Are Men and Women Equal in God’s Eyes?

Series: Preacher: Date: September 13, 2015 Scripture Reference: Genesis 1:26-28

On February 22, 1911 an inventor named Gaston Hervieu climbed the Eiffel Tower to test a new parachute for pilots. He checked the wind, took a nervous breath, and began. As you can see in this picture, his silk parachute filled with air, then sailed safely to the ground.  Now—Hervieu did not make the jump himself. Instead he WISELY used a 160-pound test dummy—but to a man named Franz Rechelt this was an outrage. You see, Reichelt was an Austrian tailor who was developing a parachute of his own. Reichelt denounced Hervieu’s use of a dummy as a “sham” and, one year later, on the morning of Sunday, February 4, 1912, he arrived back at the Eiffel Tower to conduct his own experiment. As Reichelt posed for pictures in this odd getup he announced, “I am so convinced my device will work properly that I will jump myself.” Gaston Hervieu pulled him aside and tried to stop him. He claimed there were technical reasons why Reichelt’s parachute would not work. The two men had a heated discussion until, finally, Reichelt walked away.

Now—modern parachutes use 700 square feet of fabric and should be deployed only above 250 feet. Reichelt’s parachute used less than half that amount of fabric, and he deployed it at 187 ft. So the scientific fact is, he had neither the surface area nor the altitude needed to make a successful jump. And Hervieu was not the only one who had told Reichelt that his parachute suit would not work. It had also been rejected by a team of experts who told him, “The surface of your device is too small. You will break your neck.” But, instead of changing his invention—Reichelt clung to his bad idea in the face of all evidence and advice.’ He donned his contraption, jumped, fell four seconds—accelerating constantly—until he hit the ground at sixty miles an hour, making a cloud of frost and dust—and a crater six inches deep.  He was killed on impact—because he ignored the laws of aeronautics.  He clung stubbornly to his own opinion in spite of all the data to the contrary.

Sadly many of us often do the same thing when it comes to the Bible. We base our attitudes and actions in life not on its teachings—rightly divided—-correctly taught—but rather on our own stubborn opinion—or on the opinions of others.

Over the past year or so I have come to the realization that I have been guilty of this kind of thinking myself when it comes to the role of women in the church. In the past I based my views on what other people taught me—instead of my own study of the Bible.  I followed their example and emphasized some passages while ignoring others. All this gave me as flawed of an understanding of this subject as Reichelt had of parachutes. And that brings me to the focus of my preaching for the next four weeks. With God’s help I’m going to try and explain what I have come to believe the Bible teaches about men and women. Now—one thing I’ve learned in my study is that you can’t really cover this issue in one sermon. There are just too many texts to cover in 30 minutes time. So if I don’t get to a text that pops up in your mind this morning—be patient. I will cover each and every one of them. I promise.

Now—to give you a little context on all this—and this may be a surprise to some of you who are visiting or are new to our church—we have female deacons here at Redland—and have had for over 25 years. A couple years before I came on staff in 1990 the pastor at the time was confronted with this decision and spent a year in study before presenting his findings.  The church voted to ordain women as deacons—based on that study—-and as I said women have been serving along with men as deacons ever since. This female deacon deal was new for me—but I came across a verse that helped me embrace it. I’m referring to Romans 16:1 where it says that Phoebe was a deacon at the church in Cenchreae. Well, for the past two and a half decades God has blessed this decision here at Redland.  Our female deacons have done an excellent job serving the families of this church.

But on the other hand 25 years is a long time—and Redland is always changing as people transfer in and out of our area.  We are a completely different congregation than we were back in the late ‘80’s. So—this fall when we began talking about ordaining a woman as a hospital chaplain, I felt the need to study this myself more in depth and present my findings to you through this series. Now—before we get going I want to say a couple things. First—I want you to know that I begin this study with the goal—not of dividing us but of actually strengthening our unity as we all come to understand better what the Bible—not opinion or tradition—the Bible—says about all this. Second—not that you need it—but I give you permission to disagree with me.  I’m the pastor but I believe in the priesthood of the believer so you can decide to interpret the Bible differently than I do. But if you DO disagree—I ask you to do your best not to damage our precious unity.  I may be naïve, but as I told you a few weeks back, I believe Christians can disagree and still love and treat each other as friends who stick closer than a brother. In fact, that is our Lord’s command.

