8 Theses for Women of the Modern Day Reformation

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October 31, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, and because I’m all theme-y and whatnot, I’m in the midst of a fantastic book called Reformation Women by Rebecca VanDoodewaard who I dearly wish were on social media so I could shamelessly fangirl her and make a general nuisance of myself by asking too many questions. Normally, I would actually finish a book before slobberingly commending it to you, but in case you like being all theme-y and whatnot too, and because time is of the essence, I’m throwing caution to the wind and telling you:

Get this book. Now. You’re welcome.

Normally, when we read about the Reformation, we’re reading about great preachers and leaders like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Hus, but preaching was not the only work of the Reformation. And that’s one of the things that has captivated me about Rebecca’s book. All of the women included therein were strikingly courageous, tireless laborers, who contributed greatly  to the success of the Reformation, and they did it all while coloring inside the lines of biblical womanhood – doing vital work godly women are uniquely equipped by Christ to do. They opened their homes as a refuge to scores of Protestants (often including those aforementioned notable preachers and other integral leaders) fleeing for their lives from Catholic marauders. They set up prison ministries and fed and clothed the poor. They nursed their communities through the Plague. Those who were queens and princesses used their power to protect Reformers and change persecutory laws. Those who were married to pastors and leaders helped in their ministries and edited their books and papers. And they wrote. Poetry. Position papers. Booklets. Letters. What a happy discovery (for me, anyway) to find sisters of the quill from so long ago.

But these great ladies were not our only foremothers in the faith. For as long as God’s people have been God’s people, God’s people have rebelled and needed to be reformed. In fact, that’s the entire, overarching theme of the Old Testament- the need for Israel to reform from its idolatry. And all along the way we see faithful women like Deborah, Jael, Esther, Jehosheba, Jedidah, Huldah, Samson’s mother, and others willing to buck the trend of sin and rebellion and point the way back to God and holy living by their deeds and the example of their lives.

The New Testament gives us extraordinary examples such as the women who ministered to Jesus during His earthly ministry, stood by Him at the cross, and were the first ones at His tomb. Priscilla, Lydia, Dorcas, Eunice, Lois, Phoebe and other believing women soon followed, all lending their aid in their own unique ways to reforming dead, legalistic Judaism into biblical Christianity.

All of these great women of God, serving Him through thousands of years as only godly women can, laying the foundation with their blood, sweat, and tears, for the church we know today.

But have we “arrived”? Is the need for women to work for reform in the church a fast fading dot in the rear-view mirror of modern day evangelicalism? Judging from the articles I read and the e-mails I receive about the problems in the church, the answer to that question would be a big, fat “no.”

Perhaps armies of the Catholic “church” no longer hunt down fleeing Protestants. And, maybe Nero isn’t using Christians as torches for his garden parties any more (although there are certainly areas of the world where our brothers and sisters in Christ face similar threats every day). But the stealth, guerrilla warfare Satan has been waging against the Western church in recent decades might be even more damaging. Certainly, it’s more diffuse and wider spread. Instead of raping the bride of Christ, Satan has chosen instead to seduce her. Why forge an enemy when you can woo a lover?

False teachers. Word of Faith heresy. The New Apostolic Reformation. Abuse in the church. Biblical illiteracy. “Lone Ranger” Christians. Idolatry. Irreverence in the sanctuary.

For doctrinally sound Christians, it’s like being in that giant trash-masher with Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie – surrounded by slime and garbage on all sides with the walls closing in, and, seemingly, no way out.

It is easy to see why the heart of the Protestant Reformation was Semper Reformanda– “always reforming.” The work of fighting for sound doctrine, biblical worship, and pure hearts and hands never, never, never ends.

So what does it look like to be a woman of the modern day Reformation? What can we church ladies do to help turn the tide of apostasy in Christendom? Permit me to nail eight theses to the door of your church.

1.
Realize You Can’t Change the World

None of the women named earlier in this article changed the world or the entire church. Not a single one of them. In fact some of them brought about great changes in their locales that were overturned in the years after their deaths.

The problems facing the church today are overwhelming. You’re one person. You can’t fix everything (and God doesn’t expect you to). Maybe you can’t even fix everything in your own church. But what you can do is determine to be faithful to Christ and His Word in your sphere of influence. Bloom where you’re planted. “Brighten the corner where you are“, as the old gospel song says. You can’t do everything, but what’s something you can do?

2.
Color Inside the Lines

One of the major problems plaguing the church today is Christian women who rebel against God’s word by stepping outside the boundaries God has drawn for women in the family and the church. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by following suit in your zeal to reform. There’s plenty of work to be done by godly women – work that we’re better equipped for than men – without violating Scripture.

3.
Mind Your Demeanor

No, we shouldn’t be wishy washy milksops or mealy-mouthed shrinking violets. But we also shouldn’t be loud-mouthed harpies, brashly marching into hell with a water pistol (just trust my own failures on this one). We need to be velvet-covered bricks: soft on the outside, firm on the inside. We should attain to all the Christlike virtues of demeanor: patience, kindness, compassion, mercy, and grace mingled with an unyielding stand on Scripture and an uncompromising commitment to Christ. For some of us, the former comes easier. For some of us, the latter. But we must seek that godly balance as we go about the work of the Kingdom.

4.
Serve the Local Church

If you have rejected the mere idea of local church membership and think you’re going to bring about change from the outside as an unchurched (or functionally unchurched) writer, speaker, or Christian celebrity, you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution. The church is God’s plan for Christianity, not evangelical gurus. Do whatever you have to do to find a doctrinally sound one, join it, and get to work serving.


5.
Pray

When it comes to the church, fixing what’s broken doesn’t rest on your shoulders. Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions, and only God can bring those about. You can defend Scripture til you’re blue in the face or explain all day long why someone is a false teacher, but only God can lift the veil and enlighten the eyes of the heart. Be faithful in your efforts, but be more faithful in prayer. Like the persistent widow, grab hold of the Lord on behalf of the church and don’t let go.


6.
Teach Other Women

In my experience, the number one way false doctrine enters the church is through women’s ministry and women’s “Bible” study. You want to work for reform in the church? Work on reforming your church’s women’s ministry. Explain to your sisters why that divangelista is a false teacher. Request Bible study classes that study the actual Bible. Volunteer to organize the next women’s conference or retreat and schedule doctrinally sound speakers. Teach a women’s or girls’ Sunday School class. Transform the church by transforming the hearts and minds of women.


