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: Potpourri (Teaching hubby the Bible… Generational sin… Blood moons… God honors women preaching?… Remarriage forbidden)

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.


A comment left on my Rock Your Role FAQs article…

How would this apply within marriage? My husband does not read the Bible..he claims to believe in God, but I don’t actually see him seeking. Is it wrong for me to share with him what I learn or read in my Bible? Thank you for your advice!!

I know that having an unsaved or less spiritually mature husband can be really difficult. I’m sure this is a question many of my readers are struggling with.

When you say, “How would this apply within marriage?” I’m not really sure if “this” means a specific question and answer within that article or if “this” means the biblical prohibition against women teaching men, in general. I’m going to go with the latter since I can’t guess the former. :0)

The biblical prohibition against women teaching the Bible to men has a very specific context: the gathering of the church body. Your marriage is not the gathering of the church body.

It is perfectly fine and biblical for you to share what you’re learning from the Bible with your husband if he is open and receptive to it. But, and this is important, it is also perfectly fine and biblical for you not to share what you’re learning from the Bible with him if he is not open and receptive to it, if it makes him angry, or if he tells you to stop nagging or preaching at him.

A lot of women in the New Testament church were in the very same position. They were saved, and their husbands were not. First Peter 3:1-6 was written just for them, and for you. I would recommend studying that passage as well as 1 Corinthians 7:16, Ephesians 5:22-33, and Proverbs 31:10-31 to guide your own behavior as a godly wife. And, if you think it would be helpful, you may want to work through my Bible study on biblical womanhood.

My article The Mailbag: Can I share the gospel with my unsaved husband? is another good resource. If you need help presenting the gospel to your husband, check out the What must I do to be saved? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

One more suggestion: Think about making an appointment with your pastor for some biblical counsel on being a gospel influence on your husband. You may want to also ask him to point you to (or you may already know) a godly older woman in your church who has walked faithfully through the situation of having an unsaved husband, and who can disciple you through this.


Do you have any information about the generational sin/curses teaching? I’d love to understand if this is a false teaching and if it is…understand what the Bible really says. I don’t buy into the fact my great great grandma was sinful and that is why someone in the family is messed up.

You’re correct, this idea is diametrically opposed to what Scripture teaches. Certainly our children can be hurt or negatively impacted by the sins we commit. They can learn sinful behavior from watching us sin. And we are all sinners by nature. But children don’t genetically inherit a particular sin(s) – say, for example, profanity or adultery – from their parents. And God doesn’t punish us for the sins of our parents or ancestors.

The absolute best resource for refuting this false idea is Ezekiel 18. It is so beautifully clear and such a wonderful picture of the gospel smack dab in the middle of the Old Testament. Give it a good study.

Additionally, we released a podcast episode a while back called What Do We Do with the Guilt of Generational Sin? that may help.


Does “The moon turning to blood” refer to what we consider a “blood moon”?

Not as it pertains to being a sign of Jesus’ return, no. I think you’ll find this article and this article to be helpful.


Do you think it’s possible for God to “honour” a women’s preaching that is bringing people to Christ?

This is really two separate questions about women preaching. Let’s break it down:

1. Can God graciously save someone, despite the fact that he’s sitting under a woman who’s sinning by pretending to be a pastor? Yes. He also saves people who are currently Mormons, currently being abused, etc. God can save anyone despite someone else’s sin.

2. Does the fact that God saves someone who’s under the influence or authority of someone who’s sinning mean that God approves of or honors the sin being committed? No. God doesn’t honor people for sinning.

God doesn’t honor or approve of Mormon false teachers just because someone happens to hear enough actual Bible to get saved while still in Mormonism. Mormonism is still idolatry, and that Mormon leader is still committing the sin of teaching false doctrine. Or, let’s say a pastor is secretly abusing his son. If the son gets saved during one of Dad’s sermons does that mean God honors or approves of the abuse? Of course not. It’s a display of God’s mercy and grace that God still saves people despite other people’s sin.

The same applies to someone who gets saved despite sitting under a woman who’s sinning by pretending to be a pastor.

Additionally, granting for argument’s sake that she’s actually preaching the biblical gospel, the fact that the woman “pastor” got that part right doesn’t excuse or make up for her sin of rebelling against God’s Word. If I work in a soup kitchen all week long, but every Saturday I go out and murder somebody, we know that my good works during the week don’t outweigh, excuse, or make up for the sin of murder. I still need to repent of being a murderer, and the woman “pastor” still has to repent from rebelling against God’s Word regarding her role in the church.