So, I’m asking you to be prayerful as we study. Join me as I invite God’s Spirit to guide us into all truth—as Jesus promised He would. Pledge to approach this study in a spirit of humility, recognizing that all of us are fallible people in need of God’s guidance. If you will make that commitment will you raise your hand?  Thanks! Okay—other than my own personal Bible study, my SOURCES for this series are three. First—and foremost—a series of Bible Studies led at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago by John Ortberg back in 1999 when he was on staff there (I am relying heavily on his insights). Second—a book by Shirley Stephens published by Broadman press entitled, A New Testament View of Women, and finally Women in the Church, published by Intervarsity Press—and written by Stanley Grenze and Denise Muir Kjesbo.

One more thing and we’ll get started.  Each Wednesday for the next four weeks, I’m setting aside my Bible Study time for a Q & A about the prior week’s sermon. If you have questions, I encourage you to come to the Upper Room Wednesdays at 6:30 and after our prayer time ask them.  Or—call me or e-mail me.  I’ll even meet with you to talk if that will help you understand my viewpoint.

Now—before we go FORWARD I want us to look BACK a bit so we can see that down through the years many people have embraced less than favorable views of women. For example, Aristotle wrote that, “the female state is a deformity of nature.” In the 13th Century St. Thomas Aquinas, the respected theologian and philosopher apparently agreed with Aristotle and said that “woman is defective and misbegotten.” Some of you may remember that until 1920 women were not allowed to vote in the United States and the reason was the belief that—they lacked sufficient intelligence and maturity to have a say in who governed them. Until the 19th century, married women in many states could not legally own property.  To this day in China and India, countries where sons are valued more highly than daughters, ultrasound is sometimes used illegally to determine the sex of the fetus—so that females can be aborted or poisoned at birth.  There are some Islamic countries where the VICTIMS of rape are charged with and imprisoned for adultery.  And—in many parts of the world—even here in the U.S.—women are used as a commodity in the evil business known as sex trafficking.

Now—of course Christians in our day and age don’t affirm any of these horrible practices—but there is still confusion and disagreement within churches as to the role of women. Many base their views not on Scripture but on their own opinion. And this leads to women being treated wrongly at times such that in many churches there are restrictions on a woman’s participation in the life of the community. For example, in some women are limited in the way they can use their teaching gifts.  Many congregations to not allow women to share in distributing communion—other than to prepare the elements and iron the table cloth that is put on the communion table.

Fifteen years ago John R. Rice wrote a book called, Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers. No kidding—that was the title of his book, and he writes in it, “I have no doubt millions will go to HELL because of the unscriptural practice of women preachers.” Regardless of where you stand on the issue of women preaching—surely no one can find Biblical support for his statement that the we could go to Hell for simply listening to a woman talk while standing behind a pulpit.

With this sad history in mind my goal is to do my best in this series to answer this question: What’s GOD’S plan for male and female? And of course the way to ANSWER that question is to look to GOD’S WORD and which is what we’re going to do. For the next month we’re going to look together at what the Bible says because the Bible—rightly divided—or correctly taught—is our authoritative guide as Christians—and as a church. The Bible—not culture, not trends, not society—not tradition—not personal feelings or experience—the Scripture is our authoritative guide. And I’ll be direct in this series. We’re not going to duck any issues or evade any questions. My intention and prayer is to do as thorough a study as possible.

