church nonsense, Light

Hated, Hounded & Human

“The Jewish leaders hated Paul.  They followed him from town to town and made trouble for him wherever he went.  He would spend weeks, months, or even years in a place teaching about Jesus and then his enemies would show up, get him run out of town, and then stay and attempt to undo what he had taught.

The Christians in the “circumcision group” continued to actively oppose him, too, insisting on adherence to their traditions.  Paul warned Titus about them when he wrote, “For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain… Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.”  (Titus 1:10-11, 13-14)  I like the way the KJV words verse 14: “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.”

Paul would go into a city and teach, the unbelieving Jewish leaders would soon follow to discredit him and the believing “circumcision group” would further confuse things by insisting on putting new wine into old wineskins.  (Matthew 9:17)

He was opposed from within and without.

Have you ever been opposed from within and without?

When I first started speaking about abstinence I expected to face some opposition from without, but I wasn’t prepared for the vicious opposition I would soon face from within.  I was asked to speak to a certain youth group one evening.  God had given me a message for them that was different from any I had given before or since.  As I was taking it down I asked, “Are you sure, Lord?”  Even though the message was intense, I had never had such a clear sense that I was taking His dictation.  As I gave the message one of the youth leaders (an adult male) began raising objections.  It would have been appropriate for him to pull me aside afterward to share his views but instead he repeatedly interrupted the presentation.  In spite of the interruptions a few of the students seemed to be taking the message to heart.  A few quickly aligned themselves with their leader.    The rest just looked confused.  I handled the objections cordially and then stayed for punch and cookies before hauling my equipment from the basement of the church.

As I wrestled to get my load through the heavy outer doors, none of the youth standing nearby offered to help.  They just stood in a huddle glaring at me.  I drove home grieved that those youth would exude such hate toward a guest in their church – a guest who had come to minister to them.  What grieved me the most was the realization that their attitudes reflected their leadership.  It had been a long day of presentations and I was exhausted when I arrived home but, since I had been away from my computer all day, I decided to quickly check my e-mail before going to bed.  Waiting in my inbox, just itching to pounce, was the worst vitriol – actually the only vitriol – that had ever been leveled against me.  In the time it had taken me to drive home that youth leader’s objections turned from rude to punch-me-in-the-gut ugly.  It sent me reeling for days.  A Christian is capable of writing that?  Or was he one of those guys about whom Jude warned?

For the first and only time I was tempted to quit.  I wondered whether I had been mistaken about my calling.  A few days later I received a beautiful note in the mail.  It was from a seasoned saint who encouraged me with Jesus’ words:  “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”  (Matthew 10:14-15 )

Her timely note reminded me what God had told me the moment of my call to this ministry, “It is not going to be easy.”  Instead of quitting, I resolved to speak all the more.  Shamefully, the man launched a whisper campaign against me, the ripples of which I still occasionally feel today.  The campaign against Paul was on a much larger scale.   The aversion some women have toward him even today are ages old ripples.  You’ll see what I mean.  For now, just keep in mind that those who hated and hounded him were not going to let his words go untwisted.

We’ll start some untwisting tomorrow.”

The above is an excerpt from a Bible study I wrote five years ago.  I am currently converting it to a book for publication.  Thought I’d share a bit of it with you, see if you have anything to say…

Update:  Years later I heard disturbing news about that youth leader, and about the pastor who backed his ugly words.  No wonder the hounds of hell were barking and snarling so viciously.  No wonder God gave me that particular message.

© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist

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church nonsense, life, war on women

Going There Again

Just a quick observation, because it’s time:

Have you noticed that whenever a Mark Driscoll wannabe promulgates misogynistic nonsense he quotes only Paul?

And when a (presumably) well-intentioned pastor preaches on the leadership of men, he too exclusively quotes Paul.

Blogging pastors who warn Christian men against marrying 10 types of women also quote Paul.

And none of them quote Jesus.

Because Jesus didn’t say the stuff Paul said.

Some hard core Pharisees will say that Paul saying it is as good as Jesus saying it.  I know because hard core Pharisees have argued that to me.  But as of yet none of them have told me in a clear, non-convoluted way when Jesus gave Paul that kind of infallible authority.  When He put Paul on par with the Holy Spirit, the Counselor whom He sent to guide us into all truth.

I can show them exactly when He warned us to beware the yeast of the Pharisees.

Paul was well-steeped in the teachings of the Pharisees.  Well-steeped stains are tough to remove, in fact they never come entirely clean.  Old habits die hard.  And so it was with Paul.

