8 Theses for Women of the Modern Day Reformation

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Reformation Day is Thursday, October 31,
and we’re celebrating all week with Reformation-focused articles!

Originally published October 20, 2017

October 31, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and because I’m all theme-y and whatnot, I’m in the midst of a fantastic book called Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodewaard who I dearly wish were on social media so I could shamelessly fangirl her and make a general nuisance of myself by asking too many questions. Normally, I would actually finish a book before slobberingly commending it to you, but in case you like being all theme-y and whatnot too, and because time is of the essence, I’m throwing caution to the wind and telling you:

Get this book. Now. You’re welcome.

Normally, when we read about the Reformation, we’re reading about great preachers and leaders like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Hus, but preaching was not the only work of the Reformation. And that’s one of the things that has captivated me about Rebecca’s book. All of the women included therein were strikingly courageous, tireless laborers, who contributed greatly  to the success of the Reformation, and they did it all while coloring inside the lines of biblical womanhood – doing vital work godly women are uniquely equipped by Christ to do. They opened their homes as a refuge to scores of Protestants (often including those aforementioned notable preachers and other integral leaders) fleeing for their lives from Catholic marauders. They set up prison ministries and fed and clothed the poor. They nursed their communities through the Plague. Those who were queens and princesses used their power to protect Reformers and change persecutory laws. Those who were married to pastors and leaders helped in their ministries and edited their books and papers. And they wrote. Poetry. Position papers. Booklets. Letters. What a happy discovery (for me, anyway) to find sisters of the quill from so long ago.

But these great ladies were not our only foremothers in the faith. For as long as God’s people have been God’s people, God’s people have rebelled and needed to be reformed. In fact, that’s the entire, overarching theme of the Old Testament- the need for Israel to reform from its idolatry. And all along the way we see faithful women like Deborah, Jael, Esther, Jehosheba, Jedidah, Huldah, Samson’s mother, and others willing to buck the trend of sin and rebellion and point the way back to God and holy living by their deeds and the example of their lives.

The New Testament gives us extraordinary examples such as the women who ministered to Jesus during His earthly ministry, stood by Him at the cross, and were the first ones at His tomb. Priscilla, Lydia, Dorcas, Eunice, Lois, Phoebe and other believing women soon followed, all lending their aid in their own unique ways to reforming dead, legalistic Judaism into biblical Christianity.

All of these great women of God, serving Him through thousands of years as only godly women can, laying the foundation with their blood, sweat, and tears, for the church we know today.

But have we “arrived”? Is the need for women to work for reform in the church a fast fading dot in the rear-view mirror of modern day evangelicalism? Judging from the articles I read and the e-mails I receive about the problems in the church, the answer to that question would be a big, fat “no.”

Perhaps armies of the Catholic “church” no longer hunt down fleeing Protestants. And, maybe Nero isn’t using Christians as torches for his garden parties any more (although there are certainly areas of the world where our brothers and sisters in Christ face similar threats every day). But the stealth, guerrilla warfare Satan has been waging against the Western church in recent decades might be even more damaging. Certainly, it’s more diffuse and wider spread. Instead of raping the bride of Christ, Satan has chosen instead to seduce her. Why forge an enemy when you can woo a lover?

False teachers. Word of Faith heresy. The New Apostolic Reformation. Abuse in the church. Biblical illiteracy. “Lone Ranger” Christians. Idolatry. Irreverence in the sanctuary.

For doctrinally sound Christians, it’s like being in that giant trash-masher with Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie – surrounded by slime and garbage on all sides with the walls closing in, and, seemingly, no way out.

It is easy to see why the heart of the Protestant Reformation was Semper Reformanda– “always reforming.” The work of fighting for sound doctrine, biblical worship, and pure hearts and hands never, never, never ends.

So what does it look like to be a woman of the modern day Reformation? What can we church ladies do to help turn the tide of apostasy in Christendom? Permit me to nail eight theses to the door of your church.

1.
Realize You Can’t Change the World

None of the women named earlier in this article changed the world or the entire church. Not a single one of them. In fact some of them brought about great changes in their locales that were overturned in the years after their deaths.

The problems facing the church today are overwhelming. You’re one person. You can’t fix everything (and God doesn’t expect you to). Maybe you can’t even fix everything in your own church. But what you can do is determine to be faithful to Christ and His Word in your sphere of influence. Bloom where you’re planted. “Brighten the corner where you are“, as the old gospel song says. You can’t do everything, but what’s something you can do?

2.
Color Inside the Lines

One of the major problems plaguing the church today is Christian women who rebel against God’s word by stepping outside the boundaries God has drawn for women in the family and the church. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by following suit in your zeal to reform. There’s plenty of work to be done by godly women – work that we’re better equipped for than men – without violating Scripture.

3.
Mind Your Demeanor

No, we shouldn’t be wishy washy milksops or mealy-mouthed shrinking violets. But we also shouldn’t be loud-mouthed harpies, brashly marching into hell with a water pistol (just trust my own failures on this one). We need to be velvet-covered bricks: soft on the outside, firm on the inside. We should attain to all the Christlike virtues of demeanor: patience, kindness, compassion, mercy, and grace mingled with an unyielding stand on Scripture and an uncompromising commitment to Christ. For some of us, the former comes easier. For some of us, the latter. But we must seek that godly balance as we go about the work of the Kingdom.

