Theology Gals Podcast Guest Appearance: Christian Discernment

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Last week, it was my joy to sit down and chat for a while with Coleen Sharp, host of one of my favorite podcasts, Theology Gals. Listen in as we discuss discernment, what it is, how to exercise it biblically, and what to do if you’re seeing false teaching infiltrating your women’s ministry or church.

Click here to listen.

Theology Gals has a wonderful Facebook discussion group you can join. Be sure to follow their Facebook and Twitter pages, and don’t forget to subscribe to the Theology Gals podcast!


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

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Throwback Thursday ~ The “Merry Christmas” Melee

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Originally Published December 6, 2010
melee

It’s that time of year again. Time for love and good cheer. Peace on earth. Joy to the world.

And war.

Over the last several years, there’s been a sometimes quiet and respectful, sometimes loud and obnoxious battle raging between conservative Christians and merchants over whether said merchants use the term “Merry Christmas” or the more general “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” in their advertising and in greeting customers at their stores.

I don’t know about you, but it’s driving me bananas.

Would I prefer for everybody to say “Merry Christmas”? Sure. But on my list of things to have an aneurysm about, it falls somewhere between my dentist telling me I should floss more and deciding where to get the dog a pedicure. I just really don’t care that much. And I’m wondering, in the grand scheme of things that should be pressing upon Christians’ hearts, should something this minor even register on the scale of issues that upset us?

What Do We Expect?

Speaking strictly numerically and statistically, genuine Christians– not just people who say they’re Christians and/or go to church, but people who have actually been regenerated by the blood of Christ –are a very small minority. Despite what you may hear to the contrary, the United States is not a Christian nation. It may have been founded on Biblically inspiried principles, but in practical societal terms today, this is a nation mostly made up of lost people.

This means that it’s a safe bet that the majority of the people at the helms of these corporations are lost. And guess what? Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and lost people gotta act like lost people (Romans 8:7). What this means is that their decision whether to use “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” has nothing to do with Jesus or respecting the “true meaning of Christmas”. Their decision is going to be based on what’s going to make the corporation the most money. If saying “Merry Christmas” will get more customers in the door, that’s what they’ll do. It doesn’t mean they’re honoring Christ, it mean’s they’re pandering to Christians.

When we exert pressure on these corporations to say “Merry Christmas”, what real change are we effecting? Are we not just creating more people who honor God with their lips while their hearts are far from Him (Isaiah 29:13)? Are we not sending them the subtle message that external behavior, rather than a reborn spirit, is what counts? One day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). One day. But that day is not today. We can’t force change in people’s hearts by coercing them into saying “Merry Christmas”. And, to God, a change of heart is the only thing that matters.

Where Should Our Passions Lie?

I used to belong to a Christian “social issues” organization. In many ways, it’s a great organization. I got frequent e-mails from them regarding which social issues various corporations were investing their profits in, where politicians stood on the issues, and lots of other helpful information and resources.

But every autumn they would begin their annual “Merry Christmas” campaign. They have buttons you can order that urge people to say “Merry Christmas”. They have leaflets and stickers and videos you can order for your church to promote saying “Merry Christmas”. They publish a “Naughty and Nice” list of merchants who use “Merry Christmas” (nice) or some other wording (naughty), so you’ll know which stores to shop and which to boycott.

And it made me stop and think– how many man hours go into that campaign every year? How much money does the organization invest in it? How much money do churches and individuals spend on their materials? Is investing that much time and money in promoting “Merry Christmas” good stewardship?

We have brothers and sisters all over this planet who would give anything to own a copy of the Bible. There are crisis pregnancy centers that operate on a shoestring trying to help women and their babies. There are missionaries who live in poverty in third world nations taking the Gospel to those who have never heard it. There are people starving. There are children who have been kidnapped by human traffickers.

And “Merry Christmas” is what we want to get all worked up about?

What’s more upsetting to us, the fact that someone says “Happy Holidays” or the fact that the person who said it might die and spend an eternity in hell? Where do our passions truly lie? Are we passionate about the same things God is passionate about?

This Christmas, can we just focus on what’s important? We have a God who loves every person so deeply and so violently, and whose mercy and grace are so unfathomable, that He came here personally to redeem us.

