Mailbag

The Mailbag: Christians, the Bible, and Tattoos

Do you have any resources on tattoos? We’re having a very HOT discussion in our ladies group and it’s causing conflict.

Ya know, I thought for sure I had written something about that by now, but I guess not. So, here goes…

To me, tattoos are ugly as sin. I don’t care how beautiful the artwork is, or if it’s a Bible verse, or a tribute to someone you love. It reminds me of graffiti spray-painted on an overpass. I don’t understand why anyone would permanently mar her body that way, not to mention the fact that those things aren’t going to look so great when you’re in your 80’s and wrinkly. And, if you change your mind about your tattoo(s) later, it’s my understanding that they’re painful and expensive to remove. If anyone ever comes to me to ask my opinion about getting a tattoo, my answer will be an across the board, no matter what: don’t do it.

And you know what? None of that matters to this question, because it’s just my personal, subjective opinion and preference. So what? We want to know what the Bible says, because the Bible is our authority in life, not Michelle’s disdain of the aesthetics of tattoos. (Nor, for that matter, your opinion that tattoos are cool and groovy and pulchritudinous.)

What does the Bible say about getting a tattoo?

So what does the Bible say about getting a tattoo?

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

“But what about Leviticus 19:28? ‘You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.'”

I sure hope you don’t have pierced ears or that you’ve ever undergone surgery if you’re trying to make that verse say that the Bible prohibits tattoos as we know them today. Because if you have, according to your own hermeneutic, you’re just as guilty as the tatted teen down the pew from you.

Compare Leviticus 19:28 in several different trustworthy translations. Read the cross references. Read the whole chapter.

Look at the macro-context of this verse. It’s in the Old Testament. Right off the bat, our knee-jerk reaction should be, “This might not apply directly to New Testament Christians. I’d better look at it super carefully.”.

And indeed, we should. Because, not only is it in the Old Testament, it’s in the Old Testament law. And while we know that God’s moral law is transcendent (for all time), we also know that Jesus fulfilled the law, which is why the ceremonial (Old Testament worship) and civil (the government of the Old Testament nation of Israel) laws largely no longer apply directly to the everyday lives of Christians. I mean, look just one verse earlier, at Leviticus 19:27: “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.”. The menfolk in your family keeping that one? OK, then.

At the time God breathed out this law, the rituals in Leviticus 19:28 (and also in verse 27) were pagan practices – likely originating or proliferating in Egypt or Canaan – associated with mourning the dead. Gashing one’s body was practiced by most pagan nations and was intended both to show respect for the dead and to intercede with the gods on behalf of the dead. Tattoos were associated with the names of particular pagan gods and were an indication that the tattooed person had permanently dedicated himself to the worship of that god.

So, look also at the micro-context of the phrases within verse 28. “You shall not make any cuts on your body” and “tattoo yourselves” are both connected to the phrase “for the dead”. That’s a modifier. This verse doesn’t mean “don’t pierce your ears or have a C-section” or “don’t tattoo a Bible verse on your arm”. It means don’t cut your body in this particular context: for the dead, because that’s paganism. Likewise, don’t tattoo yourself because that’s paganism, just like cutting yourself for the dead is. You’re God’s people, not pagans. Act like it.

So, does this verse apply to Christians, and, if so, how?

If you’re cutting or marring your body in order to mourn the dead, to plead with false gods on behalf of the dead, or to worship or dedicate yourself to false gods, you’re in sin. (Also, you’re almost certainly not saved.)

But that’s not typically why even lost people get tattoos these days.

The Christians I know who have gotten tattoos have usually done so because they thought the tattoo was aesthetically pleasing and/or because it was meaningful to them in some way (their favorite Bible verse, the names of their children or spouse, etc.).

Does the Bible prohibit artistic tattoos for such reasons? No. As much as you or I might not like them personally, the Bible doesn’t teach “Thou shalt not get a tattoo.”. And if you teach that it does, you’re lying about God’s Word. It’s OK to express your personal opinion that you don’t like tattoos. It’s not OK to tell someone else she’s sinning if she gets a tattoo or that Scripture says she can’t.

As much as you or I might not like them personally, the Bible doesn’t teach “Thou shalt not get a tattoo.”. And if you teach that it does, you’re lying about God’s Word.

There are, however, some Scriptures that might be related to getting a tattoo that you’ll want to consider and obey if you’re thinking about getting one:

  • If you’re a minor child who’s still under the authority of your parents, and they forbid you from getting a tattoo, you have to obey them.
  • If your husband doesn’t want you to get a tattoo, you need to submit to him.
  • Examine your heart. Why do you want to get a tattoo? Are your reasons worldly, or God-glorifying?
  • Is paying for a tattoo honoring God with your finances?
  • Is there any way in which getting a tattoo could harm your witness for Christ or be a stumbling block to someone?

Tattoos aren’t my personal cup of tea. And you know what? That’s just as OK as if tattoos are your personal cup of tea. I still love you just as much, and I don’t look down on you or pass judgment on you. (In fact with my nearly non-existent powers of observation, I probably won’t even notice you have one.) The Bible doesn’t allow for that. Assuming you’re obeying all of the Scriptures above, tattoos are an issue of Christian liberty.

