Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Paul’s gospel, National repentance, Pastor search committee, Pastor’s wife teaching men)

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 (at the very bottom of each page) 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


Didn’t the risen Christ give Paul the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith? Paul called it “my gospel”? Is the Great Commission the same as Paul’s gospel? Thanks!

Not exactly, but it’s great that you’re noticing those little details as you study God’s Word!

“Paul’s” gospel…

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 2 Timothy 2:8

…is the biblical gospel of salvation that Paul preached – the good news of what Christ did to save sinners through His death, burial, and resurrection – and the call to repentance and belief.

The Great Commission…

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

…is the church’s (and individual Christians’) “marching orders” to share that gospel with sinners and disciple them to maturity in Christ. It is God’s main purpose for the church.

So, in a nutshell, the gospel is what Christ did. The Great Commission is what we’re supposed to do with the gospel.


I got into quite the discussion with people today who feel that prayers of repentance for our national sins are not only unnecessary, but an affront to them because THEY did nothing wrong. I cited Daniel who prayed prayers of repentance for his nation, though he led a righteous life. They got all confused with Old Testament sacrificial law and that Christ was the ultimate sacrifice so we only need repent of our OWN sins. Could you address this, please?

Well…depending on exactly what they were saying, they may have been at least partly right. We can certainly pray that God will lead individuals in our nation to repent of whatever sins they may have committed, but we cannot repent on behalf of another person or of a nation. God does not hold us responsible for the sins of others, and we cannot repent for the sins of others. (see Ezekiel 18).

If you’re referring to Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9, if you’ll read very carefully, you’ll notice he is confessing the sin of his people, lamenting over the sin of his people, and asking God to pour out His mercy on his people despite their sin, but he is not repenting on their behalf.

It is impossible to repent for someone else’s (let alone a whole nation’s) sin because repenting is more than:

  • confessing that sin has occurred,
  • admitting that someone is guilty for having committed that sin,
  • feeling sorrowful over sin,
  • asking forgiveness for sin, or
  • asking God to be merciful toward the sinner.

Repentance means to turn away from your sin, to forsake it, to stop doing it because you want to obey God instead. Although I’m sure he wished he could have, Daniel could not turn away from someone else’s (the nation of Israel’s) sin. And, he specifically says in verse 13: “we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities”.

Another thing to remember is that Daniel is interceding for God’s covenant people. They belonged to Him. They had agreed to follow Him. America is not in a covenant relationship with God. For a Christian today, interceding for the church and praying that God would lead Christians to repentance would be more analogous to what Daniel was doing.


We lost our pastor almost a year ago and are struggling to find a new one. Do you have any suggestions of where we could send the information about our church and the position in hopes of finding a suitable candidate?

I would suggest sending your information to:

The Master’s Seminary’s Pastor Search page

Founders Ministries Minister Search page

Expositors Seminary

I hope you’ll find a wonderful, godly pastor very soon!

Now, although this might not be possible for your particular church, I would like to throw something out there for the consideration of any pastor or church member who might be reading this. The most biblical model of leadership for the local church is that it be led by a plurality of elders.¹ For that primary reason, I would encourage every church that doesn’t already have this leadership structure in place to look into it and give strong, prayerful consideration to transitioning into leadership by a plurality of elders.

However, secondarily, there are practical benefits to your church being led by a plurality of elders, and avoiding being “pastorless” is a huge one. My own church recently welcomed a new pastor after being without one for two full years. That two years was a struggle. The interim pastor was a stranger to us and we were strangers to him. He did not know the ins and outs of life at our church or the strengths and weaknesses of our church. As affable as our interim pastor was, it was always in the back of everyone’s mind that he was temporary. This was not our pastor and everyone knew it. And then there were some other issues that arose during his tenure that awaited the new pastor’s arrival.

When a church is led by a plurality of elders, many of these issues can be avoided or lessened. When a lead teaching elder dies, moves, or steps down for whatever reason, there is, ideally, already another elder available to step in and take over. This elder already knows the church and the people and they know him. There’s no need to assemble and train a pastor search committee, launch a nationwide search, wait on resumes to arrive, interview candidates, present them to the church for a vote, and then hire a stranger about whom you know virtually nothing except what’s on his resume and whatever he says in his interview. The transition from elder to elder is smoother and immediate with little upheaval and relational trauma to the church body.

Just something to think about.

