A prayer for a cheap beer drinker

Falling down drunk
Onto the couch this time
Not the floor like last time … like last times

Face down
Head hung over the side
Hung over like he’ll be

Unless he has another can

Off the couch
To the fridge
The blessed can’s inside

On the couch
Looking down between his legs
Eyes not focusing

But he knows cans

Fumbling for the end
Fingers found the pop top
Pop

Eyes on the floor
There’s a book split open
Face up

He knows that book

It’s got lots of stories
About wine
And drunk people

People drunk
Like him
But on wine

Not cheap beer in a can

He remembers the story
About good wine
At a wedding

Made special
By a guest
Whose mother told him to help out

But he’s not at a wedding

The eyes see the book
Not the words
On the page or the can

But he knows what’s inside
The can holds what he wants
The book holds something else

One in his hand the other at his feet

Head back
Eyes closed
Lips mumbling

Words get lost
In the can he brings
Up to his mouth, again

A prayer for cheap beer

Or a question
Could he ever like wine
Or the guest?

The question
Could the guest
Ever like him?

A prayer for a cheap beer drinker
On a couch
Drunk

***

(c) Tim Fall 2018

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The Weekend I Drove a Red Corvette – blowing the doors off the ordinary

I walked from the car rental counter out to the parking lot, looking for my car in the space with the same number as my paperwork. There it was. A beige Corolla. To its left was a slightly less beige Corolla; to the right was a slightly more beige Corolla. I opened the trunk to put my garment bag inside and heard a voice from behind, right at my shoulder.

“Do you want the red Corvette or the silver one?”

I turned around and saw a rental car employee. He reached into the trunk and pulled out my garment bag.

“The red …?” I said as I followed him. He did have my garment bag, after all.

“I’ve got two Corvettes on the lot and I don’t want to keep them here over the weekend. Do you want the red one or the silver one?” He pointed to the two cars sitting side by side.

“Same price as the Corolla?”

He nodded.

“Red.”

He showed me how to retract the roof, where the luggage would fit behind the seat, and sent me on my way.

So I went on my way.

In a red Corvette.

Convertible.

Desert Highway

The flight from Northern California landed me seventy miles from the conference hotel. I’d always rented nondescript subcompacts to drive from the small airport to the conference every year up to then. A nondescript car is a mismatch to the extraordinary desert scenery along Interstate 10 east of Los Angeles.

This time I had a car to match the road.

Did I open it up to see what it could do? No. Landing oneself in the hoosegow on the way to a judicial conference is considered bad form.

The conference lasted four days. In the evenings, after spending all day in windowless conference rooms, I’d get in the car, put the top down, and drive through the desert drinking in the scenery and the desert fragrance.

I never did that in a subcompact car.

Extraordinary Living

Driving a beige subcompact or a red convertible analogizes well to life. Ordinary or extraordinary – the choice God offers is clear.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10.)

Too often I choose the nondescript subcompact way of life and it takes someone coming along and grabbing my luggage, leading me to the red convertible sports car, and putting the keys in my hand to make me realize there is a better drive at hand. That someone might be a friend, or a writer, or a singer, but I am convinced they are all sent by the One who is the true Author of Life. (Acts 3:11-16.)

This is the extraordinary life Jesus promised:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8.)

And this is the extraordinary life Paul spoke of:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13.)

So trust God: jump in, start the engine, and drive. You’re in for an extraordinary ride.

And unlike that red Corvette, you don’t have to hand the keys back at the end of the weekend.

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The Scars of Christ and Mothers – manifesting the glory of God

[Today’s guest post from Jennifer Michelle Greenberg explores pregnancy scars, the labor of Christ, and the glory of God.]

When I look down at my maternal body, I see a white line running from one side to the other. I feel the ache in my left hip where my tendon shredded during labor. I see the stretch marks, the loose skin, and the broken veins. I see scars.

Our culture tends to have a contradictory view of motherhood. On the one hand, moms are saints, pregnancy is beautiful, and childbirth is the miraculous epitome of love, joy, and hope. On the other hand, pregnancy is viewed as a freedom-curtailing curse, labor is avoidable via abortion, and children are a means by which women are oppressed by men.

Both of these views are damaging to women, and wildly unbiblical. Yes, sexism is real. Yes, motherhood is glorious, mundane, fulfilling, and agonizing all at the same time. So how do we, as Christians, handle the dichotomous beauty and trauma of childbearing?

It’s helpful to look at the three predominant childbirth metaphors used throughout Scripture to help us understand how God views pregnancy and labor. Once we understand how our Creator views these things, we can grasp at how the created should too.

  1. The Labor of Christ

In Isaiah 42, God compares the suffering of Christ to that of a mother giving birth, saying, “I will cry out like a woman in labor; I will gasp and pant … I will lead the blind in a way they do not know … I will turn the darkness before them into light …”

Just as a woman endures pregnancy and labor to give her children physical life, so Christ labored and agonized to give his children spiritual life. Even after Jesus rose from the dead he had scars. In his resurrected state, he bore the white gash of a spear in his side and gaping holes from nine-inch nails in his hands and feet.

