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WHAT’S THE REAL STORY IN “GOOD” FRIDAY?

GOD’S PURPOSE FOR YOUR PAIN – A PATHWAY TO PROMISE

We are in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, friend. The threat of COVID-19 has led to a temporary, new way of life for almost all of us. I’m writing from my home office instead of my church office. I haven’t seen my church family, whom I love dearly, in weeks, and I miss them. But I’m still working hard to serve each of them!

How about you? How has your life changed? What are you missing right now? Are you feeling uncertain and off-kilter because your plans aren’t coming together as they should?

I’ve been there. In fact, I’m there probably once a day! Each time I had a plan. I knew what I wanted to happen; afterward, I even knew where my plan had gone wrong. Let me tell you, I wanted a “do-over” each time. I wanted all of my work and preparation to lead to the results I wanted. Instead, I was left with unmet expectations and a sense that I wasn’t in control.

Unmet expectations are difficult to deal with. They always cost us more than we expect: more effort, more work, more money, and more time. We lose sleep, our stress levels shoot up, and we have to face the fact that we aren’t in complete control of our lives. And right now, we are in very limited control of our lives.

My unmet expectations have had an unexpected benefit though. I learn from them. I grow as a person. The next time I face whatever threw my plan off course, I am ready to deal with it.

Each time I am left with new information and a new understanding or revelation about myself or others. Gradually, I learned that even when I am facing a painful or difficult situation, I could push through. I can persevere because God has a purpose for my life.

My problem in the past has been how to understand God’s PURPOSE in my pain. And I have to admit, I am still dealing with that to some extent. What I need to do, and what you should do as well, is find a PATHWAY to the  Promises we receive from Him.

PATHWAY TO PROMISE

I found that pathway in the story of THE CROSS!

Do you ever find yourself discouraged, depressed, defeated, or devastated? I want to encourage you today that there is a pathway for you as well. A path to hope, change, and transformation.

The story of the Cross takes place over 3 Days and 3 Nights. It is the story of the ultimate redemption, and while it starts with suffering and death, it ends with Hope and Transformation!

Day 1: Friday, was a day of suffering, pain, agony, and death. For that one day, God was silent. He refused to listen to the people who had sinned so severely and who were torturing and killing His beloved Son. All pleas and prayers, even those of Jesus himself, fell on deaf ears.

Day 2: Saturday, was full of doubt, confusion, misery, and mourning. Jesus was dead and buried. His followers were left alone. Humanity was separated from God’s presence.

Day 3: Sunday, was a day of HOPE, JOY, VICTORY, and TRANSFORMATION!

THE FRIDAY STORY

The Cross is the Friday story. It is a story of PAIN—every kind of pain. That Friday saw the death of dreams, heartbreak, unfair circumstances, and betrayal. For the people who loved Jesus that Friday was the embodiment of ‘unmet expectations.  They had never dreamt their beloved teacher would die a horrific humiliating death between condemned criminals! However, Jesus knew from the beginning of His ministry what that Friday would bring, and He walked forward into that unspeakable pain for all humanity anyway.

Why Did Jesus COME?

He came to restore our relationship with the Father. Jesus longed to have a relationship with each of us. He longs for you and me even now!

He also came to bring eternal life. John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

He came to ensure His followers would have abundant life on Earth. John 10:10 says, “… I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Have it to the full. The word full is defined as “over and above, more than enough, abundantly.” Jesus wants each of us to live a FULL and ABUNDANT life. He wants us to have more than enough. And He died on the cross on that Friday to make sure our FULL life was possible.

All three of these are accomplished because Jesus came to bring us salvation. According to Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

The Greek word sozo used in this verse translates as “to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction.” It also translates as “deliver or protect” and “to make whole.” Jesus did not come just so we could be forgiven and become a Christian. His sozo (salvation) means receiving everything He intended for us to have. You were created to experience every good part of life on earth.

Jesus paid a price for us—spirit, soul, and body. He suffered in all three areas. He went to indescribable lengths to make us free. This is only a glimpse of what He did for us.

Jesus knew what was going to happen to him. He read the scriptures. He understood the suffering He would have to endure to save us, and He did it freely.

Isaiah 53:5, a verse Jesus would have been very familiar with, foretold His suffering, stating, “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

That suffering came in the form of the Cross.

  • The heavy beam of the cross across His shoulders and the procession of the condemned Christ began its slow journey down the Via De Larosa.
  • The weight of the heavy wooden beam together with the shock produced by the blood loss was too much, and our Lord stumbled and fell.
  • As He fell, the rough wood of the beam punctured the lacerated skin and muscles of His shoulders.
  • When they arrived at Golgotha, the beam was placed on the ground, and Jesus was thrown backward, His shoulders against the wood.
  • The soldiers stretched His arms against the beams.
  • The Roman legionnaire then felt for the depression at the front of His wrist and drove a heavy, square, nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. He moved to the other side and repeated the action.

I can imagine my Lord, Jesus, turning His head toward the nail just as the soldier lifts the hammer to strike it. No doubt Jesus saw the mallet, the nail, and the soldier’s hand. I also believe that Jesus saw something else. Through the eyes of Scripture, we see what others present on Friday missed.

We know what Jesus saw: “Having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).

Between His hand and the wood was a list. A long list. A list of mistakes, lusts, lies, greedy moments, and prodigal years. A list of our sins. The list of my sins.  The list of your sins.

Dangling from that cross are our bad choices from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. In front, all eternity on that Friday, there in broad daylight, for all of heaven to see, is the list of our mistakes.

The list, however, cannot be read. The words cannot be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. His hand hides those at the top; His blood covers the rest of the list.

OUR SINS ARE BLOTTED OUT BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS

GOD’S PURPOSE FOR US TODAY

But what does it mean for us today, as we live in a time of uncertainty and promise?