I was widowed a year ago, and a divorced man asked me to marry him but my pastor said it was absolutely forbidden. Can you please help me with this issue? The entire world is divorced!

Let me first offer my condolences for the loss of your husband. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be.

Have you asked your pastor to explain why* he said this? I’m not exactly sure of his reasoning, so let me just offer a few general thoughts.

One reason your pastor might have said this is that he holds to what’s called the permanence view of marriage. This view essentially says there are no biblical grounds for divorce (for anyone) and, thus, no biblical allowance for remarriage.

On the other hand, he may believe (as I, and many other Christians do) that, while reconciliation of a marriage is always the first and best goal, and that, in most cases, divorce is a sin, there are certain circumstances (chiefly adultery and abandonment) in which the Bible allows for divorce as a last resort. If that’s the case, depending on the circumstances of your gentleman friend’s divorce, your pastor may be saying that his divorce was not biblical, and, therefore, the two of you should not marry.

Finally, your pastor may have reasons aside from the divorce that would cause him to tell you not to marry this gentleman. Perhaps your pastor knows that he isn’t saved, that he is cheating on you, that he’s engaging in criminal activity, etc. I hope that’s not the case, but that’s the only other possibility I could think of.

I would suggest you talk to your pastor about this, hear him out on his reasoning, and compare his reasoning to rightly handled, in context Scripture. It could very well be that he’s offering you good, biblical counsel. Or…not.

*Readers, I’m not faulting anyone for asking me a question like this, but I often receive questions about why a certain person – whether it’s a false teacher, your husband, your pastor, a friend, whoever – did or said something, or what he meant by what he said or did. Generally speaking, I have no way of knowing why a particular person said or did a particular thing or what it meant. I can only speculate. If you want to know why someone did or said something, or what he meant, it’s best to go to that person and ask him or her directly.


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.

Sermon on the Mount Bible Study

The Sermon on the Mount ~ Lesson 6

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

Matthew 5:27-32

Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 27-32 in light of those passages.

Summarize, in your own words, the main idea of 27-32.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in 27-30 and 31-32? How?

How do lust, adultery, and unbiblical divorce bland your saltiness? (13-16) How can crucifying your lust and being faithfully devoted to your husband make you saltier and brighter?

2. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.

How does Jesus refer back to the Ten Commandments in verse 27? How do Jesus’ phrases “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” verbally transition the people from their focus on outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? Explain how refraining from lust and being faithful and committed to your marriage is the heart of the law (17-20) behind the seventh and tenth Commandments. Connect these passages with 27-32. Where should our outward, behavioral obedience to Christ spring from?

3. Review: Examine again the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation. Who had the people heard it (the law) said by? Who taught them the law? How does Jesus saying, “But I say to you…” establish Jesus’ supremacy over the Pharisees, scribes, priests, etc. Imagine you’re one of these Jewish leaders and you’re hearing Jesus say this. What might your initial reaction be?

Recalling our Sermon on the Mount / Ten Commandments motif, how might Jesus’ “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” proclamation have evoked images of Moses as lawgiver, and signaled to the Jewish leaders and people that the better Moses was here?

4. What is “lustful intent”? (28) Make the connection between lust, adultery, and divorce. How could lusting after someone else eventually culminate in divorcing your spouse?

5. Notice the progression from temptation to commission of outward sin in 28-30:

  • Sin of the e_____(28a, 29) leads to…
  • Sin of the h_____(28b) leads to…
  • Sin of the h_____(30)

Which sexual sins does this progression apply to? Which other sins does this progression apply to? Is it fair to say that this progression applies to all sin? Explain what Jesus means by gouging out your right eye and cutting off your right hand as it applies to this progression from temptation to commission of outward sin. How can removing things in your life that are conducive to temptation and sin stop this progression?

6. Using your cross-references for verse 31, what were the Old Testament parameters for divorce? Why, according to Jesus, was this allowance made?

A spouse’s “sexual immorality” (usually adultery) (32) is one of the biblically permissible reasons for divorce. What is the other? Study these passages. How is marriage symbolic of God’s relationship with His people? If marriage symbolizes how God (the “husband”) cares for His people (His “bride”), what does divorce (for unbiblical reasons) say about God? About His people?