Additional Resources

Can a Christian Get a Tattoo? by Todd Friel


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: “Who, exactly, are you?”

The following is the full text of an email I received, minus the signature. Below the full text, I’ve broken the email down (in bold) with my answers interspersed (in regular type).

Michelle Lesley,

Hello. I googled ‘false teachers’ to see what all I could find in preparation for a sermon series on 2Peter, and I came across your website. After reading quite a bit more than I expected to about many men and women I have found to be spurious teachers, I began to wonder just who you are. I began to wonder just who you endorse when you have scrutinized so many people and found them wanting. The strange thing is that I can find no independent information about you-only what is available on your website. I have given up on finding anything about you that hasn’t been approved by you and your staff. That leads me to wonder what other people have said about you that I cannot find it. While I am not in doubt on much of what I read on your site, I am concerned that by controlling all the information that comes to the average person trying to find out just who you are you are hiding something or you are doing your utmost to present the best image you can. That concerns me and influences how I interpret your information on the site. I don’t care who you are, to be fully honest, I am only skeptical about someone who controls all the information available about them. No Wikipedia entry? That’s rather odd for someone as outspoken about false teachers as you are. You seem rather solid on your position on those you have shared articles about or written criticisms on their behavior. You may be completely right in your assessments, but your lack of transparency through what I see as the throttling of information about you raises red flags as to your integrity. If I am wrong and there are independent articles providing unbiased biographical information, then I would appreciate a link.

Thank you (or your staff) in advance for your response,

Michelle Lesley,
Hello.

Hello. Thank you for getting my name right and for giving me this opportunity to say, for those who may not know, even though it’s right up there at the top of the blog, my name is, indeed, Michelle Lesley. Michelle has two L’s. Michelle is my first name, not Lesley or Leslie. Lesley is my real last name because Lesley is my husband’s surname. (I once had someone accuse me of having an anonymous Facebook page because she thought I was using my first and middle names rather than my first and last names.) “Lesley” is spelled with an “-ey” at the end, not an “-ie”.

I say all of this because it fascinates me that a not insignificant number of people can look at my name at the top of this blog, on Facebook, on Twitter (Instagrammers get a little more grace since my IG handle doesn’t include my full name), type MichelleLesley.com to get to my blog, or type MichelleLesley…@… .com to email me, and still begin their correspondence with “Dear Michele / Leslie / Lesley”. (And, no, with the number of people who do this, they can’t all be dyslexic.)

“Fascinates,” I said, not “angers”. I love y’all, and I’m sure I’ve gotten plenty of people’s names wrong myself. So I just thought I would throw that information out there for those who might not know. Howdy. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Michelle Lesley. :0)

I googled ‘false teachers’ to see what all I could find in preparation for a sermon series on 2Peter, and I came across your website. After reading quite a bit more than I expected to about many men and women I have found to be spurious teachers, I began to wonder just who you are.

I’m Michelle Lesley. See above. If you want to know more about me, you can click on the Welcome & FAQs tab, the Bio tab, and the Statement of Faith tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. That’s what they’re there for.

I hope you found my materials helpful, but if I may say, I find it very odd that a pastor (I’m assuming from your reference to a “sermon series”) would write an email like this.

I began to wonder just who you endorse when you have scrutinized so many people and found them wanting.

I’m assuming you found the people I’ve “scrutinized” at the Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page. How did you not see the Recommended Bible Teachers tab just under that? If you “wonder just who I endorse,” that’s where you’ll find the information you’re looking for.

The strange thing is that I can find no independent information about you-only what is available on your website.

What do you suggest I do about that? Call the Associated Press and demand that they do a story on me or something? It’s somehow my fault that I’m not famous or interesting enough for Time, or People, or Newsweek to come bang on my door and beg for an interview? Why are you complaining to me about this? Why don’t you go to whatever media outlet you consider credible and ask them why they haven’t published anything about me?

I have given up on finding anything about you that hasn’t been approved by you and your staff.

“Staff”. I had a good laugh over that one for at least five minutes. I would love to have a staff, but I’m not Beth Moore or Joyce Meyer or somebody like that. This is a one woman operation, except for my husband, who manages my speaking engagements. I’m flattered, but you’re grossly overestimating me and the size of this ministry.

That leads me to wonder what other people have said about you that I cannot find it.

Really? I just Googled my name, and several of the hits included interviews I’ve done and things others have written about me.

But, again, how is it my fault nobody is interested in publishing whatever information it is you’re looking for about me? This is surreal, and definitely one of the strangest emails I’ve ever received.

While I am not in doubt on much of what I read on your site,

Then what’s your problem with “who I am”? My blog says who I am. Why do you doubt that part but not the rest of what’s on my site?

I am concerned that by controlling all the information that comes to the average person trying to find out just who you are

Originally, I thought maybe you were just new to the internet, but you clearly know how to Google, email, and navigate a blog. But anyone who’s technologically savvy enough to be able to do those things surely can’t think that I can “control all the information that comes to the average person trying to find out just who you are”. Do you really think I have control over Google results? And if I did, why wouldn’t I get rid of the ones that speak unfavorably of me?

