Sanctification

10 Pet Peeves (with Providential Purpose!)

One of the podcasts I’m enjoying listening to right now is Mike Abendroth’s No Compromise Radio. Recently he posted a series of episodes about his pet peeves with the church, false teachers, and other ministry issues, and used those pet peeves as an opportunity for teaching and exhortation.

It seemed to be a thought-provoking way to address the issues, so I’m shamelessly emulating Mike’s idea today and discussing a few pet peeves of my own:

1. Mispronouncing or misspelling the names of false teachers being critiqued. The names that seem to give people the most trouble are Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer. There is no “L” in Osteen. It is not OLsteen or OLDsteen. It is pronounced OH’-steen (also note the emphasis on the first syllable). Joyce Meyer does not have an “S” on the end of her last name. It is Meyer, not MeyerS. When you mispronounce or misspell the name, it diminishes your credibility with followers of that teacher. People tend to think, “This person doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She hasn’t even done enough research to know what my favorite teacher’s actual name is.” Hearing Scriptural truth about your idol is hard enough. Let’s be merciful and not make it any harder for people than we have to.

2. Women who try to manipulate ministries which take a firm stance on biblical doctrine into apologizing or changing said stance by saying how “sad” or “grieved” or “depressed” or “sorrowful” they are that this ministry isn’t nicer to false teachers, more compassionate as to why women can’t submit to their husbands, etc. It reminds me of three year old little girls who have learned that if they turn on the tears and the puppy dog eyes, and burble with quivering lip, “That huwt my feewings!” when Mom disciplines them, that Mom will quickly change her mind about the punishment.

Ladies, godly women do not manipulate by saying things like this (And, as an aside, if you’re using this tactic with your husband, stop now. You’re going to destroy your marriage). If you’re not genuinely sad or grieved, what you’re saying is a lie. If something a ministry says or does genuinely offends you, the first thing you need to do is find out – from correctly handled Scripture, not your opinions – if they’re being biblical. If they are, you need to adjust your feelings so that they line up with Scripture. If they’re not, you need to speak the truth to them kindly, openly, honestly, in love, and with no hidden agenda.

3. People who comment on articles, social media posts, and so on without reading them first, especially when their comment is clearly addressed, answered, or refuted in the text. Have we really become this intellectually lazy? God gave us brains, intelligence, and literacy. We need to exercise those good gifts. The headline isn’t the extent of the writer’s thoughts. Read the article.

4. Mature Christians who positively quote, share, or re-tweet people they know (or should know) are false teachers. I don’t care if the quote itself is OK-ish. When you share something from a false teacher, others see that as your stamp of approval on that teacher, or question your discernment, or both. You’re pointing people who may be weaker brothers and sisters to false teachers. Knock it off.

5. Christian writers who consistently fail to capitalize the word Bible. I expect a surgeon to know how to handle a scalpel, a plumber to know how to use a wrench, and writers to know the rules of grammar. As Christians we should be striving for excellence in our vocations as a way to glorify God.

6. When people try to negate a general rule or biblical principle by pleading the exceptions to the rule. People point to the tiny percentage of pregnancies by rape and incest and say “See? Abortion should be legal!”. Christian women point to the exception of abusive men as though their existence exempts all godly women from the Bible’s instruction to submit to their husbands. There are always going to be exceptional circumstances like the tragedies of abuse and pregnancy due to rape or incest (and there are biblical principles for handling these special circumstances), but those exceptions do not cancel out the general rule or biblical principle that applies to the vast majority of people.

7. Women who confuse their feelings, personal preferences, and opinions with biblical truth and then attempt to use that “biblical truth” to correct others who disagree with them. You may be offended and strongly disagree with someone for calling your favorite preacher a false teacher, but your feelings and disagreement don’t mean that person is wrong. It could be that your opinion is what is unbiblical and that the other person is completely bibilically right in what she is saying. Or it could be another type of situation in which neither of you are wrong but that you’re coming at the issue from two different (yet biblical) perspectives, for example: grief over someone’s sin versus righteous anger over someone’s sin. As Christians, our feelings and opinions about things don’t really matter. We are slaves of Christ, so only our Master’s opinion matters. And His opinions are found in God’s written Word, not in our emotions. We must go to Scripture to determine what is right, godly, and good, and what is not.