Life is Not Futile. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:11).

Failures are Not Forever. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Heb. 8:12).

Death is Not Final. Paul wrote in Corinthians 15:51-54: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Does your life feel futile or out of control? It doesn’t have to.

Do some of your failures seem like they will last forever? They won’t.

Does the grave appear to be the final stop? Death has been swallowed up in victory!

There is a truth more significant than all the losses and sorrows of life. And it can be discovered in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through his death, your life has purpose and meaning. You are forgiven and loved by a Savior who died for you.

Here’s the FACT of LIFE, you will face these three days over and over in your lifetime.

  • You will face pain and death.
  • You will experience doubt and confusion.
  • And God will bring you Hope, Joy, and Transformation in the form of new beginnings.

 

It’s a cycle of the human condition. So the real questions are:

What do I do in my days of pain?

How do I get through my days of doubt and confusion?

How do I get to my days of joy and victory?

The answer is: by LIVING THE POWER OF THE CROSS.

Suffering and pain have changed me for the better. Even this forced isolation from the people I love has changed me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Every problem I have faced has been a push in a new direction—an opening to further understanding.

My answer and yours is THE CROSS—the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

What’s so GOOD about Good Friday?  Because of that supernatural Friday, we have the daily power for abundant living now, with eternal life as a bonus!

WOW! Mind-blowing! Wonderful! Praise Jesus!

J.P. Morgan was one of the most powerful and respected bankers of his time. He financed railroads and helped organize U.S. Steel, General Electric, and other major industries that helped the United States become a world power in industry. Morgan was a man who knew about success!

One day a man walked up to him and held up an envelope. The man said, “Sir, in my hand I hold a guaranteed formula for success, which I will gladly sell to you for $25,000.” This was not chump change, even to a man as successful as Morgan. $25,000 in the early 1900s would be approximately $750,000 today.

I want you to put yourself in Morgan’s place for a minute. You have provided the funding for dozens of businesses, you’ve started your own bank, and life is looking pretty good. Do you take the time to talk to this man, or do you decide he’s delusional and wasting your time? I have to admit, if you walked up to me on a street today and offered me the contents of an envelope for that kind of money I would say, “Thanks but no thanks,” and walk away.

Morgan didn’t do that. He had learned that value can show up in unexpected ways. Be he was also smart enough not to just shell out $25,000, Morgan replied, “I do not know what is in the envelope. However, if you show me and I like it, I give you my word as a gentleman that I will pay you what you ask.”

I’m sure the man with the envelope was doing a little dance in his head at this point. One of the most powerful men in the country was willing to look at what he had in that envelope, information that he considered to be worth a small fortune. He quickly agreed and handed over the envelope. Morgan took out the contents, a single sheet of paper, read it, and immediately wrote a check.

That piece of paper said two things:

Every morning write a list of the things that need to be done that day.

Do them.

DO THEM

How simple is that? Yet I would be willing to bet most of us don’t. I know my to-do list is LONG. It’s so overwhelming at times that I would love to just hide and pretend that list doesn’t exist. But I don’t. I chose to engage and get that list done. Delivering results to achieve your goal and expand your success is the very core of engaging in your life.

Engagement, or engaging, is a process that should be transformational for you. In this process you move from being a person whom things happen to, to an individual who makes things happen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to just deal with things as they come. I want to be the driving force. I want to make things happen. I want to create Forward Momentum in my life.

When you are engaged, you cope with challenges and work to achieve goals. By recognizing the importance of engaging, you foster connectivity and create a community that supports and encourages you. You can be the motivation in your life, you don’t have to just live what you’ve been handed!

SELF-CLARITY

If you want to truly engage, you need to understand yourself: your motivations, strengths, vulnerabilities, thought processes, behavior, personality, and how you are perceived by others. Achieving self-clarity is a deeply personal journey but taking time to know and understand yourself brings authenticity and genuineness to your behavior and actions.

Be yourself. Don’t worry about proving your specific attributes to others. If you take nothing else away from this blog post, remember this: God created you to be you! He made each person unique. So stop trying to be like everyone else and develop your own identity! They only way to do that is to achieve self-clarity and acquire a unique identity you can personally own.

Your first step is to focus on your strengths and vulnerabilities and recognize them as important elements of who you are. Don’t be afraid of conflict as you work to come to terms with your weaknesses. We all have personal issues, and it can be difficult to deal with them, but if you want to live your best life then dealing with your weaknesses is essential!

Evangelist D. L. Moody was once asked which people gave him the most trouble. His response was, “I’ve had more trouble with Dwight L. Moody than any other man alive.” As Jan Smuts states, “A man is not defeated by his opponents but by himself.”

The pathway to self-clarity and true engagement requires the development of your unique identity. This identity must be expressed through your ability to find your own voice. Finding your voice is an important component of living a life dedicated to Christ. And friend, I know that your authentic voice is powerful!

You must know who you are and what you stand for. It’s as simple as that. Self-knowledge creates self-confidence that is both formidable and engaging. So are you ready to seek self-clarity so you can experience true engagement in your life?

Here are some coaching questions you can ask yourself to help you on your journey:

  1. What is the purpose of what you do?
  2. What type of impact do you want your life to have?
  3. How do you contribute to others and the world?
  4. How are you going to contribute to the betterment of others?
  5. What percentage of the authentic you shows through in your life?
  6. If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you try right now?
  7. On a scale of 1 to 10, how motivated are you in your life? What motivates you?
  8. Describe a moment when you felt the most alive.
  9. What motivates you? How do you motivate yourself?
  10. What is the one thing that never fails to move you to action?

I want to leave you with an affirmation you can use as you seek self-clarity and incorporate engaging into your life. Just insert your name in the blank!

