The Mailbag: Potpourri (Michelle’s a money-grubber, Still small voice, Husband of one wife…)

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Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


Michelle, you’ve mentioned that your husband is previously divorced and also that he is a minister of music. How can this be? Isn’t he disobeying Scripture’s instruction that a pastor is to be “the husband of one wife“? Don’t you believe the Bible? Do you follow it? If so how do you justify your husband’s role in the church when compared to 1 Timothy 3?

Yes, of course, I believe and follow the Bible. I believe and follow the rightly handled, in context, written Word of God, not popular misunderstandings of certain passages.

(And by the way, asking a fellow Believer a question like “Don’t you believe/follow the Bible?” in an accusatory way is rude and inflammatory. Furthermore, while I am happy to answer polite questions, it is not incumbent upon me to “justify” myself or my husband to whatever stranger might have the temerity to demand that I do so.

Rudeness and ugliness from people who call themselves Christians seems to have hit epidemic proportions. I’m going to be addressing it more frequently. Let’s play nice, folks.)

I have previously written about the “husband of one wife” clause in the 1 Timothy 3/Titus 1 qualifications for elders in my Mailbag article “Can a divorced man be a pastor?”

For a number of reasons, it would be inappropriate for me to go into the details of my husband’s divorce in a public forum like this, but you may rest assured that we have not been living in sin for the past 25 years, and that we have been up front about his divorce with the search committee of every church he has ever interviewed with. There are some churches who have a policy of refusing to consider for ministry positions anyone who has ever been divorced. Though we personally disagree with those types of policies (based on the biblical reasons in the article cited above), we certainly respect each church’s right to set its own hiring policies and have been grateful to the churches that have disclosed their policies from the outset.


I recently discovered your blog and am enjoying looking around and reading your posts. I do wonder at your use of your blog for promoting your own gain, your option to donate, and the near complete aligning of one’s salvation with the allegiance to a physical church organization. I wonder if you can share Bible verses that support both of those things?

“Promoting my own gain”? I think you might need to look around and read some more. All of my blog content is available for free, including the Bible studies I write and allow individuals and churches to print out and use free of charge. I don’t keep any content behind a paywall (such as Patreon) or charge any sort of subscription fee. I don’t sell any books, materials, or other merchandise. I don’t receive any remuneration from the ads that appear on my blog. My blog isn’t sponsored by any organizations. And, I don’t receive any sort of salary for writing this blog. How is that “promoting my own gain”?

There are only two instances in which I receive money for anything in connection with this ministry:

1. When kind and generous readers take it upon themselves to send me a gift through my Financial Support page (I rarely mention this giving option, and I have never asked readers to send me money.). Few do, though I deeply appreciate the blessing those folks have been to my family. Most of the gifts I receive go toward paying household bills. (And when I say “bills” I mean electricity, water, rent, etc. I don’t have an extravagant wardrobe, a fancy car, or take luxury vacations.)

2. When I do a speaking engagement. If I could afford to do these events for free, I would. I can’t. As you no doubt read at the Financial Support tab “my family lives frugally on one modest income.” We can rarely afford to go out to eat, never mind afford for me to drive or fly hundreds of miles from home, spend several days away from taking care of my family, and pay for food and lodging once I get there. Additionally, it takes dozens of hours to properly prepare speaking engagement material, and it is work. I usually don’t do more than a few of these a year, and, so far, I haven’t spoken at any huge churches that can afford to pay me thousands of dollars. This money also usually goes towards bills.

It is absolutely Scripturally appropriate for me or any other Christian to receive financial gifts or compensation in these two instances. (Click on the words in red for related Scriptures.)

The first situation is the giving of a gift. The money I receive from time to time is not expected, asked for, owed, or required. Jesus received monetary gifts. The early church gave financial gifts to Christians in need. The Philippians sent Paul gifts more than once. The Corinthian and Galatian Believers sent financial gifts to the church in Jerusalem. You give people gifts. I give people gifts. Christians give each other gifts.

The second situation is a) payment for work, and b) support of ministry. Jesus didn’t have a secular job. He received financial support of His earthly ministry. First Corinthians 9 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18 are abundantly clear that “those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.” Proverbs 31 speaks of the wife and mother who crafts various things and sells them to bring in extra money for her household. My craft is writing and speaking. This is how I help bring in extra money for my household. These Scriptures are also why it would be completely fine for me to sell books, utilize Patreon, charge subscription fees, receive money from ads and sponsorships and any of the other things I mentioned in the first paragraph, just as it is fine for most other Christian bloggers and ministries who do.

Another excellent resource on this topic is Daniel Darling’s article No, All Christian Content Shouldn’t Be Free.

As to “the near complete aligning of one’s salvation with the allegiance to a physical church organization”, first of all, I’m not entirely clear on what you mean by that, but the New Testament couldn’t be plainer that Christians are to be joined to a local church and that one of the first signs that someone isn’t a Christian is when she leaves or refuses to be part of the church. I’ve covered this thoroughly, including the relevant Scriptures, in my article Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians.


Our church’s women’s Bible study is using Priscilla Shirer’s content (The Armor of God). I looked at your blog, but didn’t find too many quotes from Shirer that I could use to draw an appropriate conclusion. 

Occasionally I will get this question from readers: “I know you’ve written an article saying that _____ is a false teacher, but what about [this particular book she wrote]? Is it OK for me/our church to study?”

It seems like your question might be along those lines. I’ve answered it in this Mailbag article. 

Priscilla Shirer is a false teacher (see my article Going Beyond Scripture: Why It’s Time to Say Good-Bye to Priscilla Shirer and Going Beyond Ministries). The way Scripture instructs us to deal with false teachers is to avoid the person entirely, which would include all of her materials, merchandise, etc. This is not only the biblical way to do things, it is much less time-consuming than sifting through quotes from her books to find out if any of them might be passable for use in your church.

If your church is using Priscilla Shirer materials, you may also find my article How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing? to be helpful.


I recently posted on Facebook about how Christians are easily fooled by the false teaching that God speaks to certain people. Someone commented, “Don’t discount the still small voice of the Holy Spirit who calls, guides, instructs, comforts.”. I have searched the Bible and I haven’t found any verses confirming or refuting this statement. Can you shed some light on that thought? Is it in line with Scripture or is it more false verbiage that has encroached on the church?

I think the person who commented proved the point of your Facebook post. Is it “in line with Scripture”? “More false verbiage”? Yes and no.

