Throwback Thursday ~ Cancer: A Love Story

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Originally published April 7, 2013cancer love story

Cancer.

The dreadfulness of the word hung heavy in the air between Jana and her friend Denise.

“The doctor says it’s terminal,” Denise choked, “I’m so confused. I don’t know what to do.”

Jana’s heart broke as she envisioned the difficult emotional road ahead for Denise and watched the tears streaming down her face.

“I’d do anything to take that pain away,” thought Jana. “Anything.

For days after they parted, Jana’s thoughts were consumed with how she could help Denise accept and feel better about her condition. By the weekend, when they met for coffee, Jana was ready.

“Denise,” she began, “I’ve been giving it a lot of thought, and I think I know why you’re so uncomfortable with having cancer.”

“Oh? Why?” asked Denise.

“Well, first of all, you shouldn’t be fighting against the idea of having cancer. It’s a completely natural biological event. In fact, you were probably born genetically predisposed to cancer. It’s part of who you are. Accept it and embrace it as something that makes you unique and wonderful!”

Denise seemed skeptical, but Jana plunged ahead.Girlfriends Enjoy A Conversation

“You’re also worried about what other people will think of you. Maybe they’ll think you’re weak and try to help you with things that you’d rather do for yourself.”

“But maybe I’ll need some help,” Denise suggested quietly.

“Nonsense!” Jana retorted, “Having cancer doesn’t make you different from anybody else. It’s exactly the same as not having cancer. What we need to do is show that to the world. Maybe we should have a rally for cancer equality!”

“Jana, that’s great and all,” Denise whispered somberly, “but I’m going to die. That makes all the stuff you’re talking about seem a lot less important.”

Jana seems like a very loving and kind person, but does the “help” she was offering Denise seem…well…helpful?

What if I told you that during this entire scenario, Jana personally knew a doctor who had a proven cure for Denise’s type of cancer, and was giving it away, yet Jana never told Denise? How loving and kind does Jana seem now?

Now read back through this story and substitute “homosexuality” for “cancer”.

We live in a culture that tells Christians that we are to “love” our homosexual friends and loved ones by embracing homosexuality as good and natural. We even hear people who claim to be Christians saying this. But is this how the Bible defines love? Is this how Jesus loved people?

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:10-11

Think back over the encounters Jesus had with people, from the woman at the well, to Zaccheus, to Nicodemus, to the woman caught in adultery, to the rich young ruler, to anybody else Jesus ever interacted with.

Did Jesus ever “love” someone by telling him it was OK to stay in his sin?

No, He didn’t.

Jesus loved sinners by calling them to repentance, forgiveness, and a new life in Christ.

Why? Because it isn’t love to help the slave to embrace his chains. It’s love to set him free.

Christ loved us by going to the cross and becoming the propitiation –satisfying God’s wrath—for our sins. He laid down His life for our freedom.

And, Christian, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. We must lay down our opinions, our politics, our ideas of what we’d like the Bible to say, maybe even our actual lives, in order to help people know freedom in Christ. We have the cure for their spiritual cancer—the gospel—and it is not “love” to knowingly misdiagnose them or keep that cure from them.

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

blurry-sky-cross
But as important as it is to rescue the perishing, there’s an even greater issue at stake here for those of us who claim the name of Christ.

For our sin, our Savior endured wrongful conviction, ridicule, mockery, and bullying.

For our sin, our Savior was slapped, punched, spit on, had His beard yanked out, and thorns and brambles mashed into His skull.

For our sin, our Savior had the skin flayed off His back, buttocks, and legs, whipped nearly to death until He was a bloody mess.

For our sin, our Savior, beaten, bloody, and broken of body, hoisted a heavy, splintery cross onto His shoulders and carried it through town and up the hill to His execution.

One nail.

Two nails.

Three nails.

For your sin. For my sin. For our neighbors’ sin.

How dare you, or I, or anyone spit in the face of our bleeding, dying Savior by saying that the sin that put Him on the cross is OK?

How dare we?

How can any of us claim to love Christ while celebrating the nails, the spear, the crown of thorns?

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 2:5b-6

Jesus walked the way of leading people to repentance from sin and to the beauty, the freedom of a glorious new life through faith in Himself. Will we, who say we abide in Him, love Jesus and our homosexual neighbor enough to walk in the same way in which He walked?

Mostloving

Mark: Lesson 14

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Mark 10:1-31

And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them.

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. What does verse 1 say it was Jesus’ “custom” (notice also the words “and again”) to do? Considering this verse and all we’ve studied in the previous nine chapters, which aspect of His ministry do you think Jesus considered spiritually weightier, His teaching or His miracles? Which was more temporal and which was more eternal? What are the implications of this for the church today? Should our focus be on the teaching of Scripture, which has an eternal impact, or on miracles, signs, and wonders, which (if they’re even real and biblical) only have a temporal impact?