Christ gives me _________ the strength to face anything! (Phil. 4:13, CEV)

As we celebrated Father’s Day this past weekend, I thought a lot about my father and the lessons I learned from him as I was growing. My dad was a warm, affirming father. He supported my call to ministry, and I feel incredibly blessed to have learned my leadership basics by watching how he lived his life.

He gave his all to his God, his family, and his ministry. He loved his work so much that he worked full time as pastor until his eightieth birthday! In his retirement, as pastor emeritus, he continued to go to work every day to serve the church he loved so much. His personal mission to build that church continued to give him boundless energy and enthusiasm until he went to heaven at age eighty-six.

All of us have role models and mentors we learn from. Some are formal relationships, some are friendships, some of us are blessed to grow alongside amazing, God-ordained leaders. Dad was a great leader, and I want to share with you a few of the lessons I learned by watching him. Lessons I still live by today.

Never limit God’s influence in your life and ministry.

We do this. We do this all the time. We get a picture in our head of how things are supposed to be, and that is what we work toward. What you and I need to understand is that when we live only according to our vision we limit God’s influence in our life.

God’s plans for us have no limits. He sees potential where we see only walls. When we let God have his way, we end up in places we never could have dreamed because they are outside of our realm of experience. When we moved to Florida, we had a specific image of what our ministry would look like. And we struggled. We cried, we begged God to help us, we despaired of every making any headway. Then we had an epiphany. Where we saw insurmountable problems God saw unlimited potential.

As soon as we stopped doing things our way, and started doing things God’s way, the blessings started pouring in. Our ministry started growing and kept growing. Twenty years ago we never could have envisioned where we are now. That is what happens when you get out of God’s way and let Him influence your life.

Expect and embrace change.

I get it, change is scary. Most of us like to find our comfortable routine and stick with it. But when you are following the path God lays out, it seldom travels in a straight line. My dad dealt with change like he dealt with every other obstacle in life. He prayed, asked for guidance, and then accepted God’s will.

You see, Dad knew that change happens. Change is what keeps us on our toes. It keeps us fresh and flexible. If we acknowledge that change is going to happen, and then ask for God’s guidance when we face change, it takes the uncertainty and discomfort out of the situation. Then we are able to accept change for what it is, a continuation of God’s blessings in our life!

Plan for the future, don’t just live for today.

While we don’t want to limit God’s influence in our lives, and we have to be ready for unanticipated changes, that doesn’t mean we just sit and wait for life to happen. We need to prayerfully plan for the future. I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I have found that to be so incredibly true through the years.

I can remember Dad planning for the future. He always had a long-term plan. He prayed for guidance, and he listened to others who had a stake. He planned carefully, but he was never set in stone. He built adaptability into his plans. This is what we all must do. Make your plans. Set you goals. But always remember to ask for God’s influence to guide every step, and always be ready for change!

Build a community.

I’ve said it before, and I think this lesson bears repeating. We are not made to travel this journey alone. You need to surround yourself with people who will support you, who love you, who want the best for you, and who love God as fiercely as you do.

Dad dearly loved people. He respected and honored them because he knew that each is a child of God, wonderfully made and wonderfully loved. His heart for people brought others into community with him. When their church burnt after they had just finished expanding, that community came together to salvage what they could even as the fire was still being put out. They gathered together and created something even greater. All because of community.

Don’t underestimate the importance of others walking beside you in your life. I don’t doubt that you are capable of doing things alone, but you don’t have to do it that way. I want to challenge you to build a community and then soak in the joy that comes from knowing those people are ready to step in and help, or hold you, or cheer you up on a rough day. Relationships are God’s greatest gift to us. And I am so thankful that I learned that lesson early on by watching my Dad.

Never, ever, ever give up!

My father’s last words before he passed were, “Never, ever, ever give up!” That was his last advice to his children, and I will always take those words to heart. I want to pass those words on to you today. God made you. God placed you where you are for a purpose. You will face hardships. You will deal with scary, unpredictable changes that you haven’t planned for. But never give up!

My father enriched my life in so many ways. I will always cherish the love and support, the guidance, the correction, and the advice he gave me. Even more though, I will hold close the lessons I learned by watching him embrace the life God gave him. I hope these lessons will enrich your life as they have mine!

Dr. Robyn Wilkerson outlines a coaching strategy to help women overcome self-limiting beliefs about leadership in her new book Shattering the Stained Glass Ceiling. Listen to her discuss her book with Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood on episode 111 of the Influence Podcast.

Listen Online Now

 

Download the Podcast to iTunes

 

Shattering the Stained Glass Ceiling is available for purchase now at MyHealthyChurch.com and on Amazon.

I can’t think of a single time in history when someone accomplished something great by themselves. That’s because no one operates in a vacuum.

Our support systems and those we partner with contribute to our success. They help us build the foundation we need to succeed!

DOWN TIME is PREP TIME

We all hit rough patches. Have you ever experienced one of these situations?

  • The company downsized and your job was one of those they cut.
  • The loss of a loved one sent you in an emotional tailspin.
  • You made a mistake that led to the failure of whatever project you were working on.
  • Your business venture failed, even though you made sure you had all of the details worked out.

Any of these situations, and many more, can leave us feeling out of control, like failure and loss are taking over our lives. So what do you do? Let me tell you what I think. Those DOWN TIMES are actually our PREP TIMES.

All of the disciples suffered setbacks in their lives and ministries. When they met with failure or hardship, the first thing every single one of them did was pray.

This was a lesson Jesus taught by example over and over again. Prayer is vital to our success and to our relationships.

We never face difficulties alone. Not only do we have people surrounding us who can help lift us up when we are down, but our heavenly father is with us every day. He WANTS to help us succeed. All we have to do is listen for His voice.

