The Mailbag: I’m a female executive in the workplace. Is this OK with God?

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Women executives and managers in the secular workplace…. I have been battling this and feel I should no longer have the position. My husband is not quite in agreement. I want to honour God. I have been in upper level management since I was 25 years old- 33 years…. About two years ago God started to deal with me here. I do not have a peace.

I’m a tad bit unclear on your question. I’m not sure whether you’re asking if you should be working outside the home at all or if you’re thinking you shouldn’t be working in an executive/management position because it places you in authority over men.

If it’s the former, the short answer is that God’s design is for a wife and mother’s primary focus to be caring for her family and her home. There are seasons in life (for example: before you have children, after they’re grown and have left the home, etc.) in which a woman can do that just fine while holding down a part-time or full-time job, and there are seasons in life in which working outside the home would cause a woman to neglect her primary responsibility of home and family (and sometimes there are emergency situations in which a woman has no choice but to work outside the home).

If your question is whether or not you should work at all, you and your husband will need to sit down, consider all the factors, pray over it, and try to reach a consensus. If you cannot, Scripture is clear that you are to submit to his final decision on the matter.

But I’m guessing your question is the latter: “Is it biblically permissible for a woman to hold a position of authority over men in the workplace?”

Technically, the answer to that question is yes. (Unless, of course, your workplace is a church and it’s a 1 Timothy 2:12 situation.) Scripture does not prohibit women from holding positions of secular authority over men in the workplace, politics, volunteer or civic positions, etc. What the Bible forbids is women preaching to, teaching Scripture to, and holding authority over men in the gathered body of Believers (the church). This command does not apply to non-church gatherings, events, or positions. (Click here for more detailed information.)

However, it’s a little more nuanced than a simple “yes, you can” or “no, you can’t”.

One of the reasons Scripture doesn’t address the issue of women holding positions of authority over men in the workplace is that this wasn’t an issue in the culture and time when Scripture was breathed out by God. Generally speaking, women of the Bible weren’t career women. At that time and in that culture, a woman’s “career” was wife and mother.

We do see women like the Proverbs 31 wife and Lydia earning money from their work, but it was an extension of their work in the home as wives and mothers (Also, in Lydia’s case, her work is mentioned before her conversion. We don’t know whether or not she continued her sales business after she got saved.) They weren’t leaving the home every day to go work in someone else’s business.

The point is, the mere fact Scripture doesn’t address a particular scenario doesn’t give us blanket permission to do whatever we want about it, nor does it mean the Bible blanketly prohibits something. We have to look further.

When Christians make decisions, we always make them by correctly handling and applying Scripture. The first thing we look at is clear cut commands and biblical principles. For example, if you were looking for a job and there was an opening for a stripper or an abortion doctor, or a job that required you to lie, or a job that said you couldn’t (even in your off time) read your Bible or share the gospel, you would know right off the bat that those jobs violate clear commands and principles of Scripture.

So the first thing you’ll want to do in your situation is sit down and think about any clear commands of Scripture or broader biblical principles that apply to your situation. Scripture does not prohibit you from working in a supervisory position over men, but it does command you to submit to your husband and to live peaceably with others (including him) as far as it depends on you.

If, “My husband is not quite in agreement,” means the two of you need to talk about this issue more, then by all means, keep discussing it until a decision is reached. (It might even be helpful to set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling.) But, if it means he has stated that he wants you to continue in your position (and your job does not cause or require you to sin), you need to respect and submit to his decision. You can certainly keep praying about the situation in your personal time with the Lord. You can also revisit the issue if the situation changes (ex: an opportunity to work from home arises, you’re offered a better job or early retirement, etc.). But today, joyfully and graciously submit to your husband.

The next thing Christians need to consider when making a decision is, “Is it wise? Is it helpful?” Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Both of these verses are written in the context of setting aside your personal rights to do something non-sinful for Christ’s higher calling to serve or do good to your neighbor. And remember, your husband and family are your closest neighbors.

Ask yourself some probing questions. Will this non-sinful thing I want to do, and have a right to do, make it more difficult for me to share the gospel with someone? Is it best for my family? Will it be good in the short term, but detrimental in the long term? Is it wise stewardship of the blessings, resources, and positions of influence God has given me? Will it create unnecessary strife in my marriage? Could denying myself the right to do this thing be more impactful for the Kingdom than doing it?

Has the desire to do this non-sinful thing become an obsession you can’t let go of? Repent and determine in your heart not to be dominated by it.

One of the “wisdom questions” you and your husband might want to ponder in your situation is, “Is it difficult for me to transition from being the boss of men at work to submitting to a man at home?”. If your job is tempting you to sin against your husband or making it more difficult to obey Scripture’s command to submit to him, that’s a weighty factor to consider.

You might have noticed that I have not said anything about the necessity of “having a peace” about whatever decision you and/or your husband have reached. That’s because there’s nothing in the Bible about a peaceful easy feeling being a sign that you’ve made a godly decision. Feelings are subjective (and often deceitful and wicked). We can’t depend on them to lead us in a godly direction. Scripture is objective. We can always depend on Scripture to steer us right, regardless of our feelings.