¹I’m not saying that churches which aren’t elder-led are apostate or intrinsically sinful, I’m just saying that if you want to get as close to the biblical model as possible, go with a plurality of elders.

I am a relatively new (about one year old –  but growing in discernment!) Christian, and I attend a small Baptist church of about 15 people in the remote area in which I live. The pastor’s wife leads both men and women in a “Bible” study group using popular (biblically questionable at best, such as Max Lucado) books instead of reading Scripture. I choose not to attend these studies, but because the church is so small, my absence is obvious and noticed. People comment that they have not seen me at “Bible” study. 

Everything else that happens in the church, the sermons, worship, prayer, are all on point biblically, thus far. My pastor is a godly man as far as I can tell, so my only issue to date is these co-ed, led by a woman, “not-Bible” studies. Should I take my concerns to my pastor? I’m already on a bit of shaky ground with the pastor’s wife. I’m reluctant to upset the apple cart any more. However, if the right thing to do is to address it and deal with potential consequences (shunning, whatever) then I want to do the right thing by my Lord and Savior. How would you guide me in this situation?

I know this is a really difficult situation to be in and I’m sorry it’s making you uncomfortable at church. Yes, when we see sin in the camp, we must speak up, so you should begin preparing to address this situation. Normally, I encourage women to go to the person most directly in charge of the issue first, which in this case would be the pastor’s wife, but I’m guessing that if you’re on “shaky ground” with her it’s because you’ve already tried to address this with her. The next step is to go to the pastor.

I would encourage you to spend a little time studying through the book of Esther, realizing that she was in a somewhat similar situation to yours: God revealed to her an ungodly situation that would harm His people, and she – at great personal risk – had to go to the man in charge and implore him to right the situation, not knowing how he would respond. It could be that God has specifically placed you in this church “for such a time as this”.

Notice that Esther asked that her people be gathered to pray for her. If you have any like-minded friends or loved ones who will pray with you as you prepare your heart to talk to your pastor, that would be beneficial. I have already prayed for you, and I am asking everyone reading this to stop and take a moment to pray for you as well.

If the pastor tells you you’re wrong or doesn’t rectify the situation, and there’s another, better church you could join, even if it’s not as convenient as this one, prayerfully consider moving your membership there. If, as you said, everything else at your current church really is doctrinally sound, and you have no other options for a doctrinally sound church to attend that’s within achievable driving distance of your house, my counsel to you would be to stay at this church, continue not to attend the “not-Bible” study, and fervently pray for God to change the hearts of your pastor and his wife.

If you stay and people continue to say, “We missed you at ‘Bible’ study!” all you have to say is, “Thank you!” or “It’s nice to be missed,” or something like that. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I say, “I missed you at _____,” to someone, it’s not a demand to know why she wasn’t there, it’s to let her know that I love her and missed fellowshipping with her. Hopefully, that’s all your fellow church members mean by saying that. If a nosy Nelly asks why you weren’t there, keep in mind that you’re not required to give her that information just because she asked. You can say something like, “I have a conflict and can’t attend,” which is truthful (you have a biblical conflict and can’t, in good conscience, attend), yet gives no one the opportunity to say that you were gossiping or trying to stir up division in the church. If she continues to pry, look her dead in the eye and keep repeating, “I have a conflict and can’t attend” until she comes to her senses and realizes it’s none of her business why you weren’t there.

Here are some resources I hope will help you:

Rock Your Role: Jill in the Pulpit

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

Searching for a new church?


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.

Sanctification, Sin

Guilt and Shame- Burden or Blessing?

 

I agree with what you’re saying, I’m just afraid it might arouse guilt and shame in newer believers, as well as those with sensitive consciences,” a follower recently said in response to a statement of biblical truth I posted on social media. I’ve been pondering that ever since she said it. It was good food for thought.

Guilt and shame are not subjects we often talk about outright. Rather, they seem to be a taboo silently woven into the fabric of our collective consciousness in 21st century Western culture – even in evangelicalism. It’s an unspoken law with the direst of consequences: “Thou shalt never say or do anything that causes anyone to feel guilty or ashamed for the choices she has made or the way she lives her life.” If you do, cancel culture will hunt you down and publicly eviscerate you. You’ll be shunned, and you can kiss your reputation goodbye. Why? Because our society tells us that guilt and shame are the absolute worst things someone can feel.

But is that really true? Or could it be that the prince of the power of the air is lying to us yet again?