Usually, when I see the phrase “the still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit, if the person using the phrase even knows she’s alluding to Scripture (many are just parroting what they think is a catch-phrase from pop-evangelicalism), it is based on a misunderstanding, or deliberate twisting, of 1 Kings 19:12:

And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
1 Kings 19:11-13

This is God talking to Elijah. (The King James Version translates the blue phrase in verse 12 as “a still, small voice”). It was normal for God to talk to Elijah. He was an Old Testament prophet.

You’ll notice that this is a descriptive passage, not a prescriptive passage (more on that here). That means it’s simply a passage telling us what happened with Elijah at that moment. This passage doesn’t promise, imply, or even hint that God will speak to you, me, or anybody else in the same way. It’s just a report of what happened.

(Just an aside, but isn’t it interesting that people take descriptive passages like this and assume that God will speak to them the same way He spoke to Elijah, but no one ever reads about God turning Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt, God sending a whale to swallow a disobedient Jonah, or God causing the ground to open up and swallow the rebellious Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and assumes God will do the same to them? No, we only want the good stuff!)

God does not speak this way to people any more. He speaks to us through His written Word. And who is the author of Scripture, God’s written Word? Second Timothy 3:16 tells us it is the Holy Spirit. So if you want the Holy Spirit to “speak to you in a still small voice,” read your Bible. I’ve covered this topic in greater detail in my article Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient. You may also find this resource from John MacArthur to be helpful: Does God give us personal direction through a still small voice?


I just wanted to drop you a quick note and tell you how much I am enjoying your study of Mark. I have been praying a lot about exactly HOW to study the Bible on my own. I love MacArthur’s method of reading the OT in a year and a book of the NT each month, but when I’d sit down to read great portions of Scripture, I didn’t have a solid grasp of what I’d just read. This month I knew it was time to start in another gospel and I decided to use your Bible study to help. Your method and questions are just right! Turns out, it’s better for me to slow down and really dig into a smaller number of verses at one time rather than digesting a great number of chapters in one sitting. And the result? I’ve been so excited about what I’m learning and often mull over throughout the day what the Holy Spirit is teaching me through His Word. Thank you for sharing these studies so selflessly! Truly, I am blessed! Indeed, your whole site is an encouragement to fight the good fight; I am grateful for you!

I get encouraging little e-mails, messages, and blog/social media comments like this all the time. And I wouldn’t trade them for all the money in the world. It thrills me beyond words to hear about Christian women who are growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, digging into His Word, growing in discernment, and serving their families and churches.

And when I get to be a tool in God’s hands to help a sister with that in some small way, it absolutely astounds me and humbles me beyond words. Christ is so good and so kind to allow us the honor and joy of serving Him by helping others, whether that’s a sister in Christ, our husbands, our children, a co-worker, or a neighbor.

Thanks so much, truly, to all of you who have ever written me a little note of encouragement. It will one day be my joy to lay all of those e-mails and comments at the feet of my precious Jesus as a fragrant offering. All of this has always been…and will always be…all for Him.

(If you’d like to try one of my Bible studies or learn more about how to study the Bible for yourself, click the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page.


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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How Can We Be Friends? 4 Biblical and Practical Considerations for Co-Ed Christian Friendships

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Any time an issue regarding the roles and relationships between Christian men and women comes up, there’s bound to be an airing of opinions. Strong opinions. And the social media opinions du jour are about friendships between Christian men and women. What’s appropriate? What’s not? Can Christian men and women have genuinely platonic friendships? Twitter is currently all a-chirp over Aimee Byrd’s new book Why Can’t We Be Friends? which addresses…

…the way to stand against culture is not by allowing it to drive us apart—it is by seeking the brother-and-sister closeness we are privileged to have as Christians. Here is a plan for true, godly friendship between the sexes that embraces the family we truly are in Christ and serves as the exact witness the watching world needs.
P&R Publishing, About: Why Can’t We Be Friends by Aimee Byrd

I guess it’s just the way my brain is wired, but when I first heard about Aimee’s book, my initial reaction was along the lines of, “Oh. OK. Sounds interesting…Why do we need a book about this?”. It was the same kind of reaction I’d have if somebody came out with a book about humans needing to breathe air or fire being hot. Yeah. That’s a given. Brothers and sisters in Christ have been friends for upwards of 2000 years now. I don’t understand what else there is to say about that.

But the more I thought about it – the way people have lost their ever lovin’ minds about how to properly relate to, even talk to, one another – the more I thought maybe this book was a good idea. In a world where a man can’t even stand next to Beth Moore and be taller than her without being accused of misogyny, perhaps a remedial course on the most basic of human relationships is in order.

I haven’t read Aimee’s book, so this isn’t a critique or review of it (you can read a detailed review by Amy Mantravadi here), but I did listen to her interview about Why Can’t We Be Friends on Theology Gals, and I didn’t hear anything problematic in Aimee’s description of her perspective on the subject. From what I’ve heard and read, I probably wouldn’t agree with Aimee about every single thing in the book, but I have no reason to believe she is advancing any unbiblical ideas, and that Why Can’t We Be Friends will likely prove a helpful biblical resource for many. My advice: If you want to know what Aimee thinks and whether or not it’s biblical, read the book and compare it to rightly handled Scripture.

But as I continued to think about and read discussions about the issue – especially in light of words like “misogyny”, “sexism”, and “abuse” being bandied about in evangelicalism like so many badminton birdies – I started seeing some aspects of this topic I wanted to address. Why can’t Christian men and women be friends? How can we be friends? Are there any potential problems we need to anticipate? Here are four practical and biblical things to take into consideration as we contemplate friendships between the sexes.

1.
Defining Our Terms

One of the first whiffs of controversy I caught about Aimee’s book was a Christian gentleman’s emphatic no to the question of whether or not men and women could be friends. His reasoning? Co-ed friendships would inevitably lead to adultery. As the conversation progressed, comments were made by more than one man suggesting that the only female friend a man should have is his wife. Why? Because these gentlemen were defining friendship as a deeply emotionally intimate relationship- the kind of spiritually bonded relationship you should only have with your spouse.

Well, OK, if that’s the way you define friendship, you’re right. You shouldn’t have that kind of relationship with anyone of the opposite sex. Or the same sex either. That “oneness” kind of friendship is restricted to one person on the planet- your spouse. Defining friendship this way essentially restricts you to no friends until you get married, and one friend thereafter.

The thing is, that’s not how 99.999% of people define the word “friendship.” That’s how people define the word “spouse.” That’s why we have two different words – friend and spouse – because they denote two different types of relationships. Your spouse should certainly be your friend, but your friend doesn’t have to be your spouse.