7.
Help

The book of Exodus tells the story of Israel’s battle with Amalek. When Moses held up his arms, Israel prevailed. When he let down his arms, Amalek prevailed. Eventually, Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses and held up his arms for him so that Israel could win the battle. Who was more important to Israel’s victory in this story- Moses or Aaron and Hur? If you answered “both,” you’re correct. Israel couldn’t have won without Moses holding up his hands, but Moses couldn’t have held up his hands without Aaron and Hur. Most of the women of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Protestant Reformation who effected godly change among God’s people were not Moseses. They were Aarons and Hurs. What can you do to hold up the arms of your pastor, your elders, your husband, your church?


8.
Stand

Make sure you know your Bible backwards, forwards, and upside down in context. Know right from wrong, the biblical from the unbiblical. Learn what God’s word says, and stand. Don’t back down. Do it with a godly demeanor, but do it. Refusing to budge from the truth of Scripture might cost you your “church”. It might cost you your family and friends. It might cost you your job, your reputation, and your finances (as we’ve seen in recent years with Christians in the business world who have refused to cave to the homosexual agenda). But as our brothers and sisters who went to the fiery stake, the dank prison cell, and the gallows would tell you, fidelity to God’s Word is worth it. Loyalty to Christ is worth anything it might cost you. Stand.


Whether your women’s ministry is using a book by a false teacher, there’s a faction of backbiters in the church that needs to be quelled, or your pastor is overwhelmed and needs some help, there’s something in your church that you can pray about, help with, or work on to help it move toward spiritual health. The church needs discerning, biblically knowledgeable, mature Christian women to step up and fight ungodliness whenever and wherever we’re able. Will you be a courageous laborer in the modern day Reformation?

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Throwback Thursday ~ Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by “Teaching” Men?

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Originally published October 23, 2015female bloggers

“You say that women shouldn’t teach men (1 Timothy 2:12),
but what about men who read your book or blog?
Aren’t you teaching them?”

Complementarian women bloggers and authors are frequently asked this question. Often it’s asked by dissenters looking for a “gotcha” moment. Other times it’s a genuine concern for Christian women who want to write but still be in obedience to God’s word as it speaks to the role of women. But, whatever the motivation for asking, it’s a great question that needs to be answered.

It is true that God has ordained different roles for Christian men and women. Both roles are needed and important, but different. Part of the role for women is outlined in 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Women are not to preach to or teach men in the gathering of the church or hold other positions of authority over men in the church. (If you’d like to read more about the Bible passages pertaining to women’s roles in the church, check out my Rock Your Role series.) But notice that key phrase “in the church.” The context of all of the passages dealing with women refraining from teaching men refers to the teaching of God’s word in the gathering of the body of believers.

That’s not the same thing as blogging in the public square. Yet, most of the godly women I know who blog still seek to be obedient to the spirit of the command even if the letter doesn’t technically apply. I admire their character and their faithfulness to God’s word, so I asked each of them how they would answer this often-asked question. Here’s what they said:

Erin Benzinger of Do Not Be Surprised and Equipping Eve

Equipping Eve-05“A semi-formal ministry such as a blog, book, or podcast must be approached with the biblical mindset of seeking to teach and equip fellow women as per Titus 2. At the same time, a woman blogger cannot know who is reading her blog. Nor can an author control who reads her book, or a podcaster supervise who hits “play.” Might the woman see it as necessary to make clear that she is, in fact, a woman and that her ministry is directed toward fellow sisters in Christ? Of course, this seems a logical and simple safeguard and is in fact my own approach.” (I had to edit Erin’s fantastic comment for length, but you can read it in its entirety in the comments section of the original article.)

Pamela Couvrette of Guarding the Deposit

“As a woman blogger, my intention is to write to women, however, I cannot control who reads my blog posts. I was concerned for a while about teaching to men, however, after a conversation with a few trusted Christians, my concerns were alleviated. The point was made that I was not teaching in an official church capacity; if I am offering the Word of God to show men their error, I am not claiming to be over them in authority, but instead, beside them as a sister in Christ. Additionally, if women are not supposed to teach men anything, how far does this mandate reach into our everyday lives?”

DebbieLynne Kespert of The Ouspoken Tulip

“In honor of Christ, I want to avoid teaching men through this blog without avoiding my responsibility to substantiate my assertions (or, when necessary, recant them) with Scripture. Sometimes, I may cross the line, in which case I’ll eagerly repent. If I had a way to guarantee an all-female readership, believe me, I’d be teaching a lot more boldly! Alas, I can’t control who reads this blog. I will, to the best of my ability, state my beliefs with appeals to Scripture, and will provide links to in-depth teaching by respected men.” (This is an excerpt from a great article at DebbieLynne’s blog.)

Christine Pack formerly of Sola Sisters

“My bottom line is that (1) I’m not expositing scripture, and (2) the book of Jude (about contending for truth and doctrinal purity) was written to all believers, not just men.”

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time

11695005_969809886414876_853379219293858257_n“As for women writing books, blogging, discipling, or speaking of theological things in the public square, I follow Philip’s daughters, (Acts 21:9), Eunice and Lois, (2 Timothy 1:5), Lydia, (Acts 16:14),  Dorcas (Acts 9:36) and other women who restrict their ministry to women, submit to the men in their lives, but unashamedly proclaim the glories of this wonderful Jesus whom we share and whom the dying world needs to know.” (This is an excerpt from an excellent article Elizabeth wrote at her own blog. In it, she links to several great resources.)

Beth Seifert formerly of the Naomi’s Table Radio Show/Podcast

“In the forum that we were in with Naomi’s Table, it was made clear that this was intended for women not men. Could I stop a man from listening on the radio? No. But, especially when teaching anything that directly related to men (i.e. husbands love your wives…) I put so many disclaimers around anything I said, pointing any men listening back to Scripture, re-stating that I was not trying to teach them, that they should not be using me as their teacher, etc. At the end of the day, I couldn’t stop them from downloading the studies or notes, but there was no ‘muddiness’ about who I was teaching.” Beth also has her own blog, Daily Dose of Truth.

Sunny Shell of Abandoned to Christ

“Since [my blog is] on the internet, I’m not purposefully putting myself in any way as authority over men. If I had a blog that was just for men and I was doing the same thing, that would be sinful. But whether or not men read my blog and glean something from it, that is between them and God as many women have wisdom that helps men and women (cf. Priscilla and Aquila)… there is a difference between having a generic blog (like mine) and one that is purposed to reach both men and women in a teaching manner.” (Read Sunny’s awesome article on women’s roles here.)

Lori Williams of Falsified Ministries

falsified book coverFrom the Falsified Ministries web site: “Vince is the leader of this ministry and Lori serves in a supportive role helping with the administrative aspects of organization of materials, responding to women who email the ministry, supportive research, working resource tables/booths and any other help-mate role that Vince needs in fulfilling other aspects of the ministry. Lori will never be speaking in front of a group that consists of a mixed audience of both male and females. We choose to obey the Biblical command in1 Timothy 2:12…Since the verse refers to a corporate setting of the church in any assembly, we always want to adhere to that.” (Like Beth, Lori is also a former Bible study teacher at Naomi’s Table.)

