The Mailbag: Is It OK for Christian Women to Wear Bikinis?

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Summer is just around the corner, so a lot of women will soon be shopping for swimwear. With regard to modesty- do you think it’s OK for Christian women to wear bikinis?

I’m trying to remember back to the days when I might have actually considered – without doubling over in laughter – wearing a bikini. It was a really long time ago. Young, svelte sisters, if I may bring you a bit of comfort- you won’t have to grapple with this question for the rest of your life. As your other older sisters and I can attest, one day, age-appropriateness, your figure, sun exposure, and the desire not to frighten people will make this decision for you long before you have to consider modesty as part of the equation. It’s one of the blessings of getting older.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s quickly define our terms. When I say “bikini,” I’m talking about the fabric equivalent of a bra and panties, not swimwear that covers a lot more yet comes in two pieces.

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     bikini                           not bikinis

Generally speaking, I don’t think bikinis are wise in public unless you’re wearing a shirt or some kind of cover up over it. I’m reluctant to make a hard and fast law about it, though, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not wear a bikini.” (My husband would like to chime in here and says, “However, if you and your husband have a private place for just the two of you to swim or sunbathe, go for it!” You’re welcome, guys.)

As with various other issues, the Bible gives us a general principle (in this case about dressing modestly) and we work out our own salvation in our own cultural context according to all pertinent biblical principles and our own consciences. A law is a fast and easy “yes” or “no” answer to our question- which is often what our flesh wants, because our flesh is lazy. But what God wants Christians to do is study His word about the issue, pray, and ask Him for wisdom to make a godly decision. When we work through this process, it helps us to develop a greater desire to be conformed to the image of Christ and to be obedient to Him. Let’s take a look at just one passage of Scripture that could be helpful in this regard:

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8 

So, at first glance, you might wonder, “What in the world does this passage have to do with wearing a bikini?” It doesn’t have anything to do with the bikini itself, it zeros in on your heart (Why do you want to wear a bikini?) and your sanctification (Will wearing a bikini make me more Christlike?).

Verse 3a:
Examine your heart- could your motive for wearing a bikini be classified as selfish ambition or vain conceit? Is it possible you want to show your body off to men to appear desirable, or to women to make them jealous?

Verse 3b-4:
Is this a situation in which you should humble yourself and put the interests of those men who might be tempted to lust or those women who might be tempted to covet ahead of your own desire to appear attractive?

Verse 5:
Do you truly desire to have the same mindset as Christ- about this issue and all others?

Verse 6-8:
How did Jesus approach life, according to these verses? He set aside His own rights and privileges (6), He took on the role of a servant (7), He humbled Himself and was obedient to the point of death (8).

When it comes to wearing a bikini, are you willing to have the same mindset as Christ? To set aside your own rights and privileges, be a servant to others, humble yourself, and obey Christ even to the point of death?

These are not questions God wants me to answer for you. These are questions He wants you to come to Him and answer, because He wants your heart. And He wants you to examine your heart and see if it belongs to Him in this area.


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.

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6 Reasons Godly Women are Stronger Than Feminazis

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I’m working on a project I’ve got to get done this week (prayer appreciated!), so I’ll be re-running a few favorite articles from the archives in lieu of new content.

Originally published June 12, 2015

feminazis

Gloria Steinem. Bra burning. The ERA. “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar.” Maybe you remember them, or have at least heard of them. That was the heyday of feminism. It was going to be a new era of strong, powerful women. And they’re still fighting the battle today. Never let a man get the upper hand. Sacrifice whatever you have to for a successful career. And Christian women who submit to their husbands or choose to stay home with their children are sneered at or dismissed as weak, barefoot and pregnant ignoramuses.

But as any woman brave enough to follow in the footsteps of Christ can tell you, it ain’t necessarily so. Secular feminists will never understand the kind of strength it takes to strive towards godly womanhood.

1. Only the strongest of women can voluntarily relinquish the right to be in control.

It’s easy (at least for decisive, type A control-freaks like me) to walk into a room assess a situation, lay down the law, and expect your instructions to be carried out. It’s much harder to step back and hand off the decision-making to your husband, or to offer your input and stand aside and watch when he decides not to follow it. But God expects us to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, who voluntarily surrendered control of His very life to the men who took it from Him.

2. It takes a strong woman to trust God enough to put her life and her children’s lives into her husband’s hands.

Let’s just get real here for a minute. It can be hard to trust God sometimes. Even though we know He is perfect and has our best interests at heart, we can’t see Him or touch Him. We can’t ask Him a question and get an audible yes or no answer.

It can be even harder to trust our husbands. Even though we can see, hear, touch, and talk to them, we know all too well that they’re fallible. Sometimes they have their own interests at heart. Sometimes they mean well and still make the wrong decisions.

But God tells us to trust Him. Even when it’s hard. Even when we don’t understand what’s going on. Even when we think we could lead better than our husbands. We trust God enough to obey His word even when.