And there are people all around us who don’t know that.

And they desperately need us to love them enough to tell them that in Jesus there’s hope. A way out of their sin. A way to get clean. A secure eternity. Peace.

God and sinners, reconciled. Oh, what a Merry Christmas!

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 5- Eve

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4

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Read Genesis 3:7-4:2,25

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Questions to Consider

1. Briefly review Lesson 4 (link above).

2. Compare the serpent’s statements to Eve in Genesis 3:4,5 with verse 7 and the remainder of today’s passage. Were his statements factually correct? Did Eve die when she ate the fruit? Were Adam and Eve’s “eyes opened”? How can a statement be factually correct and deceptive at the same time? Have you ever been tempted to sin by facts that were correct, yet deceptive?

3. What two things did Adam and Eve do in verses 7-8 in response to their sin? Why did they do these things? (10) Compare Genesis 2:25 to verses 7-8,10 and explain the concept of shame as it relates to sin. How did shame over their sin cause Adam and Eve to act toward God? In what ways can shame over our sin be a blessing?

4. What three questions does God ask of Adam and Eve in verses 9, 11, and 13? Did God ask these questions in order to find out information He did not know, or to elicit a response or confession from Adam and Eve? Does God ever ask someone in Scripture a question He doesn’t know the answer to?

5. Why did God call out Adam first (9) instead of Eve? Whom did Adam blame for his sin? (12) Yet, whom did God hold primarily responsible (in a “the buck stops here” kind of way) for the fruit-eating debacle: Adam or Eve? Why? Did God give Eve a pass on her sin? (13) How did the fact that God held Eve accountable for her own sin demonstrate that He created her, and womankind, with intelligence, understanding, her own abilities, etc.?

6. Examine 1 Timothy 2:12-14 in light of what we have studied about the creation of Eve and the deception of Eve in lessons 4 and 5 of this study. How does the fact that verses 13 and 14 (of 1 Tim. 2) give the creative order and the deception of woman as the rationale for verse 12 help us to understand that this instruction regarding the role of women in the church is universal (to all women at all times in all cultures), not just limited to the time at which Paul wrote 1 Timothy?

7. In what order (who is 1st, 2nd, 3rd?) does God mete out the consequences for sin? (14-19)? Compare this order to the order in which the deception and sin took place in Genesis 3:1-6. List the consequences God gave the serpent, Eve, and Adam. What do each of these consequences mean, and how are they still impacting us today?

8. Verse 15 is often called the protoevangelium. Who does “her offspring” refer to in a broad, general sense? (20) Specifically? How did Satan “bruise” Christ’s heel? How did Christ “bruise” Satan’s head? How does this “gospel in the Garden” help demonstrate that redemption through Christ was God’s plan from eternity past?

9. Put yourself in Eve’s (as yet non-existent) shoes and imagine yourself hearing God speak to Adam in verses 17-19, beginning with the phrase, “Because you have listened to your wife…”. What are some of the thoughts and feelings that might have been running through Eve’s head? How might this have motivated her to be a better helper to and a godly influence on Adam in the future? Have you ever influenced your husband or someone else you love to sin and then had to watch him suffer the consequences?

10. Examine verse 21. What were Adam and Eve’s “garments” previously made of? (7) Did God find the fig leaf garments acceptable? What did God have to do in order to obtain skins for new garments that would be acceptable to Him? Have we previously seen the death of a living creature in the book of Genesis? Why are we now, in verse 21, seeing death enter the world? How does this sacrifice of animals to cover the sin and shame of man point us to the gospel? How do Adam and Eve’s fig leaf garments needing to be replaced by garments made by God introduce the idea that we cannot cover up our sin by our own efforts, but that God Himself had to provide a sacrifice to both cover our sin and clothe us in the righteousness of Christ in a way that was acceptable to Him?

11. What precautions did God take to make sure man would not live forever in a fallen world? (22-24) How does this demonstrate God’s mercy?

12. What do we know about Eve’s life after her expulsion from the Garden? (4:1-2,25) What do Eve’s statements about Cain’s birth (1) and Seth’s birth (25) tell us about her ongoing relationship with and attitude toward God?