 

As you can see, all of these women are keenly aware of their biblical role and strive to obey Scripture by setting up various reasonable safeguards and parameters for their blogs, ministries, and podcasts, most of which are aimed specifically at women. I believe they all do an excellent job of adhering to the spirit of 1 Timothy 2:12.

I have, however, seen blogs by other Christian women which I believe cross the line and actually violate this passage, even though the woman was blogging rather than teaching in the church setting. This article, written in the wake of the Ashley Madison scandal, is the most clear cut example I’ve run across. As you can see, the article, by a pastor’s wife, is written directly to men in a corrective, instructive, rebuking, warning, and even threatening tone. It certainly does not exemplify the “gentle, quiet spirit, which, in God’s sight is very precious,” and, at the very least, is most unbecoming of a pastor’s wife and a woman who bears the name of Christ. This is a great example of what not to do for female bloggers who desire to be obedient to Scripture.

Christian men should also desire to be obedient to 1 Timothy 2:12 by not seeking out female bloggers for biblical instruction for themselves. I mentioned that sometimes people inquiring about the biblical appropriateness of women bloggers do so for a “gotcha” effect. Sometimes men with ulterior motives of “nailing” complementarianism visit my blog, claim to have learned something, and then turn around and attack me as a hypocrite for “teaching” them. This is akin to a man listening at the door of a women’s Sunday school class, then bursting in and saying, “Aha! You taught a man.” To those men, I would ask a simple question- If a female blogger puts a fence around her blog and you jump over it and trespass on her property, how is she the one at fault?

And me? Like my godly sisters featured above, I have also set up parameters for both my blog and my book to do everything I can to place myself under the umbrella of 1 Timothy 2:12. My book (when it was in print) was always labeled and marketed as a women’s Bible study. If you’ll take a look at the “Welcome” tab at the top of this page, you’ll see I explicitly say that this blog is for Christian women and that I’m a complementarian. When I address the readers of this blog and my Facebook page, I nearly always address them as “ladies,” both because this is a blog for women and also to remind the handful of men who follow me that they are not my audience; they are, in a sense, “eavesdropping.”

While I welcome male readers, I do not want men seeking me out for biblical instruction for themselves. All of my readers should look to the doctrinally sound teaching of their pastors and elders for biblical instruction. For women, my blog should only be a leisure time supplement to their sermons and classes at church.

 

Being a godly female blogger can be a tightrope walk. All of us have fallen off from time to time, and in those cases we ask that you extend us grace and forgiveness, knowing that we didn’t do it intentionally or rebelliously. Praise God for the “net” of God’s mercy and cleansing that catches us and puts us right back up on that tightrope so we can encourage and build up the lovely Christian ladies in our audience. You mean so much to each of us. We love you and want you to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why we do what we do.

Mark: Lesson 23

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

Mark 15

And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. 12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

16 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22 And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath,43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead.45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.


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. Study verses 1-5. Who was Pilate, and what was his position? What crime had the Sanhedrin decided Jesus was guilty of in Mark 14:64, and what sentence was to be carried out as His punishment? What did Levitical law say about this crime, its sentence, and how that sentence was to be carried out? Did the Sanhedrin follow this law? If the Sanhedrin was so concerned about Jesus breaking God’s law, why did they break God’s law by failing to carry out the death sentence according to the law? Why did they take Jesus to Pilate to enforce the death penalty instead?

2. Describe the scene in verses 6-15 in your own words. What motivated Pilate, the chief priests, and the crowd to do and say the things they did and said? What can you surmise about the personal character of Pilate, the chief priests, and the crowd? What part did power and position play in this part of the story? What part did both Jews and Gentiles play in this part of the story? What was Pilate’s perception of Jesus in verses 1-15? Where were the disciples during all of this?

3. Examine verses 16-20. Take a look at the footnote on verse 16. How many soldiers gathered around Jesus? Why were they mocking Him, and what did the mocking center around? Who created the thorn bush (17), the reed (18), the spit (18), and the soldiers themselves? When was the last time you used something for sinful purposes that God created for good?

4. In Gethsemane, Jesus rebuked Peter for fighting back against the arrest mob, saying, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” At any step along the way – in Gethsemane, in His mock trial before the Sanhedrin, when judged by Pilate, when abused by the soldiers – Jesus had the power, and plenty of justification – as Creator of the universe and of the people mistreating Him – to turn Jerusalem into a crater. Why didn’t Jesus fight back or defend Himself? What does this teach us as Christians about laying aside our own rights, when necessary, for the sake of the gospel?

5. What impact did Christ’s crucifixion have on Rufus, and later, his mother (21)? The centurion? (39) Did everyone who witnessed the crucifixion become a Christian? Why or why not? Would the chief priests have believed Jesus was the Messiah and become His followers if he had come down off the cross? (31-32) Compare Rufus’ and the centurion’s belief in Christ with the mockers’ and chief priests’ disbelief. (21, 39, 29-32)

6. The mixture of wine and myrrh (23) was meant to be an anesthesia. What are some of the side effects of anesthesia? Why did Jesus refuse it?

7. What was the official charge against Jesus? (26) In what ways was this true? (2) In what ways was this false?

8. What were the mockers referring to in verse 29? What was the irony of their statement? (29-30)

9. What was the “curtain of the temple“? (38) What was the significance of its being torn, and its being torn from top to bottom?

10. Compare the scattering of the disciples with the gathering of the women (40-41) at the cross. How might their staying with Jesus through the crucifixion have been a comfort and encouragement to Him? How might witnessing the crucifixion have been a blessing to the women and emboldened their witness for Christ in the coming years? How can these women’s faithfulness to Christ serve as an example to us as Christian women today?

11. What position did Joseph of Arimathea hold? (43) Why would Joseph have needed to “take courage” with regard to approaching Pilate? (43) With regard to his place and reputation in the Sanhedrin? Why would it have been dangerous or detrimental to be seen as an associate or ally of Jesus?

12. Among those who deny that Christ’s resurrection actually happened are people who argue that on Easter morning, the women who found Jesus’ tomb empty had actually gone to the wrong tomb. How does verse 47 refute this theory?


Homework

Explain the events of Mark 15 in your own words as you would explain them to someone who has never heard the story of Christ’s crucifixion. Ask a lost friend or loved one to let you “practice” on her, if possible. As we saw in question 5, among those who were eyewitnesses to the crucifixion, some believed in Christ, and some did not. It is the same when we share the gospel today. Why do some believe the gospel and some don’t? List three ways grasping this truth can help as you share the gospel.


