to see them grow and develop!
I love to watch someone’s journey!
I love to see someone conqueor failure!
I love to be a part of something that evolves and changes!
Empower = change, abundance, new, victory, success!

Brave New Women

• Women’s ministry arose predominantly out of the need to support missionaries and plant churches and has become increasingly inwardly focused and cliquish.
• Women’s ministry needs to REENGAGE
• Women’s ministry needs NEW YOUNG LEADERS TO BRING NEW RELEVANT FOCUS
• Women’s ministry needs to be CONNECTED to the churches vision not functioning as a silo on its own with its own separate mission.
• All ministry needs to be organized around a common vision provided by the church leadership team.
• Its time to blow up the dinners, the flings and the teas which serve no purpose beyond the events themselves.
• Do you have a few bible study groups which are gaining knowledge with no application? Are they just filling in the blanks? Is there a disconnect between what the bible study knows and what they do?
• Women in the church need life transformation but they are often met with legalism and judgement.
• HELP WOMEN APPLY SCRIPTURAL PRINCIPLES IN THEIR LIVES and not just to answer the study questions correctly.
• Rearrange the ministry and base it on individuals not on programs and activities. Teach every woman that she is gifted for service and can fill a role in the ministry.
• FLUFF IS OUT, DEPTH IS IN!
• Women want to know “How can I be a better mother?” “How do I walk with Christ in the workplace?”
• Women are not just going to give up their time for anything. They want to connect but that connection must have a purpose.
• Casual social events tend to inhibit women from pursuing further spiritual growth.
• Women are wilting rather than flourishing because they are not challenged by strong spiritual leaders. Their hearts desire is looking for something more real. Some of them know its Jesus. Some of them don’t.
• Women are not always interested in big name speakers – they want to hear from someone like themselves, not someone who has it all figured out.
• A growing awareness that life is messy business has created a new desire for transparency and approachability among women at the church.
• Too many women are used to church being a place where they have to appear to be perfect, and make life look easy.
• Create an environment for women to share their raw testimonies with one another, to create meaningful connections.
• While the relational foundation of women’s ministry remains the same, its MODUS OPERANDI is changing. Every generation will give their tweaks to it. Every woman wants a more natural, relevant ministry than their mother’s.
• Younger generations are experiencing womanhood differently than their older counterparts.
• No one size fits all and we must ask the question “How do we minister to all generations?”
• Who is in your constituency? Single professionals? Working mother’s? Stay-at-home moms?
• What are your biggest challenges? Lifestyle? Time? Spiritual maturity?
• What is the role of the ministry? Discipleship? Equipping? Supportive? Evangelical? Empowerment?
• Could you consider using online social networking to develop common interest groups?
• Do you as women need to re-explore and redefine the concepts of gender and womanhood from both biblical & cultural perspectives?
• Younger generations are almost genderless and don’t define the gender lines the way older generations did. A lot of professionals in the church are not used to gender limitations. It is important for church leaders to outline a plan for articulating gender concepts biblically while still empowering members in their gifts and talents.
• There is a lot of confusion about what it means to be a woman in the church. The church is sometimes guilty of communicating that women who choose not to marry and have kids are less valuable than mothers and wives.
• Women stereotype themselves according to predefined roles such as wife, mother and working women which limits them and creates catty comparisons. We must celebrate “womanhood” and celebrate one another without putting anyone down based on these stereotypes.
• A current trend in the church is to seek “cohesiveness” in all ministry areas by focusing on a fundamental principle or teaching referred to as “the big idea” i.e. global outreach, community, worship, spiritual transformation. It is then every ministries purpose to align with the bigger vision of the church.
• Having women on the church’s executive staff is one strategy to facilitate unity with a greater church vision.