2. What was the purpose of the Pharisees’ questions? (2) Where does Jesus point them for the answer? (3) Think back over what we’ve learned about Jesus’ authority. He not only had the authority, as God, to definitively answer the Pharisees’ questions, but He was regarded by many of the people as a rabbi (or teacher), and rabbis’ teachings were authoritative. Why do you think Jesus – who had the authority (“you have heard it said…but I say to you…”) to answer the Pharisees’ questions directly – pointed them to Scripture instead? Can you think of more situations in which Jesus pointed others to Scripture to answer them? If Jesus – God Himself – pointed people back to Scripture what does this tell us about the place and authority Scripture should hold in our own lives?

3. Examine Deuteronomy 24:1-4, what “Moses commanded” (3), and compare it with verses 4-12. Does the content and tone of the Deuteronomy passage agree with what Jesus says in these verses? How would you summarize God’s view of marriage? (5-9) What does Jesus teach about divorce in verse 11? Who is guilty of adultery in a divorce and subsequent remarriage- the spouse initiating the divorce, or the spouse who didn’t initiate the divorce? Compare Mark 10:1-11 to these passages. What are the two biblically allowable circumstances for divorce and remarriage? Is divorce required by Scripture in these situations?

4. Why do you think the disciples rebuked people for bringing their children to Jesus to bless them? (13) Which attribute(s) of God does Jesus showcase in verses 13-16? Take a look at these Greek, Roman, and other Gentile attitudes and practices toward children circa the time of Jesus. As a first century Gentile, what would this passage have said to you about God’s love and care for children? How should this passage inform us today about abortion as well as the need to nurture our children and raise them in a godly way?

5. Examine Jesus’ teaching about marriage in 5-9 and His words and actions about children in 13-16. If you were to formulate a theology of family from these verses, what would it say?

6. Compare verses 14-15 with Mark 9:35-37. How can one “receive the kingdom of God like a child”? (15) What does it mean to have a “childlike faith”? Is there a difference between having a childlike faith and having a childish faith?

7. Fill in the blanks from verse 17: “…what must __ ___ to inherit eternal life?”. Does the gospel require us to do (perform, behave) something in order to be saved? In verse 18, is Jesus denying His deity? When Jesus says, “No one is good except God alone,” (18) He is implying to the rich young ruler that by calling Him good, he is also calling Him _____. Considering the remainder of his interaction with Jesus (19-25), was the rich young ruler ready to concede that Jesus was God?

8. Take a look back at the Ten Commandments. The first table of the Law (Commandments 1-4) deals with the (vertical) relationship between people and Whom? The second table of the Law (Commandments 5-10) deals with the (horizontal) relationship between people and whom? Examine verse 19. Which table of the Law do all of these commands come from? So if what the rich young ruler says in verse 20 is true, with whom is he in a right relationship by keeping all these commands? Examine verses 21-25 and compare the man’s love of his riches (and refusal to give them up to follow Jesus) to the first table of the Law. Which Commandment(s) is he breaking? This demonstrates he is not in right relationship with Whom? What do verses 23-25 teach about the idolatry of wealth versus following Jesus?

9. Some people use verse 21 to teach that anyone who ministers to the poor is in right standing with God (i.e. saved, going to Heaven), regardless of whether or not they’ve repented and placed their faith in Christ. Examining this verse in the context of this passage and in the context of the biblical gospel, is that truly what this verse is teaching? Is verse 21 a command for all Christians to follow (a prescriptive verse) or is it simply a description of something Jesus said to this particular person to elicit a particular response (a descriptive verse)?

10. Consider verses 26-27 in their immediate context – the power of idolatry to keep people from Christ. Have you ever prayed for the salvation of someone you felt was a hopeless case, that it would be pretty much impossible for her to get saved? How does this passage offer hope about those “hard cases”? Compare with John 6:44.

11. Examine verses 28-31. Sometimes people take verses 29-30 to mean that if you follow Jesus you’ll get more houses, lands, loved ones, and wealth. Think about Peter (28), the rest of the disciples, and Paul- what they left behind to follow Jesus and to be founders of the New Testament church. Think about the hardships and martyrdom they faced. What does this passage mean in light of their suffering? Could this passage be pointing to God providing for our needs and the love and comfort of church family rather than the promise of temporal wealth?


Homework

Mark 10:1,17 again mention Jesus’ travels. Find a good Bible map of Israel during Jesus’ lifetime (there’s probably one in the back of your Bible or Google “Bible maps”), go back over Mark 1-10, and trace Jesus’ travels on the map. You might even want to print out a map you can write on and mark the various places He visited and routes He took.


Suggested Memory Verse

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45

Testimony Tuesday: Sharron’s Story

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If you’d like to share your story, please see the info at the end of the article. Though all types of testimonies are welcome, right now, I’m especially looking for brief (1-3 paragraphs) testimonies of those who had to leave an unbiblical church, but diligently searched for and found a doctrinally sound church.

