Friday, March 28, 2008

Sweet water made bitter

A very beautiful piece of scripture with wonderful symbolism has passed through the hands of too many people and made bitter.

Ephesians 5:21-33 talks about the wonderful and rich relationship that can exist between husbands and wives and compares it to the relationship between Christ and the church.

One woman I know says that when she meditates on these passages and thinks of Jesus and Him nurturing and cherishing her, she is swept off her feet in worship. But when she meditates on these scriptures and thinks of her domineering and verbally abusive husband everything inside her tenses up and she's better off not thinking of them, otherwise she becomes resentful.

This woman has had the experience of having sweet waters made bitter by the traditions of men and the abuses of her husband. What Paul wrote in Ephesians was meant to bless men and women, but unfortunately it has been used against women, sending them back home to submit to a tyrant, all in the name of obedience to God.

The church has commanded abused women to drink bitter waters and then judged these women when they have gagged on these waters and spit them back out.

The worst part of all this is that there are so many more passages of scripture offering so much comfort and peace for these women who have suffered oppression in their marriage. But all some churches offer is the bitter waters of return and submit to the oppression.

Hopefully in the next few weeks we can explore together the sweet and living waters that Jesus Christ offers to all who are afflicted and see just how much He loves and cares for, nourishes and cherishes those the church so lightly esteems.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why the name for this blog

The Bible says in John 16 that we will have tribulation in this world. But Jesus comforts us with the words that we should take courage because He has overcome the world.

I would think that when dealing with tribulation, the temptation will always be to fall into bitterness. But Jesus encourages us that we should take heart. Therefore we should be able to overcome bitterness.

However, I have seen things that make me concerned. I have seen doctrine and pressure from church leaders that were not the sweet water that Jesus offered, but rather bitter waters. And those putting forth these doctrines and pressuring people to accept unrighteous decrees from leadership have been deceived and try to state that their doctrines are sweet.

Now those of you reading may wonder what I'm speaking of. I suppose there are many things that fall into this category. But I'd like to mention one in particular. And this is the pressure many churches have placed on women to remain in home situations where there is some sort of abuse.

For many years, it was as though churches denied that abuse existed.
But I had and early exposure to it's existence in the form of a sentence spoken by an acquaintance. She said that her ex tried to "beat the fear of God into me with a folding chair."

I was shocked by this statement. I had just given my heart to the Lord a few years earlier and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. And it hurt me that anyone thought that they could beat another human being with a folding chair. And I longed to tell the woman about the real love of God. But her heart was hardened. She preferred smoking, drinking, and partying now. They were better companions. And in all honesty, can anyone blame her if she felt her only choices were to be beaten in the church or to have fun outside the church?

Some reading this may believe that this is an isolated case, or that I'm exaggerating for the sake of shock value. But sadly, this thing of women leaving the church rather than being abused is more common than many polite Christians want to believe. The reason these women are leaving the church is because in many cases the church has turned a blind eye, or worse, blamed the victim. And these women have had enough. They refuse to drink the bitter waters that domineering men have tried to give them. But sadly they haven't found the true sweet water that Jesus had for them all along. So they left to find other waters.

And worse still, in many cases, instead of the church recognizing her error, it again blames the victim, judges and labels these women as unsubmissive and turns it's back on their wounded souls.

The good news is that things are changing.

The bad news is that it has taken so long and the church has lost many who would have been assets to the cause of Christ.

This blog is for women, both still in the church and who have left the church. Those who have been abused and been forced to drink bitter waters rather than sweet, and who have been judged for spitting the bitter water out. If you are one of those women, please feel free to tell us your story.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Sweetest Water of All

John 4:10 Jesus answered and said unto her, "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, 'Give me to drink;' thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water."

Just as Moses did not expect the children of Israel to drink bitter water and James rebuked believers for handing out bitter words by comparing them to bitter waters (see previous two posts), so Jesus gives out the sweetest water of all, calling it living water.

Those familiar with the story of the woman at the well in the Gospel of John would know that this woman was most likely not saintly in nature. But Jesus still offered her living water freely.
And with Jesus as our example, so should the church as his body and representation on this earth, ought to give out living water.

And yet, shortly after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, James is already pointing out and correcting the bitterness he saw coming out of believers.
Perhaps I'm not the only one that used to wonder why it is so easy for believers, those who have access to the sweetest water of all, why do believers succumb to bitterness?

Well, I've lived a few years before I first asked myself this question. And I've been through a little bitterness. So now I have a better understanding of how people can fall into this. And hopefully because of this experience, I can point a few away from bitterness and into the direction of the sweetness God has called his children to.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Blessing and Cursing

James 3:10-12 From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
Does a fountain send out from the same opening both sweet and bitter water?
Can a fig tree, my brethren produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Neither can salt water produce sweet.

Here James is speaking to his "brethren" which is the church. It is evident that individuals within the church were having difficulty with this issue of using their mouths to both bless and curse, to give out both bitter and sweet water. And James states clearly that such things should not be. And yet they were.
This would lead me to believe that if it could happen with the first century church, it most certainly could happen with the twenty-first century church. And not only could it happen in theory, I think many of us have seen it with our own eyes, and may have even felt the sting of it in our own lives.
But the worst part about it is that many individuals are completely unaware of the cursing and bitter waters that come out of their mouths onto believers and unbelievers alike. They are unaware that they have a bitter root within their hearts that their words, like water, pass over, and so are defiled.
That is why bitterness is called a root in Hebrews. It's because it is not always seen. But it will eventually produce fruit.
So what kinds of bitterness or cursings have been poured on you by Christian friends and family?
Did those bitter things produce a bitterness within your own heart? Were you able to overcome in some way? Or are you still struggling?
You don't have to answer me, unless you want to. But it might not hurt to answer your own heart and make it a prayer concern.
Bitterness comes. It can't always be avoided. And sometimes it slips in. But being aware of it's existence is the first step in getting past it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bitter Waters to Drink

Exodus 15:23 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter; therefore the name of it was called Marah.

Sometimes you go places where you can't get what you need, even the most basic things that humans need for survival. Sometimes, figuratively, all you need is a drink of cool, clear, fresh water. But all you see is bitter tasting liquid that people try to pass off as water. You taste it, and you know it is not fit to drink. So what do you do? Do you drink it or do you move on. Or do you pray for a miracle, something to make the bitter waters sweet so that you don't faint from thirst.