4.
Serve the Local Church

If you have rejected the mere idea of local church membership and think you’re going to bring about change from the outside as an unchurched (or functionally unchurched) writer, speaker, or Christian celebrity, you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution. The church is God’s plan for Christianity, not evangelical gurus. Do whatever you have to do to find a doctrinally sound one, join it, and get to work serving.


5.
Pray

When it comes to the church, fixing what’s broken doesn’t rest on your shoulders. Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions, and only God can bring those about. You can defend Scripture til you’re blue in the face or explain all day long why someone is a false teacher, but only God can lift the veil and enlighten the eyes of the heart. Be faithful in your efforts, but be more faithful in prayer. Like the persistent widow, grab hold of the Lord on behalf of the church and don’t let go.


6.
Teach Other Women

In my experience, the number one way false doctrine enters the church is through women’s ministry and women’s “Bible” study. You want to work for reform in the church? Work on reforming your church’s women’s ministry. Explain to your sisters why that divangelista is a false teacher. Request Bible study classes that study the actual Bible. Volunteer to organize the next women’s conference or retreat and schedule doctrinally sound speakers. Teach a women’s or girls’ Sunday School class. Transform the church by transforming the hearts and minds of women.


7.
Help

The book of Exodus tells the story of Israel’s battle with Amalek. When Moses held up his arms, Israel prevailed. When he let down his arms, Amalek prevailed. Eventually, Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses and held up his arms for him so that Israel could win the battle. Who was more important to Israel’s victory in this story- Moses or Aaron and Hur? If you answered “both,” you’re correct. Israel couldn’t have won without Moses holding up his hands, but Moses couldn’t have held up his hands without Aaron and Hur. Most of the women of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Protestant Reformation who effected godly change among God’s people were not Moseses. They were Aarons and Hurs. What can you do to hold up the arms of your pastor, your elders, your husband, your church?


8.
Stand

Make sure you know your Bible backwards, forwards, and upside down in context. Know right from wrong, the biblical from the unbiblical. Learn what God’s word says, and stand. Don’t back down. Do it with a godly demeanor, but do it. Refusing to budge from the truth of Scripture might cost you your “church”. It might cost you your family and friends. It might cost you your job, your reputation, and your finances (as we’ve seen in recent years with Christians in the business world who have refused to cave to the homosexual agenda). But as our brothers and sisters who went to the fiery stake, the dank prison cell, and the gallows would tell you, fidelity to God’s Word is worth it. Loyalty to Christ is worth anything it might cost you. Stand.


Whether your women’s ministry is using a book by a false teacher, there’s a faction of backbiters in the church that needs to be quelled, or your pastor is overwhelmed and needs some help, there’s something in your church that you can pray about, help with, or work on to help it move toward spiritual health. The church needs discerning, biblically knowledgeable, mature Christian women to step up and fight ungodliness whenever and wherever we’re able. Will you be a courageous laborer in the modern day Reformation?

The Mailbag: What is Reformation Day?

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Reformation Day is Thursday, October 31,
and we’re celebrating all week with Reformation-focused articles!

Check out these FREE downloadable Reformation Day resources from Ligonier!

mailbag

Originally published at
Satisfaction Through Christ
on October 10, 2014.

reformation day

The Protestant Reformation. Outside of biblically recorded events and the closing of the canon of Scripture, it is arguably the most important event in church history, and one of the most important events in world history as well, yet many Christians today are unaware of this landmark incident in their heritage which birthed the Protestant church.

The year was 1517. A monk named Martin Luther gripped his hammer and nailed a list of biblical grievances against the Roman Catholic Church to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, much like we might post a notice to a community bulletin board today. These 95 Theses protested the Catholic Church’s unbiblical policy of selling indulgences,  part of an effort to raise funds for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Catholic Church had created the idea of the Treasury of Merit, sort of a “bank account” of merit deposited by Christ, Mary, the saints, and others as a result of their good works. When church members sinned, they could purchase an indulgence, which was akin to asking the Church to “transfer funds” from the Treasury of Merit to the sinner’s account. The indulgence basically excused the sinner from a certain amount of time in purgatory and/or temporal punishment for that sin.

In addition to protesting the sale of indulgences, Luther’s 95 Theses called the Catholic Church to conform to Scripture by abandoning its unbiblical practices and teachings regarding the doctrines of salvation, religious authority, the nature of the church, and the essence of Christian living.

