Introducing… Vlogs!

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So, late to the party as usual, I’ve dipped a toe in the waters of vlogging. “What is vlogging?” you ask (is it even still called that?). It’s basically just blogging on video rather than in print.

At this point, I’m just making brief (under 10 minutes) videos from time to time on whatever topics strike my fancy. I’m learning how to do this as I go, so keep your expectations for production quality, and everything else (except the theology!), low.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might have already caught the first two videos below. The third one hasn’t been released until now. It’s just for fun. If you’d like to subscribe to my YouTube channel, you’ll find it here. Enjoy!

 

 

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The Mailbag: Christian Blogging and Online Safety

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I would like to start a Christian blog, but have had a few online encounters with others that have heightened my concern about revealing information about myself on the internet. Could you tell me…

1. Have you ever had someone personally and maliciously attack you?
2. Do you think it is wise to use your real name, or is it best to use a pen name and stay anonymous online?
3. Should Christians expect attacks online and persevere through them? Or is there ever a time it is wise to pull back in the face of personal attacks?

I’m so sorry you’ve had some negative experiences with others on the web. We always want to act in a Christlike way when we deal with people, even online, and that includes using wisdom about how close we allow them to get, balanced with being genuinely concerned and caring. Here are a few thoughts along those lines. I hope they’re helpful.

I have been blogging for ten years. I’ve had scores of people (mostly disgruntled disciples of false teachers, but a few atheists, too) call me every name in the book and blame me for the demise of Christianity in blog comments, emails, and social media comments and private messages. A handful of times, due to their disagreement with something I’ve written (or the fact that I’m a woman who writes on biblical topics at all) people have rudely questioned whether or not my husband is doing his job as the spiritual leader of our home. But that has been the extent of it.

Insults, slander, and social persecution, even from those claiming to be Christians, come with the territory when you stand firmly for biblical truth. It’s just something you have to get used to, remembering where it’s coming from and how to handle it biblically. However, if somebody crosses the line from a nasty e-mail or ugly blog comment to threatening or interfering with your life, that’s harassment and/or stalking, and that’s a crime and should be reported to the police. You can’t be too careful these days.

I think part of the reason I haven’t experienced many problems with readers is that I’ve tried to exercise reasonable caution about the information I share online.

Obviously, I use my real name, first and last, on my blog and social media accounts. There are two schools of thought about this among bloggers.

Some bloggers blog simply for the pleasure of writing and sharing their writing with whoever else happens to enjoy it. It’s not necessary for people to be able to contact them personally, they’re not trying to earn money from blogging or build an audience to please a publisher, and maybe they even have concerns that the thoughts they express in their blogs would negatively impact their careers, their churches, or their relationships. In those instances, many people choose to blog anonymously or use only their first names. When I first started out over at Blogspot, I was just writing for pleasure, and, though I wasn’t particularly trying to keep my name a secret, the title of my blog was Bread and Water rather than my name. I just thought it was catchier :0)

But some bloggers use their blogs and social media accounts as an extension of or supplement to other ministries, and, thus, need to have their real name out there. That’s where I am now. When my book was first published, my publisher wanted me to get my name out there so we could sell more of my books, schedule speaking engagements and book signings, and any number of other promotional and publicity activities. I was as much the product as the book was. So I moved over to a broader blogging platform here at WordPress, changed the title of the blog to my name and started opening social media accounts in my name in order to build my audience and create name recognition. I still do speaking engagements, interviews, and podcast appearances, so I’ve just kept the title of the blog the same even though my book is now out of print.

But while I do use my real name, there are other measures I take to at least try to make it a little more difficult for the crazies to find me (If somebody is crazy, and internet savvy, enough, they can find you no matter how careful you are.). I do not mention – either publicly or in e-mails or private messages – the name of my church or the location of other public places I frequent, the name or location of my husband’s business, my grown children’s locales or employers, nor would I mention the name of my younger children’s school if I didn’t home school them.

I generally limit my personal Facebook account to people I know personally or network closely with online, and I rarely make my posts public. The rest of my social media accounts are public, and I try to be careful about the information I disclose on them. I have a separate e-mail account for my blog and social media accounts, and I never give out my “real” e-mail address. I also do not get into personal conversations about myself in e-mails with people I don’t know, nor get into protracted e-mail conversations with them. And if someone is being ugly on one of my social media accounts and doesn’t settle down after a warning, she gets banned or blocked.

Another way to prevent sticky situations before they happen is not to give angry or unbalanced-sounding people a forum. I have a policy of refusing to publish comments or answer e-mails and messages that are obviously angry and argumentative. (See my comments policy under the “Welcome” tab at the top of this page. Please feel free to use it as a guide when formulating a policy for your own blog.) Usually, when people realize they won’t have a platform for arguing, they give up and go somewhere else.

In your situation, I would first recommend talking things over with your husband. Ask what he thinks about you starting a blog and any concerns he may have, and be sure you’re abiding by whatever he says. If you have security or privacy concerns and are basically just writing for pleasure, an anonymous blog might be the best way to go. I’d also recommend creating a new, dedicated e-mail account for it, and putting some precautions and policies in place, similar to the ones I’ve mentioned, before getting started. If you want to develop personal relationships, help people with their problems, or disciple other women, do so one on one within the safety and confines of your church.

Fellow bloggers-
Any advice for this reader? Please comment below!


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.

6 Reasons You Need to Stay Hitched to the Old Testament

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Oops, he did it again. Only it wasn’t an “oops”, it was quite intentional.

In a recent sermon, Andy Stanley declared that the modern church needs to “unhitch” the gospel from the Old Testament. He attempted to draw a parallel between James’ pronouncement in Acts 15 that Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism prior to becoming Christians with the difficulty some non-Christians today have with some of the gory, hard to understand, or otherwise distasteful (to them) passages of the Old Testament (for example: God’s various commands to Israel to utterly destroy all people in certain nations). The apostles cut out the requirement for circumcision to make things easier for Gentiles who wanted to come to Christ, he reasons, so the 21st century church should basically divorce itself from the Old Testament to make it easier for lost people who have a problem with certain Old Testament passages to come to Christ.

