International Women’s Day

On January 21, 2017, day two of the president’s first week in office, city streets in America and around the world were flooded with predominately pink-hatted female protesters raising awareness of women’s rights. The pink hats were a visible protest of how, during the presidential campaign, the issue of sexual assault against women was brushed off as mere “locker room talk.”

Despite the fact that the topic didn’t seem to be a deal breaker for supporters of the current president (even his evangelical supporters), it is an issue that as Christians we can’t afford—and women won’t allow—to drop.

Sexual assault isn’t mere “talk” to women. Far from it. It is a brutal reality for one out of four women, and that figure probably understates the problem, since many assaults go unreported.

After the protests, my friend, Professor Paul Louis Metzger asked if I’d be willing to do an interview on the march and how the Bible speaks (or doesn’t) to women’s rights. That led me, strangely enough, to re-examine the interactions between Ruth the Moabitess and Boaz in the Old Testament book of Ruth.

After responding to the questions, I’m convinced Boaz would be totally on board with the Women’s March. See if you agree.

Interview: “On the 2017 Women’s March Across the Globe”

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Franciscan Blessing for Such a Time as This

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May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

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Celebrate National Women’s History Month with the Bold Women of the Bible

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March is National Women’s History Month and an opportunity to spotlight the incredible contributions of women to national and global history. It is also a golden opportunity for us to rediscover the strong legacy bequeathed to us by women in the Bible.

This will involve addressing the injustices done to women and girls whose stories are recorded in the Bible but who are casualties to widespread cultural assumptions that men are leaders and women are born to follow.

Consequently, vital stories of women in the Bible—lots of them—have been downsized or marginalized and lost to us. Portraits of strong, courageous women leaders in the Bible have been removed from their rightful place as role models for women and girls at a time when strong godly female role models are desperately needed.

We are cautioned not to get excited or to entertain big ideas for ourselves from the stories of women like Deborah, Esther, Priscilla, Lydia, Junia, and Phoebe, when their stories are in the Bible for our instruction and should fill our hearts and the hearts of our daughters with fierce passion and determination to give our all in service to Jesus.

We aren’t alerted to notice or called to aspire to the the radical brand of bold and selfless leadership of Ruth the Moabitess or to follow the example of the hungry-to-learn Mary of Bethany and her courageous solo affirmation of Jesus’ mission on the eve of his crucifixion.

We completely miss how, for example, the young slave girl Hagar, barren Hannah, and the washed up childless widow Naomi are at least three female shapers of Judaeo-Christian theology. Hagar teaches us the intimate side of the God “who sees me.” Hannah’s theology informs us of God’s sovereign rule over everything from the womb to the throne.  Naomi reassures us of God’s stubborn relentless love (hesed) for us, what Sally Lloyd-Jones described as “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” The theology of all three women shows up in the writings of King David and is indispensable truth for believers in every generation.

It’s worth mentioning that men lose out in this arrangement too, for not only do they also have much to learn from these strong women, ignoring them causes  men to expect less from their sisters in Christ which, in turn, deprives them of strength, courage, and wisdom they need and that God means for them to gain from us.

It is time we reclaimed these women’s stories and reinstalled their portraits in their rightful place as Role Models for women and girls today. Without them, we will inevitably lower the bar for ourselves and our daughters when kingdom matters are every day at stake, when earth is emitting a distress signal, and when we cannot spare anyone in the monumental gospel ministry Jesus has entrusted to us.

ca2dc-41ylc8ol6mlSo celebrate National Women’s History Month and rekindle your own passion to join the stream of godly female history by reclaiming the bold legacy of women in the Bible.

Although every book I’ve written (including Malestrom) offers a fresh re-look at the stories of women in the Bible, a great place to start is with Lost Women of the Bible—The Women We Thought We Knew which is currently available on Kindle for $1.99. 

Already here in Pennsylvania, a group of sixth grade girls are reading and discussing their way through Lost Women of the Bible. They’re discovering they are ezer-warriors for Jesus and embracing a very big vision for their lives from these vital women role models.

 


Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION:  Lost

CHAPTER 1:  A Forgotten Legacy—Eve
CHAPTER 2:   The Unknown Soldier—Mrs Noah
CHAPTER 3:    Lost in the Margins—Sarah
CHAPTER 4:    The Invisible Woman—Hagar
CHAPTER 5:    Missing in Action—Tamar
CHAPTER 6:    The Power Behind the Throne—Hannah
CHAPTER 7:     A Sleeping Beauty—Esther
CHAPTER 8:    The First Disciple—Mary of Nazareth
CHAPTER 9:    Apostle to the Apostles—Mary Magdalene
CHAPTER 10:  Recovering the Blessed Alliance—Paul and the Women of Philippi

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS with each chapter

 To order:  Lost Women of the Bible—The Women We Thought We Knew

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It’s a Man’s Prerogative to Change His Mind

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In celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Christian History Institute is running a series of “Throwback Thursday” blog posts. The purpose is to educate more readers on the Reformation. Each contributor blogged on a quote from a reformer.