8. I could write a whole article on things podcasters do during broadcasts that annoy me, but I’m working on not being annoyed by those things (plus, if I ever have my own podcast, I’m sure I’ll do all of them myself), so I’ll just mention one: repetitive linguistic idiosyncrasies and jokes. Yes, “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” but you don’t need to say it every five minutes. And, it was mildly amusing the first few times you intentionally pronounced that word wrong, but now it’s been several dozen times, and it’s just annoying. And nobody’s buying your shtick about feigning confusion over people’s names (“As Jimmy Carter once said…” “No, that was Jimmy Dean.” “I thought it was Dean Martin!”) anymore. The same linguistic joke or idiosyncrasy over and over and over again grates on my nerves. The spiritual application here? I need to be more patient and overlook things that annoy me out of love for the person doing them. I get that. I’m trying.

9. Making every event into a huge, over the top experience. When I was a kid, Vacation Bible School was a Bible story and a few songs, a modest craft, and some cookies and Kool-Aid. No theme, no decorations, no ordering hundreds of dollars worth of junk from LifeWay. Now VBS is more like Six Flags over Jesus. For centuries, worship services took place without an elaborate set, theatrical lighting, and flashing everything up on a screen. Pastors somehow managed to preach without props, costumes, or references to the latest movie. Bible studies required only (gasp!) a Bible, not a workbook, a DVD, a web site, YouTube videos, four jillion different colored highlighters, a bachelor’s degree in hieroglyphics for margin markings, and the talent of Monet for Bible art journaling.

I once saw a picture of a church in Africa. Not a church building – because they didn’t have one – but the actual church: the people. They met under a certain tree on Sundays to sing, pray, and be taught by their pastor. No programs, no flash, no bling, yet this was a successful church because it built up and trained Christians in the faith. There’s nothing intrinsically sinful about decorations, lights, or a plethora of pens, but sometimes all the hoopla and accessories distract us from our main purpose- the unfettered pursuit of Christ. When we feel like we have to do all that extra stuff – to attract people or to have some sort of feeling or experience – we’re losing sight of our purpose. Simple is good and doable and not displeasing to God.

10. My biggest pet peeve – the one that affects me the most, personally; the one that frustrates and irritates and angers me more than all the others – is my own sin. I know exactly how Paul felt, and I can’t say it better than he did, when he said:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Romans 7:15,18-19, 22-24

Can’t you just see Paul throwing up his hands in frustration, tearing out his hair, banging his head on his desk? I drive through that neighborhood a lot. “Ugh! I gave into temptation AGAIN!” “I just repented of coveting yesterday, and here I am doing it again today!” “Why did I react to that situation with pride instead of humility? I know what Scripture says about that!” I see the goal – Christlikeness. I want to get there, but I know that’s not going to come to completion this side of Glory. And it drives me absolutely nuts.

But then I see the cross. The grace. The kindness of my Savior to forgive me. And I’m reminded to keep moving forward, to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” That it’s His work in my heart that makes me holy and enables me to obey, not my straining and striving. What a merciful and loving and gracious God!

Life is full of little (and big) pet peeves. But if we’ll submit ourselves to God, study His word, and seek to obey Him, they can have a sanctifying purpose. God can use even the most annoying irritation to sand off some of our rough edges, show us our sin, and lead us to become more like Christ.

Do you have any pet peeves?
How could God use them as tools to sanctify you?

Christian women, Church, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ 10 Ways Godly Women Can Help Improve the Spiritual Health of Their Churches

Originally published June 10, 201610 ways healthy churches

Let’s face it, ladies- not one of us goes to a church that’s one hundred per cent spiritually healthy. Every church has its problems. Some, just a few; others, well… they’re more like “fixer uppers”. From the encroachment of false doctrine to women serving in improper places of authority to toxic personalities to sin being swept under the rug, what are we to do when we see things in our churches that conflict with Scripture? How can we bring about spiritual change without stepping outside the boundaries of biblical womanhood?

1. Make sure you’re understanding, viewing, and responding to the problem biblically
Are you basing your concern about the situation on a correct or incorrect understanding of Scripture? Is the problem actually a violation of Scripture or just something that rubs you the wrong way personally? Is it possible something you’re doing is contributing to the problem? Sometimes what needs to be changed in your church might be your incorrect understanding of Scripture, your behavior, or your heart attitude.