95Thesen

Luther’s calls for reform spread quickly throughout Europe, inspiring the likes of church fathers Ulrich Zwingli (Zurich), John Calvin (Geneva), and John Knox (Scotland) to join the effort in their own locales. As they worked to address the issues raised in Luther’s document, these men codified what we know today as the “Five Solas of the Reformation,” the basis of Protestant church doctrine. The five solas are:

1. Sola ScripturaScripture alone is the basis for all church doctrine, belief, and practice. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

2. Sola Gratia– Salvation is by grace alone. It is an unmerited gift of God based solely on His goodness, not our own (because we don’t have any). (Ephesians 2:8-9)

3. Sola Fide– Salvation is through faith alone. Faith is a gift bestowed by God. We are saved only by placing that faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, not by doing good works or by any other attempts to earn salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

4. Solus Christus– Salvation is found in Christ alone. As Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

5. Soli Deo Gloria– God saves man for God’s glory alone, and Believers are to live our lives to glorify Him alone. (Romans 11:36)

One of Luther’s most cherished ideals, from which we still benefit today, was that common people should have access to both the Scriptures and worship services in their own language. Prior to the Reformation, the Bible was only available in Latin. Likewise, all masses and other church services were conducted in Latin. Luther translated the Bible into German, and was later followed by William Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, David Brainerd, and others who translated the Bible into various languages.

On Reformation Day, we commemorate the work, zeal, and sacrifices of Luther and the other reformers. Reformation Day is observed on October 31.

Report Back: Cruciform Conference

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What a joy it was to help kick off the first annual Cruciform Conference last weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana!

I spI wIth mI lIttle I
somethIng’s mIssIng from Indy’s welcome to vIsItors!

The theme of Cruciform this year was The Cross Purchased Life. We were treated to wonderful cross-centered preaching from a number of pastors, speakers, and godly men, including a couple of my Twitter friends…

Dustin Benge                                           Kofi Adu-Boahen

I had the honor of teaching two breakout sessions just for women.

Faithfully Fighting Feminism:
Fighting the Good Fight by Walking Out Biblical Womanhood

Click here for the session outline handout.

 

Hooked on a Feeling:
Living by God’s Word Instead of Our Emotions

Click here for the session outline handout.

 

One of my favorite parts of conferences is meeting social media friends face to face. Bunking with Michael and Erin Coughlin for two days was so much fun. They were so kind and hospitable, and I owe them a million thanks for treating me like a queen. If you’ve been around the blog a while, you may recall that Michael has written several guest posts for me. He also writes for the Things Above Us blog and hosts the Things Above Us Roundtable podcast. And Erin does everything else. It was a delight to get to know this sweet sister in Christ!

Erin and me

L-R: Michael Coughlin, Amy (whose last name I can’t remember, but who was such a blessing to drive me to the airport!), me, Erin

with Dustin Benge                                      with Kofi Adu-Boahen

with Kofi and Michael

And, of course, what’s a conference without books? Thanks so much to Cruciform, Michael, and Allen Nelson for these lovely gifts. (You can read a review of Before the Throne here, if you like.)

I was in Indianapolis less than 48 hours, and most of that was at the conference, so I didn’t have time to do any touristy stuff. For all you Indy Car fans, here’s a display that was set up in the airport on loan from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum:

Normally, when I go on a trip, in lieu of buying souvenirs, I try to have a meal of whatever food is iconic to that area (clam chowder in Cape Cod, Chicago deep dish pizza, etc.). I’m clueless as to what sort of cuisine is iconic to Indiana, but we found a phenomenal little local taqueria that you simply must visit if you’re ever in Indianapolis: Paco’s Taqueria. (Like I said, I was in Indy less than 48 hours and we had two meals at Paco’s. It was that good.) Traditional style tacos, quesadillas, and lots of other choices made by folks who know how those dishes are supposed to be cooked. I can highly recommend the shrimp, ground beef, and chicken tacos, but everything looked and smelled wonderful. I am officially obsessed with these tacos.

 

All too soon, the conference was over and it was time to head back home. But I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at next year’s Cruciform Conference along with Justin Peters, Justin Huffman, and more great men of God (to be announced at a later date) that you won’t want to miss! You’ve got almost a year, so start making plans now to attend October 23-24!

Many thanks to those of you who helped make this trip possible!


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

Cruciform Conference video and promo pics- Courtesy of Cruciform Conference

Photos of friends at the conference- Some of these were taken by Michael or Erin Coughlin, but I can’t remember which ones. Probably the good ones.

Photo of tacos- Courtesy of Paco’s Taqueria on Facebook

All other photos by Michelle Lesley

12 Songs for Reformation Day

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Reformation Day is Thursday, October 31. Next week we’ll be celebrating all week with Reformation-focused articles. Here’s a little taste to help us get ready!

Originally published October 27, 2017

Reformation Day, October 31, is the annual observance of the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Celebrate the day with these songs showcasing each of the Five Solas of the Reformation, or use them as a guide for your Reformation Sunday worship set. Soli Deo Gloria!

Sola Scriptura

Scripture alone – not church traditions, the teachings of man, or extra-biblical revelation – is what we base our beliefs and worship practices on.

O Word of God, Incarnate

The B-I-B-L-E

 

Solus Christus

There is salvation in no other name but that of Christ alone.

In Christ Alone

The Church’s One Foundation

 

Sola Gratia

We are saved by God’s grace alone, not by any merit or righteousness of our own.

Grace Alone

Grace Greater Than Our Sin

 

Sola Fide

We are not saved by good works, by by faith alone.

On Faith Alone I Stand

Let Us Plead for Faith Alone – Sola Fide

 

Soli Deo Gloria

To God alone be the glory for our salvation!

Soli Deo Gloria

Glorious is Thy Name

 

🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷

Reformation Hymn

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

 

What’s your favorite Reformation Day song?