3. It takes tremendous strength to control our mouths.

James tells us “no human being can tame the tongue,” and all who have tried know how true that statement is. Still, God expects godly women to control our speech. We’re not to nag and be quarrelsome. We’re to speak wisely and kindly. Sometimes, we’re not to speak at all, but let our actions do the talking. The strength to bite your tongue or think before you speak? It’s a daily trial by fire for Christian women.

4. Godly women have to be incredibly strong to deal with the heartaches that come our way.

John once said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4). While he was talking about his spiritual “children,” godly wives and mothers have that same joy when our husbands, children and loved ones are walking in the truth of the gospel. And unspeakable agony when they are not. We not only have to cope with the regular griefs of life that everyone experiences, we also must deal with the pain of those closest to us who rebel against Christ and His word, all the while trusting God and walking in His ways.

5. We must develop the godly strength it takes to stand against the culture.

It’s easy to do the godly thing when everybody’s rooting for you, but in a society that is openly hostile to biblical womanhood, we often (sadly, even in the church) find ourselves fighting our way upstream like so many spawning salmon. Many times, we are seen as – and called – doormats, uneducated, gullible, traitors to the cause of women’s rights. We must rely on the strength God has promised us to stand for godliness in the face of opposition.

6. Only strong, godly women can joyfully deny self and serve rather than being served.

In a “because you’re worth it” world, putting our own desires aside to serve our husbands, children, and others is utterly incomprehensible to many, and, often, even to ourselves. The flesh rears its ugly head again and again, demanding to have its every wish fulfilled by the very people God put us here to serve. It takes a mighty woman of God to do battle with that enemy, send it packing, humble herself, and tend to the needs of others. But we have been bought by the blood of a Savior who declared that He “came not to be served but to serve,” and we conform to His wishes, not our own.

 

They can push and nag and argue and boss and control. They can be soldiers, construction workers, CEOs, and President. They can wear the pants in their families and have cowed husbands. But the shrillest of feminazis will never know the strength it takes to be a godly woman, because what they’re attempting is miniscule compared to the high standard God calls His daughters to. And any fleshly strength they can conjure up couldn’t in a million eternities touch the supernatural, mighty, rushing force that is the power of the Holy Spirit which God promises to His own, enabling us to say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

God doesn’t call us to have dominance over men, He calls us to become like a man, the God-man, Jesus Christ. And in our feebleness and brokenness, He gives us the power to attempt that feat of greatness for His glory. That, my sisters, is where real strength lies.

Throwback Thursday ~ Fear Not: 9 Biblical Ways to Trade Worry for Trust

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Originally published April 24, 2015fear not

Did you have any fears as a child? Monsters? The dark? Dogs? When I was a little girl, I had this record of the story of Peter and the Wolf, and I was afraid of wolves at night (Look at the picture and listen to him growl. Can you blame me?). I just knew they were skulking around my bed in the dark, black as midnight, drooling rabidly, ready to shred me to ribbons should I stick so much as one toe out from under the covers. It was terrifying.

As adults, we look back on those childhood fears with some degree of smugness or embarrassment and think about how silly it was to be scared of something that was never a threat in the first place. But even if we don’t like to admit it, fear is something we grown ups still struggle with, at least from time to time. Finances, health, and our children’s futures may replace wolves, darkness, and the boogeyman, but fear is still fear, whether you’re four or forty.

And God is well aware of that fact.

In my Bible, the phrases “fear not,” “do not be afraid,” and other similar expressions appear over 75 times. Fear is a normal, God-given reaction that can be healthy and keep you safe in the event of a real threat. Fear is a blessing when it motivates you to jump out of the path of a speeding truck or stay away from a rattlesnake, but just like everything else affected by the Fall, fear can often be misdirected and thwart our growth in Christ.

Most of our fears as adults have nothing to do with tangible, imminent, life or limb danger. Usually, we are fearful of “what if’s.”

“What if I get a bad report from the doctor?”

“What if I get fired?”

“What if my teenage daughter gets pregnant?”

In other words, we worry about what might happen.

It’s really easy to sing “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” on Sunday, but much harder to actually do the work of trusting Him on Monday. Worry almost seems woven into the fiber of our DNA. In fact, worry has been such a common theme in the human experience that Jesus took time to address it during his Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:25-34

Clearly, it is not God’s will for us to worry. No matter how strangling our fear may feel, God wants us to trust Him in everything, from the most dire situation to the most mundane. But how?

1. Make sure the object of your trust is the right one.

A popular false teaching from the Word of Faith (prosperity gospel) camp these days is that it’s never God’s will for you to be sick, poor, or experience tragedy. If you just have enough faith, and decree and declare enough, you can yank whatever outcome you want right out of the hands of God. Do you know why that’s not true?

Arguably the mightiest men of faith in history, eleven of the twelve disciples were martyred. So was Paul. David, whom God said was “a man after His own heart” suffered tragedy after tragedy. Jesus Himself prayed in Gethsemane that God would keep Him from having to go to the cross, and God said no.