 


Homework

Thinking back over what we know of Eve’s life, from her creation to the birth of Seth, make a list of three of Eve’s characteristics or actions that teach us how to be godly and three of her characteristics or actions that teach us to avoid being ungodly. Find a specific way to implement at least one of these life lessons from Eve in your own circumstances this week.


Suggested Memory Verse

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Genesis 3:15

Testimony Tuesday: Libby’s Story

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Libby’s Story

I want to thank you for so openly and honestly declaring Biblical truth. I have been on a quest for this truth for the past two years. I was on staff at a church from 2010-2015. My role as secretary rapidly grew into leading many areas of the church including the women’s ministry. During this time the church grew from 80 to more than 350 in attendance each Sunday. They are the megachurch in our small town and model everything after Andy Stanley’s church. The staff attends all of his conferences and reads all the leadership books. They have the cool worship band with lights and smoke and the hip preacher with tattoos…they are the cookie cutter seeker-friendly church.

Though I struggled with MANY things about the pastor, the leadership, and the felt-needs teaching, the church was growing so I thought God must be blessing our work and it must have been bringing glory to Him. The last two years I was there I tried to express my concerns many times to leadership but they were very quickly dismissed with an angry, defensive attitude. I became so tired of trying to sell the cool Jesus and not seeing any spiritual growth in the people attending that I finally stepped down from staff. I continued attending the church for six months so that it wouldn’t cast a dark shadow on the leadership or church and cause division. Then I slipped out quietly.

As I had more time to devote to reading Scripture and not working 80 hours a week at the church with all the busyness of ministry and people to please, I began my quest to discover TRUTH. Real truth. About a year ago friend told me about your website and though part of me was leaping for joy as I spent hours and hours reading and following links, I was not prepared for the horror that set in when I realized the lies I had been believing and even worse what I was part of leading.

I’ve worked through the anger toward my own foolish self and toward those who I allowed to spiritually lead me for so long and I have forgiven. Now I am trying to work through the guilt of what I was a part of building and who I influenced, what part I played in their eternity (though I know that is ultimately under God’s sovereignty). I only leave my home if absolutely necessary, usually 6 am on Monday mornings to grocery shop. If I see someone from my old church anxiety and guilt cripple me. Though I have been open with close friends about what I have learned, few have been receptive…after all Beth Moore, Lisa Bevere, and the IF Conference have much more influence. The people of the church think I have absolutely gone off the deep end as I have begun to share some posts of these controversial topics.

The friend who introduced me to your site has decided to attend [a doctrinally sound] seminary. She asked for a letter of recommendation from our executive pastor and his words were “Our pastor hated seminary. Andy Stanley doesn’t believe you need to go to seminary. He only hires doers and not thinkers. If Andy Stanley says that, you have to stop and think, this man is the pastor at the most successful church in America. He knows his stuff.”

I’ll just leave that right there.

In closing, I know God has a plan in all of this and I know He will reveal it in His time. I have been visiting your “Readers Seeking Churches” page for some time and through links on your page and the 9Marks church finder I was able to locate a doctrinally sound church about an hour from me. Honestly I am terrified to step into another church, but I know I must in obedience. I am thankful for his grace and mercy, for His Word, and for placing others like you in my path.


Note from Michelle- Libby says that she is trying to “work through the guilt” of helping to spread false doctrine. I shared this with her when she originally e-mailed me, and I wanted to share it with those of you who might be struggling in a similar way:

I encourage you to remember His kindness and mercy. You need not feel guilt and anxiety over your sin any more. That is all washed away by the blood of Christ, and you are free to live in peace and rest in His love. Look how Christ redeemed Paul! He certainly spread a lot of false doctrine and quashed sound doctrine before Christ got a hold of him.

First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Believe that, and be set free from your guilt today.


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: Should Christians opt out of Christmas due to its supposedly pagan origins?

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I’ve been hearing a lot of things about Christmas having pagan origins, from Santa’s elves starting out as demons to the Roman winter solstice celebration of Saturnalia morphing into Christmas. Are these things true, and, if so, should Christians be celebrating Christmas?

