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Change Your Thinking for a Better You!

How you think, your choice of focusing on the positive or the negative, actually affects the way your body and your brain works. The more you focus on positive things, the more likely you are to enjoy a sense of well-being, and positive thinking brings positive responses in your body that boost your mood and diminish stress.

According to recent studies on its effect on our bodies, positive thinking boosts immunity, improves heart health, fights stress, increases resilience, helps us tolerate pain, prevents hypertension, and even extends lifespan.

One well-know study, The Nun Study, looked at the impact of positive emotions and attitude on longevity and well-being and showed that there is a direct relationship between being positive and longevity. Another study focused on  individuals who have lived to 100 years-of-age or more, looking for reasons they enjoy such a long lifespan. Lynn Peters-Adler, a contributor to Forbes writes: “Almost all of the centenarians we spoke to believe a positive yet realistic attitude is critical throughout one’s life and described themselves as optimistic people.”

Even more exciting, scientists have shown that positive thinking actually protects us! Alex Dranovsky and E. David Leonardo neuroscientists who are studying how positivity impacts the brain, state, “Stimulating neurons in the brain’s hippocampus that are normally activated by pleasurable experiences protects us from the depressive consequences of stress.”

So how do we counteract negative thinking and become more positive? What science is proving is true, God has always known, and He has provided us with the tools we need to stay positive in His Word. Positive thinking isn’t the same as trying to gloss over the negative, nor should you ignore your problems. Positive thinking is instead a way of approaching the challenges life throws at you with a positive attitude and the knowledge that God is on your side.“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13)

Choose to focus on the right things. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Feeling anxious? Stop and pray. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6)

Know that God intends good things for your life. “‘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)

Choose to get rid of the negatives. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

Be conscious of your words. “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matt. 15:11)

Don’t respond with anger. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1).

Be confident. “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Heb. 13:16)

Acknowledge your gratitude. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col. 3:17)

Remember that Jesus brings us Peace! “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Start EVERY day in God’s Word! “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” Psalm 118:24

Martha Washington, the first First Lady of the United States said, “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” I challenge you today to remember that your circumstances do not control you, your attitude and your thoughts do. So stay positive!

I wrote Shattering The Stained Glass Ceiling: A Coaching Strategy for Women Leaders in Ministry because I have seen the difference each and every woman makes in the lives of those around her. God has called me to reach out and offer assistance to every woman leader I can.

My goal is to help the many women leaders who feel stuck stuck, lack clarity, direction, accountability, and crave more meaning and fulfillment in their lives. That might describe how you feel today. Or maybe you know a women who is looking for a tool to help her move on to the next phase of her life and leadership. If so, you need to order this book!

Women in leadership face unique challenges. Women of every age, color, and culture are breaking through into frontiers of uncharted territory, pursuing personal and professional accomplishment. Often they are following a leadership model that has been in place for years. But we must stop thinking our leadership needs to look the same as male leadership. It is time to disrupt and recreate the model of women in ministry leadership!

Here is my message to all women leaders today. As an equipped woman leader, You will elevate your future and the future of those around you. You will become a leader of faith, a woman who is pioneering new roads by activating the unlimited potential of your gifts and talents. You will tear down barriers that previous generations of women could never have imagined!

I am so proud of each and every woman who is taking the steps she needs to take to move her life and leadership to the next level. Order your copy of Shattering The Stained Glass Ceiling: A Coaching Strategy for Women Leaders in Ministry today!

Robyn

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!

I’ve heard it from every woman I’ve gone shopping with. When we get in the dressing room and try on that bathing suit or dress, we stare in the mirror, groan, and say, “I DON’T LIKE HOW I LOOK IN THAT MIRROR.”

Mirrors are a part of EVERY woman’s life! We start looking in reflective surfaces as babies, fascinated by what we see looking back. We look in them as little girls playing dress-up, imagining what our lives will be like. We look in them as teenagers, comparing ourselves to the other girls in our class. We come to terms with what we see, some of us loving the woman in the mirror, others lamenting their perceived flaws.