The Incredulity of Thomas, Hendrick ter Brugghen, ca. 1622 (Wikipedia)

In John 20, we read about Thomas who couldn’t believe Jesus had risen from the dead until he’d witnessed it himself, saying, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Then Jesus appeared to Thomas and replied, “Peace be with you. Put your finger here and see my hands; put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, believe.”

The Holy Spirit healed Jesus but did not erase the evidence of his sacrifice. Why? Because scars are important. The marks of suffering mean something. They are irrefutable proof that love is more powerful than pain and death. They are signs of new life.

  1. The Endurance of the Church

Many times, the Church is compared to a woman in labor; suffering, straining, and eagerly awaiting the love and rest she anticipates after delivery. In Revelation 12:2-6, John poetically describes the Old Testament Church, Israel, as a woman in labor with the Savior of the world while being stalked by Satan, the dragon.

She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. … And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness … .

While Christ spiritually delivers us, Mary literally delivered Christ. Eve and Sarah are also said to have been “saved through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15), not because pregnancy or childbirth is salvific, but because their lineage – the DNA in their wombs – brought into being the God-Man Savior of the entire world. They biologically delivered Christ, and Christ spiritually delivered them from death. It’s a fun little play on words, as well as a glorious picture of the role women play in redemption.

While Eve, Rachel, Sarah, and all the other women of Jesus’ lineage physically delivered Christ, once he was born, we know that Satan – that dragon of old – tried multiple times to “devour” him. First, Herod had all the male babies and toddlers murdered (Matthew 2:13-18), but Mary and Joseph fled with baby Jesus to Egypt. The Pharisees and Jewish leaders plotted to kill Jesus for years (Matthew 27), until finally, when Judas betrayed Jesus, they succeeded.

The Massacre of the Innocents, Matteo di Giovanni, 1488 (Wikipedia)

Imagine the shock Satan must have felt, after gleefully watching the Son of God crucified, to see him defy death, rise again, and be “caught up to God and his throne.” Now, like Israel, newly freed from our slavery to sin, the Bride of Christ wanders in the wilderness on our journey toward the Promised Land of Heaven.

Paul extends the analogy of childbirth to the whole of creation in Romans 8:22-23, saying,

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

Just as Israel and all of nature longed and groaned for the birth of Christ for thousands of years, so we – the New Israel and New Testament Church – now suffer and groan as we eagerly await the Second Coming of Christ, or our birth into Heaven.

Paul again uses the comparison to describe his ministry, laboring for the Galatians in chapter 4 in hopes of new spiritual Life born into their hearts. “My little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”

  1. The Horror of the Wicked

The third metaphor God uses is less hopeful. However, it demonstrates how well God understands the agony and trauma mothers endure. In Isaiah 13:8 the prophet compares the infliction of the wrath of God to the agony of a woman in labor, saying, “They will be dismayed: pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame.” But of course, the wicked will have no hope of love or rest when Christ finally judges the world. Their labor will be never-ending and futile.

The Manifestation of Love in the Scars

I used to look at my stretch-marks and c-section incision and see a wrecked and worn body. Yet because I know that Christ too bears scars, even in Heaven, I can look at my own as a beautiful manifestation of his self-sacrificial love in me.

“From now on, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.” (Galatians 6:17-18.)

Like Thomas, our children and husbands can look at our scars; our stretch-marks, warbly bellies, and love-torn figures, and marvel at the power of Christlike self-sacrifice. As our husbands care for us, treasure us, and sacrifice their time and energy laboring to provide for us, we also can witness Christ’s love through them. As husband and wife, we mirror Christ to one another; the father in his way and the mother in her way, and the childless husband and wife in their own glorious way too.

Like Adam and Eve, we are poignant pictures of a love that will one day be perfected in the Eden of Heaven. So now, the man and the woman are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, and we should not be ashamed (Genesis 2:25).

***

Jennifer Michelle Greenberg is a recording artist, writer, and homeschool mom who will be publishing her debut book on abuse recovery with The Good Book Company. You can read more of her writing and hear her music at www.JenniferGreenberg.net. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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The Needs of Poverty and the Responsibility Jesus Passed on to You

When Jesus told his friends “You will always have the poor among you” he was preaching a sermon straight from the words of Moses in one of his final messages to the Israelites.

Moses assured God’s people that the new land God brought them to would be so full of abundance that there was no reason for anyone to live in poverty.

Of course there won’t be any poor persons among you because the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, but only if you carefully obey the Lord your God’s voice, by carefully doing every bit of this commandment that I’m giving you right now. (Deuteronomy 15:4-5.)

And yet just a few sentences later Moses said:

Poor persons will never disappear from the earth. That’s why I’m giving you this command: you must open your hand generously to your fellow Israelites, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11.)

So which is it? Will there be poor people or won’t there be any poor among God’s people?

It appears that Moses is telling them that there is no reason for anyone to be poor due to the abundance in the new land, and yet there will still be people in need. The point he is making is that there is likewise no reason for that need to go unmet. This is a land of plenty where everyone is to make sure everyone else is taken care of.

Now if there are some poor persons among you, say one of your fellow Israelites in one of your cities in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, don’t be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward your poor fellow Israelites. To the contrary! Open your hand wide to them. (Deuteronomy 15:7-8.)