There’s an old story about a woman who made a ham every year for Christmas dinner. As she was preparing it one year, her daughter asked, “Mom, why do you cut off the end of the ham before you put it in the oven?” The woman answered, “That’s the way my mom taught me to do it.” The woman thought about her daughter’s question all day long, and finally decided to call her own mother to ask about it. When the woman got her mother on the phone, she asked, “Mom, why did you teach me to cut off the end of the ham before putting it in the oven?” The woman’s mother said, “That’s the way my mom taught me to do it.” Intrigued, the woman called her grandmother and asked once again, “Grandma, why did you cut off the end of the ham before putting it in the oven?”. Her grandmother replied, “Because I didn’t have a roasting pan large enough for a whole ham.”

Human beings are creatures of habit and tradition, so it’s always important to examine why we do the things we do. As Christians, whether it’s putting up a tree every year, a beloved hymn we’ve been singing since we could talk, or the annual church picnic, our brains should never be on autopilot, unquestioningly taking part in activities by rote.

Do some aspects of the celebration of Christmas find their origin in millennia-old paganism? Possibly. But are you participating in that paganism if you put up a tree or give gifts at Christmas? Probably not. The “Christmas is pagan” lore is so ancient and uncertain that most people aren’t even aware of it. How could you possibly be participating in paganism if a) you’re not even aware of its existence, b) you have no intention of participating in it, and c) it has nothing to do with your reasons for celebrating? Did you know that many of our days of the week and months of the year were originally named for pagan idols and gods? “Sun”day was originally a pagan Roman holiday, and the sun was an object of worship for many ancient peoples. Should we stop having church on Sunday because of that? Are we somehow participating in paganism by holding the Christian day of worship on an ancient pagan feast day? Of course not. Ancient pagans don’t own certain days on the calendar or any particular object or symbol. The Bible tells us, “The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof.” When godless people take a day or an object God has created and use it for evil, they are the ones in the wrong, not godly people who come after them and want to use that same day or object for a godly purpose. To say that Christians can’t use a certain day or object for celebrating Christmas because pagans used that day or object for pagan purposes is to give those ancient pagans power over Christians. Power they have no business holding.

Furthermore, just because pagans used a day, an object, or a symbol for their wicked practices hundreds or thousands of years ago does not mean those days, objects, or symbols carry the same meaning today. Think about the way a mere word can change meanings in such a short time. The 1890’s were known as the “Gay Nineties.” The song, “Deck the Halls” contains the phrase “don we now our gay apparel.” The primary meaning of the word “gay” – just 100-150 years ago in our own country – was “happy, merry, or festive.” Now it means “homosexual.” But the “Christmas is pagan” folks would have us believe we’re supposed to attach centuries old definitions and foreign cultural practices surrounding Christmas and other winter observances to our 21st century American celebrations? Santa may have had demon elves hundreds of years ago in another country and culture, but in our culture today, they’re just his happy little helpers – no demonic strings attached. The meanings of cultural practices and symbols change over time.

Certainly, there’s no biblical requirement for Christians to observe Christmas in any way, so if you don’t want to celebrate, you don’t have to. Conversely, there’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t celebrate Christmas, so Christians are free to do so as long as we aren’t violating any of the clear commands and principles of Scripture. But whatever conclusion you come to, make sure it’s based on God’s Word correctly applied to your actions and motivations, not supposed connections between Christmas and paganism. There are probably dozens of objects in your home, traditions you observe, and days on the calendar that can, if you go back far enough and look hard enough, be traced back to one pagan religion or another. Don’t be ruled by that. Christians are ruled by God’s Word, not fears and superstitions.

So take some time and examine your Christmastime traditions. Why do you put up a Christmas tree every year? What do you tell your children about Santa Claus? What do the words of those Christmas carols mean? Are you doing anything that conflicts with Scripture? If so, stop, repent, and make sure “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Because it’s not about what pagans did centuries ago a world away, it’s about what you’re doing today, why you’re doing it, and whether or not it glorifies God.