Alas, some of the teachings of the Talmud – even the Babylonian Talmud – seeped, steeped and brewed into Paul’s teachings to the church.  And the Talmud, as I hope you know, is not Scripture.

Yep, there I went again.

Someone had to say it.

If you’re new to this blog and you want the full gripefest, you can read Picking Your Paul, Chasing Kings, Passionate About Paul?, Winning the War on Women, Trickle Down JesusGo Anne, Uh oh!You Have Got to Be Kidding Me.

Those ought to hold you for awhile…

© 2015, The Reluctant Baptist

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church nonsense, war on women

Woe to You, Sir!

Ted McGrath, Creative Commons

Ted McGrath, Creative Commons

I was going to write a parody on a ridiculous post:  10 Women Christian Men Should Not Marry.  But as I read through some of the many comments it garnered, I decided to go a different route.

Most of the comments zeroed in on #2 – the divorcee.  I have something to say about that, too.  And since comments are closed on the post, I’ll weigh in here:

My first husband divorced me after six years of marriage.  We had a two year old.  His reason for leaving us?  He didn’t want to be married anymore and God wanted him to be happy.   “No,” I said, “God wants you to be a man of integrity, a promise-keeper.”  But with no-fault I had no say.

I lamented that my life was irreparably ruined.  Sin was foisted upon me and there was nothing I could do about it.  And then my friend, to whom I was lamenting, simply said, “God can forgive sin.”  Whoa!  What?  My life isn’t over?  It still felt over.

For years I did not date because I was not sure Scripture allowed me to remarry, so what was the point?  But God showed me through Scripture that He held my ex-husband accountable, not me.  He also showed me that He likes marriage, it was His idea and He would prefer that I rear my daughter in the context of one.  How will she know what a good marriage looks like if I don’t model one?

So I began to open up to the idea.

About that time a male friend mentioned that he would never marry a divorced woman.  Damaged goods and all.  I told him he might miss out on someone really great.  Someone like me.

When I married my first husband, I did not believe in divorce.  My parents were divorced and I knew the pain it causes.  Life with him was not easy but I was committed to sticking it out.  My commitment to the long haul was tested and true.

My first husband, who grew up in a Christian home with parents whose marriage lasted until death did they part, also had his commitment tested.  His commitment failed.

On paper he looked like a solid investment – reared in a Christian home, parents still married.

On paper I looked like a risky investment – reared in a non-Christian home, parents divorced.

And yet his commitment failed and mine did not.

You never know for sure what will come out of a person until marriage squeezes them.  My friend who would never marry a divorced woman is still single these many years later.  If he does find someone to marry, someone who looks good on paper, it is still a gamble.  I think he will have a greater guarantee of success if he marries someone whose commitment to marriage has been tested and proved solid.

The pastor who wrote the post, the one I yesterday called vile, evil or sorely misguided, once again played fast and loose with the Scriptures.  The examples are many.   I pulled this one from the comment section:

Andy, I live in New York State where gay marriage is legal. What happens if you get saved after a gay marriage? Well, you must immediately leave the gay marriage and cease from the sin of homosexuality.

Same thing here. What happens if you get saved after a 2nd marriage? Well, now that you know it’s adultery, you immediately forsake the 2nd “marriage” and cease from the sin of adultery.

John 8:11:
“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

What?  Two wrongs make a right?  Repent from the sin of divorce by committing the sin of divorce?

And don’t go misinterpreting Jesus’s words.  The woman was not married to the man with whom she was committing adultery.

If I could, I would ask that pastor what he would do with David.  David clearly committed adultery with Bathsheba, then married her.  When Nathan finally confronted him, marrying Bathsheba was not on God’s list of grievances:

Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 2 Samuel 12:9

Yes, God hates divorce.  Not for the sake of hating it but because it hurts people.  He also hates judgment and gossip and slander and lies and haughty eyes because those things hurt people, too.  They hurt the people He loves.  Of course He does.

I’ll give Jesus the final word:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”  both from Matthew 23
© The Reluctant Baptist, 2015
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church nonsense, faith

Shameless

A blogging ally commented on my last post with a link.  On the other side of the link was a series of clips from a talk on addiction and shame.  Boy do I wish I had internalized those concepts 25 years ago.  I wish every parent and parent-to-be had them ingrained in their brains and tattooed on their hands.  Even as I write this post, I am pondering how I might incorporate them into the parent workshop I will be giving next month.

The speaker in the clips, John Bradshaw, talked about toxic shame, shamelessness and healthy shame in the context of the family.

