Theology, Bill Johnson and the subject of suffering

Below is an essay I wrote recently. To be honest, it was not the subject I wanted to write about (I reeeeeally wanted to write about the Trinity, women and hierarchy) but God had other plans and, in life, I attempt, whenever possible, to follow his lead. Firstly, I apologise for the language but in the world of theology, you have to learn all these crazy words. Theology is, like, a different world, but somewhere I have found a home.

Firstly, I want to say that I truly believe we need to be able to critically assess our OWN HOMES. And by that I mean, it is so easy to see a stream of Christianity you’re not in and judge it. I have little time for that. Seriously, little time. Mainly because I think it is, a) a lot harder to see your own blind spots and/or, b) near impossible even looking for them in the first place! For full disclosure,  I am unashamedly Charismatic in my Christianity. I love it all! I love the pursuit of God’s presence through worship, I love the emotional reactions we have to God, I love our desire to see God move in supernatural ways; I am unashamed to say that God has knocked me on the floor several times through (what we like to call) “fire tunnels”; I have prayed for people and seen them healed, annnd I could go on…… But if there is one thing I have had to look at seriously whilst at Theology college (a college which is self-professed Charismatic in its outlook) is our theology in the Charismatic world. I need to add that whilst this essay is on Bill Johnson, I think his thinking is mild compared to some information that passes as biblical in the charismatic world!! However, he is a loud voice in the movement. I think the reason why I (God) wanted me to write this is essay was for people to start to look for their theological charismatic blind spots. I, personally, want to probe and investigate and reject ideas I may have had for years and years and replace them with something that resembles a stronger foundation of truth. So, below is a small part of a process that I have been on.

Classical Christology and the modern charismatic movement


The echo in Numbers 5 ritual and the woman caught in adultery in John 8

“if a man has had intercourse with her but it is hidden from her husband, so that she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her since she was not caught in the act; then the man shall bring his wife to the priest. And he shall bring the offering required for her, one-tenth of an ephah of barley flour. He shall pour no oil on it and put no frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of remembrance, bringing iniquity to remembrance……the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. The priest shall set the woman before the Lord, dishevel the woman’s hair, and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. In his own hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, “If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings the curse. But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has had intercourse with you,” —let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse and say to the woman—“the Lord make you an execration and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your uterus drop, your womb discharge; now may this water that brings the curse enter your bowels and make your womb discharge, your uterus drop!” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.” Then the priest shall put these curses in writing, and wash them off into the water of bitterness. He shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her and cause bitter pain.”

Numbers 5:13, 15, 17-24

“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.”

John 8:3-11

God is love, he has always been and always will be. He created us out of love. And it is with this in mind we must come to the Hebrew Scriptures. I propose that Numbers 5 narrative is an echo of the story of Jesus and the women supposedly caught in adultery.

Firstly, if someone is caught in adultery then both parties are to be called out and stoned, according to the law. If this woman was caught in the act, where is the man?? Second, Jesus writes on the ground, the dust where he walks. This is holy ground: Jesus is Yahweh incarnate and where he is, it is holy; just as the dust the priest take from the tabernacle and put in the water. Aside from this fact, grabbing some dirt and making a drink, if we think rationally about this, is not going to do anything. Drinking dirt certainly wouldn’t induce miscarriage. This act is a ritual. The Israelites would have seen rituals as very real, think the snake on a pole. That snake isn’t a graven image, it’s a ritual. It’s faith in Yahweh to do as he says to be saved from death, it’s an act of faith and trust that Yahweh will save them. So that same attitude, mixed with the superstitious mindset culture, would of taken this ritual of drinking water from the priest very seriously. Most in the world still have this understanding of the spiritual realm and their “power”. But really we know that this is nothing but the loving kindness of God. This water would have never caused miscarriage, I don’t believe. I think that IF a woman had had an affair (because this ritual is mainly to deal with a husband’s fear and “spirit of jealousy”) then drinking that drink would put the fear of God in her and I imagine she wouldn’t do it again. God’s mercy would undoubtedly lead her to repentance. The consequences of her actions would be the need to carry a secret to the grave with a child who was illegitimate, that would be punishment enough. And if she had not had an affair she would feel safe as she knows God knows the truth and he would keep her safe.

