Monthly Archives: March 2013

Mutuality

Vicki Judd is an ordained minister who served on staff at Bethel Church in Chehalis, WA for 22 years. She currently resides in Longview, WA, is working on a degree from AGTS and watching for every God appointed opportunity to serve.

For the last several months, I’ve been thinking about the verse in 1 Peter chapter 3 that describes the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:3-4) What brought it to mind was a discussion about the wedding vows my husband and I wrote and recited to each other 38 years ago. Our youngest son is got married in December, and he and his bride honored us by asking if they could adapt our vows and make them their own – which prompted this response from my husband,

“Oh no! They are impossible to keep!”

You see – among other things, I said, “I promise to have a gentle and quiet spirit.” And he said, “I promise to love you as Christ loved the Church; sacrificially and unselfishly, even when you are unresponsive, irritable, critical or sick.” And I said, “I will accept your love and never take it for granted. I will strive to love you in an unselfish way, never demanding, touchy or possessive, but patient, kind and never-failing.”

Yikes! See what he meant? Impossible for me. Impossible for him. Mutually impossible.

And that my friends is the key to mutuality – that recognition that we will fail but that we must keep working together for the sake of our unity. I can’t make my husband love me sacrificially and unselfishly any more than he can make me have a gentle and quiet spirit. We can only do our part. Pastor Tim Keller said, “Sacrificial love awakens sacrificial love.” I think it might also be true that gentleness awakens gentleness.

Mutuality is defined:

  1. Felt by each: done, felt, or expressed by each toward or with regard to the other.
  2. With same feelings: having or involving the same feelings toward each other
  3. Shared by people: shared by or common to two or more people or groups

Recently the word mutuality has risen to prominence to describe the kind of male/female relationships desired in church leadership. It’s a better word in my opinion than egalitarian which connotes democracy and freedom – something we might have to fight and struggle to attain. Mutuality is a warmer, kinder word. I like it. Synonyms for mutuality include, sympathy, empathy, support, and affinity. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

We’ve been pretty busy in recent years beating the drum of egalitarianism. For some of us, it has become our soapbox, our identity and our goal. We’ve been clamoring up to the stained glass ceiling and pushing with all our might to break thru. Sadly, we have at times damaged our own reputation in doing so. We’ve been labeled; feminist, liberal, strident and unbiblical.

What if we stopped? What if we just stopped all the ladder climbing and clamoring for rights and attention and affirmation? What if we just stopped worrying about who said we could, and just used the gifts God gave us wherever we found an opportunity? I’ve had to change my rubric, but I’m discovering that opportunities are everywhere! What if we simply refused to become offended? What if we started acting in the spirit of mutuality instead of demanding it?

We have a long way to go to attain mutuality – a true sharing and respect in the area of male/female leadership in the church. Yet I have hope. I have hope because I know many women who are simply choosing to put their hand to the task and work regardless of who gets the credit. In large ways and small, they are speaking up with confidence and grace. Who knows? Maybe someday by God’s grace mutually impossible will become mutually possible.

For further reading:

Philippians 2:1-16 The Message

1-4 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

9-11 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

12-13 What I’m getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I’m separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent

and sensitive before God. That energy is God’s energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

14-16 Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.

by Vicki Judd

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Daughters of Zelophehad: Spiritual Mothers of the Ancient Near East

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International Women’s Day is this Friday 8 March 2013. It is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.
So to celebrate the occasion and raise awareness, Sarah Bessey is hosting a synchroblog on the topic of Spiritual Midwives and Patron Saints. This blog post in particular is participating & focuses on 5 lesser known spiritual mothers of the Bible.

Recently human trafficking, sex trade, prostitution rings, and the mistreatment of women and children have gained international attention. In various parts of the world, women struggle to even be treated as humans. The book and documentary, “Half the Sky” revealed the inhumanities done to women and now considers itself a movement against the oppression of women worldwide.[1]

The injustices done against women are anything but new. In the Mishneh Torah, boys and men were encouraged to pray this ‘blessing’ each morning,

“Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has not made me a non-Jew. Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has not made me a woman. Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has not made me a servant.”[2]

Whether or not one argues this ‘blessing’ actually validates the beautiful role of women in the Jewish faith and culture, the reality of the human heart has turned it into a curse and bondage. Inadvertently or intentionally, it leaves a woman feeling she is ‘less than’ her male counterpart.