You see, the men that Jesus chose to pass on His message to the world knew success wouldn’t come from moving forward blindly. They needed to PREP, to prepare for what they were going to do next. And that preparation always started with prayer.

YOUR GREATEST FAILURE WILL PRECEDE YOUR SUCCESS

Our PREP TIME often follows a failure of some kind. Peter’s failure on the night of Jesus’ trial was one of the most horrible experiences of his life. In his Lord’s darkest hour, Peter, who Jesus loved dearly, denied even knowing Him. That sin, that failure, rocked the foundation of Peter’s faith.

This wasn’t an unexpected failure. Jesus told him he would fail. Peter, however, did not believe he would ever stumble in his faith in Jesus. He had seen Jesus’ miracles firsthand, and he KNEW Jesus was the Messiah. His shame over that failure could have meant the end of his ministry.

Our shame over past failures can haunt us, but Jesus wants to redeem us completely. He knows our future failures as sure as He knew Peter’s. When we fail, and we will, we must remember that Jesus is stronger than our sin. He can restore us after our failures, just as He restored Peter. When we repent, our failure is left behind.

[bctt tweet=”Our Failures do not define us, our Faith does!” username=”robynwilkerson”]

Our faith in Jesus transforms our failures into successes for His Church! The challenge is in walking in faith instead of being held captive by the past. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7)

LEVERAGE what YOU HAVE to GET what YOU NEED

When you plan for your success, what’s the first thing you do? We’ve already talked about some of the steps I take. First I PRAY. Then I PLAN.

The disciples had a plan. Their goal was success. They were tasked with spreading Jesus’ message to all the world, and KNEW they could succeed. They knew because Jesus not only told them, He showed them. He told them to cast a net after they failed during a fruitless night of fishing, and they obeyed (Luke 5:1-11). Because of their obedience, they were blessed with opportunities beyond their wildest imaginings.

If you want to succeed, you need to plan. Part of that plan is figuring out what you already have and leveraging it.

Do you have a strong social media platform you can use to spread the word about your project? Use it. If you are starting a business, focus your efforts on where you are strong and hire someone to fill in where you are weak. If you are starting an outreach for your church, look at the community and see what needs you can fill with resources you already have access too.

[bctt tweet=”Part of success is knowing your strengths and using them!” username=”robynwilkerson”]

PROSPERITY can break your NET without partners to pull in the catch!

The disciples were also very intentional about sharing with their ministry partners and seeking their input and guidance. They shared their successes and their problems. They knew they could count on their ministry partners—their brothers and sisters in Christ.

When Jesus told Simon (Peter) to cast his nets over the side, they caught so many fish their nets were breaking! They knew they couldn’t haul in the catch alone, so they “signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:7)

This passage in Luke may be one of the most valuable parts of this story. Here was a man who was experiencing unexpected, unprecedented success. Had he refused to share that prosperity, he would have lost it all when his nets broke. But Peter never hesitated.

He signaled for assistance and freely shared that prosperity with his partners. And it was more than they all needed! Because they worked selflessly to support one another, Jesus gave them the opportunity to follow Him and become fishers of men.

They found prosperity because of Jesus, but they wouldn’t have been able to keep it if they hadn’t worked together.

They knew that a NET BREAKING BLESSING requires partners!

 

To the incredible women in my world:

YOU are Amazing!

I have been thinking a lot about the role of women lately. I look around me at the amazing women in my life, and I am in awe. They are businesswomen, mothers, wives, sisters, preachers, counselors, nurses, doctors, philanthropists, prayer warriors, bankers, administrative professionals, artists, and so much more.

And every woman I know functions in multiple roles in her life – all at the same time!

That takes an incredible amount of energy and passion, and it can wear us down. Especially when we sometimes have to work against established ideas about our gender roles.

It’s Time to Celebrate!

This year already, more than 5 million women have gathered worldwide to march, speak, and make their voices heard about the importance of equal rights and recognition for women. March 8 was International Women’s Day, set aside to honor the value and leadership women bring to every aspect of our world—the marketplace, our homes, our churches, our government, our whole communities. Plus, I always look forward to honoring that especially treasured, permanent role of motherhood by honoring our moms every year on Mother’s Day.

Yes, the world appears eager now to celebrate our womanhood, and I agree!

It’s Not Always Easy

However, what astonishes me is the battle women still have to fight every day to prove they have a capacity and the calling to be in leadership, that they are worthy of equal pay for equal responsibilities, and that sexual objectification is harmful to everyone. I talk to so many women who’s hearts have been broken by these issues.

[bctt tweet=”Here is what I KNOW: God loves women and men equally.” username=”robynwilkerson”]

God is not biased for men over women. Throughout history, women have been denied their equal rights and freedoms. This viewpoint of different status between men and women in God’s economy has often rested on misinterpretations of the Bible.

Although early Christians initially embraced the cause of gender equality and reunification through Christ, this cause was abandoned as the growing Christian church confronted the political and sociological challenges associated with its expanding influence. Even today churches usually fail to return to the God-ordained principle of gender neutrality through spiritual unity in Christ. What we need to remember is, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, ESV).

Every Woman Is Called

I firmly believe every woman (yes that means you) is called to minister.

Even if you do not consider yourself a leader, you directly impact those around you. Your words influence your neighbors, your family, your friends, and co-workers, and even those you casually interact with on a daily basis. Guess what, my friend, that makes you a leader!

Jesus Loves Women!

Jesus consistently celebrated women as leaders. In his Gospel, Luke tells of twenty-four times when Jesus met a woman, talked about a woman, or mentioned a woman in a parable. Each and every one of these occasions was positive and affirming for the women.

Jesus never turned a woman away. In fact, He had women included in His group of followers. Even though at that time in history it was unthinkable, and another rabbi would not have included women in his group of disciples, Jesus set the Godly pattern for the Church. He was accepting, affirming, and empowering of the gifts, leadership and service offered to Him by every woman who received his message.