While the church has historically done a stellar job of sharing the good news that Christ took away our guilt and shame on the cross, it has not always done a good job of explaining what the emotions¹ of guilt and shame are or the proper function they are to serve in the lives of both Believers and unbelievers.

There are two kinds of emotional guilt and shame: biblically appropriate and biblically inappropriate. Biblically appropriate guilt and shame is when you feel guilty and ashamed as a result of doing something wrong. Biblically inappropriate guilt and shame is when you feel guilty and ashamed when you haven’t done anything wrong.

Biblically appropriate guilt and shame are good gifts from God. They are like a fever that tells you you’re sick and need to take some medicine. Lost or saved, new Believer or seasoned Saint, sensitive conscience or not, if someone is sinning, she should feel guilt and shame, because she has transgressed a holy God. For the lost person, that guilt and shame is an internal reminder that she stands forensically (legally) guilty before God and needs a Savior. For the Believer, that guilt and shame is the conviction of the Holy Spirit leading her to repent and obey Christ instead of sinning. Biblically appropriate guilt and shame are biblically appropriate because your feelings about what you’ve done match the facts of what you’ve done. You feel guilty and ashamed because you are guilty of doing something shameful: sin.

The warning sign of guilt and shame is a blessing from a good, kind, and merciful God calling us to repent immediately and return to Him before we dig ourselves into a deeper pit of sin. Like a loving father who starts with a stern look when his child first misbehaves and then progressively moves on to increasing levels of discipline, God does not pour out the full fury of His wrath at our first bobble toward sin. He starts with the “stern look” of guilt and shame.

Have you ever read the Old Testament and explored some of the more drastic warning signs God had to send His people, and the pagans they lived among, when they sinned and hardened their hearts against the guilt and shame He blessed them with? Have you contemplated the horrors of eternal conscious torment in Hell, lately? When we consider…

  • how dangerous sin is for us in this life,
  • how petrifying the prospect of what God could do to us, has every right to do to us in His anger over our sin if He were so inclined,
  • how the heart of God is not to punish and destroy, but to redeem and reconcile

…it is much easier to recognize biblically appropriate guilt and shame as an act of unfathomable love from God.

If a professing Christian doesn’t normally feel guilt and shame when she has clearly sinned, she should be extremely concerned. That is usually the fruit of someone who is unregenerate, not someone who is saved, and she would do well to follow Scripture’s mandate to examine herself against rightly handled Scripture to see if she is indeed in the faith.

But what about experiencing biblically inappropriate shame and guilt? In the life of a genuinely regenerated Christian, biblically inappropriate shame and guilt mainly takes one of two forms:

  • feeling shame and guilt for your own pre-salvation sins, or post-salvation sins you’ve already repented of
  • feeling shame and guilt for someone else’s sin or for something else outside your control

This kind of shame and guilt is inappropriate because it is misapplied. God intended shame and guilt to bring you to repentance for your sin, not to haunt you for sin you’ve already repented of or for someone else’s sin or something outside your control.

If you have bowed the knee to Christ in repentance and faith that His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection paid the penalty for your sin, then God’s good gift of guilt and shame has done its job. It’s over. Christ took your guilt and shame and sin, nailed it all to the cross – and it died there. It did not come down off the cross with Jesus, and it was not resurrected with Him. You have the glorious privilege as one robed in the righteousness of Christ, to rebuke those feelings of guilt and shame over past sins any time they rear their ugly heads, armed with the knowledge that you are forgiven and free. Christ paid with His blood to give you the right not to have to feel those feelings. Send them packing by praising God for His wonderful gift of grace and mercy to you in Christ.

And what about feeling guilt and shame for someone else’s sin? Perhaps you did your best to raise your child in a godly way, but he grew up to become a rapist or murderer, and you feel guilty. Maybe someone committed the sin of abuse against you and you’re dying of shame inside. If I just hadn’t done this, or if I had only done that, he wouldn’t have done what he did. It’s my fault.

May I make a suggestion? Do a good, long, hard study of Ezekiel 18. God is crystal clear – in such a loving and comforting way – that He does not hold you responsible for anyone’s sin but your own. You are – not as a matter of subjective opinion or feelings, but as a matter of forensic, objective fact – not guilty of that person’s sin. So if you’re feeling guilt and shame, your feelings don’t match the facts. Your feelings are boldly and brashly lying to you in the face of what God says is true about you. He says you’re not guilty. Your feelings say you are. Who are you going to believe?

