Patricia’s ACU Honours Thesis Test 1 (of 3)

Task 1: Thesis statement and annotated bibliography: The assessment strategy is intended to allow you to display development of thesis writing and research methods skills appropriate for an Honours thesis. All three assessment tasks are linked together so that the feedback received from each task also acts as a feedforward to help you prepare for the next task.

Assessment task 1 enables you to display achievement of LO 1 by asking you to compile an annotated bibliography of relevant key resources for your proposed thesis topic and drafting a thesis statement, outlining the argument of your proposed thesis

Requires students to demonstrate the skills of writing a thesis statement and compiling an annotated bibliography of relevant sources.

Due Friday 26th March 2021

For this task, you are asked to write an annotated bibliography of ten selected relevant sources for your thesis project. Your annotations should be approximately 100 words each. Each annotation should explain what that resource is about and why it is an important resource for your thesis. You are also asked to include a draft thesis statement written at the top of the document. There is a guide to writing Annotated Bibliographies in Appendix A.

Length and/or format: 1200 words: A single sentence thesis statement plus ten 100- word annotations.

To enable you to gather ten key sources for your project and explain why they are relevant; and to support you in writing a thesis statement, which will provide direction for your thesis project. The annotated bibliography also provides a basis from which you can develop your Literature Review.

Patricia Erlandsen Draft Thesis Statement and Annotated Bibliography

The land of Canaan was divinely promised to Israel through their fore-parents, Abraham and Sarah. Due to acts of divine deliverance, Israel was now poised to enter the promised land.

Moses appointed to each tribe their portion of land. A discrepancy arose and the daughters of Zelophehad approached Moses. Their petition was twofold: “Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? give us property among our father’s relatives.” 1 To ensure the women remained with their land, endogamous marriage was instituted. A statute was passed that showed the land belonged to Yahweh: “the request of the daughters of Zelophehad is justified; you shall certainly give them a possession as an inheritance among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer their father’s inheritance to them.” 2

This thesis attempts to answer the question, “what motivated the ancient Israelite custom reported in Numbers 27:7 of permitting daughters to inherit?; and is therefore, the matter of women inheriting land in Ancient Israel more of a theological justification about divine ownership of the land?; further, “did the women of Israel typically inherit land? and is this interrelated with widows inheriting land through the endogamous Levirate marriage law?”; so that, in reality, “was inheriting land by all members of the tribes and endogamous marriages a distinctive feature of Israelite society?”

Below: 100 words each Annotated Bibliography.

Ackerman, Susan. 2003. “Digging Up Deborah”. Near Eastern Archaeology 66, no. 4: 172-184. http://doi.org/10.2307/3557917.

Biblical scholar, Susan Ackerman, a biblical scholar, draws from Carol Meyer’s work using archaeology as a tool to uncover the sub text. This opens up indicators of deeper meaning between Iron I period in the book of Judges and Israel’s pre-monarchic era of Iron 11. Close attention is given to the way the ordinary everyday tasks of the women opened up ways for them to influence the society’s economical, judicial and legal affairs and to participate in religious observances. Ackerman also compares the ancient Semitic language and includes extra-biblical source materials, all adding valuable weight to my thesis.

Benjamin, Don C. 2015 The Social World of Deuteronomy: A New Feminist Commentary. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Both legal traditions and cultures in the bible world are brought together in Don Benjamin’s work. He brings to the reader empathetic insight into the social world of Israel’s women and their household members. Yahweh’s patronage allowed all Israel to receive a divine land grant: “The land that Yahweh is giving.” 3 The author engages feminist criticism, law, social life and customs. Benjamin explains simple lineages, segmented lineages, and genealogies. He uses social – scientific criticism to reconstruct the social institutions that appear in Deuteronomy’s traditions. Along with this, the book’s bibliography is of value in developing my thesis.

Brenner-Idan, Athalya. 1993. Feminist Companion to Genesis. London, Bloomsbury.

Brenner’s approach of feminist criticism and interpretation examines sexism and sex in the bible. Wives controlling their husband’s sexual activity through the wife’s directive led to controlling childbirth. Women therefore were central to building up their clan leading to the growth of the tribe. Brenner concludes it does not infer domination. However, that is questionable. This is relevant to my thesis in showing the way women had autonomy in critical issues and decision making. It also ensured a woman’s relative freedom in preventing sexual harassment. It infers they were not overtly patriarchal households.

Brenner-Idan, Athalya, and Brenner,Athalya. 1993. Feminist Companion to Ruth. London, Bloomsbury.

An explicitly feminist approach is adopted as Brennan shows the way in which the Levirate law in Israel is applied on behalf of widows in Israel. Redemption is the theme. Its central issue is twofold: retention of land and name which works through endogamous matrilineal kinship ties. Brenner insight defines the way in which the matriline is the strength of the society they live in as it provides the source of female authority to help cull the potential of aggressive male domination.

Bridge, Edward J. 2014. A Mother’s Influence: Mothers Naming Children in the Hebrew Bible. Vetus Testamentum 64, no. 3: 389-400.

Edward Bridge shows during the pre-Israelite pre monarchic and monarchic periods women exhibit significant standing and influence in Israel. They predominantly named their children, educated and chose their children’s language. They expressed preference for children over husbands; singularly inquired of God; some were recognised as wise. One saved a city, another built them; others were prophets and mediums, others served at the tabernacle. The Shelomith seal, late fifth early sixth century BC, has a woman acting in the capacity of government official or functionary. Overall, Bridge demonstrates it is a gross misrepresentation to interpret Israelite women as docile which is in keeping with my thesis.

Chapman, Cynthia R. 2016. The House of the Mother: The Social Roles of Maternal Kin in Biblical Hebrew Narrative and Poetry. New Haven, Connecticut.

To provide a lens to magnify ancient Israelite kinship ties, Chapman combines biblical and extra-biblical linguistic analysis with anthropological theory, ethnographical insights, and archaeological data. These serve to help the readers’ gaze converge on what Chapman calls “horizontal lines”. These are matrilineal lines leading to far more complexity in the patriarchal structure of the tribes of Israel than might once be thought. Chapman refers to these as a “more complex maternally subdivided household”. These are identified as “the House of the Mother”. Chapman’s study supports the argument that one-dimensional patrilocal marriage and male only line of descent is inaccurate.

Meyers, Carol L. 2014. Journal of Biblical Literature; Atlanta Vol. 133, Iss. 1, 8-27.

http://doi.org/10.1353/jbl.2014.0012

Carol Meyers scholarly feminist critique: “Was Ancient Israel a Patriarchal Society?” seeks to reexamine the concept of patriarchy as a negative descriptor of ancient Israel. Employing historical text analysis, anthropology, archaeology, Hebrew language, science and society, the author highlights the social problems associated with patriarchal interpretation. Meyers says other scholars such as third-wave feminists, social theorists and feminist archaeologists agree. Meyers disagrees with the way theorists use the Roman “paterfamilias” as an example to compare with the families of Ancient Israel. This archaic view has never been entirely corrected. I agree with Meyers: it is too long a time period to make any relevant comparison.

Meyers, Carol. 2013. Rediscovering Eve: Ancient Israelite Women in Context. New York: Oxford University Press.

Meyer’s feminist study investigates the popular view of Israelite women in their households being at the bottom of a blatantly patriarchal social structure in Iron Age 1 Israelite society. Meyer considers the mundane lives of such ordinary women agrarians residing in matrilineal kinship groups. It reveals a micro-view of their economic, social, political, and religious significance in the tribe’s internal and external cohesion. The author draws upon archaeological discoveries from that period. In support my thesis in as much as it allows a broader picture of Ancient Israelite women’s roles, their worth in the family as well as their interactions amongst themselves and the broader community.

Oden, Robert A. 1983. “Jacob as Father, Husband, and Nephew: Kinship Studies and the Patriarchal Narratives”. Journal of Biblical Literature 102, no. 2 189-205. http://doi.org/10.2307/3261157.

Robert Oden’s emphasis in the study of biblical literature is about modern analysis of kinship studies. This offers the reader the opportunity to research the Hebrew texts in greater depth. In this instance, Jacob and Laban are brought to the fore to examine the special relationship between a man and his maternal uncle. Its most prominent features concern kinship studies and genealogy in the family of Abraham, Sarah and their descendants, allowing preservation of its system of land tenure. The author helps me articulate my argument in the way in which endogamy served Israel.

Zafrira, Ben-Barak. 1980. “Inheritance by Daughters in the Ancient Near East”, Journal of Semitic Studies 25, no. 1, 22-33. https://doi.org/10.1093/jss/25/1/22

Zafrira’s approach is one of bible criticism and interpretation It deals with ancient Assyro-Babylonian literature and Semitic Languages of this period. It ascertains that the situation of women’s right to land also occurred in the course of establishing justice in Middle Eastern society. Certain documents from there show widows orphans and daughters become heirs; this occurs when there is no son. The author explores Job’s daughters inheriting land. The endogamous marriage arrangement is also considered. Zafrira’s study enables comparison between law cases listed here to the one concerning the five daughters of Zelophehad.