There’s only about a million problems with this line of thinking, and, honestly, the more I investigate what Stanley said and his subsequent explanations of why he said it and what he meant, the angrier it makes me. That a man with a master’s degree from a decent seminary, who’s a pastor of several churches, a best-selling “Christian” author, and a leadership and church growth guru to thousands of pastors across the globe should say, or even believe, such things is reprehensible. If he were generally doctrinally sound and this was the first “iffy” thing he had ever said, I’d be inclined to extend grace and give him the benefit of the doubt. But this is somebody with every theological advantage who should know better, yet still has been on a trajectory of attempting to deconstruct the New Testament church for quite some time now. (For more on Andy Stanley’s aberrant theology, click the “Popular False Teachers” tab at the top of this page.)

So, for the sake of my own blood pressure, I’m just going to throw out a few of the most embarrassingly obvious errors here, and let better people than I handle the blow-by-blow.

1. Andy Stanley is not an apostle personally commissioned by Christ to set up the New Testament church. James and those other guys mentioned in Acts? They were. Andy doesn’t have the authority to change New Testament ecclesiology, which is permanently and inextricably hitched to the Old Testament.

2. Acts is generally a descriptive book, not a prescriptive one. While there are certain principles we can learn from Acts and follow, it’s a history of the establishment of the first century church, not a step by step list of instructions to implement in today’s church. If there were a church today that was insisting Gentiles become Jews before they could become Christians, Acts 15 would be applicable. But I don’t know of any churches like that, do you?

3. The two church scenarios Andy is trying to make analogous aren’t. No church I know of requires unbelievers to understand, agree with, or even have read whatever Old Testament passages Andy thinks are problematic prior to becoming a Christian.

Furthermore, how many lost people are actually out there saying, “I recognize I’m a sinner in need of a Savior. I want to repent of my sin and place my faith in Christ for salvation, but I just can’t, because of 1 Samuel 15:2-3.”? People who bring up Old Testament passages like that when confronted with the gospel are presenting excuses for rejecting the gospel, not looking for ways to embrace it.

4. Shoving difficult passages of Scripture into the broom closet is not how God has instructed the church to handle His holy Word. We’re to be “a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15b) We don’t get rid of challenging passages, we dive into them, study them, and explain them to others.

The Old Testament is absolutely essential to New Testament Christianity, and a rich blessing to the church, individual Christians, and lost people, besides. Here are six reasons you and your church should stay hitched to the Old Testament.

1.
God says so

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

That should be the end of any discussion of ditching any part of Scripture for any reason. God could not have been clearer. “All Scripture” means all Scripture, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. And every single verse of Scripture is profitable. Even the genealogies. Even the inventories. Even the Levitical law. There is stuff in every single verse of the Bible that is useful and beneficial to us. God says so (and He says so in the New Testament, by the way).

2.
You need the Old Testament
to understand the New Testament

Can you come to a saving knowledge of Christ by reading only the New Testament? Yes. But it’s kind of like saying, “I know American history,” when you’ve only studied the years 1900 to the present. The New Testament was birthed out of the Old Testament. The gospel is the culmination of Old Testament doctrine. Jesus Himself is the ultimate fulfillment of every Old Testament prophecy and covenant.

And then there are all the New Testament details that need explaining. Who are these Jews and how did they come to be God’s people? Why do they have such a problem with Gentiles? What are these laws the Pharisees keep talking about? If Jesus is the “second Adam”, who was the first Adam? What on earth is circumcision anyway? And…Hebrews? What’s that all about?

3.
The Old Testament teaches how we CAN’T be saved

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24 (NASB)

and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation
through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:15

How was the Old Testament Law our tutor to lead us to Christ? How was it able to make Timothy wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus? It shows us the futility of thinking we can keep the law to earn righteousness. It shows us that right standing with God always comes by repentance and faith, not works. How many times have you shared the gospel with someone only to hear her say some variation of, “I’m OK with God and I’m going to Heaven because I’m a good person.”? Really? Take a stroll through the Old Testament, and watch how “good” God’s chosen people were. He spelled everything out for them, sent them prophets to tell them exactly what He wanted them to do, performed amazing miracles right before their eyes, and they still couldn’t be “good people.” And you, a pagan, think you can do better?

Remember the old saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”? Some smarty pants came up with the rejoinder, “Yes, but you can feed him salt.” The Old Testament is our salt. Its lessons in the futility of trying to be good makes us thirsty for the Living Water we find in the New Testament.

4.
The Old Testament vividly shows us
God’s wrath against our sin

I’m not saying the Old Testament only shows us God’s wrath against sin, because it also shows us His compassion, mercy, and love. I’m also not saying the New Testament doesn’t show us God’s wrath. It does, but in a different way than the Old Testament does. In the New Testament, the main ways we see God’s wrath against sin is when it’s poured out on Christ at the cross, and the wrath of God that’s yet to come as it’s described in Revelation.

When it comes to God’s wrath against me, personally, for my individual sin, those demonstrations of God’s wrath can feel a little detached sometimes. But in the Old Testament, I see, in vivid detail, the horrific plagues God rained down on Pharaoh for his sin. I see the ground open up and swallow Korah for his rebellion. I see God immolating Nadab and Abihu for offering illegal worship. I see the once mighty and majestic Nebuchadnezzar forced out into the wilderness to live like an animal because he took God’s glory for himself. And when I know that God doesn’t change – that His wrath towards my sin as a lost person burns just as hot as it did toward those Old Testament rebels – well, it can hit a lot closer to home and convince me of my need to run to the cross and throw myself on the mercy of Christ.