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(photo taken from Convoy of Hope facebook page)

A Biblical Example: Daughters of Zelophehad

This was the context and culture of five sisters who lived in the Ancient Near East. On International Women’s Day, these sisters are heroines of the faith. Their story is actually found in the Bible. Numbers 27 talks about the daughters of Zelophehad. They had just buried their father. They lived in a time where women did not hold positions of honor or receive inheritances. Expectations of women were to work in home or in the fields.[3] Because of their gender, they received nothing. All their possessions they had known and grown up with was no longer rightfully theirs after their father passed on. What must have it felt like to lose everything after burying a loved one?

Numbers 27:1-4 reads,

The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.[4]

Bold Prayers2

Legally these five sisters received nothing, but they knew something had to be done. They wanted to receive their property, their inheritance promised to their forefathers and their family for generations.  They decided to come together and ask for an inheritance. Against all odds and against everything they asked.

   It is also possible Zelophehad, their father, was a criminal. He may have died receiving the death penalty for a sin he committed. Notice the distinction made in verse 3 when they speak about their father’s death. “He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin.”

   These daughters not only lived without any property or inheritance rights, but they lived under the shadow of their father’s sin. For them to come and ask for an inheritance was huge. They had to come and stand before the same people who possibly condemned their father.

Without batting an eye they asked for their inheritance boldly. Numbers 27:5-11 discloses their sheer determination.

“Give us property from among our father’s relatives. So Moses brought their case before the Lord: and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right.” You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them. “Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.”

What happened as they went before the assembly boldly and asked for their inheritance? In this text, they are granted their request but God also changed the culture and their governing laws concerning women. Later on in Scripture we find out they received their inheritance and then some. Because they asked boldly, they received ten tracts of land for their inheritance. These sisters left a legacy for their daughters and grandchildren.

734585_10151399973829681_583031258_n(photo taken from Convoy of Hope facebook page)

I struggled with this passage. It is an obscure passage in the middle of nowhere. Take a right turn after Leviticus and a left-turn before Deuteronomy to Numbers. Rarely will you hear any inspiring, vision casting, turn or burn sermons from this little known book in the Old Testament. When I read over it, I almost missed it. But I had never heard this story before about these sisters. And the more I read, the more it got my attention.

Is this small story about the 5 sisters overcoming obstacles? That reason in itself could preach! Is it about these confident and self-assured women leaving their past behind them, and moving forward to better things? They were definitely not their father, they were women of integrity. Was it about injustices and God making that which was unjust, just? All of us have experienced injustice in this world and some of us have experienced it more than others. Is it about claiming their ancestral land? We do not know how many days, months or even years passed between their father’s passing to when they were able to receive and use their actual inheritance – their tracts of land.

Still if you narrow it down to all of these, there is still something missing.

What’s Missing?

After long hours of studying this passage and crying out to God, I realized it was right there! And if you aren’t careful, anyone can miss it. This text is actually about prayer and going boldly before God. Moses is a type of mediator between God and man. As a mouthpiece for God, he stood as an example of One who was to come! Hebrews 3:1-2 proclaims,

“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters,

who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses.”

    This story about the five daughters of Zelophehad is about prayer! Prayer that moves mountains, prayer that is truly sacrificial and thinks not of the present situation, but asks boldly with faith. It took them everything to go before Moses and the assembly. Above all of that, they knew they stood before the one and only God, the King of the Universe. They were coming to Him with their petition.

Psalm 2:8 says, “Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance.” We sing about it, we pray about it, but what does this verse mean? What is the significance of this verse when it talks about inheritance? What is this inheritance?