I have not exhaustively vetted these musicians and songwriters. please make sure to examine against scripture any of them you choose to follow and make sure they are doctrinally sound.

Sweet Hour of Prayer: Lesson 8

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

Read Luke 11:1-13, Matthew 6:5-13

The Lord’s Prayer/Jesus Teaches About Prayer

Questions to Consider

1. To acclimate yourself to the books of Luke and Matthew, choose a Bible Book Background to review.

2. Considering that the disciples were all good Jewish boys who had been praying all their lives, why do you think they asked Jesus to teach them to pray? (11:1)

Compare Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer (2-4) to Matthew’s version (9-13). What is “missing” from the Luke version?

3. Go through each verse of the Matthew version and explain what Jesus means for us to pray about in that verse:

9-

10-

11-

12-

13-

Now write your own personal prayer in your own words that follows the general pattern of each verse. For example, instead of “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” your prayer might begin, “Heavenly Father, I praise Your holy name.”

Are the things Jesus instructs us to pray about mostly spiritual needs or physical/tangible needs? Why? How might it change the perspective of your prayer life to focus more on the spiritual than the physical/tangible when you pray?

Is it OK for us to pray for or about things that aren’t included in the Lord’s prayer? Safety on a trip? Healing for a friend? Giving thanks? Praying for your pastor? How do we know it’s OK to pray for those things if Jesus said, “Pray like this,” and those things are not included in His model prayer? (hint: Think about other NT verses about prayer, and remember who the author of Scripture is.)

4. Carefully examine Matthew 6:5-8. What is Jesus teaching us here about public prayer? What does He mean when He says “they have received their reward”? (5) Is Jesus forbidding public prayers, or is He teaching us to examine the motive of our hearts when we do it? With what motive of heart should we approach public prayer?

Have you ever seen a modern day version of “heaping up empty phrases”? (7) What did it look like? (Ex: Praying the rosary? Speaking in “tongues”?) How can we avoid heaping up empty phrases in our own prayer life?

If our Father knows what we need before we ask (8), what is the point of praying? How does the act of asking God to provide for our needs and work in our lives humble us, grow us in dependence on God, and help us align ourselves with God’s will and purposes? Could these be the purposes of prayer rather than giving God a “to do” list?

5. Study Luke 11:5-8. What topic is this mini-parable about? Who does the friend with the bread represent? Who does the man pestering the friend represent? What makes the man so persistent? What does this tell us about our own neediness, desperation, and dependence on the grace of God, and how should this drive us to persist in prayer?

How would you characterize the attitude of the friend with the bread? (7-8) Is Jesus trying to teach us that God considers our persistent prayers bothersome or annoying, or that He will, in aggravation, give us what we want so we’ll go away? Compare the annoyed friend with the heart of God in verses 9-13, and finish this sentence: “If even an irritated pagan will give the man what he wants…(hint: see v. 13).

6. Study Luke 11:9-13, and explain how this is “the rest of the story” about prayer that Jesus started in 5-8. Compare the asking, seeking, and knocking of God in verses 9-10 to the asking, seeking, and knocking of the man in verses 5-8.

Compare the child asking the father motif in 11-13 to the first verse of the Lord’s prayer in both the Luke (2) and the Matthew (9) version. Did OT Jews approach God in prayer as “Father” (you may wish to examine the OT prayers in our previous lessons, links above)? Why is Jesus teaching the disciples (and us) to approach God as “Father”? What is He trying to teach us about the nature and character of God, our relationship with Him through Christ, and prayer?


Homework

Read my article After This Manner, Therefore Pray and model your prayers after The Lord’s Prayer this week.

These gents do a lovely job on the hymn Teach Me to Pray, Lord. I thought you might enjoy it. (I am not familiar with the church itself other than this brief description, so you will need to vet it for yourself if you want to know more.)


Suggested Memory Verse

Should Christians Participate in Halloween? 7 Scriptures to Consider

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Originally published October 24, 201410394788_860513210656281_4509180524943822101_n

Should Christians participate in Halloween? 

Since there is no specific Bible verse that says, “Thou shalt/shalt not participate in Halloween and its related activities,” this is an area of Christian liberty that must be decided by each individual or couple on the basis of scriptural principles and prayer. If there are Halloween activities available to you that do not violate scriptural principles or your conscience or cause you to become a stumbling block to someone weaker in the faith (which may even be your spouse or child), you are free to participate in those aspects of Halloween.

Here are some Scriptures and principles that may be of help as you make your decision:

1 Corinthians 10:23:
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

Is it helpful? Does it build you/your family up?

1 Corinthians 10:24-30:
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 27 If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks?

Who is watching what your family does? Are you serving your neighbor and drawing him closer to Christ by the activities you participate in?  

1 Corinthians 10:31:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Are you glorifying God by participating in the activity you’re considering?

Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Does the activity exemplify and cause you to think about things that are pure, lovely, etc.?

Ephesians 5:11-12-
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

Is the activity spiritually unfruitful, a work of darkness, shameful? Are you taking part in evil or exposing it?

Isaiah 5:20:
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Does the activity celebrate, honor, or make light of sin, evil, and darkness?

1 Corinthians 15:54b-55:
Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Christ died to put death to death. Does the activity you’re considering glorify death?