Sharron’s Story

I grew up in a very liberal church that, as far as I can remember, never spoke of the need for salvation, being born-again or Christ’s coming return. I was baptized, confirmed and at the age of 18 I hightailed it out because it was so boring. Thinking only of my newfound independence in moving out of my parent’s home I got into drugs and alcohol and partying. I maintained a good job and found out I could hold a job AND party!

I became sexually promiscuous and at the age of 25 I became pregnant. Giving no thought to it being a child (the idea actually never crossed my mind!) I promptly had an abortion thinking it would quickly solve my dilemma. It instead led to a lot of new self-destructive behavior.

I got married two years later and became pregnant with a child I truly wanted. I still didn’t understand the scope of abortion. It was 1975. All I knew is that it was newly legal so it must be fine.

My husband and I continued to party, we made a lot of money and could afford to live the high life.

One day, 18 years later in 1993, a neighbor came to my house and began telling me about her life before “Jesus saved her”. I thought, “uh-oh, a holy roller”. She told me she had been into drugs and alcohol and had had an abortion and had even tried to end her life. I thought “why is she telling me this!”

But it struck a nerve. That was MY life she was describing! She asked me if I knew Jesus. In a huff, I got up and locked myself in the bathroom. I stayed in there for what seemed like hours. Then it dawned on me….I was in MY house locked in MY bathroom waiting for HER to leave!

I came out and she gently led me over to my couch and I begrudgingly sat down. She told me Jesus forgave her for everything horrible she ever did. I said, ” even your abortion?” She said yes in a way that made me believe her. She shared the gospel with me and asked me if I wanted to pray and ask Him to forgive me of all my sins. She said Jesus is a gentleman and He was standing at the door of my heart, knocking – waiting for me to invite Him into my life. Suddenly a giant picture of Jesus knocking on a door that hung over the choir loft of my childhood church – filled my mind. I never knew whose door that was He was knocking at!

I began to cry so hard. 18 years of bottled up junk came pouring out. She helped me pray because I didn’t know how and that moment I was forgiven and my life was radically changed almost instantly. My neighbor helped me to join a good Bible church and my 10 year old daughter was saved two weeks later!

I devoured the Bible twice in a short time and read everything my neighbor had in her full library.

The first thing God did was heal me from the guilt and shame of my abortion. It haunted me but as my understanding of His mercy and love and forgiveness began to go deep into my heart, He healed me. It wasn’t overnight. It took a long time. But because He did heal me, 10 years later God placed me in a biblical post-abortion Healing ministry, Healing Hearts Ministries International. I trained to become a counselor and have taken many, many women through the post-abortion Bible study written by the founder of Healing Hearts. I’ve had the privilege of watching God forgive, heal and set women free from the aftermath of abortion.

I’ve been in this ministry for over 11 years and I’m always amazed at the way God brings post-abortive women into my path. God never lets anything go to waste if we allow Him to use the mess of our past.


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Nabeel, Spiritual Leadership, Essential Oils…)

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Today’s edition of The Mailbag is a tad different in format. Usually, I answer one reader’s question in a long form article. Today, I’m addressing various questions from several readers in a “short answer” format.

Just a reminder- I changed my comments/e-mail/messages policy a few months ago, so I’m not responding individually to most e-mails and messages. Here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


Have you heard of Nabeel Qureshi? What do you think of his teaching and ministry?

I know little about Nabeel except that he was saved out of Islam and now has a ministry that centers on evangelizing Muslims. I’ve never listened to him speak or read any of his books, so I can’t comment one way or the other on the doctrinal specifics he teaches.

However, he is not someone I’d recommend anyone follow. Tragically, Nabeel was diagnosed with cancer about a year ago, and shortly thereafter decided that the thing to do would be to head to Bethel “Church” in Redding, California to have them pray over him for supernatural healing. If you’re not familiar with Bethel, or its leader, Bill Johnson, you may wonder why that’s problematic.

It’s problematic because Bethel is basically ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation heresy- the most dangerous and destructive heresy attacking the church at large today. Dozens of Christians familiar with NAR false doctrine urged Nabeel on social media not to go to Bethel, and Nabeel blew them off, went anyway, and came back downplaying Bethel’s false teaching as minor, inconsequential differences in theology.

Nabeel also apparently believes in extra-biblical revelation as evidenced by this July 2017 Facebook post:

Cancer is a horrid, painful ordeal. I sympathize with Nabeel’s suffering and have prayed for him. But as our Lord so beautifully demonstrated at His temptation in the wilderness and on the cross, even the worst kind of suffering is not an excuse to compromise Scripture or disobey God.

Popular False Teachers (Bethel/Bill Johnson)
What is the New Apostolic Reformation?


Do you have any resources you’d recommend for women who are married to men who aren’t leading spiritually?