Compare 32 to Matthew 19:3-9. Why is divorce so closely tied to adultery? Who joins two people together and makes them one in marriage? Besides divorce due to adultery and abandonment1, what is the only other way God considers a marriage dissolved? Do man’s scribblings on a piece of paper (“certificate of divorce” for unbiblical reasons) change the fact that God still considers those two people married? How does this better help you understand Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:6: “What God has joined together, let not man separate.”? How does this concept help you understand why, in unbiblical divorces, God considers remarriage to be adultery?


1I know at this point many of you have “Yeah, but…” and “What if…” questions about abusive marriages and/or your own divorces. We can’t deal with those properly here. I would encourage you to use your cross-references and concordance to search the Scriptures about divorce and rightly apply them to your questions, and to get wise counsel from your pastor. If you are currently being abused: please get to a safe place and reach out to your pastor, the police, or another appropriate person for help. Getting to a safe place is not a sin, and it is not the same as an actual divorce.


Homework

  • Read my article The Mailbag: Is Lust a Sin for Women, Too? and study the Scriptures therein.
  • Think of one pernicious sin in your life in which you can see the progression of: sin of the eye>>sin of the heart>>sin of the hand. Explain how each of these steps are fleshed out in your particular sin. What is something you could remove from or add to your life that would make it more difficult for you to be tempted to commit this sin? Prayerfully develop a plan or strategy to “cut off your right hand / gouge out your right eye” (metaphorically speaking) in this area and begin implementing it this week.

Suggested Memory Verse

Abuse, Mailbag, Marriage

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

I was in a very volatile marriage to an abusive, lost man and I was also lost at the time. There was violence in the marriage which caused me to run away and divorce him out of fear. This was seven years ago and I have not seen nor heard from him since.

I have recently been saved and have repented of all my past sin and divorce1. I do understand that God hates divorce, and why, and that He would want me to reconcile with my ex-husband, if possible. But I am terrified about inquiring of my ex-husband because of the abuse I experienced. I don’t want to go back to him, if he’s even unmarried currently. I want to move forward in my new life as a daughter of God in the situation I am currently in – where He called me.

Does my not wanting to go back to my ex mean I am not truly repentant? And subsequently not truly forgiven? I did write my ex a letter that I sent to his parents’ address asking for forgiveness (for sins I had committed against him) about a year and a half ago and I believe he knows where he could find me if he wanted to reconcile; I have heard nothing. I have had nightmares about all this. Part of the reason we don’t live in the same town is I didn’t want to be found. I was so lost in my sin until God opened my eyes and now I cannot change my past and that has left me feeling helpless and hopeless.

First, I just want to take a moment to rejoice with you that God has brought you out of darkness and into His marvelous light! Welcome to the family! I also praise Him for rescuing you out of such a terrible situation and placing you in a safe environment. I hope by now this wicked man has been brought to justice and is no longer able to harm anyone.

OK, let’s take this one step at a time, for you and for any others who may be in a similar situation…

I was unable to glean from your email whether or not you are now joined to, and faithfully attending, a doctrinally sound church. If you’re not, that’s step one for many reasons: a) God commands it, so you’ll want to be obedient to Him, b) all Christians need training in the Scriptures and fellowship with our brothers and sisters, c) you need to unlearn all the ungodly ways of thinking and seeing yourself and others that the abuse taught you and replace them with godly, spiritually healthy ways of thinking and seeing yourself and others, and d) you need pastoral counsel about this particular situation you’ve asked me about.

If you haven’t yet found a doctrinally sound church and need some help, I would encourage you to go to the blue menu bar at the top of this page and click on the Searching for a new church? tab. When you get there, study up on the resources under “What to look for in a church,” and then begin exploring the many church search engines to find a good church near you.

Once you find a solid church (or if you’re already in a solid church), step two is to set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling. You need a shepherd who can walk through this situation with you face to face, long term, and can take the time to listen to all of the details. Binding up the wounds of injured sheep and tending to them while they heal is part of a shepherd’s job.

Next let’s take a look at some of the biblical issues.

You are correct in saying that, if possible, it’s God’s desire for a husband and wife to reconcile. But the only way that would be possible in your situation is if your ex-husband:

  • has thoroughly and completely repented of all of his sin (including, but not limited to, the abuse and violence)
  • has trusted Christ as his Savior,
  • has joined, and is faithfully attending, a doctrinally sound local church
  • is bearing fruit in keeping with repentance as witnessed by doctrinally sound mature brothers and sisters in Christ at his church (in other words, we can’t just take his word for it that he’s changed)
  • and all of this has been going on for a significant amount of time (like, at least year or two, not last week).

