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The Gentle Savior

Seeing Jesus Through the Eyes of the Women Who Met Him

Matthew Is Not Mark Is Not Luke Is Not John – For A Reason

July 15, 2015
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Four gospelsI once attended a church where the minister was known for his practice of reading all the way through the Bible every month. His discipline for being so “in the Word” is admirable. Yet, possibly influenced by this practice, his public teaching seemed to reflect a perspective of the Bible as one long book written all at once by a single author. He rarely mentioned the characteristics of a specific genre included within the Bible collection (like prophecy or poetry) or individual styles and word choices peculiar to different authors or key themes distinctive of each of the Bible’s 66 works of literature.

Don’t get me wrong, he is a man of great faith in God, and his life reflects the character of Jesus in many ways. He missed a great deal of the richness of biblical literature reading it this way, however, and likely sometimes misconstrued some of its teachings.

Each book of the Bible should be understood as part of the larger collection of spiritual works, but only after we understand it as an independent work of sacred literature. Sometimes we get this intuitively with other Bible books, but because the Gospels all report the life and ministry of Jesus, we might find it easier to ignore their individuality. In books like The Daily Bible and in pulpits every Sunday all over the world, well-meaning Christians harmonize all the Gospel narratives and teachings, as if scripture contained one consistent version of events regarding Jesus.

Many of us are more comfortable with this treatment of the Gospels than we are in acknowledging the conflicting versions of the crucifixion story and the ways identical teachings are placed in different contexts across the Gospels. Sometimes, I’ve seen people scratch their heads about these conflicts and suggest, “Maybe it’s like different witnesses today all describing the same car accident. They all tell what they saw from different angles.”

This post appeared as a guest contribution to the Women, Leadership, and the Bible blog. Keep reading.

To learn more, download a free bonus report, “Interpreting the Gospels.”

Women, Leadership and the Bible

July 8, 2015
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Natalie EastmanI first met Natalie R. Wilson Eastman on her wedding day, when she was marrying David, a good friend I went to church with when we both lived in Corvallis, Oregon. Over the years since then, God and writing have been the intersections that have connected the streams of our busy lives.

I have a great deal of respect for the Natalie’s enthusiasm for serious Bible study, her belief that women can and should engage in it, and the incredible amount of work she put into her new book, Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe?

I decided this was the perfect time to tell you about her book after we had explored the presence of women among Jesus’ disciples. I see plenty of evidence that Jesus expected women to use their intellect. He was happy to teach them and was interested in conversing with them about what they believed (see, Luke 10, John 4 and John 11). (Read More)

Jesus and His Traveling Disciplettes

June 6, 2015
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crosses reflected in an eyeThanks to a book I read recently, I finally understand why I was so surprised when I first discovered that Jesus and his band of followers was not a boys-only club.

It turns out that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John keep things simple and do hone in on the apostles throughout their narratives. With only a few exceptions, they use the terms apostles and disciples interchangeably.

Luke, however, pulls back the curtain wider and shows us that the twelve apostles weren’t the only guys around the campfire—nor were they all guys (which is why studying each Gospel as an independent work of literature is so important).

Luke (6:13) introduces the Twelve as chosen from a larger group of disciples of Jesus, although he occasionally uses the terms synonymously (the apostles were disciples, after all). Here are some examples in Luke where the group of people following Jesus clearly consisted of more than the Twelve (and later the Eleven): (Read More)

Now Available: The Gentle Savior (2nd Edition)

May 23, 2015
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The Gentle Savior coverI haven’t written a new post in a while, but for a good reason. I’m excited to announce a new edition of my women’s Bible study workbook, The Gentle Savior: Seeing Jesus through the Eyes of the Women Who Met Him.

After discontinuing the relationship with my prior publisher, I self-published this edition. It sports several updates and improvements in the study itself, as well as a new smaller size and better graphic design inside. (Read More)

5 Scriptures I Finally Stopped Cowering Behind

February 28, 2015
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4399065281_0b54b35fff_nAs a student and follower of Jesus for most of my life, I have wanted my behavior to reflect his teachings. Sometimes in my efforts to obey Jesus, however, I have used his teachings in ways he did not intend.

