Speaking Engagements

Report Back: The Feminization of America Women’s Conference

It was such a joy to serve the ladies of Nashville, Arkansas, last week at Maranatha Baptist Church’s The Feminization of America women’s conference.

Conference Program

Friday night, the men of MBC kicked things off just right by cooking and serving us a hearty dinner with a choice of bacon-wrapped chicken or pork chops. I couldn’t help but think about some of my readers who have jokingly complained that when men have a conference, they get steak, but women’s conferences serve delicate “froo froo” food that leaves you just as hungry as you started off. You ladies would have been proud…and full!

Lovely centerpieces decorated the tables at dinner.

After dinner, I taught my first two sessions. The ladies were so kind, welcoming, and receptive. (Nobody threw rotten tomatoes even though I taught what might be considered hard biblical truths!)

God’s Design for Biblical Womanhood

 

Encouraging & Supporting God’s Design for Biblical Manhood

 

Look what was in the wonderful “swag bags” attendees received! So much great reading material (and other goodies!), including The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them by my friends Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock. I highly recommend it (even though I’m only on the first chapter!).

When the Friday evening sessions were over, I was whisked away to Margaret and Tom’s beautifully rustic home in the country. They were incredibly kind to me, and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. I’ve never stayed at a nice enough hotel that fresh flowers were among the amenities, but take a look at these gorgeous jonquils that graced my bedside table. These florist-quality beauties grow everywhere in Arkansas as wildflowers.

On Saturday morning, the men of MBC outdid themselves, serving the ladies an extensive breakfast bar. What a feast! Then it was time for sessions 3 and 4:

Fighting Feminism by Walking Out Biblical Womanhood

 

Rap it Up!
Wrap Up, Review, Q&A

 

Not everyone was able to make it back on Saturday morning,
but it was still a great group of ladies!

         

I’ve never spoken from behind a “preaching desk” style pulpit,
but now I can see why pastors love them so much. So roomy!

It’s always so great to meet online friends and the ladies attending the conference. My “tweeps,” Trina and Camille, came all the way from Texarkana to attend!

One of the ladies of MBC shared her testimony with me and gave me these precious gifts. Can you guess what’s in the ornament and the pendant jar to go along with Matthew 17:20? Hundreds and hundreds of mustard seeds! That’s a lot of faith! :0)

Some charming gifts from the conference hostesses

When the last hug had been given and the last goodbye had been said, we hit the road, and my family and I got to spend a few relaxing days with my parents, not far from from Nashville. It was a wonderful visit. One of the days we were there, I took a brief walking tour of nearby downtown Hot Springs.

Yes, that’s steam coming off the hot spring.
Can you believe this enchanting natural
area is in the middle of downtown?
I had to cross the busy main street to get to it.

These incredible murals grace the sides of two older buildings

If you saw the 1988 Tom Hanks movie, Big,
(which I’m not necessarily recommending), you know what this is.
I thought it was fun to see one in real life. After I took the picture and began walking away, it started yelling at me!

Another beautiful spot in downtown Hot Springs.
(Cherry blossoms? I’m not sure.)

I had an awesome trip to Arkansas, and it was such an honor to teach the lovely ladies of Nashville. Many thanks to Margaret, Stephanie, Jeanne, Pastor Bruce, and all the hard-working men and women of Maranatha Baptist Church for your sweet hospitality and for putting on such a wonderful conference. I highly recommend this warm and welcoming church to anyone in southwest Arkansas who is looking for a doctrinally sound body of Believers to join.

 


If your church or organization is ever in need of a speaker for a women’s event, I’d love to come share with your ladies as well. Click here for more information.


Photo Credits

Photo of Maranatha Baptist Church courtesy of Maranatha Baptist Church website.

Photos of Michelle speaking by Margaret Byrd.

Photo of Trina, Camille, and Michelle courtesy of Trina Armstrong.

All other photos by Michelle Lesley

Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ God’s Good Purposes in Suffering

Originally published June 16, 2017

In my previous article True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical? we examined some unbiblical ideas and approaches Christians often have toward suffering. Why is it important to have a biblical view of suffering? Because suffering is painful enough without piling on things like, “God is punishing me,” or “This wouldn’t be happening if I just had more faith,” that aren’t even true. The biblical view of suffering frees you from from the additional agony of inappropriate guilt, the mindset that God is harsh or unloving, and the burden of striving to appease a God who’s not asking you to. A biblical view of suffering sets you free to rest in Christ and trust Him.