One of the things you should discuss with your pastor in counseling is whether or not, and how, to find out if your ex-husband has gotten saved and is living a repentant life that honors Christ. If he has not written you back or attempted any contact in the past seven years, chances are he is still lost and unrepentant.

This is another reason it’s important for you to be in a good church – you should not be the one to approach, or have any contact with, your ex-husband. Even if you’re not worried for your physical safety, clearly, contacting him would traumatize you at this point in your life. If any research is to be done into your ex-husband’s spiritual condition, it should be done by your pastor, elders, a deacon, or whoever your pastor designates as the wisest choice.

If it is discovered that God has graciously saved your ex-husband (and all of the items I bullet-pointed above are true of his life) and he has not remarried, then your pastor, his pastor, you, and he will have to put your heads together and figure out how to proceed biblically from here. And I imagine that will involve a lot of time and intense counseling before any decisions can be made.

You should not return to your ex-husband if he is unrepentant and/or still unsaved. (And if your pastor tells you that you should or you have to, you’re at the wrong church. That’s pastoral malpractice.) Notice I said “return to,” not “reconcile”. To be reconciled is for two people to be made right with one another. It’s for two people to come together in agreement to forgive past hurts and move forward together in a peaceful and harmonious relationship. Two people. That’s what the word “reconciled” means. In other words, you cannot be reconciled to someone who will not be reconciled to you because he still wants to hurt you.

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Amos 3:3

Returning to your unrepentant ex-husband is not only unwise for the sake of your own personal safety, but consider what the Bible says about you – a Believer – voluntarily2 entering into a marriage with an unbeliever:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

2 Corinthians 6:14-15

While this passage doesn’t apply exclusively to marriage, marriage is one of the relationships it does apply to. If we are not to yoke with unbelievers in ministry, or enmeshed business relationships, or close friendships, how much more should we not yoke with an unbeliever in the most intimate relationship of all – the oneness relationship of marriage?

You alluded to “remaining in the state in which you were called,” which is an excellent point Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24:

So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

1 Corinthians 7:24

The basic idea Paul is trying to convey here is not that you shouldn’t make Zacchaeus-like restitution or apologies for sins you’ve committed whenever that’s possible, but that you can’t undo your pre-salvation past (just like Zacchaeus couldn’t undo the fact that he cheated people in the first place). And you don’t have to. That was nailed to the cross, and it stayed dead and buried when Jesus came out of the tomb.

That’s precisely why you shouldn’t feel helpless and hopeless. That is our help and our hope: Jesus did for us what we so desperately needed and could not do for ourselves. He took our sin, our shame, our disgraceful past away – as far as the east is from the west – and dressed us in His royal robes of righteousness, making us clean and right with God to walk in newness of life! No one can change her past. Even God doesn’t change your past. God puts your past to death and changes your future.

No one can change her past. Even God doesn’t change your past. God puts your past to death and changes your future.

Not only that, this bit about remaining in the state in which you were called comes right on the heels of verse 15, which says:

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

1 Corinthians 7:15

Your unbelieving ex-husband is separated from you. Let it be so. “Let sleeping dogs lie,” you might say. Keep the peace that God has blessed you with by not opening up this can of worms and unnecessarily creating what could be a volatile situation.

You ask, “Does my not wanting to go back to my ex mean I am not truly repentant? And subsequently not truly forgiven?”. No, honey. It means God blessed you with good sense that still works. If this were a situation in which you divorced a godly (non-abusive, obviously) husband for your own selfish, sinful reasons, subsequently got saved, and still refused to be reconciled to him, there would probably be some issues of sin that your pastor would need to counsel you about. But getting saved, honoring all of the Scriptures mentioned above, and refusing to poorly steward the mind, body, and spirit God blessed you with by pointlessly putting them back in harm’s way? That demonstrates that you have repented and been forgiven and that God is hard at work healing you and renewing your mind.

Now, go make that appointment with your pastor.

1The reader stated that she “repented of…my divorce”. I did not deal with biblical and unbiblical reasons for divorce in this article because the focus of her question was, “Where do I go from here?” not, “Did I sin by divorcing him?”, and if she did sin in some way by divorcing him (and I’m not saying she did), she has already repented of it. But I do want anyone reading this to know that if you’re in an abusive relationship, it is not a sin to get yourself and your children somewhere safe. Getting to a safe place is not the same thing as getting a divorce. If you are being abused, get to safety immediately and call your pastor for help.