I know it can be really frustrating and painful when you desperately want your husband to be the spiritual leader of your home and he either can’t (because he’s not saved) or he won’t (due to spiritual immaturity, fear, disobedience, etc.)

I’m sure there are books and resources out there that at least touch on this topic, but I don’t read a lot of materials about marriage, so I’m not familiar enough with any to recommend them. (Perhaps someone reading this might like to make a suggestion in the comments? Doctrinally sound authors only, please.) Grace to You’s resources and store and Ligonier’s learn and store are always a good place to look for solid books and resources.

There are a few things I would recommend aside from marriage books, however:

♦ Pray for your husband, and be prepared that you may be in it for the long haul. If he’s not saved, pray for his salvation. If he’s saved but disobedient in this area, pray for his obedience, and ask God to show you how to encourage and help (not nag) him along the way. Ask God to increase your love, understanding, and compassion for your husband.

♦ If your husband is saved and willing to lead but feels inadequate, see if you can find him some help – a Christian men’s group, an older gentleman in your church who’d be willing to disciple him, some counseling sessions with the pastor – if he’s open to the idea of you helping or suggesting in this way. Be careful not to be pushy or bossy about these things or harp on him about attending.

♦ Be faithful to your personal Bible study time. First of all, you need it. Second of all, it sets a good example for your husband.

♦ Any time your husband makes the slightest step toward godly spiritual leadership, encourage him and affirm his leading. That sounds easy right now, but, at least early on, part of that is going to include you submitting to some decisions he makes that you don’t agree with. As long as those decisions aren’t unbiblical, grit your teeth and submit, because…

♦ The Bible says your behavior can have a tremendous impact on your husband. Take some time to study 1 Peter 3:1-6 and 1 Corinthians 7 (especially verses 12-16). These passages both deal with wives who have unbelieving or disobedient husbands, and how our behavior can either encourage them toward godliness or become a stumbling block to them.


Is it dangerous to be involved in yoga even though I don’t practice the meditation part of it? I just like the stretches and exercise I get from it. What are your thoughts?

“Dangerous” isn’t the word I’d choose. “Disobedient” is a better fit. Here are my thoughts (remember, the search bar is your friend):

Should Christians do yoga?


What’s your take on this essential oils craze so many Christian women seem to be into?

There are a lot of different facets to this question:

♦ Some companies who make and sell essential oils and some people who use them do so in conjunction with beliefs in chakras, energies, auras, and all that New Age movement jazz. (Sola Sisters and Christian Answers for the New Age have more in depth information on those issues.) No Christian should be dabbling around in occultic beliefs and practices.

♦ The oils themselves are spiritually “inert,” so picking up a bottle at the store is not a sin (though you might want to do a little research on the store and/or company that makes the oil to make sure you’re not financing beliefs you don’t want to support).

♦ There are multi-level marketing (MLM) businesses that sell essential oils in the same way people sell Tupperware or Pampered Chef. If that is the business you have chosen, make sure you’re not selling for a company that subscribes to the New Age stuff I mentioned above, don’t annoy your friends, and don’t make a practice of doing business at church. If you have a friend who MLM’s non-New Agey essential oils and you want to buy some, that’s absolutely fine, biblically speaking.

♦ If essential oils work on your minor ailments and that’s what you want to use instead of over the counter medications, there’s no Scriptural problem with that. Just be a good steward of the body and health God gave you and make sure you get proper medical attention for symptoms and illnesses that require it.


I read your article, Should Christians Attend Homosexual “Weddings”? and wanted to know, should Christians attend the wedding of a Christian and an unsaved person? What about the wedding of two unsaved (heterosexual) people?

I would advise Christians not to attend the wedding of a professing believer to an unbeliever due to Scripture’s admonition against this in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. As with a homosexual “wedding,” Christians should not be supporting, participating in, or giving the appearance of supporting, sin, and a believer marrying someone he or she knows is an unbeliever is sin.

There is no biblical prohibition against an unsaved man and an unsaved woman getting married, so unless there are other grounds on which you cannot support the union (for example- you know he abuses her or you know she’s been cheating on him during the engagement), you would not be supporting, participating in, or appearing to support sin by attending the wedding of two unsaved heterosexual people. (May I suggest a couple’s Bible or Bible study book as a wedding gift?)


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.

Report Back: New Jersey

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Last weekend I had a wonderful time speaking at Corbin City Baptist Church’s women’s conference and fellowshipping with some sweet, godly sisters (and their equally awesome pastor!). I wanted to share a bit about it with y’all, my co-laborers in Christ.

After Randy (CCBC’s pastor), Cathy (his wife), and Linda (who graciously opened her home to me for the weekend) picked me up from the Philadelphia airport, we went to Adelphia Restaurant for supper- a must visit if you’re ever in the area. Great food and a fun atmosphere.