Like these godly men, as Christians, we do not place our faith in positive outcomes. We place our faith in Christ, and His sufficiency for us in all things, regardless of the outcome. Make sure you’re trusting Christ, not what you want Him to give you.

2. Get off the guilt train.

Sometimes we can fall into Satan’s trap of believing that if we’re really saved or really trusting the Lord or really have faith, we’ll never fear anything. Then, when those worries creep in, we start feeling guilty. We’re not supposed to have those feelings.

Have you ever read the story of Gideon? Gideon was one scared dude, and he had good reason to be. But even though he was scared and fumbling, he believed and obeyed the Lord. And the Lord commended him for being a man of great faith.

Trusting Christ doesn’t mean you’ll never be afraid of anything. Trusting Christ means you keep believing Him, keep loyal to Him, and keep obeying Him even when you are afraid.

3. Take reasonable precautions.

Trusting God doesn’t mean you should be careless. Eat healthy and exercise. Be frugal. Watch your children carefully. God gave us a whole book about using wisdom, and He gave us brains, so let’s use them.

4. You’re not in this by yourself.

God has promised never to leave you or forsake you. He has promised to give you the strength to deal with anything you come up against. He has promised you a way out of temptation. Trust that God is with you and will help you.

5. Rehearse your trust instead of your fear.

A lot of therapists will encourage you not to “repress” your fears but, rather, talk about them, write about them, examine them, etc. In other words, rehearse them (which only leads to more fear, because fear feeds off itself). But the Bible never says to do that. It says, “do not fear” and “trust in the Lord.” Period. No analysis required.

Those worries may start creeping in, but you don’t have to set the table and turn down the bed for them. Push them right out of your mind, slam the door behind them, and say (out loud is helpful), “No. I’m not going to worry. I’m going to trust the Lord.” You’ll still feel worried at first, but “fake it ’til you make it.” Your feelings will eventually follow.

6. Replace fearful thoughts with biblical thoughts.

After you’ve pushed those fearful thoughts out of your mind, consciously redirect your focus to trusting the Lord. Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God to help you trust Him. Put on some biblical worship music that focuses on the goodness of God, and sing along. Be thankful- start listing all the ways God is good and has blessed you. Recite and meditate on Scripture about trusting God. Some of my favorites are:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:6-7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

 7. Get your mind off it.

Watch a good movie. Have coffee with a friend. Better yet, serve someone who needs your help. Share the gospel with someone who’s lost. Get your mind off the worries and on to something better.

8. Get physical.

Go running or do some physical labor around the house or something like that. Either you’ll get some endorphins going and you’ll start feeling better or the shin splints and backache will completely erase any memory of whatever you were afraid of.

9. Repent and get a fresh start.

Sometimes (often, if you’re like me), you’re going to blow it. You’re going to give in to fear and let it control you instead of trusting God. You’re going to act on your fears and disobey God instead of trusting and obeying Him in spite of your fears. When that happens, don’t run away from the Lord. Run to Him. Repent and be forgiven. That’s what His mercy and grace are all about.

Worries are a normal part of life in a fallen world, but, in Christ, we are not to be enslaved by them. We have a Savior who is sovereign over all things. He clothes the grass with lilies. He feeds the wild birds. And He cares oh so much more for you. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and fear not.

How do you deal with worry in a godly way?

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

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I’m working on a project I’ve got to get done this week (prayer appreciated!), so I’ll be re-running a few favorite articles from the archives in lieu of new content.

I sincerely apologize to those who were waiting for the last lesson of The Ten this week. Couldn’t be helped. We’ll have to do it next week. I hope you’ll enjoy this article from April 22, 2016 on studying your Bible.

plain vanilla

Baskin Robbins is one of my favorite places to get ice cream. Not only is their ice cream good, but they boast a plethora of flavors to choose from. I love to start at one end of the counter and work my way through all their offerings, getting a little “taste spoon” here and there if a particular flavor piques my interest.

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Photo courtesy of BaskinRobbins.com.

Having a myriad of options is great when it comes to ice cream, but when it comes to studying the Bible, the tsunami of materials, methods, and other choices out there can be overwhelming. Where do I start? How do I know if a certain Bible study book or teacher is doctrinally sound? Is the study method I’m using in line with good hermeneutics?

It can be enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and head for your local Thirty One Flavors to drown your sorrows in Peanut Butter ‘N Chocolate.

Sometimes it can help to get back to plain old, simple, vanilla Bible study. I’ve been saying for a while now that Christian women should, for the most part, put all the “canned” Bible study books, workbooks, and DVDs aside and simply pick up their Bibles and study them in a systematic way. After all, up until somewhere near the latter half of the 20th century, that’s generally how people studied the Bible. And it worked. People grew in their faith to godly maturity just fine. So, why can’t it work today?

It can. It does. It will.