5.
The Old Testament teaches by example

The largest portion of the Old Testament is history and biography. Most of the New Testament is didactic. The New Testament gives us the subject matter we need to learn. The Old Testament puts flesh and blood on it and shows us what it’s like for real, flawed people just like you and me to walk it out. In the New Testament, we learn “by grace are you saved through faith.” In the Old Testament, we see just how God accomplished that in the life of Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. In the New Testament we learn what it means to repent. In the Old Testament, we walk with David through the loss of his child and his grief over his sin with Bathsheba. In the New Testament, we learn that the godly will face persecution. In the Old Testament, we stand next to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to bow to an idol, even if it means being burned alive. The New Testament gives the facts of the matter. The Old Testament says, “For example…”.

6.
The Old Testament is a warning to the church

People are people. God’s people of the Old Testament are not significantly different from God’s people today. We’re all made in the image of God. We’re all tempted by similar things.

If you begin studying the Old Testament, you can’t help but notice some of the same themes running through the story of God’s people back then that run through our story today. Idolatry. Ecumenism. Doing what’s right in our own eyes. Going through the motions of religious activity without true repentance and faith. Depending on our own power and resources rather than depending on God. False prophets. Persecution and derision of those who stand firmly on God’s Word by those who claim to be His people. Fickle hearts and tickled ears. Oh sure, we might be a little more sophisticated and subtle about it, but, as Solomon put it:

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

And because the Old Testament shows us more direct interpersonal interaction between God and His people, we get to see exactly how God feels about all of those things. We hear what He has to say about it. We see how He responds to it. And, if we’re wise, we take heed to those warnings, humble ourselves, and grow in our fear of the Lord and our desire to please Him with holy living and clean worship.

 

I could give far more than a mere six reasons why the Old Testament is so vital, a precious blessing, and such a spiritual treasure trove. It tells us where we, and the world around us, came from. It shows us the beauty and precision of worship. It extols the charm of Creation. It displays God’s power, grace, trustworthiness, mercy, justice, His plan for mankind, and all of His other attributes. And so much more.

Are there some passages in the Old Testament that are hard to understand or accept at first blush? Sure. But they’re not keeping anybody from coming to Christ. People reject Christianity, not because of difficult Old (or New) Testament Scriptures, but because they love their sin more than Jesus. And that’s no reason to unhitch anything or anyone from the beauty, the joy, and the benefits of the Old Testament.

How has the Old Testament been profitable in your walk with the Lord?

Throwback Thursday ~ Making a U-turn on the Road to Emmaus

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Originally published September 2, 2016

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That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.
Luke 24:13-35

It had been a long, confusing, emotional couple of days. Eventful? The word could hardly capture all that had taken place. As they made their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Cleopas and his friend rehearsed the trials, the scourging, the crucifixion, and the reports of the empty tomb, trying to make sense of it all.

How could this have happened? It just didn’t add up. Everything their beloved Jesus had done, taught, and said fairly screamed, “This is it! This is the Messiah!” Jesus was the one they had been waiting for. The one who would throw off the iron-heeled boot of Roman oppression, take the throne of His father, David, and reestablish Israel as a sovereign nation, restoring her former glory.

But…a crucifixion? His body missing? It didn’t fit the narrative they’d been weaned on. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Messiah after all. Their hopes for the future, so recently a roaring flame, waned at the cross and dwindled to an ember at the tomb.

Try to put yourself in the sandals of Cleopas and his companion. Every day of your life has been lived shivering in the shadow of the evil Roman empire. Unclean Gentiles, pagans, haters of God and His people, who ruled with impunity and maintained pax romana by any means necessary. Crosses laden with the corpses of criminals and insurrectionists lined the road leading into town, lest there be any question as to the fate of those who dared rebel. There was no real right of redress. No true due process. And since Rome ruled the known world, virtually no way of escape.

“Someday,” Jewish boys and girls learned for hundreds of years at their mother’s knee, “Someday God’s promised Messiah will come and deliver us. This will all be over. We’ll be free.”

This was the Christ – the Messiah, or “anointed one” – most of God’s people hoped in. A Christ who would save them from earthly suffering. A Christ who would set things right and make their temporal circumstances better. No thought to their need for atonement. No concerns about eternity. Never mind the Bread of Life, just give us bread.

And Cleopas and his fellow disciple had found him. Maybe they were afraid to believe it at first. Could Jesus really be the one? But as they followed him for days, or months, or years, they began to believe. Finally, He was here. Finally, things would turn around for them. Everything was going great.

Until.

And just like that, in a matter of a few days, all hope was lost.

They stood still, looking sad.

Was it because Jesus had, in reality, failed to fulfill His mission? No. It was because they had poured every drop of their faith into a false Christ. A christ of their own imagination and design. An unbiblical christ who had been passed down to them over the years by false or misinformed teachers.

And, to this day, people are still placing their faith in that same false christ of their own imagination, promulgated by false or misinformed teachers. A christ who will solve all their earthly problems. A christ who will heal their diseases, fix their broken relationships, grant them power, imbue them with influence, and shower them with wealth.

Sure, their hope in this christ will burn brightly for a while, but just like that, in a matter of a few moments, hours, or days, that hope can be extinguished forever. A car accident. A house fire. An affair. A child gone prodigal. Wasn’t Christ supposed to make my life better?

But – thanks be to God – that’s not the end of the story. There’s a true Christ. The true Christ of Scripture. The Christ that Jesus showed the two disciples from Moses and the Prophets on the road to Emmaus. The Christ that God reveals to us today in the New Testament. The Christ that all of Scripture points to – not as a life enhancement genie – but as the spotless Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world.

This is the Christ in whom we find the hope of sin forgiven. The peace of being made right with God. The joy of knowing He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Are you foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the Bible says about Christ, or does your heart burn within you as the true Christ of Scripture reveals Himself to you in God’s word?