I see echos with the woman brought to Jesus. She may of had an affair, she may had not and they were using her. But his kindness towards her is his mercy, no doubt leading her to repentance and “go sin no more”.

When reading the Hebrew Scriptures try and see echoes of our over familiar ideas of a grace-filled Jesus. See God in the law as merciful and loving. Realise that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is our loving dad that just wants to be reconciled to us. He wants his people to be the example of his love to the world.

Being as Communion – loneliness; the silent killer

Loneliness will make people do things they may never have done if they were in true fellowship with others. Loneliness, if I looked up statistics, probably kills more people than any disease does. It will drive people mad and push them to feel things they may never do or feel otherwise. It will highlight pain, confusion and will increase depression and anxiety; loneliness is a silent killer of the soul.

The body of Christ is, just that, a body. If your body is sick with loneliness then we are not doing our job properly. Programs and courses are fine but if healthy love, support and community are not there we are failing. I’ve spoken about individualistic society in previous blogs, and it is this societal situation which would have been alien to the culture Jesus was born into. There was no need for Jesus to major on the need for community living because it was a community-based society. Therefore, as the church we have to be counter culture in more ways than one.  We have Biblical morality, which is becoming more and more counter-culture, and something many seem to hone in on, but we must look at this idea of being counter culture in terms of  our ‘living’ arrangements. This community-deprived culture is something that the church, in the west, really needs to address. We seem to have thrown the baby out with the bathwater; in our desire not to be ‘religious’ or ‘irrelevant’ we have managed to fracture what is so vital in the church – tight-knit community – and we must look at how we get this back ASAP. Because the much want for revival will be unsustainable without a solid, nurturing continuous community.  However, like revival, changing the tide is very difficult without people actually wanting it; lip service is pointless. Our community-deficient living is something that needs dealing with but it does not just lie at the feet of church leadership, ALTHOUGH leadership are the ones that must lead the way! Our lives are given, or supposed to be, given over to this life and that means our whole lives; there is no clocking off and if that attitude is there then we have completely missed what church actually is. A well-esteemed theologian named Jean Zizioulas termed the phrase – being as communion – we must look to that as our ‘slogan’ for Christianity, the whole of our being, our complete lives is about – loving God and others – that is being in communion without disconnection, just like the Trinity.

This blog is not about – we should do this or that and we will solve the problem – that would be far too arrogant and an over simplified understanding of a very complicated issue. Being counter culture is not an easy thing to navigate and anyone who thinks they’ve got it down are probably not doing it as well as they think they are. BUT it is an issue we really need to spend a lot of time working on for the best solution for our space on this planet. Yes, it won’t be easy, it won’t be comfortable, it will mean the killing of flesh and surrendering our lives, again.

I think the more I walk this life the more I realise nothing is supposed to be easy for the flesh, we got to crucify that thing, but the benefits will be so pure, and isn’t that the point of this life in Christ?

When other people who are lonely see that being in Christ and communion means you are never lonely again, you won’t need to do courses and flyers and spend hours in meetings trying to work out how to keep people in your church, they will want to be there and they won’t want to leave. If people aren’t lonely they won’t worry about rejection, they won’t want to be willfully disobedient to God to find comfort; because they will see communion as far more important than being relevant or caring what people outside the church think of them.


