Dear Church of God Friends:
February has long been recognized as Black History Month in the United States—an important focus to help all Americans discover, appreciate, and understand the terrific impact and contribution of Americans of African descent to our culture, advancement, and history. Such observations are important, because history books tend to highlight the achievements of those who write them (principally white men); overcoming that limited lens strengthens all of us and honors the diverse family of humanity God designed.
Similarly, women are often under-represented in the narrative of our past. And, yet, all of us know that women are half the world and indispensable players in a nation’s development and success. Women are, again by God’s design, life-givers. All of us arrived on the scene only after a mother’s journey through pregnancy and delivery. And, there’s so much more.
In March, 1857, a group of women in New York City’s garment district staged a protest demanding better pay and working conditions. As women, they were at the bottom of the economic ladder, with little voice and often abused. In March, 1911, an International Women’s Day was established across much of the English-speaking world, to highlight the stories of women who changed the world for the better and to inspire new generations of women to reach beyond the narrow band-width too often assigned to them by men in the driver’s seat. It wasn’t until October, 1929, for instance, that women in Canada were legally recognized as “persons” under the Canadian government’s governing charter. In 1987, the Congress of the United States, established March as National Women’s History Month (recognizing that signal protest in 1857); in 1992, Canada set October as its Women’s History Month (recognizing the history made in the Persons Case, brought to the highest court in the land). In both countries, these months set aside have highlighted the astonishing history of women across time, affirming the equality of women for the years ahead.
The Church of God has, from its beginning, been a Jesus-centered society of equals. Paul’s famous, unprecedented, and sweeping declaration in Galatians that in the community of believers, the church, we are neither “male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free,” but “all one in Christ Jesus,” has been etched in our hearts. We have, sadly, not always lived up to this high calling, but it cannot be denied that we have said we embraced it. Ours is a Movement of God’s people made possible by an army of determined, courageous, loving, and gifted women, standing at the fore, daring all who would hear to bring the Kingdom to life. Here. Now. The stories of women leaders in the Church of God are legion, if we will but rediscover them.
This month in the United States (and in October in Canada), make certain that there are women brought forward to the stage of your local church. Open your pulpit to the anointed proclamation of the Word, delivered by women (just as did Phillip’s four daughters who were evangelists in the Acts, or Anna the prophetess in Luke, or Mary Magdalene commissioned by the resurrected Christ Himself to be the first to declare the good news of His triumph over the grave to, er um, the men who had run away from the Cross).
Who are the women in your congregation that God may be calling to the ministry of the Word? Who has He already called? Who will you find and affirm in that calling? How will we bring the prophecy of Joel, proclaimed by Peter from the Pentecost balcony, to life, acknowledging the dreams and visions and prophetic witness of both our “sons and daughters?”
Do some homework. Share the stories. Of women of God who have changed the world. Plan to do it now, as the world around us pauses to think about the role of women and society, in history and in the future. Let us, in the Church of God, be not a thermometer but the thermostat of righteous social change.
I’m a guy. I get plenty of daylight on stage. This month, this year, let’s be certain our history is written by women, too. And celebrate it. For Jesus’s sake. He does.
If you’d like to know more about how to engage women in ministry, contact Christian Women Connection (CWC) and explore Arise! (the initiative launched to this end last year by both CWC and Church of God Ministries). You can find more information online at: www. arisechog.org or www.ChristianWomenConnection.org.
And, this month (February) make sure you see the outstanding motion picture, Harriet, which tells the inspiring story of Harriet Tubman. Cynthia Erivo’s performance in the title role will not soon be forgotten. It’s real history. Framed by Jesus. That changed the world. A woman. A woman of color. Her story needs to be told. Like so many others.
Thanks for being the Church of God. You know, the one our founders imagined. You know, the one Jesus imagined.
1. How did you feel standing in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born? How did experiencing the celebration of the Good News remind you that this fallen world still has a savior?
Our arrival in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve could not have been better planned. Watching people from many countries press their way into the Church of the Nativity to honor our Savior’s birth left me with great hope. Hope that in spite of the brokenness in this world God sent a Savior to redeem every one of us who will believe on Him.