So dig through Scripture with your husband, pray together about the situation, get some wise counsel from your pastor or other mature believers, and come to a mutual conclusion if at all possible. But in the end, make sure you’re submitting first to Christ and His Word, and second, to your husband.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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Unforbidden Fruits: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach the Church

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Ladies, we whine too much.

Like petulant little girls, we look at what’s off limits to us, stomp our Mary Janes on the floor and cry “Why can’t I? I want to!” instead of giddily jumping into all the opportunities God has blessed us with. Instead of being happy and thankful for what we have, our greedy little fingers stretch out to grasp what God has said we can’t have because it’s not good for us or anybody else.

God has instructed pastors – who are, in turn, to instruct us – that, in the gathered body of Believers, women are not to preach to men, instruct men in the Scriptures, or exercise authority over men. And that’s what we focus on, and whine and kick our feet about. That part – the childish rebellion and discontent with the role God has graciously placed us in – that’s on us.

But pastors, we badly need your help on this one. Many pastors do a wonderful job of rightly and biblically explaining what women are not to do (And may I take a moment to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I know how difficult that can be and that you take a lot of undeserved flak for simply teaching God’s Word on this subject.), but that “no” teaching has often not been coupled with the “yes” teaching of what women must do and how they must lead in order for women, and the church, to be healthy and function properly.

You’ve loved us well to tell us not to bite at the apple from the forbidden tree, but we also desperately need you to take us on a tour of the Garden and introduce us to the all-you-can-eat buffet of pear and peach and cherry and pecan trees that we have the privilege and the responsibility to feast on.

🍊 The Other Institution 🍊

Did you ever notice that the “do” for women in the church comes before the “don’t”? We tend to totally skip over that enormous little word that kicks off 1 Timothy 2:11: “Let a woman learn…”. We have no idea of, nor appreciation for, how huge and groundbreaking it was for the Holy Spirit, through Paul, to proactively instruct pastors: “Hey, get these women in here, make sure they listen up, and train them properly in the Scriptures so they’ll be equipped to fortify their homes with biblical truth.”

We completely miss the fact that, though God installs men as the teachers and leaders in one of His foundational institutions – the church – He has very much made women the functional, boots on the ground, day to day, teachers and leaders by example – of His other foundational institution – the family. The church didn’t even exist for the first few millennia of human history, but the family has existed since Creation. And people who are members of families populate and lead the church. Raising and molding those people is a tremendous position and responsibility. A position and responsibility God has largely given to women.

Wives pray for our husbands’ growth in Christ. We build them up with Scripture. With a gentle and quiet spirit, we set a godly example for them as they observe our respectful and pure conduct. We encourage and help them in their leadership roles at church.

Moms pray for our children’s salvation. We pour the gospel into them at every turn. We train up our children in the way that they should go – in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – so that when they are old they do not depart from it. We teach them to love and serve and invest in the church both directly and by modeling these things for them.

And our single, widowed, and childless sisters work right alongside us in this labor, praying for church leaders and members, nurturing children at church whose parents are unsaved or unequipped to raise them biblically, encouraging and assisting brothers and sisters in Christ.

We grow and develop, nourish and support, exhort and sharpen the population of the body of Christ.

Men may lead the church, but women raise the church.

🍐 Woman to Woman 🍐

Essential to the health of any church is the component of women training women, whether in the formal setting of a Bible study class and structured women’s ministry programs or an impromptu “let’s get together for coffee this week” discipleship discussion.

Though we receive instruction in Scripture from our pastors, elders, and teachers, there are some counseling and teaching situations it’s not appropriate for a man to address with a woman, or that a woman understands better than a man. There are issues women face that men just don’t “get” in the same way a sister in Christ does. There are insights and perspectives a woman can use to explain Scripture to another woman that a man just doesn’t have. There are times when a woman needs someone to walk through a long term emotional journey with her that requires a personal intimacy which would be inappropriate for a man to engage in with her. And in the same way men are better equipped than women to train men to be godly husbands, fathers, and church members, women are better equipped than men to train women to be godly wives, mothers, and church members.

God knew all of this back when He breathed out the words of Titus 2:3-5…

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

…and, again, 1 Timothy 2:11:

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.

Women must be trained properly in the Scriptures so we can take that training and pour it into other women, teaching and sharpening them into godly women, wives, mothers, and church members.

🍑 Super Models 🍑

Women instruct our brothers and sisters in the church in biblical truth when we lead by example. When we sin against someone, we go to that person and ask forgiveness. We demonstrate the importance of meeting together with the Body by being faithful in our church and Sunday School attendance. We model servanthood by serving the church and our brothers and sisters. We paint a picture of biblical compassion by ministering to the sick and others in need. We show Christians how to carry out the Great Commission by sharing the gospel. We set an example of trusting God when others see us depending on Him through difficult situations.

And one of the most important biblical concepts women have the privilege and responsibility of teaching the church through our example is submission to authority – a lesson the church is sorely in need of these days.

Because God blessed us by creating us as women, we have an opportunity to model submission to authority in a unique way that God has chosen to deny to men.

As we submit to our husbands, we teach the church what it means to submit to Christ. How to walk in humility and obey Him out of love. How to put selfishness aside. To trust Him to take care of us. To deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him.

When we submit to God’s design for leadership in the church and joyfully carry out the work He has planned for us as godly women, we teach the church to submit to God’s authority and love Him by obeying His commands. We instruct our fellow church members in respecting and submitting to the pastors and elders God has placed in spiritual authority over us.