Election musings

Is it, or is it not, ironic that the vast majority of evangelicals that stand against women in any kind of leadership role inside the church (through woeful Bible interpretation) who say men are there to love & protect women as that is their ‘responsibility that comes with the role they’ve been given by God’; how is it that these same men are the ones giving Trump a free pass? How is it that these Christian male leaders think it’s perfectly acceptable to try and manipulate Christians from their stage to vote for men like Trump? How are you loving women and girls like ‘Christ loved the church’ when you actively promote a sexual predator into the highest office of leadership in one of the most powerful nations in the world? How is it that no matter what this man says or has done against women, and what that says about his character, women and respecters of women are suppose to turn a blind eye and vote for such a person to hold political office? 
No, men, you do not get to tell women to submit to your leadership, you do not get to say you love us like ‘Christ loved the church’ (the same Christ who lay his life down for every woman & girl ever to live a free life in Him) and then excuse the actions of a man who enables rape and sexual assault culture. 
From day one men have blamed women for their failures (‘You gave Eve to me God and she made me eat the fruit’ pretty much those words). From day one women have lived under the curse of men lording it over them. Yet Jesus died to rescue men AND women. Jesus died so we could come out from under the curse and live a life that, through Him and the laying down of our flesh, we have the ability to treat each other as equal in value and honour. When we both pick up our crosses, we can share roles in and outside the church without either of us acting like an orphan, because, there is neither male nor female in Christ, we are both children of God, meaning there’s enough for everyone! Men & women are equal partners in Christ: we are one. This oneness means you don’t want women or girls subjected to a culture that says joking about sexual assault & sexual abuse is just ‘banter’. The oneness should mean, when we (women) are hurting, then so should you (men)! That would be loving women like Christ loves the church. If you want to love us like Christ, then protect us and don’t allow men to carry on lording it over us with an undercurrent of power and violence. Don’t let one of the highest figure heads in the world be allowed to hurt the people Jesus died to save. Don’t let the curse still be a justification to make us all live like slaves. We. Are. Free. Act like it.


GUEST POST: The beauty of nature

And the Lord spoke unto Moses saying: ‘Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty, and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin. You shall make of it the Anointing Oil, a fragrant mix, the work of a perfumer.'”

—The Holy Bible, Exodus 30:23-24

I have adored the beauty of nature, all things earthy and fragrant, from childhood. So it comes as no surprise that several years of my adult life have been spent, conjuring homemade potions using traditional ingredients including skin beautifying plant oils, seed butters, sea and rock salts, sugar, honey and exotic spices as well as fragrances from leaves, bark and flowers. All in pursuit of creating a range of natural skincare that will make commercial, synthetic and chemically laden cosmetics less desirable.
At the heart of my (bordering on) obsessive Apothecary is a belief that wellness and a holistic approach to skincare; is indeed God’s plan and gift to humankind. In the first instance and in the same way that God provided food and water for nourishment of our bodies, He also provided compatible rejuvenating and healing natural ingredients for nourishment of our skin. Secondly, despite the innocent looking, sweet smelling and attractive packaging, nearly all skincare on the high street contain synthetic chemicals, which may have health concerns including allergies.

Paracelsus – The founder of pharmacology once said ‘All that man needs for health and healing has been provided by God in nature, the Challenge of science is to find it’.
One only has to observe the world’s obsession with coconut oil, yielded from the coconut fruit and renowned for plumping and smoothing skin; the golden treasures of argan oil that shines hair like nothing ever created in a laboratory test tube and the richness of shea butter harvested from shea nuts of karite trees which grow only in west and central African savannah belt to appreciate the diverse and lavish provision of a loving Creator who resided the first humans in an unadulterated Garden of Eden exemplifying innocence and pure beauty. And who can deny the olfactory pleasures of essential oils yielded fromm almost every plant imaginable. The fizzing accord of pink pepper, the sensual allure of Bulgarian rose, the headiness of patchouli and vertiver, the freshness of lavender and mint, the zesty-ness of citruses, neroli and bergamot. The list goes on and on…..
Perhaps the most lavish and sensory bible passage (out of several that relate to natural skin care and perfume ingredients) comes from the Song of Solomon 4:12 – 16 which depicts a vivid yet symbolic description of sexual love, between bride and groom; highlighting the rose of Sharon, henna, saffron, pomegranates and lily of the valley alongside other essences. I will leave you to look up these sensual verses to savour for yourself….
My prayer is that my lovingly handmade products would be welcomed by customers who share my vision of natural skincare provided through God’s abundant grace and that my heavenly scented products would not only bless my customers with gorgeous skin, but also become an indulgent part of their self-care ritual, to provide a momentary retreat from the hectic pace of life we find yourselves cast into.
Emma Akuffo is a recovering empty-nester, lover of all things Godly & spiritual, and founder of a number of natural skincare and fragrance start-ups – website links below.