Suggested Memory Verse

And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Mark 15:2

Guest Post: How to Improve Your Reading Experience

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If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

Today, I’m excited to share with you a guest post from my daughter Michaela, who has recently started a blog of her own. This article is adapted from her blog article How to Improve Your Reading Experience. I know many of you are connoisseurs of Christian books, so I thought this might be helpful. Some of her suggestions can even help with your Bible reading.

How to Improve Your Reading Experience
by Michaela Lesley

Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid reader. I have my mom, grandmother, and aunt to thank for this obsession, which began at a very young age. My mom would take me and my younger brothers to the library every few weeks, and it was an outing I always looked forward to. Every summer, my mom would pick out a book series and read out loud to me and my brother, Jordan, every day. My grandmother also enjoyed reading out loud to me, but because she lived in another state, she had to get creative. She would pick out books or short stories and record herself reading them on a cassette tape (it has definitely been a while since I wrote out the word “cassette”, and I almost forgot how to spell it). I would play these tapes whenever I was in my room playing, and at night while I was trying to fall asleep. My mom’s sister, author Kaye Dacus, was always the type of person to give books or Barnes & Noble gift cards as presents, and I always knew I was in for a treat whenever I got something from her in the mail around my birthday.

While I’m a few classics short to be able to consider myself a well-seasoned reader, I do consider myself good at reading. I know how to get through many books quickly, and I know how to stay in the loop when it comes to new popular books. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned over the years to make the most out of reading:

1: Goodreads.com– This is one of the easiest ways to keep track of your books. You can log in to Goodreads through your preferred social media account, or you can start a separate account through the site. There is also a very handy app, if you aren’t often near a desktop or laptop. On this site, you can mark books as To Read, Read, or Currently Reading. If you are currently reading a book, you can track your progress by putting what page you are on, and the site will tell you what percentage of the book you have finished. Once you have completed a book or marked it as “Read”, Goodreads gives you the options to rate the book on a Five Star scale and post a review of the book. You can also create your own “Shelves” to further organize books. I personally create a new shelf for every year, so I can keep track of how many books I’ve read that year. You can also see which books are trending, and Goodreads will recommend new books to you based on what  you have read. These are just a few of the many things you can do with the site, but these are the features I find the most useful. You can create an account here: Goodreads

2: Reading Playlists– This is something that I have been doing for a while now, and it makes reading so much more enjoyable. I use Spotify to create playlists specifically for reading. These playlists have songs and scores from some of my favorite movies. I also use Pandora to listen to the Movie Scores station. I mostly read fantasy and science-fiction, which means lots of intense fight scenes and bad guys giving monologues. I can picture the the characters and what they’re doing, and having music helps set the scene in my head. I’ve also found that I read faster when I listen to music.

3: Audiobooks and Ebooks– Thanks to being an adult, I don’t have as much time as I used to to sit down and read a book. But, there are currently 67 books on my To Read list, and I add more all the time. So, I have to find ways to get through that list somehow. My favorite non-traditional way of reading is listening to audiobooks (and yes, listening to a book counts as reading a book. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). I listen to books while doing house work, while driving, or just while doing something relaxing. I use Audible.com to listen to my audiobooks. Audible is part of Amazon, and a membership is $15 a month (your first month is free). The $15 a month gives you 1 credit, which you can use to buy any audiobook. The great thing about this is that most of the books cost more than $15, so it’s a really great deal. You can listen to the books on your smart phone, tablet, or computer, even without an internet connection. Once you finish the book, you can remove it to save space on your device. However, you can re-download the book at anytime. Overdrive is a service that many libraries use, and it allows you to “borrow” audiobook and ebook files with your library card.  This way, you have the convenience without having to spend any money! Kindle (Amazon’s ebook service) and Nook (Barnes and Noble’s ebook service) are useful as well! You can either download the apps onto your phone or tablet, or you can buy the actual Nook/Kindle devices. Ebooks tend to be much cheaper than physical books, and you can take them with you in your pocket! You also have the option to read in the dark, which is helpful if you are traveling at night or if you have a roommate.

4: Book-to-Screen Adaptations– We live in a time where it seems like every popular book is getting a TV show or movie. If I see a preview for a movie or TV show that looks like it might interest me, and I see that it’s based on a book, I immediately add that book to my To Read list. That book becomes a top priority. I feel an urgency to read that book. If you make yourself finish the book before seeing the movie or watching the show, then you will have a reason to finish it quickly. It’s exciting to see a story you love come alive on the screen, and watching that movie or show can be your reward for finishing the book. On the flip side, if you have a favorite movie or TV show that you find out is actually based on a book, then it will be easy for you to get into that book. This is a great way for people who aren’t already readers to get into reading.

5:  Reading with Friends– back in 2012, all of my friends and I were reading a popular trilogy. We had seen the previews for the first movie, and we knew we wanted to read the books together and see the movie together. We would all carry the books with us to class. We would read them in the van on the way to basketball games. We would stay up late and text each other our reactions to certain chapters. We all finished those books in about a week and a half. Reading a book with friends is a very fun way to bond as a group. You can encourage each other to read, and you can discuss the story together. My best friend and I are currently reading a book series together. A new book comes out every year, and we read it together and have fun conversations about where we think the story is going plot-wise.

6: Developing Reading Habits– getting through books can be hard if you are like me and you are easily distracted. With Netflix, YouTube, and Social Media, it’s easy to waste your free time on other things. Setting a designated time to read is a good first step to prioritize reading. Many people like to read before bed, to help them unwind before they fall asleep. Having a specific place to read can also help you focus. I have stopped reading in my room, because I am more easily distracted in there. I prefer to read in my living room, on the couch, with my reading playlist playing on my phone. This specific setting helps me concentrate. If I find that I’m still getting distracted, I pull up my phone’s stopwatch, and try to see how quickly I can read one page. I hit the “lap” button every time I make it through a page. When my phone is being used for a purpose like that, I find that I don’t check Facebook or Instagram as often.

Happy reading, my friends! ❤


Michaela Lesley was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She loves to travel and wander around new places, and is always reading a new book. She is a certified Jesus Freak, and is 100% OK with that. Michaela blogs at Michaela of Baton Rouge.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THE BLOGGERS WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANY BLOGGER YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.

The Mailbag: Potpourri (NBCS, Homeschool resources, Piper…)

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Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourrri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


I see many people on my Facebook news feed that are sharing innocuous or biblical sounding content (memes, Facebook posts, blog posts, etc.) from false teachers/ministries. I didn’t find an article on your web site and was wondering if you have already written one. I thinking it would be helpful to help share with others that it’s now necessary to understand the ramifications of sharing (boosting the author’s credibility, clicks, $, inadvertently sharing false doctrine or non-biblical philosophy, etc.)