2. Pray
We are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay (yes, it really does require that many a’s) underestimating the role prayer plays in our churches in general, but especially the role it plays in changing things in the church. Don’t blow prayer off as unimportant or a last resort. Pray for your church every day. Pray about the problems you’re seeing in the church and the people involved. Pray for wisdom for your pastor and whoever is in charge of handling the problem. Pray about it faithfully, fervently, and according to Scripture. It’s not just a biblical motion to go through. I’ve seen God change things in response to prayer time and time again.

3. Approach the appropriate person
If you’ve been praying about the problem and the people involved, and you’re certain you have a biblically correct understanding of and outlook on the situation, and you think you need to address the issue with someone, go to the appropriate person in humility, kindness, gentleness, and patience and discuss it with him or her in the same way you would want to be approached. (And use wisdom- in some cases it might be best for your husband or another man to approach the person.)

Most of the time, the appropriate person to approach first is the person at the center of the problem. A lady in your Sunday School class is a gossip? Go to her first, not the Sunday school teacher. The women’s ministry director is selecting materials authored by false teachers? Go to her first, not the board of elders. Hopefully, you’ll “win your brother.” If not, Matthew 18:15-20 outlines the appropriate subsequent steps to take when dealing with sin. (And, P.S., don’t stop praying. Pray more.)

4. Set a good example
Conduct yourself like a lady – a godly lady – whether you’re dealing with a problematic issue, worshiping, serving, fellowshipping, teaching, learning, or whatever you’re doing at church. Be a velvet covered brick. Strong, firm, and unwavering from Scripture on the inside, meek, gentle, kind, and loving on the outside. Be obedient to Scripture. Repent and seek forgiveness when you sin. Maintain a reputation that’s above reproach. People are watching you, even looking up to you.

5. Be faithful
As Christians we are supposed to be faithful members of the local body of Christ. That means you become an official member. You attend services unless Providentially hindered. You show up on time. You give offerings. You join a Sunday school/Bible study/small group class. You plug in and serve. You bond with your brothers and sisters in Christ. You get invested in the life of the church. You can’t be a strong, godly influence on your church or have people take you seriously when you address a problem if you’re lackadaisical in your approach to church or you’re only there half the time.

6. Be humble and willing
Sometimes helping to resolve a problem in a godly way might require you to do something that, while biblical and appropriate, makes you feel uncomfortable. Maybe you’re introverted and scared to death to address an issue of sin with a fellow church member. Maybe you’re needed in a position of service you don’t have much experience in. Maybe that sister at church that you don’t really like needs a friend. Are you willing to humble yourself, put your own preferences aside, and serve the body of Christ in whatever way is needed?

7. Teach
If you know how to properly handle God’s word and you’re able to teach, find an open position and get in there, whether it’s a children’s Sunday School class, a women’s Bible study, discipling a younger sister one on one, or helping out with the youth girls. Biblical illiteracy is absolutely and astonishingly rampant in the church, which means there are Christians in your church who don’t know how to behave biblically, which means issues of sin will arise. Prevent those issues before they happen by correctly teaching God’s word to as many women and children as you can. (And if you don’t know how, get trained.)

8. Put on your work clothes and roll up your sleeves
We can no longer go to church with the attitude that we’re going to just row our boats gently down the stream and if a problem arises and somebody else doesn’t deal with it to our satisfaction, we’re leaving. Church isn’t the buffet line at Golden Corral, existing only to provide us with multiple options and opportunities for a pleasant worship experience. Church is often more like being employed by Roto Rooter- it’s hard, hot, sweaty, unpleasant work. Don’t turn tail and run at the first sign of trouble. God may have put you in that church to be a catalyst for biblical change. Maybe the problematic situation at church is not about your comfort. Maybe it’s about you helping the body of Christ.

9. Encourage, help, and pray for your pastor and other church leadership
Pastoring (and other ministry leadership positions) is a tough, often thankless job. Your pastor, associate pastor, minister of music, elders, deacons, teachers, etc., can use all the support they can get. Be generous with your attaboys. Volunteer to help out where you can (teach, disciple, train others, help vet curricula and conference speakers, mediate, visit). And, again, pray. Pray for wisdom and discernment for your pastor and leadership. Pray that God will grow them in their understanding and teaching of the word. Pray for their marriages and parenting. Do what you can to support your leadership so they can be strong, healthy shepherds for the flock.