Jesus was always compassionate and caring to the women, even when society shunned them or wanted them dead. He was not afraid to let them know He valued their intelligence and abilities. He even healed a woman on the Sabbath. She had been crippled for 18 years and he laid His hands on her in the Temple, saying, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity” (Luke 13:12). Jesus, our model for leadership, showed everyone around Him that women are worthy of God’s love and care.

It’s Time to Step Forward!

I received my call to ministry at the age of 12. This was in the 1960s when most women had a primary goal of becoming a wife and mother. While both of those have been vital, shaping elements in my life, they have never stopped me from following my call. When I wasn’t ministering to those in a church, I was ministering to my boys, who have all become involved in their own ministries. I have been proud to support and stand alongside my husband as he has ministered, and as we have built ministries together. None of those things makes me less of a leader, less of a minister.

You are a leader too! You have a ministry in your life, even if you haven’t found it yet. God has given you a specific call, and now is the time to grab hold and move forward! “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time” (2 Tim. 1:9).

Empowering women is God’s call on my life. I want every young woman to know her value. Not her value in society … her value in God’s eyes. Her value in leadership. Her value as she ministers to those around her. Because together we can change the world, one thought, one decision, one life at a time.

So are you going to step out today? Grab hold of your call with both hands and get ready to hold on. [bctt tweet=”Celebrate your womanhood! God is going to do amazing things in your life!!” username=”robynwilkerson”]

The world needs you and I to be fully alive and growing in love, character, and the lifestyle of Jesus! To do that we need the power of the Holy Spirit. Connecting to that power requires practicing spiritual disciplines, which allow the Holy Spirit to work through and empower us. By themselves, these actions are nothing but busy work. When we approach them as spiritual disciplines, when we utilize them as part of our spiritual walk, they become a direct action to help us connect with the the blessings and will of God.

God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2. Cor. 12:9) and becomes visible through our growth. This means our path to leadership must always be directed by a humble dependence on God.

Let me say it this way. You HEART needs to be fully involved in this process of spiritual growth. Open your heart as you come to encounter. Open your heart in each of the sessions, and during the times of prayer and solitude. Approach your spiritual growth plan and Bible study after the Encounter weekend with an open heart. When you open your heart, you invite God in to do AMAZING things in your life!

Disciplines of the Holy Spirit

The disciplines of the Holy Spirit help us draw near to God, reach out for Him, and give up our earthly encumbrances. They help us become more like Jesus while growing into the Heart of God.

Blessings of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

  • Greater love and intimacy with God
  • Exaltation of Jesus as Son of God and Savior
  • Power and Boldness to Witness and Preach
  • Greater wisdom and faith
  • Deep joy
  • Release of spiritual gifts for ministry
  • Victory over sin and temptation
  • Effectiveness and power in prayer.
  • Quiet confidence during opposition
  • Deeper trust in Scripture as the Word of God
  • Renewed zeal for evangelism
  • Fresh love of Christ and others.

Disciplines of Surrender

The disciplines of surrender strengthen God’s authority in our lives.

  • Repentance and Confession
  • Yielding and Submission
  • Fasting
  • Worship

Disciplines of Solitude

The disciplines of solitude help us grow closer to God by choosing to intentionally be alone, away from human interaction and distraction.

  • Solitude and Silence
  • Listening and Guidance
  • Prayer and Intercession
  • Study and Mediation

Disciplines of Service

The act of fellowship, connecting with other believers, also connects us to the Holy Spirit. The relationships we intentionally build directly impact our relationship with God.

  • Fellowship
  • Simplicity
  • Service
  • Witness

Solitude

“For God alone, my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him.” Psalm 62

Solitude is a discipline of stepping away from dependency on others, to enter into intimacy with God alone. It is like fasting, only from relationships.

Silence

Have you ever noticed how noisy the world is? We are constantly listening to music, hearing the television, being distracted by the conversations around us, and just filling our lives with distractions. Those noises keep us distracted enough to ignore pain, or tension, or imbalance in our life. Times of silence and solitude give us room to hear better—both our own thoughts and feelings, and the voice of God.

Outside Silence

To experience silence, first eliminate outside noises. You need to turn off your cell-phone, music player, and any other electronic device. Natural sounds, such as the ocean, can actually enhance a silence and solitude experience.

Inside Silence

The second, and harder silence is to quiet the voices in your heart and head. Silence and solitude can bring a peaceful, refreshing, restful time in God’s presence.

You may also find you are doing battle against tempting or disturbing thoughts, feelings, or desires. You may feel anxious about the list of things you need to do when you get home. Or you may find you are daydreaming.

Don’t be hard on yourself.

As you seek silence, thank God for the moments when you are able to concentrate. And when you find you are distracted, laugh it off and come back to focus. Even a few minutes of quiet communion with God today will be more than you would have done if you weren’t trying. With practice, it becomes more natural for you to enter into silence with God.

Ask the Lord what He might want to show you right now. It may be His agenda for your time, after all. If it is a weakness, a temptation, a regret, a sin, remember that in the grace of Christ, you can come to the Lord without shame or fear, for He knows you and loves you and desires to make the most of your time together.

Celebrate your womanhood! God loves women and men equally: He does not love males more! God is not biased for men over women. Throughout history, women have been denied the equal rights and freedoms of men. This viewpoint of unequal status has often rested on misinterpretations of the Bible. While the Old Testament does indeed appear in some places to sanction the unequal treatment of women, analysts have repeatedly misinterpreted and misrepresented the implications of the Old Testament provisions for Christians who, through Christ’s grace, are freed from the old law. Furthermore, although early Christians initially embraced the cause of gender equality and reunification through Christ, this cause was abandoned as the growing Christian church confronted the political challenges associated with its own expanding power. Even today, the Christian churches almost all fail to return to the God-ordained principle of gender neutrality through spiritual unity in Christ.

