I’ve just been in a funk, lately. Nothing out of the ordinary is wrong, but it’s been raining for eleventy two days in a row, and the constant darkness and dreariness seems to have wormed its way into my psyche and, I noticed recently, even into my prayer life.
A couple of days ago, I started out my prayer time with a huge sigh followed by a bunch of wimpering and whining about nothing of consequence. I was just moody. And I didn’t feel like praying.
And then God graciously brought a lovely little snippet of Scripture to my mind:
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Want to know God’s will for your life? There it is: give thanks in all circumstances. When you get a new car. When you catch your spouse cheating on you. When you’re on a glorious vacation. When you get laid off from work. When you’re happy. When you’re sad. When you’re in the mood, and when you’re not in the mood.
Give thanks in – not necessarily for, but in – all circumstances.
Well, this was certainly a circumstance. Why not give gratitude a try? I was in the car headed to pick up my boys from school, and I decided to spend the entire twenty minute drive just thanking God for things.
I started with the big stuff: salvation, forgiveness for my sin, times when God has miraculously provided, specific answers to prayer…
I was starting to slow down and I still had about half the drive left. Surely there was more to be thankful for! And that’s when it struck me. How often do we forget to thank God for all the (in our eyes) tiny little unnoticed things He does for us every day? We thank Him for the miracles, but what about the mundane? What “little things” had I forgotten to thank God for?
1. Air conditioning. I live in the South. Enough said.
2. I know where my next meal is coming from.
3. Social media and e-mail. I can keep up with far off loved ones, and I’ve “met” some awfully nice people.
4. I can see. I can hear. I can think clearly. I can walk.
5. I live in a country where Christianity is not yet against the law.
7. Cute baby animals.
8. I can read and write. That’s not the case for women, globally.
9. I was able to conceive and carry my children to term.
10. Warm quilts on cold nights.
11. The Bible is available in my native language, and I have several copies of it.
12. I have no fear of suicide bombers in my community.
13. The beach.
14. A crawfish boil with friends.
15. Reliable electricity.
16. Hearing my children sing when they think no one is listening.
17. My husband is a Believer and is good to me.
18. Mountains. I miss mountains.
19. Indoor plumbing and clean drinking water.
20. Laughing hysterically with my family.
21. Level-headed discernment ministries.
22. Peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.
23. A roof over my head.
24. Home schooling.
25. People who are kind (or crazy) enough to read my blog articles all the way to the end.
Well, that was my list, and I think I’ll keep looking for things to add to it. Thanking God for the “little things,” realizing they might be big things to others, and recognizing the pervasiveness of God’s blessings and provision cheered me up and was truly a worship experience.
And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” Exodus 19:12-13
From Cain and Abel to the Israelites in the wilderness to Ananias and Sapphira, God sets limits on the way we may approach Him. He has always said “whosoever will” may come to Him, but He is just as exacting about the way in which we come to Him today as He was back then.
It’s no small matter that many people in the Bible were put to death for approaching God in anything less than an attitude of utmost awe, fear, and reverence for His holiness. Uzzah touched the Ark of the Covenant. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire before the Lord. The Corinthians took the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.
I recently heard Perry Noble, a well known leader of a seeker sensitive megachurch, who has done such things as having his church’s band play AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday, say, “I’m willing to offend the church people to reach people for Jesus.” When asked where he drew the line at what was too offensive in church, he went on to say, “I probably wouldn’t have a stripper on stage…” and continued to justify using worldly and irreverent antics in church in order to “bring people to Jesus.”
But Perry has missed the point. Worship isn’t about people and what they like or don’t like. It isn’t about entertaining people and making sure they have some sort of enjoyable or emotional experience. It isn’t about attracting the attention of people.
Worship is about God.
What does God think? How does He want to be worshiped? What does He find offensive?
God is not the God of “anything goes.” If you doubt that, go back to the Old Testament and read His precise instructions on constructing the tabernacle, offering sacrifices, the behavior and duties of priests and Levites, and so on. Anything goes? Far from it.
Christ should be the sun in our solar system of worship. Just as the sun’s gravity exerts just the right force on each planet, keeping them revolving around it in exactly the right path, so, when Christ is at the center of our worship, every song, every prayer, every word spoken will fall into exactly the right orbit around Him.
What about your church? The next time you attend a worship service, sit back and view it through the lens of discernment. Is it designed to make you happy? Comfortable? Entertained? Emotional? Or is every element of the service centered on Christ– His holiness, His sacrifice for sin, His love and grace — leading you to exalt Him and forget about yourself?
Pastors and worship leaders, one day you will answer to God for the way you led your church. Do you design worship services to attract and hold the attention of people, manipulate their emotions, and entertain them, or do you sit at your desk, pray, and consider what will please God, how you can best lift up the name of Christ, expose His glory, and keep things centered on Him? God has not called you to be a shock jock, stand up comedian, or motivational speaker. He has called you to preach Christ and Him crucified.
