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Our ladies’ outreach ministry (the one I ended up in charge of and don’t know how) ended yesterday, and along with my superior team, we made our last morning a blast! In addition to sole-mate cookies, we had housecleaning jokes, old lady jokes….and an impromptu strip tease (ok, that was me and I was having a hot flash at the front!) Maybe you just had to be there! Seriously though, anyone who pictures a bunch of women gathered in a church basement, frowning and disapproving of every little move, has never spent time at Morning Break! Give me a microphone and I transform into a comedienne – and we laugh. Sometimes we laugh so hard, the tears are running down our cheeks (hopefully that’s all that running)!

The ladies had the misfortune pleasure of listening to me again (slight shortage of speakers) and I tried to summarize  7 chapters of the book What God Really Thinks About Women by Sharon Jayne, in 10 minutes. And since I was exhausted last night and I’m about to step way out of my comfort zone today to attend a conference, you have the  misfortune pleasure of reading it here. Happy Thursday!

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In the beginning, God created man and woman. He created woman to be a partner to man; to love Him, work with him, to rule with Him, to live with Him, to procreate with him, and to fight alongside him. Notice the word “with” – not “under” him or “for” him, but with him. After the fall in the Garden of Eden, our world went horribly wrong. Throughout history, women have been abused and misused, and often expected to live in the shadows of society.

Jesus was born in a culture where women could not talk to men in public, testify in court, or mingle at social gatherings. She remained the property of her father until she married, to become the property of her husband, who could treat her contemptuously and toss her on a whim.

Jesus wanted to restore God’s original design and purpose for men and women – to make disciples and to glorify Him – together! Over the last few weeks we have looked at some of Jesus’ radical relationships with the women whose paths He crossed before His death and resurrection.  We saw that Jesus crossed the man-made social, political, racial and gender boundaries to address women with the respect of a co-image bearer, and a co-heir to the inheritance of God.

Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is the “exact representation of [God’s] being”. So when we see Jesus, we see God and if we want to see what God thinks about women, we need only look to the actions and affirmations of Jesus. From Jesus’ birth, it was time for women to leave the shadows and move back into the light. These encounters and their recording are not coincidental. Jesus chose to pull each of the women we met, front and centre in the spotlight of His divine love and calling.

Jesus’ mission was about restoring all of humanity. His mission was about freeing women from a culture of oppression that bound them and kept them from fulfilling God’s original intent as His image-bearers. He came to restore women to a rightful position of dignity as one half of a whole, as co-heirs and co-workers to their male counterparts. Jesus was a radical reformer. He accepted women as they were, and then challenged them to become more. He purposely taught men and women and used illustrations from the lives of both genders. And He risked His reputation to save theirs – to liberate them from pious tradition, to heal them physically, and to set them free from spiritual darkness. He took the fearful and the forgotten, and transformed them into the faithful and forever remembered. It was often the “least of them that received the best of Him”.

Jesus made no distinction between male and female. In fact, He regarded people with respect to their relationship with God, or the lack of one. Jesus died on the cross in our place so we might live a free and abundant life with purpose and with value. I believe when Jesus was dying on the cross, He looked down at the men and women throughout history…and saw you. Do you feel abused, misused, neglected, or forgotten? Look to the Samaritan Woman at the well and remember how Jesus filled her empty heart to overflowing with Himself. Do you feel haunted by your past? Look to the worshipper who anointed Jesus’ feet; she was transformed from an Adulteress to one whom He Adores. Jesus healed the body of the bent woman, and well as the self-doubt and insecurities she carried. He can heal us too so we may walk with confidence. Jesus’ own mother was an ordinary girl who said “yes” to God, and was freed to do extraordinary things throughout her lifetime. He freed Mary from others’ expectations and Martha from worrisome ways.

All of these women were bolstered by Jesus to leave the shadows and to take their place with Him to change their world. He is calling us as well, to be the “leading ladies” in our own world. Some of us are called to be workers, while others are called to be warriors. Some are called to be encouragers, healers, or teachers. We are called to share Jesus! Through every story – theirs and ours, Jesus is always our focus – He is the hero who takes our breath away with His love. He takes mine away every day…

Bruce Marchiano paints a beautiful picture. I’m going to read it in the first person, and ask that you close your eyes and just listen to what God thinks of you…

He shapes your frame and shades your skin. He molds your mind and measures your structure. He sculpts the contour of your face, the almonds of your eyes, and the graceful stretch of your limbs. Long you ever spoke a word, he held your voice in His heart, and so He ever gently tunes its timbre. Cell by cell, tenderness by tenderness, and with care beyond care, in all creation He quite simply loves you.

***

Gracious Heavenly Father,

I ask that you restore dignity to the women who are here this morning. However it has been taken from them, or by whomever it was taken, Lord, bind those wounds. Replace in them a sense of just how much You love them, You value them. You have a plan and a purpose for each one of us and it is good. Strengthen our frames and give us the skill to meet each challenge that you bring into our lives. Teach us to be “leading ladies” and give us the courage to step out in faith. Amen.

 

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