But my mind extrapolated it to the church:

“Healthy shame is permission to be human.  It lets you make mistakes.  A [healthy] family [is one] that has a rule that allows people to make mistakes and understands that mistakes are occasions for learning.”

“If you live in a context where you can never make a mistake, what a terrible way to live.  That’s a life without any grace; that’s a life of law; a life of rigidity and legalism.  Grace is riding easy in the harness.  It’s like it’s okay to make mistakes.  We know that humans are going to make mistakes 15% of the time.  And so parents need to know that.  Parents need to quit acting shameless.  When parents acts shameless, they act like they never make a mistake.”

“When parents are shameless, they are also spiritually abusing their children because they are playing God.  One of the healthiest things shame brings you is the realization that you are not God; that you are limited; that you need help.  So healthy shame is an enormously healthy emotion… I think healthy shame is the source of spirituality.  It’s what we used to call humility.  It’s also, interestingly enough for me, a source of creativity and learning.”

John went on to quote something he heard at a conference once:

‘When you think you know you’re right, you’ve killed your creativity.’
“If you think you’re right there will be no new searching for information.  So what healthy shame does is let you know there’s a lot more to learn…”

Ding, ding, ding! That is why I have grown so impatient with dogmatic doctrine.  It is arrogant.  It is shameless.  It believes there is no more to learn.

The evangelical church is all about having a close personal relationship with God, and all the while teaching that God has nothing new to say.  How do you have a vibrant relationship with someone who has nothing new to say?

The church would argue that His complete Word is new to the discoverer, that the canon is closed but the book is open.  They would say that every time we read it we can discover something new.  And that’s great for us, but not so great for God.  If I were God, I’d hate it if my children decided I had no more to say, and therefore stopped listening to me and for me.

The church is not God, the church is limited, the church needs help.

John Bradshaw said children need structure in order to develop a healthy shame.

God, being the perfect parent, gave us structure.  He gave us the Ten Commandments: a short, simple frame work for right behavior and right relationship with Him and with one another.

And then to that open-but-solid structure the Pharisees added the Talmud – which contained so much brick, mortar and plaster that Jesus finally said,

“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”  Luke 11:46

Then He pared it down to this:

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40

Suffocating people with shame-filled legalism kills their creativity and their spirituality; it defiles many a masterpiece. Which is why, I believe, Jesus told His disciples to “Beware the yeast of the Pharisees.”

And so now I am just going to say it:  What if the writings of Paul are to the New Testament what the Talmud is to the Old Testament?  After all, Paul was well-schooled in the Talmud, and old habits die hard.  Really, really hard.

And what if the church – who stones, shuns and/or silences anyone who questions their dogmatic doctrine – is a stale, shameless parent?  An unwitting ally of the enemy?

Just wondering.

Seema Krishnakumar, Creative Commons

Seema Krishnakumar, Creative Commons

The greatest poem ever known
Is one all poets have outgrown:
The poetry, innate, untold,
Of being only four years old.

Still young enough to be a part
Of Nature’s great impulsive heart,
Born comrade of bird, beast, and tree
And unselfconscious as the bee-

And yet with lovely reason skilled
Each day new paradise to build;
Elate explorer of each sense,
Without dismay, without pretense!

In your unstained transparent eyes
There is no conscience, no surprise:
Life’s queer conundrums you accept,
Your strange divinity still kept.

Being, that now absorbs you, all
Harmonious, unit, integral,
Will shred into perplexing bits,-
Oh, contradictions of the wits!

And Life, that sets all things in rhyme,
may make you poet, too, in time-
But there were days, O tender elf,
When you were Poetry itself!
– Christopher Morley

But there were days, O tender elf, when you were poetry itself!

And He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 18:3

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

http://salvoesinfaith.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/healing-the-shame-that-binds-you-john-bradshaw-good-stuff-lend-an-ear/

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church nonsense, Light, war on women

You Have Got to Be Kidding Me

And now for the conclusion of Anne on women in ministry:

And from that day to this I have been very confident of my call.  And I’ve seen that He has made me like a strong pillar on that platform.  Because I know that He’s called me, in humility, to share His word.

You know I met a pastor one time who had a problem with the fact that I was speaking at his convention but he was brave enough to come sit on the back row and he came up to me afterward and he said, “Anne, I didn’t think you should be here today but you know what?  He said, “I was sitting back there listening to you and you know what you’ve done?  You’re just like a waitress and you’ve gone into the kitchen and you’ve prepared the food and you’ve served it to us and I want to thank you for not messing it up.”