 

Additional Resources:

Cancel Halloween Unless You Can Do These 5 Things by Aaron Armstrong

Halloween History and the Bible from Answers in Genesis

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween from Got Questions

The Mailbag: Should I attend seminary?

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I’ve been tied up speaking at the Cruciform conference this past weekend.
I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives.

Originally published November 13, 2017

 

For the past few months, I’ve felt a strong desire to attend seminary. After a lot of prayer, Scripture reading, and reaching out to my pastor and trusted, older, Godly friends for counsel, I began the process of applying [to a doctrinally sound seminary].

I’m in my early 30s, have never been married, and have no children. I lead middle school youth girls, women, and children in various classes at church, and work as a part time staff member in my church. I have a strong desire to pursue further education, and to teach and lead women and students. I am incredibly excited at the prospect of going to seminary.

I would like to know your thoughts about how a woman might know for sure she is being called to full-time ministry and what part attending seminary should or could play in that.

Great question, and one I wish more doctrinally sound women were asking!

Some might wonder, “What is the point of a woman getting a seminary degree if she can’t, biblically, become a pastor, elder, or exercise authority over men in the church?”. Because there are tons of other ways women can serve the Body of Christ, maybe in parachurch ministries or missions or as an author, or maybe by simply striving for godly excellence as a Christian woman, wife, mom, or church member.

Learning as much as you possibly can about the Bible, the church, and Christianity is never a waste, even if you don’t go into some sort of formal, paid position of ministry. If you’re a woman with time and resources on your hands, I’d encourage you to consider taking a seminary class or two, or even getting a degree, just for all the valuable things you’ll learn. Some seminaries will allow non-students to audit courses. Others offer degree and certificate programs specifically designed for women, online degree programs, and free online (non-degree) classes. A couple of good ones to check out are Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. The Master’s University, while not a seminary, offers many courses and degree programs which are open to women. (The Master’s Seminary does not admit women as their scope is limited to preparing men for the pastorate.) Ligonier Ministries doesn’t offer a seminary degree program, but does offer many theologically rich online classes.

Whether you opt for a non-credit online course or move into campus housing and pursue a degree, be sure you keep your discernment radar on high alert, even at a doctrinally sound seminary. Believe it or not, even multi-degreed seminary professors can lack discernment or teach unbiblical doctrine. Don’t be intimidated by a string of letters and decades of experience behind someone’s name. If what he’s saying doesn’t match up with rightly handled, in context Scripture, he’s wrong.

Now let’s address a few of the more specific points the reader mentioned:

I think we way over-mysticalize this whole “call to ministry” thing. We think there’s got to be some kind of supernatural “road to Damascus” experience that we can point back to and say, “There! That’s the moment God ‘called’ me into ministry!”. But the Bible doesn’t really talk about a call to ministry in those kinds of terms. Remember, the account of Paul’s (and other Bible characters’) conversion and call experience is descriptive, not prescriptive. The prescriptive passage looks like this:

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 1 Timothy 3:1

No mention of God speaking to you or a particular feeling or goose bumps or feeling “a peace about it.” Scripture just says if a man has the desire to be a pastor, that’s a good and noble goal. Just an objective statement of fact. So, by the same underlying principle, if a woman wants to dedicate her life to full time ministry, that’s a good desire.

The next step is to see if you’re biblically qualified to be in full time ministry. Simply wanting to be in ministry does not mean you should be in ministry or that God thinks you’re qualified to be in ministry. A few biblical passages any woman considering seminary or a career in ministry should consider:

📖 1 Timothy 2:11-15 You cannot, without sinning, pursue the office of pastor, elder, associate pastor, or any other position which requires you to teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men, in the gathered body of Believers. If you’re a woman who’s going to seminary in order to pursue such a position, you are already biblically disqualified from ministry.

📖 Galatians 5:22-23 How’s your fruit looking? If your life generally doesn’t reflect the Fruit of the Spirit, you’re probably not ready for seminary or ministry. (In fact, you might want to examine yourself against Scripture to see if you’re really saved.)

📖 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 These may be qualifications specifically for pastors, elders, and deacons (which are all offices restricted to men) but the underlying principles would extend to anyone in a position of Christian leadership, and nearly all of them apply to Christians in general. Indeed, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15 that he is writing these things so that “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God.”

📖 Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:22-33, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Timothy 3:4-5 If you are married and/or have children, Scripture is clear that it is your primary calling to be a helper to your husband, raise godly children, and manage your household well. Any seminary classes or degrees or ministry positions you pursue may not interfere with or impede your first calling. Additionally, if your husband objects to you attending seminary or pursuing a career in ministry, Scripture mandates that you submit to him and respect his decision.

📖 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 If you’re single with no children, God has given you the precious gift of being able to serve and focus solely on Him, and it may be the perfect time for you to attend seminary or serve Him in full time ministry. 

If you have a strong desire to attend seminary or pursue a career in ministry and you meet the biblical qualifications, the next step is exactly what our reader has done: pray about it, search the Scriptures, seek wise counsel, consider and evaluate the ministry you’re already doing in your church (If you don’t already love being a faithful, serving member of a local church, why on earth would you want to go to seminary or into full time ministry?), realize that there are a lot of things about ministry that are difficult and that seminary doesn’t prepare you for, and if you still want to go to seminary or seek out a ministry position, trust God to guide you and go for it.