My quote comes from the mouth of Martin Luther when he finally saw the light—a second time.

“Men cannot do without women. Even if it were possible for men to beget and bear children, they still could not do without women.”                       —Martin Luther

To read the article go here.

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Teenagers Sold “Like Pizza”—What Will Your Church Do?

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The nightmare for Elisia started the day her mother sold her to a man. She was only 12-years-old.

From that tender age her life descended into an appalling downward spiral no child should ever experience—sexual violence, pregnancies (the first at 14), a series of foster homes, and abuse. By the time she reached adulthood, she was locked in a dehumanizing system of sexual violence and under the iron-clad control of a pimp.

The degree of isolation, helplessness, and violation she suffered is unfathomable.

Nicholas Kristof tells the story of Asia Graves in his NYTimes op-ed article, “When Backpage.com Peddles Schoolgirls for Sex.” This 16-year-old Boston high school sophomore was “sold on the Internet ‘like a pizza’ . . . handed over to be raped by strange men every day.”

A Global Epidemic of Human Suffering

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Studies estimate more than 27 million people are currently enslaved globally. They are trafficked for sex, forced labor, soldiers, suicide bombers, and organ harvesting. 70% are female; 50% are children. The human rights atrocities and the suffering these numbers represent are mind-numbing. In an effort to visualize what we’re looking at, ponder this alarming image (as I wrote in Malestrom)—the 30% statistic of men and boys trafficked today is “roughly the population of New York City proper.”

Victims come from every country, and every country consumes. Our youths are vulnerable. Pimps are smooth operators. They flatter, groom, and ensnare unsuspecting teenagers in such ordinary settings as shopping malls, schools, and coffee houses. Sometimes parents sell their own children.

Human trafficking is demand-driven. To our shame, demand is epidemic in the USA. Sex trafficking isn’t restricted to prostitution, but comes in other forms. Strip clubs and pornography, for example, victimize trafficked individuals. The pornography problem, currently epidemic among evangelicals, is no private matter for those who indulge. To be sure, it is soul-destroying for pornography clients and destructive to marriages and healthy relationships. But it is also funding the sex trafficking industry.

Human Trafficking in Plain Sight

I was shocked when I first heard a presentation about sex trafficking. Subsequently, I learned more, from Victor Malarek’s The Natashas: The Horrific Inside Story of Slavery, Rape, and Murder Inside the Global Sex Trade and Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s bestseller, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

The shock I felt from reading those books intensified when I discovered I’d actually been hearing human trafficking stories all my life. I grew up on stories of the heroic work of Amy Carmichael. Her remarkable Christian ministry in India centered on rescuing and raising little girls (and later little boys too) whose families were “dedicating them to the temple”—a euphemism for a life of prostitution.

Carmichael’s book, Things As They Are (first published in 1903), is an early version of Half the Sky.

Nor did anyone ever point out that human trafficking is also on the pages of my Bible—in stories I’ve heard and loved my whole life.

No Sunday School teacher ever explained that the young girl Esther was being trafficked for sex when she was rounded up with other young virgins for the king’s harem.

I never heard Hagar, the young Egyptian slave girl in the story of Abraham and Sarah, described as a victim of human trafficking either. Yet she was Abraham and Sarah’s property. They owned her. Hagar worked for the childless Sarah who ultimately gave her slave girl to Abraham to produce a male heir.

None of this is what anyone would call “consensual sex.”

“If we are honest, we must admit that Abraham was a human trafficker. He owned human beings—slaves he “bought,” slaves given to him as “gifts,” and slaves “born in his household” (which means he took ownership of children born to his slaves). Slavery was an accepted practice within patriarchy and is a common but hideous thread that winds through stories of leading figures in the Bible. That fact alone is enough to give us pause about patriarchy.”

Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World (67)

These crimes were multi-generational. Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, participated in the same practices when he fathered sons by two slave girls. Ten of Jacob’s sons engaged in human trafficking when they sold their younger brother Joseph as a slave.

There’s no way to sanitize these stories or shy away from the ugly truth. The family God chose to be the agents of his purposes for the world were capable of horrific evil. Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the revered founding fathers of our country were human traffickers of African slaves. As we all know, some of them used slaves for sex.