…you are hiding something or you are doing your utmost to present the best image you can.

You caught me. I’m really a purple Martian here on earth to spy out all the best Cajun restaurants and steal their recipes because the food on Mars is terrible. That’s what I’m hiding. This women’s discipleship thing is just my cover so that reporters won’t find me and expose me for the thieving extra-terrestrial I am.

That concerns me and influences how I interpret your information on the site.

But you already said, “I am not in doubt on much of what I read on your site,” (above), so I can only take that to mean that the lack of outside sources reporting on who I am has influenced you to trust the information on my site.

I don’t care who you are, to be fully honest,

If you don’t care, why did you take precious time out of your day to write this email?

I am only skeptical about someone who controls all the information available about them.

I don’t. I can’t. Nobody can. The reason you can’t find whatever information it is that you’re looking for about me is because nobody has published it – it does not exist – not because I’m “controlling” it.

No Wikipedia entry? That’s rather odd for someone as outspoken about false teachers as you are.

Anybody out there want to write a Wikipedia entry on me so this gentleman’s curiosity will be satisfied?

You do understand, don’t you, that Wikipedia is one of the least reliable sources out there? That most high school teachers won’t even allow their students to use it as a source for papers? It’s editable by the public. Anybody can get on Wikipedia and say anything about anything or anybody.

Furthermore, although I’m flattered, you are again waaaaaaay overestimating my reach, and the general public’s and the visible church’s interest in false teachers. Guess who else doesn’t have a Wikipedia page? Chris Rosebrough. Justin Peters. Costi Hinn. Todd Friel. Gabriel Hughes. All of them have much larger platforms than I do, and most have been in discernment-type ministries for much longer than I have.

(And just for fun I checked a few other fairly “big” names in my theological circles. Guess what? Phil Johnson and Steve Lawson don’t have Wikipedia pages, either.)

You seem rather solid on your position on those you have shared articles about or written criticisms on their behavior.

You’d prefer I was wishy-washy about it? I don’t post gossip or things I’m not sure about. That would be wrong and unbiblical. Yes, I am absolutely solid on what the Bible says about the things and people I address.

You may be completely right in your assessments, but your lack of transparency through what I see as the throttling of information about you raises red flags as to your integrity.

Can somebody out there please explain to me how to “throttle” publicly available information about oneself? How can I get control of Google, Big Social, the internet, the media, Western Union, town criers, and carrier pigeons?

Because, come to think about it, there are a few slanderers out there whose articles and commentary about me I’d like to get rid of. So, somebody please tell me how to do it. I’ll just wait right here.

If I am wrong and there are independent articles providing unbiased biographical information, then I would appreciate a link.

Or, you know, you could go straight to the source and ask me. Isn’t that what authors of “independent articles providing biographical information” on living people do? They go straight to the source – the subject of the biography. Nobody knows my biographical information better than I do. If you think somebody like me has reporters and biographers following me around and observing me every day, you are completely out of touch with reality.

What on earth is it that you want to know about me, anyway, that isn’t on my blog, or that you couldn’t just ask me? My shoe size? Where I went to grammar school? My favorite ice cream flavor?

8. Loma Heights Elementary. Peanut Butter and Chocolate. You’re welcome.

Thank you (or your staff) in advance for your response

You’re welcome. I don’t have a staff.

And now I’d like to know: Who exactly are you? You signed your name to your email, but no title or credentials. I don’t even know for sure whether or not you’re a pastor. I Googled your name, but it’s common enough that my search yielded information for a bunch of different people who share your name. I don’t know which, if any of them is you. So I have no information about you. Not even a Wikipedia page.

You’ve got all kinds of information about me that I’ve voluntarily and publicly provided here on the blog, on social media, and in publicly available interviews, and if there was something else about me you wanted to know, all you had to do was ask. I’ve got nothing on you except your name. You wouldn’t even provide me any information about yourself privately in your email.

Who’s “hiding,” “controlling,” and “throttling,” information about himself, now? Whose “lack of transparency” should be “raising red flags as to [his] integrity”? Where’s my link to an independent article providing unbiased biographical information about you?


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Remarriage after divorce… Spiritual gifts… Spiritual warfare at Bible study… Pants at church)

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 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 (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


I am wondering what your thoughts are on remarriage post divorce?

Great question, but let me tweak it just a little bit. “My thoughts” on remarriage after divorce are irrelevant. As Christians, what we want to know is what the Bible has to say about it. Unfortunately, every situation is different, so I can’t give you a simple answer that would apply to every single situation out there. But here are a few general biblical principles:

  • God makes clear throughout Scripture that He doesn’t like divorce and that He intends marriage to be for life.
  • There are two biblical grounds for divorce: adultery and abandonment. It is not a sin for a Christian to initiate a divorce when his/her spouse is guilty of one of these. Remarriage after a divorce for one of these two reasons is biblically permissible and is not a sin for the Christian.
  • But even in cases where there are biblical grounds for divorce, God does not require it. Scripture is saturated with the teachings of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation, even after heinous sin, and if reconciliation is in any way possible after a spouse’s sin, that is the route that should be pursued, with copious amounts of pastoral counseling.