Scriptures to Consider:

Romans 14

1 Corinthians 10:23-33

Colossians 2:16-23

Additional Resources:

Myths on the Myths of Santa Claus at When We Understand the Text

Can Christians Celebrate Christmas? at CARM

Christmas at Got Questions

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? at Ligonier

Pastor Mike Fabarez explains why you can celebrate this Christmas season/Did Jesus celebrate man-made holidays? on Wretched Radio

The Bible reveals Xmas day on the 25th-not from paganism by Agustin Astacio

Christmas Is Not Pagan at Christian Answers for the New Age


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, 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.

Scripture Matters Podcast Guest Appearance: Women In Ministry

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Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Richard Swartz, host of the Scripture Matters podcast. Listen in as we talk about some of the major issues in women’s ministry today, women’s discipleship, false teachers, and “golden calf tipping”. Richard and I also discussed the importance of husbands, fathers, and pastors protecting the souls of the women in their lives, so there’s something edifying for everyone!


Got a podcast of your own or have a podcasting friend who needs a guest? Need a speaker for a women’s conference or church event? Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page, drop me an e-mail, and let’s chat!

Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: Do Nativity Scenes Break the Second Commandment?

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Originally published December 12, 2016mailbag

 

Are nativity scenes, Christmas ornaments, Christmas pageants, and other Christmas items or activities which portray the baby Jesus (with a figurine, a doll, a live baby, pictures, etc.) breaking the second Commandment even though the portrayal of the baby Jesus isn’t being worshiped?

This isn’t a question I actually received from a reader, but an issue I’ve seen raised and discussed among Christian friends, so I thought it would be a good Christmas time question to address here on The Mailbag.

Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ believe that any representation of Jesus – be it in a manger scene, a painting, a movie, pictures of Jesus in children’s Bibles, flannelgraphs, Bible story pictures used for teaching children or on the mission field, etc. – violates the second Commandment…

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6

…whether or not that representation of Jesus is being worshiped. It is the mere act of making or displaying the representation which breaks the Commandment.

Since I had not heard of this concept until fairly recently, and because it was coming from doctrinally sound friends I respect, I wanted to take a closer look at the pertinent Scriptures to make sure I wasn’t doing something wrong. I’ve had nativity scenes and children’s Bibles and used flannelgraphs and been in Christmas musicals that depict Jesus all my life and never gave it a second thought. But if having and doing those things conflicts with Scripture, I want to stop.

But, having examined the Scriptures in context, while I respect and admire my friends’ desire to honor the Lord by not using representations of Him, I simply don’t find that the Bible prohibits depicting Jesus in reverent, not-for-the-purpose-of-worship ways. Here’s why:

1. Consider the macro-context of Exodus 20. What was going on in the history and culture of Israel at that time? (If you’re participating in The 10, you probably already know the answer!) God was setting Israel apart from other nations as His own special possession and establishing Israel as a nation. And what was the preeminent characteristic that was to set Israel apart from the pagan nations? Israel was to be a witness to all the nations of the one true God. They were not to worship idols (which, at that time, were generally carved figures of created things). Not instead of God. Not in addition to God. Not at all. The second Commandment is a command not to worship carved figures as idols.

2. Examine the immediate context of Exodus 20:4-6. It follows verses 1-3, which establish the supremacy of God above all other gods, and specifically state that Israel is not to worship any other gods.

3. Take a close look at the content of Exodus 20:4-6. The passage doesn’t say anything about making a representation of God Himself. Jesus had not yet been born when this was written, so this passage could not have been talking about making a representation of Jesus. It talks about making representations of created things in the sky (planets, the sun, etc.), on the earth, and in the water, and worshiping them. And certainly, calling any graven images “God” and worshiping them as God would also be prohibited (Remember the golden calf incidents?)

4. It would seem to me that to be consistent in saying “no representations of Jesus” folks who hold to this belief would also have to say “no representations of anything” because what Exodus 20:4 plainly says is “you shall not make for yourself…any likeness of anything.” No photographs of anything, no drawings, paintings, or sculpture of anything, no Xeroxing anything, nothing. In fact, I think that would be closer to the actual wording of the passage than “no representations of Jesus,” which, again, this passage does not mention.