FOOTNOTES

Australian Catholic University’s Bachelor of Theology (Honours)

ACU Books

The Bachelor of Theology (Honours) is a one-year programme for high-achieving students who have completed the Bachelor of Theology pass degree or equivalent.

Undertake a focused research project framed by one-on-one supervision with one of our internationally-recognised academic staff, and engage in an in-depth study of an area of theology or biblical studies in which you are particularly interested.

 

Admission year 2021
Date of offer 17-FEB-2021
Course Bachelor of Theology (Honours)
Campus Brisbane
Fee type Commonwealth Supported

 

My application included the following outline of my interest in matrilineal Biblical Studies. Below is an extract from my series online: Genealogies of Women in OT: ‘Sarah’.

I write from the viewpoint that the Israelites began as a matriarchal society, but translators and interpreters have rendered it a patriarchal one. My argument supports the practice of endogamous marriage, of marrying within a specific social group, caste, or ethnic group, rejecting those from others as unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships. Endogamy is common in many cultures and ethnic groups. Endogamy is the social norm prescribed in Genesis 2: 24. 

‘For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh’ (KJV).

Such marriages rely on female kinship and each mother’s innate knowledge of her children. History shows that women-owned land and resided in matriarchal households. As the land was settled, regions, cities, and towns in early Canaan history are named after the women of Israel possibly signifying them and their kin as the rightful owners. Women were not without standing in the community of Israel. It was in the mother’s and their daughter’s best interest to build up their matriarchal kinship houses and extended groups.

Careful scrutiny of documents that relate to Chief Sarah’s time that Sarah occupied a very dignified position in Mesopotamia, ‘land of the two rivers, and finally, Canaan. This was not unusual, for women of Sarah’s day also held places of public and private power in Egypt Babylonia, Assyria, Arabia, Canaan, and Asia Minor. In all those civilisations, the matriarchate, that is, mother-right can be traced. Her household was not small (Gen 12: 5). Abraham was seventy-five years old and Sarah was sixty (Gen 12: 4). Many of these servants likely made-up part of her dowry from her family 1 and, in keeping with the tradition of that time, would have remained her property. 

Sarah’s family belonged to the Semitic races and mother-kinship dominated all Semitic speech. As a father was not able to prove paternity and was reliant on the woman’s integrity, mother-kinship provided the kindred unity. When the tribes of Israel entered Canaan they still held to this social order of matri-locality and mother-right. This social order was also practiced in Egypt, where Israel previously dwelt and worked as slaves. In Canaan where the tribes of Israel eventually settled after leaving Egypt, the language patterns of matri-locality and mother-right continue there. Regions, cities, villages, and meadows were named after notable women of Israel. 

‘Mother tongue’ was also cognizant of matrilocality. The inhabitants of a place collectively in Israel were recognised as ‘daughter’ (Heb. ‘bath’). Not only was Israel’s name (‘Prince’) the stem of Sarah’s name (Chief or Prince) but individual cities and regions were also recognised by women’s names. 2 Such language usage denoted the sphere of influence the women of Israel held. It also strengthens the evidence that, based on the first social law (Gen 2: 24) kinship in those golden years for women was reckoned through the mothers and their daughters. 

‘We know that in parts of Asia Minor, notably among the Lycians, a matrilineal system was still in existence, and it may be that certain privileges enjoyed by women among the Hittites represent vestiges of this.’ In various Scriptures, ‘mother-kin’, in Scripture, is referred to as ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’. 

‘There is indisputable proof that kinship was reckoned through women during the time of history when Sarah lived. The Tel el Armana tablets, decreed by one King Amraphel, have helped us greatly with understanding the social law under which she lived. These tell their own story of women’s plight concerning the bearing of children and divorce. Because of such archaeological discoveries as the Tel el Armana tablets, the code of Hammurabi 3 and the numerous finds around Ninevah, Egypt, Babylonia, and other ancient places, scholars have been able to reconstruct, to a considerable extent, the manners and customs of these people of early ages’. 4

In the past, male scholars have ignored the body of evidence available that gives insight into the lives and achievements of women in ancient times. To study the Bible and ignore this evidence as immaterial is equal to saying that the lives of women and their achievements were and are of no value; that there is nothing to be learned from such an approach to bible study. 

In keeping with this, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, encyclopedias, and other Bible study resources generally omit material that reveal women’s lives. An example of such gross negligence of women’s history by male scholars is highlighted by a Jewish feminist, Ross Kramer (1992). 

‘The study of Jewish women generally subsumed within the discussion of “Women in the New Testament” or, ‘Early Christian Women’ can be substantiated by the widespread ignorance of the Jewish women who make up the majority of women in the New Testament’. 

Other feminist scholars, such as Karen Jo Torjensen (1993) are reconstructing women’s early Christian history. With the ever-increasing body of work carried out by feminist scholars, a plethora of different approaches in relation to studies in religion, the ancient societies they lived in, and the participation of women within those societies in which they thrived as active members now exist. This body of work includes such approaches as identifying the methodological problems involved in a study of women in ancient history. Out of this feminist methodology, feminist sociology and anthropology has emerged accompanied by textual, political, and feminist criticism. 

The Bible itself contains traces of former matrilineal inheritance and matrilocal marriages. However, some are difficult to trace, because they have been tampered with.5 Furthermore, unless you are looking for the matriarchal mother-kin theme, the patriarchal, paternalistic, androcentric, and overall tone of the Bible can at times not only be overwhelming but also can give the impression that no other form of social order ever existed. 

Historically, during the Neolithic period (8500-4000 BC) the matrilineal clan system and the rule of mother-right were followed almost everywhere. 6 Barbara Walker’s work includes proof from Egyptian and Greek writings, 

‘the most significant revolution in Greece was the transition from matrilineal to patrilineal succession and the resulting destruction of clan loyalties. In many other areas, the matrilineal system survived to a later date and was still in existence in parts of the British Isles up to the 9th Century. In most ancient societies young men went forth from their maternal homes to seek their fortune elsewhere because their sisters inherited the family home. It was a fixed habit of Greek men to leave home and seek a matrilocal marriage with an heir (ess) in a distant land’ (Walker, 1996, 620-624). 

Bushnell points out that distinctive features of the matriarchate included the recognised head of the clan was a woman. The descent was reckoned through the female line. The husband severed connection with his own gen to join that of his wife, and a woman was entirely free in the choice of a mate. The woman retained, after marriage, absolute control of her person and the arrangement the women entered into as regards marriage. 

The matriarch, Milcah, sister of Iscah (Gen 11: 29), in the Jewish traditions, according to Josephus, says that Iscah is Sarai, making Lot, Milcah and Sarai one kin, their unnamed mother being the wife of Haran. Haran died and Abram and Nahor married the two sisters. These men were not of the sister’s immediate kinship group. They were not ‘bone of bone and flesh of flesh’. When Abram and Sarai left Ur Lot, Sarai’s brother, in keeping with the tradition of that day, of the brother’s protection of his sister, (Abram’s nephew), went with Sarai and her husband, Abraham. Sarai and Lot left the Mother house leaving Milcah in Ur, with Sarai’s inheritance, given the matri-locality of the situation. 

When Abram sent his steward Eleizer back for a wife for Sarah’s son, Isaac, he came to Milcah’s household. Milcah also became the mother of twelve tribes (Gen 22: 20-23). Milcah takes the root of her name from mlk – ruler. ‘These names have been interpreted as honorific descriptions of the individual’s position within the family group’ (Anchor Bible Dictionary). 

When Jacob returned here seeking refuge and a wife, on his mother’s authority, the social order remained the same. Whereas Lot had left the home in Padan Aran with Abraham, Rebekah’s brother, Laban, had remained with the property and daughters were born to him of an unnamed woman presumably of the same kin. As Milcah’s granddaughters, the property in Padan Aram belonged to Leah and Rachel. 

However, Laban sold his daughters to Jacob, very different from matrilocal and mother kin practices of the past where the daughters would receive a dowry from their kin, and the husband would bring a gift (Gen 29: 1-30; 31: 14-16 & 25-43). Instead, Laban profited from their marriages. However, when Laban catches up with Jacob he is still talking mother-tongue ‘ my daughters’, the children born to the women, ‘my children’, the cattle, ‘my cattle’, ‘all that you see is mine’, all members of his clan, not Abraham, Isaac or Jacob’s. 

Laban relented and said to Jacob, ‘Now therefore, come let us make a covenant, a witness ‘if you afflict my daughters or if you take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us’. In other words, even though my daughters are leaving their matrilineal location and inheritance, changing the marriage relationship from ‘sadica’ or ‘beena’ relationship, denoting mother kin and matrilocality to a ‘baal’ marriage, where the wife leaves her kin and goes to her husband’s home. Nevertheless, you are to treat them the same as if they had their brothers to look after them. If you break this covenant, no one will keep you from my sword. ‘Mizpah’ – the Lord watch between us to see you keep this covenant. Do not cross this line to claim anything from me and I will not cross this line to claim anything that belongs to my daughters. If you cross this line or do not look after my daughters and their children, by the agreement we make today, I have the right to kill you’ (Gen 31: 47-55). Jacob agreed out of fear of his father, Isaac (v. 53).