Black History Month: Women of Faith

In respect for Black History month I wanted to celebrate a woman of colour who was a fearless woman of God.

Amanda Berry Smith (January 23, 1837 – February 24, 1915) was a former slave who became an inspiration to thousands of women, both black and white. She was born in Long Green, Maryland, a small town in Baltimore County.

Growing up, Amanda had the advantage of learning to read and write. Her father made it a regular practice on Sunday mornings to read to his family from the Bible. Her mother helped her to learn reading before she was eight and was sent to school. Schooling at this age did not last for long, around three months. Then at the age of 13, they had been given another option of attending school. However, they would only be taught if there was time after the teachers gave the white kids their lesson. After two weeks of attending school, they dropped out and were taught at home by their parents. With only having three and a half months of formal schooling, Amanda went to work near York, Pennsylvania, as the servant of a widow with five children. While there, she attended a revival service at the Methodist Episcopal Church

She worked hard as a cook and a washerwoman to provide for herself and her daughter after her husband was killed in the American Civil War. Prayer became a way of life for her as she trusted God for shoes, the money to buy her sisters freedom and food for her family. She became well known for her beautiful voice and inspired teaching and hence, opportunities to evangelize in the South and West opened up for her.

African American women struggled with receiving the respect they deserved even if they dressed the part and as a lady. This was due to “Shadowed stereotypes bred in slavery of wanton Jezebels and pious Mammies…” African American women in the nineteenth century took the way they dressed very serious and so did others. If they dressed any way out of their respective outfit, judgments would be made against them. These women did not want others to forejudge them from their appearances or perceive them negatively. The stereotypes of being a Jezebel or Mammie were a few of the characteristics of how others seen the African American women population. They were either Jezebels, women with high sexual appetites; or Mammies, a-sexual women who was thick with big breasts and large buttocks.

In 1876, she was invited to speak and sing in England travelling on a first class cabin provided by her friends. The captain invited her to conduct a religious service on board and she was so modest that the other passengers spread word of her and resulted in her staying in England and Scotland for a year and a half. She next traveled to and ministered in India, then spent eight years in Africa working with churches and evangelizing.

As a strong proponent of the Temperance Movement both in Africa and in the United States, she was invited by noted temperance advocate Rev. Dr. Theodore Ledyard Cuyler to preach at his Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn New York, then the largest church in its denomination.

She funded ‘The Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home for Abandoned and Destitute Coloured Children’. It was an institution for ‘the poor and friendless coloured children in a suburban neighbourhood’ in Chicago. The institution provided a home for children to become self-reliant. Amanda traveled many states to help gather money to support her work. Support for this institution depended on interracial cooperation for fund-raising. She soon met conflict with the orphanage due to many problems such as financial, a fire that destroyed the building, conflict between Smith and the staff, complaints from neighbors, and failed inspections by the orphan home investigators.

Her autobiography was published in 1893.

Amanda Smith retired to Sebring, Florida in 1912 due to failing health. She died in 1915 at the age of 78.

A woman with courage and valour that demanded a better life for herself and for others. A woman of God who knew the only way to live is to depend fully on Her Heavenly Father. Women such as Amanda have paved the way for, not just women of colour, but all women of God to follow their callings. God bless this woman! She stored her riches in heaven and will be reaping the rewards.

Reference: Wikipedia ( Amanda Berry-Smith.