A good night’s sleep was had by all, and the next morning it was conference time! I taught two sessions: Foundations of Discernment: The Centrality of Christ, His Word, and His Bride and Discernment 101, followed later by a Q&A session, which I thoroughly enjoyed. (Normally, I would re-post the conference sessions here on the blog in article form, but both were largely drawn from my Basic Training articles, Is She a False Teacher?, Clinging to the Golden Calf, Popular False Teachers, and other discernment articles.)

Several of the ladies drove quite a way to attend the conference, as doctrinally sound churches are few and far between in the Northeast. There was a broad range of spiritual maturity and experience represented, but these ladies were sharp, attentive, receptive, and asked great questions. I sensed a real hunger among them for sound doctrine and the unadulterated truth of God’s word. What an encouragement it was to be with them!

The lovely ladies of CCBC

And, speaking of hunger, CCBC’s ladies put on a lovely brunch with a seaside theme between the two sessions. They also presented me with a humongous tote bag full of goodies and New Jersey souvenirs. These ladies treated me like a queen and epitomized biblical hospitality and kindness. It was extremely humbling and I was deeply honored.

After the conference, Cathy, Linda, and another CCBC sister, Theresa, whisked me off to the Ocean City boardwalk, which would have been worth the trip solely for the mouth-watering aromas wafting from dozens of food stands. Oh. my. good. ness. I’d like to stay for about a week and eat my way from one end to the other! We stopped at Shriver’s, a huge candy shop famous for its fudge and salt water taffy, where we got to watch part of the process of taffy-making.

I was so sorry I hadn’t been able to bring my husband and children with me. They would have loved the arcades, mini golf, ferris wheel, water slides, shops, and, of course, the beach. It was unbelievably kind of Cathy to buy some world famous Johnson’s Popcorn to send back to my kiddos.

              Wonderland Arcade                    Johnson’s Popcorn

Those dots in the sky are people parasailing

It was fun to walk back across the intracoastal waterway bridge to the car, and the breeze coming off the ocean was cool and energizing. It was the perfect appetite-builder for an awesome dinner of fish and chips (I love that they put Old Bay spice on the “chips”!) before heading back to the house, and a much needed soak in Linda’s relaxing hot tub.

Sunday, it was such a joy to worship with the CCBC family and sit under Randy’s excellent expository preaching. After hugs goodbye, it was time to head back to the airport. I had a wonderful time chatting about ministry with Cathy and Randy on the way. When we stopped for lunch, I had the opportunity to try one more specialty food of the area: scrapple. Not too bad, but I think I’ll stick with the taffy and fish ‘n’ chips!

It was a wonderful trip filled with such sweet people. Would you take just a moment right now to pray for Pastor Randy and our brothers and sisters at CCBC? And, if you live in, or travel to, the Corbin City area, I highly recommend visiting Corbin City Baptist Church.

There’s a historic bell up in that tower
that they still ring every Sunday!

If your church is ever in need of a speaker for a women’s event, I’d love to come share with your ladies as well. Click here for more information.


Photo Credits:

1- Photo courtesy of Adelphia Restaurant, Deptford, New Jersey
2- Photos courtesy of Leslie Kohler, Corbin City Baptist Church
(All other photos by Michelle Lesley)

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: Should Christians Attend Homosexual “Weddings”?

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Originally published August 15, 2016

mailbag

 

“Should a Christian attend the wedding of a homosexual friend or loved one?”

Matt Moore, a Christian who was saved out of the homosexual lifestyle, does a beautiful job in this article of answering this question by first examining the two reasons Christians typically give for attending such weddings.

I would echo his responses to both of those reasons and agree with his answer that, no, Christians should not attend homosexual weddings. Attending a wedding implies that a person is in favor of the union, and no matter how much we love the person, Christ calls us to love Him more and not participate in or give approval to sin.

Speaking of lost people who approve of the sin of others, Romans 1:32 says:

“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

If it is an abomination to God for sinners to give approval to the sins of others, how much more abominable is it in His sight for Christians to give approval to the sins of others?

I love this quote from Matt’s article:

“Yes, God is love. Yes, God is merciful and gracious. But God’s love, mercy and grace are saturated in holiness and that is why his Son was mutilated on a Roman cross for our sins. God hates sin. If we want our lives to show unbelievers the true character of our loving and holy God, we must be people who set ourselves apart from the evils of this world. And a gay marriage ceremony is a celebratory glorification of blatant evil. A Christian abstaining from a loved one’s ceremony would give witness to the holiness of God – a characteristic of His which most are failing to believe still exists.”

Additional Resources:

Should I attend the wedding of a gay friend or family member? by Denny Burk

Should Christians Attend Gay Weddings? Does It Matter Whether They’re Religious or Secular? by Randy Alcorn and Kevin DeYoung


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.