Yes, it really is that simple. Desiring to dedicate your life to the service of our Lord or to study more about Him in seminary is a good and God-pleasing desire. If you can accomplish those goals within the parameters Scripture has laid out for godly women, why wouldn’t you pursue it?


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.

Putting on the “You Can!” of Complementarianism

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It never really hit me until I started teaching the book of 1 Timothy how many instructions in the pastoral epistles pertain to women, and how weighty those instructions are. The pastoral epistles are the “policy and procedure manuals” for the church, and, far from relegating the ministry of women to nothing more than crafts and tea parties while the men do all the “important” stuff, you come away with the impression that a healthy, well-balanced church actually depends on godly women working hard to carry out the ministries that God has uniquely created and gifted us to fulfill, alongside men fulfilling their own ministries.

These epistles don’t view “woman’s work” around the house of God as trivial or menial, but as a high and holy calling. Vital. Necessary. Honorable.

But is that the lofty perspective of the biblical role of women that the local complementarian church is conveying to its female and male members? Are we, especially those of us in women’s ministry, proactively teaching that the calling of motherhood or the task of discipling other women or serving those in need is qualitatively just as imperative and noble as the calling of pastor or elder?

Intentionally or not, the egalitarian movement has maneuvered biblical complementarians into constantly playing defense. Their offensive squad keeps moving the ball forward by offering women a no holds barred buffet of powerful and prestigious ministry positions. Our defensive line correctly and biblically pushes back with, “No, the Bible says women are not to ‘teach or to exercise authority over a man’  in the church setting.” But often, only two or three members of our offensive squad are dressed out to play, and they never get off the bench and into the game. And as any football fan knows, you have to have a good defense and a good offense if you’re playing to win.

Egalitarians offer women “you can,” but all too often all we complementarians have offered godly women yearning to serve is, “you can’t.” Where is the big, beautiful, biblical showcase of complementarian “you can”?

Not long ago, I was teaching a group of ladies the biblical process of putting off the old self and putting on the new self in Ephesians 4:20-32. We explored how interesting it was that every “don’t” in the passage was coupled with a “do.” We don’t just put off lying, we put on proactive truth-telling instead, and so on. Nature abhors a vacuum in the physical realm, and it would seem this is true in the spiritual realm as well. When we subtract the ungodly, we must replace it with the godly. If we don’t, something will rush in to fill the void that’s been created, and that “something” isn’t usually biblical or fruitful. 

So how can we shift the perspective in our churches from “you can’t” to “you can,” and create an atmosphere, not merely of “put off,” but also “put on”? How can we get our offensive team suited up, on the field, and moving the ball toward the goalpost while at the same time retaining a strong defense?

We can, so to speak, make complementarianism great again. 

As I studied 1 Timothy 5, I was struck by Paul’s description of women who are “truly widows.” These are women who have spent their lives being busy and intentional about the work of the Lord in their homes and in the church. They adorned themselves with the good works proper for women who profess godliness, and they were honored and revered for it by the church. I didn’t come away from this passage with the feeling that these women were frustrated, oppressed, or seen as “lesser” by the church because they weren’t allowed to teach or exercise authority over men. I came away from this passage thinking, “Those women were awesome. That’s the kind of woman I want to be.

What would the climate in our churches look like if women’s ministries and the church at large recaptured that same reverential posture and purposefulness toward biblical womanhood? If, instead of teaching the biblical role of women strictly as, “You can’t eat the fruit from this apple tree,” we followed that admonition with a grand tour of the Garden, focusing on the delicious fruit of the pear tree, the cherry tree that needs a good pruning, the fig tree just waiting for the right woman to come along, harvest its fruit, and make some preserves, the banana tree that needs an expert in fertilizers, and the orange tree dying for someone to water it?

In my experience, what happens in churches of that climate is that – just like the godly widows of 1 Timothy 5 – women are so busy and fulfilled tending the other trees of the Garden, that they have neither the time nor the desire to go apple picking. 

May our churches strengthen themselves and grow to more robust spiritual health by proactively encouraging Christian women to joyfully throw ourselves into the godly “good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” – the biblical “you can” of complementarianism.


Additional Resources

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

Let Me Count the Ways: 75 Ways Women Can Biblically Minister to Others

Unforbidden Fruits: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach the Church

Servanthood

The Servanthood Survey

Throwback Thursday ~ 6 Reasons to Recapture Righteous Anger

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Originally published November 3, 2017

Do you ever get the sense that anger is a problem in the church these days? It’s more apparent if you’re on social media, but even if you’re not you’ve probably seen Christians acting in anger in your church and Christian groups you belong to. Maybe even among your Christian family and friends.

In the evangelical social construct today’s Christian women have built and immersed themselves in where “being nice” is the highest attribute we can attain to, anger – any anger whatsoever – is usually seen as sin. The antipode of the sweet, effervescent, always-positive, don’t-rock-the-boat church ladies we’re “supposed” to be.

Time to pick up the biggest rocks we can find and smash that pretty pink stained glass window, ladies.

