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Archive for August, 2010

Elsewhere on this Blog, we have stories of remarkable women who have stood up for what is right in the face of strong opposition. Jennifer Keeton is trying to maintain her beliefs and her constitutional rights against the courts, the university system, and the American Counseling Association. A generation ago she would not have had to struggle with this. Our country has changed so much in just a few decades that now the “powers that be” think it is all right to shove God andword to the side in favor of their own agenda. We were warned by many faithful witnesses in the past that if we did not stand up and proclaim God’s truth fearlessly we would find ourselves in this situation. (See my posting on Sophie Scholl.)

That the courts can now force a young woman to attend a “gay pride parade” which she would find offensive just shows how far the enemies of Christianity are able to go. Apparently it’s all right to make Christians do things which are offensive to them. When will the church wake up and see what is happening and take a strong stand?

If the church ignores these events, Christians will only have themselves to blame when they finally loses all freedoms.

I have posted below the entire article which I received from LifeSiteNews. I would encourage everyone to read it to see just how dangerous it will be for Christians if this young woman loses her case. Pay particular attention to the highlighted areas. Ask yourself, “How did we get here? Why do the secular organizations like the ACA have enough power to shut Christians up? Why do they get to have an opinion and make judgments, but Christians don’t?”  Notice that even though it is not all right for Ms. Keeton to have an opinion, they get to have one. Notice that they refer to counseling as a “judgement(sic)-free zone”, but they have already made a judgment of their own. And their judgment is that unless your opinion lines up with theirs, you are not entitled to it!

Remember: Sophie Scholl warned us, “If you don’t make noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion.” Yes, they will find you. Yes, you will keep on losing more and more of your freedoms. Let’s not let this happen.

Judge Denies Christian Counselling Student’s Request for Injunction

By James Tillman

AUGUSTA, Georgia, August 24, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) — On Friday, a federal judge denied student Jennifer Keeton’s request for an injunction prohibiting Augusta State University from expelling her while her case is being decided, if she does not attend “diversity sensitivity training” on homosexuality.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian legal organization representing Keeton, appealed District Judge J. Randal Hall’s decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Monday.

Keeton, 24, is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at ASU.  According to ADF lawyers, after her professors learned of her biblical beliefs regarding homosexual conduct, they imposed a mandatory re-education plan on her.

She was told to attend workshops to improve her sensitivity towards homosexuals, to complete remedial reading, and to write papers describing the impact of such measures on her beliefs.

Professors also suggested that she increase her exposure and interaction with the “gay community” by doing things such as attending a gay pride parade.

In an ADF video, Keeton said that “while I want to stay in the school counseling program, I know that I can’t honestly complete the remediation plan knowing that I would have to alter my beliefs.”

Attorneys with the ADF brought a case against the school alleging that the school had violated Keeton’s 1st Amendment rights by engaging in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.

ADF lawyers had requested an injunction preventing Keeton’s expulsion while the case proceeded.  Judge Hall ruled that although Keeton “may ultimately prevail in this case, the current record reveals that she has failed to clearly establish her high burden of persuasion of a ‘substantial likelihood’ of success on the merits of her case.”

Hall also stated that the remedial plan was apparently imposed not because of Keeton’s beliefs, but because she exhibited “an inability to counsel in a professionally ethical manner – that is, an inability to resist imposing her moral viewpoint on counselees – in violation of the ACA [American Counseling Association] Code of Ethics.”

The ACA Code of Ethics states that counselors are to “avoid imposing values that are inconsistent with counseling goals.”

According to Judge Hall, the faculty had not asked Keeton to change her beliefs, and had made clear “that it was not [the] Plaintiff’s personal beliefs that were their concern, but rather only her inability to separate her personal beliefs in the judgement-free zone of a professional counseling situation.”

For this reason he said that the defendants’ reasons for “imposing the Remediation Plan appear to be, on the evidence presented, academically legitimate, rather than a mere pretext to retaliate against her for expressing her beliefs.”

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Mary of Magdala

There is probably no woman in the Bible that has been as misunderstood as Mary of Magdala, also called Mary Magdalene. The church has often portrayed her as the sinner who wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair. But that text in Luke’s Gospel does not name the woman, and it is not likely that the woman spoken of there is Mary. Others have thought that she is the woman taken in adultery in John’s Gospel. Again, there is no reason to suppose that. We really are not told much about her former life. We should be careful and see just what the Bible does say about her.

The apostle Luke first mentions Mary when he tells us about the women who were following Jesus and the disciples ministering to their needs. “There were twelve with Him and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses; Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons gone out and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.” (Luke 8:1-3) These women were above reproach. We can be sure that Jesus and his disciples would not do anything that would ruin their reputations. Jesus’ enemies were always looking for ways to accuse Him. But no one could ever make accusations against the Lord for the way He treated women. Jesus thought that it was important for women to be disciples and learn from Him. He was kind and cared for them. One of these women was Mary Magdalene. We are only told that Jesus cast seven demons out of her.