If you are a Christian who has been divorced (either before or after salvation) and you’re thinking about remarriage, my best counsel would be this: If you’re not already joined to a doctrinally sound church, find one and join it immediately, then set up an appointment with your pastor so he can shepherd you through applying Scripture to your particular situation. (If, for some reason, you can’t go to a doctrinally sound pastor for counsel, check out the Biblical Counseling Resources tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.)

Additional Resources:

The Mailbag: Is it all right for a Christian to get divorced?

The Mailbag: Must I reconcile with my abusive ex-husband?

Remarriage Forbidden?

DivorceCare


I have been thinking about cessationism and spiritual gifts for single women in the church—especially those who have been converted later in life with no prospects of marriage or child rearing in their future. What are they to do, and how does the Reformed church help these women find and nurture their spiritual gifts for the service of the church?

I’m so glad you asked. Every Christian is given at least one spiritual gift by God to use for serving the church. (I’m a little confused as to what marriage and parenting have to do with that. God gives spiritual gifts to every Christian, regardless of his or her station in life, and spiritual gifts are primarily for serving the church, not the family.)

There are a variety of spiritual gifts, but because the sign gifts have fulfilled their function and ceased, miracle working, healing, extra-biblical revelation (prophecy), and the ability to spontaneously speak a foreign language (“tongues”) are not among the gifts God bestows today.

“The Reformed Church,” as you’ve termed it, isn’t really a monolithic entity. There are all kinds of Reformed churches. You would have to ask each individual local church how they help their members find and nurture their spiritual gifts.

Personally, I do not recommend so-called spiritual gifts tests. However, I have developed a resource that I think will help Christians who are trying to find a place of service in the church as well as discover their spiritual gifting (and for churches who are trying to help their members with that). It’s called The Servanthood Survey.


I am one of the leads of a prayer group that also does a Bible study. We are doing chapter by chapter in the Old Testament. Most of the ladies are name it and claim it and speaking prophecy, casting out demons, health and prosperity expectations, one speaks in tongues, etc. I have disagreed with this which has upset the women for the sake of unity. I have stayed to try to give the opportunity to share Biblical Gospel, but it wears me out after each session. I let the pastor know. He’s planning changes to the group and I’ve let him know I’m not going to lead the group anymore. I feel like I’m letting God down. I also need to think of my spiritual well being. This is a Wesleyan church BTW. I plan on using your Bible studies. Your thoughts will be appreciated.

Having been in a few situations like this, I can certainly understand how spiritually, and therefore emotionally and physically draining this kind of thing is. This is true spiritual warfare.

I’m not quite clear as to whether or not you’re a member of this church, but if you are, you shouldn’t be. Any church, Wesleyan or not, that condones, encourages, or fails to teach biblically about “name it and claim it and speaking prophecy, casting out demons, health and prosperity expectations, [speaking in] tongues, etc.” is not a doctrinally sound church, and it’s no place for genuinely regenerated Christians. You can’t have “unity” with false doctrine and, very likely, false converts.

You’re not letting God down. On the contrary, you need to run, not walk, out of that den of demonic activity as fast as you can and find a doctrinally sound church to join.

It’s admirable that you’ve tried your best to teach these women biblically, but you cannot continue to be a member of this church. And even God the Father, Jesus, and their admonitions in Scripture don’t teach us to keep pursuing indefinitely people who have rejected biblical truth:

  • Think about Old Testament Israel. God pursued them, disciplined them, sent them prophets, performed miracles – the whole works – and He bore with them in their idolatry and disobedience for hundreds of years. But not forever. He eventually sent them into exile.
  • Remember the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler? Did Jesus chase him down and keep trying to convince him once he rejected biblical teaching from Jesus Himself? No. He let him go. What about the father of the prodigal son? Dad lets that rebel leave. (You can probably think of many more examples.)
  • Matthew 7:6: Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
  • Mark 6:11: And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave [this phrase assumes they will leave], shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.

Go. Get out of there while the gettin’s good.

Additional Resources

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

The Mailbag: What is the New Apostolic Reformation?


So I’ve been going to this new small church I found, seemingly very sound and conservative. The first time I went, I wore flowy pants, not immodest at all in my opinion. And I noticed all the women wearing skirts or dresses, and so I felt out of place. And I also attended a father/daughter camping trip, and lo and behold, all the girls are wearing skirts to this camping trip.

I am not a dress wearing type of girl. I have usually worn jeans to church, I try to dress it up and look feminine and also wear makeup.

I don’t like feeling self-conscious, and I don’t want to look like I’m some sort of feminist by wearing pants. And I feel like I’m less of a Christian woman if I wear pants to church. But at this new church, I’m one of maybe a few other women who has worn pants. I also don’t want to just start wearing dresses and skirts to church JUST because I want to live up to this standard I feel the church is setting. I have talked to the leadership there and they said I’m fine wearing pants. I But I still feel like I’m out of place. How do you think I should be thinking about this?

Nobody likes to stick out like a sore thumb. I get it. Personally, I kinda like to blend into the wallpaper wherever I go, if possible.