5. The cross references I found for Exodus 20:4 are Leviticus 26:1, Deuteronomy 27:15, and Psalm 97:7. All of them refer to idol worship.

6. There are at least two occasions in the Old Testament in which God instructs Moses to make a graven figure, and both of these instances are far more conducive to actual worship of the figures than a nativity scene or a Sunday School flannelgraph.

The first instance – just five chapters after the second Commandment – is found in God’s instructions for the Ark of the Covenant. God instructs Moses to have the people make two cherubim (angels) for the mercy seat (lid) of the Ark. They were not to worship the cherubim (or the Ark), but the Ark was the holiest object used in Israel’s worship ceremonies. It would have been easy for the people to cross the line and worship it or the cherubim, yet God commanded the making of these not-for-worship figures to point the people to Him. (And guess what was put into the Ark right underneath those graven figures? The two tablets of the 10 Commandments, including the second Commandment.)

The second instance was when God instructed Moses to make the bronze serpent. Anyone who had been fatally snake-bitten could look up at the serpent and his life would be spared. How much more likely would an Israelite have been to worship the bronze serpent, commissioned by God and instrumental in saving his life than we are to worship a picture of Jesus in a children’s Bible? Jesus Himself said that this graven figure pointed ahead to His death on the cross, using it as an illustration of His crucifixion. Much like a nativity scene is an illustration of His incarnation.

Now, if God Himself commissioned the casting of these figures of created things, not to be worshiped, but as tools to point people to Himself, would it stand to reason that He would prohibit reverent representations of Christ that point to or teach about Him? Comparing the second Commandment with these two instances of graven figures demonstrates to us that God expects His people to be able to distinguish between using objects as tools or illustrations that point to Him and worshiping those objects.


In the end, this issue is an issue of Christian liberty. It is not a sin nor a violation of the second Commandment to use reverent representations of Christ to point people to Him. It is also not a sin to desire honor the Lord by refraining from using representations of Christ and finding other ways to point people to Him. Whichever side of the issue we come down on, let us make sure we are respectful and loving to those on the other side, not making a law for them where no law exists, nor accusing one side of sin or the other of legalism.

P.S. My friend Pastor Gabe, of When We Understand the Text, does a Q&A episode of his podcast every Friday. He was looking for Christmasy questions to answer, so I sent this question to him last week. Hear his answer here at the 13:36 mark.


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, 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.

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 4- Eve

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3

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Genesis 3:1-6

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

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Questions to Consider

1. Review what we learned about Eve – the kind of person she was, her responsibilities, the world in which she lived – from lesson 3 (link above).

2. Read Genesis 3:1-6 in light of 1:26-28 and 2:19-20. There are three constructs in these earlier passages to note: a) Eve was made in God’s image, b) Eve was to exercise dominion over Creation, and c) no animal was found suitable as (“corresponding to”) a helper to Adam so that God had to specially create Eve. How did these three constructs impact (or how should they have impacted) Eve’s interaction with the serpent? Was she acting and speaking as an image bearer and representative of God? Was she exercising dominion over this creature? Was she being the helper to Adam that God created her to be?

3. What is the serpent’s question to Eve? (1) How did Eve answer? (2-3) Compare 3:1-3 to 2:16-17. What are the discrepancies between what God said and what the serpent quotes Him as saying? Between what God said and Eve’s answer to the serpent? Did God give the instructions in 2:16-17 to Adam and Eve? (hint: see 2:15-18) How might this account for the difference in God’s actual instruction in 2:16-17 and Eve’s understanding of His instruction in 3:2-3?

4. Examine the serpent’s remarks to Eve (1,4-5). How would you characterize this deception – was it an obvious, 100% lie, or a twisting of the truth? In what specific ways did each of the serpent’s statements twist God’s words? Eve had both the spoken words of God and personal knowledge of His nature and character. How could Eve have been a good Berean in her interaction with the serpent? How were the serpent’s remarks a form of “extra-Biblical revelation” (when someone purports to speak for God outside of God’s written Word)?