The concept of friendship is much more fluid, and generally, more broadly defined than unhelpfully equating “friend” with “spouse”. There is a spectrum of intimacy with others that ranges from “I just met this person” on one end to “I’ve been blissfully married to this person for 80 years” on the other end, and all kinds of levels of affinity in between.

There’s the “hello at the mailbox, can I borrow your rake” neighbor whose last name you might not even know, casual acquaintances like store clerks and stylists whom you see occasionally and make perfunctory small talk with, regular acquaintances like co-workers and people you’re friendly with at church but don’t socialize with outside that venue, couples you and your spouse are friends with and spend time with, “shared interest” friends (Civil War buff buddies, gardening buddies, etc.), social media friends, good friends who share a very emotionally close, personal relationship, and then there’s your spouse.

All of those people can be classified, at one level or another, as “friends”. Maybe the question shouldn’t be “Can Christian men and women be friends?” but “Which levels of friendship are biblically appropriate for Christian men and women to engage in?”

2.
Talk About It

If you’re married, especially if there have ever been issues of infidelity or insecurity for either of you, it’s wise to talk out what you’re both comfortable with when it comes to friendships outside the marriage.

It should be a no-brainer that neither of you should have any friendships that even come close to the emotional intimacy, affection, energy, and time you expend with each other. That’s not usually much of a problem for men, but, ladies, what about that close relationship you have with your mother, your sister, or your dearest girl friend? When you get phenomenal news – or devastating news – who is the first person you want to run to and share it with? If it’s anybody other than your husband, that’s a signal that you’re probably too close to that friend and not close enough to your husband.

But beyond being first in each others’ lives, what would be helpful and godly in your marriage regarding opposite sex (or even same sex) friendships? How much time is too much time to spend with a friend? What about going places together, talking on the phone, exchanging e-mails or private messages on social media? Which of the aforementioned “levels” of friendship should be restricted to members of the same sex? Discuss what each of you are OK with and not OK with, and why, avoiding the appearance of evil, and be sure to discuss practical safeguards you can each take against temptation.

If you’re single, these things are just as important to consider. Pray about them, discern how God would have you prioritize your friendships, and the time and emotional intimacy He would have you invest in them. And in the same way you reserve sexual intimacy for marriage, determine to reserve your deepest emotional intimacy for marriage, should that be God’s plan for you, as well.

3.
Different Ways to Be Friends

I think one thing that people who give a staunch and unwavering “no” to friendships between men and women might not be taking into consideration is that a proper, biblical, platonic friendship between a man and a woman isn’t going to look like a proper, biblical, platonic friendship between two women or two men.

My good friend, Darlene, and I text back and forth all the time, private message each other on Facebook, go out to lunch, and spend hours talking one on one. We even went to a conference earlier this year, driving several hundred miles back and forth and rooming together once we got there.

I am also friends with Darlene’s husband. Do I spend as much time with him? Do I spend time with him the same way I spend time with Darlene? Of course not. I talk to him at church, at fellowships, when the four of us spend time together as couples, sometimes (publicly) on social media, and the once in a blue moon informational-type e-mail. The dynamic is totally different. First of all, I’m on a lower level of “friendship intimacy” with him than I am with Darlene. Second of all, it would appear – and would be – inappropriate for me to spend time with him in the same ways I do with Darlene. And, finally, I wouldn’t want to make Darlene or my own husband uncomfortable.

I’m friends with both Darlene and her husband, but I’m friends with each of them on different levels of intimacy and I’m friends with each of them in different ways. To maintain biblical decorum, and to guard our hearts against temptation, friendships between men and women are necessarily going to look different from same gender friendships in the ways we spend time together and how much time we spend together.

4.
Can You Handle It?

An interesting dynamic about this back and forth over whether or not men and women can be friends is that, at least in the conversations I observed, men were more likely to say no, and women were more likely to be the ones promoting the idea of friendship between the sexes and not seeing a problem with it.

Ladies, we don’t get to make the across-the-board pronouncement that co-ed friendships between Christians are fine just because it wouldn’t be problematic for us. Furthermore it should give us pause that good, godly men are saying, “No. There are concerning issues here.” We need to sit down and actually listen to what they’re saying as a group and as individuals.

God created men and women differently. We are wired for relationships differently. That doesn’t mean women are wired right and men are wired wrong and they just need to get over it. It means we approach relationships differently. God created those different approaches and they are both good.

And when our brothers in Christ are saying, “We can’t handle this kind of relationship with you the way you want us to,” we need to respect and value that input into the conversation as much as we respect and value the input from our side of the aisle.

When it comes to individual friendships between a particular man and woman, that same respect and value for what another person can or can’t handle also has to hold sway. Every person is different. There are men you could put into a room full of naked women and they’d be obliviously critiquing the way the painter spackled the walls. There are other men for whom lust is such a temptation that they would have difficulty carrying on a five-minute conversation with a moderately attractive woman. Women are the same way. We all have varying levels of temptation to physical or emotional lust.

Through study of the Word, prayer, and, if you’re married, a healthy relationship with your husband, know your own limitations. Walk circumspectly, wisely, and obediently to Christ. Respect your male friends and acquaintances, and give them the space they need. They are probably trying to walk obediently, too.

 

Can men and women be friends? Of course. It’s how to be friends with one another that we need to pursue with wisdom, love, respect, holiness, purity of heart, and biblical propriety.

Throwback Thursday ~ The Garden of Weedin’

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Originally published March 31, 2009

It’s that time again. Spring. Time to survey the damage winter did to the yard and get it back in shape. Sandwiched in between last week’s several days of rain and the multiple days of thunderstorms predicted for this week, were a few beautiful days that were just perfect for tackling the jungle that once was my back yard. Yikes. I could have lost a kid in all that grass.

Much to my dismay, when I got up close and personal with the overgrowth, I discovered that, once again, the army of weeds I spend every spring and summer fighting off had made significant advances into the yard. It also seemed to have secured the perimeter of my fencerow with a tall and nearly impregnable line of defense.

Heaving a sigh, I remembered what one gardener friend told me last year. The best way to fight off weeds is to get the grass really healthy and growing so it will choke out the weeds and reclaim the yard. Sounded reasonable to me. And familiar, too. Where had I heard something similar to that before? The idea tickled my brain as I hauled out the mower.

As I began shoving my trusty mower through that mess, it hit me. Weeds….choking something out. There was something about that in the Bible.

Ever notice how many of Jesus’ parables and illustrations include references to farming, plants, and other aspects of agriculture? The “Lord of the Harvest” gave us wheat and tares, fig trees, mustard seeds, vineyards, and of course, the parable of the sower scattering his seed.