Okay. This morning I want hang my comments on the answer to two questions and the first is the same as my title: Are men and women equal in the eyes of God?  This got me thinking about that old book: “Children’s Letters to God. In it one child wrote, “Dear God, are boys better than girls? I know You are one, but please try to be fair.” Well, with God’s help I’ll try to be fair in answering this first question. Here’s the second question I want us to deal with today. “Do men and women have equal opportunity for service in the church?”

Okay—open your Bibles to the book of Genesis let’s look at the first two chapters. If you wonder why I’m beginning here instead of in one of Paul’s letters—-it’s because in these verses we get a glimpse of God’s ORIGINAL intention for the human race.  These chapters help us to see WHY He created male and female—why He made mankind two different genders in the first place.

(1) So—question one—what was God’s original idea? Are men and women equal in His eyes?

Okay—as you look through these chapters I want you to take note of a familiar phrase. In the first five days God speaks things into being: the land and the oceans and the plants and the animals and God always says that it was what?  Right—He said it was GOOD. So it’s an abrupt change when in Genesis 2:18 on the sixth day God says—and this is before the fall—God says “It is NOT good—for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for Him.” God didn’t want man to be alone. But man had no one to experience oneness or community with. So in verse 18 God says, “I will make a HELPER suitable for him.”

Now, I want you to circle that word “helper” and here’s why.  There’s a good chance that like me you were taught that this word HELPER meant God made the woman, Eve, to be kind of a junior assistant for Adam. I mean, there was a time when in my opinion Adam had a lot to do, but he couldn’t get all the tasks done himself, so God gave him a kind of “gopher” that he could delegate some stuff to—somebody lower down on the organizational chart, who could go out for coffee while he subdued the earth. But there are problems with interpreting these verses like this.

First, this word that’s translated “helper” which is “ezer” in the Hebrew—“ezer” is used 21 times in the Old Testament. Does anybody want to guess Who ezer” refers to MOST?  Right—to God! 18 of the 21 times “ezer” refers to our Heavenly Father. For example, turn to Psalm 33:20. It says, “We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our HELP and our shield.” Turn to Psalm 46:1 where it says, “God is our refuge and strength—a very present HELP in time of trouble.”

Now, if that word is most often used for God, then clearly “helper” here PROBABLY does not mean somebody who’s lower on the status chain than the one that they’re helping. Notice something else, and this is very important in this text because the context helps us to translate “ezer” correctly. Notice WHAT IT IS that the female—the helper—is to help the man do. In Genesis 1:28 God gives mankind—male and female—the SAME mandate. Verse 28 says, “And God blessed” who? God blessed? “THEM, and said to THEM, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” So God gives the mandate to rule or reign or have dominion over the earth to BOTH the man and the woman — to THEM. There is no hint in this text of any division of responsibilities. It does not say that the man is to have dominion or authority over the woman, but that they’re both to have dominion over the earth. I imagine many of you are thinking of some of the things Paul said on this issue—and as I said, we’ll get to that in next week’s sermon so hang in there. But I will say that my own belief—including my understanding of Paul’s writings—is that men and women are to be co-regents with God. We are to share dominion together.

Now, there’s another issue related to the Genesis passage that I want us to look at. Sometimes people argue that because man was made FIRST and woman was made SECOND, it implies that man is superior—better than woman. Paul says this but I don’t think this is what he meant for several reasons. For example, according to that rationale wouldn’t the animals be above us? After all, they were made before people. I know that sounds silly but it is what a lot of environmental extremists are saying these days.  I’m thinking of the dentist that shot that lion in Africa—and PETA said the dentist should be shot—executed for his action.

Here’s another thing Ortberg points out—if you embrace this argument of ORDER you have to admit that ORDER works both ways. In other words, you COULD say, “Well, God made the animals first and then he made man. And man was an improvement over the animals.  Then God said, ‘I’m through warming up,’ and he made woman.” We chuckle but the truth is, there’s no superiority one way or the other. It’s not about superiority. Men and women share equally. They are equally made in the image of God, and they SHARE dominion over creation. Don’t get me wrong. Men and women are NOT the same. But God’s original intent is for men and women to COMPLIMENT each other—not to COMPETE with each other.