The problem with anger in the church is not anger itself, but that Christians get angry about the wrong things instead of the right things, and act on that anger – sometimes even anger over the right things – in the wrong way. There are many things Christians should be angry about. Indeed, if Christians got angry about the things we’re supposed to get angry about and acted on that anger in a biblical way, the church would be better – and more Christlike – for it. But what are the right and godly reasons for getting angry and acting on that anger?

1.
Anger Is an Attribute of God

No character trait God exhibits can ever be considered intrinsically sinful because God is holy and perfect. God displays anger numerous times in the Bible, yet we know God is without sin. Therefore, we know that the emotion of anger itself is not a sin. It can’t be, or that would make God a sinner, and, by definition, not God. God’s anger demonstrates for us that there are times and situations in which anger is holy and good, and that there are godly ways to act on that anger.

2.
Imago Dei

People are made in the image of God. The creation reflects – albeit dimly and sinfully – the Creator. No one has to teach us how to feel anger or love or justice or desire. Those things are just there, hard wired into us from the womb simply because we’re image bearers. Our sin nature is where the train jumps the tracks with those attributes, because sin causes us to apply those attributes to the wrong objects (loving an idol, desiring someone else’s spouse) and to express those attributes in wrong ways (vengeance, abuse).

3.
Multi-Tasking Attributes

God is simultaneously perfect in love, power, wrath, kindness, compassion, anger, justice, mercy, grace, patience, and all His other attributes. When we see Him pouring out His wrath, that doesn’t mean His attributes of love and compassion have disappeared. When God executes judgment, that doesn’t mean He has ceased to be a merciful and patient God. All of God’s attributes are 100% present and potent all of the time. And – though filtered through our sinful flesh – the same is true for Christians. Expressing anger over the right things in a godly way does not cancel out the fact that you’re also loving, kind, patient, peaceful, or joyful. God created us to reflect His nature by simultaneously exhibiting His attributes in a godly way.

4.
Symbiotic Anger

How can we know whether we’re getting angry over the right things or the wrong things? It is right and good to be angry over the things that anger God – idolatry, the defaming of His name, false doctrine, sin in the church, people who harm or take advantage of the innocent and vulnerable, dishonesty, cruelty, deception, the failure to do what is right – first and foremost when we see these sins in our own hearts and lives, but also against others who perpetrate these sins. But we may not be angry for sinful reasons such as pride, selfishness, impatience, self-righteousness, inflexibility, greed, hate, bigotry, lust, and personal preferences. What the Bible shows God getting angry about we should be angry about, too.

5.
Anger Versus Sadness

A few months ago on social media, I mentioned an incident in which a male member of a certain church sinfully took advantage of several female members of that church. Without exception, every Christian woman (and many of the men) who commented on the incident made the statement (or some variation of it), “That’s so sad.” There are many aspects of a sinful situation over which it’s appropriate to feel sad. It was right to feel sad for this man’s completely innocent wife and children, as well as his victims and the church, who all suffered as a result of his sin. Jesus wept over the effect sin had on His beloved Jerusalem and the rift that sin created between God’s people and Himself. But, interestingly, both Matthew and Luke show us an instance of Jesus’ sorrow over sin immediately preceding or followed by an instance of Jesus’ anger over sin. It’s fine to feel sad for the people who innocently suffer as a result of someone else’s sin. It’s godly to grieve over the general effects and ultimate consequences of sin. But don’t stop there. We should also be angry at sin and at those who blaspheme the name of God and harm others by committing sin. The biblical instances of God being angry over sin and those who perpetrate it far outnumber the instances of God grieving over the effects of sin. Sadness is good, but it shouldn’t replace godly anger toward sin.

6.
Harness the Wild Stallion

Up until now, we’ve mostly been looking at the emotion of anger, but the emotion of anger usually leads to action. The fact that the emotion usually leads to action doesn’t mean the emotion always should lead to action. Sometimes it shouldn’t lead to action at all. Sometimes it shouldn’t lead to action right away. Sometimes it shouldn’t lead to action from you, but from a more appropriate person.

But most of the time, if you’re experiencing righteous anger over the right things, that godly anger should motivate you to take godly action using godly methods. And one of those godly methods is understanding the difference between letting the wild stallion of anger tear madly around the corral and putting a bit and bridle in its mouth to harness and guide all of that energy into plowing a field or pulling a wagon. Venting your anger to a friend might make you feel better temporarily, but it does nothing to fix the problems created by the sin you’re angry about. Harness your anger with the fruit of the Spirit and use that anger as a tool to energize and motivate you to help the victims of sin, call the sinner to repentance, set up a plan to prevent this sin from happening again, and repair the damage done by sin.

How often do you become righteously angry over sin? When you hear a false teacher twist God’s Word, do you blow it off as no big deal? Does it faze you at all when church members refuse to submit to your pastor’s biblical leadership? Do you lend an ear when your best friend verbally eviscerates her godly husband to you?