All I can say is, “You have got to be kidding me.”

Anne recounted this with a smile and a laugh and her audience laughed, too.  But I wonder how many hearts sank.

I cannot tell you how many times I have had to sit and listen to a man “mess it up”.  This whole misogynistic bent on the Scriptures is a massive mess up.

And I thought, “You know what, when we go out to a restaurant we don’t have a problem that we’re served by a female waitress.  And so when I give out God’s word, I want to give it out faithful to the text.  I want to prepare it so that it is tasty and attractive and meaningful and relevant and then I want to serve it – to whoever God puts at my table – without messing it up.

My daughter and I interpreted the pastor’s comment differently.  I took his comment as him trying to frame her speaking in a way that was doctrinally acceptable.  As long as he could see her as a waitress serving the men a plateful of words, he was okay with it.

My daughter took it as him saying, “You, a mere waitress, went into the kitchen – where only (male) chefs belong – and prepared the meal.  I’m just glad you didn’t mess it up.

Either way the guy’s a jerk.

So, beware, if I had listened to the body language of those dear men – who I know meant well – and actually, I thank God for them because it drove me to my knees so I could settle that issue – but if I had listened to them, for over twenty years I would be stripped of probably 75% of the ministry God has given me.  And I can’t tell you the changed lives and the fruit….fade out.

Dear men who meant well?  That’s generous.  And enabling.  The men might be dear to someone, sometimes.  And they might have been sincere in their objection.  But rude behavior is rude behavior.  And there is nothing well-meaning in knocking someone down as they step up to the podium.  I wonder if they would dare behave so badly if a man with whom they disagreed was stepping up to the podium.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.  Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”  Acts 3:19-21 NIV

God is going to restore everything back to the way He intended it to be.  Restoration is hard on the thing being restored.  For a piece of furniture to be restored, it must first be stripped down.  For a relationship to be restored, it too must be stripped down.  Restoration is also hard on the restorer.  For us to be restored, Jesus had to be stripped down and nailed to a cross.  I believe God is beginning to strip down and restore some of the erroneous teachings of the church with regard to women.

“For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”  1 Peter 4:17

Restoration will be hard on the church, but we have to get it right before there is any hope for anyone else.  Let’s be part of the solution dear reader.

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church nonsense, Light, war on women

Uh oh

Yesterday’s post ended with Anne saying:

So I said, “Father, I hear you, I know what you are saying, but I have to ask you one more question and then we’ll just put this issue to bed, but what did Paul mean when he told Timothy, ‘I permit not a woman to teach or have authority over men’?”

And this is what God brought to my mind alright, and there is disagreement on this and I just agree to disagree.

Hold up a minute.  God is capable of making Himself perfectly clear.  Agreeing to disagree might be an indication that neither party has the whole story.  When things don’t add up, there is more to the equation.

But I checked it out with scholars after that, people who know Greek – which I don’t – and they said that my emphasis was correct.  [That the emphasis is on authority.]

This is where we often go wrong.  A “scholar” gives us a scholarly explanation and we say, “Oh, okay” and continue on our way.  But I can’t be satisfied with a scholarly pat on the head if I am going to get to the bottom of anything.  So I took a look at the passage for myself.  1 Timothy 2:12-15:

“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet”. v. 12

I looked up all the Greek words.  I found no emphasis on the authority part.  What I did find was a more literal translation:

But a woman is not allowed to teach nor (first occurrence: take her own life or the life of another) act under her own authority, hence she does not meddle in the affairs of others.

There is no “I”.  Was it added to give the words the weight of Paul’s authority?  Perhaps Paul was just stating the current state of affairs under Jewish law, rather than instructing the church on how things should be.

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. v. 13

Sorry, but Paul is incorrect.  It’s a common misconception, but man was not created first. God created men and women at the same time.  On the sixth day.  Surely he read Genesis.  God created man and woman in His image, at the same time and with the same purpose, then He formed man and then He fashioned woman.

It’s like this: I just hosted Thanksgiving dinner.  I spent many happy hours poring over recipes in order to create the perfect menu.  The menu was created weeks before the meal was actually prepared.  Long before the first potato was mashed and the first rolls were baked, I knew exactly what would be on that table.  The point is, God created everything in those 6 days but some of what He created didn’t appear until later.  As soon as He speaks something into existence, it exists, even if it cannot yet be seen.

All of mankind – male and female – was spoken into existence at the same time.  Woman wasn’t created as an afterthought for lonely man, man and woman were created together for God.