We are the Lord’s inheritance. You and I are part of the inheritance of faith. Yet there is more. Those people who have not yet believed, they are a part of an inheritance to come. They are our inheritance of souls we work to bring into the kingdom of God.

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(photo taken from Convoy of Hope facebook page)

Kingdom Issues

On International Women’s day, we who are followers of Christ, must understand the issues for equality are also in the church. This ongoing battle for equality is a more than a gender issue. It i

s a kingdom issue. Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray therefore that the Lord of the Harvest will send laborers into the harvest field.” If Jesus himself said that laborers are few, why do we as his body continue to limit women in their working the fields of God’s calling?

And what is our response as women to those who place limitations in the ministry? The story of the daughters of Zelophehad is an amazing one – it is one of boldness and prayer. We too can respond through going to the Lord for the injustices we see and walking with integrity in front of others, including our accusers. With God’s help, culture can change and we can work together to bring in an inheritance of souls.

by Debbie Fulthorp

Photo on 1-31-13 at 10.47 AM

[2] http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/920169/jewish/Chapter-Seven.htm (some have also translated ‘slave’ into ‘dog’, and non-Jew would’ve been transliterated “Goyim” or another word for Gentile)

[3] John Oakes, “What Life was Like for Women of the Old Testament,” Evidence for Christianity, 2011, http://www.evidenceforchristianity.org/what-was-life-like-for-the-women-of-the-old-testamentr/ (accessed January 17, 2013).

[4] All Scripture unless otherwise noted is the updated 2011 NIV.


Reinventing God?

Rebecca Johnston is a 29-year-old licensed minister.  She is currently serving as the outreach pastor at The Journey Church in Plainfield, Indiana.  She serves the congregation by mobilizing the Body to reach out to those around them to offer spiritual, emotional or physical help.  Rebecca and her husband, Joel, met and married in Vienna, Austria where they were both serving in an international church. To fill up free time Rebecca is a volunteer loan editor with the micro-finance site Kiva, plays Castleville, watches a few different television shows with her husband and enjoys traveling. These things are all possible at this time as she and her husband have no children yet.

A prominent author is going to give us new insight into God. This new revelation will make us rethink everything we ever knew about God.  People have accused him of reinventing truth, reinventing God.

I haven’t read the book, it isn’t even out yet, so I can’t make a judgment on what the contents really are, but I can look at the press release and puzzle over why I would need God reinvented.

I became a Christian at the age of 12, taken by a friend who did not want to go by herself when she was asked to attend. Something in those church services, in a slightly hyper-emotional, conservative, Midwestern, small town church, stirred my junior high heart and turned me on a path toward the living God.

I went from being painfully shy, an emotional TNT stick ready to be detonated by the smallest vibrations, to a person called by God. I now bore his Good News to find and restore the lost or broken. I wander through the wilderness knowing he is beside me, in front of me, and behind me pushing should the need arise.

I went through a time where I was both emotionally and physically sick. I was burned out and used up by my acts of service.  Twelve days of hospitalization and the loss of my apartment days after being released could have made me think God was not looking out for me. I found though the more I leaned into God, and the more I ripped away how I thought it should be, the more generous he was with me. (More accurately, the more I noticed the grace God dealt to me). I didn’t miraculously get better overnight, either physically or emotionally, but I learned something new about myself. I learned about human nature, and about the peace God promised to his children. The problem was NOT my understanding of who God was, it was my understanding of who I was meant to be.  I lacked an understanding of what he wanted from me and for me. Because I love him, He really does make all things work together for my good.

Since I was 12 my understanding of who God is has changed dramatically.  God never changed. My imperfect understanding was refined, pulled and changed. I really love the words of 1 Corinthians 13 when it says what we see or understand now is like looking in a dim mirror.  What I see here and now is an imperfect reflection of the perfection of God.

I am stunned by the thought of reinventing God, because I have always known him to be absolute perfection.  Somewhere in the interim between first conversion and now I realized the flaws in understanding do not lie with who he is or what this person or that person says about him, it has always been me that needs to be reinvented.

written by Rebecca Johnston

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