2This is not a proactive instruction to currently married people to divorce their unbelieving (non-abusive) spouses. Paul deals with that in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16.


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 (DivorceCare, When are they men?, Touring unbiblical churches…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

In these potpourri editions of The Mailbag, I’d also like to address the three questions I’m most commonly asked:

“Do you know anything about [Christian pastor/teacher/author] or his/her materials? Is he/she doctrinally sound?”

Try these links: 
Popular False Teachers /
 Recommended Bible Teachers / search bar
Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring It Out on Your Own
(Do keep bringing me names, though. If I get enough questions about a particular teacher, I’ll probably write an article on her.)

“Can you recommend a good women’s Bible study?”

No. Here’s why:
The Mailbag: Can you recommend a good Bible study for women/teens/kids?
The Mailbag: “We need to stop relying on canned studies,” doesn’t mean, “We need to rely on doctrinally sound canned studies.”.

“You shouldn’t be warning against [popular false teacher] for [X,Y,Z] reason!”

Answering the Opposition- Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections


I’m wondering if the DivorceCare support groups are good?

I’ve never been to a DivorceCare group or been a part of a church that hosted a group or used its materials, so I’m strictly drawing on what I’m seeing on their website.

The DC statement of faith is biblical, if minimalistic.

The format of meetings is for the group to watch “a video seminar featuring top experts on divorce and recovery subjects” and then discuss it, support group style. So, I took a look at the list of seminar experts. I don’t recognize half or more of the names, but of the names I do recognize, most are biblical counselors (the biblical counseling world has a reputation for being generally doctrinally sound), and two or three are pastors and Bible teachers I wouldn’t recommend but aren’t heretics either (if they’re teaching strictly on issues of divorce, I’m guessing what you’ll get from their videos is pretty much in line with Scripture).

So, all of that to say, as far as the materials DC provides, I don’t think you’re going to be taught major doctrinal error if you choose to participate. However, I’m guessing these groups vary widely depending on who is leading them and how good or bad that person’s/church’s theology is, so that’s a major component to take into consideration.

Having said all of that, I would not recommend that you participate in a parachurch organization for help getting through a divorce. It’s not their job to do that, it’s your local church’s job. Your pastor should be counseling you and/or your spouse to reconcile if that’s at all possible, and counseling you in other ways if not. Your Sunday School or Bible study class and other church family should be supporting you, helping you, and walking through this difficult time with you. When Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens,” it’s talking to the church, not a parachurch organization or a support group. And you need real live, “Call me any time, day or night,” church family to do that, not a bunch of strangers, not an expert on a screen. I think people who choose a parachurch organization like this are going to miss out on a lot more than they realize.

Furthermore, while counseling people who are going through a divorce is a good and necessary thing, it concerns me that so many churches are putting so much emphasis on post-divorce programs when what they should be throwing most of their energy into is preventing divorce by:

  • preaching and teaching biblically about marriage and divorce
  • extensive pre-marital teaching and counseling
  • encouraging, strengthening, and enabling healthy marriages
  • intervening and helping couples in marital distress
  • treating initiating and pursuing divorce for unbiblical reasons as the sin the Bible says it is
  • commencing with church discipline for church members who are initiating and pursuing divorce for unbiblical reasons.

Churches that proactively support and protect marriage this way will rarely find the need for divorce counseling.


I agree that Scripture is clear about women not teaching men the Scriptures. At what age are males considered to be ‘men’?

It’s an insightful question, and one that there’s no hard and fast “exact age” answer to. I think most of us would probably agree that pre-teens and under are children, not men, and I hope that most of us could agree that males in their mid-20s and upward are men. It’s those pesky teens to early 20s ages that throw a monkey wrench into the question.

Males ages 18 to early 20s may, in some cases seem like boys, but for this question, I think the common grace of American law (if you’re an American) can help us feel confident defining any male over 18 as a man. If American law treats a person as an adult at age 18 with regard to crimes, voting, marriage, property, etc., should the church be treating them as children?

So now we’ve narrowed our window of potential “men” down to age 12 or 13 to 17. And for that narrow window of ages, I’m going to refer you to question 13 of my article Rock Your Role FAQs:

What about teaching the boys in my church’s youth group?

Women should not serve as youth pastors. The Bible restricts pastoral and elder roles to men.