Women even used mirrors in the Bible! Exodus 38:8 says, “Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.” Now these weren’t clear, glass mirrors like those we are use today. The polished stone or brass worked like our modern mirrors, reflecting slightly distorted features, giving an inexact representation of the face. But thousands of years ago, we know one thing for certain, even then women loved mirrors!

I use a mirror every day, and I’m guessing you do too. Depending on the mirror you are looking into, the reflection of who you see is shaping the person you are!

Whether we realize it or not, each of us looks into mirrors all around us, and they are reflecting our image back to us.

4 Mirrors We Look in Every Day of Our Lives

 

The Mirror of the World

The mirror of the World gives us a blurry reflection. Secular culture sets a standard of what is valued in women. Exterior beauty is the GOLD standard of worth. We see this played out in commercials, on the big screen, in photos and pictures on Instagram, in advertisements, and even in music. These images send CONSTANT messages of “what is beautiful.”

Social media sets the image of what successful women look like. We are told this is the way to dress, or look, or think, or live. Let me tell you something. We are selling ourselves short when we settle our value on adjectives like “SEXY” and “HOT.”

This idea of the beautiful, sexy woman has gained such a following that we now have a phenomenon called “sexting.” Are you kidding? Since when is sending sexually explicit images of yourself or one of your body parts to another person a wise choice?

[bctt tweet=”EVERY digital stroke of the keyboard or posted message is a PERMANENT choice you just made!  “]

The INTERNET is permanent. Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook— these are all WORLDLY images reflecting and shaping the person you are to yourself and to others. I think it is shocking to watch gorgeous, smart women sell themselves so short for someone’s attention.

The blurry, distorted image of who we are will never clear up when we continue to stare at ourselves in the mirror of the world.

Women’s status and problems in the world are growing every day.

  • Women account for 70% of the population living in absolute poverty (on less than $1.00 a day).
  • Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18.
  • 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
  • More than 16.4 million women in the world have HIV/AIDS.
  • The US government estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 victims (mostly women and children) are trafficked globally each year, and 14,500 to 17,500 are trafficked into the US.

The WORLD exploits women through pornography and a distorted message that a woman’s value is through her sexual beauty.

Take a good look in the mirror — each of you doing whatever you want, whenever you want, refusing to pay attention to me.” (Jeremiah 16:12, The Message)

There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:2, The Message)

The world’s mirror is not kind to women. Our reflection in that mirror is not creating beauty in women’s lives. It remains blurry. No matter how hard we work and work, the reflection remains distorted.

The Mirror of our Relationships

The mirror of our relationships doesn’t just reflect the women we are today. It is cluttered with images of who we were in the past, who we are today, and who we hope to be. This includes our our childhood, our youth, and any abuse or trauma we have experienced. It reflects how we appear to our family, our co-workers, our boyfriend or spouse, and our children. For many of us it also reflects our dreams, our hopes, and our desires for the future.

Painful and positive relationships SHAPE us every day.

Emotions are what make us human—what makes life worth living—but emotions are 100% neutral. We have no control over having a feeling. Someone says, “you can’t feel that way.” But the truth is our feelings are in us, and we experience them outside of our control when they occur. But God gave us feelings as a “guidance system” for us to navigate our actions, and therefore our lives.

[bctt tweet=”Once we EXPERIENCE our FEELINGS – it’s up to us to manage what we do with those feelings.  “]

FAMILY of ORIGIN – FAMILY of CHOICE

NO ONE chooses their family of origin. But we all can choose the life lessons we take from our family. Our family of origin gives us our life lessons by default or by design, so we spend the rest of our lives either building on the good or overcoming the bad. We decide if we want to be like them or go our own way. Either way, they are part of our past reflection.

The kind of people who you follow will determine the kind of person you ARE, and in the future the people you will lead. We make the choice to allow them to influence our lives, to reflect their vision of who we are back at us. Look at your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook … those folks already reflect who you are … they ARE your family of CHOICE.