The subject of demon possession seems very foreign to our modern ears. We do not really understand it in our day, especially in our culture. There are other places in the world, such as Haiti, where people fool around with demons, but to most of us they just don’t seem real.

For people in the area of Magdala in the first century, demons were very real. Magdala was a fishing village near Capernaum on the shore of Galilee. Apparently this area was a hotbed of demonic activity. Jesus had already exorcised a number of demons in that region. This was the home-town of Mary of Magdala, more often known as Mary Magdalene.

Though it seems unbelievable to us, there really are fallen spirit creatures called demons that indwell afflicted individuals. We have several stories in the Bible where these demons even talk through the lips of the possessed person. Jesus confronted many demons and healed many people from them.

Notice that Jesus “healed” them. Scripture portrays demon possession as an affliction. While sin may have played a part in the demon possession, none of the demoniacs in the Bible is explicitly associated with immoral behavior. These men and women were seen as tormented, unwilling people suffering wretched indignities at the hand of evil spirits. They were miserable, forlorn, heartsick, and pitiable creatures. Often the demoniacs were insane. Most of them had various illnesses. They were shunned by society and so they were ill-nourished and very poor.

This was the life of Mary of Magdala when Jesus found her. Her demonic possession must have been very severe; she had seven demons. So, she had the strongest of reasons to love and follow the Savior. He had saved her from much. He rescued her from illness and torture. Since the Bible portrays those who were possessed as afflicted with illness, we have no reason to believe that Mary was involved in any immoral behavior either before or after she met Jesus. She was a faithful, grateful follower all the days of her life. Her love for Him and her gratitude for her healing enabled her to devote her life, along with some other women, to wholeheartedly serving Jesus. She voluntarily used her own means to do this.

Mary was a very courageous disciple. When Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified, she followed Him, and stayed near to Him right to the bitter end. We know that she was at the cross with other women. “But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” (John 19:25) We know that most of the other disciples had scattered, but Mary stayed close by.

It must have been agonizing for her to watch the death of her beloved Lord. There was a mob there, screaming and shouting hatred at Christ. But she did not shrink away. She stayed close to Jesus to the end. When Joseph of Arimathea was given permission to bury Jesus, she followed him to see the tomb where Joseph took Him and how His body was laid. She went home and prepared some spices and perfumes, and then rested, because it was the Sabbath.

Early the next morning Mary went to the tomb bringing her spices with her. Imagine her surprise when the tomb was empty! She ran to tell the other disciples. Peter and John came. They saw the empty tomb, but they did not understand yet what was happening and so they went home. Mary stood outside the tomb weeping.  She thought someone had come and stolen away the body of Jesus. But then, Jesus Himself came and spoke to her. At first, she did not recognize Him. “Mary,” He said. When she heard that beloved voice say her name she knew it was her Lord. She was so excited that she ran to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.”

Jesus gave her a very special honor. She was the first person to see Him after He rose from the dead. Others had heard the announcement from angels, but Mary had the special honor to be the first to see and speak to Jesus Himself. “When He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene.” (Mark 16:9)

This was a special tribute paid to a faithful disciple. No one can ever share that honor with her or take it away from her. As women, we can and should try to imitate Mary in her deep love and commitment for Christ.

In our day, there are some really wild stories about Mary. You may often hear people criticize an immoral woman by calling her a “Mary Magdalene”.  Popular books and movies portray her as a loose woman. One apocryphal movie even makes her out to have been the wife of Jesus. This is all blasphemous.

The next time you hear anyone say something negative about this gracious, godly woman, I hope you will straighten them out! The Scriptures portray her as an extraordinary person. Let’s not let the popular misconceptions prevail. Mary was actually a faithful Christian who let her profound gratitude and love for Christ show. May our lives be the same.

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Perpetua and her slave, Felicitas were martyred on March 7, 203 AD. Perpetua was born in 181 and was only 22 when she faced a wild cow in the Roman arena. She had a small son that she was still nursing. Felicity was 8 months pregnant when they were arrested.

There were 5 Christians arrested together. Felicitas was concerned that she would be set aside until her baby was born. The Romans did not kill pregnant women. She wanted to face martyrdom with the others. She prayed to God about it, and several days before their execution her baby daughter was born. A Christian woman adopted the baby.

Their story has been well documented. Perpetua’s account of the story is considered to be the earliest of the writings of Christian women. The anniversary of their deaths is included in the Roman Church calendar. St. Augustine preached sermons about her. The early church believed the historical fact of her martyrdom and Christians have esteemed her very highly for centuries.

Perpetua’s mother and brothers were Christians as well. Her father however, was a pagan. He kept on trying to persuade her to deny her faith. First he ordered her, then he pleaded with her. She remained firm.