Ah, that’s what it was. The parable of the sower. Remember him? He went out to seed his land, and the seed ended up finding its way not only to the good soil he had prepared, but also to some rocky soil, the roadside, and a patch of thorns (which the New Century Version translates as “weeds”):

Some other seed fell among thorny weeds, which grew and choked the good plants. Matthew 13:7 (NCV)

That’s exactly what was going on in my yard! The grass wasn’t yet strong enough to choke out all the weeds, the weeds were choking out my good crop of grass. They were also making my fencerow look awful, so I finished up the mowing, and, mentally assessing our temperamental edger, decided to clean off the fencerow by hand.

As I began yanking at those pesky plants, God reminded me that we all have weeds in our lives that need to be pulled up. So just what constitutes a “weed” in our spiritual lives? Well, Jesus was kind enough to explain that in Matthew 13:22:

And what is the seed that fell among the thorny weeds? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching but lets worries about this life and the temptation of wealth stop that teaching from growing. So the teaching does not produce fruit in that person’s life. (NCV)

Jesus compares the weeds to two things: “the worries about this life” and “the temptation of wealth”.

“The worries about this life” could cover just about anything. It could be a financial struggle, a wayward child, a difficult marriage, a hostile work environment, or even a painful past that we’re striving to put behind us. Any situation we deal with that looms so large, it blocks out our view of Christ and prevents us from trusting Him to handle it. Anything that takes our eyes off Him, tempts us to focus only on our circumstances, and derails the teaching God is trying to manifest in our lives.

“The temptation of wealth” could also cover a lot of areas in our lives. First Timothy 6:10 tells us that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…”. Evil. In other words, sin.

“A root”. Hmmm…interesting.

Well, I was certainly dealing with plenty of roots. When it comes to weeds, it doesn’t do much good to simply pull the leaves off or snap the stem in half. For some reason, weeds– at least the ones in my yard –seem to take this as a challenge to grow back. You have to pull weeds up by the roots in order to get rid of them.

Likewise, if there is something in our lives which “stops [God’s] teachings from growing” or prevents God’s teachings from producing fruit in our lives (see Matthew 13:22 above) we need to have the Master Gardener root out the instigating problem rather than plucking at its leaves ourselves.

For example, if you’re struggling with being a workaholic, you can break off part of the stem of that problem by cutting back on work a few hours a week, but the root of the problem may be that you have made work an idol in place of God, that you don’t trust Him to provide for your needs, or that you are loving yourself and your work more than your family. If those root problems aren’t dealt with you will likely fail in your efforts to cut back on work, or something else, such as a hobby, may spring up to take the place of those hours you would have spent at work.

As I continued to work, I noticed that some weeds were very easy to pull up and some were quite difficult. The easiest to pull seemed to be the weeds that had taken root in the decaying leaf matter on top of the soil rather than in the soil itself. The difficult ones were the ones that had been growing for a long period of time. Some of their roots were over a foot long. These roots had made their way far from the visible plant and into another part of the yard, which meant they were affecting much more than just the immediate area around the plant itself.

And so it is with our spiritual weeds. The best time to deal with sin or turn a troubling situation over to God is early, before it has a chance to take root, because once it does, it’s going to be much harder to deal with and it’s going to begin to affect more and more areas of our lives.

Dealing with sin or difficult situations pre-emptively is even better. Flee temptation before you have a chance to give in to it. Determine to commit your works to the Lord and acknowledge Him in all your ways, and you will avoid some of the heartbreaking circumstances that might otherwise come your way.

As I struggled with one particularly stubborn weed, I noticed that its roots were intertwined with those of a couple of other totally different weeds. As I pulled at the one I was working on, the others were coming up as well.

When God pulls up those really difficult weeds in our lives, we will often find that He is simultaneously uprooting other sins and situations that have become enmeshed with the primary one. Sometimes when this happens to me, I feels like God is “piling on” and wish He would just work on one thing at a time in my life!

By the time I reached the end of the fencerow, I was sweating, my back was killing me, and I had broken two nails, despite the gardening gloves I was wearing. Pulling weeds is not a day at Disney World. It’s tough work!

But as I stood back and surveyed the results of my efforts, I saw that the fencerow no longer looked trashy. It looked clean and neat. Something any gardener would be pleased with. And, something else had happened that I hadn’t even noticed until that moment. As the roots of those weeds came up, they naturally tilled the soil.

It was moist,

loose,

rich;

the perfect condition for good seed to be sown by the Master Gardener.

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 29- Judah’s Wife and Tamar

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28

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Read Genesis 38

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Questions to Consider

1. Who was Judah? (1) What do we know about him thus far? What do we know about his connection to Jesus?

2. What nationality was Judah’s wife (Shua’s daughter)? (2) Review previous lessons (links above) dealing with Abraham’s offspring taking Canaanite wives. What were some of the reasons it was problematic and undesirable for those in the Abrahamic Covenant to intermarry with the Canaanites?

3. What was Judah’s wife’s name? (2,12) How many sons did she have, and what were their names?

4. Who was Tamar, and what was her relationship to Er and to Judah? (6) What happened to Tamar’s first husband? (7) What was Onan’s relationship to Tamar? What did Judah instruct Onan to do after Er died? (8)

5. Verse 8 is the first instance we see in the Bible of levirate marriage. God later codified this practice into Israel’s law. What was the purpose of levirate marriage? How did it protect both the widow and the posterity of the family line? Put yourself in the sandals of and Old Testament woman involved in a levirate marriage situation. Describe some of the circumstances you might face, and the thoughts and emotions you might experience.

6. What happened with Tamar’s second husband? Explain verses 9-10 in your own words. What was Onan’s sin? Was it sexual sin or something else? (9) What does Onan’s sin tell us about his character as a man and as a husband?

7. Describe Tamar’s husbands and her experience with marriage thus far as she might describe it. Think back over Rachel’s, Leah’s, and Sarah’s desperation to have children as a reflection of the pressure that culture put on women to prove their worth and value through bearing sons. Could Tamar have been feeling that same sort of desperation, especially since she had gone through the “right channels” (levirate marriage) and had been cheated out of her legal recourse?

8. Explain in your own words the situation with Tamar marrying Shelah, Judah’s third, and only living son. (11, 14b, 26) Had Tamar followed Judah’s instructions? Had Judah kept his word to her? Briefly explain how Tamar had been let down by Er, Onan, and now Judah.

9. Read verses 13-26. What was Tamar’s plan? Was it premeditated? In what way(s) did Tamar sin in this situation? Did Tamar’s desperation and hopelessness over her situation and her mistreatment by Judah and his sons justify her sin?