Unfortunately, the blessing of lots of options, methods, resources, and information, and the marketing of that blessing by celebrity Christians and Christian retailing, has bred a generation of Christian women who are fearful that they aren’t as smart or as capable of reading and understanding God’s word as all the “experts” out there. They look at the simplicity of picking up their Bibles and studying them like calves looking worriedly at a new gate.

“What does that mean?”

“How do I do that?”

“I’m scared I’ll get it wrong!”

It absolutely breaks my heart to hear this angst from women who, I’m certain, genuinely want to study God’s word correctly so that they can know Him better and grow in their faith. And it makes me livid at the churches who haven’t trained them properly, the plantation-style women’s “Bible study” marketing that has kept them ignorant and dependent slaves to Christian retailers, and whatever other forces have conspired to keep these precious ladies away from the pure milk of the word.

So let’s reboot, get back to basics, and get as many women digging into the Word as possible.

First, it’s important to start out with a biblical perspective:

1. God is kind, and He loves you.

Yeah, I know, that’s pretty basic. But it’s worth bringing to the forefront for this discussion. This is a God who loves you and wants you to know Him. He has revealed Himself to you through creation, through Christ, and through His written word. He has indwelt you as a believer with the Holy Spirit to help you understand Scripture. He has told you that you can ask for wisdom and promises to provide it. In His kindness God has bent over backwards to provide you with ways to know Him. He is not some mean ogre sitting up there just waiting for you to get something wrong so He can chastise you. He wants you to understand His word.

2. The Perspicuity of Scripture

There’s this really great, comforting, reassuring doctrine called the perspicuity of Scripture. The gist of it is that Scripture is, for the most part, clear and understandable, especially for believers, because of the aforementioned indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But even lost people tend to understand a lot of what Scripture says (that’s why you hear so many of them arguing against it – they couldn’t do that if they didn’t at least partially understand it).

So, by and large, if you’re reading the Bible in an orderly way you should be able to understand it fairly well. You don’t have to have a seminary degree or be an “expert.” There are dirt farmers and country preachers out there who have a better grasp of Scripture than some celebrity pastors in multi-million dollar churches with thousands of congregants, and a string of seminary degrees behind their names.

OK, now that we have a biblical perspective on studying the Bible, how do we do it in a systematic or orderly way?

3. Pray

Don’t see this as childish or unimportant and skip it. Start your Bible study time by asking God to help you understand His word, to learn what He wants you to learn from it, and to obey its instruction. Even if you’re pretty well versed in the Scriptures, praying like this before opening God’s word will remind you of its holiness and your proper place of humility and submission to it.

bible-1089968_12804. Read the Bible the way you would any other book.

When you pick up a novel, do you read one sentence out of the middle of chapter 4, followed, the next day, by a paragraph from chapter 37, and, the next day, a couple of lines from chapter 1? Of course not. You wouldn’t know what was going on and what the characters meant by what they were saying. If you wouldn’t read something as inconsequential as a novel this way, why would you read the Bible in such a haphazard manner? Yet this is precisely the way people often approach daily Bible study.

My pastor said something awesome about this in his sermon the other day:

The Bible isn’t Google for self-help.

And he’s so right. We don’t just parachute in to a random passage, hoping to glean a nugget of truth. Pick a book of the Bible (maybe Genesis or one of the gospels if you’re new to all this), start at the beginning, and read a little each day until you reach the end. It’s really that simple.

5. Context, context, context

It’s important to read and understand Scripture in its context: how a verse fits with the verses immediately surrounding it, within its chapter, within its book, and within the overarching narrative of the Bible. This is really the biggest key to comprehending Scripture. Fortunately, the main way to do this is by reading the Bible in an orderly way (see #4- You did already read #4, right?)

Another invaluable practice is to make use of the cross-references and footnotes in your Bible. Cross-references will help you get a better idea of how the passage you’re reading fits together with other, related passages. Footnotes are there to add a touch of clarity to particular words and passages.

6. Get a plan, Fran.

If structure helps you, choose a good Bible reading plan. For the beginner, start off with one of the shorter plans so you won’t get overwhelmed. When you’re ready, I highly recommend the chronological plan. It is extremely helpful for learning the big picture of Scripture.

If you decide to choose a reading plan, though, hold its schedule loosely and don’t be beholden to its time frame. Work through the readings at your own pace. Take the time to let the Scriptures sink in and spend as long as you need to on any given section. God doesn’t give gold stars for finishing the Bible in a year.

7. Understand the background and setting.

There are some passages in Scripture that are a little more difficult to understand if you don’t know the customs of the time or what was going on historically and politically. In these cases a good study Bible, commentary, and other resources can be beneficial. I’ve touched on the specifics of some of these resources here. Many of these helpful materials can be found on-line for free.

8. Take notes on the text.

Hmm…an orderly method of reading…footnotes…extra resources…taking notes…this is starting to sound like…well…studying! Yep, that’s the idea. Isn’t it interesting that we often take a more serious and scholarly approach to studying for a class or a test than we do to studying our Bibles?