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. v. 14

As I explained in Winning the War on Women, Eve was deceived and she sinned.  She admitted it.  Adam was there and he ate, too.  Therefore, if Adam was not deceived, then that means he was aware that what he was doing was wrong and he did it anyway.  That is rebellion, which carries a more severe consequence.  (Luke 12:48)  Hmmm, did Paul miss that?

But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. v.15

Okay wait.  Paul told the Ephesians that we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works so that no one can boast.  Remember?  So which is it?  Saved by grace, not by works or saved by childbearing?

Let’s recap this passage as translated:  Women cannot teach or have authority over men, and must keep quiet, because Adam was created first (wrong), because Eve was deceived (and Adam flat out rebelled) and because a woman’s only hope of salvation is to bear children.

None of that squares with Paul’s actions (he co-labored for the gospel with women) and it doesn’t square with things he wrote elsewhere.

So was Paul mistaken, misquoted or mistranslated?  Was he trying to be please/appease everyone?  Was he merely reporting on the way things were, rather than teaching how they ought to be?  I have theories.

But for now let’s get back to Anne:

But this is what God seemed to say to me:   That the emphasis is on the authority.  And that He did not want me to teach or have authority over men – to teach from a position of authority over man.

Two things:

Seemed to say?  If it wasn’t crystal clear then it might not have been God speaking.  Because God knows how to make Himself clear.  Dig deeper, Anne.

Furthermore, we were created in His image, male and female.  Why would God put a portion of His image in authority over another portion of His image?  There is no hierarchy to the trinity – not in heaven anyway.  So why would He instill a hierarchy in us?

But that I was not only free, I was commissioned and commanded to go into all of the world to share my personal testimony of who Jesus is in my life and to give out His word.  And that he would determine the audience.  But that I was to be faithful to the message He put on my heart.

We are free.  But we will never be as free as God created us to be as long as we listen to God through the filter of Paul.

What if the church regrouped and put Paul into proper perspective?  What if we entertained the notion that he is not infallible, that his words do not carry the same weight as the teachings of Jesus?  We twist and convolute our understanding of Scripture to satisfy our insistence that Paul’s words are “God-breathed”, but what if they aren’t?  Jesus never said they were.  Paul didn’t even say they were.  Paul was referring to the Law and the Prophets when he said all Scripture is God-breathed, not to his own writings.  What if we turn things around and force Paul’s writings to conform to Jesus?  Or would that wreck everything?

My daughter saw this statement on a forum of pastors discussing how they handle the issue of women in leadership:  “I allow women to lead worship, as long as there is a man on stage with her.”  In case she does what?  Mis-sing a song?  Assert authority over the men singing the songs?

When we use Paul’s miswhatever writings as a church manual, things can get pretty ridiculous.

Which brings me to tomorrow’s (much shorter) post, the “You’ve got to be kidding me” conclusion.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.  Feel free to chime in.  Respectfully.

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church nonsense, Light, war on women

Go Anne!

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Chris Devers, Creative Commons

I just watched a video clip of Anne Graham Lotz speaking on “women in ministry.” I don’t have permission to show you the clip, so I’ll transcribe bits of it for you.  As I watched my thoughts went from “Go Anne!” to “Uh oh” to “You have got to be kidding me.”  The clip is rather long so I will break it into two – maybe three – parts.  Today I’ll share the first part,  “Go Anne!”

Here’s Anne [anything in the block quote that is in brackets is my commentary]:

I was invited by a group of men to come and address a pastors’ convention.  And these men were wonderful.  They had sensed something of God’s gift in me and they felt like I had a message to give and so when I prayed about it I felt like God put a message on my heart.  I remember it was from Jeremiah and so I went to the convention and went to give the message and when I got up on the platform there were about 800 guys there and they were seated around round tables and it was a convention setting so it looked like there were thousands of people and it went out to infinity and I was scared to death.  Very few times had I spoken to a group like that outside of my Bible study.  So I stood up at the lectern and I went to give the message and maybe it was just one or two – it looked like everybody – of these men picked up their chairs and turned them around and put their backs to me.  They were saying through their body language, “Anne, God has told me to tell you you don’t belong on the platform when there are men in the audience.”  So I finished the message but I want to tell you I crawled home in my Spirit.  And this is how naive I was at that point, I didn’t know that was an issue.  I had never bumped into that before.  [She must not be Baptist.]  So I got down on my knees – that’s the only thing I knew to do – because I wanted to know if that was my Shepherd’s voice.  Were they speaking into my life with an authentic voice?