And I think that’s the heart of your dilemma – you feel self-conscious and it makes you uncomfortable, and you want that uncomfortable feeling to go away. (Go back to your original email and count how many times you said “I feel” or referred to your feelings.)

This isn’t an issue of modesty, because you’re neither outlandishly (you said a few other women had worn pants) or provocatively dressed. This isn’t an issue of the other women or anyone else unbiblically judging you for wearing pants (at least you didn’t say that anywhere in your email). And though you describe the situation as, “this standard I feel the church is setting,” you said you had talked to the elders and they said you were fine wearing pants. So the church is not actually setting this standard, you just feel that it is because of your own self-consciousness.

This isn’t about other people, this is about you. What you’ve got here is a battle of the feelings. Feeling 1: I don’t want to feel self-conscious by wearing pants. Feeling 2: I dislike wearing dresses. Welp, as I see it you’ve got three options:

  1. Wear pants and stop worrying about it. Focus on worship or whatever activity you’re at and stop focusing on yourself and how you’re dressed. (We’re not supposed to be focusing on ourselves anyway. That’s a form of pride and narcissism. You might want to explore that with the Lord in prayer. Go back to your original email and count how many times you used the words “I” and “me”.) After a while you’ll get used to it and that self-conscious feeling will fade. And besides that, maybe those other pants-wearing women will be emboldened to wear pants once they see you wearing them. You could start a trend!
  2. Wear a dress and stop worrying about it. How do you know you’re not a dress-wearing kind of girl if you don’t give it a good faith effort? Try it for six months. It’s not going to kill you. It might grow on you. You never know.
  3. Find another doctrinally sound church in the area where more women wear pants. This is an option, but, honestly, I would not recommend it. It sounds like you’ve found a good church and God is trying to do some sanctifying work in your heart and life. Don’t kick against or run away from what He’s trying to do, submit to it and grow to greater Christlikeness.

And one last thing- from the way you described everything, I’d be willing to bet that nobody at your church is fretting about you wearing pants as much as you are. I encourage you – hang in there, stop looking down at your pants, start looking up at the Lord, and walk with Him as He works this out.

(And before I hear from the “women can’t wear pants” crowd: The Mailbag: May Christian Women Wear Pants?)


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Asked and Answered

The Lord’s richest blessings to you, readers. It is an honor and a joy to serve you in Christ. Welcome to all the newbies and to you seasoned veterans of the blog.

Because some of y’all are new, you aren’t yet aware of all of the resources here to help you. Or maybe you’ve been around a while and haven’t noticed something that might be helpful. Let’s remedy that!

First, if you’re new (or if you’ve never read it), check out Blog Orientation for New Readers and Old Friends. It’s like a CliffsNotes intro to the blog.

Second, be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of the page. That’s where I keep the info I’m most frequently asked about.

Third, there’s a search bar at the bottom of every page (and one in the blue menu bar at the top of every page) which might help you find what you need.

Fourth, if you don’t find your question answered in one of these ways or below, you might want to check previous Asked & Answered articles and The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs.

And finally, let me get you new readers some answers to the questions several of you have asked. Some of you long time friends may have missed these along the way, so I hope they’ll be helpful to you, too!


What is your take on having a “life verse” or favorite verse? People ask this frequently and I can never tell them one specific verse as there have been many verses through many situations that have been special to me.

I think you’ve hit on an important part of the answer. Life is constantly changing, and the Word addresses all of those various needs and situations. Who could banner or cling to only one verse in the midst of all of that, and why would anyone want to? I’ve answered this a bit further -with Scripture- in my article…

My “Life Verse”


Hi! I’m looking for sound doctrine Spanish women teachers.

It’s always encouraging to hear from women who want to make sure they’re consuming sound doctrine! Don’t limit yourself to women teachers, though, especially when the language barrier is probably already severely limiting your choices. There are far more doctrinally sound male pastors and teachers out there than female, with far more resources.

From my article: The Mailbag: Potpourri (Christian romance novelist, home schooling sons, Spanish resources…)

I would check Grace to YouLigonier, and HeartCry Missionary Society (Paul Washer). I know they all have books and resources (sermons, articles, etc.) in Spanish, and if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for on the site, you can contact them directly, and they can point you in the right direction.


My husband and I have gone to a “contemporary” Christian church for 12 years. The music isn’t our preference but we’ve overlooked it because the teaching was solid; however, after recently learning the truth about Bethel, Hillsong and Elevation, we’ve discovered other false teaching with the use of IF: Gathering for women and Orange curriculum for children/youth. We plan to talk with the lead and administrative pastors who are also elders very soon. Should we stay to see what happens or do we have the freedom to leave now? Thank you.

I’m so sorry the leadership of your church is doing this.

You should stay until you’ve talked with the pastors and elders. If they clutch their pearls, gasping, “Oh dear, we had no idea these were false teachers! Please give us more information so we can eradicate false doctrine from our church!” well, praise God, stay, and help them.

