Each morning Daddy struggled to put on my leg braces. In an effort to move my leg into position, my muscles would tense to the point of becoming rigid and all but impossible for him to get into the brace. When I explained that I just wanted to help, he’d bellow, “Quit helping me — you’re making it harder!” My seven-year-old mind reeled with confusion and hurt.
Then I’d be at the school for handicapped children, working on an arithmetic problem or an art project. The volunteer assisting me, out of the kindness of her heart (or maybe impatience to get the job done), would do just a little something that I could have done myself. Invariably, Mrs, G. (one of the aides that took care of our physical needs) would see the infraction and give me a big scolding for accepting unnecessary help.
So what was a seven-year-old to do? Should I obey Daddy or Mrs. G.? Was I supposed to relax and let able-bodied adults take over, or was I supposed to do whatever I could? I loved and wanted to please both these adults, and yet carrying over the principles one taught me seemed to violate the principles that the other taught. I tried to be obedient, but it was genuinely difficult to discern how they wanted me to behave.The two scenarios happened repeatedly, and neither adult had the slightest idea that I found their instructions contradictory.
At that age, I hadn’t yet been introduced to the concept of context.
But I am not writing about my childhood angst for the purpose of talking about myself, Rather, I want to use my experience to illustrate the importance of understanding things within their appropriate context. As adults, we chuckle at my childhood dilemma because we see that trying to help Daddy with my braces was vastly different from letting volunteers do things that Mrs. G. knew I needed to do for myself. Context should have shown me how to respond in each situation.
Michelle Lesley and Amy Spreeman host A Word Fitly Spoken, which is definitely my favorite Christian podcast for women. Every episode makes me think Biblically about the topics they cover, even on those rare occasions when I disagree with them. Ladies, even if podcasts aren’t your thing, please make an exception for this program. I promise that the Lord will minister to you through them!
A recent episode particularly challenged me regarding my struggle over how to warn people about false teachers and dangerous “Christian” practices within evangelical circles. The graphic below this paragraph contains a link to the episode in its tittle, and I encourage you to give it a listen.
In this episode, Michelle made the point that, no matter how nicely you try to call out error, people will always accuse you of being snarky, judgmental or hateful. She explained that many of her critics say that they agree with her statements, but object to her tone. When she traces their social media feeds, however, she often discovers that they actually disagree with her! She made the conclusion that they would find fault with her no matter how gently she makes her case.
Obviously, Christians must be as respectful as possible in confronting error. The Bible instructs us to present truth gently and with humility (1 Peter3:15). Being intentionally rude and offensive certainly doesn’t fails to display a Christlike character.
Beatrix Potter is best known for her children’s book, The Taleof Peter Rabbit. Her story is heartwarming, exquisitely illustrated with the author’s own water color paintings. and gently moralistic (though it failed to deter my childhood disobedience). But Beatrix Potter wrote several other books, all of which lined my sister’s bookshelf — and probably still do. The collection includes The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, which you can read here at no cost. It only takes a few minutes to read, unless you linger over the pictures. This article will make a lot more sense if you’ll read the story,
Jemima Puddle-Duck fell into temptation, didn’t she? Trusting a fox who only wanted to dine on her unhatched eggs, she made a series of very stupid decisions. Temptation to get what she wanted (in a way that seemed easy and convenient) blinded her to an obvious danger. And even the dogs who rescued her from the fox ended up devouring her precious eggs. Her sin of inattention kept her from the one desire of her heart.
Reading The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck reminded me of a Scripture John and I recently read during our morning devotions together.
Between Covid with all its accompanying ramifications and the effects of surrendering Afghanistan to the Taliban, things don’t look particularly rosy for Christians in 2021. Factor in the demands of the LBGTQ community and the Woke push toward Socialism, and it becomes obvious that Christians who stand on God’s Word must expect some level of persecution. As a result, many of us wonder how we’ll hold up under such intense affliction.
Maybe we should instead wonder what attitude the Lord wants us to take in the face of suffering for Him. Perhaps we should ask how He wants us to conduct ourselves in the midst of difficult circumstances. As we ask such questions, we need to go straight to Scripture. The epistle of 1 Peter, especially, offers tremendous insight into the stance God calls us to take when suffering — and specifically suffering for Christ — enters our lives.
Time doesn’t allow us to go through all five chapters of 1 Peter today, but we can observe a couple key points from Chapters 1 and 2. These points provide the framework for the rest of Peter’s instructions.
If you’re a mom sending your child off to college, undoubtedly you’re worried about him or her being pressured to abandon Scriptural values in favor of philosophies that seem more enlightened and scientific. If you’re a college student, you may wonder if you’ll be able to withstand the constant assaults on Christianity. Even many Christian schools offer liberal doctrine that draws people away from sound Biblical teaching.
I well understand those concerns. In fact, I believe they’re valid. Even when I went through college in the 1970s, I struggled to maintain my Biblical views in the face of ideological challenges. The second semester of my sophomore year, in particular, caused me tremendous spiritual turmoil when I took both a philosophy class and a psychology class. Thankfully, Paul’s counsel to the Colossians served as my anchor during the semester. As far as I’m concerned, every college student should make Colossians 2:8 her motto.
Years ago (before Facebook, Twitter or blogging existed), I used to send out group emails in which I addressed a variety of Christian topics. At one point I warned against a popular evangelism and discipleship program that distorted the Gospel so horribly that non-Christian groups were adapting it to advance their false teachings.