This type of marriage relationship is referred to as ‘sadica’ by Professor Robertson Smith in his groundbreaking work, ‘Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia’. This is where the man leaves his father and mother and joins the wife and her clan. This is in keeping with the way in which Abraham and his brother, Nahor did, when they married their deceased brother’s daughters, Sarai and Milcah, respectively.

Jacob also, when he married the two sisters, his matrilineal cousins, Leah and Rachel. Robertson Smith states that the term comes from ‘sadac’, the ‘gift’ given to a wife by her husband upon marriage, as contrasted with the gift given to the father in the purchase of a wife by her husband, her ‘‘baal’’ ‘master’. The ‘sadica’ type of marriage meant that the wife remained with her kin and the husband visited her there. 

The place where she and her kin resided was identified as a matri-locality. Her children were named after her; her family ties were with her own clan. Kindred were linked together chiefly through the bond of their maternity, as the tribes of Israel were relegated to their various mother’s clans. A map of the placement of the tribes when they entered Canaan in relation to their mothers various tribes reveals this. Another example of this type of relationship is found in the term ‘erebu’ ‘marriage’; it means ‘to come in, pay visits (to one’s wife)’ as in the case of Samson when he visited his wife in Timnah (Jdgs. 15: 1-6 etc). 7

Where descendants are traced through the mother rather than the father and son, the woman’s position is assured in the family structure. Her mother’s brothers and sons, her uncles and brothers, remain her natural protectors. In the ancient gens, descent was limited to the female line. It embraced all common female ancestors through the female, the evidence for this being a common gentile name. It would include this ancestor and her children, the children of her daughters, and the children of her female descendants through females in perpetuity. The children of her sons, and the children of her male descendants, through males, would belong to other gentes, namely those of their respective mothers. Such was the gens in its archaic form, when the paternity of children was not certainly ascertainable and when their maternity afforded the only certain criterion of descents (Ancient Society. Lewis H. Morgan 1877: 47).

Patricia Erlandsen  


FOOTNOTES

 

Hey! I have been accepted into Bachelor of Theology (Hons) at ACU!

ACU Books

Congratulations, Patricia – you’re in!

It’s time to celebrate – your application was successful and we’re delighted to offer you a place to study at Australian Catholic University (ACU). Your offer details:

Name: Patricia Erlandsen
Course: Bachelor of Theology (Honours)
Place: Commonwealth Supported
Faculty: Faculty Theology & Philosophy
Campus: Brisbane (check out their campus)
Intake: 2021 Academic Year

Bachelor of Theology (Honours): A one-year programme for high-achieving students who have completed the Bachelor of Theology pass degree or equivalent; students undertake a focused research project framed by one-on-one supervision with one of our internationally-recognised academic staff, and engage in an in-depth study of an area of theology or biblical studies.

More news soon… Watch this space!

Reading the Bible as a Woman: Why Revisit Genesis?

It is my desire is to help women read the Bible in a fresh way. This will give them a new perspective. It will help them see the how the traditional reading, which is by and from a male perspective has introduced a bias to the reading.

I am very aware that this is a debate central to a reformation of the church and I have been engaged at its very heart with many others interested in biblical equality in the church and home over many years. My hope is that study will influence the church and thereby society in this and succeeding generations.

The questions I ask when reading the Scriptures are these: are the Hebrew (Old Testament) scriptures written only for the men of Israel? Are the New Testament scriptures written only for men, albeit now of all nations? Have male translators, interpreters and commentators constructed a community of male elites and thus women become the excluded other? How does this thereby marginalize women to the sidelines.

I hope my discussion will raise significant questions among women who feel sidelined when reading the scriptures. I also hope it will highlight how this damaging attitude is widespread and if not brought to a halt, will cause an ever-widening gap in the Christian community.

In the past scholars have identified and examined three types of marginalization and I will add a fourth.

      • the person between cultures or cultural worlds.
      • involuntary marginality of the ‘poor and expendable’ or of a culture or society.
      • voluntary marginality, based on a conscious choice to live outside the norms and structures of a given social system.
      • And my fourth: being a woman.

All women do not necessarily fit within the first three yet are identified within the fourth and by that fact alone, experience some form of discrimination and marginalization.

The focus of my study is women who identify as Christian and how the destructive influence of male bias occurs firstly in the interpretation of scripture and second, in failure to recognize women’s gifts and calling in the Christian community. This results in women being under-used in the church, to its detriment resulting in a negative rather than a positive influence on society at large.

I challenge the Christian community, whose elite members remain predominately male, leaders to examine and ponder their elitist attitudes.

Change your mind, interpret the scriptures in such a way as to be more inclusive of the women, all women not just those few token women deemed acceptable, so long as they keep to their designated place. Examine yourself and your attitudes. Study to show yourself approved, by all those you teach, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.

Preach and teach in such a way as to show all the biblical characters, named and unnamed, had their important part to play in the formation of Israel, the early church, and the overall plan of God. By so doing you are in harmony with the Spirit of love, peace, and unity, thereby making the church of Jesus Christ prepared for his return.

Patricia Erlandsen

The Freedom Papers No. 3: The Apostle Paul – Language of a Godly Leader (part A.1)

ApostlePaul-FreedomPaper

Let This Mind Be In You. 1

It’s All In The Mind

The Apostle Paul said he imitated Christ and for the Believer to do likewise 2. Paul obviously had discovered the key that enabled him to change his Pharisaic way of thinking. We are Gentiles and as such we do not have the same mind-set as Paul. Nevertheless, we must also change our minds.

Stop And Turn Around

The bible word for this is metanoia, often translated ‘repentance’, which is a poor translation because it just has the idea of ‘being sorry’. Metanoia – is something quite different. It means ‘stop and turn around’. It is calling us to change the way we think about ourselves and importantly, about God. It is also to stop thinking the way the world thinks and the way we think about the world.

To be like Jesus we are to stop conforming to the world. Instead, start mirroring Jesus’ teachings in our everyday life. We are to all be of the same mind. How do we cultivate this change of mind? First, we work on ourselves.

Work On Ourselves

It is our responsibility to change the way we think of ourselves. One time I evaded this. I convinced myself I was tired of it. This mindlessness on my part meant I got back into bad-habits. Rather than listening to my ‘self’ and ardently seeking change, I went to sleep. As a result, I began to revert back to the old me.

If we fall into a state of slumber we lose our edge. We stop being watchful. Our speech acts as a snare. Old speech patterns return. We slip back into saying the same old exaggerated boastful or negative scripts from the past.

These old scripts are lies. They’re stories we’ve built up over the years. The only way to get back to telling the truth is to correct ourselves as it comes out of our mouths.

The Accuser

We also listen to our inner voice accusing ourselves. By thinking in a new way, taking note of what God says about us, we form a new identity: a new way of doing and living. This new way of living is the very opposite of the way the world thinks, speaks, acts and lives.

Jesus Set the Standard By His Words And Deeds

Jesus was not like other people. Jesus marched, as the saying goes, to a ‘different drumbeat’. He put His faith in God into words and action. He told people to do likewise, to follow Him.

“Follow Me”

Paul also told His readers to follow him. For Paul to say this he must have ‘tried’ Jesus’ teachings by putting them into action and found they worked

Paul Activated Jesus’ Teachings By Doing Them

Paul taught in word and deed. This was so as to visibly show his followers what Jesus was like. To do this, a particular mind-set of Paul’s was cultivated by him. This is opposite to the world’s way of thinking.

By allowing that mind of Christ to be in us will lead us out of the maze of self-deception. This self-deception is our false self. It has been carefully constructed. We have fashioned it from our past experiences.

These scripts we tell ourselves and others consist of what people have told us and what we’ve told ourselves. Our moth ensnares us. We are the accuser of ourselves and of others.

Believers Are Called To Live In Peace.

Only then, will we find the God-kind-of-peace promised us. Only when we let that mind of Christ be in us instead of the old one we live with now. As Believers in Jesus, we are called to live in peace. How can we find the paths that lead to peace? How can we find this mind that must be in us?

Believers are called to live in peace. To do so it is imperative we change our mind, words, and deeds, so as to find a new way of living. How can we find the paths that lead to peace? We must look to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith.

How Can We Change Our Mind?

Where can we find the supreme example of Jesus? Its principles are laid down in the three temptations Jesus faced. He was tempted by His own inner voice. He overcame the accusing voice by the Word of God.

Gaining an understanding of these three temptations will bring about change. I hope to learn more along with you. We must change!

Nothing is accomplished without practice. There is an example given for us and a practice that will change our minds. Its principles are laid down in the three temptations Jesus faced and overcame as described in scripture (Matt 4). As we gain an understanding of these we can then practice a daily minute by minute lifetime of metanoia (change) to bring about this transformation in our personality we so desperately desire.