That’s why it’s incredibly important that we believe God’s objectively true written Word over and above our feelings. It’s also why it makes me so angry when seeker driven churches and women’s “Bible” study materials focus on your personal feelings, opinions, preferences, and life experiences instead of properly teaching you the Bible. How can you believe God’s Word over your feelings if you don’t even know God’s Word? When all you know is your raw emotions and not what God says, that leaves you trapped, a slave to your con artist feelings, when you could be completely set free from the shame and guilt God never intended for you to feel for someone else’s sin.

And, finally, you could be feeling biblically inappropriate guilt for an accident or something else outside your control. If we had just bought a different house, we wouldn’t have been living in this one when the tornado hit, and my husband would still be alive. If I had just taken a different route, I wouldn’t have encountered that unexpected traffic accident and missed my daughter’s senior recital.

There’s a key truth all Christians need to come to grips with here: God is sovereign over every atom and event in the universe. You are not. God knows the future. You do not. God is God. You are not. When you feel guilty for things you had no way of knowing, preventing, or avoiding, you are essentially saying you should have God’s omnipotence and omniscience. You’re feeling guilty for not being God.

And your feelings of guilt over something like this are also saying that God was wrong for allowing what happened to happen, because if you were God, you wouldn’t have let it happen. Take a moment and let that sink in. Your feelings of guilt over something unforeseen and unavoidable say that you think you could do a better job of being God than He can. Well, let me tell you what we both already know. You can’t.

God determined from the foundations of the earth exactly which day, and how, and where, your husband was going to die. If it wasn’t God’s will that he die in a tornado on that day, in that house, he wouldn’t have. If God wanted you at your daughter’s recital, you would have been there.

You don’t have control. Control is an illusion. God has control. (And that’s good. Because God knows faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar better than we do the right thing to do in every situation.) And if you don’t have control, then you didn’t do anything wrong. And if you didn’t do anything wrong, feeling guilty is biblically inappropriate, a) because God’s purpose for guilt is to draw you to repentance over your sin, not for failing to achieve Godhood, and b) because your feelings (“I’m guilty!”) don’t match the facts (you’re not).

God is sovereign. He always does what is right and best in every situation, even if you can’t see it and don’t understand. And because He always does what is right and best, you can trust Him in those terrible incomprehensible situations. Take some time to study what God’s Word says about trusting Him.

 

A major problem in evangelicalism today is that we have followed the world’s lead and made people’s feelings into a god. We are more worried about hurting people’s feelings than providing them actual biblical help. And we all, including me, need to repent of that and stop it. It is infinitely better to fleetingly hurt someone’s feelings with biblical truth that leads her to Christ, than to allow her feelings to be an untouchable idol that keeps her in sin.

There has to be something higher, more important, than protecting someone from feeling biblically appropriate guilt and shame. There has to be something lofty enough to rescue people out of biblically inappropriate guilt and shame.

There is: God and His Word.

Exalting God and His Word to their proper and deserved place of preeminence and authority, and submitting to them in our hearts, minds, churches, and relationships is not simplistic, it’s foundational. And when it comes to the veneration of people’s feelings (and far too many other issues) we have become the foolish man who has traded a foundation on the rock of God’s truth and His ways for one on the enticingly sandy beach of worldly “wisdom”.

And, y’all…

…it’s starting to rain.

 


¹There is also a forensic definition of guilt. For example, if you rob a bank, you are forensically (legally), objectively guilty of the crime of robbery regardless of how you feel about it. This article deals mainly with the emotion of guilt– feeling guilty, or having a guilty conscience.
Mailbag

The Mailbag: Regrets…I Still Have a Few

 

I know regret should lead us to repentance. My question is: After repentance and salvation what do we do with regret? Is it sinful to continually experience regret? Is it just a consequence we must live with? I feel like I’m being swallowed up by it the more I read the Bible, which is not the end of the world, but I just want to handle it correctly.

Great question. I think correct context and semantics can help us out a lot here.

The verse you’re referring to is 2 Corinthians 7:10 (which I have linked in context in your question above):

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

There are several concepts at play here between your question and the verse, and we need to be sure we’re not conflating them: regret, godly sorrow or grief, shame, and guilt.

