Archive for the ‘Women Welcome Here’ Category

Single and Happy

March 21, 2019

This week the Wall Street Journal published an article called “Mastering the Art of Being Single,” which reminded me of the following article I originally posted back in 2012. I’ve updated a few sections.

Since 2012 the number of single adults in the U.S. has nearly equaled the number of married adults. According to the WSJ article, as of 2017 “more than 120 million U.S. residents, or almost 48% of adults aged 18 or older were divorced, widowed or had never been married.” That’s up from 39 million in 1970. They call the rise of singles “one of the biggest demographic trends of the past 50 years.”

Women today are single for a variety of reasons. Some are completing their education and getting established in a career before getting married. Some are taking advantage of their freedom to engage in ministry and mission work. The average age of first marriage is closing in on 30, although some women are cohabitating at an earlier age. This twenty-something group also, of course, includes women who would like to be married but are waiting to find the elusive “Mr. Right.” Not to be disregarded are those women who are uninterested in ever being married, some of whom commendably choose to devote their lives to the service of God and his people. 

(Read More)

Expect the Unexpected

December 14, 2018

As we enter these next couple of weeks leading up to Christmas, it seems appropriate to reflect again on that moment of angelic visitation when Mary learned that she was about to become miraculously pregnant with the Son of God:

“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

This announcement of an imminent virgin birth by the power of the Holy Spirit – one of the few times the Bible records a woman’s voice in praise of God* –  would have signaled a major event for the original first-century readers. Yet, Luke placed another unexpected twist in the opening of his gospel. He positioned Gabriel’s announcement to Mary immediately after an account of divine visitation on Zechariah. (Read More)

Who in the World Is Junia?

September 22, 2015

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:7 NIV 2011)

Since the days of the earliest church writings, this passage has been a puzzle to readers who came to it with a conviction that apostles must be men. From medieval times until fairly recently you could hardly find a Bible translation containing the name Junia. Translators through this period resolved their dilemma by rendering the name Junias, a male name (as in, “Those earlier manuscripts couldn’t have been right, so let’s just fix that little typo”). I still own an NIV Bible from 1984 that uses Junias.

Most modern translators now agree that the evidence supports a female name here, so disputes have transferred to that sticky phrase “outstanding among the apostles.” Some alternative renderings include “esteemed by the apostles” (see note in the 2011 NIV) or “well known to the apostles” (ESV).

I am more interested in the identity of this woman of such significance to Paul and the other apostles—regardless of what her distinction was. Is she really mentioned nowhere else in New Testament literature? (Read More)

Losing Her Life and Finding It

August 27, 2015

The disciple Joanna was the topic of a post here a few months ago. I’ve learned so much more about her since then, and I’m excited to share with you the rest of the story. All the credit for this background goes to scholar Richard Baukham.*

First, let’s review what Luke 8:1-3 says:

“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.”

To first century readers, this passage would have read like a neon sign flashing “This is a situation loaded with meaning!” To people living within memory of the rule of Herod Antipas, here in a nutshell is what they might have ascertained about Joanna:

She was Jewish, probably from a wealthy Galilean family. She was married to a prominent official in Herod’s administration, lived in Tiberias—Herod’s capital city—and enjoyed a life of luxury, at least until she began following Jesus. Then, she probably lost her social standing but also would have struggled for acceptance traveling with people who were accustomed to viewing “Herodians” with contempt. (Read More)

The Women Disciples — There’s More!

August 7, 2015

In this post we will look in more depth at the presence of the women disciples toward the end of Luke’s Gospel and consider their significance. We’re following up on a previous post, “Jesus and His Traveling Disciplettes,” which explored the way Luke’s Gospel places women as a regular presence among Jesus’ disciples throughout his ministry (beginning in Luke 8:1).

Here’s a rundown of what happened beginning in Luke 23:

  • The women who had followed Jesus from Galilee watched their Savior’s crucifixion at a distance (Luke 23:49). They are singled out because they about to become major actors in this plotline.
  • These same “women who had come with Jesus from Galilee” followed Jesus’ body, saw the tomb, and saw his body laid in it. (Luke 23:55) They became the only witnesses among the disciple group of the exact location where Jesus was buried.
  • “The women” then became the first witnesses of the empty tomb on Sunday morning, when they arrived with burial spices. Instead of the body of Jesus, they found two gleaming men who explained the absence of Jesus. (Luke 24:1-5)
  • The men remind the women what Jesus had told them back in Galilee (Luke 24:6-7). The women then remembered that, yes, Jesus had told them that (Luke 24:8).
  • They ran back and reported their discovery to “the Eleven and to all the others.” The guys were unwilling to believe the news, because “their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:9-10)
  • “The women” were finally identified as “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them.” (Luke 24:9)
  • The resurrected Jesus walks along with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These two report to Jesus that “some of our women amazed us.”Some of the guys, including Peter, went to check out their story “and found it just as the women had said.” Imagine that. (Luke 24:23-24)
  • The Emmaus pair returned to Jerusalem and found “the Eleven and those with them,” who said, essentially, “What the women said was true!” (Luke 24:33-34)
  • Jesus suddenly appeared to this same group. (Luke 24:36) He explained the scriptures about himself and told them, “The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” He reminded them that they were “witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:38-48)
  • Jesus told them he would send what his Father had promised and that they should stay in Jerusalem until they had “been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:38-49)
  • After he ascended, they (still the same group) returned to Jerusalem, and “they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (Luke 24:50-53)
  • In Jerusalem the Eleven joined “together constantly in prayer,along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14).
  • On the day of Pentecost “all of them” were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1). As part of his sermon Peter reminded the audience that what they were currently experiencing was prophesied in Joel:

(Read More)

Women, Leadership and the Bible

July 8, 2015

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

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)

Married With Jesus

October 17, 2014

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)

More on Singleness

April 1, 2014

woman walking on beachThis week I’m giving a shout out to our minister Steve Malone at Maple Grove Christian Church, who challenged us on Sunday to rethink singleness – as good – not only perfectly fine with God but even spiritually advantageous for those accept and embrace it. The church needs to consider more of this message in a culture where 50% of adults are single.