In any case, I think the best understanding of these opening chapters of Genesis is that this was God’s original intent. Male and female are equally made in his image, they were created to know community with one another, and they were made together to share ruler-ship over the earth.

But then in chapter three bad happens. Adam and Eve disobey God and God pronounces a CURSE in which He lists all the consequences that come as a result of the Fall. And of course there are ALWAYS bad consequences when we ignore God’s loving laws. As I’ve said before we don’t as much break God’s laws as we break ourselves upon them. Well in this first sin there are many painful consequences: there’s a loss of innocence as Adam and Eve hurry to cover their naked bodies. Plus, mankind would now work by the sweat of his or her brow. Think of everything from houses that won’t stay clean to rush hour pile ups. In other words, life becomes hard—because of sin. And—for the first time DEATH enters the picture—a death of oneness between man and woman as well as physical death. Funerals begin. The SYMPATHY card business is founded. And as bad as that sounds the WORST consequence of their sin by far is spiritual death. There’s a death of the oneness between mankind and our Creator. God made us to enjoy fellowship with Him but Sin stops that. Sin separates man from God.

Now look at Genesis 3:16 where God says to Eve, “[Because of your sin] I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.”  And notice the next line, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This reminds us that because of the Fall God’s plan for oneness in marriage gave way to men ruling over the woman—and when fallen man did this—it led to sexual sin and practices like polygamy—not to mention the Jewish attitude about women where wives could be divorced for putting too much seasoning in the soup or talking too loud or burning toast.

Well as we remember what things were like BEFORE the fall—I think we would all have to say that this kind of thinking—man RULING over woman is very clearly NOT a part of God’s ORIGINAL intent before the Fall. It’s a part of the CURSE—just like pain in childbirth and just like the frustration of labor. And the curse is not a good thing which is why it has always been God’s plan to have the curse overturned. In fact, we see God already working to do this right there in the Garden. In Genesis 3:15 God promises to send a Redeemer—Who would destroy the Serpent’s work—crush his head. Of course that Redeemer is Jesus. In Galatians 3 Paul says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us.”  On the cross Jesus took the punishment of our sin on Himself so that we could be cleansed. Romans 8 says that all creation GROANS to have the curse lifted. And as Jesus said in Revelation 21:5 “I am making everything NEW!” Jesus came to reverse the curse—to make things like they were BEFORE the fall—eternally NEW—to forgive us of our sins so we could walk through life with God as Adam and Eve did.  He paid our sin debt and in so doing made it possible for us experience ONENESS with Him and each other.

My point here is that the idea of one gender ruling over another was not God’s plan laid out at the beginning of creation.  Because of the Fall, the relationship between male and female and the relationship between them and God—which was meant to be characterized by oneness became a power struggle.  Remember Eve blamed the serpent and Adam said it was all Eve’s fault and then he went on to blame God as well. I also have to point out that it’s wrong for us to place the blame of the curse solely on Eve. Yes—she sinned first—but only after losing a very serious theological debate with satan himself. All it took for Adam to sin was for Eve to say, “Here, take a bite of this.” As the Apostle Paul says, Adam was not deceived like Eve—but in my mind Paul was saying that’s even worse. I mean, he didn’t have to be TRICKED into sinning. He just had to be given the opportunity. So as Romans 3:23 says, “ALL have sinned” —beginning with Eve AND Adam.

Now—I want to stop and make a quick application. Maybe you’re here and you have been hurt or are being hurt by someone of the opposite sex. Maybe your marriage has become a blame-filled power struggle that has led you to have a lot of bitterness toward your spouse. I would remind you that men and women are not enemies. Our enemy is the evil one. He is the one that wanted to strike at the oneness between us. And he still does that. Right now in this body, at your work, in your marriage, the evil one does not want there to be friendship, respect and honor between male and female. He hates that. He hates community. And most of all He does not want us to walk in obedient oneness with God.