God’s purposes toward you, His child, are always good, even when He permits difficult things into your life. Let’s think about Romans 8:28 for just a second:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It doesn’t say all things are good. It says that God uses all circumstances for good for His people – even the difficult ones – because He is good and His plans and goals are good.

Even Joseph saw this, way back in Genesis. After everything his brothers put him through, he said,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,

As parents, sometimes we give our child ice cream to eat and sometimes we give him Brussels sprouts. Do we give ice cream because we love him and Brussels sprouts because we hate him? No. Both are done out of love, the ice cream because it brings him joy, and the Brussels sprouts because it has the nutrients he needs to be strong and healthy. It would not be loving for a parent to give only ice cream or only Brussels sprouts. In the same way, it would not be loving for God to give us only blessings or only difficult times. Everything God does in our lives, He does for His glory and our good.

So what are some of God’s good purposes in our suffering?

1. To bring glory to God
We touched on Job’s story in the previous article and saw how his suffering glorified God. Another great passage that talks about God being glorified through suffering is John 9:1-3:

As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

If you thought suffering was God’s punishment for sin, you’re in good company- the disciples thought so, too! But Jesus was about to do something amazing in this guy’s life that would showcase God’s glory, and it would not have happened had he not suffered.

2. Suffering can be a witness to the lost
When we suffer without forsaking Christ and trust Him to carry us through it, it’s a testimony to others – especially lost people – that God is faithful and worthy of
their faith and trust. Your suffering might open the door to sharing the gospel with someone.

3. The logical consequences of sin
In the previous article, we dealt with the topic of suffering we “deserve,” and how, even though it’s painful, it’s easier to come to grips with that kind of suffering. That’s because we’re made in the image of God, and one of God’s attributes that is reflected in us is justice. We have this innate sense of wanting to see justice done. And when we, or anyone else, suffer the natural consequences of our sin, that points to God being a just God.
We tend to lump all suffering into the one basket of “that’s unfair!” but this is the kind of suffering that is just.

4. Discipline

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Revelation 3:19

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
   nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:5-11

When we stray off into a pattern of sin, God can use suffering (often the natural consequences of our sin) to correct us and point us back to the Christlike direction we ought to be heading. He does that because He loves us.

5. Suffering can teach us humility and dependence on God
“Independence” is pretty much a motto for us here in the United States. Independence from England, rugged individualism, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps…Guess what? God doesn’t want you to be independent. He wants you to be
dependent- on Him. And nothing can grow that dependence and humility like suffering. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

6. Suffering can grow us in spiritual strength and maturity
Romans 3:3-4 says:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Endurance, character, hope. These are all aspects of Christian character that God wants to build in each of us, and even though we wish He would just hit us on the head with a magic wand and instantly give us these things, that’s not the way He does it. He often produces these things in us by way of suffering.

7. Experiencing suffering gives us compassion for others, and equips us to help them

[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:4

God doesn’t do anything, including putting you through suffering, for no good reason. It could be to glorify Him. It could be to do something in you. Or, it could be to help someone else (or all three). God never wastes an experience in your life. If you’ve been through something, God can use that “been there, done that” experience to equip you to minister to someone else who’s going through the same thing.

8. Suffering can cause the lost to cry out to God for salvation
Remember the parable of the prodigal son? Sadly it’s a common tale. Some people basically have to hit rock bottom in their lives before they finally give it up and surrender to Christ, just like the prodigal son.

And how about the story of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood? Sometimes life is great. You don’t need Jesus, you’re doing life just fine on your own…until something devastating happens that you can’t handle, and you get desperate. Mark 5:26-28 tells us she

had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

She was desperate. And God can use desperation and suffering to turn the heart of a lost person to Himself for salvation.

 

God is a good God, and His purposes in our suffering are always good. So the next time you’re suffering, think of those 8‘s in Romans 8:28, and remember these 8 good purposes God has for your pain, purposes that bring Him glory, work out His good plans, grow us in good ways, and enable us to do good to others.

1&2 Peter Bible Study

Living Stones: A Study of 1 & 2 Peter ~ Catch Up Week

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

It’s Catch Up Week!

I’m out of pocket this week, so you get a catch up week!

Catch up on any lessons you might be behind on, go back and do any of the homework you may not have had time for, review your memory verses, or if you’re already caught up, you could even read ahead in 1 Peter a little (we got through the end of 1 Peter 3 in lesson 5). It’s your week to use as you see fit.