The Restraining Force

New Testament clearly portrays that prior to Jesus’ return the world systems will be in darkness, steeped in lawlessness.
Scriptures 2 Thess 2:3-6 & Rev 19:11 – 20:6 make reference to this.
Something is restraining the man who embodies the fullness of rebellion toward God!
So who or what is this restraining force?
Initially we would think it might be the Holy Spirit but His work is to woo the people of the world to Jesus (1Cor 12:3)
So how about the only other possibility and that’s the Body of Christ?
Have you ever considered that the body of Christ can restrain lawlessness as Jesus himself did by reigning in life?
Jesus said ” As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5)
Is Jesus Christ still in the world?
Yes he is but its not His head, but His body – the bride of Christ. That’s us.
Scripture never refers to the Holy Spirit as the light of the world.
Jesus says “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14)
Christ is the head and we are His body.
.
As Jesus is, so are we also.
We are the light of the world.
Light restrains darkness. Darkness can never overcome light.
Light always permeates dark even if only very faintly.
Consider this thought:
If only a few Christians in the body of Christ realize who they are in Christ, and they walk in the power of grace, then the world is dimly lit.
This is the problem in the world – we have only dimly lit the world!
But it doesn’t have to remain that way!
Imagine a light-filled body of Christ comprised of all ages, inclusive of men and women, awakening to what God has hidden within and arising in His glory and power?
Believers will live in such an extraordinary manner that multitudes will be drawn to the kingdom of God, not merely through preaching, but by the compelling demonstration of how they live and their remarkable feats!
This is what Isaiah prophesied in Isa 60:1-3
“Arise, shine;
for your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
and deep darkness the people;
but the Lord will arise over you,
and His glory will be seen upon you.
The gentiles(unbelievers) shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.”
Note that although there will be darkness – LIGHT WILL COME!
The glory of the Lord will ARISE, not descend.

Many Christians are looking for a spectacular outpouring of God’s Spirit to come upon the church bringing a great revival.
BUT
What if God is waiting for us to wake up, to realize who He’s made us to be and to activate the power deposited in us.
Once we do these things and truly believe, we’ll become exceedingly bright and light up the entire world.
So let us embrace the gifts we find in the grace of God to enable us to live incredibly salty lives that will increase the light of the church in this dark world.

The Transformation of Women’s Ministry in 21st Century Culture

• Younger generations of women reject traditional programming in favor of more purposeful spiritual interaction.
• Innovative church leaders are experimenting with new ways to EQUIP women to exercise their gifts & passions through relationships, spiritual development & outreach
• Leaders are finding that teas, lunches, fashion-shows and socially focused retreats no longer fits the needs and desires of their congregations.
• Previous ministry activities and programs are tedious, time-consuming & irrelevant to new generations seeking to discover their gifts and passions through meaningful expression.
• There is a shift happening in the evangelical community, and an earthquake happening in the culture itself.
• God is at the center of these changes as a force of deconstruction and reconstruction.
• The future to which we are heading has not yet been created and you can be sure that it will look completely different than it looks right now.
• Its time to start experimenting with new ways to equip women to exercise their gifts and passions rather than simply recycling programs to entertain our people.
• Try to encourage ORGANIC development: women creating their own expressions of spiritual growth and outreach rather than being handed a menu of predetermined activities.
• Younger women are speaking loudly with their declining participation in traditional women’s ministry events, citing such reasons as busy schedules and hectic lifestyles.
• Theses younger women are however increasingly involved in community service events outside the church walls.
• Consider these new innovations:
o Connecting individuals in small groups on social networking websites.
o Holding bible studies at popular bookstores and coffee shops.
o Write relevant curriculum for bible study. Study the sermon series being preached. Make it available FREELY online.
o Train others to lead a study in their preferred way i.e. online, in bookstore, via facebook, via blog, via column.
o Taking important conversations to the streets “DIVA BUS”
o Cross-continental partnerships
o Design a retreat focused on practicing the spiritual disciplines and growing in spiritual maturity. (Spending personal time with God to hear his voice)

10 Lies the Church tells women! by J.Lee Grady

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Ten Lies The Church Tells Women

FOR CENTURIES, A PATRIARCHAL SYSTEM OF CONTROL HAS KEPT WOMEN IN SPIRITUAL CAPTIVITY THROUGH DISTORTION OF THE SCRIPTURES.  IT’S TIME TO DEBUNK THE MYTHS. 

By J. Lee Grady

We live in the 21st century, but if we’re honest we have to admit that in some ways the church is still in the Dark Ages–especially when we look at the way we treat women.

Even though the Scriptures never portray women as secondary to men, our male-dominated religious system still promotes a warped view of female inferiority.  Women are tired of this, and as a man, so am I–because such demeaning attitudes don’t reflect God’s heart. 

