A TULIP Repost: Mary Knew Where To Sit

Originally published September 17, 2018:

Learning

I know you’ve heard this Bible story a million times. Every women’s ministry gets to it eventually — usually with warnings against becoming like Martha.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” ~~Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

But I’m not bringing the story up today to scold you if you’re an overly diligent housekeeper or pat you on the back if you neglect your house in favor of studying your Bible. Again, you’ve heard both those applications a million times, and you’re certainly not interested in hearing them from me. Furthermore, I’m equally not interested in writing about them!

But I thought about this passage in the context of our painfully evident preoccupation with secondary matters. Most of those matters desperately require attention, just as managing a household requires attention. Longtime readers undoubtedly know that I believe it’s absolutely crucial to examine trends within evangelicalism that seriously damage the Church and distort people’s understanding of Who Christ is.

All the issues we look at on this blog, from the problems with false teachers to the Social Justice Movement, are as important as cleaning the bathroom and serving nutritious meals. Neglecting them causes problems that usually harm us spiritually. Poor Martha only wanted to attend her legitimate responsibilities, just as Christians who address hot-button topics only want to attend to legitimate concerns.

But sometimes we get so caught up in dealing with secondary matters that we obscure the Lord from our conversation.  When that happens, we need the same rebuke that the Lord gave Martha.

If we’re too busy with whatever issue dominates our thinking to open our Bibles and enjoy God’s revelation of Himself, we’ve made a lesser choice. Martha was, after all, giving her all to serve Jesus because she genuinely loved Him, but Mary chose to sit at His feet and soak in His teaching.

I don’t want you to neglect the issues that cause trouble in the Church today. But neither do I want those matters to end up distracting you  from the Lord Himself. Mary knew where to sit. Do you?

Will I Have An Occasional Glass Of Wine?

If you want a lively debate with other Christians, just mention alcohol! You’ll get impassioned responses from people on all sides of the issue, and you may even damage one or two of your friendships in the process (I say that mostly in jest).

Alcohol consumption among Christians has always required a careful reading of Scripture and an understanding of Christian liberty in the light of exhortations towards temperance. It’s a sensitive topic, requiring extensive study coupled with prayer for wisdom to apply God’s Word accurately and lovingly. Therefore, this small blog post can’t thoroughly examine the matter.

Truth be told, I really don’t want to blog about alcohol. But we can’t work through Titus 2:3-5 unless we deal with Paul’s command to older women women regarding this topic.

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Why I’d Rather Not Blog About Matt Chandler And His Online Conversations

Firstly, Matt Chandler has never been more than an occasional blip on my discernment radar. I’ve vaguely been aware that he has some questionable theology, so I’ve kept him at arm’s length. But, as I’ve said before, I no longer have time nor energy to research all the celebrity pastors and teachers who populate the evangelical landscape. So in that respect, I really don’t care about the online conversations with a woman that led to him stepping down from his ministry position. So much about that situation remains unclear at this point that I just don’t feel knowledge enough to formulate an opinion. Actually, I see no valid reason for me to formulate an opinion.

My invalid reason for formulating an opinion would be to reinstate my discernment blogger status. My article on God’s wrath didn’t attract many readers, even though such articles on Christian doctrine develop discernment much more effectively than articles exposing false teachers and evangelical celebrities. If I’d dig up some juicy dirt on Matt Chandler and add in some speculation, I’d draw attention.

This matter ties in with my ongoing examination of Titus 2:3-5:

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Is God Too Loving To Display Wrath?

Many people distinguish between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, almost as if He was two different Beings. According to their theology, the New Testament version of God has evidently reformed His wrathful ways, becoming entirely loving to the point of indulging human sins. Anyone who suggests that God still expresses wrath is, as a reader of this blog recently stated, toxic.

Certainly, we’d all prefer to focus on God’s love. I would! Nobody really takes pleasure in the idea that they anger God when they sin against Him, especially if He reserved the right to unleash His anger in a day of final judgment. So we isolate His love and mercy, convincing ourselves that He’s put all thoughts of wrath behind Him. Thus we snuggle into a nice, comfortable view of God that insulates us from all fear of judgment. As Andy Stanley famously said, we can “unhitch from the Old Testament.”

Such “unhitching” may be convenient, but it has an arrogance about it that we ought to acknowledge. Essentially, discarding the possibility of God’s wrath tacitly declares that we have authority to determine His nature and, consequently, His behavior toward us. As we shape Him into what we think He should be, we make Him manageable and keep ourselves in control of our relationship with Him.

More to the point, does the New Testament really annul the wrath of God? A thorough reading of the New Testament quickly puts that notion to rest — especially once you get to Revelation and read about the judgments that God will pour out during the Tribulation. I’ll not cover that section of the Bible right now. Instead, let me go to a passage in Romans about God’s love in saving us from His wrath.

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Leopard Print Mini Skirts On 75-Year-Old Women Don’t Exactly Depict Reverence

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, ~~Titus 2:3 (NASB95)

My mom dated a few men after Daddy died, which was definitely understandable. She was only 49 when she began dating — much too young to forget about romance. My sister and I correctly sensed that the first one didn’t like children, which was undoubtedly why we didn’t like him.

But we absolutely adored his mother! At age 75, she had flaming red hair, which she styled in one of the trendy short cuts so popular in 1965. I still remember her leopard print mini skirt and her thigh high brown leather boots. Why couldn’t our own grandmother dress like that? Best of all, she shared our enthusiasm for the Beatles! Mom taught us the word “flamboyant,” using it to describe her. And I so hoped that I would be as flamboyant when I got that old.

That lady amused us. We’d laugh at her obvious attempts to appear young and with it, aware of the incongruity between her age and her demeanor. As much as we delighted in her mini skirts and embrace of our music, something deep down told us that she wasn’t behaving with the dignity befitting an elderly woman.

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As Long As It Doesn’t Contradict Scripture, Can’t These Thoughts Be God Speaking?

Modern evangelicals seem desperate to believe that God speaks to them personally. The moment anybody challenges that possibility, hackles rise, claws come out and defensive arguments commence. A mere 50 years ago, claiming to receive messages from God signaled mental illness, but today those of us who don’t believe God speaks outside of Scripture are considered unbalanced by our brothers and sisters in Christ.

How can we determine whom to marry, which job to take or what car to buy unless the Lord speaks to us? After all, He spoke to Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and Paul. We have the same Holy Spirit that they did, making it perfectly reasonable to assume that He can also speak directly to us. We can measure our thoughts, impressions, dreams and/or visions against Scripture. If they’re from God, His Word will confirm it. Right?

Before we discuss the problems with interpreting our experiences as messages from God, I’d like to relay an actual story. I personally knew the couple involved. but obviously need to hide their identities. The woman has given me permission to share their story.

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Why Me?

Years ago, a member of my family suffered a serious injury. Almost immediately, she asked the rhetorical question, “What did I do to deserve this?” Her question is a typical reaction to calamity.

Over the past few years, I’ve been asking the same question, but in a completely different context. As the Holy Spirit has (finally) convinced me that I played absolutely no part in my salvation, I’ve been asking, “Why me? Why would He choose someone as stubborn and prideful as me?” As I look at myself, I simply can’t find any logical reason that He would want me.

People have suggested that my disability gives God opportunity to display His glory, which is true on one level. They point to my writing abilities as their evidence that the Lord uses me, in my disability, to compose essays that direct others to Him. They mention my faith. How remarkable, they gush, that I trust in His goodness as I sit in this wheelchair! They really believe God brought me to salvation because my cheerful attitude in the face of adversity glorifies Him.

And maybe it does — on occasion.

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Sound Love Isn’t For The Faint Of Heart

More and more, evangelicals resist any correction of sin or exhortation to holiness, condemning such things as unloving. They’ve allowed the world to redefine love as unquestioning affirmation of sinful desires and behaviors, usually twisting Scripture to accommodate a weakened stance toward sin. Don’t believe me? Just try posting “Abortion is wrong” on social media and see how many professing Christians call you unloving and intolerant. Your head will spin!

Titus 2:2 encourages older men to be sound in doctrine, love and perseverance. The following verse indicates that God would have older women emulate these qualities, which gives me reason to discuss them in a blog designed specifically for women. Last week we talked about sound doctrine, so I want to now tum our attention to the idea of having soundness in love. I want to talk about this matter precisely because secular society exerts tremendous pressure on Christians to distort Biblical love into something that panders to the flesh. If soundness in love was important in First Century Crete, how much more important is it in 21st Century America?

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Castle Ruins And Doctrine

Conway Castle in North Wales, 1985

I sat in the restaurant, munching my fish and chips. Almost out of nowhere, my friend complained, “Our church doesn’t teach enough doctrine.”

His remark startled me. I wasn’t so much startled because he said it for no apparent reason (we had been talking about the Welsh castle we’d visited earlier that day) as I was that he considered doctrine to have any serious significance. Looking back, I find it rather pathetic that I thought such a thing only a few weeks before graduating from a three-month Bible College (which incidentally didn’t teach much doctrine either), but in 1985 I believed that spiritual experiences were more important than dry theology. Being in a Charismatic school only reinforced my attitude.

The Lord has obviously corrected my erroneous thinking since that lunch in Wales. He’s brought me to a place of valuing sound doctrine as the very basis of a vibrant relationship with Christ. If we take another look at Titus 2:2-6, we’ll see that sound doctrine (or being sound in faith) is an important element of Christian maturity.

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so the word of God will not be dishonored.

Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us. ~~Titus 2:1-8 (NASB95)

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Self-Control: Yes, Even In 2022!

Rioting seems commonplace these days. Whenever a group of people doesn’t get its way, you can count on mass protests that usually involve violence. On social media, rage is a dominant theme, and for decades psychologists have encouraged us to vent our emotions.

Meanwhile, the thought of saving sex for marriage (and then being faithful to one’s spouse) is met with incredulous stares and outright ridicule. In Western culture, people now expect to indulge in whatever pleasure they choose without repercussions. As we exit Pride Month and watch the meltdown over Roe v Wade being overturned, we can’t avoid seeing how desperately people want to enjoy sexual pleasure without any restraint. I still remember my ex-boyfriend begging me, “Let’s lose our self-control.”

To which, incidentally, I answered, “Let’s not.” But I digress.

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