10. Keep your focus on Christ and trust Him
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the details of a problem at church that we forget about God. Are you remembering that God loves and wants what’s best for your church and the people involved in the problem far more than you do? Have you stepped back, taken a deep breath, and recognized that changing people’s hearts and growing the church to maturity is on God’s shoulders, not yours? Are you acknowledging the fact that God is in control and is working in the situation even if you can’t see it? Do you believe that God is out for His glory and the good of His people even if visible circumstances suggest otherwise? Are you trusting in Christ Himself or are you trusting in a positive outcome to the situation?

 

No church is perfect, ladies. Your church has problems. My church has problems. Let’s work together with our brothers and sisters in the local body of Christ – humbly, lovingly, patiently, and as mature, godly women – to solve those problems and encourage our churches toward holiness and spiritual health.

Mark Bible Study

Mark: Lesson 8

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Mark 6:1-29:

He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them.And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her.18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. What are the three major sections this first half of Mark 6 can be divided into? What is the general theme of this passage and how do each of the three sections teach it?

2. Verse 1 says, “He went away from there…”. Where did Jesus go away from (see Mark 5)? Which town was Jesus’ “hometown“? (1)

3. Compare and contrast verses 2-3 with Mark 1:21-22,27-28. What are the similarities and differences between the questions and statements the people made? How were their reactions to Jesus different, even though both groups were “astonished” at His teaching? Having known Jesus from childhood, as well as His humble family, why would the Nazarenes have been offended by Him now? (3) What did Jesus mean in verse 4? Which three groups of people does He say a prophet is without honor among? How did most of Nazareth being offended at Jesus affect His ability to do miracles there? (5) Does verse 5 mean Jesus’ supernatural ability to heal was suspended or that the people shunned Him and would not listen to Him or ask for healing?

4. Examine verse 6 in light of Matthew 7:6. Why did Jesus leave Nazareth and go to other villages to teach?

5. Read verses 7-13. Why do you think Jesus sent the disciples out two by two when they could have reached twice as many villages if He had sent them out one by one? (7) Compare Jesus’ two by two policy to the need in ministry today for accountability, encouragement, collaboration, sharing the workload, etc.

6. Why did Jesus instruct the disciples to travel with minimal luggage and supplies? (8-9) How does this point ahead to the New Testament church era and the practice of congregations supplying their pastors’ material needs? In Jesus’ time, it was customary, almost required by decent society, to invite traveling strangers into one’s home and show them hospitality. How would this hospitality, and providing for the needs of the disciples (or refusing to), have been an indicator of whether or not a town would receive the disciples? (8-11)

7. What were the two ministry activities the disciples were to engage in? (12-13) Which one was the primary objective? (12) How does the word “listen” (11) and the message they proclaimed (12) help us understand that the disciples’ main mission was to preach the gospel and that the miracles they performed were to identify them with Jesus, credentialize them as being authorized by Him, and authenticate the message they preached?

8. Notice the chronology of verses 14-29. Which events happened first, those in verses 14-16, or those in verses 17-29? Could verses 17-29 be characterized as “back story”? From what you know about John the Baptist’s preaching, Elijah’s miracles, and the Old Testament prophets, can you see why Herod and the people compared Jesus to them? (14-16) Why do you think Herod opted for a resurrected John the Baptist? (16) What was the central theme of both John’s and Jesus’ message? Which would have been more convicting to Herod, more preaching like John’s, miracles, or prophecy? (18, 20) What can we learn about Herod’s spiritual state from verses 20, 26-27?

9. What are some things we can learn about godly marriage and parenting from Herod’s and Herodias’ ungodly example? Compare verses 17-28 with these Scriptures.

10. In Mark 6:1-29, we see that Nazareth rejected Jesus, that presumably, some of the villages the disciples went to rejected them and their message of repentance, and that, ultimately, Herod rejected John’s (and by extension, Jesus’) message of repentance. Why is the gospel so offensive (3) and rejected by so many – then and now? Why don’t people want to repent and trust Christ as Savior?


Homework

Today’s passage is a study in the rejection of the gospel. Have you ever been rejected by family, lifelong friends, strangers, church members, or someone in authority over you, for sharing the gospel and calling them to repent? Write a brief paragraph examining why people reject the gospel and commit to pray over the next week for the person who rejected you for sharing it.