Memory verses for review (there was no memory verse for lesson 1):

Lesson 2

 

Lesson 3

 

Lesson 4

 

Lesson 5

Holidays (Other)

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

Originally published March 3, 2017

40-lent

Although, as a Louisiana girl, I’ve had a decades long love affair with king cake, and I totally support the increased availability of fish entrées at local restaurants and getting a few days off school or work, I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras and Lent.

The intrinsic philosophy behind Mardi Gras – a day of revelry, indulgence, and debauchery to get it all out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent – is patently unbiblical.

The practice of Lent often is, as well. Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday, observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Originally, it was simply a time of fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter, and for Christians who continue to observe it this way, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord.

For many, however, Lent – particularly the aspect of giving something up for Lent in an act of self-denial – is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, or worse, works righteousness. Giving something up for Lent because, “I’m Catholic and that’s what good Catholics do,” or to atone for your sins, or to curry favor with God, or to flaunt your self-righteousness flies in the face of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone biblical Christianity.

If you give something up for Lent, why do you do so? If it’s for one of the aforementioned unbiblical reasons (or others), or even if you don’t observe Lent at all, I’d like to challenge us all to give up the things below for Lent:

1. Give up Lent for Lent.

2. Give up attending any church that requires the observance of Lent in a sacramental way and find a doctrinally sound one.

3. Give up thinking your good behavior earns you right standing with God.

4. Give up the idea that there’s any such thing as truly good behavior.

5. Give up thinking your good deeds could ever outweigh your sins.

6. Give up willfully indulging in sin as long as you “make up for it” later.

7. Give up the notion that penance or self-denial can pay for your sins.

8. Give up thinking that penance or self-denial curries favor with God.

9. Give up the idea that repentance and obedience belong to a certain season on the calendar. We are to walk in repentance every day.

10. Give up the concept that Christmas and Easter are Christian “high holy days.” We celebrate Christ’s incarnation and resurrection every Sunday, and should prepare ourselves all during the week. Every Sunday is a high holy day for the Christian.

11. Give up rote participation in church rituals. Search the Scriptures and see if they’re biblical first.

12. Give up thinking God concerns Himself strictly with your external behavior rather than the condition of your heart.

13. Give up “sounding a trumpet before you” with humblebrags on social media and in real life about giving things up for Lent, fasting, giving offerings, or any other good works you might do. You just lost your reward, baby.

14. Give up approaching church attendance as punching the time clock for God. The Christian’s entire life, our very beings, belong to Christ, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.

15. Give up the delusion that you’re basically a good person. You’re not.

16. Give up biblical ignorance and become a good student of God’s word.

17. Give up forsaking the assembly and become a faithful, serving member of your local church.

18. Give up thinking that everyone and everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is.

19. Give up the desire to have your itching ears scratched and long for the truth of God’s word. Even when it’s hard to hear.

20. Give up neglecting the daily study of God’s word.

21. Give up rejecting parts of the Bible you don’t agree with. We don’t sit in judgment over Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over us.

22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.

23. Give up making excuses for failing to memorize Scripture. You can do it!

24. Give up being a non-serving member of your church.

25. Give up being a non-giving member of your church.

26. Give up thinking you’re hearing God speak to you. If you want to hear God speak to you, open your Bible and study it. God has spoken in His word and many are largely ignoring what He has already said.

27. Give up following false teachers and be a good Berean.

28. Give up being afraid to share the gospel and just do it.

29. Give up thinking you can please God apart from faith in Christ.

30. Give up basing your doctrine and beliefs on your own (or anyone else’s) opinions, experiences, and feelings, and base them on correctly handled Scripture instead.

31. Give up following your wicked and deceitful heart, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.

32. Give up thinking you have to do big things for God in order for Him to be pleased with you and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”

33. Give up worrying and trust God.

34. Give up neglecting to fear God’s wrath if you don’t know Christ.

35. Give up fearing God’s wrath if you do know Christ.

36. Give up the idea that “God is love” means God is a pushover who won’t judge you.

37. Give up thinking you’ve been so bad that God could never forgive you.

38. Give up thinking you’re so good that you don’t need God to forgive you.

39. Give up refusing to forgive others when Christ has forgiven you so much.

40. Give up everything and be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and walk in His ways, all the days of your life, to the glory of God alone.

ps-115-1

Holidays (Other), Mailbag

The Mailbag: Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and Lent

Originally published March 4, 2019

 

What are Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and Lent? Are they biblical? Should Christians participate in them?