Submission to Christ, to God’s commands, and to pastors and elders is the bedrock of a healthy church. God has graciously given women the role – and the duty – of teaching these and other biblical principles to our churches in a way that men cannot -through our example as godly women.

 

Remember the series of fun little nutritional books that came out several years ago called Eat This, Not That? The idea the books centered around was, “Don’t eat that unhealthy thing. Eat this similar but healthy thing instead.”

Sadly, many Christian women have only been getting half the story. “Not that” (preaching to/teaching men and exercising authority over men) is biblically correct, but it’s not biblically complete. If all you tell someone is “Don’t eat that,” without showing her the “Eat this,” part, what she needs to eat to be healthy, she’s going to starve, and the church will be malnourished as well.

Christian women need our pastors to teach us to eat the fat of the land of being properly trained in the Scriptures and drink the sweet wine of leading and instructing the church the way God gifts us and requires us to. Only then will the Body be healthy and well nourished.

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: Is It OK for Christian Women to Wear Bikinis?

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It’s that time of year again, ladies :0)

Originally published February 27, 2017

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Summer is just around the corner, so a lot of women will soon be shopping for swimwear. With regard to modesty- do you think it’s OK for Christian women to wear bikinis?

I’m trying to remember back to the days when I might have actually considered – without doubling over in laughter – wearing a bikini. It was a really long time ago. Young, svelte sisters, if I may bring you a bit of comfort- you won’t have to grapple with this question for the rest of your life. As your other older sisters and I can attest, one day, age-appropriateness, your figure, sun exposure, and the desire not to frighten people will make this decision for you long before you have to consider modesty as part of the equation. It’s one of the blessings of getting older.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s quickly define our terms. When I say “bikini,” I’m talking about the fabric equivalent of a bra and panties, not swimwear that covers a lot more yet comes in two pieces.

bikini-377488_1280women_in_bathing_suits_on_collaroy_beach_1908_photographed_by_colin_caird
     bikini                           not bikinis

Generally speaking, I don’t think bikinis are wise in public unless you’re wearing a shirt or some kind of cover up over it. I’m reluctant to make a hard and fast law about it, though, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not wear a bikini.” (My husband would like to chime in here and says, “However, if you and your husband have a private place for just the two of you to swim or sunbathe, go for it!” You’re welcome, guys.)

As with various other issues, the Bible gives us a general principle (in this case about dressing modestly) and we work out our own salvation in our own cultural context according to all pertinent biblical principles and our own consciences. A law is a fast and easy “yes” or “no” answer to our question- which is often what our flesh wants, because our flesh is lazy. But what God wants Christians to do is study His word about the issue, pray, and ask Him for wisdom to make a godly decision. When we work through this process, it helps us to develop a greater desire to be conformed to the image of Christ and to be obedient to Him. Let’s take a look at just one passage of Scripture that could be helpful in this regard:

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8 

So, at first glance, you might wonder, “What in the world does this passage have to do with wearing a bikini?” It doesn’t have anything to do with the bikini itself, it zeros in on your heart (Why do you want to wear a bikini?) and your sanctification (Will wearing a bikini make me more Christlike?).

Verse 3a:
Examine your heart- could your motive for wearing a bikini be classified as selfish ambition or vain conceit? Is it possible you want to show your body off to men to appear desirable, or to women to make them jealous?

Verse 3b-4:
Is this a situation in which you should humble yourself and put the interests of those men who might be tempted to lust or those women who might be tempted to covet ahead of your own desire to appear attractive?

Verse 5:
Do you truly desire to have the same mindset as Christ- about this issue and all others?

Verse 6-8:
How did Jesus approach life, according to these verses? He set aside His own rights and privileges (6), He took on the role of a servant (7), He humbled Himself and was obedient to the point of death (8).

When it comes to wearing a bikini, are you willing to have the same mindset as Christ? To set aside your own rights and privileges, be a servant to others, humble yourself, and obey Christ even to the point of death?

These are not questions God wants me to answer for you. These are questions He wants you to come to Him and answer, because He wants your heart. And He wants you to examine your heart and see if it belongs to Him in this area.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 19- Keturah, Hagar, Sarah, Rebekah

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

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Read Genesis 25

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Questions to Consider

1. Who are the three women named in verses 1-18? What was the relationship of each to Abraham? To the Abrahamic Covenant? Based on your answers to these questions, why don’t we hear anything else about the sons of Keturah and Hagar after Genesis 25? Why does the Bible follow the story of Abraham’s lineage through Sarah (Isaac) instead?

2. Why, in terms of inheritance and the Abrahamic Covenant, would Abraham have sent the sons of Keturah and Hagar away from Isaac? (6)

3. Briefly describe Sarah’s, Keturah’s, and Hagar’s “callings” in life. Did Hagar and Keturah have less intrinsic value as people in God’s eyes than Sarah did simply because their roles in Old Testament history were different from hers? Does the fact that God calls different people to different roles in life mean that He values or loves people with “important” roles more? Who places or allows people to be in the roles or life circumstances they’re in? Does God view our status in life the same way people do?

4. Do you see some similarities between Sarah and Rebekah in this chapter?

🍼 What is the first similarity we see in verse 21 (compare with 11:29-30)?