Suggested Memory Verse

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.
John 6:34

Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Gina’s Story

Gina’s Testimony

I grew up in a Lutheran home. I heard about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, about believing in Christ and His death and resurrection- and doing good works. I didn’t hear about my desperate need to repent of my sins and trust in Christ alone for salvation though. I was reassured my baptism, confirmation and good works kept me in good stance with God.

I was a kid that hardly got in trouble. At 18 I met my soon to be husband. He was a cradle Catholic and his parents were devout. After we married and I was pregnant with our first child, I decided to become a Catholic too. As a so-so Catholic, I figured I was a good enough person to make clearance on Judgment Day being I didn’t murder anyone or rob banks. I believed any other small sin of mine was forgiven through the works I did and because I believed in God.

I was around 23 years old, a wife and mother to a one-year-old. I started watching John Edwards. He is a practicing medium with his own talk show. I found it entertaining. I definitely questioned the validity of it all, but I was still intrigued and tuned into every episode. I thought either the man’s claims were true or the whole show was a farce. I didn’t even think about there being a third option- like say…demonic deception.

I soon found myself deep into something I NEVER thought I would be. It all started off with me seeing a figure of a man walking behind me as I stared at a darkened computer screen with the lamp on behind me. No one was there when I turned around. I wondered, an overactive imagination or a ghost? I tried to ignore it. But soon followed several other encounters; hearing voices, seeing things move that shouldn’t and even feeling a mouth blow hard in my ear as I sat in my living room. I wasn’t able to ignore it anymore. Most people seemed hesitant to believe me, except those in the Catholic faith, kid you not, who would then proceed to tell me their own stories! I knew my experiences were real, I knew I wasn’t making it up. I was just trying to make sense of it somehow. Someone reminded me that the previous owner of our house talked about someone dying in that house years before. So I started entertaining the idea of a dead person making himself known to me. I stuck with that story, because I really didn’t know what else to think.

Weeks after all of this began I entered college. I enrolled in Psychology 101 and about a week into the class our fun-loving, charismatic teacher started talking about her ability to read people’s auras, tap into past lives and speak to dead people (yes Psych 101 at a decent college. Be warned parents! The college let her stay there for years knowing she taught this stuff during and after class. Scary!). She told us it was a “gift” she had since the age of 4. She would go around the class and tell people what injuries they had, what they had done earlier that day, etc. Some kids seemed uncomfortable with her unexplained knowledge, yet with all that had been going on in my own life, my ears perked up and I was intrigued.

One day, early on in the semester, she made the statement that when we find a feather in a peculiar place, it’s an angel telling us we are on the right path. The VERY next day while taking a shower I reached up to put shampoo in my hair and felt something poking out of my hair- it was a HUGE feather!! I mean, it was a big one, not a soft little fuzzy one. I thought, hmm, maybe this lady’s teachings were the right path and an angel is telling me so? As silly as it sounds, when you are given a “sign” that seems to validate prior feelings or information, it gets your attention – and without necessary discernment you are soon locked in.

I became locked in as I kept hearing voices and having unexplained spiritual experiences. This teacher would invite a few of us naïve ones to hang out at her place and call on the dead. She would school us on all the ins and outs of the spiritual world, on her experiences and how to orchestrate our own encounters. She taught us “thought-ology” as she called it, which is the practice of thinking positive thoughts enough that they come true because of the energy they possess (I later found out this is what Word of Faith circles teach, but with all the right words). She would give us Bible verses (and twist them) to show us that reincarnation was biblical and she would tell us that we had past lives and that we need to tap into those lives to grow in our knowledge. I was taking notes, buying books she recommended and worst of all, telling my family and friends all of this ‘wonderful’ insight, trying to get them to fully endorse it. Most did. I was reading auras on other people, using crystals and tapping into the spiritual world as this woman had instructed me. The semester ended but we kept in touch over phone and I met with her and a few others occasionally. This teacher would tell me, while in front of the others, that I have a special gift in the spirit realm and would treat me with special gifts and praise. I enjoyed the limelight. Boy, I was in deep. Blech!

A week after 9/11, I realized my husband found someone better. I was headed for a divorce while pregnant, in the middle of college and unemployed. I was utterly devastated. It was extremely difficult, but it was the very thing I needed in order to eventually fall on my knees before God. At a low point, when I felt I couldn’t trust anyone, not even myself, I remember crying out, literally, “I just want the truth. Is there such a thing?!” I desperately hoped that God, if there was a God, would help me. The “dead people” sure weren’t helping!