If you were a better student than I was in high school and college, you probably took notes on your text books as you read them. You wrote down things you wanted to remember, things that seemed important, things you didn’t understand and wanted to work on more later, things that were especially meaningful, even questions that occurred to you. Those are all good things to write down as you study your Bible, as well.

presenter-1206345_12809. Listen to good preaching.

As a Christian, you should already be doing this at least weekly at the church you’re a member of. But try to sneak in some extra listening – to your own pastor or another doctrinally sound pastor – as often as you can during the week. Listening to someone rightly handle and explain God’s word helps you to understand it and trains you to rightly handle it yourself as you study.

I once read that children who read a lot are better spellers. Not because they study spelling more, but because they’re exposed to more words and have the correct spelling of words constantly in front of their eyes. They sort of soak up good spelling by osmosis, and when it’s time for the spelling test, they simply write down what they’ve absorbed. Listening to good, expository preaching can have the same kind of helpful impact on your Bible study skills.

10. Practice makes perfect.

Studying the Bible is just like any other skill. You’ll probably fumble around a good bit when you’re first getting started, but if you stick to it, you’ll find that it gets easier and you get better at it as time goes by. Don’t be afraid to start. Jump right in there and try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

 

Ladies, simply picking up the Bible and studying it each day is such a joy. I have been doing it for years, and I love it. The excitement of “digging for buried treasure” in God’s word and uncovering the truths of Scripture for myself has been far more meaningful to me and has grown me so much more than any workbook or curriculum I’ve ever used. I hope you’ll put aside your book studies and devotionals, and give it a try yourself!

Church Leadership Qualifications: Biblical or Pragmatic?

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When it comes to leadership positions in the church we often get ourselves into unnecessarily sticky situations because we put practical considerations – who is available, who is most talented, who is willing, etc. – above biblical qualifications.
When we fill a position of leadership or responsibility at church we first go to Scripture to find out if the person we’re considering for the position is biblically qualified to hold it. Practical considerations come second. A few examples:

1.

An elder or deacon just died and the church needs someone to replace him. The first place you go is 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and you start by weeding out the men who don’t fit those qualifications. It doesn’t matter how willing they are or how great of a job they would do or what kind of connections they have or how much money they could bring into the church, they have to meet the biblical qualifications first.

2.

Your church is located near a neighborhood full of Chinese immigrants, most of whom don’t speak English. Someone comes up with the commendable, Great Commission-honoring idea to start a Bible study to reach out to the men and women of this community. The only person in your church who speaks Chinese is a woman, so she’s the natural choice to teach the class, right?

Wrong. We start with the biblical qualifications for teachers, and one of them (1 Timothy 2:12) is that women are not to teach men. She could certainly teach (assuming she is able to teach – language alone doesn’t make someone a good teacher) a women’s class, or a male could teach the class in English and she could translate, or a man could take the time to learn Chinese before the church begins offering the class, or if there is a Chinese man in the class who is able to teach, he could teach the men and she could teach the women. But the woman doesn’t teach a co-ed class herself because Scripture forbids this.

3.

A young couple starts attending your church. After a few months, they step up and say they’d like to sing on the worship team. They’ve both got great voices and would radically improve the quality of the music on Sunday mornings. As you chat with them about joining the team, you find out they’re living together (unmarried). They’re both well aware that this is sin, but disagree with what the Bible says about adultery and fornication and have no intention of repenting, marrying, or moving out. Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 are quite clear that people who continue in rebellion after being called to repent are not even to be members of the church, let alone lead in worship.

Remember that the practical way is not always God’s way. Remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). Remember that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12). Remember when Saul did what was good in his own eyes instead of obeying God’s word (1 Samuel 15). Remember what happened to Nadab and Abihu when they conducted worship their own way instead of God’s way (Leviticus 10:1-6).

Obeying God’s word is not always easy, practical, or convenient, but it is always best, biblical, and blessed.

In Case You Were Wondering: Why Is it Bad for Christians to Cuss?

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I’m working on a project I’ve got to get done this week (prayer appreciated!), so I’ll be re-running a few favorite articles from the archives in lieu of new content.

The In Case You Were Wondering series was the “beta version” of The Mailbag (our regular Monday feature). This article first appeared at Satisfaction Through Christ on September 30, 2015.

Christians and Cussing

Why is it bad for Christians to cuss?
Why are certain words considered “bad words”?

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. James 3:7-10

Ouch. Our mouths can really get us into trouble, can’t they? We can lie, boast, and say all kinds of hurtful things to others. And one way that God definitely did not intend for Christians to use our mouths is to use profanity or vulgar speech.

But why? What makes one string of four letters good and noble, such as “love,” “pray,” or “holy,” while another string of four letters is cause for washing out mouths with soap and more restrictive movie ratings?