I love Anne, and I am not criticizing her in any way, but she did not have to get on her knees for this one.  Was that her Shepherd’s voice?  No, it was not.  Because her Shepherd is not rude.  If those men were speaking with an authentic voice, they would have done so with kindness and respect.  Their rudeness indicates that they were speaking for the un-Shepherd.  For the anti-Shepherd.

So I asked God please to speak to me and I had been in Jeremiah.  And He spoke to me from Jeremiah chapter 1.  God told Jeremiah – when He called him to be a prophet – to give out His word and Jeremiah said, “I can’t do that, I’m just a child”.  And God said, “Jeremiah, don’t be afraid of their faces.”  That verse just leaped up off the page and I felt like God said, “Anne, don’t be afraid of their backs.  I’m going to put my words in your mouth.”  And then at the end of that chapter He said, “I want you to speak to whoever I put in front of you.”  He said, “You give out the words that I give you to say or I’m going to terrify you in front of them.”  And I felt like He was saying, “Anne, your responsibility is not to determine who sits in your audience, that’s my responsibility.  Your responsibility is to be faithful to the message I put on your heart.  You give it out to the best of your ability and I’ll determine who is in the audience.”  And then in that same verse He said, “I’m going to fortify you, make you like a bronze wall, a strong pillar” and I felt like He was going to make me strong on the platform.  And that I would be accountable to Him and not to my audience.

Go Anne!  This January I am going to be faithful to the message God put on my heart and it is going to turn all this “man up”-ing upside down.

And then He brought to my mind – I stayed on my knees – and then He brought to my mind the encounters He had after the resurrection and in particular John chapter 20 when he encountered Mary Magdalene, do you remember?…..  “Mary, I want you to tell eleven men…” She was the first [post-resurrection] evangelist.

And I said, “Father, I hear you.  I know what you are saying but I just have to ask you one more question and then we’ll just lay this issue to bed.  But, what did Paul mean when he told Timothy, ‘I permit not a woman to teach or have authority over men’?”

Uh oh.

We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

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church nonsense, faith, Stories from the Island

Misfits

I may have said this before, but I often feel like I am stuck in kindergarten.  I sit in the audience and learn the same elementary lessons over and over, week after week with no hope of graduation, because women aren’t allowed to graduate.

I don’t belong in the audience listening to the laughter at the opening joke and receiving a weekly dose of shallow truth.  So some weeks I stay home and do my own Bible study.  Dig deeper than my pastor dares to go.  Like this week.  I stayed home on Sunday and my hubby went without me.   “Sorry, Honey,” he said, “but your husband is in leadership.”

“Yeah, see if you can do anything about that sinful misogyny, wouldya’?”

I didn’t skip church altogether, though.  I went Saturday night.  To a different church.  Donna called and said the women from the island were going to have a little reunion at her church for the Saturday evening service.  She invited me to join them.

When I got there I discovered only a few of the island women.  Instead, there were three rows of her friends, there to celebrate her birthday.

I sat next to Ronald.  He asked me if we were in a church because it sure didn’t look like one.  It looked like an auditorium.  He asked me why he wasn’t invited to the island.  I told him he wasn’t pretty enough.  He sang along and leaned over to say, “I bet you didn’t know I could sing like that.”

Afterward I was invited to join the group at a nearby restaurant for dinner.  Twenty five of us.  I sat next to Donna and asked how she had met each person at the table.  They were a varied group, collected over many years of street ministry.  Many of them were part of a newly formed Bible study that was meeting at Brenda’s house.

As I said my good-byes, Ronald asked, “Will we see you again?”

“I hope so.”

“Why don’t you come to our Bible study (which meets clear, clear, clear across town)?”

“Maybe I will sometime, if I am invited.”

Brenda spoke up and said, “Yes, come.  Everyone talks and shares.  We’ve become very close.  We pray for one another, anoint one another.”

I sighed, “I wish church were like that.”

Ronald said, “Yes, come hang out with the misfits.”

I smiled, “We’re all misfits in one way or another.”

Jesus was a misfit.  He wanted to talk about His Father; the Pharisees wanted to talk about the Law, more specifically all the tedious man-made things they had added to the Law.  I’m not saying that I am like Jesus.  I’m not saying the leaders in my church are like the Pharisees… well, maybe I am.  A little.