My aunt Tami was recently saved herself and heard of what happened. She also knew of my history in the occult. She took the opportunity to reach out to me in truth. Email after email she talked to me with much patience and compassion, yet with boldness and clarity, the Word of God. I kept arguing against her beliefs with things I believed to be true in the occult practices. But as hard as I argued, she didn’t waver – and I still listened. After all, I claimed to be a Christian, shouldn’t I be ok with talking about the Bible? I began to be very surprised with myself – of how irritated I got with Scripture and the name of Christ being discussed for more than a few seconds. I could tolerate an hour long church service at the Catholic and Lutheran church talking about God but 5 minutes of Aunt Tami talking about Scriptures or Christ, was torture.

As months went by and as I tried to rely on the occult practices for strength and guidance, I would see more holes appear in its authenticity. This would eat at me! I tried so hard to make it all fit. I poured more into the occultic books to reassure myself. I had sold this so hard to everyone, including myself, so I wanted to hang on to it even harder. My psychology teacher had taught me that we have the control over spiritual beings, spiritual matters, and all outcomes in our live if we just thought right. But seeing that wasn’t exactly panning out, I didn’t know what to do about it.

Right after my daughter was born I moved back to my home town to be closer to family. Looking back I could see God working in getting me there. What would end up being the most crucial part of the whole thing was the fact that God was moving my aunt Tami back there as well. After we were both moved into the same town we would visit one another, just getting to know one another even better. She would increasingly bring up the truths of the Scripture to me; of how to be saved.

One day I went over to her house to help her paint. We were side by side painting a wall when we both heard a man’s voice say VERY loud and clear as if he was yelling at the back of our heads, “Hey!” We both quickly turned around and saw only our little kids playing behind us. Then we both looked at each other and simultaneously said, “did you hear that?!” All of a sudden my right shoulder started to tingle and her left shoulder started to tingle really hard as if something was standing right in between us. She said later that when that happened she first freaked out a little but knew right away what was happening – it was apparent that God was allowing her see the world that I was living in; the world of dark, demonic deception. Right after it happened, she silently prayed and I just kept saying, “See, this is what I’ve been talking about!” She came over to me with fervency and said something like, “Gina, these are demons. There is no such thing as dead people walking around. In Christ’s presence, the demons tremble. Jesus is the only One Who can make the demons flee out of your life.” I believed her for some reason, probably because God had been working on my heart. I was relieved to know the identity of the spirits that kept taunting me and that there was someone who could deal with them once and for all, Jesus!

Shortly after that incident, she convinced me to attend a Bible group. I wasn’t sure if I could handle an hour or so of talking about Jesus and Scripture so I was hesitant but I loved spending time with the other women and talking. After attending a few times we were discussing a Scripture verse on ‘inheritance’. I think the verse literally slapped me across the face. I can’t remember the Scripture reference because at that time I didn’t pay attention to those things, but God was letting me know that I will not share in His heavenly inheritance if I don’t repent and go to Christ in confession and faith.

At that moment, without making it aware to anyone else, I understood exactly what I needed to do! I don’t remember anything right after that, just getting home and running to my bedroom, falling down to the floor and crying to the Lord Jesus to forgive me, something Tami had told me many times before that I needed to do. I finally saw that I didn’t really have Him but that I needed Him and I wanted Him. Instantaneously my eyes were opened. I remember standing up and realizing I saw sin differently, or rather for the first time. I remember thinking, “oh my, lying and bad language is such a sin” I was thinking of family and friends and the desperate state they were in and knowing I had to tell them about their need for Christ. I soon went to all those that I shared the occult with and told them I was wrong, it’s demonic and Christ saved me out of it. I asked for their forgiveness and I gave them the Gospel. I looked at my precious kids, who were so little and unaware of what was going on in my life, and knew life just drastically changed for them too! Praise God!