This message to the people of Israel would likely have been familiar to some if not all of Jesus’ listeners at a dinner party thrown by some of Jesus’ friends.

Six days before Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, home of Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Lazarus and his sisters hosted a dinner for him. Martha served and Lazarus was among those who joined him at the table. (John 12:1-2.)

The scene reminds the reader of the earlier party where Martha served while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, and this bothered Martha so much she asked for an open rebuke of her sister. (Luke 10:38-42.) But this time the story takes a surprising turn, leading one of Martha’s guests to call into question an extravagant gift Mary lavished upon Jesus.

Then Mary took an extraordinary amount, almost three-quarters of a pound, of very expensive perfume made of pure nard. She anointed Jesus’ feet with it, then wiped his feet dry with her hair. The house was filled with the aroma of the perfume. Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), complained, “This perfume was worth a year’s wages! Why wasn’t it sold and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He carried the money bag and would take what was in it.) (John 12:3-6.)

I’m Not so Far from Judas

Judas probably had the nerve to ask the question because he was focused on his greed, even if he did not think of it in those terms. He wanted the money in his care so he could take it for himself. Yet Jesus spoke not to his greed but to a more basic issue found in Judas’ attempt to deflect attention away from himself by invoking the needs of poor people.

Then Jesus said, “Leave her alone. This perfume was to be used in preparation for my burial, and this is how she has used it. You will always have the poor among you, but you won’t always have me.” (John 12:7-8.)

The phrase “You will always have the poor among you” echoes Poor persons will never disappear from the earth.” The point was not to make excuses (“Why wasn’t it sold and the money given to the poor?”) but to use what has already been given in abundance to care for those in need.

Most people reading this blog live in abundance compared to those who experience daily and chronic poverty. Being generous with that abundance is what God promises will address the needs of the poor among you: you must open your hand generously to your fellow Israelites, to the needy among you, and to the poor who live with you in your land.

The ability to help is there, and the need is there. This help is not restricted to those who are in God’s family, but to anyone needy or poor. Moses said to be generous to all, and all meant all when looking at the list he then gave. If you see someone in need and you have the means to provide, Moses said that’s what you do.

The problem is that I am sometimes more like Judas than Moses. I might not be stealing from the money box, but I admit I sometimes welcome excuses not to jump in and help. Jesus was having none of it. As you can see, he didn’t tell Judas not to steal or not to be greedy. He reminded Judas and everyone else of a deeper principle: you know there will always be people in need and you are supposed to be doing something about it already.

I’d Rather Be Like Mary

There is a person in this story I want to emulate, though. Look at Jesus words about Mary: “Leave her alone.” Her lavish use of an extraordinary amount of expensive perfume to anoint Jesus is honored by Jesus himself. Yet Jesus does not give the impression he is preening in the spotlight. Rather, he is commending her faithful service in preparing him for the hardest moment of his life: his betrayal, beatings, crucifixion and death.

Did Mary know what she was doing? Jesus’ statement of his upcoming death might have stunned her as much as anyone else in the room. But she – along with her sister Martha and brother Lazarus – knew who he is and that he is worthy of worship. Jesus had raised Lazarus from death to life after all, and as Mary confessed while her brother still lay in the grave: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27.)

Mary’s choice to use the perfume on the Messiah of all the world was not a rejection of the instruction to care for the poor. It was a recognition that there are many ways to do so. Jesus had no money of his own, after all, and made sure those who chose to follow him as their rabbi knew it:

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57-58.)

In the title Son of Man (or the Human One, as the CEB puts it), Jesus aligns himself with all people everywhere. Every woman and man, girl and boy, every child in the womb and (as he would soon join them) every person in the grave is a person Jesus identifies himself with. This is God in the flesh; as Isaiah said, this is Immanuel who is God with us. (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23.)

Mary is not rebuked but celebrated, and knowing what we do of her and her family in the Bible I would venture that their faith extended to all aspects of life including caring for the poor. Mary knew that God had provided abundantly for her family and they were in a position to help those in need. She also knew that out of this abundance she could follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit (as I suspect she must have in her decision at that dinner) to pour the perfume upon Jesus.

If you live in abundance, how do you help others to live as well? Do you use your resources to meet their needs, whether in their poverty or when they face difficulties and death? This is the call of God and these are the words of Jesus:

Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:8.)

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The Nature of Wisdom – Women, Rationality, and Reason

[Wisdom from guest blogger Rachel Darnall.]

Earlier this week, my good friend Jennifer Greenberg, who gets more than her fair share of trolls, attracted the attention of a certain “christian” gentleman who went a few rounds arguing with her, then shared one of her replies (the contents of which are not the point here) with this comment:

“This is why you should never bother with trying to convince women with logic and reasoning. They are not men, and there’s a reason why they are barred from being in the pulpit.”

Jennifer’s troll is an exaggerated example of a line of reasoning that I have seen many other times. It goes something like: the reason why God established male headship in marriage and restricted teaching offices in the Church to men is because men are by nature rational and logical, whereas women are by nature too emotional to reason on a man’s level, and they are therefore incapable of the understanding and discernment necessary to teach.