Jesus challenged gender prejudice at its core when He directed so much of His ministry toward women.  In a Middle Eastern culture that considered women mere property, He healed women, discipled them and commissioned them to minister.  Yet today we spend much of our energy denying them opportunities–and using the Bible to defend our prohibitions. 

I’ve identified 10 erroneous views about women that for too long have been circulated in the church, preached from pulpits and written in the study notes of popular Bible translations.  I believe we must debunk these lies if we want to see the church fully released to fulfill the Great Commission. 

LIE #1.  GOD’S ULTIMATE PLAN FOR WOMEN IS THAT THEY SERVE THEIR HUSBANDS.

How sad that so many Christian men view women from a selfish perspective.  This view is often promoted by misreading the account of Eve’s creation in Genesis 2:18-25, in which Adam is provided a “helpmate.”   The Hebrew word used here often is translated “companion,” denoting intimacy and partnership.  But through the centuries it has been used to imply that Eve was some type of domestic appendage. 

We men have assumed that God gave Eve to fulfill Adam’s sexual needs as well as to serve as his cook, laundress and maid.  But the Genesis account does not say this. 

After Eve’s creation, God did not tell her: “You are Adam’s helper; I command you to serve him well.”   She was not created for servitude; she was fashioned to be a co-laborer with Adam so that they might rule together over creation as God commissioned them to do (see Gen. 1:28). 

LIE #2.  WOMEN CAN’T BE FULFILLED OR SPIRITUALLY EFFECTIVE WITHOUT A HUSBAND.

From the time she was released from a German death camp in 1944 until her death in 1983, Corrie Ten Boom taught the world about a Savior who could forgive the cruelest Nazi.  Yet she never married.  Did the fact that she did not have a husband make her less “complete”?  Some Christians would say yes. 

We have spent so much energy defending the concept of the biblical family that we are guilty of idolizing it.   We’ve preached that a woman’s primary responsibility is to find a godly husband, have lots of babies and stay home to raise them for Christ.  

But marital status is not a qualifier for ministry.  The Bible does not even state whether certain key followers of Jesus, such as the 12 disciples, were married or not. 

The highest calling of all believers–married or unmarried–is to develop a relationship with Jesus.  Any other earthly relationship is secondary, and Christ Himself warned us never to allow people we love to become idols that distract us from Him. 

LIE #3.  WOMEN SHOULDN’T WORK OUTSIDE THE HOME.

Many evangelical churches have preached that women who work outside the home are breaking a scriptural commandment, but this conclusion can be reached only by distorting the biblical record.  The woman described in Proverbs 31 is often used to bolster a traditional view of the June Cleaver-style matron who spends her day baking casseroles while her husband is at the office.  But a careful reading reveals that the Proverbs 31 woman, in her ancient Middle Eastern context, functioned as a real estate agent and ran a textile business. 

Titus 2:5 instructs women to “take care of their homes” (New Living Translation).  But most scholars would agree that this passage simply exhorts married women not to forsake their children. 

It is true that, because of ambition or materialism, some Christian women neglect their children even though the Holy Spirit has urged them to put their career objectives on hold.  But rather than placing a legalistic burden on women by telling them that having a career is ungodly, we should tell both men and women to submit their career plans to the Holy Spirit’s direction. 

LIE #4.  WOMEN MUST OBEDIENTLY SUBMIT TO THEIR HUSBANDS IN ALL SITUATIONS.

A distraught Christian woman who was regularly beaten by her husband finally gained the courage to seek counsel from her pastor.  After she told him about her husband’s fits of rage, the pastor responded, “If your husband kills you, it will be to the glory of God.”

The pastor reached this irresponsible conclusion because of a distorted view of “male headship.” We often portray marriage as a hierarchy, with husbands on the throne and wives at the footstool, and we use Scripture to justify this view: “Wives…submit to your husbands as you do to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22).

We assume this verse means women have no say in family matters or that their opinion is second-rate.  In extreme cases, women have been told to submit to abuse in order to honor male headship.  But this is not a Christian view. 

Paul also told the Ephesians, “submit to one another” (5:21, emphasis added).  I have heard teachings by male clergy on the subject of male headship, but I’ve never heard a pastor encourage men to submit to their wives! Yet in a loving marriage, a man and woman will defer to one another as they make decisions. 