Exposing Our Identity Lies

This model Jesus has shown is not recognisable by the indicators the world attributes to successful living. Indeed, those indicators the world recognises are the lies we have cultivated about ourselves. We all have spent a lifetime building up a reputation for ourselves.

Now, some reputations attributed to people are inevitable. They are built by their followers. In such a case it’s not dependent upon what is said or not said. It’s a product of a certain way of life that’s noted by others rather than one that’s boasted about.

A reputation is also built by what people tell others about themselves. This is in order to impress others. It is done in an attempt to bolster the original self-lies we say about ourselves.

We want others to believe them. In the finish, all going according to plan, we don’t have to keep telling everyone. If we have done our work sufficiently our press club does this for us.

However, the last word in all this is when people meet up face to face. It is then they can judge for themselves. This we all do.

Jesus Shows Us Another Way.

He shows us how to reinvent ourselves. This time it is believing what God says about us. In His temptation, His temptation consisted of three identity lies that must be believed by Him at that moment or pulled down. 3

Revealing Our False Self-Constructed Identity

I will show here these three self-constructed identity-lies we all cultivate. We will have no trouble recognising them because they are common to us. When these particular temptations come at crucial moments in our lives they reveal who we are. Jesus shows another way, how not to succumb to them. We can begin to tell others a new story about ourselves.

Temptations Common To Us Also Besieged Jesus

The tempting thoughts that besieged Jesus are common to us all. They give us insight into their nature. By upending these common lies, we can gain a new vista. We can stand under them and look up to examine their foundations. Jesus brought forth the right evaluation to destroy their power over Him. We can also.

Stand Under Rather than Over

To stand under rather than over gives us a different kind of perspective of life and of people. Our under-standing these three temptations reveal to ourselves the lies or the unreality we daily live in. If left unchecked, no amount of confessing the Word will change us. We will not see the desired change. We will not be like Jesus. We will instead mirror the world’s image.

The How-to

To understand what I am saying here simply requires us individually to take time out from the daily chatter. It means to listen to our words and take note of them and our thoughts. It requires we consider the underlying motivations that drive us.

Begin to practice this on a daily basis. Firstly, each evening goes back over the day. Examine ourselves. Take note of where we missed the mark. Prayerfully ask God to help us change. Thoughtfully think about how to do it better next time.

This Is Not Self-Improvement

This is rather simply obeying the scripture: “examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith”. Once we do this self-examination we have the opportunity to repent.

Keep Ourselves In The Faith

Allow awareness, mindfulness, and repentance to become our daily practice. We can then increase the exercise by doing it on a moment-by-moment basis. The overall message is to repent, to turn around, in order to bring about change. Change can only happen through our awareness of ourselves and calling upon God’s grace to change us. It is our responsibility to keep ourselves in the faith. True faith shows by how much grace we demonstrate. Dear friends, I confess, I still have a long way to go! But like you, I press on.

We Are All Devils: Accusers Of Our Own Selves And Of Others

This example of Jesus’ facing temptation shows us we can’t stop the temptations from coming. How we deal with them reveals our true selves. Some try to blame shift it, by blaming the ‘devil’. 4

This is nonsense. If we live in a house (our mind) divided against itself, we will disintegrate. Its dualism. It is opposing ourselves.

A Change Of Mind Empowers Us

The three temptations Jesus faced also show us what society has deemed are our basic human needs. However, what we are not told is the emptiness loneliness and envy these reproduce in us. This is where changing our mind empowers us. The power of repentance allows us to take on a new identity already inscribed in us and waiting to be revealed through us in word, deed and living a new kind of life.

It Is Written.

By our changing our mind we turn ourselves around. It’s the type of character building we must undergo in order to add to our faith. This is so as to begin the lifelong journey, to be perfected in the image of Christ. This means to mature.

Mature Christians mirror the image of Christ. It’s not that we shall arrive here in this body, for we are in the world and live in this body of flesh and our mind is continually besieged by our own and others accusations. Nevertheless, we press on.

Next week: The First Temptation of Christ – “Turn stones into bread”: The False Identity Lie: I Am What I Do

 


FOOTNOTES

The Sower the Seed and the Soil: First the Natural then the Spiritual (Part 3: The Soil)

The Sower, The Seed & The Soil

Wayside Soil

Consider a moment the farmlands of Israel in Jesus’ day. Rather than thousands of acres of rolling plains where the seed is sown and harvested by machinery they were plots of ground with an edging of ‘wayside’ (downtrodden) soil around the plots. 

These edges allowed the farmer and travellers traversing across the fields to walk upon them without harming the structure of the soil. For generations, feet had downtrodden such wayside soil, it had never been ploughed or tendered. 

Although it may be good soil it would need a lot of care in order to seed it and produce a hundred-fold harvest. Wayside soil is so hardened and packed it lacks oxygen. Water runs off it. Any seed that falls here simply stays on the hard-packed earth until the birds of the air pluck it up. 

Jesus likens wayside soil, not only to a hardened mind but also to one that lacks understanding. It also acts as a warning of how diligent we must be with our own mind, to be mindful, to keep it alive, creative, fresh and fertile, teachable and easily entreated, well ploughed and ready to receive the Word of God (Ezk 2:4; 3:7).

Let Wisdom Have Her Perfect Work

Proverbs teach that a woman called Wisdom cries out to simple folk at the crossroads, where daily decisions are made. For example, wise people are giving sound advice continually, wherever people meet and talk. Wisdom makes her boast of bestowing riches, honour and long life; wisdom comes from having a mind that under-stands rather than over-stands. 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A proud mind has no understanding. Understanding comes from listening to wise counsel. It requires applying the Word of God to the circumstances of our lives, choosing the right way making the right decisions, and walking in the light. It means choosing to walk in the right direction (Prov. 1:20-25).

Be Fruitful and Multiply

The farmer who goes out to sow the seed must first be a partaker of the fruit (2 Tim 2:6). In other words, the seed one carries to others is the result of fruitfulness in our own lives. It is no good for us preaching on repentance, (turning around), active faith, or walking in the Spirit when we are not living in those truths ourselves. Only what we possess can we give away. 

As farmers working in God’s fields, we would do well to consider and understand why people do the things they do. In evangelism, it is no use us reacting to their reactions. To understand why they are reacting so negatively to the gospel will help to make us become a link for them.  In helping seeking people discover the answer their healing that they seek can manifest. 

Wayside, hardened, downtrodden soil

This kind of soil is easily discernible. The impenetrable steely eyes and hard-line of jaw and lips are all signs of hurt and pain. This condition is often due to abandonment and rejection. We have already learned in another paper published here about leprosy eating away on the inside of the victim.

Soil needs water

This kind of compacted soil is in any age group or culture. It is best prepared for future sowing by watering, through prayer and intercession. The word ‘intercession’ means ‘to come alongside and lift’. To intercede on behalf of people means doing practical ministry. 

Break up the Soil

Teach scripture in small bite sizes: easily digested. When coupled with genuine love and acceptance this help to break up and oxygenate the downtrodden soil. For example, nothing beats a caring extended family environment for today’s youth. 

Forgive

When this type of fresh readily dug soil in the hearts of the believer is encountered by those hurt by life, when they begin to mix with believers walking in the spirit of God’s immeasurable love, forgiveness will break up the hard wayside soil. The result will be a repentant heart towards God (Psalm 51).

Care

My ministry took me into the streets mainly amongst youth that was in crisis. As well as accommodating up to nine of them in my home at any one time, I would hold an ‘open house’ twice a month. Up to thirty young people would attend. 

The open house was strictly for youths in the church that did not have caring parents, or those living alone or off the streets.  In this way, it acted as an outreach for street kids. 

Feed them

There is a fantastic opportunity for those in evangelism to create this sort of environment: food for the body and spirit, fellowship, and fun with steady solid, down-to-earth Christian workers involved. However, as was my experience, churches do not assist those with a heart for this kind of ministry. They alone are left to carry the burden with a few hard workers and to bear the burden financially. 

Support

One man, a greengrocer in the church where I carried out this type of ministry offered for me to come to his shop once a week and choose a box of veg and fruit at no charge. Everyone can help to sow the seed and bring in its harvest. 

How wonderful, how beautiful when the body has a good relationship with itself (Psalm 133:1: Patricia’s paraphrase). 

Be Thoughtful

I suggest we stop putting our money in a bag passed around. We have no idea where it goes. Instead, sow seed where we’ve been planted. What can you and I do?  

If not me, then who? And if not now, when?

Coming into a church service can be a culture shock for those unused to it. Entering a warm and welcoming home environment is not so confronting. 

Give Thanks

Any gardener knows that once hardened soil is broken up, it can be nourished and fed and will produce a harvest. A hard heart is replaced by a heart full of thanks as we give praise to God. This is called giving to God the fruit of our lips. 

Love

By giving thanks to God the Creator through our Jesus Christ our Protector, Provider and Saviour, the resurrection power of God is released through love; it brings hope. 

Hope

Hope is the anchor of our souls. It conveys security. This kind of sowing in love brings reaping with joy. It causes souls to be born again, set free from the condemnation of the law of sin-and-death brings. 