5. Remember that, at this time (3:1-6), Eve was in a face to face, personal relationship with God, unmarred by sin, much like a Christian’s relationship with God in Heaven will be. Think about how she would have wanted to relate to God in this perfect situation. Would it have been tempting to Eve to do something that she knew was blatantly wrong (ex: murder, lying)? Considering how she would have wanted to please God, honor God, and know Him better, in what ways was the serpent’s temptation a “perfect fit” for Eve? Was he tempting her to do something she thought was evil or something she thought was godly?

6. Think back over your answers to questions 4 and 5. Do you see any similarities between Satan’s twisting of God’s words and the way false teachers twist God’s Word today? How can you be a good Berean when you examine the words of a pastor or Bible teacher? Why is it so important to compare everything you’re taught to God’s written Word for yourself, even if the teacher says she’s telling you what the Bible says? As a Christian woman, desiring to please God, honor God, and know Him better, as Eve did, do you see how you might be deceived by false doctrine or “new and improved” ways to please Him that He has not commanded in His Word?

7. Charles Spurgeon once said, “Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” How does this statement relate to Eve in 3:1-6?

8. Why did the serpent approach Eve (1) instead of Adam? Consider the many strengths God has hardwired into women and how the serpent manipulated Eve, using her qualities of trust, giving the benefit of the doubt, kindness, etc., against her. How do these Scriptures relate to this aspect of Eve’s temptation?

9. Examine verse 6. What three things did Eve see about the tree? How did the tree tempt her sense of practicality, her flesh, and her emotional desires? In what ways can today’s false teachers tempt women in these three areas? Should we give in to these feelings, desires, and temptations as Eve did, or should we obey God’s Word in spite of temptation and our feelings and desires as Eve should have?

10. How did Eve’s sin influence Adam to sin? (6) How did Eve sin against God by failing at her job as Adam’s helper? In what ways do we influence our husbands, children, fellow church members, and others to sin when we give into temptation? How would this passage have ended differently if Eve had acted as a good Berean and properly fulfilled her role as Adam’s helper?


Homework

Examine a teaching video from a “Christian” celebrity such as Paula White, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, or T.D. Jakes. Listen for phrases such as “God says…”, “God wants you to…”, “Christians are supposed to…” and other definitive statements the teacher wants you to believe are from God or from the Bible. Each time you hear such a statement, pause the video and ask yourself, “Where does the Bible say that (in context and rightly handled)?” Use your Bible, Bible Gateway, or a concordance to “examine the Scriptures to see if these things are so.” Are there any ways in which this teacher is twisting God’s Word or tempting your flesh, emotional desires, or sense of practicality, to believe something about God or His Word that isn’t true, or to disobey God?


Suggested Memory Verse

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
Genesis 3:1

7 “Stocking Stuffers”

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I’m filling the stockings early, but no lumps of coal for my awesome readers! Here are some great little miscellaneous Christian goodies I’ve come across recently. Enjoy!

Crossway has a Bible reading challenge for the holiday season called Simply Read. It will take you through the books of Luke and Acts in 8 days.

 

Is your church perfect and problem-free? No? Then be sure to give this article a read. Maybe even print it out and stick it on the fridge or in your Bible. The Cripplegate’s When Your Church Disappoints by Eric Davis offers godly counsel on how to biblically think about and approach problems at your church. It was very helpful for me, and I hope it will be for you, too.

 

The Gospel Project wants to give you a Christmas present! A FREE e-book! “A Christmas Question is Charles Spurgeon’s famous Christmas-day sermon from Exeter Hall in 1859.”

 

Another FREEBIE? Why not? Beautiful Eulogy is offering their album Worthy for you to download at no cost. Rap isn’t really your thing? Mine either. Check out tracks 5 (a lovely instrumental), 9 (a fantastic devotional from Art Azurdia), and 11 (a slower paced spoken word piece).

 

Can Christian parents do Santa Claus with their children? My answer in yesterday’s edition of The Mailbag was, yes, as long as Santa keeps his sleigh parked inside biblical parameters. Pastor Josh Buice made a different decision for his children and explains Why My Family Doesn’t Do Santa.

 

Want to send Christmas cards with an eternal impact? “Each Gideon Christmas card you send this Christmas will provide a New Testament for someone in the world. At the same time, your card will share a message of faith, hope, and joy in Jesus with friends and loved ones.”