Let’s stop the silliness and stupidity, and repent. Worship is serious business.
When my husband and I have looked for a new church in the past, we’ve had our choices narrowed down for us because we are comfortable in our denomination and are not looking to change. When you’re starting from scratch, you have a lot more choices to wade through, so it can be more difficult. Here are a few guidelines I’d suggest.
1. The absolute most important thing is to find a church that preaches and teaches only what matches up with what the Bible says, and all of what the Bible says. In other words, they shouldn’t be teaching anything that’s clearly contrary to Scripture and they shouldn’t be leaving things out that are unpopular because they’re afraid they won’t attract as many people.
2. Pray about it. Ask God to lead you to exactly the right church in which to serve Him.
3. If you were raised in a particular denomination and felt comfortable in it, that might be a good place to start, either at the same church or a different church of the same denomination.
4. Ask around. Ask Christian friends about their churches and try visiting with them one Sunday. If you end up joining, you have the bonus of already knowing someone.
5. Do your homework. If there’s a particular church or denomination you’re interested in, chances are, they have a web site. There will probably be a section on the web site called “Our Statement of Faith” or something like that. Check that out and make sure all the tenets line up with Scripture. (But do bear in mind a significant number of churches have a perfectly biblical statement of faith “on paper” but they do not adhere to it in practice, or they are unbiblical in an area the statement of faith doesn’t cover. The best a statement of faith can do for you is to weed out some of the really bad churches. It’s not a guarantee that a church is good.) A lot of churches also have their pastor’s sermons and/or their music on line, so you can get a feel for how things go on Sundays. You’ll also be able to find out when services start, what kinds of programs are available, whether or not they have a nursery, etc.
6. “Interview” churches. Most pastors I know would be thrilled to death if a prospective visitor would call up and make an appointment to come in and talk to them about the church. Ask him whatever you want, find out what’s required for membership, share your concerns, etc. He should be able to answer your queries openly and honestly. I would be very leery about attending a church if the pastor seemed secretive about general doctrinal issues, his own background, or church activities. Sometimes just meeting with the pastor will give you an idea of whether or not you want to give the church a try.
7. Try it on for size. You might fall in love with the first church you try, or it might be like shoe shopping and you have to try several before you find one that fits.
Don’t give up. God has a place for you somewhere.
Searching for a new church? Lots of great church search engines, plus check out the “What to look for in a church” section, especially if you’re a new Believer or coming out of an unbiblical church background.
Beheadings of Christians by ISIS. Crosses forcibly torn off churches by the Chinese government. Pastors imprisoned. Believers tortured for leaving Islam or sharing the gospel.
The treatment our brothers and sisters across the globe receive at the hands of pagans is nearly unfathomable. They are made to suffer – simply for claiming the name of Christ – by those who openly hate God and want nothing more than to stamp out Christianity.
This is how we, as the American church, have come to define persecution. Outsiders, non-Christians, and the government, all on the attack against the Bible, our faith, our practices, and other beliefs we have long held dear. It’s a correct definition, but it’s not a complete definition.
While we already see a “light” form of this type of persecution in the U.S. – mainly over the issue of homosexuality – there’s another kind of Christian persecution that is mushrooming right under our noses, which most church members either seem oblivious to, or are actually participating in. It’s the persecution in the pew.
If you’re a Christian who has ever dared to vocally take a stand on the truth of God’s word against the false teaching so prevalent in today’s pop Christianity, you’ve almost certainly experienced this type of persecution at the hands of people who call themselves “Christians.”
Don’t believe me?
Try posting a Facebook status that says the Bible prohibits women from being pastors or teaching men.
Discuss the Bible’s account of Creation with someone from your church who has embraced Darwinian evolution.
Certainly, there are new and immature Christians who simply don’t know these things are unbiblical and are still struggling to embrace God’s word in these areas. And there are those who know what God’s word says, but rebel against it in these areas, who silently ignore Christians who espouse biblical truth, or can politely discuss why their “Christian” views differ from Scripture. However, the willfully biblically ignorant, “screaming banshee” contingent is growing, both in volume and in number.
Surprised? Me too. I’ve been on the receiving end of verbal abuse (and I do mean abuse – name calling, swearing, mocking, the questioning of my salvation, and any number of other nasty and condescending remarks) from “Christians” defending these and other unbiblical views numerous times and I still can’t get over my shock every time it happens.
Call me crazy, I guess I just expect people who call themselves “Christians” to love, obey, and uphold Scripture, not attack those who actually do.
But this kind of thing really shouldn’t be cause for wonder and amazement. We should expect it. Persecution of God’s people by those who claim to be God’s people has been happening since the Old Testament.