10. Make a list of Judah’s sins against Tamar and against God, including any Scripture references you can recall of biblical principles he violated. Consider how Judah’s hypocrisy and judgment of Tamar in verses 24-26 is an example of the unbiblical judgment and hypocrisy Matthew 7:1-5 talks about. Describe how Judah could have treated Tamar in a godly way.

11. Did Judah’s sins against Tamar justify her own sin? If someone sins against you, is it OK with God if you act sinfully in response? How did Jesus act when He was sinned against by the Pharisees, Judas, and others? How can we follow His example, and why is it important for Christians to respond in a godly way to ungodly people and situations?

12. Compare and contrast Tamar’s mistreatment at the hands of men, and her response to the situation, with the current clamor in evangelicalism to respond to misogyny (both real and perceived) in the church. How does Tamar’s story teach us the importance of responding to misogyny and abuse in a godly and biblical way rather than taking matters into our own hands and doing what seems right in our own eyes?


Homework

Tamar was let down by an evil first husband, a second husband who didn’t want the responsibility of her and only wanted to use her for sex, and a father in law who broke his promise to her. Desperate for offspring, Tamar took matters into her own hands rather than trusting and obeying God. Compare the way Tamar took matters into her own hands with the way Sarah took matters into her own hands when she couldn’t conceive. What were the outcomes? Describe a time when you were in a difficult situation and were tempted to handle things your own way rather than trusting and obeying God. Explain why the cliché “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” would be better changed to “Desperate times call for prayer, obedience, and trusting God.”


Suggested Memory Verse

Then Judah identified them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again.
Genesis 38:26

Favorite Finds ~ July 10, 2018

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Here are a few of my favorite recent online finds…

Want to memorize Scripture, but you need a little help or don’t know where to start? Check out the Scripture Typer Bible Memory System. Use verses you’ve already decided you want to memorize, or get some suggestions from Scripture Typer. Type in and practice your verses until you have them memorized, and Scripture Typer will keep everything nice, neat, and organized for you. Scripture Typer is available online, or in an app for Android, Kindle, iPad, or iPhone.

 

I thought Theology Gals‘ podcast episode 68, Evangelism, was just the bees knees. As a stay at home mom myself, I really appreciated Coleen and Angela’s discussion of what evangelism can look like for a mom who’s at home with her kids and isn’t out and around lost people very much. This episode was so helpful I added it as a resource to two of my own articles on evangelism. There are tons of useful links on the episode web page, too.

 

“Among English Baptists of the eighteenth-century, Anne Dutton was known as ‘the most theologically capable and influential Baptist woman of her day’.” I had never heard of Anne before, but I found this little piece about her, Lessons from the Life and Ministry of Anne Dutton by Joshua Mills over at Servants of Grace to be charming and encouraging. Take a moment to read about one of our foremothers in the faith.

 

Being a “1689er” myself, I just loved this modern English version of the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, put together by Dr. Stan Reeves of Founders Ministries. Dr. Reeves has stayed true to the original LBC as much as possible, only clarifying and updating archaic verbiage when necessary. (You can compare with the original 1689 version here.) Give The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in Modern English a read. You might even want to study the Scriptures it references during your Bible study time.

 

For regular readers, it’s no secret I’m a big fan of Josh Buice and his blog, Delivered by Grace. A few months ago, Josh started adding quizzes to his stellar lineup of blog articles, and I hope he keeps them coming. Quizzes can be a fun and helpful way to get us thinking through various issues and pointing out areas in which we need to study more. Take Josh’s most recent quiz, Biblical People—How Much Do You Know?, and find out how much you know about the people of the Bible. (And click here to check out any previous quizzes you might have missed!)

The Mailbag: Can I share the gospel with my unsaved husband?

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I was brought up to believe that women win their unsaved spouses by actions, not words, because of dissension in the the home and that sort of thing. Would love your thoughts.

One of the most difficult and stressful situations a Christian woman can walk through is being married to someone who is not saved. Sometimes this happens because husband and wife are both unsaved when they get married and the wife gets saved later. Sometimes it happens because the wife (and sometimes the husband, too) think the husband is saved and it later becomes obvious that he is a false convert. And sometimes what happens is that a spiritually immature Christian woman goes into marriage knowing her husband isn’t saved, and she either doesn’t care or she thinks she’ll change him right away.

Single ladies, please take heed and take this to heart: know your man well, spiritually, before you get married. While it’s impossible to know with 100% certainty whether or not another person is saved, do your best. Make sure this is a man who can be the spiritual leader of your home – a man who will make wise and godly decisions, who intends to parent biblically, who is able and eager to lead your family in Bible study and prayer, and who is committed to faithfully attending and serving the local church. Many women who went into marriage thinking these things would somehow take care of themselves can tell you from sad experience that the issues you and your husband have before marriage will only get worse after marriage.

That’s the best way to answer the reader’s question: prophylaxis. Prevent the problem before it happens.

That said, God is the One who decides when you get saved, and if you and your husband weren’t saved when you got married, but you are now, praise God for that! What a wonderful thing that He saved you and that He has placed a 24/7 witness to the gospel in your husband’s life!

If you ever feel alone in having an unsaved husband, take comfort and think about all the ladies in the first century when Christianity was brand new. Many, if not most, Christian women were in your situation. They worried and agonized over their husbands’ salvation just like you do. In fact, it was such a common situation in the early church that Paul and Peter each dedicated part of their writings to instructing and encouraging wives about walking out their faith in a marriage to an unsaved husband:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 1 Peter 3:1-6

 

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy…For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? 1 Corinthians 7:13-14,16

I believe the reader’s question focuses in on 1 Peter 3:1:

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

If we isolate this verse from its immediate context of surrounding verses, the context of the book of 1 Peter, and the context of the New Testament, it seems to say that a wife can win her husband to Christ simply by her Christlike behavior with no need to ever open her mouth and share the gospel with him. However, if we take a step back and even just think about it logically for a minute, we know that can’t be what this verse is saying.

Think about how you came to saving faith. Did you get saved exclusively by watching someone act humbly, patiently, lovingly, etc.? Or did someone explain to you that you were a sinner in need of repentance, that Christ paid the penalty for your sin on the cross, that He rose again on the third day, and that if you placed your faith in Him, He would cleanse and forgive you and give you eternal life? Those are things you can’t get just by watching someone behave kindly and lovingly. They have to be explained by a friend, a sermon, a tract, the Bible, or some other use of words. (This is what’s problematic with the old cliché “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Words are always necessary for explaining the gospel.)