It’s because of the meaning attached to the word. Human beings don’t deal with words as random assemblages of letters. Human beings deal with words in terms of meaning. And God doesn’t want the meanings that come out of our mouths to point people away from Him, but, rather, to represent Him well. We can see this in the instructions He gives us about the things we say:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:4

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

If you’re a Christian who uses foul or vulgar language, have you ever stopped to think about why you do that? What is the motivation of your heart for saying those words? Is it Christlike? Do you think Jesus would use that kind of language? When you say those words do they point people to or away from Christ? What impression does it give people of Christians, the church, and Christ when they hear you cussing? Think about the definitions of those words. When you say those words, what definition pops up in the mind of the person who hears you? Is it something good, pure, honorable, etc.?

But when you come right down to it, swearing is really not a disease to be treated, but a symptom of another disease- a heart infiltrated by worldliness. Luke 6:45 tells us:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

It’s important to remedy the outward behavior of filthy language, but that only comes from having a heart that is filled with the good treasure of Christ.


Additional Resources:

Is It a Sin to Cuss/Swear/Curse? at Got Questions

Is cursing or swearing a sin? at CARM

Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

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For more in the Basic Training series, click here.bible-authority

The Bible. Scripture. The Good Book. It used to be so blatantly self-evident that God’s written Word was the foundation and standard for the Christian faith that it was assumed. A given. You learned, “I stand alone on the word of God- the B-I-B-L-E,” when you were three or four years old, you believed it, and you moved on.

But take a look at the Westernized version of Christianity these days. The fruit of abandoning the authority of Scripture is chilling. From the demonic tremoring and barking antics of New Apostolic Reformation “churches” to the rebellion of female “pastors” to the “gay Christian” movement to “Christian” abortion doctors, it’s clear that an astounding number of self-professed Christians and churches don’t submit to Scripture’s mandates for their beliefs and practices.

“Whew,” you might be thinking, “my church and I must be OK. We call homosexuality sin. We’re pro-life. Our pastor is male. And the wildest our congregation gets is when Brother Joe bellows a good, hearty ‘Amen!’ during the sermon.”

Those are all good, biblical things and I don’t want to minimize them. But is it good enough? Are there other, more subtle ways you or your church aren’t submitting to the authority of Scripture? And what does it mean that the Bible is our authority, anyway?

Have you ever played Monopoly? If you have, you know that you’re supposed to use a Monopoly board, two dice, the and the game pieces and Chance and Community Chest cards that come with the game. You also know that there is a standard set of Monopoly rules that are supposed to be followed.

monopoly-1356307_640Suppose a friend invited you to play Monopoly but wanted to use a checker board instead of a Monopoly board. Or wanted to create a new rule that you would get $500 for passing Go instead of $200. Or that you could get out of jail without rolling doubles.

Monopoly was created in 1903 by a lady named Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips. Magie created the game to teach people the consequences of having large or valuable tracts of land controlled by private monopolies¹. Each piece of the game and each rule was created with that teaching goal in mind. To alter the rules of the game is to, at best, be out of alignment with Magie’s intentions and purposes, and, at worst, to not be playing Monopoly at all. If you want to truly play Monopoly, learn the fullest extent of the lesson Magie was trying to teach, and respect Magie as the creator of the game, you’ve got to play by her rules. All of them. Even the ones you don’t like or particularly understand.

Many of the same principles apply to Christianity. God set Christianity up a certain way with His own intentions and purposes. If we alter His rules, we’re, at best, not lined up with those intentions and purposes, and, at worst, not practicing Christianity at all. If we really want to honor God, grow in Christ to the greatest extent and truly be practicing biblical Christianity, we’ve got to play by His rules. All of them. Even the ones we don’t particularly like or understand.

But what many Christians are doing today is taking their “Monopoly game” of Christianity and assuming it’s for their own entertainment, better quality of life, or positive feelings. And because they’re largely ignorant of the Creator of the “game” and His purposes and intentions behind said game, the players start tossing out His rules whenever those rules don’t fit the purposes and intentions of the players.

God created you and me and the world and Christianity and the church for His glory. He gets to make the rules. We follow the rule book (the Bible), not because those rules will make us personally happy or successful, but – simply and ultimately – because they are given by God and glorify Him. What He says goes, and we honor Him by our obedience. We need to remember that our role in the game is player, not Creator. Players submit to the authority of the Creator.

When the Creator says…
I created the world in six literal days and here’s how I did it, we don’t dishonor His word by trying to cram evolution in there and make it fit. We believe Him, and we teach what His word says.

When the Creator says…
Ladies, I don’t want you to preach, teach Scripture to men, or hold authority over men in the church, we don’t search for loopholes. We search for ways we can humble ourselves and serve God in ways that please Him, not ourselves.

When the Creator says…
Here’s how I want you to pray, we repent of using unbiblical prayer methods such as private prayer languages and contemplative prayer, and we pray the way God wants us to pray.