In the case above, the person espousing this belief was a man, a chauvinist, and a scoffer. However, it would be wrong and naïve to dismiss him, because I have heard identical sentiments from more “benign” sources, including Christian women themselves. In a private social media group which consists entirely of women, I have heard women refer to their Christian sisters and themselves as “emotion-bots” who need a man’s Spock-like logic to guide them.

This may sound like humility, but it’s not a humility grounded in Biblical truth.

Dismantling Denigration

It’s difficult to know just where to start with dismantling this idea, because it’s packed with too many false dichotomies to count. It would be easy, and not unreasonable, to begin by attacking the false dichotomy of man as wise and woman as foolish. I could easily make a case that scripture does not make understanding equivalent with masculinity. I could point to the Proverbs 31 wife, who “opens her mouth with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Prov. 31:26). I could point out the irony of the gentleman’s words in light of the fact that in Proverbs 8, wisdom – who says, “By me, kings reign and rulers issue decrees that are just” (Prov. 8:15) – is portrayed in the feminine. All of this would be accurate and relevant, but it’s not my purpose here gain a point on the scoreboard for my sex.

I have no dog in the fight over the pulpit: as it happens, I myself hold to the view that authoritative teaching positions in the Church are to be held by qualified men (Tim and I differ in our view on this, but he has graciously invited me to write this post and share it here). At the heart of the position I described above is a wrong-headed view of women, but up-stream from that is a wrong-headed view of the nature, source, and purpose of wisdom.

Throughout the Bible it is made abundantly clear that human wisdom is held in holy derision by God. 1 Corinthians takes up this theme, and reveals the hope and promise of a different wisdom:

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2: 15-16.)

Discernment of spiritual truth is not by the flesh (including that part of our flesh which distinguishes us as male or female), but by the Spirit, by whose ministry we possess the mind of Christ.

The question of whether the male mind possesses a more rational or analytical disposition than the female mind may be interesting fodder for someone’s pointy-headed dinner party discussion, but such worldly controversies have nothing to do with the spiritual discernment required to rightly understand the Word of God.

Women and Heavenly Wisdom – a promise from God

If women are barred from understanding the things of God based on our sex, then we are indeed to be pitied, but not because our folly disqualifies us from standing behind a pulpit. A pulpit is a nothing more than piece of wood, and it is of little eternal consequence whether one stands behind it or sits in front of it. What matters is eternal fellowship with Christ; and if we do not have the mind of Christ – which is the only way to be wise – then we do not have Christ. To say that women are condemned to folly by virtue of being women is to say that women are condemned, full stop.

Fortunately, God does not dole out His Spirit (see Gal. 3:27-29) or wisdom based on anatomy:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5.)

The arrogant will never seek the wisdom of God because they do not feel the lack that drives them to source of it. God will leave them to their counterfeit wisdom, but to those whose eyes have been opened to their foolishness, He proves Himself more than generous.

James tells us what heavenly wisdom looks like. There is no mention of right brain or left brain, of emotionalism or rationalism, or any fleshly aptitude:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13-17.)

If anyone claims to be wise while he boasts in his flesh and derides Christ’s sisters, you may be sure that he is deceiving himself. Wisdom is opposed to pride in every way. It begins with humility, and humility is its end.

What is the source of spiritual wisdom? Not a “masculine” mind purged clean of the stain of emotion, but God, who gives to all who ask.

What is the fruit of spiritual wisdom? Not the self-celebratory pride of man, but the humility of a creature who images a humble God.

What is the purpose of spiritual wisdom? Not so that we may win the ”prize” of a pulpit, but that we may receive the free gift of knowing Christ.

Let the world worry about comparing corrupt mind to corrupt mind, with measuring flesh against flesh. As for me, I have only one boast and one hope:

I was foolish, but Christ has made me wise.

***

Rachel Darnall is a freelance writer and contributing editor for Iron Ladies Magazine. Her writing has also appeared in Arc Digital and Fathom Magazine. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two daughters, and their border collie, Shostakovich. You can connect with her on her blog and on Twitter.

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Wives Submit . . . To Whom? A Look at 1 Peter 3

[A guest post from Pastor Jill Richardson]

A few months ago, we watched the movie “Arrival.” Twelve alien ships hovered over the earth, and the movie’s tagline asked everyone’s question—Why Are They Here?

This was roughly the attitude of the Romans toward the early Christians. They had no idea what to do with these alien people whose thoughts, actions, and values no longer matched their society. Like many others do when confronted with people they don’t understand, the Romans did what history records—they persecuted the different ones.

Peter writes to his churches in this climate, and he offers some controversial instructions to those suffering people—instructions we wrestle with still. In fact, this is the third time this week I’ve wrestled with his instructions to wives, a record even for me, an avowed evangelical feminist pastor.

“In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.” (1 Peter 3:1-2, NLT.)

What’s the Point?

I like to look at an author’s reasons for writing something, whether it’s an epistle in the Bible or a Facebook “news” article, before I decide what he or she means. (Forgive me, I used to be an English teacher. Also, it’s just good exegesis.)