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bluesbby, Creative Commons

This is Brenda’s story, told in a quiet, halting voice:

Hi my name is Brenda.  I came from a rough life that was …um… but God has changed me.  I was gang raped at the age of fourteen and I ran away from home.  My life went down from that point.  I became a prostitute and I started using crack cocaine.

I wound up going to penitentiary… several times, I stayed in somebody’s institution – mental institution – rehab, mostly prison, so locked up.  In the process, when I was in those places, God was still speaking to me.  Every time I went back to the institution, He was speaking to my soul each time.

Whoever this is helping today, God is a deliverer.  No matter what you’ve been through or whatever challenges you’ve ever had in your life, it will be easy when you turn your life over to Him.  Well, my walking hasn’t been that easy, I still struggle in a lot of areas, trying to get myself together.  When you’ve been in bondage so long, and caught up in yourself and the things of the world, you lose sight of what is real and what’s not.   But today I am saved by grace, and I’m loving my new life, there’s nothing compared to it.  I’ve found so much joy now.

Where I really want to help someone is, I’ve been in a lot of abusive relationships, too.  Be always careful about who you let in your personal space.  Men will deceive you and lead you to the bedroom so quickly.  And you lose sight of yourself and they start taking control of you and tell you stuff that you don’t believe that you are…. um… what I’m really saying is, they start working on your self-esteem and breaking you down.  And when you start thinking less of yourself you don’t care what you do.  But I’ve been delivered from that, too.  I’m just grateful to God today that I am here, where I’m at, just praising Him, just thanking Him for the change that He has given me in my life.  I’m just grateful to be alive.  I put myself in a lot of dangerous situations and I’m grateful that I didn’t die out there in the streets.  I know I was covered by the blood of Jesus.  Thank you.

Afterward, Brenda shared that her boyfriend – her very first boyfriend – was among the gang that raped her.  He set her up.  How do you recover from that kind of betrayal?

Seeing Brenda Saturday night so full of joy, inviting me to the Bible study at her house, only God can do that.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

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church nonsense, life

Baptism Drama

Photo Credit: Instagram user @jwmarshall

Photo Credit: Instagram user @jwmarshall

There was drama in church yesterday.  All kinds of drama.  From my greeter post at the door, I witnessed it all.

First, there was no bulletin to put into the hands of the arrivers, only a flier announcing an event for women.  Not drama at all for most, but a tiny bit for those who rely on routine.  And for those who are visiting and were hoping for a little info.  Like the woman who came out of the sanctuary with the flier I had given her in hand.  She stood in front of me and looked squarely into my face and apologized for being hearing impaired.  She asked me to write the name of the church on the flier so she could tell her sisters and friends which church she had visited.  I wrote it and apologized, “Of all Sundays to not have a bulletin…”  She smiled as if she wasn’t sure what I said and started to walk back into the sanctuary.  I tapped her shoulder and asked her name.  “Brenda,” she offered with a beautiful smile.  I told her my name and she reached for me with a warm hug.

Two women were sitting in the foyer chatting excitedly.  Someone came by and handed each of them a large black t-shirt as they rehashed the order of service.  I asked them whether they were going to be part of a special program.  “We’re getting baptized today,” they beamed in unison.  It finally dawned on me why there was no bulletin.  We were having a special baptism service.  It was this nearly-one-year-old campus’ very first baptism and it was a big deal.

A few minutes later an eight year old came through the doors in a ruffled, taffeta party dress.  “I’m going to get baptized in my dress!” she happily announced.  “No, you aren’t” came a nearby voice.

The service started with a song then moved right into the baptisms.

First up was a large, football-player-sized young man.  From where I stood at the door, I could see the pastor in the baptismal font, but I could not see the young man.  The pastor asked him to share a bit of his story.  I could only hear muted and garbled sounds from him, but afterward I could clearly hear the pastor say the familiar words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son and ….”  He didn’t finish.

There was silence for a few minutes and then the pastor started again.  Again the baptism failed.  I wondered whether the young man was having second thoughts, or perhaps he was afraid of the water.  The pastor asked the church to pray for him.  I asked the Lord to give him the courage to overcome whatever was keeping him from taking the plunge.  The pastor kept trying, kept asking us to pray, kept announcing that the young man was getting so close.  I could see the shadows of those waiting in the wings for their turn to be baptized.  I could hear them encouraging the young man, telling him to trust Jesus.

At a suburban campus greeter duty is rather short and sweet.  By ten minutes into the service everyone who is coming is there.  At that point the greeters can safely leave their posts.  But at this urban campus, people trickle in all the way through to the end.

Thirty minutes into the service, I was still at the door and the pastor was still attempting to baptize the first young man.