A false christ promises hope, but brings only despair and discouragement when hard times come and his promises go unfulfilled. But all the promises of God find their fulfillment in the Christ of Scripture. He will never fail you nor disappoint you.

The road to Emmaus is a two-way street. Cleopas and his friend started their journey going the wrong direction, but they repented of their unbelief, turned around, and walked the other way. If you’ve been following a false christ, you can repent and trust the true Christ of Scripture today. He’s only a you-turn away.

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The Women of Genesis: Lesson 23- Rachel and Leah

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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

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Read Genesis 29:31-30:24

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Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review lesson 22 (link above), recalling the events that transpired to bring Jacob, Leah, and Rachel into this marriage. In what ways did this marriage start off on the wrong foot?

2. Read these passages. Did God design marriage to be polygamous or monogamous? What do these passages tell us are the theological reasons for this? What are the practical and interrelational problems with polygamy that Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel demonstrates in Genesis 29-30?

3. Compare Leah’s and Rachel’s experience with infertility, subsequent pregnancies, and use of surrogates with Sarah’s experience (see lesson 11, link above). How were their experiences similar? Different?

4. Consider how Abraham (see lesson 11, link above) and Jacob both responded to their wives’ giving their maidservants to them as surrogates. How could these men have responded to their wives in a godly way? How would this have been a good opportunity for Jacob to instruct Leah and Rachel in trusting the Lord, especially in light of 30:2? What are some examples of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness in Jacob’s own life that he could have shared with his wives?

5. In Rachel’s and Leah’s culture, the main way women achieved status, and were viewed as blessed and successful by society, was by bearing children, particularly sons. How does this piece of cultural information help you understand the competitive attitude between Rachel and Leah and the emotional pressure of the situation? How would understanding God’s sovereignty over conception have helped both Rachel and Leah to be at peace in their hearts, with each other, and with Jacob?

6. Make a list of Leah’s comments after the birth of each of her sons, then make the same list of Rachel’s comments. What can we learn about the desires of their hearts from these comments? What can we learn about their relationships with each other, with Jacob, and with God? In what ways might each of them have been tempted to sin in their hearts (ex: coveting)? What Scriptures can you think of that address these sins?

7. Imagine that you’re working on a degree in biblical counseling and you’re assigned Jacob’s, Leah’s, and Rachel’s situation as a case study. Using what Scripture says about marriage, children, sin, the fruit of the Spirit, God’s attributes, etc., pinpoint at least two issues in this family that need biblical correction.

8. Now imagine you’ve graduated and are working as a biblical counselor. Jacob, Leah, and Rachel come to you for help in making their family more godly and getting along better. How do you advise each of them individually and/or as a family unit about the two issues you’ve pinpointed? What are some Scriptures that tell them what they should not be doing or believing? What are some Scriptures that tell them what they should be doing or believing?

9. Rachel and Leah were focused only on their own family and their personal desire to bear children, but what was God’s larger purpose for their sons? How does today’s passage demonstrate that God’s plans cannot be thwarted by the actions of man?


Homework

Go back to the lists you made for question 6. Do you have a heart attitude about something that’s similar to one Rachel or Leah had? For example: Are you coveting something? Envious of someone? Willing to use ungodly methods to get what you want? Resentful? Prideful? Unable to be peaceful and content where God has placed you? Write out some specific Scriptures that address this sin of the heart – both why you should not sin this way, and the godly action you should take or attitude you should have instead. Be sure to spend some time in prayer asking God to forgive you and to help you do what is right.


Suggested Memory Verse

Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.
Genesis 30:22

Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice

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Saul was a lousy king. There are just no two ways about it. He was a crudmuffin.

In 1 Samuel 10, Saul gets his first instruction as king. God didn’t ask him to go out and perform some fantabulous deed of derring do, He told Saul to go to Gilgal and wait seven days for Samuel to arrive and tell him what to do. Just…wait. That was it.

But Saul started getting nervous. He didn’t wait. He acted. He unlawfully took matters into his own hands and offered the burnt offerings and peace offerings.

In 1 Samuel 15, God told Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Everything. Every living creature and all their stuff. All means all.

Strike number two for Saul- he destroyed all the worthless stuff and all the people, but he saved the king and all the valuable stuff.

Here’s the interesting part, though. When Samuel showed up and said, “Why did you disobey the Lord?” Saul said, not once, but twice, “I did obey the Lord.”

Why? Because Saul was going to offer some of those sheep he spared in a grand and showy sacrifice to the Lord. He was going to “do great things for God” and, in his mind, that was far better and more glorious than simple obedience to God’s explicit command.

Know anybody like that in the church today?

Women, who, rather than obeying God’s simple command not to teach or hold authority over men in the church, take matters into their own hands and become pastors or teach men in hopes of “doing great things for God.”

Pastors, who, rather than obeying God’s simple command to preach the Word in and out of season, employ theatrics, silliness, and worldly or sinful tactics to build gargantuan churches to supposedly honor God.

Churches and Christians, who, rather than obeying God’s simple command to avoid false teachers and false doctrine, join with them in the name of so-called Christian unity or ministry.

God doesn’t want the great deeds, ministries, or sacrifices you dream up “for Him.” He wants a heart that’s completely His. A heart that loves Him enough to do His bidding even when it’s small and doesn’t bring you any glory. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it’s hard.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

And that’s exactly the message Saul got that fateful day when he lost the throne:

And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Spanking, Women teaching men, Working a homosexual “wedding”…)

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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!


Can you share some Scripture with us that supports the idea that spanking is not abuse? I am genuinely curious as I have a young toddler of my own and go back and forth between the idea of spanking or not spanking.

The first way we know that a loving, properly administered spanking by godly parents is not abuse is that God would not tell us to do it if it were. The God who does not even want us abusing animals (see passages like Proverbs 12:10, Exodus 23:5, Deuteronomy 25:4) would certainly never tell us to abuse our children.