For Peter, the overarching point throughout his letters is this — How do we Christians behave in a hostile world in a way that points people to Jesus? You can see it everywhere in his words. This was Peter’s filter, the lens through which he saw and wrote every line. Why does that matter when considering his instructions to wives?

It’s everything.

If we don’t look at those verses through Peter’s intended lens, we don’t see what he wanted us to see. It’s like looking at the Rockies with a fisheye lens when they were meant to be panoramic. You get distortion, mountaintops that swell, lakes and trees that shrink. You miss the point.

Peter reinforces his theme when he tells his readers the reason for wifely submission—your husbands will be won over to Christ because of the way you live.

What’s the Context?

Christian women married to unbelieving men was common. Some were married before becoming believers. Some married later by the command of a father or because there were too few Christian men. (There were fewer men in the society as a whole—much the same problem that China faces now for some of the same reasons.) Whatever the reason, they found themselves in a dilemma. They knew they were free and equal in Christ. Some believed it would be right to leave their spouse and begin over as a believer. Everyone, especially Peter, knew wholesale acts like that would make the surrounding society hate and misunderstand Christians even more.

Since the goal was (repeat after me) — to behave in a hostile world in a way that points people to Jesus — Peter discouraged that. He wanted those women to remain in their marriages and bring the men to Christ.

Peter, like Paul, addresses the tension between offering new freedom, which looked too much like revolution to the Romans (and they were right—it was), and maintaining security and order. In Christ, you are free and equal—but how do we use that in a society where that’s seen as a dangerous, rebellious, uprooting of every social order?

In a world where the empire, your husband, and possibly everyone else is against you, how do you respond? The only option for the underdog was to submit. Peter imagined women whose goodness to their husbands would be so beautiful the men would have no choice but to see Jesus. (“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” v4)

Commoners, Slaves, and Wives

Regardless of chapter division, these instructions for wives to submit come in a series of three. We come to chapters 2-3, and we see the word “submit” (voluntarily accept the authority) three times. Christians—submit to your government, slaveowners, and husbands. All three are legal institutions that require your allegiance.

Yes, all three. The thing we moderns don’t comprehend is that the marital relationship in Rome was every bit as much a legal arrangement as slavery and citizenship. A husband was a woman’s legal owner. He was not, as we like to believe in our modern western world, her lover. Certainly, love and affection did happen, and Peter banks on this, but it wasn’t the expected outcome. The institution resembled our modern marriage about as much as your relationship to your dog does.

So his instructions to wives are the same as they are to slaves and commoners. Submit to your legal authority. Behave in a way that is so Christlike neither he nor anyone else can say anything against you.

In a hostile world, point your spouse to Jesus.

If one is going to assert that these verses mean all women submitting to their husband for all time, then we’re forced to also assume all slaves are to obey their masters for all time, because this group of three was not meant to be divided. The same verb is used for all because all three groups (commoners, slaves, and wives) were legal underdogs in Rome.

If that’s the case, my denomination’s entire raison d’être was unbiblical. I’m going to have to tell the bishops.

People tried to claim Peter’s biblical submission regarding American slaves in the 1800’s, but the public found this a reprehensible application of Scripture. Strangely, many Christians do not find the same argument regarding wives at all reprehensible, but they embrace it as a statute for all time. This doesn’t preserve the integrity of Peter’s argument or grammar.

More accurately, Peter was imploring his people to accept whatever institutions they were under and use those structures to glorify Christ. The question then is, do these structures still exist, and if not, to what institutions do we submit? An argument can be made, for example, that we submit to employers in much the way slaves were told to submit to masters, because that is our modern institution to make use of for the glory of Christ. Marriage, I would argue, is not at all the same legal institution it was then.

A Whole New World

Was submission of slaves to masters a temporary state until Christianity permeated enough of the world with its salty tang that the institution of slavery no longer existed? If so, then why not the submission of wives to their legal owners, their husbands, until the same thing happened with the institution of marriage?

We get a hint of that, in fact, in following verse.

“In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7.)

Peter drops a revolutionary bomb here. Husbands, love your wives, because you are equals. First, Roman culture didn’t consider loving one’s wife a necessity. They actually considered it a downright inconvenience. Second, equals? LOL.

Peter had a new world order here in mind, but he was mapping it out slowly. While Christian wives were submitting to unbelieving husbands? Believing couples were to model what real kingdom life was like. They lived in love and respect with one another. When an unbelieving husband was brought around to Jesus, that’s what he saw, and that’s what the new believing couple would become.

It was a revolution in family order, but it was slow.

In fact, Peter’s plan for marriage was far more difficult than the simplicity of women submitting to men. That would be easy. His calling for mutual honor was far more difficult and powerful. Wives and husbands would love so well that submission would not be even close to what they did. They would transcend it. The sacrifice for one another and the desire to encourage, lift up, honor, respect, and give to the other would be beyond some piddly submission. That is what would, and did, bring unbelieving Romans to Christ.

Which was, as we said, the whole point.