Mark: Lesson 13

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Mark 9:30-50

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. Today’s lesson is the culmination of Mark 9. Briefly review the first half of Mark 9 in lesson 12 (link above). Where was the “there” that “they went on from”? (30) Why did Jesus not want anyone to know He was passing through Galilee? (30-31)

2. Compare verses 31-32 with Mark 8:31-33 and Mark 9:9-10. Between Mark 8 and 9, how many times has Jesus taught some or all of the disciples about His impending death and resurrection? Why do they still not understand? Was it because they had no frame of reference the concept of resurrection? Because they didn’t understand why anyone would kill Jesus? Because of their incorrect expectations of what Messiah would do (review questions 7 and 9 in lesson 11 {link above})? Why do you think the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus to clarify things? (32)

3. Consider verse 34 in light of the disciples’ lack of understanding in 31-32. How might their understanding of, and focus on, Christ’s impending death, burial, and resurrection have changed the disciples’ conversation? How should focusing on the gospel change your conversation- the people you’re willing to talk to, the words you use, and the topics of your discussions with people? How do verses 34-35 reveal Christ’s omniscience?

4. Which two types of people does Jesus use as illustrations of humility in verses 35-36? What are the characteristics of a servant that demonstrate humility? A young child? How do humble Christians show these characteristics of a servant or a child in their daily lives?

5. What does it mean to receive someone (37), cast out demons (38) or do anything in Jesus’ name? Does it simply mean to tack the words “in Jesus’ name” on to the end of whatever you’re saying or doing?

When John says the exorcist “was not following us” (38), does he mean that this man was not a believer in Christ (i.e. not a “Christ-follower”), or does he mean that the man was not accompanying Jesus and the disciples on their itinerant journeys through Israel? Is it possible for someone who is not a Believer to do anything in Jesus’ name? Compare verses 39-40 with these passages. Is there any middle ground when it comes to being with or for Jesus and being against Him? Examine your own heart- are you with Christ or against Him? How can you tell?

6. What does God think of those who tempt, entice, or deceive others into sinning? (42) How does this verse help us understand how seriously God views sin?

7. Examine verses 43-47. Does sin originate in your hand, your foot, or your eye? Where does sin originate, which then tempts you to sin with your hands, feet, or eyes? Is Jesus speaking literally in these verses, or is He employing hyperbole? What is the main idea Jesus is trying to get across in these verses? Is sin really as big a deal as Jesus is making it out to be in this passage? Why? (48-49)

8. In the ancient world, salt was an important, but hard to get, commodity. It was used for flavoring, to preserve meat, and for other purposes– even in the temple. Think like a first century Jew or Gentile about salt- what would Jesus’ words in verses 50-51 have meant in your culture? How do these verses apply to Christians today?


Homework

Look back over verses 43-47, and think about the sins you’re tempted to commit: things you do (hands), places you go (feet), things you watch or view (eyes). Choose a sin you particularly struggle against. Is it something you do or see, or is it somewhere you go?

What is one practical step you could take to “cut off” or “tear out” that temptation before you fall into sin again? For example, maybe you need to stop watching a certain TV show, take a different route home from work to avoid a tempting place, or stop hanging out with that person who’s a bad influence on you. Prayerfully implement that step this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
Mark 9:42

Sammy

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See this dog? His name is Sammy and he belongs to our next door neighbors. The way I know this is that Sammy frequently escapes from their yard and comes over to visit mine.

Sammy’s a good egg. He’s friendly and just looking to collect a few more buddies. He’s also dumb as a sack of hair and totally disobedient to his masters. He runs when they tell him to come. He stays in my yard when they tell him to go home.

A few days ago, I went for my regular power walk and Sammy happened to be out in his own front yard. I headed past his house for the pond where I usually walk, and soon noticed that he was following me. I turned and told him to go home. Sammy sneezed in protest and completely disregarded my instruction. OK, I thought, I’ll ignore him, he’ll get bored, and he’ll go back home. Problem solved.

Only it wasn’t. Sammy continued to follow me for the next half mile or so, far away from his home. I was worried he’d get lost on his way back. I was worried he’d get hit by a car on his way back. I was worried he’d never BE on his way back. I was also a little worried people would think this hare-brained dog was mine and yell at me when he explored their flower beds.

Finally, a little farther down the road, I turned around and Sammy had disappeared. He must have made it back home all right because he’s still getting loose and visiting my house pretty regularly.

Sammy reminds me of a lot of Christian women these days. They have a Master – Christ – who loves them, provides for them, cares for them, and has adopted them into His family. And because Christ loves them, He has put up the fence of His word and His precepts to keep them safe and protected- to give them a place where they can flourish in Him.

But these “Sammys” refuse to be hemmed in, either because they’re ignorant of God’s word or they’re rebellious against it. All they know is that there are a million fun and exciting things on the other side of the fence. Things they feel like doing and experiencing.