I see the same thing in my Facebook feed, and it worries me for the people who, with the best of intentions, I’m sure, are following false teachers themselves and pointing others to false teachers by sharing those posts.

I have, indeed, written an article about this (it does pop up if you use the search bar, but you have to scroll down a ways to get to it since I wrote it a few years ago- sorry about that):

Four Reasons Why It Matters Who We Share, Pin, and Re-Tweet


What do you think of National Back to Church Sunday (NBCS)?

The concept is OK at the surface level, I guess. If all it is is a particular Sunday on the calendar when unchurched people are encouraged to go back to church, and churched people are encouraged to invite unchurched people to church, and churches are encouraged to find out why their supposedly churched members haven’t shown up for weeks, months, or years, I see no problem with the concept itself.

The problem comes when you move from the “on paper” concept to the actual churches that are participating and how those churches are attempting to get unchurched people in the door. If it’s a doctrinally sound church and the pastor says, “Hey- everybody invite an unchurched friend to come with you next week,” great. But we do not want unchurched people putting one toe over the threshold of an apostate or heretical church, and sadly, it appears as though at least some of the participating churches that have registered with the NBCS “Find a Church” page may fall into those categories. And if these “churches” are using unbiblical means and enticements to get lost people in the doors, that’s an additional problem.

The reader also included a link to encounter.com in her question. It’s clear encounter.com is in some way connected to NBCS, but I’m unclear as to how. The material on the “Invited to Belong” page is nauseatingly and blatantly seeker driven and man-centered. It’s all about how worthy you are rather than how worthy Christ is. There is no gospel presentation. Of the four people quoted, none are doctrinally sound Christians. One of the final sentences is a good summary of the whole page: “No church will be perfect, because no person is perfect, but we invite you to find a local church where you will belong.” Not a doctrinally sound church. Not a church that proclaims the biblical gospel. Not a church that preaches Christ and Him crucified. Not a church that teaches the Bible. It’s all about you, baby. If this encounter.com page is in some way NBCS’s mission statement or statement of faith, then I would certainly not recommend the NBCS organization.


I am looking for a solid but very simple Bible study for a loved one who struggles with understanding complicated concepts and words. Maybe even a kids study that is rich in theology. I was wondering if you had any ideas or advice on this?

It’s wonderful that your dear one loves the Lord and wants to study her Bible. Thank you so much for trying to help her!

Since you are a long time reader, you’ve probably heard me say that I don’t recommend “canned” studies, but that people should pick up the actual Bible and study it for themselves. In this case, may I suggest that might even be more important for someone like your loved one? I imagine that her poor reading skills may have made her more dependent on others in many areas of her life than she would like to be, and that studying the Bible for herself would not only be the best way to learn it, but would also give her a greater sense of confidence and independence. An “ownership” of her study of the Bible, if you will.

There are several good children’s and “easy reader” Bibles out there. I’ve suggested a few here: Children’s Bible Recommendations. You might wish to sit down with her and come up with a list of simple questions she can answer as she finishes reading a chapter, such as:

📖 Who is this passage about?
📖 What is the main idea of this passage?
📖 Why did God – the author of the author of the Bible Who says all Scripture is useful – put this passage in the Bible? 

📖 What can I learn about God from this passage?
📖 Is this passage telling me to do/not to do something? How can I obey it?
📖 Is there something in this passage I need to pray about?

Or, if you like, you could suggest that she read one of the books of the Bible I’ve written a study on (out of her own, new, easy to read Bible), take some of the questions I’ve written and send her a simplified version of the ones you think she can handle.

And, perhaps you could be “on call” via phone or e-mail to answer any questions she might have about what she’s studying. What a great opportunity to do one on one discipleship with someone who’s dear to your heart!


Do you know of any good Christian homeschooling blogs?

I homeschool, so I’m asked from time to time about homeschooling resources, but to be honest, it’s just not something I really read about. I recently asked my readers to recommend some good, doctrinally sound online homeschool blogs and resources, and here’s what they suggested (Please note, I have not vetted any of these. You will need to do the research yourself to discover whether or not they’re doctrinally sound.)

Family Renewal
✏ Reformed Homeschoolin’ Mamas
✏ Durenda Wilson
(author of The Unhurried Homeschooler)
✏ Half-A-Hundred Acre Wood
✏ The Kingdom Driven Family
✏ Annie & Everything


I really enjoyed reading A Few Good Men and A Few MORE Good Men, but how come John Piper (or another pastor) isn’t included? Is he a false teacher? 

Please understand that these two lists of godly male teachers aren’t exhaustive. Praise God, there are scores of preachers and teachers out there who faithfully teach and rightly handle God’s Word. I couldn’t list all of them if I tried, though I plan to add more articles like this in the future. These were just the teachers I was most familiar with at the time I wrote the articles. The mere fact that your favorite teacher doesn’t appear on these lists does not make him a false teacher, and I hope the articles don’t imply that (I don’t think they do).

John Piper’s books, sermons, and blog are mostly fine, and while I disagree with him on several points of theology, I certainly do not consider him to be a false teacher. But he’s not somebody I’m going to proactively recommend, either. Here’s how I’ve answered readers in the past who have asked me about John Piper:

While I consider Dr. Piper to be a generally doctrinally sound Christian brother and agree with him in many aspects of theology, he is not someone I proactively recommend for a few reasons:

1. Dr. Piper is a continuationist. I usually limit my endorsements to cessationists  because I believe this is the biblical view of the gifts. (I do not consider otherwise doctrinally sound continuationists to be false teachers, however.)

2. I’m concerned about Dr. Piper’s associations and partnerships with false teachers (which violates 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Romans 16:17-18, and 2 John 9-11). First he appeared to embrace Rick Warren when he interviewed him and invited him to speak at the Desiring God conference in 2010. More recently, he has been a featured speaker at events like the Passion conferences where he has shared the stage with Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, and Judah Smith.

3. Dr. Piper’s complementarianism seems muddled at best. On the one hand he will go so far as to say that Christian women should not be drill sergeants (the Bible mentions nothing of the sort), yet on the other hand he joins in ministry with the aforementioned Caine, Shirer, and Moore who – in addition the the false doctrine they preach – all actively and unrepentantly violate clear Scripture by preaching to men. It’s quite confusing.

(I am aware of the current kerfuffle over Dr. Piper’s recent remarks regarding works and final salvation. They have nothing to do with why I have declined to endorse him for the past several years. I will not be commenting on this issue until the dust settles and it is no longer an actively unfolding situation.)

I’m not going to warn people away from John Piper as a false teacher, but I can’t, in good conscience, recommend him either.


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.