When we American English speakers say, Frank Sinatra-style, “Regrets….I’ve had a few….,” what we mean is that there are things we’ve done in the past that we wish we hadn’t done, and that if we had it to do over again, we would do things differently. Every Christian has had incidents we feel this way about, whether they took place before or after we got saved. If your love for Christ and your growing understanding of the blackness of sin have led you to regret rebelling against Him, that’s not a bad thing. What would be bad is if you had no regrets. When we look back on past sins, we should always do so with an attitude of regret for having committed them.

But doesn’t this verse say repentance leads to salvation “without regret”? Yes. But that phrase doesn’t mean we’ll never look back at our past sins and wish we had obeyed God instead. Read the verse in context. Paul had written his “severe letter” rebuking the Corinthian church for their sin. It cut them to the heart in godly sorrow over their transgressions and they joyfully repented, never once looking back and wishing for their old way of life. Even with the hardships and persecution many first century Christians faced, they never, for a single moment, regretted turning from their life of sin and following Jesus. (I think we could all say a hearty “Amen!” to that!) That’s what “salvation without regret” means- we don’t regret casting our lot with Christ.

Another aspect of this verse and question we need to address is this: The verse doesn’t say our regrets produce repentance that leads to salvation. It says “godly grief”, or “sorrow,” or “sorrow that is according to the will of God,” is what produces repentance that leads to salvation. There’s a big difference.

Regrets are more in line with the “worldly grief” mentioned at the end of the verse, which produces death. Even lost people like Ol’ Blue Eyes can look back over their lives and recall their embarrassing or jerky behavior and the choices they made that hurt others or themselves, and they can wish they hadn’t done those things. Why? Because of the natural consequences of sin. He got caught. He lost his job or his wife or a friend.

He had to pay the piper, and he didn’t like the looks of the bill.

Not a thought to the Lord whose laws he broke. Not a twinge of guilt and shame for committing sins that crucified the Savior who loves him. No fear and trembling at the feet of a thrice holy God of wrath who has the power to cast him into Hell for all eternity.

That is godly grief. It’s a grief that goes vertical first…

I have offended a high and holy God.

Woe unto me, for I am a man of unclean lips!

Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned.

Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

…and then, springing from that godly grief, seeks horizontal forgiveness from and reconciliation with others.

When godly grief over sin produces repentance, repentance leads to salvation. And when Christ saves you, a transaction takes place in God’s legal system in which Christ absorbs the shame, guilt, and penalty for your sin, and God, the righteous Judge, rules you not guilty.

But what can you do when you’ve been genuinely saved and you look back at your past sin not only with regret, but also feeling the weight of guilt and shame? I think maybe that’s the heart of what you’re asking.

You have to hold on to what you know to be true according to God’s Word over and above what you feel. God’s Word is objectively trustworthy. Our feelings are not. Our feelings can be fickle and fleshly. Subjective and deceptive. We have to tame those feelings like wild horses with the bit, bridle, and spurs of Scripture, and rein them in or turn them in the direction God wants them to go.

So what do we know to be true about feeling guilt and shame for our past sin?

• Whatever we may feel, the fact is that, in Christ, we are not guilty, and our shame has been removed:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus…who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:4,8

“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. Isaiah 54:4-5

• It isn’t God who is leading us to feel a way that doesn’t line up with His Word. Satan is the only one who makes false accusations against Christians:

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12:10

• It is not God’s will for us to focus on the past, but to move forward like the Christians we are, keeping our eyes on Jesus:

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Philippians 3:13b-16

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

When you look back on your former life and are overwhelmed by guilt and shame, remember the words above are from the very lips of God Himself. Remember that you were guilty and covered with shame, and let that knowledge lead you to thank, praise, and worship the One who took your sin and wretchedness upon His own shoulders. Who absorbed your punishment, your blame – and set you free. Free to honor and obey Him. Free to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.


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 (Civil disobedience, Bearing one another’s burdens, Does our obedience please God?…)

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 (at the very bottom of each page) 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


What are ways to help carry other Christians’ burdens? I’ve been praying for guidance in this area.

What a completely awesome question! It’s so encouraging to hear from readers who are striving to carry out God’s Word.

Galatians 6:2 tells us:

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Now, typically, we tend to think this verse means to help our brothers and sisters in Christ through difficult times in their lives: “weeping with those who weep” due to the loss of a loved one, helping out with a financial need, offering a word of encouragement to someone who’s down, etc. These are all good things that we should be doing. And the Bible does teach us to help others in these ways, it just doesn’t quite teach that in this particular verse.