But in my experience, when false doctrine and false teachers have infiltrated a church to this extent, the leadership of the church are either so biblically ignorant and lazy that they don’t know what constitutes false doctrine, or they simply don’t care that they’re feeding poison to their congregation, and they will dig in their heels and try to make you the bad guy for confronting them. They care more about scratching the itching ears of the people who fill the pews with what’s easy and popular than they do about pleasing God. They’re committing pastoral malpractice by shirking their Titus 1:9 mandate. And all of this disqualifies them from the office of pastor / elder, no matter how solid the teaching seems (don’t think that their theology and teaching isn’t affected by this). I do not envy them the day that they will stand before God and answer to Him for their shoddy shepherding.

If you find this to be the case when you talk to your pastors and elders, feel free to leave and find a doctrinally sound church. You’ve done all you can and all God requires of you.

Here are a few resources that may help you and others in similar situations:

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing?

Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends

The Mailbag: When is it OK to leave a church that’s begun embracing false doctrine?

The Mailbag: How to Leave a Church

Searching for a new church?


My husband is Catholic and comes from a deeply Catholic family tradition. I have recently started attending a Bible-teaching church on my own. Outwardly, he approves. I prayed over this subject yet still wrestle with it and wonder if I am being disobedient. I would appreciate wisdom on this.

I know this is a really difficult situation. May the Lord comfort you and give you wisdom. Sadly, situations like this – in which the husband is either unsaved and / or wants to go to a heretical or unbiblical “church” and the wife craves a doctrinally sound church – are not uncommon. Here are a couple of cases I’ve addressed in the past:

The Mailbag: A Lost Husband, a Saved Wife, and an Apostate Church

The Mailbag: My husband wants to stay at an unbiblical church.

No, you are not being disobedient, either to your husband (especially since he says he approves) or to God.

What are your other options? The only two I can think of in your situation would be going to Catholic services with your husband or not going to church at all. Both of those would be wrong.

God is quite clear all over Scripture that He doesn’t want His people anywhere near false doctrine or false teachers, and that’s what Catholicism is. It’s an anti-biblical, non-Christian religion. It is one of the accursed “another gospels” of Galatians 1:6-9. You no more belong at a Catholic service than at an altar of Baal or in the temple of Artemis.

Yet God commands you (and all Believers) not to forsake assembling with the local church.

So you can’t go to services with your husband. You can’t not go to church at all. Your only other option is to do what you’re doing – find a doctrinally sound church and go without him. What other choice do you have?

Here are some additional resources that may help:

Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

Roman Catholicism: Mass Confusion at A Word Fitly Spoken

Truth and Love – with Mike Gendron at A Word Fitly Spoken


I do appreciate your post. One question – in hearing God speak. I have heard God speak to me. I have felt prompted and convicted. From what I am seeing on your website, it seems as if you are saying that is unbiblical. Can you please clarify and provide scripture for that? Also, just recently when reading the Christmas story, I noted that Joseph was warned in a dream. Trying to reconcile with what you are saying.

That’s a great question, and it sounds like God is growing you in discernment and the knowledge of His written Word. That’s wonderful!

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about “hearing God speak”. When I use that terminology, I’m talking about things like, “I audibly heard God speak to me and tell me to buy the red car instead of the blue one,” or “God spoke to me in a dream and told me I’m going to marry a guy named Todd.”. Direct, specific, extra-biblical revelation. God doesn’t do that today.

I’m not talking about things like, “I was praying and suddenly felt convicted over the lie I told yesterday, so I repented,” or “I keep seeing or hearing, in various places, this particular Bible verse about trusting God, and it has really made me think about my lack of trust in God. So now I’m praying and studying Bible passages about trusting God more.”. God does do that today. Those are just a couple of ways the Holy Spirit guides us. That type of thing is not what I mean when I say that “hearing God speak” is unbiblical. We need to be careful that we’re not conflating the biblical with the unbiblical.

You say you’ve heard God speak to you. Was it the first way I mentioned, direct, specific, even audible extra-biblical revelation? If so, how do you know – as a matter of objective fact – that it was God? Think of it this way – if you had to prove in a court of law that it actually was God speaking to you, what evidence would you offer?

Because I’ve never encountered someone who said God spoke to her in that way who had anything to offer up as “proof” that it was God other than her subjective feelings or opinion, or the purported intensity of the experience. In other words, just because you believe something to be true doesn’t mean it is, and just because you had a really intense experience doesn’t mean your interpretation of said experience is correct, especially when those things contradict Scripture, which extra-biblical revelation does.

God Himself tells us that His written Word is sufficient for everything we need. Extra-biblical revelation undermines the biblical doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency. Here are some resources that help explain:

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

That’s Enough! The Sufficiency of Scripture at A Word Fitly Spoken

Isn’t the Gospel enough? (The Sufficiency of Scripture) at A Word Fitly Spoken

How Does the Holy Spirit Lead Us? at A Word Fitly Spoken


Do you have a list of the biblically solid women writers you would recommend? I’m compiling a list of resources for our women’s event table. I have some…but I thought you might have some I hadn’t thought about.

Yep! See that blue menu bar at the top of this page? Click on “Recommended Bible Teachers“.

I’m so glad you want to provide doctrinally sound resources for your ladies! (As I mentioned above, I strongly recommend that women not limit themselves to women authors and teachers. There are far more doctrinally sound male authors and teachers out there with far more resources available. Your event table might be a great place to introduce your ladies to some of them!)