From that day on I was going 100 mph towards God. I could finally understand God’s Word so crystal clear (it no longer seemed as if I was reading a different language!) and I soaked in it. I talked till early morning with Tami on the things of God and asked a billion questions. I joined Bible studies, attended Christian seminars and ate, drank, and slept Jesus! I couldn’t get enough of His Word. He poured so much life and truth into my heart as I read His Word, it was beyond amazing. I eventually got what I asked for on that dark day I cried out for truth. God in His great mercy gave me saving TRUTH. Thankfully, not too long after my salvation, I was able to witness my sister’s salvation and transformation. What a blessing!! I just think of how awesome it is that God saved Tami, my sister and I within just a few years time. Thankfully so – because as the Lord was growing us the devil was attacking us and we were able to lean on the Word together to encourage one another in God’s truth as we battled. Thankfully I now also have a solid Christian husband who encourages me to live out my faith; who I lean on for encouragement as well.

Tami was right. Demons were kicked out once Christ gave me new life. But they were not happy about it and the attacks came in different ways, especially when I tried to share my faith- but I kept remembering the power that I possessed, the Lord, and because of Him I was no longer in their snares and thankfully became less and less naïve to their devices.

I’m reminded often when reading the Word and thinking back at what Christ saved me out of that I must put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6). Christians these days want to turn a deaf ear to a lot of what Satan is up to. It sometimes frightens them, yet there is nothing to fear when we are in Christ. Sometimes demonic activity just doesn’t concern them and they end up buying what the demons are selling in a saint’s suit. Christ just wants us to be aware of the powers that want to destroy us so that we can resist them by holding fast to the Truth of God’s Word. Through Christ we have victory!

Since my salvation, I have a growing desire to witness to those who are lost but to those especially ensnared in Catholicism, mysticism, spiritism (which is heavy in Catholicism as they do much conjuring of the dead, supposedly) and other false teachings-some of the avenues through which Satan tries to kill, steal and destroy.
Demons are clever, fast and seasoned. They parade as an angel of light/godly, or as something innocent and non-threatening. We need to be on the alert. Tami was the ONLY person in my life to warn me of the dangers that I was entangled in and to give me the Gospel straight up. I’m forever grateful! And I believe we all need to do more of that.

I was a sinner deserving of Hell. I was what Revelation 21:8 speaks of, “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” I was also what Leviticus 20:6 speaks of, “As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people.” By the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, He didn’t let my story end there.

By the way, I tried to reach that psychology teacher after I was saved. She wouldn’t answer the phone or respond to my messages. I’ve continued to pray for her and all of her students over the years.

I was saved from MUCH. ALL glory to God! I most definitely cannot boast. Thank you Lord Jesus!


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Narnia, Michelsen, Faith healing…)

 

Today’s edition of The Mailbag is a tad different in format. Usually, I answer one reader’s question in a long form article. Today, I’m addressing various questions from several readers in a “short answer” format.

Just a reminder- I changed my comments/e-mail/messages policy a few months ago, so I’m not responding individually to most e-mails and messages. Here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


Why are witchcraft and magic OK to most Christians in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia books, but not in secular books such as the Harry Potter books? Should my children be reading the Narnia books?

Obviously, I can’t answer for every individual Christian who finds Narnia OK but Harry Potter objectionable. Many perfectly godly Christians find both objectionable or neither objectionable. But generally, I think it’s the same reason most Christians assume Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, Lysa TerKeurst, Christine Caine, Hillsong, etc., are biblically legit- most Christians aren’t very discerning. They naïvely trust that if a person has gained notoriety as a “Christian” celebrity and his stuff is sold in Christian bookstores, he’s teaching sound biblical doctrine.

I’m not saying that Lewis teaches unbiblical doctrine in the Narnia books (none sticks in my memory, but it’s been at least 8-10 years since I read them) I’m just saying if you put a Narnia book and a Harry Potter book side by side on the table in front of the average Christian she’s going to say, “Narnia- good. Harry Potter- bad.” and that’s going to be the extent of her thought process because she knows Lewis is a famous evangelical and J.K. Rowling is not.

Witchcraft and the occult are not things to be taken lightly. You should also know that there is credible evidence that C.S. Lewis held some very unbiblical beliefs, some of which, if true, would put him outside the camp of Christianity (particularly his rejection of penal substitutionary atonement). With regard to whether or not your children should read the Narnia books, my counsel would be to study what the Bible has to say about witchcraft, the occult, and the things Christians should focus their thoughts on, examine the books for yourself, pray for wisdom, and make what you determine to be the most God-honoring decision for your family. You may wish to get some guidance from your pastor or a mature Christian friend, too.


What are your thoughts on Johanna Michaelsen?