Top 10 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastors During Pastor Appreciation Month

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I’m so glad somebody thought up the idea of Pastor Appreciation Month and made it a thing. If you’ve never been a pastor (or been married to one), it’s difficult to adequately convey just how simultaneously challenging, joyful, devastating, frustrating, and fulfilling it can be. If you have a good pastor, who rightly divides God’s Word and is a man of godly character, you are very blessed. And that goes for your minister of music, associate pastor, youth pastor, etc., too. Be sure you show all of them (there’s nothing worse than being left out while everybody else is being appreciated) your appreciation for their hard work, and your encouragement, support, and love not just during Pastor Appreciation Month, but all year through. Here are ten ways you can do just that.

1. Pray for your pastors.
Time and again, when pastors are surveyed about what their church members can do to bless them the most, the number one answer is, “Pray for me.” Your pastors need you to pray for them personally, in their work, for their marriages and families, and for the health of your church. Pastor Appreciation Month is a perfect time to make a commitment to pray for your pastors on a regular basis. (And don’t forget to periodically tell them you’re praying for them!) Need some suggestions on how to pray? Check out my article Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor.

2. Words of encouragement
Pastors get a lot of complaints, criticism, and words of discouragement. Brighten your pastor’s day by telling him something specific you learned during the sermon. Tell your minister of music you really enjoyed the choir anthem this morning. Repeat to your youth pastor something positive your child has said about him or the youth group. Drop your pastor a note, e-mail, or social media message of support. Make a point of looking for ways – all year long – that you can offer “a word fitly spoken.”

3. Babysit
If your pastor and his wife have young children, offer to babysit so they can have a date night or go Christmas shopping for the kids. 

4. Gift cards
Perhaps along with the offer to babysit, you could give your pastor and his wife a gift card to a local restaurant. Gift cards to his favorite specialty store (outdoorsman stores, music stores, etc.), a Christian retailer, or one of his favorite online stores (or a more general site like Amazon if you’re not sure of his preferences) make great tokens of appreciation, too.

5. Honorary offerings
Is there a certain missionary or mission project that’s near and dear to your pastor’s heart? A crisis pregnancy center? A church plant he’d like to support? What about donating Gideon Bibles? Put out the word to the congregation, take up a special offering (or simply give as an individual), and make a donation in your pastor’s name.

6. Make sure his needs are met.
Your pastors shouldn’t be living like televangelists, but they shouldn’t be struggling to survive, either. Surprisingly, many people have unbiblical opinions about pastors’ salaries, from the notion that anyone in any kind of ministry should be doing it for free, to the downright evil concept of keeping the pastor near the poverty level to make sure he stays humble (yes, really). The Bible says pastors have a right to make their living from preaching the gospel, and that a workman is worthy of his hire. Check with your church’s finance and/or personnel committee. Is your pastor making an appropriate salary? Are his housing and insurance needs being met? Is he receiving adequate vacation and sick days? If not, see what you can do to help rectify the situation.

7. Conferences
There are lots of fantabulous Christian conferences out there that your pastor would probably love to attend, but it’s not in the church budget and he can’t afford it, personally. Find out his favorite or choose a great one (make sure you vet the speakers first to make sure they’re doctrinally sound), take up a special offering, and send him there, all expenses paid (conference admission and fees, travel, meals, lodging, and some extra “walking around money” for purchasing books, gifts, souvenirs, etc.).

8. Volunteer
One of the things that can be stressful for pastors is empty positions that need godly people to fill them. Volunteer to teach that Sunday School class, play the piano at the nursing home, help chaperone the youth trip, work in the nursery, get trained and run the sound board. Find out where you’re needed at your church and jump in and serve.

9. Help out around the house.
Pastors have those “fix it” needs around the house just like everybody else does. Are you good at repairing cars, fixing roofs, mowing grass, maintaining air conditioning units, cooking meals, or another special skill? Save your pastor some time, money, and effort by putting your experience to work for him at his home. 

10. Set the example of a healthy church member.
What could be more encouraging to a pastor than biblically healthy church members? Study your Bible. Be faithful in your church attendance. Pray for your pastor and the church. Serve where you’re needed. Don’t complain or criticize your pastor and others over petty matters. Avoid controversies and personality conflicts, and be a peacemaker. Walk in humility and selflessness, and give glory to God. Show appreciation for your pastors by setting a godly example for other church members and encouraging them to do the same. 

💥Bonus!  💥 Get on social media, e-mail, or the phone and share this article around so your pastors don’t have to!

What are some other good ways we can show appreciation for,
and encourage, our pastors?

Throwback Thursday ~ Rock Your Role: Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian

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Originally published November 13, 2015

Rock Your Role is a series examining the “go to” and hot button Scriptures that relate to and help us understand our role as women in the church.
Don’t forget to prayerfully consider our
three key questions 
as you read.

she di int

How can you say women aren’t to preach to, teach, or hold authority over men in the church? What about Deborah, Esther, Huldah, Phoebe, Priscilla, and the women at Jesus’ tomb? Didn’t they all preach to men, teach them, or hold authority over them?

That’s one of the arguments often put forth by people who reject what God’s word plainly says about the biblical role of women in the church. And the short answer is very simple: Yes and no, and so what?

But maybe a longer answer would be better.

First of all, there’s a proper way and an improper way to understand Scripture. We want to make sure we understand Scripture the proper way. When we look to Scripture to find out how we should behave – what we should do and not do – we do not look first, or primarily, at the biographies of people in the Bible and what they did or didn’t do, and model ourselves after them.

Broadly speaking, there are two main types of Scripture: descriptive and prescriptive. Descriptive passages describe something that happened: Noah built an ark. Esther became queen. Paul got shipwrecked. These passages simply tell us what happened to somebody. Prescriptive passages are commands or statements to obey. Don’t lie. Share the gospel. Forgive others.

If we wanted to know how to have a godly marriage, for example, we would look at passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7, and Exodus 20:14,17. These are all passages that clearly tell us what to do and what not to do in order to have a godly marriage.

What we would not do is look at David’s and Solomon’s lives and conclude that polygamy is God’s design for marriage. We would not read about Hosea and assume that God wants Christian men to marry prostitutes. We would not read the story of the woman at the well and think that being married five times and then shacking up with number six is OK with Jesus.

And when looking for instruction about the role of women in the church, we look to clear, prescriptive passages which tell us what to do and what not to do, not descriptive passages about various women in the Bible.

Descriptive passages may support, but never trump, the clear instruction of prescriptive passages.

But just for funzies, let’s take a quick look at these ladies so often trotted out in defense of Christian women disobeying Scripture. (If you’re unclear as to what God’s word says about women’s role in the church, you might want to check out this article and this article before reading further.)