Next, let’s think about the context of the New Testament at large as well as 1 Peter. Can you think of any instances in which Christians are told to share the gospel with anybody simply by modeling good behavior? No. The iconic evangelism passage, the Great Commission, tells us to “make disciples…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” You have to talk to people, and maybe even use books or other written materials – with words – in order to teach and disciple. The theme of 1 Peter itself is largely, “Walk in holiness, a) because it’s the godly thing to do, and b) because it could open a door for you to share the gospel with others.” Peter never suggests that godly behavior is the stopping point of evangelism, only the starting point.

Another great example is the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. The Ethiopian eunuch was actually reading a gospel passage from the Bible, when Philip arrived on the scene. “Do you understand what you’re reading?” Philip asked. “How can I unless someone explains it to me?” he answered. At that point, Philip did not put on a little skit of good works for the Ethiopian to watch, he climbed into the chariot beside him and explained the gospel from Scripture.

The 1 Corinthians 7 passage adds clarity as well, indicating that God has essentially placed a saved wife and mother in her family to be a missionary to her husband and children.

Now let’s think about this verse in the context of 1 Peter 3:1-6. If you look at those six verses as a set, what is the main idea of the passage? It’s not witnessing, it’s being winsome. Through Peter’s pen, the Holy Spirit is helping women to see that godly behavior sets a gorgeous table from which the main dish of the gospel can be appetizingly served. Don’t be confused – it’s not about dressing like a supermodel dripping with jewels; that’s not what’s going to have the most profound impact on a husband’s heart – it’s about being beautiful from the inside out. Your character, your demeanor, your submission and self-sacrifice, “a gentle and quiet spirit.” That’s the focus of this passage – laying the foundation – so that when an opening presents itself to share Christ with your husband, the gospel is adorned with your grace and godliness instead of your behavior and attitude being an impediment to his receiving the good news.

The primary characteristic of having a “gentle and quiet spirit” is trusting God. And that plays into this passage too, because the scariest and weightiest thing you’re going to have to trust God with is your husband’s salvation. God has to save your husband in His good time just like He saved you in His good time. You cannot convince, lecture, or nag him into the kingdom of God, even though it will be tempting to try because you want it so badly.

That’s another application of this passage that can be very comforting and helpful. Maybe when you first got saved, you were so eager for your husband to know Christ that you harped at him constantly about it. You overwhelmed him with the gospel to the point that he said, “Please stop talking to me about that.” This passage in 1 Peter reassures you that it’s OK to back off. You’ve shared the gospel with your husband. He’s heard it. Until or unless a moment comes when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Holy Spirit is intensely working on your husband’s heart, he’s “ripe for the picking,” and he needs you to pray with him or explain the gospel again, your job is over. It’s the Holy Spirit’s turn. Stand aside and don’t get in the way of the work He’s doing through the gospel seed you’ve planted, your prayers for your husband, and your godly behavior.

God can save your husband even if you’ve messed up and said the wrong thing. God can save your husband even if you don’t say that “one more thing” you think will push him over the edge of salvation. Yes, share the gospel with your husband, but realize that God does not place the burden of saving your husband on your shoulders. Only Christ is strong enough to bear that burden. Rest in that, trust Him, and walk obediently. You are not responsible for saving your husband. God is.


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.

It’ll Grow on You…

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I’m still enjoying a few days off.
I hope you’ll find this selected article helpful and encouraging.

Originally published April 22, 2009

Have you ever wished your church would grow? Maybe your pastor talks about church growth from time to time? What should a church do if it wants to grow?

Before a church starts thinking about publicity, programs, attention-getters, etc., it should take some things into consideration:

1.

Is this a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching/teaching church? Do we stick to Scripture and preach the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth even if it makes people uncomfortable or (in a biblically appropriate way) offends them?

Since the Bible is God’s Word, it would make no sense for Him to want to grow a church that either doesn’t believe what He has said, or twists what He has said to fit what the people want to hear. Scripture is clear, our churches are to be focused on correctly handling and proclaiming God’s Word.

2.

How do we know God wants us to focus on growth right now? The church belongs to God, and we are to obey Him in all things. Have we as a congregation spent time in prayer both individually and corporately to seek His direction for the church? There could be any number of things God wants to do in the church before bringing a whole slew of new people in. He may want to do some pruning of the membership or the doctrine being taught. He may want to root out some corporate sin that needs to be dealt with. He may want to concentrate on building unity for some period of time. There could be a number of biblical things that are a higher priority to God for our church than growth.

3.

People can grow an organization, club, colloquy or group, but only God can grow a church. If you have a group of people that is growing strictly by man’s efforts and/or in violation of Scriptural principles, it is one of the former, not the latter. The question is, do we want to grow an organization here, or do we want God to grow a church?

4.

How did Jesus grow a church? After all, we’re to be about the business of following and imitating Him, right? If we take a look at how Jesus’ own following developed while He was on Earth as well as how the first century church grew, we don’t find that they had to go out and drag people in. They didn’t send out fliers, have space walks, barbecues, concerts and all that kind of stuff that so many churches do today just to try to draw people in. That’s a “top down” approach. Jesus and the first century church took a “bottom up” approach. They studied the Scripture, prayed, ministered to people as they had needs, and preached and taught the Word, and the people who truly wanted to know God and hear the Word came out and joined them.

Now, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with barbecues and space walks. Indeed, if a church is following Christ rightly and praying for God’s direction, they might decide to do some sort of outreach event that includes some fun activities. But the thrust of drawing people in should be the lifting up of Jesus in the church.

 

Want your church to grow? Make sure the church is completely in line with what the Bible teaches. Seek God’s direction for the church through corporate and individual prayer. Recognize that God is the only one who can cause a church to grow, and that growth – always in spiritual maturity, sometimes in numbers – is a natural by-product of an obedient, prayerful, true to Scripture church.

Throwback Thursday ~ Revival: In America We Trust?

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Originally published October 28, 2016

revival-america-trustI don’t know about you, but I’ve had it up to here with politics. Any politics. I’m sick of hearing about the candidates, where they stand on the issues, what they’ve done wrong, why we should vote for this one instead of that one or not vote at all, and what celebrities (and everybody else on the planet) think about them. It’s a 24/7 barrage on TV, the radio, social media, and personal conversations. Yes, these issues are important (for the love of my sanity, y’all, please don’t write me comments and e-mails arguing for your candidate or position- I agree these things are important) but I’ve reached my saturation point. It would be great if somebody would capture the Loch Ness monster or find a cure for the common cold or something just so everybody would have something else to talk about for five minutes.

In the midst of this political fervor, pastors – from those in the national spotlight to those in rural obscurity – are applying theology to the election and current culture. Some of it has been very, very good. Encouraging. Refreshingly biblical. And some of it…well, not so much.