Let’s take a look at the context of verse 2 and a couple of cross-references:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:1-2

See? Verse 2 isn’t really talking about helping the fam through the tough times. It’s talking about the obligation we have to our brothers and sisters (and they to us) to watch out for them, help them avoid temptation and sin, and, if they fall into sin, urgently, yet gently, pull them back to where they ought to be. The cross-references for Galatians 6:2 help us to see this even more clearly:

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Romans 15:1-2

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
1 Thessalonians 5:14

So, Galatians 6:2 may have a bit of a different meaning than we thought it had, but in either of these senses – helping others through difficult times, or restoring a sinner – how do we “bear one another’s burdens”?

Pray– The most important thing you can do in either of these situations is to pray. Pray for the person you’re trying to help. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to say and do what’s godly in the situation. Pray that He will intervene and work things out as only He can. And be sure to let the person know you’re praying for her. If anyone has ever told you she’s praying for you, you know just how meaningful and encouraging that is.

Remove stumbling blocks– For example: If you’re helping someone who struggles with the temptation to drunkenness, don’t offer her a glass of wine when she comes over for dinner. Many men (yes ladies, even Christian men in your own church) fight a constant battle with lust. Help bear their burden by taking an extra look in the mirror to make sure your outfit isn’t cut too low, high, or tight before you go out or go to church. Whatever we can do on our part to avoid making things harder for someone who’s struggling with temptation is helping to bear their burden.

Ask her– No two people are alike. No two situations are alike. The only way to know how best to help another person is to ask her. If there’s something you’ve found helpful in a similar situation, you can suggest that and ask her if she feels like that would be helpful to her as well, but ask before doing it (see “Just do it./DON’T just do it.” in this article). Sometimes the things I find helpful aren’t the same things you find helpful.

Ask your pastor– In order to really pursue “bearing one anothers’ burdens” well in your own church, have a sit down with your pastor and get his guidance and counsel. He may know of a situation that’s just begging for someone like you to step in and be helpful. Just think of that – God could use you to be the answer to your pastor’s or a fellow church member’s prayers! And even if there’s not a specific situation he could assign you to, at the very least, just the fact that you asked will be a huge encouragement to your pastor.

The Mailbag: Ministering to the Bereaved


My church teaches that “man” and “woman” in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 isn’t the correct translation, that it should be “husband” and “wife,” because this passage is about marital submission, not women teaching in the church. Is this true?

I’ve answered this question before, but I’ve received it again twice in the last couple of weeks. I don’t know if that’s just coincidence, or if there’s been an uptick in this error, but if it’s the latter, I want to make sure you have the right information at hand.

The short answer to this question is no. This is eisegesis. Bible translators are hired for their expertise in the biblical languages (which is not a skill set the average pastor teaching this error has). If it were supposed to be translated as “husband” and “wife” they would have translated it that way. Check out all of the reliable English translations of the Bible. Across the board, they all translate it as “man” and “woman”. Even the unreliable versions/paraphrases of the Bible (like The Message and The Passion “Translation”) translate it as “man” and “woman”. This is just another silly and preposterous attempt to smuggle an unbiblical teaching (i.e. It’s OK for women to preach to/teach/hold authority over men) into the church.

For the longer, more detailed answer, see the second section of The Mailbag: Potpourri (Heretical church music, Mistranslating 1 Tim. 2:12, Books for women…).


I’m struggling to get a handle on how the idea that our obedience is pleasing to God fits with the idea that God is pleased with us because of Christ’s righteousness in us. I know our obedience to God doesn’t save us or keep us saved, but in what way is our obedience pleasing to God? Can you help me sort this out?

Another phenomenal question from a godly woman who’s a good student of the Bible!

You’re quite right in saying that our obedience to God cannot and does not save us or keep us from losing our salvation, so let’s box that one up and shove it out of the way. You’re also right in saying that God is pleased with us because of Christ’s righteousness that was imputed to us at the moment of salvation rather than any so called “righteousness” we have on our own. But God can be pleased with more than one thing about us, right? And He can be pleased with different things in different ways, can’t He?

So to answer your question: Yes, for Christians, our obedience, springing from our love for Christ, is pleasing to God.

Think of it like a parent-child relationship (an illustration God often uses in Scripture).