Well, as I have said inequality and the loss of community between the sexes is part of the curse, part of what Jesus came to redeem us from. Part of that means helping women and men to once again know the joy of full community. We are to know the dignity of being equal bearers of the image of God, and to know the fulfillment of co-dominion in work and ministry. And this brings us to the second question that we will deal with this morning.

(2) “Do men and women have equal opportunity for service in the church?”

I believe the answer is YES. After a great deal of study and prayer it is my conviction that this is what the Bible teaches—and we see that beginning to happen even in the Old Testament as women play roles in the work of God that are very significant. Even there we get glimpses of the curse being reversed. For example, God chose several WOMEN in the Old Testament to be PROPHETS, to speak authoritatively on His behalf. Miraim, Moses’ sister, is called a prophet in Exodus 15:20. In Numbers 12, She is called “one to whom the Lord spoke.” This is an exalted title to give to a woman in that culture. Huldah was another woman who was called a prophet. In 2nd Kings 22, Josiah was the king of Israel. He was a reformist king; he wanted to lead the people back to God.  So Josiah sent his priest to this female prophet named Huldah—and she gave explicit teaching and commands from God to the priest and the king.

Okay, in my mind—people who take the position that God is opposed to women teaching and leading men are faced with a DIFFICULTY. Namely, why would God have the king and the priest go to a woman for authoritative instruction if that’s violating His own will? Why wouldn’t God just tell Josiah or the priest? Another place we see this is in the Book of Judges. Turn to chapter 4 verse 4. It says, “Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was…” — and what’s the next word in the text? Right she was “LEADING.” It is also translated “JUDGING.”  But in the NIV it’s translated “leading”“DEBORAH was leading Israel at that time.”  But however you translate the word—the fact is in those days, judges were the authoritative figures in Israel.

They exercised political leadership, judicial leadership—cases would be brought to them and they would judge. Let’s keep reading. This is an amazing story. “She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephriam, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided. She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: “Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor.’ God says, ‘I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.”

Now Barak was the general of the troops and he said to Deborah “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” “‘Very well,’ Deborah said, ‘I will go with you. But because of the way you’re going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.’ So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, where he summoned Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.”

One thing I have to point out is that Barak’s name meant “lightening.” He’s a powerful figure but old Lightening won’t go to battle without Deborah—whose name in Hebrew meant “honeybee.”  Interesting. This reminds me of something I came across a few years back about how at Mattel’s toy factory, somebody switched voice boxes between GI Joe and Barbie dolls. Kids would pull that little ring and Barbie would say, “Let’s move out. Show some guts.”  When they pulled it for G. I. Joe, he said, “Let’s go shopping.” So GI JOE sounded more like a honeybee and Barbie sounded more like a LIGHTENING warrior!

All kidding aside Deborah was a judge, which meant she was the highest leader of Israel.  She was married but she—not her husband—she was chosen by God to be the leader of His people, the people of Israel, which, of course, INCLUDED her husband. And that brings that question to mind again. I mean, if God were opposed to a woman in leadership, why would He do that? Why not pick a man to lead?

That’s the OT—well, when we get to the New Testament there’s even more examples of this principle We’ll talk more about this next week but the fact is Jesus was quite unique among the rabbis of His day in His treatment of women. You see Rabbis generally held women to be INFERIOR. This was the common theme in Judaism. One ancient rabbinic saying said, “It’s better for the Torah to be burned than to be taught to a woman.” There was an ancient prayer that is found in several texts, “Blessed art Thou, oh God, Who did not make me a Gentile, a dog, or a woman” — in that order. That’s how women were perceived. A devout rabbi wouldn’t even TALK to a woman.