Misinterpretations of the Garden of Eden

It has been observed, “For two millennia now the Judeo-Christian tradition has placed man a little lower than the angels and woman a little higher than the demons.”1 From early in Christian history, misinterpretations and misrepresentations of the Garden of Eden story in particular have played prominent roles in the effort to deny women equal freedom and rights of men.2 These traditional misinterpretations and misrepresentations have held, in part, that woman was created as a mere “helpmate” and that women were therefore destined to be dependent upon and inferior to men.3 In these and other respects, the conventional (mis)readings have emphasized the supposed unlike and unequal traits of the two sexes, further exalting man as the “head” of humanity and deprecating woman as the “body” of humankind.⁠4 Perhaps even worse, the Garden of Eden story has been repeatedly misinterpreted and misrepresented over the ages to cast the woman as a being driven by curiosity rather than intelligence.5 According to these misplaced allegations, the woman employed her powers of seduction lure the man to join her in sin and folly, thereby bringing unbounded suffering to all humanity.6

Although the woman becomes a casualty of circumstances set in place before her arrival, she evinces a number of positive traits that are downplayed or denied by traditional misrepresentations. To begin with, a careful exegesis of the story reveals the woman is a decidedly active player in the unfolding drama. As such, she actually differs immediately and markedly from the “docile, chaste, and homebound” Jewess who is seems to be present throughout much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible.7 Hardly a passive and submissive figure, the woman cannot be content merely to wander around the garden.8 Instead, she actively pursues the deeper meanings of life and, rather than artless falling victim to the devious serpent, seems to carefully consider what the snake tells her and to evaluate the desirability of the fruit of the forbidden tree.9 She then decides to eat the fruit because she saw that it “was good for food and pleasing to the eye,” and because of the promise that, upon eating it, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”10

Revealingly too, the Genesis account also suggests that the woman does become more like God than her male companion in at least one critical respect: the ability to produce new life.11 This godlike capacity is, of course, tarnished by serious punishment: “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.”12 Yet God never threatens to take this precious godlike ability away from the woman.13 For his part, the man is so amazed by the woman’s godlike capacity to create new life that, even though he has just received the undoubtedly devastating news of his new mortal status—“dust you are and to dust you will return”—he is moved to name his wife Eve “because she would become the mother of all the living.” 14 It is also revealing that the woman’s punishment is meted out to her in manner that is rather different from the manner in which the man and the snake have their respective punishments meted out to them. The serpent is “Cursed … above all livestock and all wild animals!”15 and the man is solemnly advised that the very ground is cursed because of him.16 By sharp contrast, the woman’s punishment is stated without preamble and with decidedly less emphasis.

Unequal Treatments in the Old Testament

Despite the rather positive beginnings that become obvious through a more careful reading of the much-misinterpreted Garden of Eden story in Genesis, later parts of the Old Testament do appear to reflect significant biases for men over women. Yet these biases should not be read as a reflection of the will of God. Instead, the biases are attributable in part to the fact that as ancient Israel developed into a more complex society it was marked by a more gendered division of labor, power, space, and of society in general.17 With time, the ever-sharper gendered divisions of duties and responsibilities translated into ever-deeper gender inequalities.18

These inequalities were reinforced by a Hebrew Bible (and by other religious and cultural sources) that presented decidedly restrictive and oppressive interpretations and portrayals of what it meant to be a “Jewess.”19 It is important to realize that the Hebrew Bible was concerned primarily with theological and religious transformations, rather than with social reforms.20 As such, the Old Testament scriptures generally spend little time questioning the fairness and justice of patriarchy—or, for that matter, of slavery and the various other forms of institutionalized social inequity that ancient Israel inherited from other ancient Near Eastern civilizations.21 These articulations of Jewish femininity were meant to stand in direct opposition to the supposedly active, sexual, and worldly gentile woman of Hebrew stereotypes.22 A heavy premium on women’s marital chastity became a key dimension around which the ancient Jewish society distinguished itself from its neighbors.23

In the Hebrew Bible, women’s affiliations to Israelite society were closely connected with considerations of marital fidelity.24 Jewish women were deprived of control over their own honor and sexuality, even as fathers, husbands, rabbis, and emperors positioned themselves as the guardians of marital chastity.25 Upon marriage, the Jewish husband came to be vested with full powers over the person of his wife, gaining exclusive access to her body.26 Never having enjoyed authority over her own sexuality to begin with, the married Jewess was further doomed to stricter confinement to domestic space than was the case even for many of her (disempowered) contemporaries in neighboring societies.27

The Old Testament appears to prescribe harsh treatments that seriously deny women the rights and freedom extended to men. Yet despite prescriptions that appear to reinforce especially severe forms of patriarchy, it is possible to argue that the Hebrew Bible does not justify subordinate social roles for women or sanction the position that women are inherently inferior to men. In fact, although the Old Testament does not set out to challenge and overturn patriarchy (or other institutions such as slavery), it does clearly empathize with women and other downtrodden elements of society.28 As subordinate and peripheral figures in the Hebrew Bible, women may even be read as embodiments of Israel itself alongside the more powerful empires of the ancient Near East.29 In this respect, the subordinate and relatively powerless women of the biblical texts actually reflect and represent integral aspects of ancient Israel’s own self-image.30

Freedom from the Old Law through Christ

Fortunately for Christian women and men, the hideously unequal and unjust Old Testament provisions were triumphantly overturned by a Savior who “set aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.”31 Christ himself clearly rejected the gender biases inherent and often blatant in the old system of laws. Jesus revealed, for instance, that Moses had penned the old law allowing a man to dismiss his wife simply by issuing a certificate of divorce and sending her away “because your hearts were hard.”32 Thus, the unjust laws had existed not because they reflected God’s will for inequity between men and women, but because they were all that suited a society filled with people of hardened hearts. By referring specifically to Genesis 1:27, Jesus made clear that his era reflected a return to the more perfect, egalitarian conditions that prevailed “at the beginning of creation [when] God ‘made them male and female.’”33 Jesus also references Genesis 2:24, “‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh,’” to further emphasize the fact that his reign overthrows the gendered inequality and injustice inherent in the old marriage laws.34 By reiterating that the married couple “are no longer two, but one flesh” joined together by God,35 Jesus made clear that men and women entered marriage on entirely equal terms. After all, how could an entity that existed as one inseparable “flesh” be divided into separate parts with unequal rights and privileges?