When you have a baby, you are pleased with and love that baby simply because he exists and has been born into your family. He doesn’t have to do anything spectacular to earn your good pleasure with him (In fact, he’s doing all kinds of things, like pooping and crying all night, that aren’t pleasing at all!). He’s your child. You’re pleased by that fact. End of story.

Now, if you see your child busily cleaning his room, being kind to his sister, saying please and thank you, etc., those things that he’s doing are also pleasing to you, but is that what makes him your child? Of course not. He’s your child because he was born into your family. He would be your child whether he was doing those good things or making a mess, hitting his sister, and being rude. But it’s more pleasing to you when he’s obedient out of love for you.

Being pleased with your child’s behavior is a separate matter from being pleased by the simple fact that he’s your child. It is the same way with those of us who have been born into God’s family and are now His children. He is pleased by the fact that we were born into His family and are robed in the righteousness of Christ, and He is pleased when we show our love for Him by obeying Him.

Check out these Scriptures about our obedience and good works – as Christians – being pleasing to the Lord.


What are your views on civil disobedience? Do you believe it can be a sin since it involves the refusal to submit to authority?

This question came in as a response to lesson 4 of Living Stones: A Study of 1&2 Peter, which dealt largely with submission to authority.

Civil disobedience – intentionally breaking a civil or criminal law, or disobeying the command of a governmental authority because you don’t feel you can, in good conscience, obey it – can be a sin. It also can be obedience to God. It totally depends on the situation, the law you’re contemplating breaking, and what the Bible says about it.

Submission to the authorities in our lives – including governmental authorities – is a huge theme of the New Testament. Romans 13:1-2 says:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

God has put certain people in certain positions of governmental authority. He says we are to submit to them, and that, if we don’t, we’re rebelling against Him and will incur judgment. This is a command straight from the lips of God that we are to take just as seriously as all His other commands.

The only exception to submitting to the authorities in our lives – whether it’s the government, our husbands, our pastors, or our employers (and for children, their parents)- is when that authority requests or requires that we disobey God’s (rightly handled, in context) written Word. No human being has the authority to go over God’s head, cancel His clear commands, and expect to be obeyed. God is our ultimate authority.

One of the clearest examples of this in in Acts 5. The high priest and other Jewish leadership arrest and imprison the apostles for preaching the gospel (which Jesus had commanded them to do in the Great Commission). In the middle of the night, God opens the prison doors and commands the apostles to go back to the temple and keep preaching the gospel. The high priest hauls them in again and says, “Why are you doing this? We commanded you to stop teaching this.”. And Peter says, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Our ultimate example, is, of course, Jesus, who always obeyed God even though the governing authorities eventually convicted Him of a capital offense and executed Him as a criminal as a consequence of that very obedience.

We obey God first and foremost and above all human authorities, no matter the cost.

So if you’re thinking about disobeying a human (governmental or otherwise) authority, consider these things first:

• Do you know your Bible, rightly handled, in context, inside and out on the issue at hand?

• Can you objectively differentiate between “This command clearly conflicts with Scripture,” and “I personally don’t like this command even though it doesn’t conflict with Scripture.”?

• Are you absolutely certain the human authority is requesting/requiring that you disobey clear Scripture (either ordering you to do something God has forbidden or ordering you not to do something God has commanded)?

• Do you fully understand the fact that if the human authority is not requesting/requiring that you actually disobey clear Scripture, and you refuse to comply, that you are disobeying God (sinning) by refusing to submit to the human authority He has established?

• Have you counted the cost? What will the consequences be if you disobey God? What will the consequences be if you disobey the human authority? Are you ready to “man up” and accept the consequences with grace and godliness?


I really enjoyed reading your article about the women’s conference you just spoke at. Will you be coming to my area soon?

I hope so! There are two ways to catch an event I’m speaking at in your area:

1. Keep an eye on the “2020 Calendar” section of my Speaking Engagements tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page). I’ve got several more events in the works. When I get them finalized, I’ll post the details there and announce them on social media.

2. If you want to attend an event that’s really close to home, contact me to see if I’m available, and set up an event at your own church! There’s lots of great information at my Speaking Engagements tab on how to set up a women’s event at your church.


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.

Holidays (Other)

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

Originally published March 3, 2017

40-lent

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

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

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

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

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

1. Give up Lent for Lent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

33. Give up worrying and trust God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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