Is there a need for a female identity?

Some feminists may be driven by a desire to find a female identity, just like we were driven to find an Asian Jesus, a black Jesus, and a white Jesus. Sure some women who may have experienced abuse by men might find it more challenging to relate to God as “Father God”. As a result of abusive treatment by men, some women may find it difficult to think of God as a loving fatherly figure (such may be the opinion of some Christian psychotherapists). In such cases, they might find it easier to relate to a “gender neutral” God. I can see why the Roman Catholic Church has found “Mary, the mother of God” to be a useful feminine identity. Women who have been abused or those who have become resentful of men might find a feminine figure like Mary easier to identify with. However, I am not suggesting that we Protestants should begin saying “Hail Mary” like Roman Catholics. What I am saying is that those who need healing from past abuses might then be more readily able to identify God with gentler and softer characteristics. They still have the Holy Spirit to relate to as their “Comforter”. With the Holy Spirit’s comfort, guidance, inspiration, and etc., do we really need a feminine God? The Holy Spirit or Comforter has connotations of one who comforts. In the bible, God is said to act like a comforting mother (Isaiah 66:13); one who cries out like a woman in childbirth; one who acts like a mother eagle; and one who rages like a mother bear (Hosea 13:8). These are vivid imagery and can add meaning to how we think of God as one who comforts, cares, cries, and protects ones children. To say that God is a “mother bear” or a “mother eagle” would be incorrect. Likewise, to say that “God the Mother” is identical to saying “God the Father” is to be unscriptural and unorthodox; this is to speak on a completely different level. In the biblical text, no one has ever addressed God directly as a mother. This is why I suggest that our practice of addressing God as “Father God” is clearly orthodox, scriptural, and free from any ambiguous scribal errors.

Salt and light in the world

After my wife came back from BreakForth in Edmonton, AB, I noticed in her a renewed passion for God and spiritual things of the Lord. It made me reflect and ask: “How much of what we learn in the classroom is really useful in the real world?” What I am learning in seminary does seem far away from the average layperson in the church. Sure, academic learning is useful for the mind; it does builds understanding. But in the real world of congregational ministry, is the theory/theology I learn going to really impact the average layperson? Perhaps to a certain extent pure knowledge may help them but to genuinely influence a person, one ought to have some spiritual depth within. An empty vessel is just an empty vessel. An empty vessel has nothing to offer others. It is only out that which comes from the abundance of one’s spiritual depth that will impact a person. People don’t care about how much we know. They care about how much we love and care about them.

As we ask God to fill us with more of the Holy Spirit and become more like Christ, and shape us more into his image, we will be more useful in the service of God. The Spirit calls each of us to be in a closer relationship with the Lord. As we connect with others, others will sense a spiritual depth within us and will cause them to become more hungry and thirsty for the presence of God. When our own spiritual “cup” is full, God’s presence will overflow out of its abundance. In this way, we may be the salt and light in this world. God calls the church to be in mission for others. The purpose and mission of the church can be empowered as each of us become like salt and light.

Preaching that moves the heart and soul

Sermons preached from the pulpit are sometimes heard loud and clear, but most sermons are heard most loudly when it is done softly in the power of the Holy Spirit. Preaching empowered by the Spirit moves the heart and the soul to action, repentance, and submission to Jesus Christ. Dry intellectual-type of sermons like this overly-theological stuff on my blog doesn’t do much for the soul either. Finding the right balance is tricky sometimes. Perhaps a preaching style with a combination of John Wesley, Charles Finney… and Veggie Tales might work? (photo: Rev. John Wesley, a revivalist preacher)

My personal reformation by the Word and Spirit

How do we experience a personal reformation? By hearing the teaching, the preaching and by experiencing the sacrament of the living word who is Jesus Christ. This has been my personal experience. As one hears the living active word, the Holy Spirit awakens faith within a person’s spiritual inner being. The Holy Spirit arouses our inner spirit-being to be regenerated, bringing new life. One will never be the same again. This is what Martin Luther calls regeneration; today’s evangelicals call it being “born again”. Luther actually said: “It was like I was born again.” Though some Lutherans will deny that regeneration is not the same as being “born again”, it really is the same thing but using different words. It is all semantics; however, the evangelical definition of “born again” has connotations of evangelicalism. Thus, Lutherans seem to want to keep the definition of “regeneration” distinct–but it is actually the same thing. Evangelicals have an easier time pointing back to an experience they can remember; whereas, Lutherans are called to “remember their baptism” as a continual everyday thing. (see my posting on Dec. 28, 2006) [photo: Watchman Nee who in 1952 was imprisoned for his faith, tortured and beaten black & blue; he remained in prison until his death in 1972. His words remain an abundant source of spiritual revelation and supply to Christians throughout the world.]