In the last “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag I said I had heard Johanna Michaelsen’s name but didn’t really know anything about her. Since that time a couple more people have asked me about her and I’ve found out a tad more about her (It’s not that there’s no information available, just that I haven’t had time to research her much.).

Johanna is recommended by my friend Amy Spreeman of Berean Research. Amy also serves on Johanna’s ministry advisory board. So it sounds like Johanna is someone worth looking into as a trustworthy resource. However, as Amy and Johanna (assuming she is like-minded) would probably agree, you cannot simply trust someone else’s endorsement. You must do the work of a good Berean and examine everything you take in against Scripture to discover whether it is doctrinally sound. I’m hoping you’ll find Johanna easily passes that test.

Not sure where to start? My article Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own may help.


How do you reconcile passages such as Luke 2:22-35 (Simeon awaiting Jesus at the temple) with the principle that God only speaks to us through Scripture?

I would classify it in the same Hebrews 1:1-2 category as God speaking to Moses through the burning bush, or Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, or Jeremiah’s prophecy at the potter’s house. God spoke to Simeon in the same Old Testament sense as any of the other Old Testament prophets He spoke to before Jesus came. (In fact, you might even say John the Baptist, who came after Simeon, was the last “Old Testament” prophet.)

It’s a little confusing to us because we read about Simeon in the New Testament after the intertestamental period, and after Jesus had actually been born, but at the time he spoke these words, he was effectively living in “Old Testament times.” (Which is why we also see in this passage that the reason Simeon encountered Jesus is that Mary and Joseph were presenting Him at the temple to “fulfill the law of Moses.”) Jesus had not yet fulfilled His earthly mission of living a sinless life, teaching, preaching and miracles, founding the church, dying on the cross, resurrecting from the grave, and ascending into Heaven. Until those things were accomplished, Simeon, Jesus, and all of the other Jews living at that time were still under the Mosaic (Old Testament) Covenant.

You might find my article Basic Training: The Bible is Sufficient to be helpful.


Do you believe that supernatural healing still occurs today?

Yes. I believe that God can heal miraculously, through doctors and medicine, and through the way He designed the body to heal itself when ill or injured.

What I do not believe in is “faith healing” as it is commonly understood and practiced today. I’ve never encountered a person who teaches and practices faith healing who also adheres to sound biblical doctrine, and I’ve never encountered a person who adheres to sound biblical doctrine who teaches and practices faith healing.

If what you’re really asking is whether I’m a continuationist or a cessationist, I’m a cessationist.


What are your thoughts on Francis Chan?

When Francis Chan first became popular, he had a reputation for being a doctrinally sound Reformed pastor and author. I never read any of his books or followed him closely, but I have godly friends who did.

In 2013 Francis spoke at International House of Prayer’s (IHOP) One Thing conference where he praised Mike Bickle, embraced him as a Christian brother, and tacitly accused discerning Christians who had wisely, and biblically, discouraged him from participating in the conference of dissension and division.

If you are unaware of the theological problems with IHOP, you should know that it (along with Bethel Church in Redding, California) is basically ground zero for the heretical New Apostolic Reformation movement. Chan spoke at One Thing again in 2015, demonstrating a shocking lack of awareness of the unbiblical theology of Catholicism, and called for evangelical unity with Catholics saying, “And I think it’s time for us to get beyond, okay, I’ll sing with them, okay, I’ll worship with them, y’know, okay, I’ll admit that they’re Christians, and go to a biblical stance which says I can’t live without them. I need them. They’re indispensable.”

I don’t know whether or not Chan’s early books and materials were doctrinally sound, but I would definitely not recommend him now. Someone who is a pastor has no excuse for being so undiscerning and ignorant of errant theology.


I am wondering if a Christian believes in speaking in tongues is for today would you recommend that people shouldn’t follow them just as you have recommended people not follow other people for different reasons?

I don’t usually proactively recommend – share their articles, quotes, etc. on social media or the blog, suggest people attend their churches or conferences, read their books, and so forth – continuationists who are otherwise doctrinally sound, but I don’t warn against them either. I just tend to be silent about them.

There are many false teachers I do warn against, and most of them are continuationists, but continuationism is not the central reason I warn against them. When I warn against a teacher, it is because he or she is teaching demonstrably false doctrine and/or walking in unrepentant sin.

My article Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own explains the criteria I use when deciding whether or not to recommend a particular teacher.


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.