Ladies, there are things worth getting angry about. Righteous anger is not a bad, unloving, or unladylike thing. If someone intentionally hurt your child, you would come unglued because you love him so much. What does it say about our love for the Lord when we defend people who mock Him, give the benefit of the doubt to those who defame Him, or yawn apathetically when people rebel against Christ and His Word? When someone blasphemes the name of the holy God of the universe, the Savior who willingly endured the cross for your sin, why wouldn’t you get angry about that? When someone attacks, betrays, or perpetrates evil upon a fellow image bearer – especially if that person is a brother or sister in Christ – you are right to be angry at both the sin and the sinner.

Anger over sin and evil is good and holy. God exhibits anger over sin and evil, and we, as His image bearers, should share His indignation. When Christians are angry over the right things and use that anger to fuel a godly response to sin it makes the church more biblically healthy and grows it to greater Christlikeness.

Sweet Hour of Prayer: Lesson 7

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

Read Luke 1

Zechariah’s Prayer and The Magnificat

Questions to Consider

1. To acclimate yourself to the book of Luke, you may wish to use this synopsis (or another Bible Book Background). Today’s lesson will focus on Zechariah’s and Mary’s prayers in Luke 1. The remainder of chapter 1 is provided for context and backstory.

2. In your own words, briefly summarize the events of chapter 1. What does the Latin word magnificat mean?

3. Examine Zechariah’s interaction with Gabriel (11-20).

After telling Zechariah not to be afraid (13), what is the very next thing Gabriel says to him? Where is Zechariah’s prayer for a child? Is it fair to infer from Gabriel’s statement in 13 that Zechariah and Elizabeth had, at some point in their years of barrenness (7), been praying for a child? Considering their advanced age (7,18) do you think they were still praying for a child, or is it possible they had assumed by this time that God had said “no” to their prayers?

What can we learn about the way and timing in which God answers prayer from His answer to Zechariah’s prayer? Suppose God had answered Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayers for a child on their timetable: when they were young and Elizabeth had no track record of barrenness. How was God’s timing and His way of answering better? It’s often said that God typically answers prayer in one of three ways: “Yes,” “No,” and “Not right now.” Explain how God answered Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayer for a child in all three of these ways over the years of their marriage.

4. Keeping Zechariah’s interaction with Gabriel in mind, examine Mary’s interaction with Gabriel (26-38). Carefully read the words Gabriel spoke. Does he say, as he said to Zechariah, that Mary’s prayers had been answered? Would it be reasonable to think, from this passage, that Mary had been praying for a child? Why not?

5. In Matthew 6:8, regarding prayer, Jesus said: “…your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” How does this concept apply to the timing and the way God answered Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s prayer, and how does it apply to God choosing Mary to be the mother of Jesus when she never in a million years would have thought to pray for such a thing?

6. Compare Zechariah’s response to Gabriel, and the consequences of his response (18-20), to Mary’s response to Gabriel (20,34,38). What reason did Gabriel give in 20b for “muting” Zechariah? Compare this to Elizabeth’s characterization of Mary’s response to Gabriel. (45) What part did belief play in both Zechariah’s and Mary’s response to Gabriel?

Read these verses. How do they apply to Zechariah (and his response), a mature man, and a priest educated in the Scriptures, as compared to Mary (and her response), a young, inexperienced, uneducated girl? Explain how God’s knowledge of each of their hearts and minds was reflected in the consequences He inflicted on Zechariah, versus the lack of consequences for Mary.

7. Examine Mary’s prayer in verses 46-55. Breaking it down into three sections, what does Mary focus on in each of these sections?

46-49:

50-53:

54-55:

Describe how Mary praises God for what He has done for her personally. (46-49) Which attributes of God’s nature and character does Mary shine the spotlight on in 50-53?

Using your cross-references and your knowledge of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, explain what Mary is referring to in 54-55. Why would this be a cause for praise for Mary and for Israel? In these verses, Mary declares God’s goodness for keeping His promises to His people. Is there a way we can biblically echo this prayer this side of the cross? What are some promises God has made the church as a whole that we can extol Him for keeping?

Think about the way you usually pray and the corporate (group) prayers you participate in at church. Which elements (ex: praise, supplication, thanksgiving, confession of sin, etc.) that you/your church usually include in your prayers are also included in Mary’s prayer? Which are absent? Does a prayer have to include supplication (asking God for something) for it to really be considered a prayer?

Explain how Mary’s prayer can serve as an example for our own prayers of praise and exultation.

8. Zechariah’s words in 68-79 are characterized as prophecy, but do you see any similarities to prayer in what he says and how he says it? Compare Zechariah’s words here to Mary’s prayer in 46-55. What are some similarities? Differences?

Even though Mary does focus part of her prayer (46-49) on what God has done for her personally, do you get a sense from both her prayer and Zechariah’s prophecy that they are focused on the bigger, more grandiose picture of what God is doing for His people in redemptive history? Compare this with the way we usually pray. It’s absolutely fine and biblical to pray about our own personal needs, but is it possible we focus too much on the personal in our prayers and not enough on the big picture of what God is accomplishing in redemptive history through the church? What are some things we could pray about, both individually and corporately, that would shift our focus in that direction?


Homework

This week, model some of your prayers after Mary’s prayer:

  • praise God for what He has done for you personally
  • extol the nature and character of God
  • praise Him for what He has done through redemptive history and the promises He has kept to His church.

Suggested Memory Verse