🍼🍼 Compare Isaac’s age when he married Rebekah (20) to his age when Jacob and Esau were born (26). How long did Isaac and Rebekah wait for God to open her womb? How long did Abraham and Sarah wait (compare 12:1-4 with 21:5)?

🍼🍼🍼 After opening their wombs, how many sons of the Covenant did Sarah have? How sons of the Covenant did Rebekah (24) have?

🍼🍼🍼🍼 How did Rebekah (23) and Sarah (17:19) find out about these Covenant sons?

5. Consider Rebekah’s possible concerns and emotional state at being barren for so long, and then bearing only two sons, when God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be “as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore”. How might God have used these circumstances in her life to teach her to trust Him? (22-23)

6. How do the motifs of barrenness, miraculous conception, and the one, promised, long-awaited son of the Covenant foreshadow the birth of Christ?

7. How does the story of Esau despising his birthright and Jacob redeeming it further confirm what God told Rebekah in verse 23 – that Jacob would be the son of the Abrahamic Covenant?


Homework

Think about the roles and statuses God has placed you in. Are you famous? Unknown? Do you wield a lot of power and influence, or very little? Are you wealthy, poor, or somewhere in between?

Read the Parable of the Talents. “Talents” were units of money the master entrusted to his servants to invest. What kinds of blessings, influence, resources, and abilities has God entrusted to you? Your marriage? Your singleness? Your home? The position you serve in at church? Money? Your children? Your job? Your relationships with friends?

What matters to God – how many of these things He has blessed you with, or how you steward them for His glory (see verses 21 &23)? List three ways you can faithfully make the most of the roles and statuses God has called you to for His glory.


Suggested Memory Verse

And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger.”
Genesis 25:23

What I’m Listening To (the one with the music)

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Most of the time, if I’m listening to something, I’m listening to podcasts. (If you want to check out the ones I like, look to your left under “Blogs and Podcasts I Follow”.)

But when I run, I sometimes listen to music. Most of my “Running Music” playlist is up tempo Southern Gospel. I happen to like Southern Gospel music. I like multi-part harmony and antiphonal songs. I like actual singing (as opposed to the breathy moaning so popular in vocal music today). And I like the fact that I can pick just about any Southern Gospel song at random and know I’m going to hear clear and specific references to Jesus, the cross, sin, repentance, the Bible, and Heaven. None of these veiled allusions to something that might be biblical. Nothing that could be confused for a love song to the lyricist’s girlfriend. I like my gospel unmistakable.

I also choose Southern Gospel because it’s easy to find up tempo songs. I tend to match my running pace to the beat of the music, so slow songs aren’t going to cut it. I’ve tried finding upbeat, doctrinally sound contemporary worship songs with little success.

So here are a few favorites I run to. What are you listening to these days?

He Made A Change

 

Goodbye World, Goodbye

 

Hallelujah, I’m Going Home

 

I Believe It All

 

Can He, Could He, Would He?

The Mailbag: Is “Jesus loves you” enough of the gospel?

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I work in a parachurch organization in which I teach children. I have a passion for these kids to know God and know His Word. My direct supervisor, as well as the head of the organization, want to only emphasize God’s love and that we are ALL children of God. I am wrestling with this because I just don’t believe that I should make saying “Jesus loves you” the main message to the kids but rather the gospel in full context (of course getting down to their level but in no way changing the message). What should I do?

It’s always great to hear from someone who’s working with children and wants to put correct theology on the bottom shelf where their little hands can reach it. Thank you for serving God’s Kingdom this way!

There are three issues I think are important to address in this situation. Let’s take a look…

We are NOT “all” God’s children.
All humans are indeed made in the imago dei – the image of God. That’s definitely an important aspect of theology to teach children, and if that’s what your supervisors actually mean when they say “we’re all God’s children,” that’s super. But they need to use correct, biblical language and say “We’re all made in the image of God,” (age-appropriately explaining what that means, of course) instead of saying “We’re all God’s children.”

It’s not just a quibble over semantics. There are two very important reasons to get this right.

First, it’s simply not true on its face and you don’t want to be teaching the children a lie. I mean, Jesus once told some Jews (aka: God’s set apart people group) He was talking to, “If God were your Father, you would love me…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” So, obviously, people fall into one of two categories: you’re either a child of God or you’re a child of the devil. Just as a person has to be physically born into a family or adopted into a certain family in order for that particular mom and dad to be her parents and for her to be their daughter, “you must be born again,” – a spiritual birth (and adoption) – in order for God to be your Father and you to be His child.

Second, saying “We’re all God’s children,” smacks of universalism.  Universalism is basically the idea that everybody goes to Heaven when they die. No repentance is necessary, no belief in Christ, it doesn’t matter what religion you are, if any. If this is what your supervisors are teaching or wanting you to teach, I would encourage you to find employment elsewhere. This is blasphemous false doctrine that no Christian organization or its employees should be teaching.

Teaching the WHOLE gospel
Jesus loves you” is part of the gospel, and one that we need to make sure we’re including any time we share the gospel with others. It is only because of the amazing, unfathomable love of God that Christ came to earth to die in the first place. Without the love of God there would be no gospel at all. However, it is not the entirety of the gospel. The gospel also includes the components of sin, repentance, faith, and forgiveness.

