Growing up in the 1960s, I had exposure to many occult and New Age influences. My mom, although she in some respects had turned away from her Christian Science upbringing, introduced me and my sister to horoscopes, Ouija boards and yoga. The liberal Presbyterian church (PCUSA, of course) encouraged my fascination with occult and paranormal phenomena. On a youth group ski trip the pastor’s daughter read our palms.
Very soon after that ski trip, the Lord graciously brought me to Himself, and within a few months He allowed people to confront my interest in astrology. Over the next few months He helped me renounce other forms of occult and New Age practices.
But readers of my Autobiography With Purpose series will recall that I attended Pentecostal and Charismatic churches for the first 31 years of my Christian life. True, after 18 years the Lord showed me that the sign gifts ceased when the Canon of Scripture was completed, but He let me remain in the church for several more years. Throughout those 31 years, I occasionally observed random incidents that reminded me of my occult past.
At the height of my embrace of Charismatic teaching, for instance, I read some books on inner healing to augment my ministry with Love In Action. One evening, as I poured over LeAnne Payne’s book, The Broken Image (which, just to be clear, I do not recommend), a close friend and co-worker came by my house to deliver stuff from the office. (I worked from home because the office was up two flights of stairs.) Instead of greeting him properly, I looked up from the book and complained, “A bunch of her stuff reminds me of the occult.”
As a single woman, I loved Paul’s instructions to husbands.
25Husbands, 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. ~~Ephesians 5:25-30 (NASB)
I dreamed of marrying a Prince Charming who would devote himself to me, laying aside his wants and needs in order to make me happy. I looked at Ephesians 5:25-30 and envisioned a husband who served me so lavishly that my submission to him would be effortless. In fact, I’d heard a few sermons and Bible Studies on marriage that promised as much. And I couldn’t wait for a Christian husband to love me as Christ loved the church!
By the time John proposed, I was 47, so I’d developed more realistic expectations of marriage. To my surprise, John took Ephesians 5:25 extremely seriously. Even now, as our 19th wedding anniversary is less than three months away, he recites that verse as if it was his singular mission in life. And I praise God for blessing me with a man who loves me so deeply,
But the Lord has convicted me of abusing John’s love. Even worse, He’s convicted me of twisting His command to husbands. In these convictions, I suspect that other wives also misconstrue God’s instructions to husbands in selfish ways.
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.
God allowed me to be one of the original signers of the Open Letter to Beth Moore a couple years ago, along with Amy Spreeman, Elizabeth Prata, Michelle Lesley and Susan Heck. I’d been familiar with Amy, Elizabeth and Michelle for a while, but I’d only heard about Susan a handful of times (probably through Michelle’s blog). At the time we circulated the Open Letter, I visited Susan’s With The Master website, hoping to find a blog. Disappointed that Susan isn’t a blogger, I didn’t have much interest in her. So I didn’t pursue her teaching.
I pretty much forgot about her for a couple years.
When I hurt my back this past December, I couldn’t read my Bible. For the first few months I watched YouTube sermons by R.C. Sproul. John MacArthur and others to get my Bible intake. But then I happened — by God’s providence — to catch Justin Peters’ April 12 interview with Susan Heck, in which he promoted her YouTube channel. What a wonderful blessing!
When people ask me about Beth Moore, I immediately refer them to Elizabeth Prata. In her blog, The End Time, Elizabeth has the most comprehensive collection of articles on Beth Moore that I have ever seen. A former investigative journalist, Elizabeth has carefully researched Moore from many different angles, and therefore has written and compiled critiques that cover her topic thoroughly. In my estimation, Elizabeth is the foremost authority on this false teacher.
But The End Time is about so much more than just Beth Moore. In addition to reporting on a variety of false teachers, Elizabeth also writes about Biblical prophesy and practical aspects of Christian living for women.
Elizabeth came to Christ relatively late in life (I believe she was in her 40’s), but she has grown in maturity remarkably fast. Her writing shows that maturity in both her theological knowledge and her tone. She is unapologetic in confronting error, as she should be! At the same time, she writes with grace and compassion toward women who find themselves caught in deception. To top it all off, she displays beautiful humility in her willingness to receive correction.
Several years ago, I stumbled across a blog that (to my knowledge) doesn’t get as much recognition as it deserves. Yet the lady who writes it consistently offers Biblical wisdom and discernment that challenges me to examine myself before the Lord. So I want to begin this series on recommended women bloggers and teachers by introducing you to Leslie A and her blog, Growing 4 Life.
Leslie shouldn’t be confused with Michelle Lesley, whom I plan to profile in a later article. Having said that, these two women have much in common, starting with their keen understanding of God’s Word and their desire to teach women how to apply it. Both firmly believe in the importance of Biblical discernment, and Leslie’s Learn to Discern series a few years ago provided excellent tools for developing discernment skills.
Discernment and an understanding of Scripture are essential to Christian growth. So Leslie, who runs a landscaping company with her husband, named her blog as both a homage to the landscaping industry and an encouragement to women as they grow in the Lord. As a result, she regularly challenges her readers to reject worldliness in favor of holiness.
What qualities should we look for in anyone (male or female) who professes to teach God’s Word?
Before I profile women bloggers and teachers that I believe merit our attention and trust, I would like to invest a little time in giving you tools for vetting such people for yourselves. In fact, you should use these tools to evaluate me! Discernment doesn’t come from letting someone tell you who to follow and who to avoid. Rather, it comes from knowing what characteristics God says a Christian leader should have.
As obvious as it seems, the most important characteristic of a sound teacher is her ability and obedience to handle the Word of God responsibly. Every teacher makes an occasional misstep, but a good teacher works diligently to apply proper hermeneutics when she presents a text.
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, ~~2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NASB)
Good Bible teachers find their doctrine from the Word rather than using Scriptures (usually out of context) to support their assertions. Not only do they depend on the immediate context of the verse or passage, but also the genre of the book they teach. For instance, Psalms is a collection of poems originally set to music, so often it uses metaphorical language. Trees do not literally clap their hands and believers are not literally sheep. Yet the four gospels record actual miracles, most notably Christ’s literal resurrection from the dead. These miracles must never be taught as metaphors or allegories!
Regular readers of this blog know that I have very strong objections to women teaching men in the things of God. Unlike other Christian bloggers (many of whom I hold in high esteem), I generally don’t want men reading The Outspoken TULIP, lest I violate God’s command in 1 Corinthians 2:12-14.
12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (NASB)
Verse 13 appeals to the order of creation, which demonstrates the principle of male leadership. I have no problem wrapping my head around that idea. Indeed, I think it’s beautiful that my husband leads in our marriage, and that godly men lead our local church. The design of male leadership in no way makes me feel inferior! One of the things I like best about my marriage, in fact, is watching John protect me by making the final decisions. Lately, I’ve noticed that decisions I disagree with usually turn out to be better than the directions I wanted to pursue.
In Revelation 2 and 3, the glorified Christ commissions the apostle John to write letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor. As I read these letters earlier this week, the letter to the church at Ephesus grabbed my attention because of its warning to people involved in discernment ministry. Look at the passage with me, and then we’ll talk about some of its application to discernment ministry.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:1-7 (NASB)
The letter starts by commending the Ephesian church for its discernment. This church was characterized by its doctrinal purity and faithfulness to test false teachers. Verses 2 and 3 describe a church that Christians should emulate. God’s Word repeatedly commands both leaders and laity to stand against those who pervert the Gospel. Consider, for example, Paul’s instructions to Titus: