Christian women, Church

The 5 Church Ladies You Don’t Want to Be

Originally published September 21, 2018

It’s just as easy to fall into a ditch on the right side of the road as it is to fall into a ditch on the left side of the road.

The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I see how true this is in the Christian life. We can be legalistic or antinomian. Crushed by guilt over our sin, or hard-hearted about our sin. Extending too much grace to unrepentant sinners, or not extending enough grace to repentant sinners.

Abandoning the church altogether, or taking ownership of the church and using it for our own purposes.

The purpose of the local church is to glorify God through worship and discipling the saints. Proper, biblical church membership is not optional for Christians. It is not to be treated as unnecessary by “Lone Ranger” Christians, nor is it to be used as a means toward our own ends. We are to be faithful, invested church members, but we’re to do so in a humble, loving, serving, “others first” way.

I’ve talked about the “left ditch” of abandoning the church:

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

Six Ways Not to Forsake the Assembly

You Don’t Need the Internet, You Need a Pastor

Today, let’s talk about avoiding the “right ditch” of doing church the wrong way. Here are five church ladies who use the church for their own purposes- to build their own little empires, to impress others, or to make themselves feel better. Church ladies you don’t want to be, and the Scriptures they need to embrace and obey:

Part-time Paula– Paula is involved in lots of different pursuits: travel, hobbies, volunteer work, her kids’ sports/activities/clubs, social events, political events, family gatherings, civic projects…and church is just one more activity on the list. And it’s not even at the top of the list. Paula comes to church when she has time, when she feels like it, and when church doesn’t conflict with one of her other activities, but she doesn’t have any leftover time, energy, or desire to get plugged in, commit to a place of service, or fellowship with her brothers and sisters in Christ. Paula keeps just enough of a foot in the door at church to assuage any guilt she would feel for quitting altogether, or to be able to keep it on her “resume” of activities to impress others.

Paula’s Scripture: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Screechy Sheila– Sheila knows how this church ought to be run: her way. And if you step out of line – not with Scripture, but with her personal preferences and methods – she’ll let you know. Sometimes she’s loud and vehement. Sometimes she’s quiet and threatening. Sometimes she’s nicey-nice and just educates you on the “right” way to handle things. But you’d better get with the program – her program – or else. Sheila uses the church as a platform for being bossy and exercising control.

Sheila’s Scripture: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Cotton Candy– Forget the meat and potatoes of church – sound doctrine and theology, studying the Bible, serving others, and giving sacrificially – Candy is only there for the fluff. She’ll be there for every fellowship, day trip, and fun-filled women’s ministry event, but she wants her “sermons” chock-full of jokes and stories, and her “Bible” studies to be positive, encouraging, self-esteem builders. Candy uses the church as entertainment or to make herself feel good.

Candy’s Scripture: But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3a

Que Será Katie– Katie is a founding member of this church, doggone it, and she’s not going anywhere. Some Katies have been known to say to their less-favorite pastors, “I’ve been here for fifty years, and I’ll be here long after you’re gone.”. Others are more placid, unfazed by unbiblical pastors, faulty doctrine, or spiritually unhealthy practices in the church. They just go with the flow. There’s a lot to be said for a faithful church member who doesn’t cut and run at the least little problem and works hard to help the church become healthier. But that’s not why Katie sticks around. There are biblical reasons Katie should have left this church in the past, but her friends are here, her memories are here, she’s comfortable in these surroundings, and those things are more important to her than whether or not the church is operating biblically. So she stays, loving the church for sentimental reasons.

Katie’s Scripture: Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

Ulterior-Motive Ursula– Ursula has an agenda and the church seems like a convenient gathering of good-hearted people to use for reaching her goal. Maybe she needs volunteers for a community project. Or she’s trying to get out the vote for the candidate she’s campaigning for. Or she needs a client base for multi-level marketing. Or she’s trying to become the next American Idol and needs a pre-fab audience. Whatever the end game, coming to church where a crowd of people is already assembled is easier than staging a rally or phone-blitzing or setting up a free concert. Maybe Ursula is a faithful member of the church. Maybe she isn’t. But she’s using the church to further her own goals.

Ursula’s Scripture: And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:12-13

 

The purpose of the local church is not to salve our emotional wounds, or to fill a void in our lives, or to further our own agenda. The purpose of the church is to focus our attention on Christ – how He gave His life for us, forgave us, and made us His disciples. It’s where we come together to praise Him, honor Him, worship Him, serve Him, serve our brothers and sisters, and get equipped in His Word. We’ve probably all been guilty of being Paula, Sheila, Candy, Katie, or Ursula at times. I know I have. But let’s strive to be the godly women at church – and everywhere else – Christ commands us to be.

Basic Training, Obedience

Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways To Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture

Originally published August 18, 2017

For more in the Basic Training series, click here.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

Excuses, excuses.

We’ve all got them. We’ve all used them.

“The dog ate my homework.”

“I was going to, but…”

“I’d like to, but I can’t, because…”

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons we can’t take part in certain earthly activities. Time conflicts: If a birthday party and a wedding are scheduled for the same date and time, you obviously can’t be in two places at once. Financial constraints: Maybe you’d really like to attend that conference, but there’s no money in the budget. Prioritized responsibilities and loyalties- you’d like to travel as much as you did when you were single, but now that you have a family, taking care of them comes first.

Those aren’t really excuses, though, they’re reasons – totally understandable ones – that you can’t do something. But we’re so much in the habit of explaining why we can’t do something in the day to day logistical realm that it never occurs to us that this isn’t right when it comes to the things of God. When God’s word tells us to do something, we are to obey it, not make excuses about why we can’t.

Most Christians seem to grasp this concept when it comes to one of the “big” commands. Take abortion, for example. We know that abortion is a sin regardless of the circumstances, even when those circumstances are huge and scary. We reach out to pregnant women with the gospel and with practical help so that they won’t commit that sin. We love the homosexual who wants to come to Christ but is being pulled the other direction by her lifestyle, living arrangements, and loved ones, by compassionately providing for her needs while holding firm to the biblical gospel that says she must turn from her sin in repentance if she wants to be saved.

But when it comes to the “little” commands like…

…submitting to your husband

…being a faithful, active member of a local church

…refraining from teaching men or holding authority over them in the church

…refusing to be anxious about anything

…lots of those same Christians (including me) who are so clear that abortion and homosexuality are sins requiring repentance regardless of the circumstances, have at the ready, all kinds of excuses and reasons and circumstances to offer up as to why we can’t obey God’s word.

“I just don’t think my husband’s decision is the right way to go.”

“A church hurt me in the past, so I’m done with church.”

“None of the men in my church will step up and lead, so I have to.”

“I’m in a really bad situation. I can’t help it if I’m constantly stressing about it.”

Uh uh. No excuse for disobedience that we can come up with is going to wash with God. There is never any acceptable reason or excuse to say, “I can’t,” when it comes to a command of Scripture. God expects us to be obedient. So how can we move from excuses to obedience?

1. Understand that obedience to Scripture is not “legalism” or being a “Pharisee”

As much as pop evangelicalism would like us to believe it, obedience to Scripture is not legalism, nor is someone acting like a Pharisee if she’s teaching that all Christians should obey Scripture. Legalism is when you think obeying God’s commands will save you, make up for your sin, or somehow make you right with God through your own fleshly efforts. Pharisee-ism is making up your own bibley-sounding laws – usually ones that are related to Scripture, but more restrictive than Scripture – and insisting that others adhere to them or they’re not saved, not as good of a Christian as you are, etc. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about rightly handling God’s word in context, understanding what His commands to Christians actually are, and joyfully submitting to them in obedience.

2. Embrace what Scripture says about obedience:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:20a

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” Luke 17:10

And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.” 1 Samuel 15:22-23a

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:3-5

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3

Scripture says that Christians seek to obey God’s word, and when we don’t, we’re sinning.

3. Know that there are no commands of Scripture followed by asterisks

“You shall not murder…unless…” “Do not worry…except in circumstances X, Y, or Z, then it’s acceptable.” “If no men will step up and teach that co-ed Sunday School class, it’s OK if a woman teaches it.” Nope. You will not find a command of Scripture that contains exceptions or caveats. When God says “do” or “don’t”, He means it. He means it for you. He means it for everybody. He means it if it’s difficult or inconvenient. He means it regardless of your circumstances.

4. Realize that God is sovereign over your circumstances

God controls everything in this universe. Nothing happens anywhere that He hasn’t either allowed or caused. Translation: you’re in the circumstances you’re in because God either put you there or allowed you to be there. Everybody has some sort of situation in her life that makes obedience to Scripture difficult or inconvenient. Do you think God intends for everyone to use those circumstances that He sovereignly decided to allow or put into their lives as an excuse to disobey Him? Adam and Eve tried that. Did God accept their excuses? Isn’t blaming your disobedience to Scripture on the circumstances you’re in just another way of saying it’s God’s fault you’re being disobedient? That if God had just created you differently or put you in a different set of circumstances, you’d obey, but since He didn’t, you have no choice but to disobey?

5. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to obey?”

When we really want to do something, we find a way or die trying. Be honest- have you checked out every single church you can get to and explored every available resource and option for finding a church before giving up and saying you can’t attend church? Have you actually tried submitting to your husband even when you think he’s making a boneheaded decision? Is anybody at your church going to die if all of the women refuse to teach men and that co-ed class is disbanded? Are you so willing to obey Christ that you’ll do whatever you have to do in order to find a way to obey Him?

6. Consider that this might be a test

Remember taking pop quizzes when you were in school? Unless you were a child genius, you probably don’t look back on them fondly. They were unpleasant. Hard. Sometimes scary because so much was riding on them. Maybe you were like a lot of students who could easily answer questions on the subject matter while studying, but went blank during the quiz because of the fear and pressure.

The testing of our faith can be a lot like those pop quizzes. We know the test is coming, but we’re never quite sure when. We’re supposed to be studying the Textbook and asking the Teacher for help every day so we’ll be prepared. But when the test comes, we have to take it. There’s no opting out and saying, “If this test weren’t happening I’d be able to obey easily.” Of course you would! It’s easy to obey God when it’s convenient and everything’s going your way, but obeying when it’s difficult or inconvenient pushes you. Stretches you. It reinforces what you’ve learned, reaffirms your commitment to Christ, and refreshes your trust in God. Don’t give up in the middle of the test. Hang on to Christ, hang in there, and…

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

7. Look to Christ as your example

Christians are supposed to “walk in the same way He walked” (1 John 2:5b). Christ is the perfect example of someone who determined to obey God regardless of His circumstances. Just look at everything He went through. Don’t you think He was awfully hungry after fasting for 40 days in the wilderness? Wouldn’t it have been extraordinarily easy to strike down every Pharisee who got on His nerves? Couldn’t He have decided the cross was just too much and that redeeming mankind wasn’t worth the trouble?

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:3-4

Jesus gave up His body – His life – in order to obey God. Are we willing to give up whatever it costs us to walk in the same way He walked?

8. Remember that God has promised to help you

What an amazing God we serve who doesn’t just give us a bunch of rules to follow and leaves us to figure it out on our own! The Holy Spirit is right there, indwelling His people, always ready to help, guide, strengthen, and comfort. First Corinthians 10:13 says:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God isn’t going to put you into a situation in which you have no choice but to disobey Him. Jesus proved that with His own life. Have you asked God to provide you with a way to obey Him? The Bible tells us that when we pray for things in accordance with God’s will, He will give those things to us. It is definitely in God’s will for you to resist temptation and obey Him, so it is His delight to answer when you ask Him for a way to do that.

Ladies, obedience to Christ is not optional. We don’t get to pick and choose which of God’s commands to Christians we want to obey and which ones are OK to let slide. He expects us to follow after Christ, who obeyed to His last breath, His last drop of blood. And He promises to help us, even when obeying Him is hard. Let’s stop making excuses and start looking for ways to submit to, and obey, God’s word.

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.

Suffering

Throwback Thursday ~ God’s Good Purposes in Suffering

Originally published June 16, 2017

In my previous article True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical? we examined some unbiblical ideas and approaches Christians often have toward suffering. Why is it important to have a biblical view of suffering? Because suffering is painful enough without piling on things like, “God is punishing me,” or “This wouldn’t be happening if I just had more faith,” that aren’t even true. The biblical view of suffering frees you from from the additional agony of inappropriate guilt, the mindset that God is harsh or unloving, and the burden of striving to appease a God who’s not asking you to. A biblical view of suffering sets you free to rest in Christ and trust Him.

God’s purposes toward you, His child, are always good, even when He permits difficult things into your life. Let’s think about Romans 8:28 for just a second:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It doesn’t say all things are good. It says that God uses all circumstances for good for His people – even the difficult ones – because He is good and His plans and goals are good.

Even Joseph saw this, way back in Genesis. After everything his brothers put him through, he said,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,

As parents, sometimes we give our child ice cream to eat and sometimes we give him Brussels sprouts. Do we give ice cream because we love him and Brussels sprouts because we hate him? No. Both are done out of love, the ice cream because it brings him joy, and the Brussels sprouts because it has the nutrients he needs to be strong and healthy. It would not be loving for a parent to give only ice cream or only Brussels sprouts. In the same way, it would not be loving for God to give us only blessings or only difficult times. Everything God does in our lives, He does for His glory and our good.

So what are some of God’s good purposes in our suffering?

1. To bring glory to God
We touched on Job’s story in the previous article and saw how his suffering glorified God. Another great passage that talks about God being glorified through suffering is John 9:1-3:

As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

If you thought suffering was God’s punishment for sin, you’re in good company- the disciples thought so, too! But Jesus was about to do something amazing in this guy’s life that would showcase God’s glory, and it would not have happened had he not suffered.

2. Suffering can be a witness to the lost
When we suffer without forsaking Christ and trust Him to carry us through it, it’s a testimony to others – especially lost people – that God is faithful and worthy of
their faith and trust. Your suffering might open the door to sharing the gospel with someone.

3. The logical consequences of sin
In the previous article, we dealt with the topic of suffering we “deserve,” and how, even though it’s painful, it’s easier to come to grips with that kind of suffering. That’s because we’re made in the image of God, and one of God’s attributes that is reflected in us is justice. We have this innate sense of wanting to see justice done. And when we, or anyone else, suffer the natural consequences of our sin, that points to God being a just God.
We tend to lump all suffering into the one basket of “that’s unfair!” but this is the kind of suffering that is just.

4. Discipline

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Revelation 3:19

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
   nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:5-11

When we stray off into a pattern of sin, God can use suffering (often the natural consequences of our sin) to correct us and point us back to the Christlike direction we ought to be heading. He does that because He loves us.

5. Suffering can teach us humility and dependence on God
“Independence” is pretty much a motto for us here in the United States. Independence from England, rugged individualism, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps…Guess what? God doesn’t want you to be independent. He wants you to be
dependent- on Him. And nothing can grow that dependence and humility like suffering. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

6. Suffering can grow us in spiritual strength and maturity
Romans 3:3-4 says:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Endurance, character, hope. These are all aspects of Christian character that God wants to build in each of us, and even though we wish He would just hit us on the head with a magic wand and instantly give us these things, that’s not the way He does it. He often produces these things in us by way of suffering.

7. Experiencing suffering gives us compassion for others, and equips us to help them

[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:4

God doesn’t do anything, including putting you through suffering, for no good reason. It could be to glorify Him. It could be to do something in you. Or, it could be to help someone else (or all three). God never wastes an experience in your life. If you’ve been through something, God can use that “been there, done that” experience to equip you to minister to someone else who’s going through the same thing.

8. Suffering can cause the lost to cry out to God for salvation
Remember the parable of the prodigal son? Sadly it’s a common tale. Some people basically have to hit rock bottom in their lives before they finally give it up and surrender to Christ, just like the prodigal son.

And how about the story of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood? Sometimes life is great. You don’t need Jesus, you’re doing life just fine on your own…until something devastating happens that you can’t handle, and you get desperate. Mark 5:26-28 tells us she

had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

She was desperate. And God can use desperation and suffering to turn the heart of a lost person to Himself for salvation.

 

God is a good God, and His purposes in our suffering are always good. So the next time you’re suffering, think of those 8‘s in Romans 8:28, and remember these 8 good purposes God has for your pain, purposes that bring Him glory, work out His good plans, grow us in good ways, and enable us to do good to others.

Holidays (Other)

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

Originally published March 3, 2017

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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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