Since this is a Christian organization you work for, I’m unclear on why (assuming they’re not universalists) your supervisors would not want the whole gospel taught to the children. Only three possible reasons come to mind:

1. They’re concerned that the children are too young to understand sin, repentance, faith, and forgiveness.
You didn’t mention the specific age of the children you’re working with, but I got the impression from your original message to me that they are elementary school aged. I have six children of my own and have taught every age level of children from birth through high school in church, parachurch, and school settings for most of my adult life, and I can tell you that elementary school aged children are perfectly capable of grasping these concepts when they’re explained at an age-appropriate level.

I would think anyone qualified to be in a supervisory capacity at an organization like yours would – as an experienced professional – know that children this age can intellectually handle these concepts, and would – as a Christian – want them to know the whole gospel so they can be saved and take the gospel home to their families.

2. They’re concerned anything more than a generic “Jesus loves you,” is going to offend some of the parents.
Tough. The gospel is offensive to sinners. They need to get over that fear of man right quick. And it’s not like the parents were tricked into putting their kids into a program they didn’t know was Christian, right? (By the way, this is not the tone I’d recommend using when speaking to your supervisors :0)

3. You’re spending too much of your time evangelizing the kids instead of teaching them the main topic(s) they’re there to learn.
That’s not the impression of you that I got from your original message, but just make sure that, if, for example, you were hired to teach the kids how to play kickball, you’re teaching them how to play kickball, not turning every practice session into a Bible study.

Honestly, I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around why any organization that openly bills itself as “Christian” would only want part of the gospel presented. I would suggest sitting down with your supervisors and asking them politely why they don’t want the whole gospel presented to the children at appropriate times in age-appropriate ways. Perhaps they have a good, biblical reason for it, but I’m at a loss to imagine what it is.

Submitting to authority
Submission to authority is a big theme in the New Testament. Christians submit to God’s authority, wives submit to our husbands’ authority, church members submit to the authority of their pastors and elders, as citizens we submit to our civil authorities, and, in the present day, we understand the passages about slaves submitting to their masters in light of the employee/employer relationship.

In God’s structure of authority, He is always at the top. So if any other authority in your life – husband, boss, government, pastor, etc. – wants you to do something that conflicts with God’s written Word, your response must be the same as Peter’s: “I must obey God rather than men.”

I’m still unclear as to whether or not your employers are asking you to do something that conflicts with God’s Word. After talking it over with them, praying about it, talking to your husband about it (if you’re married), and possibly seeking counsel from your pastor or a mature sister in Christ at your church, if you come to the conclusion that your supervisors are not asking you to disobey God’s Word, then the proper godly response is for you to submit to their authority and joyfully do as they ask. If you come to the conclusion that they are asking you to disobey God’s Word, prayerfully ask to meet with them again, and kindly, with Scripture, explain to them that you cannot in good conscience truncate the gospel. Perhaps God will open their eyes and they will change their policy. If not, it might be an appropriate time to tender your two week’s notice.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Safe Spaces and Wearing Our Hearts on Our Sleeves: 6 Ways to Follow Jesus’ Example of Handling Hurt

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Political correctness.

Safe spaces.

Trigger warnings.

Microaggressions.

You can hardly say the sky is blue or water is wet these days without offending somebody. It shouldn’t be surprising to us that when self reigns on the throne of a person’s heart, she will bow down and serve the king of personal feelings. And as a loyal subject, she will fight to the death any perceived threat to that ruling authority. It is normal for unsaved people to live their lives with their feelings leading them around by the nose.

It is not normal for Christians to live that way. And it concerns me that I’m seeing more and more Christian women who allow themselves to be controlled by their feelings rather than being controlled by Christ.

(I’m about to step on some toes, here, so if you’re offended {maybe especially if you’re offended} by what follows, hang in there with me until we get past the hurt feelings and arrive at God’s Word, or you’re actually going to be proving my point.)

❤ Last May, the day before Mother’s Day, I was sort of mindlessly flipping through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, when something caught my notice. Tweet after tweet, status after status, article after article about Mother’s Day. But the vast majority of those posts were not honoring and encouraging women who are mothers, which is the whole point of Mother’s Day. They were focused on women for whom Mother’s Day is painful. Women who are infertile. Single women who haven’t had children. Women who have lost children in miscarriage or other tragedies. People whose mothers have died. Mothers whose children are estranged.

❤ As April Fool’s Day approached this year, I began noticing admonishments not to say, “I’m pregnant,” as an April Fool’s joke on social media in order to protect the feelings of women struggling with infertility or have miscarried.

❤ I have heard from dozens of women who refuse to obey God’s command to join with a doctrinally sound local church – even though they’re physically and logistically able to – because they have been hurt by a previous church.

❤ Christian women who follow false teachers commonly lash out in anger – often displaying the opposite of every one of the fruits of the Spirit – when presented with incontrovertible biblical evidence that the teacher is promoting false doctrine.

❤ And have you seen the fracas over racism in evangelicalism lately? Ungodly statements and accusations are flying from both sides of the aisle because, feelings: feelings of being owed something, fear of man feelings of not wanting to appear racist, feelings of retribution, feelings of pride and self-righteousness.