In fact, there was a certain group of rabbis. You’ll think I’m making this up, but I’m not — there was a group called the “bruised and bleeding rabbis.”They believed that even to LOOK at a woman would lead a man astray causing him to sin.  So they walked with their eyes either down like this, or they would close them altogether if they thought there was a woman in their peripheral vision so as to keep them from seeing her. Because of this they were forever bumping into buildings and falling off curbs—which explains why they were called the “bruised and bleeding rabbis.” I’m not kidding.

Well, against this backdrop you begin to see how REVOLUTIONARY Jesus’ attitude towards women was. One of the most shocking examples of this is in John 4.  Early in Jesus’ ministry, He went to the Samaritan woman at the well. And in verse 27 it says, “Just then His disciples returned, and were SURPRISED to find Him talking with a woman.” I think “shocked” would be a better word because, as I said, rabbis didn’t do that in Jesus’ day. It just wasn’t done. But Jesus did. And He didn’t just TALK to her. He engaged her in a theological discussion about worship. Then when she realized Who Jesus was she became His emissary—His spokesperson to the entire town. And Jesus didn’t just SPEAK with women. He allowed women to TOUCH Him. Remember the sinful woman in Luke 7?  Imagine the scandal when she loosed her hair publicly, which was illegal for a woman to do. She loosed her hair and anointed Jesus’ feet.  And He received it and told her that her sins were forgiven and commended her for her faith. Okay flip over to Luke 8:1 where it says, “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom the seven demons had come out;  Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”

Now we tend to just skip over these words but do you have any idea how unprecedented this was in Jesus’ day—to have a rabbi traveling with a group of men AND women—relating to one another as brothers and sisters? In fact, these women were the ones taking the lead in helping to bankroll Jesus’ mission. And not only did Jesus did NOT find that demeaning—He welcomed it!

Now turn over a page or two to Luke 10:38. And first I want to give you the context of a phrase that we see in this passage. It’s a phrase that has to do with being at someone’s FEET.  So hold your finger there and flip over to Acts 22:3. Paul is talking about his life story. He says, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the FEET of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law.” To be at the feet of someone was a technical term for being a Rabbi’s disciple. It was a way of saying, “I was Gamaliel’s graduate student. I was his disciple.”   By the way, there is no record of any rabbi in Jesus’ day having a female disciple, none. Now look at Luke 10:38: “As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary,”  And what did Mary do? She—“sat at the Lord’s FEET listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked,  ‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset by many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Now, in our day, when we preach this text we make it about Mary temperaments and Martha temperaments and about being busy at the wrong things—good stuff—but that’s not how it would be read by a 1st century reader. Any reader in the 1st century would expect Jesus to agree with Martha and tell Mary to get busy in the kitchen. The startling point of this story is that the woman who was commended is NOT the one who plays the role of hostess and cook.  The woman who is commended is the one who became a student, a disciple of the rabbi, and sat at His feet and learned from Him. Jesus says, “That will not be taken away from her.”

You know, I have two BEAUTIFUL, INTELLIGENT daughters. I look at the gifts God gave them. I look at their minds—Sarah’s insightful blogs and Becca’s passionate well-worded advocacy for the poor and for the disenfranchised in our world. And I have to say. I am so grateful to serve THE Savior Who said in essence, “I want women as well as men to sit at My feet, to learn from Me and to serve Me.”  I’m so grateful Jesus cherishes and uses the gifts of my wife and my daughters as seriously and as deeply as He does the gifts of myself and my son.

Well, the New Testament tells us that women continued to play a crucial role in Jesus’ life right to the end. When He was crucified, it was only a small group of women, along with John who followed Him all the way to the cross. In Matthew 28:10 we’re told that women served as the first witnesses to His resurrection. Once again, this is VERY significant to 1st century readers because in those days, women were not allowed to serve as witnesses in legal proceedings. If somebody committed murder, it could be watched by a hundred women, and if no man saw it, the murderer would get off scot free—because they had no legal status as witnesses. But WOMEN—not men—WOMEN are the FIRST witnesses of the resurrection. In fact, one of the marks of the authenticity of the resurrection for historians that study these sorts of things—one of the reasons they say we can trust these accounts of the resurrection—is because nobody in the first century would have made up a story where women were the witnesses. It would never be in there if it hadn’t happened that way.