As to teaching the Bible to co-ed groups of minors (in Sunday School, as a youth helper, etc.), there is no hard and fast rule, but my recommendation is that a good time for women to break from teaching boys at church is around the time they start middle school. In the Bible, boys traditionally moved from childhood to adulthood at age thirteen. Jesus exhibited growth toward manhood and engaged the rabbis in the temple at age twelve. Of course, these are both anecdotal and neither means this age is the basis of any sort of law for Christian women about teaching boys, but there seems to be some wisdom there- a good rule of thumb. Once they hit their early teens, boys really need the guidance of godly men who can lead by example and teach them what it means to grow into godly manhood. When it comes to teaching adolescent boys at church, it’s much less about what women are “allowed” to do and much more about the best way to grow godly men. Only men can train boys to be men.


Over the years when we have visited various cities, we have toured old churches, several of which have been Catholic churches. Our main interest has been the architecture of the buildings along with the historical aspect. We have never participated in a church service, only informational tours. I was wondering if you have an opinion of Christians touring Catholic churches.

For someone who is genuinely saved, and in no danger of being wooed toward false doctrine simply by walking through a beautiful building and listening to a tour guide, I don’t think that’s problematic at all. Simply being in a building and learning about its structure and history doesn’t mean you agree with what happened there. I mean, if you toured Auschwitz, that would not mean you agreed with or supported what happened there, right? When I was in Egypt several years ago, I toured (as far as women were allowed to tour) a mosque. If I were in Salt Lake City, I would certainly check out the Mormon Tabernacle. If I were in Rome I would visit the Vatican. There’s nothing sinful for you personally about going to places like these to view the architecture or learn something about the religion or customs any more than it would be wrong to read about those things in a book.

If your conscience doesn’t bother you about taking the tour itself, and you’re not worried about your theology veering off course, there are only two ways I can think of that this could be a problem, biblically. First, if there’s an admission fee to tour the church, what is that money supporting? Speaking for myself, I could not knowingly pay a fee that would, in any way, support a false religion or the spread of it. Second, would entering one of these buildings somehow hurt your witness or be a stumbling block to someone who knows you? That would really depend on the other person, the situation, etc., but that is something you should take into consideration.

I would suggest that you look for opportunities for evangelism during these tours. Leave a tract behind if there’s a way to do that without littering (the ladies’ room is usually a good spot). Before you leave, take a moment to silently pray for the salvation of the people who go to church there (or work there, or are on the tour with you). If there’s an opportunity to ask a simple gospel-centered question or make a biblical comment during the tour, take advantage of that (don’t interrupt or argue, don’t lecture or debate, don’t do “gotcha” questions, and be sweet – you’re scattering seed, not waging war).

Enjoy your trip, and I hope you learn a great deal.


Michelle, are you going to be at the G3 Conference in January 2020?

I wish! I’d love to be there, but I don’t think it’s going to happen this time. It’s a wonderful conference, and I highly recommend it for everyone who’s able to attend. Y’all have fun!

(I will be at the Cruciform Conference next month, though! Find me and say hi!)


So there are women in my home who enjoy, unaware, the teachings of Rohr/Shirer/Enneagram/journaling/meditation/etc. I’m not sure I really have a voice anymore in their spiritual pursuit outside of prayer. Do you have any strategies or a playbook of sorts on how to navigate through this season of life?

(This question comes from a gentleman.)

I’m so sorry for the difficult situation you’re in. It is always sorrowful and frustrating to watch those we love chase after ungodly things.

You say “there are women in my home,” so I’m not really clear on whether these women are your wife, daughters, sisters, other relatives, female boarders, etc. I’m also unclear on whether or not you are the head of the home (husband/dad).

If you are not the head of the home (i.e. these women are your mother and sisters or other relatives or non-relations over whom you have no biblical authority), continue to pray for them and set up an appointment with your pastor for counsel on how best to handle this situation.

If you are the head of the home, I’m sure you know that God has given you the responsibility of being the spiritual leader of your household. I’m honored that you reached out to me for help, but learning to lead well is going to be a long road of face to face discipleship that must take place in your own local church with your pastor and brothers in Christ there. As a woman, I am neither equipped, nor would it be biblically appropriate for me to walk you through this long term and through a computer screen. There are no magic strategies for a quick fix, but your church family can help you work through the “playbook” – the Bible – as you grow in Christ and in spiritual leadership. I would strongly recommend that you set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling and, definitely continue to pray for these women.


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.