Faith

The Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us how to sow and reap. We must always turn to God who gives wisdom and counsel. Ask and we shall receive.

Have a heart

Downtrodden soil has been pressed down by the sheer weight of the feet that pass over it. In the main thoroughfares of life, we will find downtrodden soil. Other people’s opinions are important to those with downtrodden soil. They are fearful and sceptical. 

Some are lost

For some, the greed of other things, position, and power, love of this world, enter in and believers fall away. Instead of servanthood, they seek a name, identity with the world, prestige, public approval, money. All the trappings of outward adorning become more important than God’s approval. 

Give Love a Chance

Living by the ‘sweat of our brow’ is living under a curse, relating to the first creation and the fall. The believer is a new creation. Old things passed away. I’m not saying stop work. All I am saying is give God a chance to use us. Lift up our heads and look around. What is that in our hand?  Give what we have, not what we don’t have. 

Natural Creation by Design

Now, in the natural, all of creation is at work to disperse seed, such as birds, animals, snails, fish, tortoises, alligators, bats, wind, water and even ants. Some seeds are hitchhikers, like the burr and attach themselves to wool and travel all over the world. Some have wings to help the wind carry them. 

There is a plant called ‘dwarf mistletoe’, in the USA. It is worth mentioning for what it could symbolize here. Pressure builds up in the womb of this seed as water passes in one direction across its membranes. The pressure then causes a building up inside that literally blasts the seeds out over distances of up to forty-eight feet with an initial velocity of about sixty miles per hour. 

For our exercise here these natural examples might be likened to the Word of God at work in a person’s mind when it receives continual watering of the Word, kind deeds, and the like. Faith in the Word builds up until finally, there is no holding it in or down. 

New Wine and New Wine Skins

That is how churches and new ministries are brought into being. New wine and new wineskins produce revival that will blow the cork off any denominational bottle. Any doctrine that is attempting to subdue and control the Holy Spirit’s power in an individual’s lives will fall away.

Enemies of the Gospel

Just as the birds and all other creatures assist in scattering seed, so too do the enemies of the gospel. These are people who have a personal stake in not wanting others to be saved. They will attempt to steal away the seed sown. The main work of these people is to afflict and persecute the believer. This is in their attempt to stop the Word from taking root in the seeker’s mind. 

Remember, Jesus Christ upholds all things by the Word of his enabling (power). Without the Word of God taking root deep in our mind, we will be a woman or a man of doubtful reasoning, being of a double mind, unstable in all our ways. 

When the Word of God is sown, its enemy comes immediately to steal it from the hearers (Mk 4:15). It is easily done if their minds are as ‘wayside soil’. Wayside soil will not yield any growth; the word disappeared before it even has time to germinate. These people need a change of attitude before they can receive the Word of God. This is able to save their souls. This kind of soul-winning generally requires friendship evangelism. 

 

Now I’m free Lord, Now I’m free. I’ve flown free from the coup. I’m free as a bird. You’ve broken their feeble self-apportioned puny fabricated authority. Look up. See that bird? We’re as free as that bird in flight  (Ps 124:7 (Patricia’s paraphrase). 

 

Next time: Uncultivated Soil


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The Sower the Seed and the Soil: First the Natural then the Spiritual (Part 2: The Mustard Seed)

the sower the seed & the soil

Read Part 1 here

Page 2 of 6: The Mustard Seed

The Mustard Seed Tree

A little research into the plant world will reveal that the mustard bush does not grow into a tree. That is totally alien to its natural growth. By Jesus saying the mustard bush changes into a tree, he is drawing our attention to two things happening here simultaneously. They do not measure up to the laws governing nature. 

Therefore, where unusual growth happens and in this instance the mustard bush becomes a tree and as a consequence the ‘birds of the air’ come and nest in it – this is unnatural. That tree has not grown from sowing the gospel seed – its planting may be the result of a mixture of seeds.  

Keeping Within The Laws Of Nature. 

Observe the church for instance. There can be throngs of people attending, but no-good seed being sown. No rich teaching of the kingdom truths. 

I’ve gone into church preaching and training and as a consultant to help the leadership and the people to show how to grow the local church. I might go into three churches a day on a one-month tour into a country or region. On the other hand, I might go into one group of churches over a month and work with them daily to train people in it.  

Being subjected to that kind of exposure left me in no doubt that the visible church is not perfect. The visible church is often a large tree that’s grown out of all proportion to what it’s supposed to be. 

Birds of the air nest in trees

There, nesting in that tree there will be some wrong teachings, some people in it for their own ends, con artists in it for the money, worldly Christians, immorality, you name it. Jesus said let the mixed seeds all grow together. Harvest time will reveal their true nature. 

Jesus said this unnatural misnamed ‘mustard tree’, when fully grown, attracts ‘birds of the air’. Wherever the term, ‘birds of the air’, is used in Scripture, it is symbolic of rotting meat-eating carrion birds, and not harmless doves. 

Israel’s farming methods were in accordance with their laws: no mixed seed. Jesus is saying in effect, ‘A farmer (inadvertently) sowed mustard seed in the field. Embedded in this parable is what the listeners would know. 

The mustard seed is not a large seed, quite small in fact and insignificant in comparison with all the seeds on the earth. Often, it is only grown for the purpose of being ploughed back into the earth again as a nutrient for the soil. When it is fully grown, it develops into a large bush. 

No one wants thousands of mustard bushes in their plot of ground. To sow mustard seed is to cut it down and plough it back into the soil. Its nutrients are released to prepare the soil for the next sowing that takes place. Not all sowers reap the harvest, but all good harvests need sowers for soil preparation to prepare for the final harvest. 

Now, any gardener knows a shrub (many short branches growing from the one root into a bush) and a tree (having only one trunk) are completely different. (Matt 13:31-32). The point Jesus is making is, that something very unusual begins to take place that is quite out of character with the mustard seed.

While it remains a bush, we can assume it was mustard seed that was planted. However, where a tree with one trunk begins to take shape and grows so big that its branches attract carrion birds of the air to nest in it, proves it was mixed planting – not only mustard seed but another kind of seed.  

Jesus goes onto explain how anyone making observations of the Kingdom of Heaven will become aware of this unusual growth. When this ‘change’ happens, the household of faith, the church, takes on a new appearance, an unconventional character. It is no longer a ‘mustard bush’. 

The Kingdoms Of This World

Having left its first estate, it no longer represents the Kingdom of Heaven, but rather, it takes on the image of the kingdoms of this world. Where this happens the ‘birds of the air’, the vultures, such as the cults, the counterfeits, the power-hungry, the false workers, the hierarchical patriarchal power-hungry, and the politicking, all come and lodge in its branches. 

Church history, with all of its bloody wars as well as the increase in cults today and the fallout from the church, all proclaim a ‘works’ gospel. Some powerful trees have been planted in the earth and throughout the centuries have propagated ‘another gospel’. This confirms Jesus’ analogy. 

The Gospel: the least of all seeds

The humble mustard seed, on the other hand, the ‘least of all seeds’, should grow as it’s supposed to. It grows into a ‘kingdom of God’ mustard bush. The local church is in likeness to this metaphor. The leader is known, their kids go to the same school as yours. It retains the same flavour and essence those early believers exhibited. 

They mixed with the locals. They were involved in the local community. They went everywhere gossiping the gospel, doing kind deeds, speaking a kind word. They sowed common-looking small seeds, as they went about their business. This is not quoting text, this is acting it out so that the person can see and understand the message. 

The disciples, ordinary women and men, turned the entire world upside down. They did what comes naturally to the believer. Like birds that depend on one another daily for their needs to be met, they tell those in the local neighbourhood about the provision they’ve found. 

Gospel sowing is simple work

Mustard seed has its work to do of renourishing the soil. It is the simplest work, in its purest form, is to nourish the earth. Where it’s ploughed back into the soil, cast abroad, sown throughout the known world, dispersed by the wind of the Holy Spirit, scattered everywhere, it will have a different effect on different people, irritating some, feeding, nourishing, replenishing, and healing others. 

The mustard seed is also an irritant; it is hot. It makes the eyes and nose water. It was and still is in some places used for healing the sick. Mustard is hot. It bites and it makes the sick person who is languishing sit up and take notice. The local church is to be like that. Springing up from a random seed sown where no one had particularly planted it.

Where the seed is scattered in the community surrounding the local church and believers, its effect can be seen. Its presence makes people’s eyes smart. Others start to feel very hot wherever it is sown. For others, it causes them to sit up and take notice, or, where ploughed back into the community, nurtures the soil of people’s minds. 

Some seeds have an interesting appearance. The mustard seed has no outward appeal. The Gospel, the Word of God, is like that. When preached in simplicity, is not like other teachings, such as a doctrine of works. 

Debaters And Philosophers Of This World

Those who love to debate, use ‘great swelling words’. These can be used even to show off someone’s intellectual prowess, or the like. (2 Pet 2: 18). They are often mingled with worldly ideas, of getting rich quick schemes. 