On the “not so much” side, one of the recurring themes I’ve heard from various pulpits is the prediction or expectation that America is going to make a comeback. Brighter days are just around the corner. The cultural morality of the 1950’s might even re-emerge, and we’ll all be able to breathe a sigh of relief that evil and debauchery have left the building.

Then some pastor, somewhere, decided to co-opt the word “revival,” paste it over this concept of America getting its moral act together, and offer the whole package to American Christians as hope.

A turnaround of American culture and morality wouldn’t be a bad thing. Personally, I think it would be great if America would start behaving itself like a courteous, rational adult instead of a pagan, hedonistic teenager. We are 240 years old, after all.

But that is not revival, and it is not where our hope lies.

Let me ask you something: What if America never turns around? What if things continue to get worse, morally, economically, militarily, and culturally until this country eventually implodes into anarchy or becomes a vassal state to a godless nation?

What if God destroys America instead of making her great again? Will your faith be destroyed, too?

Sadly, for many Americans whose faith has become a syncretistic mélange of patriotism and pseudo-Christianity, the answer is yes. How many will lose heart and walk away forever when the “revival” their pastor promised fails to materialize? Uncle Sam is a cruel master and a lousy god.

Real revival is exactly the opposite. It can take place regardless of who wins the election, whether the United States is virtuous or villainous, rich or poor, enslaved or free or wiped off the face of the earth. It can take place even if you’re the only person in the world who wants it.

Biblical revival happens when Christians – thousands or dozens or one – bow the knee to Christ in repentance over their sin, forsake their worldliness, pursue holiness, act on their new-found zeal for evangelism, and live faithfully. It’s found when we stop fretting about who’s sitting in the Oval Office and start focusing on Who’s sitting on the Throne and how we might honor and please Him, regardless of what’s going on in society.

Real revival doesn’t always change the culture. Just ask Noah. Or the righteous remnant of the Old Testament exile. Or the martyrs of the early church. That’s not what it’s for. Revival isn’t supposed to change the world. It’s supposed to change your heart. It’s supposed to change your focus from temporal, elemental things to the Christ who bled and died for your sin.

That’s where our hope is found, sisters.

Not in the White House, but in Christ, regardless of who’s in the White House. Not in a moral society, but in Christ, whether society’s morals are Victorian or heathen. Not in laws and policies and freedoms that suit us, but in Christ.

Our hope is in Christ.

If Hillary wins,
our hope is in Christ.

If Donald wins,
our hope is in Christ.

If America re-emerges as that city on a hill,
our hope is in Christ.

If America runs swiftly toward her demise,
our hope is in Christ.

Our hope is in Christ, dear sisters. Let us never forsake our First Love for something as lowly as love of country, favor of the government, or an upright populace.

Our hope is in Christ.

Top 10 4th of July Twisted Scriptures

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I’m taking some time off this week, so there’s no new lesson in our Women of Genesis Bible study. But take some time to study these verses – often misused for the 4th of July – about our freedom in Christ.

Originally published July 7, 2017

Independence day is my favorite of the non-major holidays. Fireworks, picnics, barbecues, and what other holiday has such grand music that nearly the whole country can enjoy and sing together? It’s the one day of the year when we, as Americans, can set aside our political differences and bickering and celebrate our God-given freedom to have political differences and bickering.

It is good to thank God for the blessing of liberty. It is right to be patriotic and celebrate our nation’s founding. It is evangelistic to use Independence Day as a springboard for explaining to people how they can find real freedom in Christ.

And with that freedom – our freedom in Christ and our freedom as American citizens – comes great responsibility. Namely, the responsibility not to throw all of those things into the Cuisinart at once and turn them into an Americhristian smoothie with red, white, and blue sprinkles.

There is a vast difference between American political freedom and the spiritual freedom found only in Christ. But when we lift Bible verses out of their context and stick a flag behind them in celebration of Independence Day, we conflate the two. Weaker brothers and sisters in the faith who already muddle American citizenship with heavenly citizenship are further confirmed in their confusion. We should be making these distinctions clearer, not encouraging their commingling.

Yet this is exactly what happens on Christian web sites, social media, and even in our churches as the 4th of July draws near. Sisters, this should not be so.

None of the verses in the Bible which contain words like “freedom” and “liberty” are referring to American political freedom. None. The verses containing these words are usually speaking of freedom from sin in Christ, freedom from Mosaic Covenant law, or freedom from literal slavery. We must use and understand them in context, or we are doing violence to the text and treating God’s holy Word with apathetic irreverence.

Here are the top 10 Scriptures I observed being twisted on the 4th of July.

1. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Most of the memes using this verse omit the first phrase, because even including those six extra words tends to give too much context to the verse for the person trying to make it about American freedom. If you read all of chapter three, or even just verses 12-18, you can see that this verse is about being set free in Christ from the demands of the Mosaic Covenant. Although 2 Corinthians 3:17 was misused by many, the first place I saw it was was from Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 Facebook page – emblematic of why Christian women should not receive Bible teaching from anyone associated with this organization.

2. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Most incorrect citations of this verse include only its first phrase. Indeed, Christ has set us free for freedom, but freedom from what? English tyranny? Political oppression? No, as the rest of the verse goes on to say, Christ has set us free from the yoke of slavery to the Law. In Christ, we are free to stop striving to be good enough to earn right standing with Him, and to rest in His finished work on the cross to clothe us in His righteousness. That’s way better than American constitutional freedoms because that kind of freedom is available to anyone, in any country, at any time in history who repents and places her faith in Christ for salvation.

3. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

This is a great verse that Christians can live out in service to our families, our church families, and even our fellow Americans. But we need to understand that when this verse says we were “called to freedom” it’s not talking about the rallying cry of the American Revolution. The freedom we were called to – as with Galatians 5:1 – is the freedom from striving to obey the Law to obtain righteousness. But just because we’re no longer under the constraints of the Law doesn’t mean we can go out and sin at will, or indulge the flesh by doing whatever we feel like doing. That’s antinomianism. Instead we’re to use our freedom from the Law as an opportunity to deny self and serve others.

4. if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

I’ve written at length on this verse in my article Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s Promise to American Christians Today? The short answer is “no,” it is not about America. Although there’s plenty that Christians can learn from this verse, it is a promise to Israel, as the surrounding context clearly indicates.

5. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Even adding just two verses (34-35) to this one give enough context to help us understand that Jesus is talking about being freed from slavery to sin through the salvation only He can provide – the salvation that is about to cost Him the agony of scourging and death on a cross. It is appalling that this verse – spoken by our Lord Himself, about the earth-shattering, awe-provoking amazingness that is the forgiveness of sins by the grace of God in Christ – should be so lowered and sullied as to try to make it refer to American freedom.

6. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16

The context of this verse is similar to Galatians 5:13 (#3 above), but it adds a couple of extra facets. If you read verses 9-17 of 1 Peter 2, you’ll notice the same instruction to live as people who have been set free in Christ and to use that freedom in Christ to serve others. Why? “…So that when [the Gentiles] speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God… For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (12,15) When we use our freedom in Christ to serve and do good, it is a testimony of the gospel to the lost. This passage also exhorts us to be subject to our government and our political leaders. And if you know anything about the first century Roman Empire, you know its Christian citizens (Peter’s audience) knew nothing of the political freedoms American Christians experience.

7. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lordthe people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12

In the immediate context and application of this verse, “nation” and “the people” is referring to Israel. Examining verses 10, 16, and 17 alongside verse 12, it’s a safe assumption that the psalmist had observed some part of Israel’s history that included war against neighboring nations. And, certainly, any Old Testament Scripture referring to the people God “has chosen as His heritage” could only be speaking of Israel. America didn’t even exist at that time, nor has God, at any point in Scripture, said that America is His chosen people or His heritage. If you want to think of a New Testament “nation” or “people” God has blessed and chosen as His “heritage,” that would be the church- the worldwide body of born again believers. While, ostensibly, any nation whose God is the Lord would be blessed, we have only to look back at Old Testament history to see how unlikely it would be for America’s God to be the Lord. Israel was God’s chosen people and heritage. They were “the nation whose God is the Lord”- literally. They were a theocracy – under the direct rule of God Himself – yet they rejected Him in favor of earthly kings and repeated cycles of idol worship. And we think America is capable of becoming “one nation under God”?

8. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. Leviticus 25:10

It’s pretty easy to see why only the phrase “proclaim liberty through the land to all its inhabitants” is lifted out of this verse. It is obviously talking about Israel’s Year of Jubilee which has never been practiced in America because we are not, and never have been, under the Mosaic Covenant. Even Israel doesn’t observe the Year of Jubilee any more. The use of this verse is simply a case of someone looking for a Scripture to attach to a patriotic meme, doing a concordance search for the word “liberty,” and whittling away everything in the verse that is obviously un-American.

9. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, Luke 4:18

Except for the fact that this verse includes the word “liberty” or “free,” depending on your translation, it’s incomprehensible to me that anyone would see this as a verse to use in the celebration of Independence Day. This verse doesn’t even make any sense when applied to America. It’s not about a country, it’s about a person: Jesus. Jesus spoke these words. He’s quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, which is a prophecy of the Messiah to come. If you read a mere three more verses of Luke 4, you’ll see in verse 21 that Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Meaning what? Jesus is saying, “You know that Messiah you’ve been waiting on for centuries, Israel? I’m it. I’m here.” And the liberty or freedom He’s talking about? Once again, it’s freedom from sin and freedom from the Law. Because that’s what Jesus came to give us.

10. Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:5 

Nope, this one isn’t about American political freedom either. A couple of things to notice: first, this is clearly set in the context of Israel’s Old Testament history, as verses 2-3, with their references to “Israel” and “Aaron”, indicate. Next, look at the personal pronouns, not only in verse 5, but also in verses 6-7: “I,” “me,” “my.” This verse is not about America being set free from England, or even about Israel being set free from one of its enemies. This is a descriptive passage about an individual – the psalmist – being in some sort of distressing situation, and God answering his prayer for deliverance. Have you ever prayed that God would deliver you from a difficult time in your life? If He did, do you think that unique situation is applicable to anyone else, much less an entire country? This passage is kind of the same thing. The psalmist is sharing something God did for him, not commenting on politics or even assuring other individuals that God will do the same for them.

Memorial Day Bonus:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Memorial Day is a solemn and precious day to honor those who have laid down their lives for our freedom as Americans. Every male member of my immediate family has served or is serving in the military, and I know just how blessed I am that they have all returned safe and sound. It takes a special kind of person to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from that. But as meaningful as that is, it can’t – and shouldn’t – compare to Christ laying down His life to make sinners His friends. And that’s what this verse is about. For twelve verses, Jesus has talked to His disciples about abiding in Him because He loves them so much. In verse 13, He talks about the proof of His love for them: He’s about to give His life as the atoning sacrifice for their sin. He wants them to love each other the same way – that for Christ’s sake, in Christ’s name – they would be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. Eleven of the twelve of them would go on to do so. When we use this verse in reference to Memorial Day – as deeply consequential as that day is – it tarnishes the infinitely more important sacrifice of Christ by comparing a mere man’s offering of his life for temporal, earthly freedom, to God’s offering of His sinless Son to purchase for eternity the redemption of sinful rebels.

I’m proud and grateful to be an American. I’m thankful for this nation and the freedoms we have as citizens. But for everyone who’s a citizen of the Kingdom of God, our loyalty and reverence must lie with Him first and must surpass all other loyalties – to family, to friends, and even to country. That means we reverence God’s holy Word by being good students of it and handling it correctly, by preserving and standing up for its meaning and intentions, and by refusing to manipulate it for our own lesser purposes- even such a noble purpose as patriotism.


Photo Credits
The references below are for the purpose of photo credits only. I have not examined most of these sites and do not endorse any which contradict my beliefs as cited in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.

1. https://www.facebook.com/Prov31Ministries/photos/a.390955286960.162138.99550061960/10154692176801961/?type=1&theater
2. https://stjosephslanc.com/july-5-2015-the-fourteenth-sunday-in-ordinary-time/
3. https://www.facebook.com/ConcernedWomenforAmerica/photos/a.119423980992.123545.77903485992/10155305900670993/?type=3&theater
5. https://twitter.com/robertjeffress/status/746696996208074752
6. http://dailybiblememe.com/tag/1-peter-216/
7. http://simplylkj.blogspot.com/2016/07/happy-4th-of-july.html
8. https://thepatriotstrumpet.com/
9. http://www.klove.com/
10. http://heavy.com/news/2016/07/patriotic-bible-verses-quotes-scripture-independence-day-4th-fourth-of-july/
Memorial Day Bonus: http://unitetheusa.org/id165.html

Vlogs, Volume 2

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In case you’ve missed them, here are my latest vlogs.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might have already caught all but the first one, which is new. It’s to let you know what’s happening on the blog this week since I’m taking a few days off and the blog schedule will be slightly different. If you’d like to subscribe to my YouTube channel, you’ll find it here. Or click here to view vlogs I’ve previously posted on the blog. Enjoy!