 

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? Check out this recent episode of the Theology Gals podcast in which Coleen and Ashley answer all your Christmasy questions.

The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus?

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Got a question about Christmas for The Mailbag? Send it in!

 

As Christian parents, is it OK for us to tell our children about Santa Claus?

Christmastime can be so much fun when you have children. Many of us remember the excitement of Santa, the Christmas tree, and presents from our own childhood. They’re happy memories, and we want to recreate those for our children.

But as Christian parents, our first priority isn’t fun, it’s obedience to Scripture. Yet is there a way to make Christmas merry for our children while still upholding God’s Word? Is Santa patently unbiblical?

No, he doesn’t have to be, as long as he keeps his sleigh parked inside the parameters of Scripture. Let’s take a look at some of the ways Santa can be unscripturally naughty, and how godly parents can keep him nice and biblical.

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage.

Don’t lie to your children about Santa Claus. Tell them the truth: he’s a fun, fictional character that we can enjoy reading stories and singing songs about, just like Goldilocks or Superman or Old MacDonald. As for the presents, maybe you’d like to handle it similarly to the way my husband and I did with our children. When they were very small, my husband or I would don a Santa hat on Christmas Eve and say something like: “You know how you like to play pretend? Well, mommies and daddies like to play pretend, too, especially at Christmas! Now it’s time for you to go to bed so we can pretend to be Santa Claus.”

Santa Claus isn’t omniscient. 

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good, for goodness’ sake!¹

Uh uh. No way. Omniscience is an incommunicable attribute of God. He is the only One who has the power to see and know all things, and it is an insult and an affront to Him to even suggest that a mere mortal – let alone a fictional character – has the same power and knowledge that He has. In reverence and awe for God’s preeminence, we should never ascribe to others the things that belong to God alone.

Teach your children about the attributes of God. When you read your children stories about Santa Claus or hear Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town on the radio, it’s a perfect opportunity to teach them about God’s omniscience and power. “Did y’all just hear that? That song said Santa Claus can see you and knows how you’re behaving. Is that true? Who is the only One who always sees you, cares for you, and knows what you’re doing and thinking? Can anybody else besides God do that?”

Santa Claus teaches works righteousness. In St. Nick’s economy, good behavior earns a reward (presents). Bad behavior earns punishment (coal). If you’ve ever shared the gospel with anybody, that will probably sound familiar. Most lost people think that’s what Christianity is. If you’re a “good person” God is happy with you and you’ll go to Heaven. Hell is the punishment for “bad people”: Hitler, murderers, and rapists. This is not what the Bible teaches, either about salvation, or about why children should obey their parents.

Teach your children the gospel. Again, this whole “naughty or nice” part of the Santa Claus narrative is a perfect gospel-teaching opportunity. Take advantage of it! Ask your child to be “nice” for one whole day. At bed time, take a few minutes to talk about the times she messed up and was “naughty” when she was supposed to be trying to be “nice.” Nobody can be nice and obedient all the time, no matter how hard we try. We are all naughty, coal black sinners deserving the punishment of Hell. Jesus came and lived a life of perfect “niceness,” died on the cross to take the punishment for our naughtiness, was buried, and rose again. He did that, not because we earned it with good behavior, but because of His mercy and grace. And then He gave us the greatest gift ever. A gift we naughty people don’t deserve: salvation and eternal life in Heaven. And it is because of our love and gratitude to Christ for saving us that we obey Him, not so that He will give us what we want. Indeed, the Bible tells us that the more obedient to Christ we are, the more persecution we will face.

Santa Claus doesn’t automatically have to be on the Christian parent’s naughty list. There are lots of ways to enjoy the fun of Santa and even turn him into an opportunity to teach your child biblical truth, all while being obedient to Scripture. But if Santa makes you biblically uncomfortable in some way, then by all means, don’t go against your conscience. Whichever way you decide – after prayer, study of the Scriptures, and discussing it with your spouse – do not judge other Christian parents by your personal convictions about Santa Claus. And have a Merry Christmas!

¹Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie, 1934.

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.