Jeremiah: Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. 2 Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the Lord. Jeremiah 20:1-2
Amos: Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words…12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Amos 7:10, 12-13
Isaiah: For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; 10 who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, 11 leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 30:9-11
Perhaps Jesus had in mind some of these instances of Israel’s persecution of the prophets when He said in the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
The balance of the New Testament is rife with examples of Christians, and even Jesus Himself, being persecuted by those who claim to be God’s people:
Stephen was martyred by “the people and the elders and the scribes,” while Paul, “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;” who went on to be a zealous “persecutor of the church” held their coats.
It was the “high priest, the senate of the people of Israel, and the Pharisees” who imprisoned and flogged the apostles and “charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus” in Acts 5:17-42.
Peter and John were arrested by “the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees” and threatened by “Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.”
Even Jesus “came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” He was nearly stoned twice by Jewish leaders. And, even though it was the Romans who actually carried out the crucifixion, it was only because it was illegal, under current Roman law, for the temple authorities to execute their own criminals.
We may think of these people as Jews, scribes, and Pharisees, but they were the “church people” of their day. It was these “church people” – as much, if not, at times, more so than pagans – who were the ones shouting down, threatening, persecuting, and murdering Jesus and Christians who upheld the truth of His word.
Jesus knew this would happen. In John 16:2-4 He warned the disciples:
They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
And so it goes today. Deceived, self-proclaimed “Christians”, those inside the church who are often just as unsaved as the pagans outside the church, those who prove that they don’t belong to Christ by fighting against His word instead of loving and obeying it, these “church people” are the ones viciously attacking Christians who dare to stand on and for the truth of Scripture. And they think they’re doing God a favor by acting this way.
Continue to cling to Christ and His word and you’ll be one of their victims. It’s inevitable. Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” But keep your eyes on Jesus, not on your circumstances, and remember He also said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When you’re persecuted, even by “Christians” you can “rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven!”
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7
If someone were to ask you, “What kind of person do you want to raise your daughter to be?” how would you answer? Caring? Independent? Loyal? Kind?
I’m betting none of us would answer “weak,” “burdened with sins,” “easily led astray by her passions,” or “unable to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” Yet in these last days in which we find ourselves, that’s exactly what many good-hearted Christian mothers with nothing but the best of intentions are raising their daughters to be. It’s not that they want their daughters to grow up to be spiritually weak or led astray by sin or unbiblical teaching, it’s just that they lack the skills and tools necessary for properly training their daughters in the Scriptures and godliness.
Maybe you’re one of those moms. You want to train your daughter to be a wise, godly, discerning woman, but you’re not quite sure how. Hey, we all have those areas of our lives that we need a little help with. As an older mom myself, maybe I can lend a hand.
My daughter is almost twenty, and while she’s nowhere near perfect, by the grace of God, she is a godly young lady. Looking back, there are many things my husband and I did wrong as parents. But God, in His mercy, covered our failures and saw all of us through as He taught us through His word how to raise a biblically strong woman.
6 Ways to Raise a Biblically Strong Woman
1. Set an example.
Our daughters learn by watching us. Faithfully study your Bible, pray, attend church, obey God’s word, submit to your husband, repent and ask forgiveness when you sin, and serve others and your church together.
2. Learn, and teach your daughter, good hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics is just a fancy word for rightly handling God’s word. Use a reliable Bible translation. Understand Scripture in its immediate and overall context. What was the author’s intended meaning, his audience, genre, and culture? Point your daughter to Christ as you study God’s word together.
3. Find a doctrinally sound church, join it, and attend faithfully as a family.
Study God’s word and compare everything that’s preached and taught to Scripture (in context). Does your church’s teaching line up? Then be committed to attending every single week, not just when you feel like it or when there’s nothing better to do. Instill in your daughter a love for, and a commitment to, the church.
4. Fight the fluff.
Unfortunately, many of the most popular preachers, teachers, and Christian authors (including women’s Bible study authors) teach and write things that may sound good and make us feel good, but are in direct conflict with Scripture. These are the very people Paul was speaking of in 2 Timothy 3. Teach your daughter to follow only trustworthy teachers whose theology is in line with Scripture.
5. Bring prayer and Scripture into every situation.
She can’t find her favorite doll? Kids picking on her at school? She wants to wear clothes that barely cover her? Discuss what the Bible say about these things. Pray together about them. Lead your daughter into prayer and Scripture as part of daily life, and it will teach her that God is to have authority over every aspect of our lives and that we are to obey Him in all things.
6. Teach her how to share the gospel.
If you’re not sure how to properly present the gospel to someone, learn. You can’t lead your daughter to Christ if you can’t share the gospel with her. If your daughter is already saved, make sure she knows how to share the gospel correctly. The Great Commission was the last instruction Christ gave us before leaving earth, and we are all to be about the business of carrying it out until He returns.
The 2 Timothy passage at the beginning of this article is our commission to guard our households against ungodly ways and people – even those who may falsely call themselves Christians – who might creep in and steal our daughters’ hearts and minds away from Christ. He has charged us to train them in godliness, and we must faithfully answer His call to raise wise, discerning, and biblically strong women of God.
What advice would you offer moms who want to raise biblically strong women?