Christian women and men are also freed of the curse of gender inequity by the fact that Christ came to earth as “the culmination of the law,” overturning whatever injustices might have existed in the law and ushering a new age in which there is “righteousness for everyone who believes.”36 Christ gave Himself not for those who, by virtue of gender or social standing, wielded privilege and power in earthly society. Instead, Christ graciously and freely gave Himself “to all who did receive him.”37 Christ grants to all “those who believe in his name … the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”38 By placing their faith in Christ, Christian women and men in turn “also die to the law through the body of Christ,” so that they “might belong to another: to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.39 Throughout their previous confinement to “the realm of the flesh,” men and women had been bound to “the sinful passions aroused by the law.”40 Yet “by dying to what once bound us,” those who have placed their faith in Christ are wondrously and gloriously “released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.”41

Having freed them of the burdens of the cumbersome and unjust old laws, Christ challenges his followers to comply with just two key commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”42 Once Christ’s glorious message was fully revealed to them, Jesus’ first apostles also recognized well that women have equal freedom and rights before God. This fact becomes obvious, for instance, in events surrounding the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles at Pentecost. Once they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles began speaking in diverse tongues that the Spirit empowered them to speak.43 “Utterly amazed” and bewildered, “perplexed” members of the multilingual audience of “Jews from every nation under heaven” pondered the meaning of this unprecedented development.44 Yet Peter explained to the fascinated and concerned audiences that they were witnessing the fulfillment of the prediction by the prophet Joel (see Joel 2:28-32) that the Lord would “pour out his Spirit on all people” so that “sons and daughters [alike] will prophesy.”45 Further quoting from Joel, Peter acknowledges the fulfillment of God’s promise that: “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.”46

Banished forever were the defunct gendered division of rights and freedoms as Christian women and men alike were empowered to declare the wonders of God in the many and diverse tongues of those who hunger for His hopeful message. The people had been “held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed,” once that faith was revealed through Christ, but now Christians were finally freed from the restrictive “guardian” that was the often unfair and unjust law of the past.47 The old distinctions relating to of gender and other social constructs were rendered irrelevant as Christians of all types are brought together through faith in Christ Jesus. Once they are baptized into Christ and thereby clothed themselves with Christ, true Christians come to realize that: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”48

Early Christianity and the Movement away from Equality

How, then, has subsequent Christian history been marked by the continued denial of equal freedom and rights to women? How is it that even today women continue to be locked out of church leadership? Again, the problem is that, for much of the Christian era, people have continued to misinterpret and misrepresent the Bible—Old and New Testament alike—to “justify” unbiblical prejudices against women leadership and gender equality. Although Christians initially strove to live according to Christ’s fair and just standards, the pressures of life in the material world soon weakened their commitments to Christ’s perfect standards.

As Christianity began to take shape during the late Hellenistic era—and particularly during the period immediately after Rome consolidated its imperial power, there were immense challenges against the traditional roles of men and women in society.49 Longstanding distinctions between what was “properly” feminine versus what was “properly” masculine were seriously undermined as they became the object of heated debate and controversy.50 This pervasive phenomenon of “gender dissonance” had radical wide-ranging implications because in the ancient world “male” and “female” had a number of “sweeping metonymic associations” that extended well beyond today’s understandings of gender.51 Thus, “female” and “male” functioned in Hellenistic thought, not only (as is the case today) as psycho-sexual categories, but also as representations of the poles of a range of binary oppositions between mind versus body, rational versus irrational, and active versus passive—to cite but a few.52

Powerfully impacted as they were by the gender dissonance phenomenon, early Christians widely and persistently followed Jesus’ lead in embracing the image of what some have termed “the Androgyne”—that is, the first human of Genesis 1:27 who was created both male and female.53 Through the figure of the Androgyne, the early Christians embraced the unification of opposites—and particularly the unification of the opposite sexes—as a principal symbol of their salvation.54 Whereas the conventional distinctions between male and female were regarded as critical symbols of the existing order of the material world, the efforts to challenge and modify these conventional role differences became for the early Christians a powerful symbol of their criticism—or even of their total rejection—of that existing order.55 By adopting and championing the figure of the Androgyne to their eschatological sacrament of baptism, the Christians declared, in effect, that there was no longer male and female for the old world had passed away and, behold! the new has come.56

Yet as Christianity became more mainstream following the consolidation of Rome’s empire, Christian leaders found it increasingly difficult, for political, reasons to uphold the reunification of female and male.57 Reunification of male and female became symbolic, less of redemption through Christ than of “metaphysical rebellion.”58 Rejecting gendered conventions became an act of “cosmic audacity” for “spirituals” who sought, above all else, to abandon the community and the world for the sake of subjective transcendence.59 Confronted with such challenges, Christian leaders such as Paul insisted on preserving at least some symbols of the existing and differentiated order.60 This position helps to explain Paul’s odd concern, for instance, with the appropriate headgear for men and women while they pray to God.61 It is nonetheless important to note that from Paul’s perspective these symbols had, by the time of his writing, lost their ultimate significance because this world was already “passing away.”62 For Paul, women and men already operated from positions of equality because they were members of a community formed by the Spirit that belonged to the end of days.63