To equate proper spanking with abuse or to pejoratively call spanking “hitting” is a worldly idea, not a biblical one. The world’s (Satan’s) agenda is to get people to believe that spanking is abuse so that they will stop doing it. Since spanking began falling out of favor several decades ago, the cumulative result has been a greater number of children sinning with impunity and not being brought up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, which is exactly what Satan wants. (Yes, I understand that is a general statement. There are always exceptions, but exceptions don’t negate the rule.) Christians parents might choose not to spank, but they may not biblically accuse others of abuse who choose to spank.

Beyond that, let me direct you to some resources that not only give you the Scriptures but give instruction in those Scriptures as well:

What the Bible Teaches About Spanking by Denny Burk (there are several additional resources linked in this article)

Capitol Hill Baptist Church Core Seminars: Parenthood Class 7- The Rod of Correction

Parenting in an Anti-Spanking Culture by John MacArthur

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

How should Christians discipline their children? What does the Bible say? at Got Questions


We occasionally have guest speakers at our Wednesday church services that worry me. Charlotte Gambill [co-lead “pastor” of LIFE “Church”] for instance. I am a firm believer that women should not be teachers of Scripture to men, but I guess my question is this, should I leave my church because this is allowed in these Wednesday evening gatherings?

Well…I mean, I don’t mean this to sound facetious or anything, but sin is sin no matter what time of day or day of the week it takes place on. While there are certain circumstances in which it might be biblically appropriate for a woman to address a mixed gathering of Believers, preaching and teaching Scripture during a worship service is not one of them. And certainly no church or other Christian organization should be affirming a female “pastor” in her sin by inviting her to be a guest speaker for any sort of event.

I would not just quietly slip out the door, though. Set up an appointment to discuss the matter with your pastor. (You might want to use the principles and suggestions in my article How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing? as a guide.) His response about the matter will probably tell you everything you need to know about whether or not you should begin looking for a new church.


Do you have a page on your website on how you verbally share the gospel with others?

I don’t recall ever having written an article on my approach in witnessing, but here’s what I would recommend.

1. Listen to Todd Friel’s Witness Wednesday every week on Wretched Radio. Todd is very good at opening up conversations with random strangers and quickly transitioning to a gospel presentation. (You might also want to order the resource Terrified.)

2. Watch the witnessing encounters in Ray Comfort’s Living Waters University YouTube videos. Ray has a standard (nearly the same, verbatim, every time) way of presenting the gospel and makes it look so easy!

These are the guys I attempt to emulate when witnessing as I trip all over my tongue and stammer around. You would do much better to follow their example than to follow mine.


If a Christian has a job as a banquet server doing weddings and one day there’s a gay wedding and the person is scheduled to work, would that be sinful to work and serve guests at the gay wedding? Would you say this is just like a Christian baking a cake for a gay wedding or is it different?

I think this is different. A business owner has the freedom to choose which jobs and clients he will accept and which he will not (at least, in America, he is supposed to have this freedom). An employee does not have any say so in which clients the business will and won’t serve. So, the employer is serving the client, but the employee is serving the employer.

If you feel uncomfortable working at homosexual “weddings,” try talking to your boss about it. Maybe you could volunteer to work a different shift, or in a different position in the business that would not require you to work at weddings. If your conscience bothers you a great deal about it, that’s totally understandable, and you might want to begin looking for a new job. Set up an appointment with your pastor for biblical counsel on this situation if it’s a decision that’s really weighing on you.

Basic Training: Homosexuality, Gender Identity, and Other Sexual Immorality

Should Christians Attend Homosexual “Weddings”?


I know women should not be pastors, but is it OK for women to teach men Scripture outside of church?

It depends on what you mean by “teach Scripture” and “church”. If you’re asking about sharing the gospel with someone, that’s not teaching Scripture to men in the church, it’s evangelizing those outside the church, and that’s fine. If you’re talking about teaching a Bible study to a mixed group in someone’s home, we need to remember that the church is not a building, it’s Believers, and that the churches in existence when 1 Timothy 2:12 was written were meeting in homes. So, that would be a “no.”

I think my article Rock Your Role FAQs might be helpful as you explore this more.


What do you think about _____ teacher, author, or ministry? Is he/she/it doctrinally sound?

I’m so sorry I don’t have the time to research all the teachers and ministries I’m asked about. If you’re trying to find out whether or not you should be following a certain person or organization, I encourage you to do the research and find out. Here are the steps I take when researching someone:

Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own


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.

Discernment: A Spiritual Battle, Not a Logical One

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The way people think, the way we react to environmental stimuli, the way we relate to one another, the way our backgrounds and experiences shape the way we view and interact with the world absolutely fascinates me. It’s probably what led me to pursue degrees in psychology and counseling as well as every sociology, anthropology, criminology, and every other social science -ology elective I could get my hands on when I was in college. What makes people tick? Why does the human mind perceive things the way it does? Why is it that two people can witness the exact same event and come away with two completely different interpretations of it?

Those human-centered constructs and sciences can be helpful when it comes to studying observable behavior, but that’s exactly where their helpfulness ends – at the line of observable human behavior. Statistical psychology can perform a longitudinal study on people who were abused as children and show us that those people are much more likely to become abusers themselves. But, try as they might, none of those -ologies can accurately explain why they don’t all turn out to be abusers, or why some become abusers and then, for no earthly reason, suddenly stop and are seemingly magically transformed into healthy parents or spouses.

It’s because all of the -ologies lack a major operating component in their schemata – the spiritual realm. They’re like a football team with an adequate defensive team but no offensive team. You can’t play the game of football that way, and you can’t begin to understand people without acknowledging and understanding the spiritual.