I thought this might be a common question, so maybe you can point me to something you have already written on this topic…

You came to the right Mailbag. :0)

I was given [a heretical] book from a well meaning, but undiscerning family member. Do you recommend throwing it directly into the trash

That is definitely one option (especially since you mentioned you’ve discussed these problematic doctrinal issues with her before). I’ve discussed several methods of disposing of heretical books in this article:

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Soul Ties, SBC Communion, Women in children’s ministry, Heretical book disposal)

(I know the book you were given wasn’t a false teacher’s study Bible, but I’m going to throw in an article that deals with disposing of those, too, for other readers: The Mailbag: Asked and Answered (July 5, 2021).)

[Or do you recommend] offering to read through it together with the family member so we can discuss the problems in it, maybe reading through it on my own and then discussing the key problems? My husband and I have addressed this topic with the family member before, but I guess it didn’t stick. They attend a church that loves Bethel music and they have shared sermons with us that are borderline Word of Faith stuff, which is when we have addressed the issue with them before.

If she is willing to sit down with you and discuss it – calmly, rationally, Bibles on the table – then please do take the time to do that. (Wouldn’t it be amazing if God used you as He brings her out of darkness and into His marvelous light!) If things start out well but then seem to be getting a little heated, you can always say, something like, “Why don’t we take a break from this for now and pick it up another time? How about some ice cream?”. Or, if she shuts down the conversation: “We don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to, but if you ever have any questions or decide you’d like to talk about it, my door is always open.”.

Here are some resources I hope will help:

Words with Friends: How to contend with loved ones at A Word Fitly Spoken

The Mailbag: How should I approach my church leaders about a false teacher they’re introducing? (this is obviously about dealing with church leadership, but many of the principles remain the same when dealing with friends)


Can you provide insight on what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is which will not be forgiven? In Mathew 12.

Can do!

The Mailbag: What Is the Unpardonable Sin?


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.

Christmas, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Christmas Potpourri

Merry Christmas! 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 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 (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


What do you think about having decorated Christmas trees in the sanctuary / on the platform at church?

It’s a great question, because we want every aspect of our worship services – even the decor – to honor God and be conducive to worship.

Assuming they’re tastefully decorated in an understated way, I don’t personally have any problem with a Christmas tree at the front of the sanctuary for decoration. I’ve seen some lovely ones that were decorated with all white ornaments of biblical symbols (crosses, doves, stars, etc.). I don’t really see any theological difference between a Christmas tree, a holly garland, candles, poinsettias, flowers on the altar every week, ficus trees, potted plants, backdrops, banners, or any other tasteful, reverent, non-distracting piece of decor. They’re just inert objects that somebody thought would spruce things up a bit (yeah, I went there) and make the space pretty. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, have you read God’s instructions for the design of the tabernacle and the temple? Lots of flowers and tapestries and gold and all kinds of other pretty stuff. God invented beauty. He is OK with His house being beautiful as long as that beauty honors and points to Him.

God invented beauty. He is OK with His house being beautiful as long as that beauty honors and points to Him.

But there’s something else we need to take into consideration…

All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24

We have good brothers and sisters in Christ in our churches whose consciences, for various reasons, just can’t handle Christmas trees. And having Christmas trees in the sanctuary would distract them from worship. So you know what we do to love and honor them? We lay aside our “right” to have Christmas trees on the platform and either don’t decorate or find another way to decorate. Many churches have found lots of different ways to tastefully decorate for Christmas that don’t involve Christmas trees.


I’ve heard people say that the word “Christmas” means “Christ’s mass” so it’s Roman Catholic and Christians shouldn’t celebrate it or use the word “Christmas”. Is this true?

It’s true that the word “Christmas” is a shortened form of “Christ’s mass”. It first appeared in English usage as Crīstesmæsse in 10381, and, at that time, it did refer to the Roman Catholic mass celebrating the birth of Christ.

You’ll note that 1038 was long before the Protestant Reformation, when Roman Catholicism was the primary manifestation of any form of Christianity. There was no other church. So, at that time, if you were going to refer to a religious observance of the birth of Christ, you naturally would have couched it in Catholic vernacular. You would not have had any other frame of reference for Christianity.

But the word “Christmas” has come a long way in the last thousand years. It no longer refers exclusively or primarily to a Roman Catholic mass. It refers to all kinds of things surrounding December 25 and the birth of Christ, from a Christmas worship service at your own doctrinally sound church to Christmas sales, presents, trees, carols, 5Ks, parties and everything else under the sun that takes place this time of year. It’s perfectly fine for Christians to use the word “Christmas”. I mean, “Thursday” started out as “Thor’s Day“. It’s actually named after a false god, and none of us bat an eye when it rolls around every week, so why would “Christmas” be problematic?

But if you have a sensitive conscience and it bothers you to use the word “Christmas,” why not try on “Incarnation Day” and see how it fits? Or maybe “Noel”? It derives from Old French and means “birth” or “birthday”1.