Deborah, Huldah, and Esther:

The very first thing we need to remember about these ladies is that they were under the old (Mosaic) covenant of the Old Testament, not the new (grace) covenant of the New Testament. There are a lot of things about the old covenant that no longer apply to Christians in the New Testament because Christ fulfilled the law of the old covenant (Bacon and poly-cotton blends, anyone?). Likewise, there are things about the new covenant that did not apply under the old covenant (The church? Evangelism? Nowhere to be found in the Old Testament), or for which there are no reasonable precedents in the Old Testament because the church is a new covenant institution.

None of these women were pastors. None taught men the Scriptures in the church (or even temple) setting. None assumed authority over men in the church (or even the temple).

Deborah was a judge. She decided disputes between Israelites and discussed with Barak battle instructions that God had already revealed to him. When Barak refused to stand up and fight like a man, God used Deborah, a woman, to show him that another woman, Jael, would get the glory for killing Sisera. In a patriarchal society a woman in leadership and a female war hero would not have been seen by men or women as a positive thing, but rather as shaming men who were too cowardly to step up, lead, and protect their women and children.

Huldah was a prophetess. She was sent for during the reign of Josiah when the temple was being repaired and the priests hadn’t even been able to find the book of the law for years. Again, what does it say about the spiritual condition of the most important men in the country – the king and the high priest – when they, in a highly patriarchal society, have to humble themselves and seek out a woman to tell them what God says? Huldah repeated to them what God had told her, and that was it. Since we now have God’s written word and He no longer speaks through direct revelation this way, there is no parallel between Huldah and New Testament women preaching, teaching, and exercising authority.

Esther, under threat of death, couldn’t even talk to her own husband without his permission, so I’m not really sure why people seem to think she exercised any authority over men. In fact, the writer of the book of Esther several times makes a point of saying how obedient she was to Mordecai. Esther wasn’t a spiritual leader, she was a queen. The word “God” isn’t even mentioned in her book, and she certainly didn’t instruct anybody in the Scriptures. Esther is probably one of the weakest examples you could come up with as support for women preaching, teaching, or exercising authority in the church.

The Women at Jesus’ Tomb, Priscilla, and Phoebe

The women at Jesus’ tomb were sort of Old Testament-ish, too, if you think about it. The church didn’t yet exist when they saw Jesus resurrected and ran back to tell the disciples about it. Still, this was not preaching, teaching, or holding authority over the disciples even in a non-church setting. This was a) giving eyewitness testimony of what they had seen and b) carrying a message from Jesus to the disciples. There was no commentary or instruction from the women to the disciples, just a report on what they had seen and a message of where Jesus and the disciples would meet up. And, really, don’t people usually see “messenger boys” (or girls) as subservient to the people they’re carrying messages between?

Priscilla (or Prisca) might be the best known Christian woman in the church era of the New Testament. When people try to use her as an argument for female preachers, teachers, and authority, they usually go to Acts 18:26 which says that she and her husband took Apollos aside and fully explained the gospel to him. This was a private meeting among the three of them, likely in their home over a meal or other casual circumstances, not preaching or teaching in the church. Additionally, the Bible makes absolutely no mention of how much, if any, of the actual “explaining” Priscilla did. It’s quite possible she just sat by as Aquila did the majority of the explaining and contributed only here and there or when Aquila forgot something.

Phoebe is mentioned once in the New Testament, in Romans 16:1-2. Paul commends her to the church at Rome and asks them to help her out because she has been a good servant of the church at Cenchreae. That the word “servant” can also be translated as “deaconess” in no way indicates that Phoebe (or Priscilla or any of the other women mentioned in Romans 16) preached to or taught men or exercised authority over men, despite the fact that male deacons today might do such things. The Greek word diakonos simply means “servant.” Acts 6:1-6 gives us a glimpse at some of the services the early deacons likely provided- “waiting tables” and meeting the physical needs of the believers. The apostles even drew a distinction between their preaching of the word and the need for others to minister to the material needs of the people.

And one more thing about Priscilla, Phoebe, and the other women of Romans 16: Who – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – wrote the book of Romans? Paul. Who – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – wrote 1 Timothy 2:11-15? Paul. Would the Holy Spirit have led Paul in Romans 16 to praise women who were rebelling against His word in 1 Timothy 2? Have you ever known God, anywhere in Scripture, to praise people who unrepentantly break His word? Would it make any sense, logically, for Paul to praise in Romans 16 women who were habitually and rebelliously disobeying his instructions in 1 Timothy 2?

God does not contradict Himself. God’s word does not contradict itself. If He gives us an explicit command, biographical details of a Bible character’s life do not override that command, and we are to obey it.

While there are numerous, important ways God wants Christian women to serve Him in the church, the Bible is clear that we are not to preach to or teach men or exercise authority over men in the assembly of believers. We are to follow in the footsteps of godly women like Esther, Priscilla, and all the others by humbly submitting to His word and obeying it.

Mark: Lesson 22

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21

Mark 14:53-72

And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.


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. Briefly review lesson 21 (link above) for context.

2. List the various people and groups named in verses 53-55 who assembled to hear testimony against Jesus. Describe the ideas, people, or positions these people/groups represented, and why each of them might have wanted Jesus killed (55). Consider past interactions Jesus had with them (you might want to review previous lessons to refresh your memory) as well as the religiopolitical climate of the day.

3. Was the Council (Sanhedrin) seeking honest, accurate testimony about Jesus so they could arrive at a just verdict about Him? (55) What kind of testimony did they receive? (55-57,59) What would the Council’s verdict about Jesus have been if they had not been driven by an agenda and had received honest testimony? (55) Compare verse 58 with John 2:18-22. What did Jesus mean by this statement, and how were the “lie-witnesses” trying to twist His words?

4. In a few sentences, describe the general way Jesus was treated by the Council, witnesses, and others present in verses 53-65. How did Jesus react and respond? (60-62) Why didn’t Jesus defend Himself when verbally (56-60) and physically (65) attacked? What was Jesus’ ultimate mission and how might defending Himself have distracted Himself and others from that mission?

5. Compare the way Jesus was treated in verses 53-65 with these passages. What kind of treatment from unbelievers can followers of Jesus expect? Why? Word of Faith heresy teaches that those who have enough faith will receive wealth, adulation, and success, and that if you experience problems or suffering in your life, it’s because you don’t have enough faith. How does the suffering the perfectly faithful Jesus experienced (and the passages about Jesus’ followers suffering) blow that false teaching out of the water?

6. Jesus said, in Luke 6:45, “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.” List some of the “evil treasures” (contempt, hatred, etc.) that came out in the words and actions of the “evil people” in verses 53-65. How did Jesus demonstrate the following attributes (and others you might observe) in this passage: longsuffering, love, meekness, mercy, self-control? Read Matthew 5:43-48. How did Jesus “practice what He preached” in verses 53-65?