2. As you’ve journeyed where Jesus lived through his life with joys and sorrows. How does His journey mirror your own in life and ministry? (example: fervency and passion for the children of God to serve the Lord/teaching and praying for people/praying for God’s will in your life/knowing the journey will be hard, but nevertheless, God’s will be done/believing healing for others who do not believe it themselves/seeing something that was dead be brought to life), etc.
I thought on more than one occasion “How patient Jesus was! He was willing to go through all the stages of earthly life-connecting with humanity in every facet so he could intercede on our behalf on Calvary. He knew our arrogance, our shortcomings, and our unworthiness-yet, he was willing to die for us. I’ve had to look again at my ministry. “How quick am I to brush off people who just don’t get it? How willing am I to listen to excuses for people’s short comings and not become judgmental? In order to do the works Jesus did he had to really See and Hear the people. His heart was touched and he desperately wanted to ease their pain and suffering. I needed that reminder. I have to love the people so they can See Jesus in me.
3. How did the wailing wall remind you that no matter the ethnicity, background, gender, or culture, everyone has burdens to lay at the feet of Jesus?
Struck by the awesome opportunity to DARE to talk to God on your own behalf, I was reminded of Hagar in the wilderness, frightened and desperate only to discover that this is El Roi “the God who sees me.” As I pressed slips of papers through the cracks in the wall containing names of family and friends, I realized it was a reminder for me-not God. He already knows everything about me and everything I-and those I prayed for-needed. Every human being has the right to call on God- and He will hear. Even though the area is segregated by gender, those petitioning God-on both sides-prayed earnestly and fervently regardless of their station in life.
4. Remembering the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Rahab, what strikes you most concerning the determination of these women? Did they have something in common that any woman going through hard times can be advised?
Despite their dire circumstances, these women were ‘life preservers.’ Each was concerned with the welfare and survival of someone other than themselves. Rahab for her kinsmen and Ruth and Naomi for one another. They were all shrewd, resourceful and creative problem solvers.
5. Can you share a simple testimony about God’s sovereignty? Can you imagine how the blind man could not see and still found his way around the city and ended up in Jesus’ vicinity? He stumbled into a blessing! What were your thoughts on those roads? How have you stumbled into a blessing this year? The very first night was the blessing I needed. We were unable to take the bus to our hotel after dinner because a dignitary was in the area and all of the streets were closed to traffic. Our hotel was at the top of a steep hill and we had no choice but to walk. I said out loud that I couldn’t do it. A fellow traveler and his wife said “Oh, yes you can do it and we are going to help you!” He took my backpack and she took my arm and together we made our way up that hill! The tone was set for me for the rest of the trip. God will send help in all situations and I had to be wise enough to accept it!
6. Petra, a city made out of rock that has lasted for thousands of years, reminds us of the scriptures of building upon a solid foundation. How can building upon a solid foundation bring us peace when the storm has arrived?
The structures bear witness that nothing can shake the purpose for which they were created. What if my walk with Christ could always bear such a witness? Walking through this amazing land I could hear the words of a song we sing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”
7. How did the scripture in Lamentations 3:22-23 ring true for you?
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. In the presence of such grandeur there seemed no end to the remarkable creations. At every turn there was something new and unexpected that brought a sense of peace and assurance with each majestic discovery.
8. How were you reminded that so many people in the world (not only the Western Society) revere Christ as Lord and Savior?
Christmas in Bethlehem left me speechless. The sounds the sights, the crush of people pressing in to see the site of the manger. People were weeping with joy as they approached the site of Jesus’ birth. This was true adoration- something I’m afraid is missing in our Western culture. There were too many languages to try to understand. Yet, there was one Name that drew tears and cheers from everyone who had come to worship: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
9. How did your journey remind you that Jesus’s birth can be celebrated any time of the year? Interwoven in our journey was the constant reminder that the Promise and the Fulfillment of the Promise could never have taken place without the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
10. You stood on the steps where Jesus taught the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew. Out of the Beatitudes, which one is your favorite and why?
“Blessed are the peacemakers…” rang true for me as we stood in a land where peace is elusive at best and nonexistent at worse. A broader world view shows us how desperately we need to hear and heed Jesus’ words in this sermon.