Here is the rest of the story:*

The day of their victory dawned, and with joyful countenances they marched from the prison to the arena as though on their way to heaven. If there was any trembling it was from joy, not fear. Perpetua followed with a quick step as a true spouse of Christ, the darling of God, her brightly flashing eyes quelling the gaze of the crowd. Felicitas too, joyful because she had safely survived childbirth and was now able to participate in the contest with the wild animals, passed from one shedding of blood to another; from midwife to gladiator, about to be purified after child-birth by a second baptism. . . . For the young women the devil had readied a mad cow, an animal not usually used at these games, but selected so that the women’s sex would be matched with that of the animal. After being stripped and enmeshed in nets, the women were led into the arena. How horrified the people were as they saw that one was a young girl and the other, her breasts dripping with milk, had just recently given birth to a  child. Consequently both were recalled and dressed in loosely fitting gowns. Perpetua was tossed first and fell on her back. She sat up, and being more concerned with her sense of modesty than with her pain, covered her thighs with her gown which had been torn down one side. Then finding her hair-clip, which had fallen out, she pinned back her loose hair, thinking it not proper for a martyr to suffer with disheveled hair; it might seem that she was mourning in her hour of triumph. Then she stood up. Noticing that Felicitas was badly bruised, she went to her, reaching out her hands and helping her to her feet. . . . And when the crowd demanded that the prisoners be brought out into the open so that they might feast their eyes on death by the sword, they voluntarily arose and moved where the crowd wanted them. Before doing so they kissed each other so that their martyrdom would be completely perfected by the rite of the kiss of peace. The others, without making any movement or sound, were killed by the sword. . . . but Perpetua, in order to feel some of the pain, groaning as she was struck between the ribs, took the gladiator’s trembling hand and guided it to her throat. Perhaps it was that so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not have been slain had she herself not willed it.

The martyrs were buried at Carthage. Today a magnificent basilica is erected over their tomb.

*“The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas” (translated by Patricia Wilson-Kastner in her book on early Christian women writers.)

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And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38)

It doesn’t take long to realize as you are reading Luke’s Gospel that he pays special attention to women. Luke is following Jesus in their concern for the poor and the downtrodden. Luke frequently mentioned widows. Anna was the first in a list including the widow of Zarephath (Luke 4:26); the widow of Nain (7:11ff); the widow and the judge (18:1-8); the widows abused by the scribes (20:46); and the poor widow who gave all she had to the poor (21:1-4). In all of these stories the point was to show that God cares for the neglected and followers of Jesus must care too.

Jesus was sympathetic and kind to women. By the time that Jesus’ ministry on earth was finished, the apostles had learned to accept the fact that women were called to be disciples of the Lord also. When Jesus came He not only came to redeem our souls but to begin the process of redemption for the whole creation. This included lifting women up to the position that they enjoyed at the original time of creation. For centuries misguided Pharisees developed a negative attitude toward women that reduced women to a lower position. Jesus would begin to reverse it. Men and women would begin to work in the kingdom of God together.

Luke went against the culture of the times by mentioning a female witness very early in the book of Acts. It is well known by now that women were not considered to be reliable witnesses by the Jews. The Rabbis attitude of Jesus’ day seems really strange to us today. We cannot imagine now how men could think it was all right to insult women in such a way. Surely women could be as reliable as men in witnessing. The Jewish leaders thought that it was blasphemous to let a women read the Torah. Today we cannot imagine that women would not be allowed to read the Bible. How did these changes come about? When Jesus came He lifted women up. The apostles carried on in the same manner. Luke records for us the change that occurs with Christianity in his Gospel and in the book of Acts. Christ’s followers must not imitate the Pharisees who held women down in ways that God never prescribed.

Luke makes a conscience effort to show how the status of women would be greater in the church than in their previous position in Jewish culture. There are twenty-three women or groups of women mentioned in the book of Acts. All except a couple of these are positive accounts. By that I mean that most of these stories are about women who responded to the Gospel with faith in Jesus and entered the kingdom of God.

AnnaProphetessAnna is the third woman mentioned in the book of Acts after Elizabeth and Mary. A very early disciple of Jesus, Anna the prophetess was given the special privilege of being one of the first witnesses to the Savior. Anna, Mary and Elizabeth prophesied about the Savior through the work of the Holy Spirit. Anna saw Jesus when He was only a baby and she recognized Him as the Messiah. This also was a gift of the Holy Spirit. Many others did not recognize their Messiah.

We do not know much about Anna. She was the daughter of Phanuel. She was of the tribe of Asher. That tribe was part of the Northern Kingdom. Recall that there was a split between the Northern tribes and the Southern tribes. In the north many of the Jews had intermingled with the surrounding heathens. The Jews in the south looked down their noses at them. The Judeans did not consider the Samaritans or other northern Israelites to be of the “pure” religion. The Judeans believed that only the temple at Jerusalem was the true temple. The people in the North had their own temple.