As you can imagine, I received tremendous pushback from many of my friends. The email that made the greatest impression on me came from a dad of one of my close girlfriends. He very forcefully defended the program, but not with the Word of God. Instead, he praised it because it emphasized God’s love and never mentioned His wrath. This an complained that he had heard fire and brimstone preaching all his life, and therefore he appreciated teaching that excluded all such negativity.
I felt disappointed by that man’s rejection of balanced Biblical teaching. But the email he sent reminded me that even professing Christians can fashion God into their ideas of how He should conduct Himself. And I admit that I’d prefer God to lay aside His wrath and concentrate on making me happy and comfortable. I suspect you share my preference. After all, most of us equate love with happiness and comfort rather than with wrath, don’t we?
In my last essay, I wrote about the Father’s love for us, basing my thoughts on John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB95)
It’s indeed a beautiful verse — arguably the most beloved verse in the entire Bible. How wonderful that the Father loves us so profoundly that He sacrificed His only begotten Son to keep us from perishing! Ironically, we can get so caught up in the splendor of this verse that we forget to ask ourselves some questions about it. Those questions need to be asked and answered if we want to really see the beauty of the Father’s love.
Typically, Christians connect salvation exclusively with Jesus. That connection makes perfect sense because Jesus is indeed our one and only Savior. Revelation 5:11-14 depicts Him as the object of angelic worship in heaven, and Colossians 1:13-23 unmistakably teaches that the entirety of creation revolves around Him because of His work on the cross. We rightly exalt Him for taking our sin upon Himself and applying His righteousness to us. As the old hymn says, “Hallelujah — what a Savior!”
Jesus, however, didn’t effect our salvation independently of the other two Members of the Trinity. Therefore, we ought to spend some time thinking together about the Father and the Holy Spirit in Their parts of saving us. So let’s begin by focusing on God the Father, shall we?
Most of us can quote John 3:16 by heart, properly understanding its message that Jesus died for us. We may have even recognized God the Father in these treasured words:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB95)
Usually we read this verse with the emphasis on the Father’s love for us, which is certainly the emphasis Jesus intended when He spoke those words to Nicodemus. Love motivated the Father to provide His only begotten Son in order to atone for sin, and we have every reason to praise the Father for such a powerful demonstration of love. If anything, this verse illuminates the character of the Father, showing us the amazing depth and vastness of His love! How tragic it would be to gloss over this point!
Yet it would be equally tragic to stop at this point.
Although my back is a great deal better than it has been since I fractured it six months ago, I still spend a few days in bed each week. On those days, I watch YouTube videos streamed through our DVD player. (Okay, I also watch Animal Planet’s Putbulls and Parolees, but that has nothing to do with this blog post). This weekend (because Pitbulls and Parolees wasn’t on), I watched several videos from a Reformed ministry that seriously challenged my thinking in regard to two important topics: eschatology and the content of what women should teach other women.
The video on eschatology lead to another video of a sermon on the subject. My head is spinning from that one, and it will take a long time for me to process it. Just when I thought I’d landed on a position, too! Please don’t expect me to blog on eschatology any time soon — I have so much more to study on the matter before I attempt to write about it. Jesus will return to save His people and judge unbelievers. I stand on that promise without being properly educated on the particulars.
The video on women’s ministry also stretched me, but I feel far less confused as to where I agree and disagree with the lady being interviewed. The points that bothered me need to be considered, of course, but even she acknowledged that her position leaving room for debate. Gotta respect her for the humility to admit that possibility!
She began at the same foundation as I do: Scripture allows women to teach women, but not to teach men. Hallelujah — absolute solidarity on that point! And we draw from the same Biblical passage to substantiate the practice of women teaching women.
At our wedding, we had a friend read the apostle Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives:
22 Wives, subject yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands also ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are parts of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, as for you individually, each husband is to love his own wife the same as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. ~~Ephesians 5:22-33 (NASB)
The instructions to husbands always seemed straightforward and easy to understand, but I struggled with verse 24. Sure, I got that the Lord commands me to submit to John. But why did He give the Church as a model? From what I could see, the visible church has been bedraggled and rebellious throughout church history, beginning with the congregations in Corinth and Galatia. Certainly, the visible church in the 21st Century exhibits precious little obedience to Christ, preferring to acquiesce to worldliness!
So how can I pattern submission to my husband after the visible church?
It doesn’t seem possible that anyone who regularly reads The Outspoken TULIP would need an introduction to Michelle Lesley and her blog. Of all the women bloggers in Reformed circles, she is probably the best known. Celebrity status? Well, not quite. But hardly some obscure housewife with a meager following!
That said, I want to recommend MichelleLesley.com in this concluding article of my series on trustworthy women Bible teachers because she offers Biblical wisdom that few women receive. On the off-chance that you’ve actually never heard of her, I take pleasure in making her blog available to you.
I suspect most people regard Michelle as a discernment blogger because she frequently writes about popular evangelical teachers. In fact, just today she published an article evaluating Jen Wilkin, explaining her reasons for not recommending Wilkin. Over her years of blogging, Michelle has written about several teachers women should avoid. such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shrier, Lysa TerKeurst and Christine Caine. Michelle makes it clear that she doesn’t have time to research every teacher thoroughly (her primary ministries are to her husband and children), but she definitely documents her findings quite well. Her website includes a list of Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends, as well as a list of Recommended Bible Teachers.
Discernment is only one aspect of Michelle’s online ministry, however. Her overarching goal is to disciple women. She rightly asserts that discernment is just one element of Christian discipleship, not an end in itself. Therefore her blog covers a wide range of subjects, all related to the three umbrella areas of discernment (which I’ve already discussed), church involvement and Bible Study.