If you don’t live in Louisiana or a heavily Catholic area, maybe you’re not very familiar with these observances. Let’s take a look at each of them:

What is…

Lent- Lent is a forty day period (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. It is observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Historically, it is supposed to be a period of repentance, penance, fasting, and self-denial. The aspect of Lent that people tend to be most familiar with is the idea of giving something up (self-denial/penance) for Lent such as watching TV, chocolate, smoking, or eating meat.

What is the meaning of Lent? at Got Questions

What is Lent? at 40 Acts*

Ash Wednesday Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Ashes are applied to the forehead in the shape of a cross to indicate repentance and that the recipient will begin the Lenten fast. Ash Wednesday is primarily observed by Catholics and some Protestants.

What is Ash Wednesday? at Got Questions

Ash Wednesday at Catholic Online*

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) Mardi Gras is the day before Ash Wednesday. It has its roots in Shrove Tuesday, which was originally a day of feasting on all of the foods that were forbidden during Lent so these foods would not spoil or go to waste since they could not be eaten again until after Easter. Through the years, this day of feasting has morphed into drunken revelry – sort of a “last hoorah” for getting all the sin out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent. In Louisiana (and a few other places), it is much more a cultural holiday than a religious observance. People from various religions as well as non-religious people participate in Mardi Gras. It is celebrated with numerous parades, balls, and other festivities. The colors of Mardi Gras are purple (representing justice), green (representing faith), and gold (representing power).

What is the origin of Fat Tuesday / Mardi Gras? at Got Questions

Mardi Gras History at Mardi Gras New Orleans*

Are these days/observances biblical?

Lent Yes and no. Mostly no. The fundamental components of Lent – repentance, fasting, and the pursuit of holiness – are biblical. Repentance and holy living should be practiced by all Christians every day, and biblical fasting as the Holy Spirit convicts the individual Believer.

However, Lent is not mentioned or even hinted at in the Bible, and any Catholic observance (of Lent or anything else) is fundamentally unbiblical because the Catholic religion itself is unbiblical. It is also unbiblical for a church to require that its members observe a man-made religious ritual or to imply or teach that participating in this ritual earns favor with God or absolves or makes up for sin. Furthermore, to teach that there is a special time of the year set aside for repentance and holiness is unbiblical. Christians are to walk in holiness and repentance every day.

Ash Wednesday Again, yes and no. Mostly no, and for most of the same reasons Lent is generally unbiblical. The fundamental components of Ash Wednesday – repentance of sin and the pursuit of holiness – are biblical and should be practiced by all Christians every day.

In addition to the unbiblical facets of Lent, Ash Wednesday’s forehead ashes “disfigure[s] their faces that their fasting may be seen by others” which is the exact opposite of the humble way Christ teaches us to fast.

Mardi Gras No. The drunkenness, sin, and lasciviousness that go along with typical Mardi Gras celebrations are patently unbiblical as is the idea of getting all the sin out of our systems before we have to start being good. The Bible teaches against these things.

Should Christians participate in…

Lent Catholic observances of Lent – no. Some doctrinally sound churches and individuals freely choose to set aside a time of biblical fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter. For Christians who observe Lent in this way, as long as it is observed in keeping with Scriptural principles, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord just as it could if observed at any other time of the year.

Ash Wednesday No. It is unbiblical, as cited above.

Mardi Gras Christians should not participate in any sinful activities any day of the year, including Mardi Gras, nor believe or portray to others by their actions, the unbiblical “theology” behind Mardi Gras. (And as a non-theological aside, violent crime in New Orleans during Mardi Gras has made attending Mardi Gras parades and other events very dangerous.)

However, as I mentioned, in Louisiana, Mardi Gras has become much more of a cultural holiday than an observance with religious undertones. Many smaller towns (and even some larger ones) eschew the debauchery that takes place in New Orleans and offer family-friendly parades which are basically as innocuous as our local Christmas parades or a Fourth of July fireworks show. For Christians who have worked and prayed through the appropriate biblical principles and whose consciences allow them to participate in non-sinful Mardi Gras activities such as attending these types of parades, I believe this is an issue of adiaphora (Christian liberty) similar to participating in non-sinful aspects of Halloween. (Don’t forget to take along some tracts to hand out!)


*Other than the linked article, I am not familiar with this site/organization and do not endorse it if it deviates from Scripture or any of my beliefs as outlined in the “Welcome” or “Statement of Faith” tabs at the top of this page.


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