God was gracious to Anna’s family as they moved to Judea and worshipped at the temple in Jerusalem. They must have had great faith.

Anna married and became a widow. We don’t know how old Anna was when she married. Anna was married for about seven years and then became widowed. In those days women were generally married in their teens, so perhaps Anna was a widow for around sixty years until the age of eighty-four. In any event she was a widow for a long time.

As a recognized prophetess Anna had a room at the temple grounds. There were apartments there for God’s servants. During all of that time she was a faithful servant never leaving the temple and “serving night and day with fastings and prayers.”

Anna also went about telling everyone that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah thus also making her one of the first evangelists.

In Christ’s kingdom, ordinary godly women such as Anna would receive the gifts of the Spirit and serve the Lord. Thanks and praise to God for this wonderful story. It is an encouragement to all Christians, men and women, to live for God “night and day”.

 

 

 

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“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” C. S. Lewis

This saying is so true. Courage is grace under fire. The courageous woman takes a stand for righteousness even when others mock or persecute her. The courageous woman loves others and is not selfish.

Notice that courage is a virtue. As a virtue, it implies a willingness to accept God’s will. Women who refuse to obey God are therefore not acting virtuously or courageously. Their actions can be described as something else, perhaps “bravado” or “daring” or “brazenness”.

Bravado is arrogant behavior. This is not virtuous. A person may be daring for selfish motives; perhaps she merely wants to show off. Brazenness is certainly not a virtue. This hard attitude is displayed by one who has decided that she knows best and everyone else can just get out of her way.

The characteristic of brazenness describes Jezebel, a former queen in Israel, very well. I thought it might be interesting to show an example of the opposite of a courageous woman. Let’s take a look at her story and see why she does not fit the definition of a truly courageous woman.

She was not obedient to God’s will. Do you remember the story? Jezebel was married to Ahab, the king in Israel at that time. Ahab coveted a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. It was right next to the palace grounds and Ahab really lusted after it. He tried to bribe Naboth into giving it to him, but Naboth refused. The land was given by God to his family as their inheritance. He could not sell it to Ahab. So Ahab returned home to his palace and went to bed and moped.

Jezebel, the queen, came into the room and taunted him for not just taking the land. “Do you now reign over Israel?” (IKings 21:7) In other words, “You’re the king; just take it! Get out of bed and get something to eat. Stop moping about. I’ll get your land for you.” The fact is, God had given certain portions of land to each family in Israel for their inheritance. Jezebel did not care about this. She did not care about what God wanted at all.

She was daring, though a coward. Jezebel dared to plot against Naboth illegally. She found two dishonest witnesses to testify falsely that Naboth had blasphemed against God and the king. Apparently, she had enough clout with the leaders of the city to get them to have a mock trial, “find” Naboth guilty, and have him stoned to death. When she heard that Naboth was dead, Jezebel told Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” (IKings 21:15) Jezebel acted quickly and decisively to get the vineyard for her husband in the most high-handed way. When she used the authority that she knew the civic leaders would not dare to disobey, she was really showing what a coward she was.

Jezebel was probably one of the most brazen females in the Bible. Delilah and Athaliah were two others. That these women’s actions were brazen and not courageous is simply due to the fact that they were evil. They were not doing God’s will, but only seeking to advance their own desires.

She died a coward’s death and received a coward’s reward. After they seized the vineyard from Naboth, God sent a prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, to warn Ahab and Jezebel of their punishment for murder and theft. “Thus says the Lord, ‘In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs will lick up your blood, even yours.’” (IKings 21:19) “Of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’” (verse 23).

Some years later, these prophecies were fulfilled. While her son was reigning, the now widowed Jezebel continued to try and be the power behind the throne. When God’s servant, Jehu, came to Jezreel, Jezebel “painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out the window.” (IIKings 9:30) She wanted to entice him, but Jehu was on God’s mission to finish the punishment He had promised her for her part in the treachery against Naboth. Two servants threw her down out of a high window, and her blood sprinkled the wall and the horses. Later, thinking that after all, she was a king’s daughter and should be given a decent burial, Jehu sent some men to do it. But, when they got there all they found was “nothing more than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands.” (verse 35) And so the prophecy as given by Elijah was fulfilled, “In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the corpse of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the property of Jezreel, so they cannot say, ‘This is Jezebel.’” (verses 36,37) Thanks to the devouring dogs, burial was not possible and Jezebel’s life ended in disgrace.

And so, Jezebel does not fit our definition of courage. When people use the means that are available to them to stomp all over others, they are really cowards. The truly courageous woman does what is right, no matter the personal cost. Only a truly courageous woman rises above her circumstances to obey God and serve others.

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