I confess that I have misused scripture as a cover for my discomfort with initiating difficult emotional situations. Instead of letting the beautiful teachings and examples of scripture transform me, I used them as righteous make-up to disguise my fear and emotional ineptness—I think I even fooled myself.

Here are some of the concepts that I have misapplied in my life for way too long.

1. Love

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13) (Read More)

Why Call Jesus a “Gentle” Savior?

January 24, 2015
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It has been a long time coming, I guess, but it finally dawned on me that I should clarify the use of the word gentle to describe Jesus on my website and in the Bible study I developed.

I fear that some readers may assume I mean that Jesus had to be gentle with women because he found them too weak, soft, fragile, or unintelligent to treat them the way he might treat men.

That’s not what I have in mind at all.

“Gentle and humble in heart” is the way Jesus described himself in Matthew 11:29. His use of this phrase recalled Old Testament messianic prophecies of God’s king, who was envisioned as the helper of the poor and of those who have been deprived of their rights. Throughout the prophets and wisdom literature of the Old Testament, God positioned himself as a defender of those who are oppressed, cheated, exploited, and defenseless. In fulfilling the messianic prophecies, Jesus took up that role as a humble peacemaker who came to rescue without force (see also Matthew 21:5 and Luke 4:18-19). [a]

What I see of Jesus in the Gospels is not that he handled women with kid gloves but that he recognized what women were up against. He knew the attitudes of the ancient culture at large and the systemic marginalization of women. He knew the double standards and sometimes even cruelty of popular Jewish religious thought. He also knew the specific circumstances faced by some individual women in destitute and distressing conditions, dysfunctional families, abusive relationships, and intolerant communities. (Read More)

This One’s Got to Be Better

January 1, 2015
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Happy New YearHello, 2015!

I am so ready for a new start.

Good riddance, 2014! You brought more pain in your 52 weeks than any I have experienced in 52 years.

Don’t get me wrong. The past 12 months weren’t all bad. I received tons of love and support from caring family, friends, and co-workers. I tried some new things, broadened some perspectives, had some great experiences with my daughters, and enjoyed an amazing weekend retreat in Colorado that was purely a gift from God.

The year began, though, with several months of intensive marriage counseling that went nowhere except to make me feel like an utter failure. Then there was the finality of the divorce decision and then months of haggling over a settlement agreement that still isn’t final. I am so ready to put that all behind me. (Read More)

Expect the Unexpected

November 27, 2014
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candle“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

 Luke 1: 45-55

As we enter the season leading up to Christmas, it seems appropriate to reflect a bit on the moment of angelic visitation when Mary learned that she was about to become miraculously pregnant with the Son of God. (Read More)

Married With Jesus

October 17, 2014
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wedding bands“I never noticed Joanna before!” a new friend said as she approached me at the end of a recent retreat in Colorado. “She was a married woman who served Christ! I really needed to hear that.”

This dear sister was talking about a name barely mentioned in an obscure but interesting passage in Luke 8:1-3:

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

(Read More)

Jesus at the Table

September 27, 2014
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“Eats with Sinners” is the name of a book by Arron Chambers that our whole church is reading right now. The title intrigued me, and since Jesus didn’t eat only with sinners, I decided to scour the Gospels to learn more. I have a relationship with Jesus, and I have a relationship with food, both of which could always stand improvement, so it seemed like a good topic to explore further.

Food and miracles were often related in the Gospels. Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn a stone into bread after 40 days of fasting. He could have, but he said no, of course.

Jesus, instead, performed the first of his miraculous signs at a wedding feast, after his mom dropped a hint that the hosts were out of wine.

For his next big mealtime miracle, he spent a whole day healing sick people, then his compassion flowed on their empty bellies. He fed 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves of bread and two fish. He reprised that miracle another time on a mountainside along the Sea of Galilee. This time he fed 4,000-plus people with seven loaves and a few small fishes.

Although Jesus certainly cared about hungry people getting fed, if you listen closely, you learn that Jesus was into more than physical nourishment. He told a lonely Samaritan woman at a well that he could give her living water so she would never be thirsty again—and he wasn’t talking about liquid refreshment either. Later, when his disciples returned with dinner, he informed them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” If you remember, in the face of temptation, Jesus had countered Satan with that Old Testament reminder, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Read More)

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