Life circumstances and other people genuinely and validly hurt us sometimes. No sane person would deny that, and certainly no Christian with a modicum of Christlike compassion would deny it. I’ve been on the receiving end of some of the painful situations I mentioned above. Pain – deep, agonizing, and often undeserved pain – goes with the territory of being human. None of us are immune.

And, if you’re a Christian, you worship a Savior who more than understands what it’s like to be hurt – not just the physical torture of flogging and crucifixion, but the emotional pain during his life of being “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”. Jesus experienced far more misery than you or I ever will, and yet, He handled it in a way that brought honor and glory to God. As His disciples, we are called to follow His example when it comes to our own pain.

Jesus didn’t allow His pain to reign

During His lifetime on earth, Jesus’ own brothers and sisters didn’t believe in Him. The leaders and members of His “church” abused, slandered, and falsely accused Him. His community eventually wanted Him dead.

Jesus could have allowed this grief to stay at the forefront of His heart and mind, governing His thoughts and reactions towards others and towards life in general. But He didn’t. He chose to deal with His pain in a godly way, refusing to allow it to control Him, paralyze Him, or deter Him from His mission, but putting it in its proper perspective. Pain is not paramount – holiness is. Jesus didn’t allow His pain to reign – He determined that His heart and mind would be led by holy thoughts and actions.

Jesus didn’t expect people to accommodate His feelings

Can you imagine Jesus demanding a safe space or that people refrain from posting certain things on social media in order to protect His feelings? Neither can I. It must have been monumentally difficult to endure the insults and mockery that constantly came His way, especially when He had the power (and the right) to shut those people up so He wouldn’t have to deal with all of that. Instead, Jesus accepted that hurtful people and circumstances are part of life and He proactively chose to respond to those people and circumstances in a godly way – setting an example for us in the process.

Jesus forgave

Not just one person, one time, or one situation. Seventy times seven. Even if the person didn’t ask for forgiveness. Even if the person innocently stuck his foot in his mouth. Not once do we see Jesus harboring bitterness in His heart or holding a grudge against someone who hurt Him personally, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Jesus forgave and moved on with His life and ministry.

Jesus was content

Sometimes, it’s not a person who hurts us, but the circumstances God has sovereignly brought or allowed into our lives. Did you catch that? Anything that’s going on in your life is only going on because God is permitting it or causing it. From infertility to medical conditions to racism to the consequences of sin, God is in charge of what happens to you, and He uses these painful situations to teach you obedience, cause you to depend on and trust in Him, and conform you to the image of Christ.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” Jesus said. Jesus was homeless, poor, unmarried, and childless, yet never once do we see Him complain about any of these circumstances. He accepted the station in life to which God had assigned Him and was content with His lot, making the most of His situation to the glory of God. We can follow Jesus in that godly mindset, realizing that “godliness with contentment is great gain” and that the Holy Spirit can empower us to find ways to be content no matter our situation.

Jesus didn’t retaliate or sin when His feelings were hurt

If our response to a hurtful person or situation is to take vengeance, lash out in anger, or wallow in self-pity, we aren’t acting the way Jesus did. He never retaliated against those who hurt him, failed to exercise self-control in responding to unkind people, or felt sorry for Himself as a result of his situation. Jesus always perfectly showcased the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Jesus focused on others, not Himself

Did Jesus stay home from the wedding at Cana because He couldn’t deal with the fact that someone else was getting married and He wasn’t? Was He overcome by hurt and jealousy when people brought their children to Him because He longed to experience the joys unique to fatherhood? No. He made sure the happy couple’s big day was even better by celebrating with them and giving them an awesome gift. He embraced and blessed other people’s children, pouring out His love upon them.

It is absolutely and inarguably incumbent upon us as compassionate, caring, kind, and merciful followers of Christ to weep with those who weep in the midst of suffering. We follow in Jesus’ footsteps by comforting others with the comfort He has shown us. We do our best to be sensitive to the hurts of others and not cause additional or unnecessary pain. We lift up the fallen and strengthen the knees that are weak, just like Jesus did.

But God also requires us to draw upon His strength, look past our own pain, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Just as it is good and right to comfort a friend who’s infertile or grieve with parents who have miscarried, it is also good and right for that friend and those parents to rejoice on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with those whom God has chosen to bless with children, or to celebrate with loved ones who have just announced a pregnancy. We take the focus off ourselves and put it on others, just like Jesus did.

 

Life hurts sometimes. And it’s OK to feel that pain. To grieve over loss. To mourn over suffering. But we cannot let those feelings be the boss of how we act and think. If we are to follow Christ, we must ask Him to help us follow His example of dealing with our raw and tender feelings: not expecting people to tiptoe around us, not allowing bitterness or unforgiveness to take over our hearts, not allowing our pain to reign and cause us to sin. We follow Christ’s example by taking up our cross daily, following Him, serving others, and living to the full the lives God has ordained for us. Whether it’s easy or it’s hard. Whether we’re joyful or sorrowful. Whether we feel like it or not.

Throwback Thursday ~ Don’t Get Your Theology from the Movies

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I recently received the kindest e-mail from a sweet lady at a movie subscription service – sort of a “family-friendly” version of Netflix – asking me to write an article pointing my readers to the movie subscription service (hereafter: “MSS”) as a resource for whatever issue I was addressing in the article:

I am hoping to hear your advice on some ways to relay valuable lessons to others in a post on your page. Maybe you have used a book or a movie to help someone better understand how to deal with bullying. Or maybe you have used parables from the Bible to demonstrate how to deal with a tough situation. We would love our movies to be a resource for your readers to utilize as a tool, since we have many relevant Christian movies and shows.”