As for celebrating Christmas, it’s not required by Scripture, so you don’t have to observe the day if you don’t want to, but I would plead with you, don’t use “because it’s Catholic” as your reason. Don’t dignify that evil, apostate religious system – which has sent millions to Hell – with the power to be a factor in your spiritual decision making. Don’t let it keep you from celebrating the birth of your Lord in the biblical way of your choosing. They don’t have that right, and you shouldn’t give them that power. I would encourage you to read my article Is Christmas Pagan?. Everything in it applies to Catholicism as well.

1Christmas– Wikipedia


What do you think about the Christmas song, The Little Drummer Boy? I’ve always loved that song but I recently read an article stating that we shouldn’t sing it because it’s not biblically true.

It depends on what the article means by “not biblically true”. If they mean it conflicts with, denies, or twists Scripture in some way, I don’t see that in the lyrics. If they simply mean there’s no mention in Scripture of a little drummer boy visiting Jesus as a baby, that’s correct.

However, it’s reasonable to assume friends, family, and possibly even curious strangers (spurred on by the shepherds’ amazing story) visited Jesus and His parents in the days after His birth. In fact, for such a corporate and family oriented society, it would have been unthinkable that only the shepherds, and later, the wise men, ever visited them.

Could one of those visitors have been an impoverished little boy who wanted to play a song for Jesus on his drum? And Mary consented? And Jesus smiled? I don’t see why not. None of that conflicts with Scripture, and it’s all within the realm of possibility (except for the ox and lamb keeping time – I’ve never known a barnyard animal with good rhythm).

Did the article you read mean that “we” (as in the congregation, choir, soloist) shouldn’t sing that song in the worship service because it isn’t drawn from Scripture? I would fully agree with that. All of the elements of our worship services should be drawn from, and centered on the Word.

But as far as personal or family use goes, if the song makes you uncomfortable in some way, you don’t have to sing it or listen to it. (It’s certainly not one of my favorites.) I guess the decision you would have to make is whether you’re only comfortable with songs that come straight from Scripture or whether you can be comfortable with a song about something that could have happened, but isn’t in Scripture. And either way is totally fine. It just depends on your heart and your conscience.


I’m a member of a doctrinally sound church. That’s why it was a little confusing when all of a sudden, from the pulpit, they announced that we were going to have a float in our upcoming Santa Claus Parade.

When one brave soul asked why we would participate, the answer was: we need to look at the “greater good” – it’s getting the gospel out – which we are doing with tracts and Christmas candy.

While I was happy to be a part of printing off the material in hopes of getting it into the hands of as many people in our city, I won’t be participating in handing it out in the parade.

Am I wrong to feel this way? I know I should be asking our Pastors about this – but frankly, after that one person asked, she was told that we were going through with it…that they valued her “opinion” on the matter – but that they (as well as the Deacons that discussed the matter), see nothing wrong with participating in such an event. Why couldn’t we have a “booth” that was away from the parade route, and hand out literature there, instead of “being in the thick of things…”

(You didn’t say exactly how your church is going to distribute the tracts and candy, but in our local Christmas parade, the float riders throw their candy and other goodies to the watching crowd, so that’s the assumption I’m working under with my response.)

It’s always a good thing to carefully think things through whenever we bump elbows with the world. We want to impact the world with the gospel, but we want to be careful not to become worldly. “In the world, not of the world” as the saying goes.

But from everything you said in your email, I’m going to have to go with your pastors on this one. (In fact, I’ve been recommending for years that churches participate in Christmas parades as an evangelistic outreach.) It sounds to me like they’re taking hold of a golden opportunity to share the gospel and let people in the area know about your doctrinally sound church. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do as Christians? “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”?

If you’re going to share the gospel with sinners, you have to go where sinners are.

If you’re going to share the gospel with sinners, you have to go where sinners are. And if you’re invited by the sinners, so much the better. The parade organizers have invited your church to participate, or, at least they haven’t told your church it can’t participate. Why would your church not joyfully accept that invitation? Your area may be progressive, but it’s not so progressive that they’ve banned churches from participating in the Christmas parade (wouldn’t that be hypocritical?) yet. Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. The hour is coming when no man can work.”. We’ve got to take advantage of these gospel opportunities while we still have them.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-10, Matthew 9:10-13

Why couldn’t we have a “booth” that was away from the parade route, and hand out literature there, instead of “being in the thick of things…”

Because the parade is where the people are! If you’re there to share the gospel, why wouldn’t you want to be “in the thick of things”? “Yes, we’d like to come to your parade and share the gospel, but please put us in an out of the way area where fewer people will be.”? Hon, I am not trying to be harsh with you, believe me, but I say this to you in sisterly love: Most of the people who will be at that parade are on their way to an eternity in Hell. Have you really thought about that? Does that not grieve you? Don’t you want to rescue as many of them as possible with the gospel? An out of the way spot? Jesus said:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Your pastors are trying to set your church on a hill and shine the gospel forth from it. Don’t ask them to put it under a basket. From everything you’ve said, they’re good, trustworthy doctrinally sound pastors. You don’t have to personally hand out materials at the parade (you wouldn’t have to even if you were 100% on board with all of this), but trust them and submit to their leadership.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Hebrews 13:17

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.