Humans are more than just brains transported around by a bag of bones and muscles. People have spirits, and there are only two kinds: a spirit that has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, or a spirit that is in rebellion against Christ. And even among those who have been redeemed, there’s a broad spectrum of maturity, both overall and in specific areas of sanctification. You can generalize someone as a “baby Christian” or a “mature Christian”, but even among mature Christians, you’ll find that Christian A isn’t as mature in trusting God as Christian B, that Christian B isn’t as mature in generosity as Christian C, that Christian C isn’t as mature in patience as Christian D, and so on.

People are wonderfully and weirdly spiritually complex and unique.

As Christians, I think most of us realize all of this on some level. We know that the Bible says that when we’re born again, we become completely new creatures in Christ. Out with the old man, in with the new. It’s a redeemed spirit that causes us to do things – in varying levels of maturity – like: love Christ, hate our sin, enjoy worship, and weep over the lost. Conversely, not having a redeemed spirit will cause those things to be absent in someone’s life. The words, attitudes, and behaviors we see on the outside are driven by what’s on the inside – the state of our spirits. Or, as Jesus put it:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45

We know this in our heads – when we’re dealing with someone’s sinful or otherwise inappropriate or aberrant actions, the words and behavior we’re observing are an outflow of the person’s spiritual state.

Sometimes, it’s easy to apply that knowledge. You observe someone murdering someone else, and it seems pretty clear-cut to say that the murderer is almost certainly not a genuinely regenerated Christian. Which is why he’s murdering someone.

The waters get a bit murkier when it comes to discernment issues in the church and among professing Christians, but the same spiritual principle applies. We’re ultimately dealing with someone’s spiritual state, not their external behavior.

“I don’t understand why my friend can’t see that _____ is a false teacher!”, I frequently hear from frustrated Christians (and myself!). “I’ve shown her video evidence, print evidence, and audio evidence of this teacher twisting Scripture, teaching false doctrine, and blatantly sinning, and she dismisses it all, telling me I’m being hateful and legalistic or that what the teacher is saying and doing is no big deal!”

That’s because what we’re dealing with is a spiritual issue, not a logical one. No amount of biblical evidence in the world is going to convince that friend of false doctrine until the Holy Spirit opens her eyes to it. My job is not to argue my friend into believing that Joel Osteen or Beth Moore or Benny Hinn or Christine Caine is a false teacher. My job is to lovingly present what Scripture says, demonstrate how the teacher is in conflict with it, leave it on the table, walk away, and continue to pray for my friend. My job is done. It is now the Holy Spirit’s job to open my friend’s eyes and change her heart.

Still not sure about all this? Let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say:

The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers…but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:3b-5, 26-27

You really need to read all of John 9-10 to get the fullest picture of what’s going on here. Jesus has, once again, proved His divinity and Messiahship – this time, by healing a man who was born blind. That’s all the proof the formerly blind man needs. He is all in. “He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him.” (John 9:38) and that’s all she wrote.

The Pharisees, on the other hand, despite having just witnessed a miracle only God can do, and despite the very words coming out of the mouth of God Himself in 9:39-10:30 – overwhelming, irrefutable, biblical video and audio evidence, you might say – refuse to believe. Instead, they do the first century equivalent of calling Jesus a legalistic-Pharisee-hater: “Many of them said, ‘He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?’…The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.” (10:20,31)

Jesus gave them evidence. He gave them Scripture. And He did it perfectly because He was God. But they still chose to believe false doctrine over sound doctrine because they were not regenerate: Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” (10:25-26)

Sometimes that’s what’s going on, spiritually, with our friends who follow false teachers. Despite what they say, how many times they’ve walked the aisle, prayed a prayer, or been baptized, or how intense an encounter with the Lord they think they’ve had, they’ve never been genuinely saved.

Jesus definitively says that His sheep – genuinely regenerated Christians – know His voice. They either instinctively know, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, when what they’re being taught is biblical (Jesus’ voice) and when it’s not (the voice of strangers), or they’re willing to learn as someone else teaches them God’s Word. Whether it’s an instant spiritual aversion to false teachers, or a gradual opening of their eyes through the teaching of Scripture, they will not follow the voice of strangers.

I can’t tell you how many women have told me (and I’ve personally experienced the same thing myself), “I was attending this women’s Bible study where they were using a book by _____. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but I knew something was wrong, so I stopped going. Later, as I learned more and matured in my faith, I realized I had felt uneasy because the author teaches false doctrine.”

If a friend is following the voice of strangers, it could be that she doesn’t know the voice of the Shepherd and needs you to share the gospel with her.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

People who aren’t saved, even if they appear to be and say that they are, aren’t going to “get it” when it comes to rejecting false teachers and false doctrine in favor of sound biblical doctrine. That’s something that only comes with a regenerated heart.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:12-14

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:6-7

Being unregenerate isn’t always the reason people follow false teachers. Sometimes the reason a friend follows a false teacher is that she has recently become a Christian, is immature in the faith, doesn’t know her Bible well, or is weak in the area of discernment.

When someone is genuinely saved, her life is on a trajectory toward holiness. But that doesn’t mean that God grows every aspect of her spiritual life at the same time or at the same rate. God may be growing your friend in kindness, or purity of speech, or self-control right now, and the “constant practice” of discernment might take a little longer, or not come as easily to her as it did to you. All Christians grow in the same direction, but we don’t all grow in the same time frame or in the same way. And that’s a good thing, because that way there’s always somebody strong to help me in my areas of weakness, and I can help others who are weak in the areas I’m strong in.

Something interesting I’ve discovered as I’ve studied and taught through the Old Testament books of Kings and Chronicles is a recurrence of some variation of this statement: “Nevertheless, the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.” (2 Chronicles 33:17)

Often, a righteous king came to power on the heels of an evil king. The evil king had introduced all sorts of idolatry into the nation, including building temples for idols and altars on the “high places” where the people sacrificed to false gods. As the righteous king settled into office and began painstakingly ridding the land of all the vestiges and accoutrements of idol worship, the people sometimes continued worshiping on the high places, but would worship God instead of idols. Was this pleasing to God? No. Not only was the place they were worshiping God defiled because it had been used for idol worship, but God had been very clear that the temple was the proper place for worship and sacrifice. However, the fact that the king had not yet been able to remove the high places did not make him an evil king or negate the fact that he was hard at work removing other, sometimes larger, icons of idol worship.