***

Jill Richardson is a writer, speaker, pastor, mom of three girls, and author of five books. Currently, she is working on her doctorate in church leadership and pastors Resolution Church, a Free Methodist community in the Chicago suburbs. She is a firm believer in the power of grace, restoration, hope, and Earl Grey. She loves cats, oceans, the Cubs, JRR Tolkien, traveling, her family, fish tacos, and God, not necessarily in that order. Her passion is partnering with the next generation of faith. You can find Jill: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

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Why Do So Many White Evangelicals Fear Becoming a Minority?

Population demographics are interesting things.

At one time there were no white people on this continent, then there were a few, and then the population of what would become the United States became majority white. Now the numbers are shifting again, and some people say it’s cause for concern. As the Washington Post reported:

More than half — 52 percent — of white evangelical Protestants say a majority of the U.S. population being nonwhite will be a negative development, according to the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic.

The article notes that whites in the U.S. will constitute a minority of 49.9% by 2045. That means people of color will be in the majority, and 52% of white evangelicals say it’s not good. I hope that by the year 2045 that attitude will be relegated to the dustbin, but in the meantime allow me to open their eyes a bit.

In my state whites are already in the minority, and at a much lower percentage than the projected nationwide number coming up in 2045.

Yet California is thriving. It has cultural richness that defies the imagination, the fifth largest economy in the world (not in the nation, but in the world), a world-class public university system, and natural beauty ranging from the beaches to the mountains, from the deserts to the alpine lakes, from the redwood forests to the Joshua trees.

My hometown coastline.
(Source)

Some might think they’re able to point out California’s shortcomings, but they don’t know them as well as I do; I was born in San Francisco and this state has been my home ever since. The shifting population demographics have not caused those shortcomings, though, as they existed for decades while the white majority was firmly in place.

Frankly, I think many of those evangelicals who say whites in a minority status would be a “negative development” (a lukewarm phrase for such an insidious position) might have a much more personal stake in mind.  Perhaps they’ve seen how minority populations are treated in this country and the prospect of getting there themselves scares them silly. Still, I am hoping the 52% of white evangelicals will reconsider based on the evidence from my state.

Even more, I hope they realize their position is ungodly because it denies the reality of the people of God, who are more diverse than the fears of the 52% will allow. The people of God are great in variety, and living among such diversity now is a blessing that reflects the reality of what we will all enjoy in the new creation.

After this I looked, and there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice:

“Victory belongs to our God
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10.)

This is the family of God, joining together in worship to honor Jesus.

I want to join in too, and as a matter of fact I had the blessing of doing just that when I was welcomed into this church in Kolkata for their Christmas service. Here is a brief snippet of how they worship in song during the English language service (English is just one of the eight languages they conduct services in every week).

Come, let us worship together.

 

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The Biblical Attraction of Indebted Tattooed Women

In Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins Without Tattoos, Lori Alexander asks “Do you know how much more attractive debt-free virgins (without tattoos) are to young men?” She never answers the question nor cites a survey of young men showing what the actual level of preference is for such women over any other women, but let’s break it down.

Taking the three in the order presented:

• If a woman is in debt, strike one.
• If she’s had sex, strike two.
• If she has a tattoo, strike three and she’s out.

Or it could be that Ms. Alexander considers each of these to be in itself an automatic disqualifier.

She also doesn’t mention what happens with those who have been married before. Are widows second-best in her eyes? What about a widow who had to take on debt when dealing with a spouse’s debilitating illness that led to death? Or a widow who also had a tattoo placed on her by the medical team who needed itas a guide to radiation therapy for her own past illness? The article suggests the conclusion is that men prefer other women to them. Again, there’s no study cited to support this but she says it’s so.

Unintended Consequences of Made-up Rules

There is an unintended consequence of Ms. Alexander’s position, one she may not have foreseen but is just as real for any man reading her post – what of a man who falls in love with a woman who is in debt, has had sex, and has at least one tattoo? Is this then a man who has made a bad choice, perhaps even a fool of a man, a man who does not prefer the debt-free virgin without tattoos that Ms. Alexander says men prefer?

Ms. Alexander doesn’t mention one of the best-known Bible stories about love and godliness, the relationship of Ruth and Boaz. If she had, she’d see that her standards do not stand up to the Bible record.

Ruth, a foreigner from Moab, may have had the skin cuttings or tattoos allowed among her people for worshipping Chemosh, the god of her culture. Also, she was a widow so there goes her virginity. And even though there is no mention of debt, she is definitely penniless and relies on charity to feed herself and her mother in law Naomi. These attributes must place her somewhere on the spectrum approaching the women Ms. Alexander posits are not as attractive to men as debt-free virgins without tattoos.

Yet the Bible recognizes attributes more important, more compelling, than the shallow matters Ms. Alexander cites. It’s right there in the third chapter of the Book of Ruth. Boaz is a rich older man, well-respected among the people of Israel, who desires to marry Ruth because she is honorable, faithful, works hard to provide for her mother in law, and shows wisdom in how she approaches Boaz to propose their marriage. As Naomi puts it, “Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For the man will not rest until the matter is settled today.” (Ruth 3:18.)