Here are a couple of interesting observations I have found recently about single women in first-century Christianity:

 “The women surrounding [Jesus] and, indeed, the men as well, are predominantly celibate. It’s difficult to name a married couple, with the exception of Mary and Joseph, who are together when Jesus talks to them.” (New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine in a Christianity Today interview, April 2012)

“Should they be widowed, Christian women also enjoyed very substantial advantages. Pagan widows face great social pressures to remarry…. Of course, when a pagan widow did remarry, she lost all of her inheritance—it became the property of her new husband. In contrast, among Christians, widowhood was highly respected and remarriage was, if anything, mildly discouraged. Thus not only were well-to-do Christian widows enabled to keep their husband’s estate, the church stood ready to sustain poor widows, allowing them a choice as to whether or not to remarry.” (Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity)

Listen to “Singleness … and Searching” by Steve Malone

The Value of Women to Jesus

September 26, 2012

'Woman at Baobob in Tana' photo (c) 2007, David Dennis - license: you ever felt to some degree marginalized in your church because you are a woman? Not every Christian woman has this experience, but many do. The circumstances that stir up these feelings may vary, but often we are left with the impression that we have no voice in some aspect of ministry or church life that we care about deeply. 

Over the past few months, a couple of dear friends have shared with me their feelings of disappointment and discouragement around this very issue. These aren’t women who are trying to work their way up the church leadership ladder. They are wise and godly sisters who merely wanted to share their insights on topics relevant to their ministry experience. Instead of having those insights heard and respected, they felt ignored in an all-male environment of church authority. 

This is bound to happen sometimes in church settings where many Christians understand scripture to place spiritual authority, preaching, shepherding, and decision-making solely in the hands of men. Certainly, church leaders have serious responsibilities. They must act consistently with their understandings about the roles of women in ministry and leadership. I just figure, though, that sometimes they get so used to listening only to other men about church-related matters that they forget how wise and insightful spiritually mature women can be. They end up excluding women in areas where scripture definitely doesn’t bind them, and it feels like they are saying, “You have nothing to say that we need to hear.” 

'Woman' photo (c) 2011, Timothy Krause - license: ladies can be encouraged that our Savior took a more considerate approach, one that clearly demonstrates how deeply he valued women.

According to the Gospels, the Son of God—who created both men and women—frequently noticed the women around him and their needs. Because he cared so much about them, he healed them, cast out their demons, and granted their requests—even resurrecting their beloved family members who had died. 

He also appeared to recognize women’s intellect. He spoke with women about spiritual matters (the sisters Mary and Martha, for example, and the Samaritan woman). He taught them, probed their understanding, even allowed them to argue with him (remember the Canaanite mother who wanted her daughter to be healed?). He also revealed himself to women as the Messiah (or Christ). 

Jesus allowed women to travel with him on his ministry team, to support him financially, and to use their domestic skills directly in his service (Luke 8:1-3). He included women in his teachings and his object lessons, probably because so many women were in his audiences and he wanted to connect with them. On the other hand, he never generalized about female characteristics or made jokes about women or commented on their appearance. 

He acknowledged women’s ability to evangelize—and not only in “women’s” ministry. The Samaritan woman told her whole village about her experience with Jesus. As the townspeople headed back to Jacob’s well to meet him, Jesus told the disciples that the fields were ripe for harvest and that “others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:38).

Of course, in the various Gospel versions of the resurrection, the women who visited the empty tomb were instructed to report to the “brothers” (the remaining eleven disciples) the most meaningful miracle God had ever performed. Perhaps the men’s failure to believe the women (see Luke’s version) has inadvertently served as a model for a few of our guys today <smile>.

'Woman profile' photo (c) 2011, Pedro Ribeiro Simões - license: also believe that Jesus valued women as the individuals they were and not only as wives or mothers.  Here’s an interesting point made by a feminist Jewish New Testament scholar, and she’s exactly right. “It’s difficult to name a married couple, with the exception of Mary and Joseph, who are together when Jesus talks to them,” she said in a recent interview with Christianity Today.  None of the women in the Gospels is accompanied by a spouse, she pointed out. Most appear to be living celibate, either as single or widowed, and Jesus accepted them just as they were. 

“Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother,” Jesus told one crowd, indicating again the presence of women in his audience as well as his equal consideration of them. He seemed to expect women to be on the frontlines of spiritual battle, too, pronouncing in Matthew 10 that following Jesus would turn “a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law…”

And in one of my favorite stories, Jesus defended Lazarus’ sister Mary when she chose to express her adoration with an extravagant sacrifice of expensive perfume. It was an unorthodox form of worship, true, but Jesus saw all the meaning behind it and told his appalled disciples that Mary had done a beautiful thing for him. 

Here is the message we can draw from these passages, Dear Sisters. Mere humans aren’t always going to get this right in our fallen world. But you can rest assured that you are valuable to Jesus, not only as his precious daughter but as a disciple of great worth to his ministry. He values both your heart and your mind, your service and your vision, your passion and your compassion.

No matter what messages you may get from other Christians—male or female—about your significance to the Father’s kingdom work, never doubt that He values all you have to give.

Being all you can be in Christ may require a bit of humility, patience, persistence or creativity in your church context, but God wants each of us to be “all in”— heart, soul, mind, and strength.