Human Trafficking and the Church Engaged

With biblical texts on human trafficking, Christians shouldn’t need the prodding of a national month of awareness to bring up the subject of human trafficking. These texts, plus the teachings of Jesus, who came “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners . . . [and] set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18) and whose gospel brings redemption, hope, and healing, provide ample opportunities for pastors and teachers to speak out about these image bearer violations. They are compelling reasons for the church to engage. Many Christian individuals and organizations are already in this battle. But many more are needed.

If you’re just now learning about human trafficking or need to refresh your outrage over this egregious assault against God’s image bearers, then buckle up and read this quick tutorial: “55 Little Known Facts about Human Trafficking.” Then read one of the books listed above, or my book, Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women, where I respond to Half the Sky from a Christian perspective.

Then ponder the question that confronts us all: What will you do?


This article was originally posted at www.missioalliance.org.

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How Princess Leia helped me become an ezer & believe I was a warrior daughter of the King

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This guest post was written by Rese Hood, M.Div., D.Min. in process (Gordon-Conwell) and with her kind warrior permission.

 

I spent most of yesterday alternately in shock and real grief as the news of Carrie Fisher’s passing became a non-stop headline in every platform of media. I couldn’t have explained it for most of the day but it finally came to me.

If it weren’t for Princess Leia/General Leia in Star Wars, I probably would have kept trying to kill myself until I succeeded. That character and that actress united in such a way that for the first time in the twisted universe that was my world, a very ordinary girl like me could emerge from wreckage and ruin a heroine, a fighter and a leader. And it was not just okay to be like her, it was essential.

When I was a sophomore in HS, I read a book called Star Wars with this kickass heroine princess. My friend Bill F. saw me reading it and told me it was a movie. (I had moved to Hawaii that summer when SW came out, so I was occupied with other things.) I am probably the only SW geek who saw the film because of the book.

Seeing the film changed my life. It was the first time I had ever seen anyone like me – smart, sassy, sarcastic, strong-willed and a natural leader – and a girl with brown hair (often oddly styled) and brown eyes as a hero. No capes, no super powers – her Force skills only barely hinted at. Nothing in the Galaxy could stop her or break her. As the other books (always released a few days prior to the film) and the movies followed, she grew stronger, rescued, led, loved and crushed evil. Even realizing her father was the most evil person in the galaxy and tried to destroy her personally couldn’t stop her. (I never kissed my brother though…EWWW!)

When The Force Awakens opened last year at the end of my son’s relationship with the other evil force in the universe – ha! – and I watched an older, wiser but stronger General Leia deal with the estrangement of her son and husband but stay focused on the larger objective of destroying the latest incarnation of evil, I was encouraged.

Somewhere between the first trilogy and the prequels (ugh!) and the reboot, plus the numerous books in various storylines, I found out that I could be reborn, made real and lasting royalty and My True and Good Father gave me the implements of battle and trusts me to lead. The Galaxy needs his Warrior Daughters – without them too much is lost. And, as I learned through Eowyn in Lord of the Rings, some evil can only be destroyed by a woman. (Another royal warrior woman…theme?)

I am literally still breathing because of Leia and Carrie Fisher. She gave me hope I could be someone more than I had been told. Those fictional narratives prepared the ground for the Great Story of which I am in reality a part. In which we all are a part as the commissioning of our Doctor of Ministry cohort last summer by Dr. Alice Mathews proved. Why that should hit me so hard at the moment was a mystery to me then.

Now I know why.

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Truth Bombs for Christmas

christmas-ornament-207334_1920One morning recently, before even getting out of bed, I was checking the news on social media (not always a positive way to start my day) when I came across a Facebook message proclaiming that I would be dropping “truth bombs” that same night during a women’s Christmas gathering at a local church.

Instantly, I thought to myself: “These are my kind of women! They want truth-bombs? Far be it from me to disappoint.”

Besides, in what is now described as a “post-truth” America, we could use a few truth bombs.

So I dropped several truth bombs that evening. When it was over, the church building was still standing, and there were no casualties—only explosive joy that a Savior was born and a lot of hope because the Kingdom of Jesus has come.

Truth Bomb #1—The first Christmas marked the launch of a covert global rescue operation.

This operation was thousands of years in the making. The first Christmas marked the beginning of God’s final assault in a cosmic battle that signaled the overthrow of the kingdoms of this world. This battle started—not in a war room—but in a garden at the dawn of creation when the enemy attacked and God’s image bearers revolted.

Subsequent history reveals the terrible consequences of human conflict, divisions, abuse, injustice, violence, and war.