Jill Briscoe shares about a time many years ago in her life when she and her husband, Stuart, were doing street evangelism in a real difficult, rough section of London.  Their team would play music and then get a real brief shot at explaining the Gospel message to all the gang members who would come.  Jill writes, “One night, this guy said to me, ‘I don’t want to see your face messed up.’ So I said, ‘No, I don’t want to see it messed up either.’ “He said, ‘I’m going to tell you something. There’s a gang coming tonight who doesn’t like you. Things could get ugly so tell that husband of yours what’s going to happen.’” Jill says she dashed out and found a policeman and begged him to come in. She writes, “The policeman looked at me and said, ‘You must be crazy. You’d think I’d go to a place like that with that mob? Forget it!’ And off he went. So I ran to my husband. I told him, ‘Stuart we’re going to have trouble tonight. There’s a gang coming.’ I was especially concerned because Stuart had asked me to give my testimony that evening. I was sure when I gave him this inside information as my protector and head he would say, ‘That’s fine, Jill, I’ll take charge of this. You go back stage and pray.’ So I said to him, ‘I’m sure you don’t want me giving my testimony tonight.’ He said, ‘Why not?’ I said, ‘Well, the gang is coming in, and they’re going to get us. And my friend said he doesn’t want my face messed up, and I don’t either. And I’m sure you don’t want my face messed up.’ And Stuart said cheerfully, ‘Oh, when they see a woman up there, they won’t touch you. The Salvation Army often sends women in first, and they almost never touch them.’ I said, ‘I’m not the Salvation Army. Stuart. You’re supposed to be my head. So you preach and I’ll just go backstage and pray for you.’ “He said, ‘Jill, I think you’ve got a story to tell, and I think you can tell it. I think you have a gift, and I think you should use it.’ And he said, ‘I’ll be right up there with you. I’ll be right there. Let’s do it, Jill. These kids haven’t rejected Jesus. They just haven’t had a chance to receive Him. Let’s tell them.’ So there I was, and sure enough the gang came in. They surrounded my platform and the ugliest and most frightening one who was the leader stood right in my face.  I took the microphone, and I was so scared I was shaking. Stuart had his arm around my shoulders and he was urging me on, ‘Go for it, go for it.’ I was quivering and suddenly that frightening leader in front put his hand on my shoulder, and I panicked.  I looked up to Heaven and said into the microphone, ‘I’m coming, Lord,’ —which was extremely embarrassing because I wasn’t. So when I didn’t go, I looked around and there he was, the gang leader, looking very startled. He patted me on my shoulder, calming me down. ‘There, there, love,’ he said soothingly. Then he got up on the platform. He put his arm around my shoulder too, and he said to the crowd, ‘Look what you’ve done to this poor woman. She’s scared out of her wits.’ I didn’t tell him that it was him scaring me out of my wits. I just smiled and said, ‘Thanks. Can you get them to listen to me for a minute?’ He rose to the occasion, ‘Sure.’ Then he glared at the crowd and said, ‘Don’t you make one sound.’ And you bet they didn’t. So I said, ‘Thank you.’ And I told them about Jesus, and the love of God, and the cross, and the resurrection, and Pentecost. I told them all that God had made them and Jesus had died for them—and they could know God personally. They could open their hearts, and He would come in and forgive them no matter what they’d done. I told them Jesus loved them to distraction. That night many, many came to the Lord. And suddenly in the middle of that talk, a great shout of affirmation burst from my heart, a shout of ‘Yes! This is what I was made for.  This is the Jill Briscoe I’m meant to be, trained and ready-made for this hour.  Every day ordained for me had been written in His book and matched with my gifts and talents, and with Stuart, my beloved counterpart. We were heirs together doing it for God.’”

Pray with me.

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