When the Creator says…
Pastor, I want you to preach the Word, that means pastors preach rightly handled, in context Scripture- not a stand up comedy routine, not the storyline of the latest blockbuster movie, not a half hour of jokes and personal anecdotes, not their own opinions and self-styled doctrines.

When the Creator says…
I want you to stay away from people who teach false doctrine, it doesn’t matter how much we like that teacher, how good she makes us feel, how much we think she’s helping us in our walk with the Lord, or that we’d rather “chew up the meat and spit out the bones.” We reject her, and her teaching, and listen to those who teach sound biblical doctrine instead.

We bow the knee to what God’s word says. Period.

Ladies, if you don’t want to cripple your growth in Christ, one of the worst phrases you can utter about Christian beliefs and practices is, “Well, I just think…” followed by your own personal feelings or opinions. You don’t write the rules.

The Bible says:

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. 
1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a

…you…have become slaves of God…
Romans 6:22

If you’re a genuinely regenerated believer, you are the slave of Christ. That means you don’t get to hold, or live by, your own feelings or opinions any more. That’s what lost people do. You are only entitled to God’s opinions as set down in His written Word. Your opinions don’t matter.

mozart

When it comes to Christian beliefs and practices, your experiences don’t matter either. It doesn’t matter what kind of so-called supernatural experience you had where you babbled incoherently or “heard God speak” or saw a “vision” or whatever. If your interpretation of your experience conflicts with the written word of God, your interpretation of your experience is wrong. Something may have happened, but it wasn’t God. (And if something supernatural happened and the Bible says God doesn’t work that way, there’s only one other option.)

When you decide what you’re going to believe and do based on your own opinions, feelings, and subjective personal experiences rather than the written word of God, what you’re doing is saying, “I know better than the almighty, all-knowing God of the universe.” You’re setting yourself up as judge over Scripture. You’re in charge, not God. Doesn’t sound much like a slave, does it?

That’s because Scripture says those who truly belong to Christ will have a heart to keep His word. We will stumble and fall along the way. We will sometimes mistakenly believe things we shouldn’t. But one of the hallmarks of a Christian is that she loves and strives to obey God’s word. Because, as Christians, the Bible is our authority.

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Additional Resources

What does it mean that the Bible should be our sole authority for faith and practice? at Got Questions

For the Authority of Scripture by Dr. John MacArthur

Divine Authorship and Authority at Ligonier

The Authority of the Bible by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, and the Authority of God’s Word


¹Monopoly (game), Early History, Wikipedia, February 16, 2017
²Amadeus photo and quote courtesy of Orion Pictures, Amadeus1984.

Throwback Thursday ~ Top 10 NAR* and Seeker-Driven Buzzwords

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Originally published November 14, 2014buzzwords

I study false teachers pretty often. I watch their videos, listen to their sermons, and read their articles. And I’ve noticed that there are some common buzzwords that New Apostolic Reformation* and Seeker-Driven false teachers tend to use over and over again. Naturally, these words are just that: words. Just because you hear your pastor, Sunday School teacher, or favorite Christian celebrity utter one or more of them doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is a heretic. But if you’re constantly hearing these words and phrases, it could be a red flag that you need to vet the person you’re listening to more carefully and see whether or not his or her theology matches up to what the Bible says. So, here, in no particular order are 10 such buzzwords and some of the false teachers who are fond of them:

1. The Glory

Photo Credit: Revival Magazine

Photo Credit: Revival Magazine

 

“Sometimes as I stand in the glory my hands and feet will begin to drip with supernatural oil, representing the miracle anointing of God.” ~ Joshua Mills

 

 

 

 2. In The Natural

Photo Credit: Awesome God Ministries

Photo Credit: Awesome God Ministries

 

“I learned that even when we are in a place of obedience, we often have no way in the natural of knowing for sure whether we are right or wrong.” ~ Joyce Meyer

 

 

 

3. Shaking/Shifting

Photo Credit: Apprising Ministries

Photo Credit: Apprising Ministries

“If we continue to pray and call out to God, the nation will shift.”

“There is terror in Tampa, Tallahassee and Miami – a ring of terror; but, God has a ring of fire. Shaking, shaking, shaking.” ~ Cindy Jacobs

 

4. Decree

images

Photo Credit: Do Not Be Surprised

 

“Decree and declare… THE FAMINE IS OVER!” ~ T.D. Jakes

 

 

 

 

5. Declare

Photo Credit: Amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

 

“I declare that I am a ‘no lack’ person and receive every blessing You have prepared for me.” ~ Joel Osteen

 

 

 

6. Spirit-man

Photo Credit: Jennifer LeClaire Ministries

Photo Credit: Jennifer LeClaire Ministries

 

“Pray always and when you catch your mind trying to reason out a prophetic revelation, let your spirit man rise up and take control.” ~ Jennifer Leclaire

 

 

 

7. Holyspirit

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A number of NAR personalities refer to the third Person of the Trinity as “Holyspirit” -as though that were His first name- instead of the Holy Spirit. For example, “Holyspirit said to me the other day…”

It is nearly impossible to isolate a text example of this as a) it is usually verbal and b) search engines always include the word “the” in search results.