In my 16 years of marriage, my wife and I have had plenty of disagreements.  But when we reach an impasse, I don’t announce, “I am the head of this house, so what I say goes.”   Rather, Deborah and I either agree to pray about the matter, or we choose to defer to one another. 

The point is never who is in charge.  I view my wife as an equal.  I am not “over her.”   We function as one. 

LIE #5.  A MAN NEEDS TO “COVER” A WOMAN IN HER MINISTRY ACTIVITIES.

This idea came from a distorted interpretation of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “the head of woman is man” (NKJV).  People have used these words to bolster the idea that women are subservient to men or that they cannot approach God without a male authority figure in their lives. 

Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11 about head coverings is a difficult passage, and Bible scholars don’t agree on its meaning.  However, most teach that Paul is addressing specific cultural concerns in first-century Corinth and that he is calling for propriety and order in a society where immorality and paganism had blurred gender distinctions. 

Paul was not placing men in a position of generic rulership over women.  Because there is “no male or female in Christ” (see Gal. 3:28), women can pray, worship, study the Bible or minister without a man present.  How silly to think that a man, because of his gender, could add credibility to prayer or Spirit-empowered ministry! To believe this would be to trust in the flesh. 

LIE #6. A WOMAN SHOULD VIEW HER HUSBAND AS THE “PRIEST OF THE HOME.”

Search your concordance.  Scripture never describes men as “priests of the home.”   This man-made concept was popularized in evangelical churches in the last century.  We have one priest, Jesus Christ, whose blood atoned for our sins.  It is a mockery of the gospel to suggest that any human being needs an additional priest apart from the Son of God.

The Bible says all believers are priests (see 1 Pet. 2:9, Rev. 1:6); there is no gender restriction.  Husbands function as priests when they pray for their families or when they minister the Word of God to them, and wives also function in this role. 

My experience in marriage has been that God speaks both to me and to my wife.  He doesn’t say to me, “Since you are the head of this house, I’ll tell you my plans for your family, and you can tell the others what I said.”   Often God has revealed His plans to my wife before I heard anything!

Christian men need to stop being defensive and recognize that God has called us to function in unity with our wives.  We need to listen to their counsel, consider their opinions, and pray together for the mind of the Lord rather than putting our foot down and shouting, “I am the leader of this family, and what I say goes!”  

LIE #7.  WOMEN ARE NOT EQUIPPED TO ASSUME LEADERSHIP ROLES.

The most common mistake we make in biblical interpretation occurs when we take one isolated verse and build a doctrine around it–even if the verse seems to contradict other passages.  This is often what we do with 1 Tim. 2:12, “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” (NASB).

Most theologians believe that this passage was addressing an isolated situation in Ephesus.  They came to this conclusion after studying the myriad of references in the Bible to women in spiritual authority.  The Old Testament records that Deborah was a judge over Israel–and God blessed her leadership in battle (see Judg. 4-5).  Other women who held authority over men include Miriam, Huldah and Noadiah. 

Jesus issued His first gospel commission to women (see Matt. 28:1-10), and both men and women were empowered to preach on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).  Priscilla, Chloe and Phoebe were leaders in the early church, and one woman, Junia, is called an apostle by Paul (Rom. 16:7).

The promise of the prophet Joel was that “sons and daughters” would prophesy after the Holy Spirit was given to the church (Joel 2:28, emphasis added).  Yet we have taken one misunderstood verse from Paul’s writings and used it to negate hundreds of other passages that support the full release of women into ministry.

LIE #8: WOMEN MUST NOT TEACH OR PREACH TO MEN IN A CHURCH SETTING.

Since 1 Timothy 2:12 obviously contradicts the overall biblical endorsement of women in authority, how are we to understand it? What is Paul actually saying in this passage?

In their book I Suffer Not a Woman, Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger explain that certain cultic worship practices involving female priestesses of Diana had invaded the first-century church.  These priestesses promoted blasphemous ideas about sex and spirituality, and they sometimes performed rituals in which they pronounced curses on men and declared female superiority.

What Paul was most likely saying to the Ephesians was this: “I do not allow a woman to teach these cultic heresies, nor do I allow them to usurp authority from men by performing pagan rituals.”   He was not saying, as some Christians have assumed, “I do not allow godly Christian women to teach the Bible.”   In his day, Paul would have been thrilled to have had more skilled women who could teach the truth!