It underscores vanity, ego, of ‘who is the greatest’ in the kingdom, of boasting and self-love. Its structure will definitely be hierarchical, with men only in the lead, women in their non-teaching, non-decision-making roles. 

Jesus himself is the Word become flesh. It’s not about us, it’s about Him. The Scriptures say He was nothing to be desired. He was hiding until his appearance, which lasted on this earth just three and a half years. 

When carrying out the work of the evangelist, take this, the principle governing the seed. It is the key that opens all the locks of a set of teachings on life. All of life on earth springs from a seed. The seed that gives birth to Spirit is the Word of God. It never changes. 

Become a sower by taking up the seed and sowing it wherever we go. Allow the Word to become flesh – let it become our life. Give all of our life to its propagation. 

Take what we can see in the natural world and use these as examples to teach spiritual truths to people. Learn ourselves by doing it and then teach others the spiritual principles springing from them. These spiritual realities are meat, reserved for those who are ‘grown up into Him in all things’ (Eph 4: 15). 

Natural to Spiritual

The Creator God has given to us the natural realm to learn about realities in the spiritual realm. What a wonderful world! What could be simpler for us to understand than seed, soil, and harvest? God has created the seed to reproduce itself, after its own kind. Whichever kind of seed is sown, its fruit will be reaped. 

The sower can affect the seed sown and there are many ways to do this. But finally, the main ingredients that can affect the seed sown is the soil’s condition, water, and light. This is the basic teaching we receive from nature itself. It is as unchanging as seedtime and harvest, summer and winter, light and dark.

“Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you”. Genesis 1:29 Source.

Next time: The Soil


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The Freedom Papers No. 3: The Apostle Paul – Language of a Godly Leader (part A)

ApostlePaul-FreedomPaper

In loving memory of Pamela Birks: her faithful, unflinching life-long service to the Lord as a faithful minister of the Gospel at home and abroad.

I intend to show here that the Apostle Paul, by his language, life and teachings was a godly leader. Paul imitated Jesus. Jesus displayed the same attitude of leadership and practised it. This was often in the face of abusive controlling dominant male leadership.

The attitude of Leadership taught by Jesus and Paul

Jesus was despised by the Jewish religious hierarchy because his teachings went against their doctrine of one-upmanship. This is the practice of gaining an advantage or feeling of superiority over others. In Paul’s day, it was the same. Then the Christian Jews refused to listen to his teachings.

These Jews are sometimes referred to as ‘Judaisers’. 1 Today, the same attitude still prevails in the church. Aside from attitude, the problem of today’s translation of Greek to English compounds this problem further. Many recognised commentators bolster this by continuing to mistranslate certain words in relation to leadership.

Biased Translation

These lead to the misuse of certain terms ascribed to Christian governance. The main goal of this paper then is to draw the reader’s attention to these mistranslations in relation to leadership. It is imperative we give the correct meaning of Paul’s original language used. To do this I use Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. 2

An example of this work of dishonest commentating on Christian leadership is Matthew Henry. Henry is best known for his six-volume biblical commentary Exposition of the Old and New Testaments. He lived 18 October 1662 – 22 June 1714. Although written around 300 years ago, Henry’s work has never abated.

It is still used and identifiable in the biased thinking today of Christian men’s superiority in particular over their sisters in Christ. They believe men have been, from the beginning, ordained by God to be in a superior role over women. 3 This supports them in their misogynist stance.

Is it due to past limited understanding regards women and men’s roles?

It also contributes towards the prominent role men take in leadership in the church and home. The role of ‘submission’ (read ‘subjection’) is expected only of Christian women.

We may say, wanting to be fair, this bias then was due to the limited understanding they then had about men and women. Therefore it came about as a result of it being embedded in their culture. However, it does not explain why the same attitudes prevail today.

This being the case, it is time for a change.

As members of the same body, we have the right to call on church leaders and those who support them to change their high-mindedness and ways of leadership. In a way, it is moralising about woman.

This is not anything new. It is also said here in light of the abundance of resources available to church leaders and bible teachers. There is a growing body of Christians teaching the same thing I am saying here.

The fall-out

Today, despite this problem, ordinary women and men are generally educated enough to do their own research. We can make up our own minds. Many of course have and as a result, have left the church. I am one of them.

In light of this fallout, and the overwhelming Christian public response to this, it now appears that those who continue in it are not ignorant. Instead, they are doing so because it works to their advantage. To put it simply they are dishonest.

If not now, when? If not us, who?

I, therefore, believe it is time for all of us to take our responsibility and expose them. There is no reason as members of the body of Christ why we cannot confront them privately and publicly, in the church and on the web. Confront them in every way possible in their deception.

It is imperative that we work with revealed truth. For women especially, spiritual ‘life and death’ are in the power of the language. It is the language that is used to reinforce their position.

Jesus’ example

In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear Jesus’ revealed truth in this regard when teaching on leadership.

‘But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘you know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’. (Mt 20: 25-28).

To recap,

The individual and co-operative dominant style of leadership in the church and the wider Christian community is toxic. This is especially so to the role of discipleship. Jesus’ teachings on humility and laying down one’s life, as did Paul’s turned the pagan gentile Greco Roman view of hierarchical subservience upside down.

Jesus and Paul following him in the same spirit as is taught in the Hebrew scriptures taught genuine kingdom greatness is not achieved through rank, position, leadership roles, titles, or family dynasties. Those who love the pre-eminence will have difficulty accepting such teaching.

Rather, they prefer to control and dominate others. They are in Paul’s words to Titus’ words, 4 fleshly, greedy and lustful. They are dishonest. In my experience, they are bullies and moralisers whose mouths must be stopped. We all have our part to play in this to see the church renewed.

Hope to meet up again with you next week: The way the Apostle Paul thought of himself.


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FOOTNOTES

Philosophy of Run With the Vision Ministries

  • To consider and adjust how we understand ourselves, how we are formed by our history, culture, and society.
  • To explore and review fundamental truths about women and men; their relationship to the world and each other.
  • To examine and contest many of the false doctrines present in much modern-day church culture.
  • To understand and apply enlightened, comprehensive, contextual, theology to the original meanings of certain words and passages in scriptures.
  • To discover and investigate the lives of important and significant women in the scripture from a social-anthropological frame of reference.
  • To inform, and thereby free, both women and men so that we embrace God’s recreative work in Jesus Christ which holds all humanity equally, with no distinction.

“For centuries, the Bible has been used and misused to manipulate and prevent women from achieving their full potential as human beings equally created in the image of God. Women are ‘disinherited’, from the freedom God intended. This applies to all women and includes those of no religious faith. If we examine this biased biblical interpretation it will reveal widespread dishonest doctrines that continue to be maintained in education, culture, and society at large.

I invite women and men of all persuasions to learn how the bias of past and present translators, interpreters, and commentators has affected the daily life of women and men in both subtle and overt ways. Without correction, this problem perpetuates, passing on to the next generation. If we are to correct this and restore balance, we have to first adjust and release ourselves.”

Patricia Erlandsen

Director

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The Sower the Seed and the Soil: First the Natural then the Spiritual

Paper 1 of 6: First The Natural Then The Spiritual.  

A Parable is telling a story about the visible creation.

In the early days of Jesus’ ministry, he spoke plainly to those around him. He told  parables. Jesus parables were stories about the natural things easily seen by the things that God made: the Creation. However, when His plain teachings and his reasoning were rejected, He began to veil these teachings of the kingdom (Mt 13:10-12). 

There were those hungry enough to pose the question, “what does the parable mean?” These had already engaged with the story and its teller. They received and entered into it to learn its embedded spiritual lesson (Mk 4:10). 

‘For whosoever has, to him shall be given and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not from him shall be taken away even that he has. (Mt 13.12)

seed and soil

Jesus Taught In Parables

A parable is not always the immediate lesson we might attribute to it. Parables are stories. Stories stay with us. They touch the heart. They bypass the mind. They’re easily understood. This is why we remember them and what they teach us whereas reading text by rote method or downloading the ‘facts’ do not. 

For example, it’s hard to find someone who does not know what the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’ means. Or the ‘Good Shepherd’: the one who leaves a flock of ninety-nine sheep to find the one that got away. When you think about it, this is not good shepherding!   

When Jesus used it his hearers knew he was not teaching them about being a good shepherd. The parables Jesus taught are teachings on the kingdom of God and the spiritual principals involved. You might say that the parables and the gospel point to an Upside-Down Kingdom – or we might more accurately say, a Right-Way Up Kingdom.

Upside-down world

Jesus teachings are the other way around to the way we think and live our daily lives. To find a parable’s true application sometimes requires deep thought, of us thinking outside the box, or even trying standing on our head to see it differently. 

A story breaks through our mesmerised daily living, speaking our daily scripts about the world from out viewpoint, the way we see ourselves and others in comparison to who we think are. We could say we go around in a dream, acting mindlessly.

We even drive our cars that way. We often ‘come to’, having driven a distance on ‘auto-pilot’. Parables jolt us into the reality of what the kingdom of God is like – and it’s nothing like the way in which we live in our bodies in this external world.