 

 8. In the heavenlies

Photo Credit: The Elijah List

Photo Credit: The Elijah List

 

“War in the heavenlies. We can battle against the enemy’s strategies through prayer and declaration of the Word. This wins the battle in the heavenlies before it hits the earth.” ~ Patricia King

 

9. Come into agreement/alignment

Photo Credit: The Elijah List

Photo Credit: The Elijah List

 

“…the Bible states that God, before time, determined your zip code—that spiritual place and geographical location; when you get into that spot, everything around you will begin to come into alignment.” ~ Cindy Trimm  

 

 

10. Cast vision

Photo Credit: FBC Jax Watchdogs

Photo Credit: FBC Jax Watchdogs

 

“Sure, I cast vision—but it has taken every staff member and volunteer we have to pull it off.” ~ Perry Noble

 

 

 

What are some common words and phrases
you often hear false teachers use?

The Ten: Lesson 12

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the-ten

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

Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Ephesians 5:3,5

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints…For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

James 4:1-3

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.


Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Colossians 3:5, 12-15

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

1 Timothy 6:6-11

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.


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. Read through all of today’s passages. What does it mean to covet? How are coveting, jealousy, and greed related? Compare the tenth Commandment to the other nine. In what way is the sin of coveting different from the sins in the other Commandments? Is coveting observable? What specific things does the tenth Commandment tell us not to covet (Exodus 20:17)?

2. How is coveting at the root of murder, theft, adultery, and lying? The Ephesians and Colossians passages say that coveting is idolatry. Why? Can you think of any other sins coveting could lead to? How could recognizing coveting and putting it to death help prevent it from snowballing into more sin?

3. Think about coveting, a secret sin of the heart, in the immediate context of the tenth Commandment (God is setting apart Israel as His own special people and establishing them as a nation). How would obedience to this Commandment have been conducive to keeping law and order in civil society?

4. Do you think the nations surrounding Israel who worshiped pagan gods had laws against coveting? Why or why not? If any of them did, what would be the difference between a false god making and enforcing a law against a secret sin of the heart and God making and enforcing such a law? How would a law against a secret sin have pointed Israel’s pagan neighbors to the one true God who sees and judges the hidden secrets of the heart? How would this have been a testimony to God’s power and omniscience?

5. According to the Ephesians and James passages, is coveting characteristic of Christians or lost people? What does James say are some of the results of coveting? How might having a covetous heart affect our prayer life? (James 4:3) What does Ephesians 5:5 say is the consequence of unrepentant coveting?

6. What role did coveting play in the parable Jesus told in the Luke passage? Explain Luke 12:15 in your own words.

7. Examine the Hebrews, Colossians and 1 Timothy passages and compare them with the tenth Commandment in Exodus 20:17. Is the Old Testament instruction about coveting singular (one part) or binary (two parts)? The New Testament instruction? What are the “thou shalt not” and the “thou shalt” instructions about coveting in these New Testament passages? Instead of coveting, we are to be c_____. (Hebrews 13:5) Why, according to Hebrews 13:5, are Christians to be content? How does it demonstrate to others that Christ is sufficient when we are content instead of covetous? Read Colossians 3:15. How can thankfulness counteract coveting?


Homework:

When we covet, we are essentially saying to God, “What You have so lovingly and graciously provided for me isn’t good enough. I deserve better.” Coveting brings with it the sin of ingratitude toward God. Spend some time in prayer asking God to bring to mind any areas of your life in which you’re coveting, and ask Him to forgive you.

Make a list of the things, people, and life circumstances God has blessed you with and keep it handy (maybe in your notes app in your phone?). This week if you find yourself coveting something, someone, or a certain circumstance, drop what you’re doing, go back to that list and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for what He has already provided for you. Ask Him to make your heart content.

 

Movie Tuesday: Making Sure Kids Stay in Church as Adults

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Children who sit with their parents in “big church” are more likely to
stay in church as adults than those who spend the
worship hour in children’s activities.

It’s more detrimental to youth to have a series of youth pastors than to have no youth pastor at all.

These are just two of the fascinating statistics included in Dr. Steve Parr’s recent seminar for the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s ReGroup small group leader training workshop. It’s great information for those in children’s, youth, or student ministry, and if you’re a parent with children still in the home, or a grandparent, you’ll definitely want to watch and give some thought to your church’s programs and how your own family worships.

(Disclaimer: I am not familiar enough with Dr. Parr to recommend or warn against following him. I screened him very briefly for associations with several major false teachers and did not find any with the exception that he quotes John Maxwell – whom I do not recommend – occasionally in his writing. The video above is the only material of Dr. Parr’s I have viewed. As always, please compare all media you consume to Scripture and reject anything that is out of line with God’s word.)