This is a brilliant and creative marketing/publicity strategy, and I really admire whoever it was at the MSS who came up with and implemented this idea. It’s grassroots, it reaches their target audience, they get to harness the creativity and energy of the bloggers they contact, and it’s free. Very smart.

Nice people, smart marketing, a variety of attractive products, the desire to help others, a company built on wholesome morality- what’s not to endorse, right? And if they were selling hand cream or light bulbs or waffle irons, I’d agree.

The thing is, when you sell something, that product is supposed to correctly fill a need your potential customers have. You sell hand cream to people with dry hands, light bulbs to people wondering why they’re sitting around in the dark, and waffle irons to people who want to enjoy breakfast in their jammies rather than driving across town to IHOP.

But this MSS is not selling you the right tool for your problem. Though I’m sure they have the noblest of intentions, they’re attempting to sell you a waffle iron to rake your yard with: movies as theology.

I like movies. I watch them all the time with my family (at home- have you seen the price of a movie ticket lately?!?!). But movies are for leisure time fun and entertainment, not for proper instruction on how to live a godly life or the way to solve personal problems, and certainly not for what to believe about God, as we’ve recently seen with The Shack debacle. When Christians have issues, questions, and problems, we don’t go to the movies, we go to the Bible.

God’s word is the primary source document for Christians. It is the authority that governs our thoughts, words, and deeds. It is the sufficient answer to any question we might have about life and godliness. Above any other advice, instruction, help, or input, we need the Bible, and we can rest assured that its counsel is always right and trustworthy since its words come straight from the lips of God.

But just for the sake of argument, let’s try it the MSS’s way. Let’s say you do have the problem of being bullied. And let’s say this MSS has a good movie about a character in similar life circumstances to yours who overcomes being bullied. So you watch it, hoping to get some advice on how to handle your own problem. You’re a Christian, so, by definition, you want to address the situation without sinning, in a way that pleases God, and, hopefully, in a way that is conducive to sharing the gospel with the bully.

How do you know whether or not the character in the movie overcame her bullying problem in a godly way? That’s right- you have to open your Bible, study it, and compare what she did in the movie with rightly handled, in context Scripture. So why not just go straight to the Source and spend the hour and a half you invested in the movie studying Scripture instead?

Another issue with watching movies to learn how to solve your problems or teach you how to live rightly is that doing so subtly trains you in poor hermeneutics. It trains you to follow the example of a character who is just as broken, sinful, and unwise as you are instead of looking directly to the perfect, holy, infallible instruction of God Himself. Which is often the way people incorrectly read the Bible.

As I’ve previously mentioned, there are two main types of Scripture: descriptive and prescriptive. Like a movie, descriptive passages describe something that happened: Noah built an ark. Esther became queen. Paul got shipwrecked. These passages simply tell us what happened to somebody. Prescriptive passages are commands or statements to obey. Don’t lie. Share the gospel. Forgive others.

If we wanted to know how to have a godly marriage, for example, we would look at passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7, and Exodus 20:14,17. These are all passages that clearly tell us what to do and what not to do in order to have a godly marriage.

What we would not do is look at David’s and Solomon’s lives and conclude that polygamy is God’s design for marriage. We would not read about Hosea and assume that God wants Christian men to marry prostitutes. We would not read the story of the woman at the well and think that being married five times and then shacking up with number six is OK with Jesus. All of which is the same reason we should not be watching movies – even “Christian” movies – as a resource for godly living.

“But,” the kind MSS lady would probably reassure me, “our MSS also has non-fiction videos of pastors and Bible teachers that could be helpful.” And indeed they do. There are a handful of documentaries on missionaries, some of the Reformers, current moral and societal issues, and Bible teaching that look like they could be solid. The problem is, they’re mixed in with the likes of Joyce Meyer, John Hagee, Henri Nouwen, Greg Laurie, a plethora of Catholic leaders, and even those who don’t claim to be Christians like Betty White, Frank Sinatra, and Liberace. The few videos with good teaching are combined with many that teach worldly ideas, signs and wonders, mysticism, Bible “codes” and “secrets,” false prophecy, faulty eschatology, and other false doctrine.

It’s a great example of why God tells Christians we’re not to receive false teachers nor to partner with them, as, sadly, this MSS has chosen to do. Mixing biblical truth with false teaching confuses people. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

When a little bit of truth is mixed in with the false, how are we to know which is which? We have to do exactly what the Bereans did with Paul- examine the teachings against Scripture, accept what matches up and reject what doesn’t. Again, why spend the time and confusion searching for, hoping you’ve found, and watching a video you’re not sure will teach you biblical truth when you could simply pick up your Bible, study it, and confidently believe what God says about the issue instead?

There are some good, clean movies on this MSS that would make for an enjoyable evening of family fun, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But for instruction in holy living and resolving the dilemmas of life in a godly way, we need to use the right tool for the job: the Bible.

Rake your yard with a rake, not a waffle iron.