The semblance of the parable however is veiled; it is not always stating the obvious. The more we learn through experience about the Hebrew Scriptures and the good, the grace, and the justice of God and his righteousness, the easier it is to understand and interpret Jesus’ parables. 

Parables and Fables: the Difference 

The word ‘parable’ means, ‘a placing aside, to compare, though not always in agreement’. It is generally drawn from nature or human circumstances and the object of it in the bible sense is to set it forth as a spiritual lesson. The hearer must catch the analogy if they are to be instructed. This is different from a fable, which attributes to things that do not belong to them in nature i.e., half man and half beast, etc.

The Parable Of The Sower. 

      1. A farmer
      2. The various kinds of soil
      3. Seeds
      4. Harvest 
      5. The enemy of success

Jesus likened the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, a nondescript uninteresting common seed that no one would worry about if some were lost. It’s like seeing a one-cent coin on the road. Few would stoop to pick it up because on its own its worthless. But if one had a million of them then we would go and cash them in. 

The Working of Miracles

Now, in the kingdom of God everything has value, everything counts. God doesn’t take anything for granted. Neither should we.

The poor are rich in faith. Any evangelist worth their salt lives in the realm of faith on behalf of themselves and the poor. Evangelism is the ‘working of miracles’ because it’s the poor in spirit that seeks the riches of salvation. A new creation is a miracle. People getting saved is a miracle! 

Evangelism takes us sowing seed amongst the poor. It’s no-good encountering hungry people and sending them away to buy some food. When the disciples told Jesus to do that he put it back on them and told them “you give them something to eat”. 

So, if you’re an evangelist, working amongst the poor, it apparently isn’t of any use asking Jesus to feed them. He’s not in the business of feeding people. He had already dealt with that temptation, “If you are the son of God turn stones into bread”. “Nope. That’s not what I’m here for”. 

He was not going to be side-tracked from his goal. He had to go to Jerusalem as it was the time of the Passover. That was the miracle he was looking toward, the miracle of the resurrection. He didn’t ask the disciples to do what they could not do but only to feed people. 

Show People How To Work Their Own Miracle. 

I’ve helped people work their own miracle by giving them some money and instructing them they can use it for themselves, but I recommend that to work a miracle they find someone to give it to. You’ll even work your own miracle by doing that!  It will be a double blessing: for them and you. 

I was in the UK last year editing this when I gave a kind word to a bloke passing me in a food shop. I was at a table with a friend having a coffee. He said his name was Carl. He was homeless, living in his car, and had no job. I gave him twenty pounds which is all I had. Someone had given it to me, and I was passing it on. I instructed him to give it away and in this way work his own miracle. 

Within five hours of that, I got given a selection of new suitable clothes. I needed some warm clothes as I’d come from Australia unprepared. Now, following our conversation a business owner/ friend heard the story. She offered to interview Carl for a job and provide him a place to live. 

The irony is Carl never answered his phone or returned my call to get his miracle. We never heard from him again. It was only a small seed I know. A kind word and twenty quid, but it worked a miracle of provision both ways. 

Sadly, he didn’t collect! But maybe he did and I just don’t know about it. So, this is the kingdom of God we’re talking about; it’s different from the way this world operates.

Size Does Not Matter: The Mustard Seed 

Returning to the parable of the seed. Jesus is attempting to get us to think about the micro in life, to pull our thinking processes back from the macro. The micro is not the big picture, but it belongs in the big picture. 

Jesus made an interesting statement when teaching his disciples the meaning of the parable of the sower. He challenged them, “don’t you understand this parable? If you don’t, then how will you be able to understand all the others that I give you?” (Mk 4: 11: Matt 13; Lk 8). 

By this, Jesus is saying that this parable is more about the seed and the condition of the soil than it is about the sower. Of course ultimately God is the Sower, we are the field, the seed id the Word of God … but, first the natural.

Speaking of natural things it can be any sower. It’s the combination of the soil and the seed that take precedence as any wise gardener knows. This parable is the master-key for us as evangelist’s harvesting a good crop. 

From The Natural To The Spiritual

Here Jesus is first using the natural to interpret the spiritual truth behind it. This same principle of interpretation, that of ‘first the natural, then the spititual’, can be used to unlock all of Jesus’ teachings. This is the key to having eyes to see the spiritual unseen Kingdom of God. An illustration of the seed in relation to the kingdom (household) of God is in Mk 4:30-32. 

Seed Grows Gradually

Jesus is speaking here about a gradual process of growth, instead of the sudden manifestation of the kingdom. The parable of the mustard seed in the first instance may be referring to the commandment that prohibits the sowing of diverse kinds; it may be that the seed gets inadvertently planted amongst other seeds. 

Here, we might deduct from what Jesus is saying is that the gospel seed may be sown among different types of people when they come together, say, chatting about everyday things. I have witnessed this many times when watching television interviews or listening to the radio, as well as in everyday witnessing where there is a group of people together. 

Different messages are on repeat and I detect a grain of gospel seed got mixed up with other seeds being sown. Jesus does not say the mustard seed is the smallest seed in the world (because it is not).  However, it is insignificant. 

Sow Common Insignificant Seed 

Instead, He said it is less than all the seeds that are on the earth. The common unadorned gospel seed, like the mustard seed, is a seed sown in relation to everyday life. It doesn’t require an orator. Ordinary people can sow it. 

Mustard seed is also like a weed that grows wild amongst crops. Keeping in context with the teaching about the kingdom, Jesus also infers that the gospel seeds get mixed up with other seeds. For example, I’m suggesting it can appear throughout the conversation, wherever people gather to talk.  

When someone is sharing a humanistic perception of life, simply say, “no, I don’t believe that”. “Rather, this is what Proverbs says …. “. Give to them that are weary a kind word in season. Get into the habit of doing it. First, it breaks the monotony of everyday life for them and you. You’re also on their candid camera. A kind word in season is like a mustard seed that a person sows into another’s life.

The right word at the right time is like a commissioned piece of jewellery. Just what you wanted. (Prov 25:11-12.)

Be An ANGEL in Disguise

To be a specialist in the communication you must practice. Practice makes perfect. Cast a small seemingly insignificant seed into your neighbour’s spiritual garden as they walk out of their gate by smiling and greeting them! Speak a word to them at the right time. God is listening to perform the counsel of his messenger. Be as a divine messenger, an angel, would you?  

A-N-G-E-L is simply a transliteration of the exact Greek letters. In English lingo, it actually means ‘messenger’. Hey, while you’re wheeling in your own bins off the street curb, why not take in the elderly neighbour’s bin for them?  Or pick up that bit of paper in the roadway or in the workplace or home. Someone’s got to pick it up. Why not you?

Apart from helping to deal with the litter problem, someone observes you and it changes their day. Give a person a seat on the bus; it influences others. You figure it out. A word or a deed, in season, changes the dynamics around us and God is waiting to perform the word of God’s power. You and I are God’s messengers. 

This is like, in the natural, lifting two tins of peas three times a day to strengthen our muscles. In other words, when change is essential, do something different! Anything! 

For as the rain comes down and the snow from heaven and does not return back to the heavens but waters the earth and makes it bring forth a flower that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater’. 

‘So shall my Word be that goes out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me empty of power, but it shall accomplish that which I want it to and it shall prosper in the thing where I send it’. (Isaiah. 55:10-1)

We are workers together with God.

Next time: The Mustard Seed


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Course Subjects (continued)

This course has 3 basic requirements

  1. Payment at the start of the course unless other arrangements are agreed upon.
  2. Regular class attendance and participation are required. Class participation means both answering questions and making relevant comments in the context of our in-class discussion. Roll is taken every class session; if you are not present during the taking of attendance, you will still be required to pay for that day’s class, unless extreme circumstances apply and agreed upon beforehand.
  3. Be counted absent unless you speak with Patricia before that session. If you are absent 3 (three) or more classes certificate is withheld until work completed.

Completion of the primary and secondary readings prior to class go hand in hand with class participation and thus is as important.  Students are expected to bring any and all readings to class on the days scheduled for discussion.

    • To be awarded a Certificate of Distinction, full class participation is required. High Distinction awards require student writes two essays x  250 words each. Each student is required to meet with me at an agreed-upon time to discuss these proposals.
    • The KJV is used as a primary source in studies in the Old Testament
    • The Source New Testament: with Extensive Notes Dr. A. Nyland is used as a primary source in studies in the NT. It contains extensive notes on word meaning with documentary attestations and separate verse numbers. It is available to purchase available through RWVM website. 

Dr Nyland writes…

Taken from Extensive notes on the meanings of the Greek words can be found in The Source New Testament: with Extensive Notes on Word Meaning.

‘To consider the biological gender in each verse studied following the Greek text.  For example, the Greek word meaning all people by the English word “humanity”.

The Greek word meaning a human being, a person of either gender, by the English word “person” rather than man or mankind. this is a preference within the English language, and has nothing to do with the original Greek

Further, the Greek word adelphoi is usually translated as “brothers” in most Bible versions. However, this word refers to both genders and has a range of meanings. It can mean “fellow believer”, “member of an association”, “associate”, or “siblings” (“brothers and sisters”). To say a translation which has “brother and sister” has added the word “sister” is a basic error, for the Greek word actually means “sibling”.In fact, in the Bible the word mostly occurs in its meaning “fellow believer”. A single word in one language often needs to be translated by several words in another language.