But God never gave upon on his vision for us or for the world he loves. So he launched a global rescue effort that reached an historic climax with the birth of Jesus that first Christmas. It literally rocked the heavens. Hordes of angels were deployed. Their actions signaled the turning point in the battle between the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of darkness.

Truth Bomb #2—God’s Christmas rescue of the world depended on the courageous willingness of a young teenage girl and the radically counter-cultural actions of a man.

The terms of Mary’s involvement in Christmas meant consenting to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Within the patriarchal world she inhabited, this decision would shatter her life expectations, her future, and her safety.

Mary was old enough (around 13 or 14) to know what happens to unmarried girls who show up pregnant. Even today, we hear horrifying reports of brutal honor killings of young women for choosing their own husbands, stepping out on their own, or even for being raped. And their executioners are their husbands, fathers, brothers, and uncles who kill to vindicate their male honor.

Remarkably, despite the very real, life-altering risks, Mary answered, “Yes.”

The first big danger she faced was Joseph. They were betrothed and soon to marry. Instead, Mary turns up pregnant, and Joseph doesn’t need a paternity test to prove he isn’t the father.

In first century patriarchal Palestine, the manly thing for Joseph to do was make her pay to vindicate his honor.

But this is where the story takes a remarkable turn.

Joseph’s actions reveal the in-breaking of Jesus’ kingdom in a man’s heart. Even before Joseph learns the truth about Mary, he is determined to shield her from the shame his culture would assume she deserved. When he learns the truth, he throws his full weight behind God’s calling on Mary and plays a decisive role to ensure her success and Jesus’ safety.

That first Christmas is a reminder that when God has important work to do, he often doesn’t choose the big shots. He chooses the unlikely, the marginal, the obscure. And the two of them—Mary and Joseph—give us one of the most powerful examples of the Blessed Alliance in all of scripture.

Truth Bomb #3—Christmas is the proclamation of unparalleled global good news.

Fear and despair sweep over us with news of the collapse of Aleppo, fleeing masses of displaced humanity, another terrorist attack, racism, misogyny, and violence. Global instability, natural disasters, power struggles, and wars, cancer of the body and of the soul are standard fare in the day’s news.

Christmas reminds us that God is determined—at unspeakable cost to himself—to reclaim his image bearers and the world he loves. We are not abandoned. We are loved. We have a Savior, a King. Jesus’ followers become naturalized citizens of a kingdom that is not of this world and that will ultimately prevail.

Jesus came to restore a fallen humanity to our Creator and to reconstruct human relationships according to a gospel ethos. His mission includes but goes well beyond salvation from damnation. God is redeeming and reclaiming his world. He’s putting things right in ways that lead to blessing, goodness, and flourishing for all.

Truth Bomb #4—Christmas has always been under attack.

When it comes to wartime attacks, the truly frightening danger is that those in the crosshairs will be caught off-guard. The first attack on Christmas—paranoid King Herod’s violent slaughter of infant boys in Bethlehem after magi leaked the news of a rival king’s birth—was anything but subtle. That threat blew the royal family’s cover and forced them into wartime refugee status in Egypt for years.

Today, some American evangelicals have identified an assault on Christmas and expressed a disturbing sense of loss when a store clerk or merchandising banner wishes them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” This embarrassing obsession with trivia lets our guard down and distracts us from a far greater danger.

The greatest threat to 21st Century Christmas is not that Christians are losing the right to control the public religious narrative. It is instead that we Christians ourselves have lost sight of the very essence of Christmas—the costly, life-transforming nature of the divine rescue operation launched undercover against lethal dark forces in the form of a tiny baby born in obscurity.

Christmas is the antidote to everything that plagues the human race and all that is wrong in God’s world. It is an operation of the most pressing urgency. Sinister forces of darkness fiercely opposed it. This threat is real and has thrown the American church off-mission and into a self-absorbed complacency and quest for dominance and control instead of loving others into following the true King who alone can satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart.

Truth Bomb #5—Christmas reminds us that we are not spectators to what God is doing.

We have work to do! God’s image bearers remain his preferred method of getting things done in the world. We are agents of the rescue operation the Creator launched that first Christmas. We are called to love this world and the people in it as he loves. Christmas reminds us to embrace our King and his Kingdom, to become part of heaven’s victory over sin and death and evil, to bear and to be good news to a lost and broken world.

So . . . no matter what confronts us when we check the morning news, let the enemy and his minions tremble when our feet hit the floor. Let Christmas re-energize us for the mission Jesus entrusts to us. Let the Good News of Jesus’ gospel empower us to live courageously as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven!

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