 

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 18- Rebekah

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17

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Read Genesis 24

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Questions to Consider

1. Review lesson 17 (link above) and briefly set the scene for chapter 24. Who are the main characters? What events have recently transpired? Approximately how old is Isaac in chapter 24? (v.67)

2. Why didn’t Abraham want Isaac to marry a Canaanite woman? (3) Why did Abraham tell the servant not (6,8) to take Isaac back to his native land? (7) Think in terms of the Abrahamic Covenant and Abraham’s concept of possessing the land. What might the future ramifications of possessing the Promised Land (Canaan) have been if Isaac had intermarried with a Canaanite and had descendants who were partially Canaanite? What might have happened if Isaac had gone back to Abraham’s native land and stayed there- would Abraham’s lineage still have had a physical presence (possession) in the Promised Land after he died?

3. What impact would all of the issues in #2 have had on Rebekah when she married into this family?

4. What can we learn about marriage and betrothal customs of the time from this chapter? What else can we learn about Mesopotamian culture, such as hospitality, gender roles, authority and submission, etc.?

5. How do Abraham, Isaac, the servant, Rebekah’s family, and Rebekah each demonstrate their trust in God in this chapter? How does God demonstrate His trustworthiness in each of their situations?

6. Examine Rebekah’s words and actions in this chapter and write a brief character sketch of her. What are some ways she sets a good (or bad?) example for you as a Christian woman today?

7. How does this chapter showcase God’s sovereignty over our personal lives as well as over history?


Homework

Examine the decision-making process, and list the steps the servant took, to determine whether or not Rebekah was the right choice. (12-14) Does this serve as an instruction to Christians today on how to make godly decisions? Are we to pray for a sign or for wisdom to make godly decisions? Are we to expect God to verbally tell us what to do, or depend on His fully sufficient written Word for guidance? Do you have an upcoming decision to make? My article Basic Training: 8 Steps to Finding God’s Will for Your Life may be helpful.


Suggested Memory Verse

And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you become
thousands of ten thousands,
and may your offspring possess
the gate of those who hate him!”
Genesis 24:60

Blog Orientation for New Readers and Old Friends

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Every now and then, I have an influx of new readers here at the blog and on social media. For whatever reason, this seems to be one of those times.

So, for our new readers – and those of you who have been around awhile but maybe weren’t aware of some of these things – I wanted to introduce you to a few features of the blog and provide you with some resources I hope will be helpful.

Welcome Tab If you haven’t had a chance to read the Welcome- Start Here tab at the top of this page, it’s a good way to get acclimated to the blog quickly. You’ll learn some fast facts about me, my comment and e-mail policies, and more.

Comments, E-mails, Social Media Messages If you’ve sent me an e-mail and I haven’t responded or you’ve posted a comment on one of my articles and I haven’t published it, this is why: E-mail, Messages, and Blog Comments Policy 

The search bar is your friend. If you want to know my take on something or whether I’ve written on a particular person or topic, the search bar is the best place to start and much faster than e-mailing or messaging me. It’s located at the top of this page immediately to the right of the blog title. 

The tabs at the top are your friends, too. The tabs at the top of the blog are designed to provide quick information to many of the questions I’m most frequently asked. 

“What do you think of Teacher X?” Probably the largest volume of questions I get is readers wanting to know my take on particular teachers and ministries. I would love to be able to respond immediately to each one, but it takes a tremendous amount of time to research these folks. Because I know you need answers right away, and because every Christian should know how to research teachers for herself (you should never just blindly take anyone’s word {including mine} that someone is a false teacher), I’ve written this article to help you research teachers for yourself: Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own

“Discernment is for doody-heads!” I understand it’s not easy to be told that a pastor/teacher/author you’ve grown to love is a false teacher. I’ve been in that position myself. But Christians are people of the Book. That means we measure everything by Scripture, not by our personal preferences, feelings, or opinions. I’ve written numerous articles on teachers and ministries which can be found under the Popular False Teachers tab (and, just a few of the many awesome teachers out there are under the Recommended Bible Teachers tab). I don’t warn against false teachers because I’m a hater. I do it because it’s Scriptural and because I love the Christian women who are being victimized – often without even knowing it – by false teachers. I tend to hear the same objections to my discernment articles over and over and over again. Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections answers, from Scripture, the objections people raise to my discernment articles. (I don’t answer e-mails or publish comments that are answered by this article.)

Searching for a new church? It can be really hard to find a doctrinally sound church these days, and I’d like to do everything I can to help. Check out the Searching for a new church? tab at the top of this page. You’ll find tons of resources on what to look for in a good church, several church search engines, and churches recommended by readers.

Church Ladies Complementarianism can be difficult to navigate in a feminist world and an increasingly feminist church. You might find my Rock Your Role article series helpful, since it deals with the Scriptures governing women’s roles in the church. I’ve recently updated Rock Your Role FAQs, so long time readers might be interested in giving that one a re-read.

Financial Support I don’t receive any income or compensation from blogging. But if you or your family have been blessed by my work and you’d like to be a blessing to me and my family in return on an ongoing, occasional, or one time basis, please click here.

Speaking Engagements I’d love to come speak at your Christian women’s conference, to the ladies of your church, or on your Christian podcast. Check out my Speaking Engagements tab for more information. I’ve got lots of open slots on my calendar, so check it out and drop me an e-mail.