I have chosen to translate rather than transliterate many words, not following the usual tradition of Bible translation. “Transliteration” is the putting of Greek letters into English language, and “translation” is the rendering of their meaning into the English language. For example, “Angel” is the result of putting Greek letters into the English letters, but the actual translation is “Messenger”. In the same way, the word “Satan” is the transliteration, but “Adversary” is the meaning, the translation.

I have used “they” as the third person generic singular rather than “he or she”. This is now accepted English language usage,

For centuries, the meanings of numerous New Testament words remained unknown, and translators simply made educated guesses. In the late 1880s and again in the mid-1970s, large amounts of papyri written in New Testament times were discovered. (No, these were nothing to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls!) These impacted our knowledge of word meaning in the New Testament to such a degree that scholars labeled the finds “sensational” and “dramatic.” Words found in the New Testament now appeared commonly in everyday private letters from ordinary people, contracts of marriage and divorce, tax papers, official decrees, birth and death notices, and business documents. Many mysteries of word meaning were solved.

However, nearly every New Testament translation of today follows the traditional translations of words of the earlier versions. These were published centuries before the evidence from the papyri and inscriptions revealed to us the meanings of numerous New Testament words ….

Theological bias can influence Bible translators to err from translating correctly. For example, the straightforward Greek sentence of 1 Cor. 11:10 which simply states that a woman ought to show her own authority on her head has been completely altered in most Bible versions to state that a woman must wear a covering (the word “veil” does not appear in the Greek) to show she is under a man’s authority. The Greek sentence does not mention a man or husband.

The King James Version changed the female names Junia and Nympha to masculine names, reversed the order of “mother and brothers”, reversed the order of Priscilla (woman) and Aquila (man) when the couple was presented in a teaching context, and added the words “a man” to a sentence about a woman being in a position of responsibility. It is then not surprising that their social context, that is, the way in which women were viewed in their culture, impacted upon the way they chose to translate. Of course, this applies to bias in all areas, not just to women passages.

The translations of most New Testament versions are based to a large degree on mistranslation of Greek word meaning. Most available translations do not regard the abundant evidence for word meaning supplied in recent years by the papyri and inscriptions and thus in many cases present a far from accurate translation of the New Testament.’

Dr A. Nyland: taken from Introduction, The Source New Testament with Extensive Notes

 

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The Freedom Papers No. 2: Token Women In The Church (Part D)

Support the Women Willing To Pay The Price

Women who have a call on their life need recognition from the Body of Christ. They need safe places where their calling and gifting can be developed. They need financial assistance and support. 

What is normal and perfectly acceptable to all men who enter the ministry is not for the women who choose the same profession. Men can expect rewards, and rightfully so, for their hard work. Women will find themselves left at the bottom of the pile, no matter how hard they work. 

Unrewarded Work

To work without reward, if carried out all of one’s life is extremely depressing and self-effacing in the extreme. However, this is the reality for most women in the ministry. They accept and live with the limitations placed on them if they are to remain in the work full time. In my experience, most women, token or otherwise, finally give up.

Prejudice

There is no evidence in scripture that supports this prejudice. Suffering for the sake of the gospel applies to both men and women, but it is not meant to be this kind of suffering. To eliminate this any sort of prejudice within the body of Christ is to be weeded out. The freedom of the gospel is based on the love of God for all humankind in all its different manifestations of gender, sexuality, race, physical ability, etc.  But the balance is false.

Token Women In The Church

Tokenism

The Lord does not want tokenism for the daughters of God. A few good women will not suffice for the role models needed to release half the army of God.  How many women cry out to God in frustration and sadness; muzzled, bound, and fettered by the false judgment that has been placed upon them by their ‘brothers’ in Christ.  More importantly, how much has the church suffered a loss.

This kind of behaviour is the antithesis of the gospel command to all believers from our Master and Saviour, Jesus Christ. “Go into all the world and preach the good news, make disciples.” What arrogance to teach that this command can only be followed by men. It is before the Great I AM that we must give account. It is not enough to have ‘token’ women! She is a poor substitute; an unreal role to model, and a source of shame to The Woman – the Church, the Bride of Christ.

Women tend to show complacency when only a few steps forward have been taken. Perhaps, in the main, for many of them, their livelihood does not depend upon it. Food on the table is a great incentive for anyone, and the majority of middle-class women in the church have someone whom they depend on for their daily necessities. 

Tokenism and its effects

This may be why they so readily collude in the deviation from equality, namely: male – in-charge -, husband – and – headship doctrine, submission – of – wife- as – his helper.  Tokenism effectually just places a woman within the male establishment. 

For other women, this often has a negative outcome.  The token woman is neither one thing nor another. She is no longer one of them neither is she free herself. This explains the failure of women successfully working together, or never accepting one another in leadership. 

Both these things play a very large part in draining any work where women are present. Yes, solidarity can be found where it pertains particularly to the conventional woman’s experience, that of giving birth, marriage, loneliness, old age and widowhood, depression, and death. 

But support systems of financial, or professional networks are practically non-existent. Solidarity within the ranks of women is hard to find, indeed, it is well-nigh impossible.

Accept Other Women In Leadership 

Women, in the main, do not accept other women in leadership unless they have bonded with a male. They do not financially support each other.  Women have been so brainwashed under the Old Testament tithing to such a degree, that they do not ask where their money is being used. 

They eventually make wills to leave their homes to the established male hierarchy to use it without a thought of what will become of it. Why not change your will: support those who have supported you? You might decide to set up a Trust with a group of trusted women to administer it to support women in ministry. 

Women Wake Up!

In the main, women appear content in giving their money in the belief that it is being distributed by males who claim they ‘know what they are doing’. Some say shrug their shoulders and say ‘well he is answerable, not me. No! That is not true. You are entirely responsible! 

I have worked in these establishments. The waste is in many cases alarming. Males who elect themselves as the higher authority and receive these monies are answerable before God. Women are the financial mainstays in most churches supporting male leadership. The same male leadership that keeps her and her sisters controlled and silenced.  Stop supporting them  

There are those women who move against the current of their times and find a position of autonomy without the ordeal of being in a male-dominated church.  If that’s what you want, search for that kind of woman and come alongside her and run with her. 

Get involved. 

Exercise your gifts. Discover your calling and run with it. Find an independent woman who practices autonomy, active faith, and self-assertion. These are essential to her achievement. However, all such faith-full characteristics will bring upon her a tirade of offensive name-calling.

Women Support Women

If she does not fit the mould of long soft curly hair, makeup, and clothes that suit the feminine image, especially prevalent amongst the middle-class churchgoer, her image will be tarnished. She will most certainly be labelled by the ‘F’ word, ‘feminist’. 

Because of her autonomy, she will most certainly be accused of exhibiting or pertaining to misandry, hating, or prejudiced against men. Labels such as this will undermine her confidence if she does not understand the strategy of her enemy, the patriarchs, and the battle. 

The Patriarchal System is Anti-Christ

Is it going too far to call men who reject the spiritual gifts in women; suppress and prevent their aspiration to serve and be fruitful for Jesus – as anti-Christ? No, it is not. In times past, Christian women may have been exasperated by the supposed ignorance of men in the church, but there is no longer any excuse. 

Today, the amount of scholarly material available on the broad subject of gender equity both in the world and scripture cannot be denied or ignored. Anyone who wants to learn, to study, will have no trouble finding material on the subject.  The Scriptures teach equality. All one has to do is practice the golden rule ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ and base one’s living and actions on that foundation stone and equity will follow.

Teach Equality From The Scriptures 

It is not hard to teach equality from the Scriptures. The bible is not without women who achieved important things in God.  God has not left us without a witness. However, at present, it is rare indeed to hear a whole sermon delivered with a bible woman character as the central theme. I encourage men and women who have the opportunity to teach this from the pulpit to do so.

Women’s Point Of View

A healthy teaching pattern might be that for every male biblical model a woman presents a woman, biblical model. Women see the world differently from men. A man cannot teach the bible and reach the needs of women.  The church includes both women and men. 

A couple of years ago I taught for a week in a church in Brisbane, Australia.  I chose to highlight the women’s bible characters to use as examples for the subjects I was teaching on. The Pastor was not happy and said so. 

Women Wake Up! Look Around

If you doubt what I am saying, ask any woman who has been a long time in ministry.  Is there an equal number of women as there are men on the board of the church you attend? I think I am safe in saying there is not! There are many horror stories of abuse surrounding women’s experiences of being in a place of leadership in the church. 

Very many of us, godly women and men, have laid down our lives for the Gospel and long to see a new outpouring of God’s Spirit on all flesh.

Sirs, (would you mind getting out of the way), we would see Jesus. Please, please, change your patriarchal mind: repent!

God bless all those that seek peace and the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus,

Patricia

END


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