Denigrating Women and Men the Bible Elevates

One interesting aspect about the way Boaz settles the matter is that another man who by cultural norms would have been expected to marry Ruth has to first decide whether to marry her himself. He does not, and he comes across poorly in the historical record: his rejection of Ruth is based on preserving his own wealth rather than preserving the legitimate interests of his close relatives. (Ruth 4:6.) This clears the path for Ruth and Boaz to marry, creating a family line that would lead to the birth of David who would become king over Israel and to Jesus who is King of all God’s people for eternity.

Boaz found Ruth quite attractive, despite not having all three attributes Ms. Alexander posits as those desired by men. (Ruth 3:10.) Is Boaz unwise in finding Ruth attractive as a woman, someone he worked hard to marry? No.

Since Ruth and Boaz were right for each other, it’s clear the three attributes Ms. Alexander lists must not be a biblically based formula for women to be more attractive than those without the three attributes. It is a random list without any support given by Ms. Alexander for its validity. And in bringing this list to bear, Ms. Alexander denigrates women and men both, by saying women who have taken on debt, etc., are less than other women in men’s eyes, and men who find them attractive are less discerning and wise than other men who disdain such women.

Please pay no attention. Have you found someone to love who loves you back? God’s blessings on you whether you or the person you love have debt or not, have had sex or not, have a tattoo or not, and may you spend a happy life together.

“Love never fails.” (1 Corinthian 13:8.) Source

You might even get a tattoo.

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Seminary for a Woman Among Men – costly change in the face of opposition

[Kathy Calvert’s guest post on her seminary experience outlines the opposition she faced even among men who claimed to support her ministry plans, and the cost of finding a new way to pursue her education.]

Nothing in life prepared me for the attitudes regarding women I encountered in seminary.

Born in the Midwest, to a family with three girls, I never doubted my worth nor opportunities available to me. Sophomore year at a top university, I was introduced to Christ. Graduating with a degree in business administration, I secured a position in a tech firm, and moved to California. Marriage to a supportive man followed, and subsequently three children.

Early in our marriage, we settled in evangelical circles. When the children were born, I never questioned putting my career on hold to care for them. As they grew, I grew, investing my energies in a parachurch organization, teaching the Bible and training hundreds of women, for twenty plus years. I was among “the large number of people in the faith community who occupy a gray or middle area in this (gender) discussion, including those in denominations, churches, parachurches, and the academy… looking for a reason to believe differently” (Paul and Gender, by Cynthia Long Westfall). Desire for additional training led to seminary, where it became impossible to operate in the gray zone.

Taking summer intensives and participating in a year round cohort allowed me to maintain ministry commitments, while pursuing a Masters in Biblical and Theological Studies. Men were predominant and women occasionally expressed frustration at being overlooked, but sexism was not overt, until the final intensive, Pauline Theology. During the off record Q & A, the professor expressed his view: women should not teach men, women, nor children- not even homeschool their own. But, women should be allowed to learn! I sought clarification, “Are you saying every woman is more gullible than every man?” He would not give a direct answer to the question. The implication was clear: the Cross had been effective for Adam (men), but something was still wrong with Eve (women).

Participating in an all-male cohort that fall, I was assured my experience would not be a repeat of the Pauline Theology course. Yet, continually, members questioned, “What should be the role of women in the church? Should women occupy official positions, or perform the functions, of teaching and/or leading?” The professor, not an egalitarian but supportive of women in ministry, refrained from weighing in, letting us struggle and draw our own conclusions.

Only one of many assigned readings addressed women in ministry.[1] Having opportunity to formally address the cohort regarding the subject, I was upfront regarding my aim: to shock, discomfort, and challenge thinking regarding women, roles, and the church. I had come to seminary seeking equipping, not permission. Reactions were strong and varied, ranging from “What should I do – implement affirmative action?” to “Women are pushy”, to my favorite, “You could avoid the tension by transferring to the women’s track, but you don’t want to work with women.” (I find biblical and theological studies very beneficial in working with women, as well as men.)

Ultimately, the dissonance became too great, and I transferred to another seminary in the area. The switch was costly, in time and money. A year passed, before I could join a cohort at the new seminary. Several thousand dollars were lost, due to non-transferable credits. But, the differing mindset regarding women in ministry has made it worth it.

The time of transition was a crucial time of regaining my shaken confidence, and I read as much as possible which addressed women in leadership, both in the church and in the corporate sphere. I found a wealth of resources available through Christians for Biblical Equality, including Correcting Caricatures: The Biblical Teaching on Women, written by Dr. Walter C. Kaiser, which is a must read. Among many other helpful reads were Beyond Sex Roles by Gilbert Bilezikian; Paul, Women & Wives by Craig S. Keener, How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership, Alan F. Johnson, general editor; and Paul and Gender by Cynthia Long Westfall.[2]

My current seminary experience is not perfect. The seminary has no particular stance regarding women, although much of the faculty is egalitarian. Men are still predominant, but overt sexism is not tolerated. Once again, I am the sole woman in a cohort – this time Cross-Cultural Engagement – and at times I tire of “announcing myself”, as they say. But, the men in this cohort have years of both life and ministry experience, and there is mutual respect. All members are willing to engage in tough- even explosive- conversation, working to find common ground despite the diversity of our individual views- regarding politics, race, religion, economics, and yes, gender. Together, we are discovering the necessity of not only orthodoxy, but also orthopathy, and orthopraxy, in living the good life as defined by Jesus.