7. Describe in your own words what’s going on with Peter in this passage. (54, 66-72) Compare this scene with Peter to Jesus’ earlier prophecy about this event in 14:27-31. How does this demonstrate Jesus’ omniscience, deity, and office of Prophet? Observe this fulfilled prophecy in light of what Jesus was ordered to do at the end of verse 65.

8. How does Peter keep physical/geographical distance between himself and Jesus in verses 54, 66, 68? As the moments go by, is Peter getting (physically) closer to Jesus or farther away from Him? How does Peter distance himself relationally from Jesus in verses 68, 70, 71? As the evening passes, is Peter drawing closer to Jesus, relationally, or increasingly distancing himself? How does Peter’s physical proximity to Jesus mirror his relational proximity to Jesus?

9. Considering what was simultaneously happening to Jesus (53-65), why did Peter deny knowing Jesus? What might he have been afraid would happen to him if he admitted being Jesus’ disciple? What went through Peter’s heart and mind when the rooster crowed the second time? (72) Have you ever – maybe more subtly – denied knowing Jesus or hidden the fact that you were a Christian? Why? What were you afraid would happen? Was this a good reason to conceal your relationship with Christ or distance yourself from Him? Have you repented of this?

10. Compare 14:27-31 and 54, 66-72 in light of what Jesus said in 14:38: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” How was Peter’s spirit willing in the earlier passage and his flesh weak in the latter passage?

11. As Mark is “God’s good news for the Gentiles,” imagine you’re a first century Gentile reading today’s passage. What impression does this passage give you of Peter? The Jewish rulers? The way Jesus responded to persecution and abandonment by His own people? How might the Gentile perception of the way the Jews – including Jesus’ own disciples – treated Jesus at His trials and crucifixion have had an impact on the first century church (made up of both Jews and Gentiles)?


Homework

Meditate on the way Jesus responded to persecution and mistreatment in verses 53-65. Recall an incident from your own life in which you were persecuted or mistreated by others. List the ways you responded in the same way Jesus did. List the ways you responded that were not Christlike. Is it always necessary, and godly, to defend yourself against attack?


Suggested Memory Verse

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Mark 14:38

Josh Buice – Justin Peters Interview

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(Photos courtesy of twitter)

One of my favorite blogs is pastor Josh Buice’s Delivered by Grace. Josh is pastor of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church in Douglasville, Georgia, near Atlanta, and also coordinates the annual G3 Conference (gospel, grace, and glory) there. I’d highly recommend anything Josh is in charge of, so read the blog, go to the conference, and visit his church next time you’re in the area.

Josh recently interviewed another favorite of mine, Justin Peters. Justin is perhaps best known for his teaching and discernment ministry exposing the Word of Faith movement. You’ll definitely want to visit Justin’s web site to read his amazing testimony and view an excerpt from his discernment seminar.

In the interview, Justin touched on his testimony, discussed the Word of Faith movement, talked about false teachers Todd White, Joseph Prince, Beth Moore (more information here, including Josh’s article referred to in the interview and more from Justin on Beth), and Joyce Meyer, and explained the problems with heavenly tourism books and movies like Heaven Is for Real. The interview is both informative and edifying, and I encourage you to give it a listen.

Click Here to Listen

 

The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it

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I am struggling with reading the Word. I find myself having to drag myself to it to dedicate time to read it, struggling against doing other things instead. I love the Lord with all my heart. I love His Word, LOVE everything about the Bible. I know that love for God’s word and hunger for it is one of the marks of salvation. I want to hunger for reading it like a baby hungers for milk. I want that passion for His word.

Please don’t tell me to check my salvation as I daily obsess about this to the point where my sister in Christ said I have an OCD about this. I hear about false converts and it scares me. An elder told me that you can do the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit and I thought that once I was saved I could not do that, that was the sin of unbelief. Now, I am sometimes scared to even think about the Holy Spirit, because what if I do that! Please take me Lord, before I would do that! Please help me. 

This question from a friend of my Facebook page just reached through the screen and clutched at my heart. I’ve been right where this sister is now, and I know many of you have been there as well. If you would, take a moment to pray for her and any other Christian you know who’s struggling with this kind of anxiety in her walk.

The Unpardonable Sin
You cannot commit the unpardonable sin. No one living today can commit that sin. I don’t mean to sound harsh, as we all make mistakes, but I am appalled at your elder’s ignorance on this issue and what he said to you. It’s a very common question, and he should at least know a simple answer to it. I’ve covered it here: What is the unpardonable sin?

Check your salvation?
There is no reason for me to tell you to check your salvation, and it never entered my mind to do so. Lost people don’t ask God to take their lives lest they commit the unpardonable sin or worry about whether or not they hunger enough for God’s Word. Only saved people think like that, because saved people are new creations in Christ, with the mind of Christ, who desire to please Christ. Lost people can’t even understand the things of God because these things are revealed by the Holy Spirit, which they don’t have.

I would really encourage you to work through the book of 1 John (I’ve written a study on it if you’d find that helpful). John wrote this epistle to reassure believers. As he says in 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Getting over the “hump” of reticence.
What you describe about dragging yourself to do your Bible study but then loving the Word once you get over that hump of reticence is absolutely, without a doubt, one hundred per cent normal. Pastors feel that way. Elders feel that way. Bible teachers feel that way. Every Christian, including me, feels that way at least sometimes. Usually several times a week for me.

That feeling does not mean you’re not hungering for the Word or that you don’t have a passion for it. Indeed, if you weren’t hungering for the Word with such a passion, you wouldn’t be so up in arms about feeling tempted to do something besides reading your Bible.

That feeling is not something lacking in your desire for the Word. That feeling is Satan tempting you to do anything rather than study your Bible. And the way you combat that temptation? You pray through it, pick up your Bible, and start reading – regardless of how you feel about it. Obedience is hard sometimes. But when you grit your teeth against that temptation and obey God anyway, that is a precious offering to the Lord. He doesn’t require that you feel all hearts and flower-y while you’re doing it. That’s you putting that pressure on yourself. This is battle. Fight. You obey and let God worry about your feelings.

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Matthew 21:28-31a

Peace be unto you.
God did not save you in order for you to spend your life in a state of fear and anxiety. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Forever starts the moment you’re saved. God wants you to enjoy spending time with Him in this life just as much as He wants you to in the next.

Christ is the Prince of Peace and His desire is for you to be at peace with Him. He knows you inside and out and He still delights in you. It is safe to let go, relax, and rest in His love and delight. He is not going to let go of you. Here are a few Scriptures that may bring you some comfort and reassurance. Believe them. Trust Him. He loves you. Let that sink in and simply love Him back.

For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory;
let them sing for joy on their beds.
Psalm 149:4-5


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.