There are “high places” – areas of spiritual weakness – in all of our lives. I’ve got them, and you do too. Are they pleasing to God? No, and we should be working toward finding out what they are and tearing them down. But their existence doesn’t negate the fact that we love the Lord and are striving toward holiness, nor that God is hard at work conforming us to the image of Christ. Just because your friend’s “high place” is following a false teacher doesn’t necessarily mean she doesn’t love the Lord or that He isn’t at work in her life.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

We’re not at war with friends who follow false teachers, so we shouldn’t be fighting with them, trying to “win.” Our enemy is the Enemy – the one who holds lost sinners captive. The deceiver. The tempter. The father of lies.

The next time you get frustrated with a friend who’s following a false teacher…don’t.

Remember that this is a spiritual battle. Lovingly lay out biblical truth as long as she’ll let you. Then, stand down, keep praying, and trust the Holy Spirit to do His good work through His Word.

Throwback Thursday ~ An Open Letter to My Friends Who Are Struggling…

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 Originally published September 10, 2008.

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Dear Friend,

I know you have been going through some rough times lately. Perhaps you have recently lost a loved one. Maybe you’re ill with a serious disease. You might struggle with depression. You could be watching a loved one battle cancer or another terminal condition. Your marriage may be close to breaking up. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re simply sick and tired of the way your everyday life is going. That the world is going to hell in a hand basket and you’re getting sucked right down with it.

I’ve listened as you’ve poured out your heart. I’ve walked with you as you’ve struggled. I’ve held your hand and prayed with you. And while my heart breaks for you because of the circumstances you’re going through, what crushes me even more is the despair, the hopelessness I hear in your voice. That there’s no way out. That it’s impossible to deal with the pain. That there’s no one who can really help you.

But there is. And that’s what I desperately need to tell you.

I haven’t told you before, because when everything was going fine for you, you didn’t want to hear it. But sometimes people just get to a point in their lives where things are so bad they’re willing to try anything.

And so, I’m asking you to try, just try, one more thing. If you’ve already tried everything else, and nothing’s working, what do you have to lose?

Please try Jesus.

Jesus loves you. He cares about your pain and your struggle. And He’s the only One powerful enough to actually do anything about it.

I’m not talking about simply bowing your head and asking Him to get you out of the horrible situation you’re in. I’m talking about bowing your life to Him. Giving up. Surrendering. Letting this King you’ve been doing battle with all your life conquer you for your own good, sit on the throne that rightfully belongs to Him, and set up His rulership over your life.

This King doesn’t desire to reign over you so that He can tyrannize you. He’s a freedom fighter. He has already made the ultimate sacrifice to set you free from the oppressive regime under which you’ve been living: you. All you have to do is renounce your throne and become one of His subjects.

What does this mean in practical terms? You set aside a little uninterrupted time to talk it out with God. You recognize that He is God and you are not. You admit to Him, and to yourself, that you have sinned.

“Sin” means to break God’s laws. You know the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), right? At least some of them? Have you ever lied, stolen something (even something small), dishonored your parents? Then you have sinned. And by the way, your opinion on whether or not something should be a sin doesn’t make a hill of beans of difference. When you can create the universe, heal the sick, walk on water, and rise from the dead, maybe you’ll get to make the rules. Until then: God’s turf, God’s rules. And you’ve broken them. All of us have.

What happens when you break a local, state, or federal law? Well, if you get caught, there’s supposed to be some kind of punishment. If you speed, you have to pay a fine. If you steal, you go to jail. If you murder somebody, depending on where you live and whether or not you can get the verdict overturned on a technicality, you get the death penalty.

There’s punishment for breaking God’s laws too. James 2:10 tells us:

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

In other words, if you’ve broken one of God’s laws, you’ve broken them all. So, since we’ve all committed the same crime against God– breaking all of His laws –we’re all destined for the same punishment. Hell.

Yes, there is a hell just as surely as there is a heaven. Once again, your opinion on whether or not hell does exist or should exist matters about as much as your opinion on whether or not the sky is blue or whether or not it should be a different color. Your opinion does not change the facts.

The good news is that God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, has already taken the punishment for the crime that we committed. Have you ever heard of a completely innocent victim of a crime volunteering to take the death penalty for the perpetrator for no other reason than that he loves him? Me neither. But that’s exactly what Jesus did for you and for me. And believe me, it was cruel and unusual punishment.

But Jesus didn’t just die in our place. He did away with the eternal death of hell by coming back to life after three days in the grave. And He’s willing to share that victory over hell with anybody who wants it badly enough. It’ll only cost you your life. Not your physical life, of course, but your spiritual life.

After admitting to God that you’re a sinner, the next step is to believe with your whole heart that Jesus died and rose again to take the punishment for your sin (Romans 10:9-10). You gratefully tell God that you accept that Jesus did this for you. You ask Him to forgive you, and make a commitment to Him and to yourself that with His help you’re going to turn away from a life of sin and serving yourself and turn to a life of serving and obeying Him. (This turning away is called “repenting”.)

Finally, you put your money where your mouth is and act on what you’ve just committed to. You spend time reading your Bible and praying in order to get to know God better. When opportunities to sin arise, you turn away from them. As you grow in your relationship with God, you discover what He wants you to do with your life, and you follow that path.