“For now we see obscurely in a mirror, but then it will be face to face. Now I know partly; then I will know fully, just as God has fully known me. But for now, three things last — trust, hope, love; and the greatest of these is love. Pursue love!” (1 Cor. 13:12-14:1, CJB)

Loving others with a true selfless love is impossible without Jesus. So is Forgiveness, especially when you have been truly hurt. Here’s what you have to remember: Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behavior—Forgiveness PREVENTS their behavior from DESTROYING your heart.

Mirror of Religion

The Mirror of Religion reflects a shattered kaleidoscope of images back at us. Institutional Religion is the cause of pain all over the world. The perversion of religion and the inhuman treatment of people in the “name of religion” is unspeakable. People say, “Why don’t I go to church? Because I went once! I couldn’t fit into the rules, the categories.”

CHRISTIANS are the only ARMY in the WORLD that shoot their wounded.

Institutional religion requires each person to fit into a certain image. If the person is flawed or broken, they are marginalized or cast aside. This is a religion of rules and appearances. This is the religion of hypocrites. It includes judging, excluding, and measuring ourselves against each other.

“You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You’re like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it’s all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you’re saints, but beneath the skin you’re total frauds.” (Matt. 23:27-28, The Message)

The Mirror of God’s Word

The mirror of God’s Word is clear, magnified, and exposes every defect.

“If someone listens to God’s word but doesn’t do what it says, he is like a person who looks at his face in a mirror, studies his features, goes away, and immediately forgets what he looks like. However, the person who continues to study God’s perfect teachings that make people free and who remains committed to them will be blessed. People like that don’t merely listen and forget; they actually do what God’s teachings say. If a person thinks that he is religious but can’t control his tongue, he is fooling himself. That person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:22-27)

When we look into this mirror we learn to lead with our ears … then with our mouth. Our actions will follow our words.

“For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.” James 2:13

When we look into the mirror of God’s word, what do we see?

  1. We see our flaws. We see that we are sinners.
  2. We also see that Jesus Christ died for our sins.
  3. We see that by believing in Jesus Christ, we can be changed forever.

God’s WORD is the ONLY MIRROR that CREATES BEAUTY!

“Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray … raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.” (1Titus 2:8-10, The Message)

“Just as water mirrors your face, so your face mirrors your heart.” (Proverbs 27:19, The Message)

[bctt tweet=”God’s mirror can make us beautiful on the inside—then it will change the OUTSIDE too! “]

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful …” (Ps 139:14, NIV)

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL—made in God’s IMAGE—a one of a kind, ETERNAL creation filled with giftings, destiny, and purpose … ALL YOUR OWN … but you say … I AM NOT PERFECT!!!!

Women love mirrors because we SEE ourselves. But we look into mirrors every day, seeing our:

  • Distorted reflection in the mirror of the WORLD
  • Imperfect and disappointing reflection in the mirror of our RELATIONSHIPS
  • Broken and destructive reflection in the mirror of RELIGION

Only the PERFECT MIRROR of God’s WORD can transform us! It creates beauty inside of us, which ultimately creates beauty on the OUTSIDE too. Once this transformation happens, we become a mirror ourselves. A mirror that reflects Jesus to a lost world!

“We can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.” (2 Cor. 3:18, TLB)

I say when we look long enough into God’s best beauty treatment ever—His Word—we can become MIRRORS!

So I ask again, “Mirror mirror on the wall … who is the fairest of them ALL????”

JESUS IS THE FAIREST ONE OF ALL

He is the PERFECT one. HE is the one who looks back from our reflection when we look into God’s Word. His perfection, through His Holy Spirit, looks deep into our hearts and fills us with His love, His purity, His wholeness, and His acceptance.

[bctt tweet=”He releases us from our imperfection … and through Him WE ARE MADE PERFECT.  “]

How is the WORLD shaping your image of yourself? How have your cluttered imperfect relationships bound you in unforgiveness and robbed you of love? How has a FAKE dead religion trapped you in unbelief and a prayerless, spiritual life?

It’s 2016. Are you ready to look into the MIRROR of GOD’s WORD and expect to be created into the beautiful woman living the future GOD designed you to live?