Yet as time passed and the end of days presaged by Paul failed to materialize, Christians became reluctant to persist with the equality accorded to women in the early Christian missions. Although the rhetoric of baptismal reunification of female and male persisted for a while, a conservative reaction to previous efforts to end gender stratification took hold.64 As Christianity moved to the mainstream of Rome’s expanding imperial power, the previous, biblically grounded, commitment to the notion of gender equality in Christ proved “too dangerously ambivalent” for the increasingly powerful church.65 In time, the once bold declaration that in Christ female and male ceased to exist faded to become nothing more than an “innocuous metaphor.”66 Nearly two millennia later, the Christian churches seem still to be awaiting the advent of the Christ-ordained era of gender equality on earth.

Endnotes

1 Adrien Janis Bledstein, “The Genesis of Humans: The Garden of Eden Revisited,” Judaism 26, no. 2 (1977): 187.

2 Ibid., 187-192.

3 Ibid., 187-189.

4 Ibid., 187.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Esther Fuchs, “Gender in Jewish Antiquity: Biblical Texts, Rabbinic Interpretations, and Feminist Interventions,” NWSA Journal 16, no. 2 (2004): 197.

8 Rooke, “Feminist Criticism of the Old Testament,” 166.

9 Gen. 3:2-6.

10 Gen. 3:5-6.

11 Rooke, “Feminist Criticism of the Old Testament,” 166.

12 Gen. 3:16.

13 Rooke, “Feminist Criticism of the Old Testament,” 166-167.

14 Gen. 3:19-20.

15 Gen. 3:14.

16 Gen. 3:17.

17 Avraham Faust, “Burnished Pottery and Gender Hierarchy in Iron Age Israelite Society,” Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 15, no. 1 (2002): 53, 66.

18 Ibid.

19 Fuchs, “Gender in Jewish Antiquity,” 197-198.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid.

26 Fuchs, “Gender in Jewish Antiquity,” 197-198.

27 Fuchs, “Gender in Jewish Antiquity,” 197-198.

28 Fuchs, “Gender in Jewish Antiquity,” 197-198.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid.

31 Eph. 2:15.

32 Mk. 10:2-5.

33 Mk. 10:6.

34 Mk. 10:7-8.

35 Mk. 10:8-9.

36 Rom. 10:4.

37 Jn. 1:12-13.

38 Jn. 1:12-13.

39 Rom. 7:4.

40 Rom. 7:5.

41 Rom. 7:6.

42 Matt. 22:37-40.

43 Acts 2:4.

44 Acts 2:5-12.

45 Acts 2:16-17.

46 Acts 2:18.

47 Gal. 3:23-25.

48 Gal. 3:23-25.

49 Austin Busch, “The Figure of Eve in Romans 7:5-25,” Biblical Interpretation 12, no. 1 (2004): 1; Wayne A. Meeks, “The Image of the Androgyne: Some Uses of a Symbol in Earliest Christianity,” History of Religions Vol. 13, no. 3 (1974): 206.

50 Meeks, “Image of the Androgyne,” 207.

51 Busch, “The Figure of Eve,” 1.

52 Busch, “The Figure of Eve,” 1.

53 Busch, “The Figure of Eve,” 1; Meeks, “Image of the Androgyne,” 165-170.

54 Busch, “The Figure of Eve,” 1; Meeks, “Image of the Androgyne,” 165-170.

55 Meeks, “Image of the Androgyne,” 207.

56 Ibid.

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid.

59 Ibid.

60 Ibid., 208.

61 1 Cor. 11:7-16.

62 Meeks, “Image of the Androgyne,” 208.

63 Ibid.

64 Ibid.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

 

Big Beginnings

Have you ever started something and then you didn’t finish it well? I recently cleaned out a big storage box in my garage. There, in a shoebox, I found the embroidery project I had started years ago.

I remember wanting to embroider my pillow cases with custom designs. It seemed so easy and fun. I had seen gorgeous samples and I thought it was a good idea. So I purchased the supplies, got the instructions, and started.

It was a big beginning, but as the work continued and obstacles started to appear, my progress got slower and slower. The thread was knotted. The design was not right. The needles hurt by fingers. Eventually, I just give up and put that whole embroidery project into a shoebox and stuck in on the shelf.

Building a Strong Foundation

That’s exactly what Jesus is teaching us with the parable in Luke 14:28-30 (The Message): “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’”

On the surface Jesus is talking about building a house, but he is really talking about building a life. People start things all the time, but often they didn’t have a vision, or understand the cost to complete the vision. When you don’t have solid plans, you end up with a structure, a life, that doesn’t match your vision. You might have some reluctance about rethinking your life … I already raised my family, I don’t have children, I’m comfortable where I am. All of these thoughts are stumbling blocks to your future!

You are building your life, day by day, on each choice you make. I know that is an overwhelming thought, but let me tell you something, It Doesn’t Have To Be! You just need to make sure your thoughts and decisions are focused on where you want to go! My Dad used to say, “You don’t have a problem, only a decision.” That is true of every decision we face.

New Beginnings

Today is your new beginning. Today you are taking control of your life, your home, and your leadership. I know you can live the life you’ve always dreamed about!

Need help getting started? You might want to consider coaching!

Sometimes you just need someone whose sole focus is helping you decide what is best for you.

As a life coach, I want to enable you as you move from where you are to where you want to be! My goal is always to promote forward movement in your life. I don’t make your decisions for you, but I do work with you to help you discover your true path. A

Are you interested in learning more about living your best life? Check out my coaching resources today! Or Sign Up Now if you are interested in coaching!