This last step is a very important one that, all too frequently, gets left out. Simply mouthing a prayer and then going back to business as usual ain’t gonna cut it. In fact, if you are able to go back to living the way you always have, with no discernable change of heart or behavior, at least a gradual one, you probably aren’t a Christian. If you’ve truly given your life to Christ, you’re going to be a different person. You’re going to have an aversion to sin, and a love for God. Your attitudes towards others will change. Your priorities will change. Your beliefs about right and wrong will change.

Simply SAYING you’re a Christian doesn’t make you one. I could sit here all day long and tell you I’m a doctor. Sure, I’ve taken some biology classes, and I do have some medical knowledge, but I didn’t go through medical school, I’m not licensed, and I don’t treat patients. If I wanted to become a doctor, I’d have to submit myself to the things that are necessary for becoming a doctor. It’s the same way with Christianity. We have to submit ourselves to what God says is necessary for becoming a Christian: true repentance, and trust in Christ.

If you’ve stuck with me this far through this seemingly interminable article, you’re probably thinking back to my very first paragraph and saying to yourself, “This ‘giving your life to Jesus’ stuff is all well and good, but my husband is dying/I can’t find a job and my house is about to be foreclosed/my mother just died/I’m on the brink of divorce/etc. That’s all I care about, all I can think about right now.”

That’s precisely why I told you about Jesus. When (and ONLY when) you give your life to Him, He helps you through your problems. You want peace when you’re struggling with a rebellious child? Comfort after the death of a loved one? Strength when your body is in pain? Joy instead of sadness? These things, and many others, are just some of the “fringe benefits” you get from being a Christian. But you only get them as a result of giving your life to Christ. There is no other way.

Thanks for allowing me to get this off my chest, Friend. I just couldn’t go one more day telling you that I’m praying for you to have peace or strength or healing without telling you how to get those things. And so I’ll urge you just once more: try Jesus. Or as the Bible puts it (Psalm 34:8):

O taste and see that the LORD is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 22- Rachel and Leah

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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

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Read Genesis 29:1-30

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Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review lesson 18 (link above). Compare the account of Abraham’s servant finding a wife (Rebekah) for Isaac to Jacob finding Rachel in today’s passage. What are some similarities? Differences? Compare both of these accounts to the story of Jesus meeting the woman at the well. How do Abraham (via his servant) and Jacob point ahead to Christ through these incidents? How do Rebekah and Rachel point ahead to the woman seeking the Living Water?

2. God doesn’t put extraneous information in Scripture; everything was written for a purpose. Why do you think God explains so much detail about shepherding practices in the first part of chapter 29?

3. Jacob has traveled several hundred miles to arrive at this destination. Compare verses 4-5 with Genesis 27:43-44. How is this the first confirmation of the fulfillment of the journey his parents had sent him on? Compare verses 6 and 10 with Genesis 28:2. Who had Isaac told Jacob to marry? How was this the second confirmation of the fulfillment of his journey? How were both of these meetings and the subsequent events part of God keeping his promises to Jacob? Do these confirmations of God’s leading and work in his life help shed some light on Jacob’s emotional reaction in 9-12?

4. Try to picture Jacob’s interaction with the shepherds in verses 4-8. What is Jacob’s immediate reaction (7) to seeing Rachel coming? Is it just me or is he trying to get those guys to vamoose so he can spend some time with Rachel? :0) Do they leave? (8)

5. What can we infer from verse 15 that Jacob had been doing for the month (14) he had been staying with Laban’s family?

6. Write character sketches of Rachel and of Leah based on the information in this passage. What were some temptations each of them may have faced? Knowing what you know about Rachel and Leah and their relationship, how might Leah have felt about Jacob asking for Rachel’s hand, offering to work seven years for her, and observing Jacob’s love for Rachel? (15-20)

7. Look closely at verse 21. Notice that the phrase is worded: “go in to her”, not “go into her.” The phrase “go in to her” means that the husband would enter the bed chamber where the wife was waiting for him (for consummation of the marriage). (Judges 15:1 makes this clearer.) I recently spoke with a young lady who had read this phrase as “go into her” all her life and thought the Bible was referring crassly to intercourse. Just wanted to bring a little clarity for anyone else who might have been stumped by that phrase.

8. Read 21-30 imagining you’re Leah. How do you react to your father’s attitude that the only way he’ll ever marry you off is to trick some poor guy who doesn’t want you? How would your new husband Jacob’s anger have made you feel, as well as the fact that once he married Rachel, he loved her more than you? Now imagine you’re Rachel. How do you react to your father giving your sister to the man you love and have waited seven years for? How did this wedding start out as Rachel’s big day and ended up as Leah’s big day?

9. One of the questions that always comes up about verses 21-30 is, “How did Jacob not know it was Leah?”. Let’s look at some of the factors at play:

a) How was the wedding celebrated? (22) What type of beverage is typically consumed freely at such events?

b) What time of day was the marriage consummated? (23) What impact would this have had on visibility? Remember, “he went in to her”. Leah was already in the (probably dark) bedchamber waiting for Jacob.

c) Think about the way women of that time period dressed. How might Leah’s clothing have hidden her identity?

d) Think about the structures people lived in and the proximity to others, since family tended to stay close together, and since many of the wedding guests may have been spending the night. Being quiet and whispering during marital relations might have been a normal way to protect a couple’s privacy from eavesdroppers, and thus, could have kept Jacob from recognizing Leah’s voice.

e) The Holy Spirit has been known to prevent people from seeing things He doesn’t want them to see.

Can you see how some or all these factors may have worked together to keep Jacob from recognizing Leah?

10. Make a list of all of the cultural and hospitality customs this passage teaches us.


Homework

God leading Jacob to men from Haran and then to Rachel was part of God keeping his promises to Jacob. God’s promises to Christians are written down in the New Testament. Think about some ways God has fulfilled His promises in your life. Write down the verse(s) that contain that promise along with the way God fulfilled that promise in your life. Take some time in prayer to thank Him for keeping His promises.


Suggested Memory Verse

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
Genesis 29:20