And one day, when they’ve put a toe over the line by wandering around in the front yard instead of the back, a false master strolls by. She’s different. New. Shiny. A change of pace from the regular routine. This master isn’t Sammy’s real master. She doesn’t care for Sammy, keep her safe, provide for her, or make sure Sammy grows and flourishes. But this false master is exciting. She’s going to the pond Sammy has always wanted to visit. She doesn’t put up fences, get out the leash, or holler, “Come!” She lets Sammy do what Sammy wants to do. And she leads Sammy farther and farther away from her home with her true Master.

Some Sammys manage to find their way back home. Some get hit by cars along the way. But most just keep wandering from one false master to another, forgetting that their true Master never intended for them to end up a stray.

Go home, Sammy. Sit, and stay.

The Mailbag: Leaving an Unbiblical Ministry Position

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How do I gracefully step down from a parachurch ministry where I, as a female, have been preaching to men and teaching Bible Studies to men? I know this is unbiblical, so my mind is saying, “GET OUT!” But, emotionally, I feel guilty for leaving and that I would be letting down the participants and my friend, who’s a co-leader.

Do you know anyone who has had to part ministry ways with a friend, and/or a woman who stepped down from preaching and teaching men, who would be willing to connect with me or just pray for me?

I’ve never been in that particular position myself, so I can only imagine the difficulty of stepping down from such a ministry. I will certainly pray for you, and ask my readers to stop here and take a moment to pray for this sweet sister in Christ, as well.

I have previously addressed the idea of women preaching to men or teaching them the Bible in parachurch or evangelistic outreach types of situations in my article Rock Your Role FAQs:

…So, when a body of believers comes together for these purposes [worship, prayer, the sacraments, and/or the study of God’s word], regardless of the building in which they meet, or whether you call it “church” or not, they are the church, and the biblical parameters about women teaching and holding authority over men applies…

…When it comes to outreach ministries (for example, a meal for the homeless, followed by a group gospel presentation or Bible lesson), it’s best for a man to lead co-ed (or male only) adult groups in anything that could be construed as preaching or teaching the Bible… 

(Click the link above and see #7 & 11 for the complete answers.)

How to gracefully step down? I think you should do so the same way you would if you had to leave because you were moving away or took a new job whose hours conflicted with the ministry’s. You kindly inform the leadership of the ministry that you will no longer be able to participate, and briefly explain why. And in this case, you should also prayerfully consider how you might repent toward your co-leader friend and the participants, in whatever way seems biblically wisest.

Because you do have to leave, and for a reason far more important than an upcoming move or a new job: obedience to Scripture. Leaving due to a move or a job would probably not induce such intense feelings of guilt because you would look at those situations as unavoidable, or out of your hands. But as a slave of Christ who must do her Master’s bidding, if the Word of God requires something of you, it is out of your hands and unavoidable. Obedience to Scripture is not optional for Christians, nor contingent on our convenience, comfort, or circumstances, nor does God accept excuses for our disobedience.

As you’re experiencing, obedience to Scripture can often be difficult. But “Atta girl!” for hunkering down and doing it anyway through the strengthening of the Holy Spirit. I think you will find that the Lord will grow you in holiness and dependence on Him through this situation. May He use you in the future as an example and help to other Christian women facing like circumstances.


If you’ve had a similar experience to this reader and would like to connect with her to encourage her or pray for her, please comment below or e-mail (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com) me with your name and contact information (e-mail, social media, or phone number- I will read, but not publish, comments containing this private information), and I will pass it along to her. Or feel free to share your own experience in the comments section below.


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.

Build the Wall and Station a Guard: A Plea for Pastors to Protect 6 Areas of the Church Vulnerable to False Doctrine

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I am flying to New Jersey today to speak to a lovely group of ladies at their women’s conference. I’ll be back in the saddle on Monday, but until then, please enjoy this article from the archives.

Originally published August 5, 2016

Pastors, your church is vulnerable to false doctrine in these 6 areas. Here's how you can protect it.

The Great Wall of China

The Wailing Wall

The walls of Jericho

Walls. Sometimes they go up, and sometimes they come a tumblin’ down. When I was a kid it was, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Now it’s, “Elect me and I’ll build a wall between the United States and Mexico.”

There was a time in history when it was common practice for a city to have a wall built around its perimeter. Walls have historically been built for protection, to keep inhabitants safe from attacking marauders. When Israel returned to Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity, their first priority was to rebuild the altar – their focal point of worship. Next came the temple – to consecrate, or set apart, their worship. And, finally, the city wall – which protected everything, including their worship.

Today, when Christians plant a church, we start off with our focal point of worship, the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. He is the foundation of the church, the center of our worship, our rallying point.

As the church grows, we consecrate it, setting it apart from other organizations and gatherings by buying or constructing its own special building. It’s not a store or an office or a restaurant. It’s a church. It’s where believers gather to worship, fellowship, and be trained in God’s word.

But somehow we never get around to protecting our churches from enemy attack. Indeed, it hardly ever occurs to most pastors and church members that there’s a need for a wall.

But there is. A huge need. And for some churches, it’s already too late.

Pastor, I plead with you- it’s time to build a wall around your church. A “walls of Jericho”-high wall. A chariot races on top- thick wall. And an armed guard posted at the gate. Not to keep out visitors or people who might look or act differently from your congregation- God forbid! It’s to keep out the false doctrine that’s infiltrating and attacking the Body in so many ways. And some areas of your wall are going to need extra fortification because they’re protecting these six vulnerable areas.

1. The Preaching of the Word

Pastor, the buck starts and stops with you. Are you preaching the Word? In season and out of season? Are you rightly handling God’s word? Preaching sound doctrine and rebuking those who contradict it? Declaring the whole counsel of God? Or is your focus on preaching to entertain, to keep people happy, to encourage giving, or to keep from rocking the boat? Only you can answer these questions. Strong preaching is the first step in building a strong wall to protect your church.

2. The Teaching of the Word

How much do you know about how, and what, your Sunday School, Bible study, or other small group leaders teach? Have you ever observed, evaluated, or interviewed any of your teachers? Does your church have any formal qualifications for teachers? Are they required to go through any sort of training? Who are their spiritual influencers? Which celebrity pastors and authors are they recommending to their classes?

A teacher who is listening to or reading materials by false teachers during the week is going to have her theology shaped by those false teachers, and she’s going to bring that warped theology into the classroom where it will infect the students. A teacher whose main discussion questions are, “How do you feel about this verse?” or “What does this verse mean to you?” is not handling God’s word properly and, thus, not properly training her students. Find out what’s going on in your Sunday School classrooms, and strengthen your wall by strengthening your teachers.

3. Sunday School/Small Group Curricula

Because so few teachers are properly trained, churches tend to rely heavily on the Sunday School curricula to do the actual teaching. Have you examined your curricula lately? Are the lessons anchored in copious amounts of rightly exposited Scripture or are they mainly comprised of inspirational stories and illustrations? Are the discussion questions watered down pablum or do they challenge people to think and search the Scriptures for understanding? Does the curriculum recommend supplementary materials or music from doctrinally sound, or questionable, sources? Does the curriculum recommend “homework assignments” that include unbiblical practices such as contemplative prayer or yoga? Build a solid wall with solid curricula.

4. Women’s Bible Study

This is an area of your wall which needs major fortification. In many churches, it is the primary avenue through which false teaching infiltrates the Body. Is your women’s ministry using studies or materials by a best selling author like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine, Joyce Meyer, Lysa TerKeurst (Proverbs 31), Jen Hatmaker, Lisa Harper, Lisa Bevere, Victoria Osteen, Jennie Allen, Rachel Held Evans, Ann Voskamp, Sheila Walsh, or anyone with “Jakes” in her name? Are they attending conferences, retreats, or simulcasts headlined by any of these people? Then the women of your church are being taught false doctrine. Your men’s Bible study curriculum also needs to be examined, but women’s Bible study is a major foothold of false doctrine.

5. Music

If your church uses KLOVE’s playlist to formulate its worship set, you’re probably importing false doctrine right into your worship service. You’ve got to vet both the lyrics (hymns don’t get a pass on this, by the way) and the artists for sound theology. When it comes to contemporary worship music, the three most popular and common sources of false doctrine are Hillsong (Word of Faith {prosperity gospel}), and Bethel/Jesus Culture (New Apostolic Reformation). Click on the “Popular False Teachers” tab at the top of this page for more information. Here and here are two more excellent resources.

6. Ecumenism

Is your church partnering or fellowshipping with other local churches outside your own denomination? Are you thoroughly familiar with their beliefs and practices? Are those beliefs and practices biblical? Where do they stand on female pastors, elders, and teachers? Homosexuals as church members or leaders? Abortion? The inerrancy, infallibility, and supremacy of Scripture? Extra-biblical revelation? Signs and wonders? Works righteousness? Do they have a biblical statement of faith “on paper” but stray from it in practice? Not every organization that calls itself a Christian church actually is one by biblical standards, and we are not to partner or fellowship with those whose beliefs and practices do not line up with Scripture.

That’s a lot of vetting to do for a pastor who’s probably already overwhelmed and stretched thin. May I make a suggestion? Don’t try to do it alone. After all, those cities with protective walls hired soldiers to guard the gates. Is there an associate pastor who could take on vetting curricula and fellow churches and conference speakers? Is there a mature, discerning layman or woman you trust who would be willing to lend a hand with researching your music or women’s Bible study books? Do you have a “master teacher” capable of training your Sunday School and small group teachers? Ask your people for help. Use the able. Train the willing. Get that wall built to shut out false doctrine, and station your armed guards at the gates to check out everything that comes in.

The enemy is out there, dear pastor. Let’s make sure that’s where he stays.