A tall, long-haired, statuesque, thirty-ish woman breezed past me as she exited the sanctuary and then the building.  A few minutes later she re-entered following a much shorter, slightly older woman.  The younger woman was yelling at the older woman, telling her to get hold of her kids….  The older woman kept walking, looking straight ahead with her hand in the universal “stop” position.  The younger woman was still yelling as they crossed the threshold of the sanctuary.  I put a finger over my lips and whispered that there was a service going on.  The woman ignored me and kept yelling.

Forty-five minutes into the service the pastor was still attempting to baptize that same young man.

People started to trickle out while others were still trickling in.  A woman with a walker stopped to apologize for leaving.  “I have a bad back,” she explained, “and I cannot sit that long.”  A few minutes later another woman with a bad back left.  Then a couple who did not stop to offer an excuse.

I glanced into the sanctuary and glimpsed my own beautifully dramatic moment.  While others were getting restless, Brenda was standing at attention in the second row witnessing the baptismal drama without the benefit of sound.  This beautiful, hearing-impaired, first-time visitor to our church stood there with sweetness emanating from her soul and I got to see it.

By this time my husband came in from his outside the front door post.

I filled him in.  He shared that he spoke with the young man on his way in and that the young man had said, “I don’t know if I can go through with this.”  Just then one of the core members of the church came into the foyer and wondered whether someone should say something to the pastor.  Was this a spiritual battle?  Should the pastor be forcing the young man to be baptized?  Was he afraid of water or of taking a spiritual plunge?  If he was having second thoughts, shouldn’t he have gone last instead of first? In the midst of the speculation, I heard the pastor say that the young man had a water phobia and that in such circumstances the church allows for the one being baptized to have water poured over his head.

Oh… my…. goodness.  Sixty minutes later?

Surely the pastor must have known about the phobia.  Why did he wait so long to make that declaration?  Was he hoping for a dramatic victory over the phobia?  Is being immersed really that crucial?  (Obviously not if there is a provision.)  Water was finally poured over the young man’s head and the church cheered.  It took about thirty seconds to baptize the little girl who came next.

Then my husband and I slipped out.  I would have loved to have heard the rest of the stories and I would have loved to have given Brenda a parting smile, but I had medicine to take.

When we got home, I googled “immersion baptism” to find out why full immersion is so stinking important that my pastor had to be so stinking stubborn.  One of the first articles that came up started with this paragraph:

Baptists are often criticized for being so insistent on the proper method of administering Baptism. Many people declare that it is not the method but the spirit of the ordinance that pleases God. Some go so far as to say that it is not a question of what the Bible teaches, but rather, what method have the church leaders approved. Because Baptists are considered narrow and bigoted in their dogmatism they should be ready to give a reason for their stand. We present herewith six reasons for insistence upon immersion as the only proper method of scriptural Baptism.

The author proceeded to give those six reasons, some of which were silly, none of which gave a definitive Scriptural reference.  There was a definitive phrase, however, and it jumped out at me from the bottom of the third reason:  “Baptists are proud to be….”

It seems to come down to this:  You have to be fully immersed because Baptists are proud to be all in.  We’re the best Christians, after all, because we do things perfectly.  We get baptized exactly like Jesus did.  Well, except we don’t fly over to the Middle East and get baptized in the Jordan.

I have nothing against immersion baptism.  I was dunked.  I get the symbolism of identifying with Jesus’ death and ressurection. But this insistence on doing it a certain way or it doesn’t count is just more church nonsense.  Jesus was baptized outside, in a river.  So how does getting dunked in a tank inside a church count as doing it just like Jesus did?  To me it’s just the old Pharisaical practice of heaping on burdens.

The church we attend removed “Baptist” from its name several years ago, and neither my husband or I knew whether it requires immersion. So I visited the website to read the statement of faith on baptism:  “We practice baptism by immersion – in the manner Jesus was baptized and in the manner the Bible commands.”  And then it listed several verses that make a clear case for baptizing, but not for dunking.

In the course of it all, my husband and I realized that he was never dunked.  He was sprinkled at a former church, but on the eve of his dunking at a Baptist church, he came down with the flu.  It was never rescheduled.

“Are you two unequally yoked?” my daughter asked with a light-hearted gasp.

“I think we are,” I teased.  “Sorry, honey, but I don’t think there can be fellowship between darkness and light.”

So now the question is this:  Who is more unacceptable for baptist church leadership – a sprinkled man, or a fully-immersed woman?
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