LIE #9.  WOMEN ARE MORE EASILY DECEIVED THAN MEN.

This idea has been taught by twisting the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:14, which says, “It was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression” (NLT).  Some have suggested that because Eve was tricked by the devil, women have a stronger propensity toward deception.  Others have gone so far as to insist that women are to blame for all the evil in the world and are therefore under a greater curse than men. 

No respectable Bible scholar in the church today would promote such a view.  The Bible clearly states that Adam and Eve were both held guilty by God for their disobedience, and they were both punished.  In 1 Timothy, Paul cited the creation account not to place extra blame on Eve but to refute a bizarre teaching that was circulating in Asia Minor. 

In the first century, Gnostic heretics were mixing Christianity with paganism.  One of their teachings stated that Eve actually liberated the world when she disobeyed God and gained secret knowledge from the devil. 

Paul was not teaching that women are more prone to deception.  He was explaining that what Eve did was not right, and that the Christian view of the creation was that Adam and Eve sinned when they listened to the serpent. 

Women are certainly capable of spreading deception because they have a fallen nature as men do, but there is no evidence that they have greater gullibility.  That view is rooted in demeaning stereotypes and prejudice. 

LIE #10: WOMEN WHO EXHIBIT STRONG LEADERSHIP QUALITIES HAVE A “SPIRIT OF JEZEBEL.”

Once I was listening to Bible teacher Cindy Jacobs speak at a prayer conference in Colorado.  When she approached the pulpit, two men who were sitting in front of me turned to each other and began to pray softly. 

“Lord, we bind the power of the devil from bewitching this audience,” one man said, adding, “We bind the power of Jezebel in the name of Jesus.”   These men believed that the crowd would automatically come under a spirit of deception when Jacobs taught them–simply because she was a woman. 

How absurd! Was Barak “deceived” when he took orders from Deborah? (See Judg. 4:14.) Did baby Jesus come under a harmful influence when Anna prophesied over Him? (See Luke 2:36-38.) Was Apollos spiritually emasculated when he submitted to the teaching of Priscilla? (See Acts 18:26.) Of course not!

To associate godly women with Jezebel, a wicked Old Testament despot, is unfair and offensive, yet men in the church today often pin Jezebel’s label on strong, anointed women because they feel threatened by them. 

Let’s stop the insults.  If a woman is using manipulation to usurp authority or if she is spreading heresies, then she certainly deserves the Jezebel label–as do men who do such things.  But women who walk in spiritual integrity and preach the Word of God with power deserve our respect. 

________________________
J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, has enlarged on this topic in his book, Ten Lies the Church Tells Women.  It is excellent.

Do you TRUST your team?

 

Trust is a huge part of having a highly functional team.

One of the greatest talks I’ve ever heard on TRUST and the importance of trust on a team is from Andy Stanley.

In fact, listen to a leadership podcast that Andy recorded. Great insights on this podcast. Highly recommend that you and your entire team take time to listen to this podcast together, and then discuss it. Our team did recently, and was incredibly valuable.

Here are a few main points and thoughts after listening to Andy talk about Trust vs. Suspicion:

1. Being trustworthy doesn’t mean you’ll be flawless and not make mistakes. Give your team freedom to make mistakes and then being willing to own up to it.

2. A great statement in terms of trust: I’ll do what I said I would do, and if not, I will tell you.

3. As leaders, if our team fears our response when they mess up, because they’ve seen our response and don’t want to deal with that, we need to change our response. Our response as leaders is determined by my personal maturity and security.

4. Ultimately, we create a culture of trust by trusting, and trusting more, and trusting even more.

5. Three things to blame when something goes wrong- blame a person, blame human nature, or blame the system. But many times, when the system is at fault and to blame, we still want to blame a person.

6. The tendency when something bad happens, or one of your team members acts in an untrustworthy fashion, is to try and create a system or a policy that will keep it from happening ever again- managing towards the lowest common denominator. One person messing up causes the entire system to change. This is not the right thing to do. All you’ll do is create a culture where everyone thinks you don’t trust them, and perhaps end up running off your best people on the team who are incredibly trustworthy because rules and regulations have been set up for one person, and not for everyone.