Seminary always requires emotional endurance, and I am grateful for the support of family, friends and colleagues. My own seminary experience proved to be the impetus propelling me out of the gray zone, regarding women in ministry. I have emerged more confident regarding my identity in Christ, and I will not live my life under the shadow of Genesis 3. This resolve permeates the biblical teaching and training I am privileged to provide hundreds of women, every week.

“Praise be to God, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17.)

***

[1] Two Views on Women in Ministry, James R. Beck, general editor.

[2] Additional Christian sources: Community 101 by Gilbert Bilezikian; Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James; Finally Feminist by John G. Stackhouse, Jr.; Slaves, Women & Homosexuals by William J. Webb. Additional secular sources: Woman Up! By Aimee Cohen; Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel, PhD; The Confidence Code by Katty Kay & Claire Shipman; Her Place at the Table by Deborah M. Kolb, PhD, Judith Williams, PhD, and Carol Frohlinger, JD; Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

***

Kathy Calvert

Kathy Calvert is an experienced spiritual leader. She has over 20 years’ service as Teaching Leader with Bible Study Fellowship, where she presents God’s truths in honest and humorous ways, using personal illustrations and connecting with her audience. In her role as Teaching Leader, she has the privilege of training and shepherding hundreds of women. Kathy is currently completing graduate studies in Cross-Cultural Engagement, at Multnomah Biblical Seminary.

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Jesus, Sibling Rivalries, and Sibling Restorations

My last post reviewed Aimee Byrd’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” where she explores the blessings God gives us in friendships between people, including between women and men. (See, Friendship Between Women and Men Is One of God’s Great Gifts.) One aspect of godly friendship Aimee notes is that in God’s family we are called to be siblings as well as friends, because we are Jesus’ sisters and brothers as well as his friends.

Aimee points out that being Jesus’ sisters and brothers restores a relationship lost with the very first siblings, Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4, Cain is jealous of his younger brother Abel and murders him. God knows, and asks Cain to explain Abel’s absence. Aimee notes:

When Cain asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9), it’s as if he is saying, “Abel is just my brother; that doesn’t mean anything. What am I supposed to do, keep a prison watch over him?” His reply suggests that Abel is on his own. It shows no gratitude for the gift of having a sibling, no commitment to him, no common mission with him, no connection with him whatsoever. No love. His reply  rebelliously rejects who he is as a sibling. (“Why Can’t We Be Friends?” Ch. 10 p. 169.)

Cain’s rejection of “who he is as a sibling” is one of the first effects of sin recorded in the Bible.

Aimee’s mention of Cain and Abel in relation to Jesus’ later restoration of true siblinghood got me thinking about those older brothers who came along after Cain. The biblical record of firstborn sons is less than stellar.

  • Cain murdered Abel (Genesis 4:8)
  • Ishmael taunted Isaac (Genesis 21:9)
  • Reuben slept with his father’s concubine (Genesis 35:22)
  • Aaron undermined Moses’ leadership (Numbers 12:1-2)
  • Eliab taunted David (1 Samuel 17:28)
  • Amnon raped his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:12-15)

There is little record of firstborn sons acting well toward their younger sisters and brothers. This is not to say there is no record of good sibling relationships – one Old Testament example is when Esau forgave his younger brother Jacob for his trickery, while Peter and Andrew along with James and John are good examples of New Testament siblings.

Yet this type of bond was not something anyone could take for granted. At least, not until Jesus came along.

Jesus is the best brother ever and forever

The concept of God as Father was not new to Jesus’ followers, but they had not yet heard that the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the World would also be God, and that he’d be their brother.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35.)

This is a reality people need to learn as they come to know Jesus better. It is integral to who he is as Savior and God:

Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:11.)

He is the older brother who sets the example for us all, that we can be conformed to his example.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29.)

This position as Jesus’ younger siblings is even better than his friends imagined though. In their culture, the oldest son inherited more than any other child. Yet the Bible says Jesus is not only the Son of God but that all women and men in God’s family share in his inheritance rights, enjoying all the riches of God.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.* And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ … . (Romans 8:14-17.)

Jesus restored the true sibling relationship, one of love and care and sharing in God’s abundance. It was lost when sin entered the world, but is now restored through the work of Jesus for the world. Regardless of how siblings relate in your family – or whether you’ve ever had any siblings – he is the perfect older brother, the firstborn of all who shares his inheritance freely with his family, his friends.

That’s a good older brother to have, and you have him for eternity.

***

*This “adoption to sonship” is not a denigration of women as Jesus’ sisters, but pertains to the Jewish and Greco-Roman legal rules about who inherited most. Adoption to sonship is a legal status, meaning women who are in God’s family are considered under the legal procedures of that time to have the greatest of right to inheritance, no less than any man. The readers of the letter to the Romans would have understood how radical this is, that women would legally have the same inheritance rights as firstborn sons. Analogizing this to their spiritual position in the family of God was no less radical for people used to the cultures of that day and how they tended to reduce women to second-class status or worse.

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