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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Why We Won't "Go Home" -- An Open Letter To John MacArthur

Dear John,

My social media newsfeed has been blowing up in light of your recent statement about Beth Moore. You mocked Beth Moore (and other women leaders) by telling her to "Go home." Well, sir, we will not.

You see, John, when a person is called--whether man or woman--to speak God's word, they become unable to stay silent. Jeremiah 20:9 states:

But if I say, “I will not mention his word
    or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
    a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
    indeed, I cannot.

John, Beth Moore cannot go home any more than you can. Why? Because God has called her. He has taken her by the hand and led her into the purpose he created her for. She must speak! And as a minister of the Freeing Gospel of Christ, you should be affirming her and not tearing her down. 

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." (Ephesians 4:29-31)

As ministers of the gospel we (yes, "we") must have the goal of making disciples--to equip the saints for the work of ministry. If we are only selecting half of the human race (if that) because of a misinterpretation of the Bible and taking one or two verses entirely out of context--both scriptural and cultural--then we are failing to do what God himself has commanded. Our goal must be to raise up all believers and allow God to point them in the direction he wishes them to serve. We must not even remotely attempt to hinder them in following God's call on their lives. Remember when Peter tried to do that with Jesus? Jesus responded with "Get behind me, Satan!" (Matthew 16:23) Now, is that the role we want to play in a person's life? The role of the tempter? The role of the Devil? I know that I would rather have my tongue cut out than play that part in anyone's life.

The thing is, John, if God is not calling someone to pastoral ministry, he will make it clear. Pastoral ministry, when done right, is hard work. It is down-right miserable at times. When a person (man or woman) enters into dedicated pastoral ministry, the trials themselves will drive out the one who is not called to be a pastor. They do not need you (or anyone else) interpreting their call (which, by the way, you cannot do). You cannot determine another person's call because you are neither God speaking to the heart of that person nor are you the person listening to the call of God upon their life. 

The call of God is between God and the person called--you, Mr. MacArthur, play no part in that interaction. 

John, you told Beth Moore to go home. Well, John, I want to say that you have inspired a lot of people--but perhaps not in the way you would like. You have inspired countless voices--male and female--to stand up and say "ENOUGH" to the voices telling women that God is unable to use them. Those voices have no place in the Church. It goes against the very nature of God and who he is. 

The great commission is to go and make disciples of all nations-- not to go and make disciples of all nations minus the women. If God is all-powerful--and he is--there is no way that he would allow himself to be limited in the use of half of his greatest creation--humanity.

So, no, we will not go home. Instead, we will stand up and shout louder about the greatness of God--we will shout it from the roof-tops that God is good. We will continue to go and make disciples. We will run into the crowds of the marginalized and love them like Jesus. We will teach men, women, and children about the unrelenting goodness of our creator and we will do it without apology. And when we go home, we will go home to (along with our spouses) make disciples of our families--and once again we will go out.

Not once in scripture are women told to go home to stay, and therefore, John, we will not! Your words were not God's words, and your command to go home will not be treated as such. We follow God--and we will Go.

Thank you, John, for the inspiration.

Sincerely,

Nicole Barnett
(Woman Behind The Pulpit)

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Pray for your pastor (and mine)

I am sure most of you are aware of Pastor Jarrid Wilson's death. For those of you who are not aware, he committed suicide after battling with depression.

My heart goes out to his family. I cannot imagine the pain his wife and children are going through and I am devastated.

But as I sit here and watch my husband sleep, I worry. You see, Pastor Wilson's situation is not unique. Numerous other pastor's over the last few years have ended their lives tragically and my heart breaks. You see, my husband is a pastor as well. We just finished our first year at our church and it is his first time serving as Senior Pastor. And he is tired.

He is very tired.

Almost as soon as we arrived, the battles started--and he is tired of fighting them.

It wouldn't be so terrible if they were actually necessary battles, but the ones we've been fighting are so unnecessary it's pathetic. By the way, people get all bent out of shape for the most ridiculous reasons. For non-existent reasons.

Without getting into specifics, we have had to deal with adults trying to fight like five-year-olds. We have had to deal with people using their one source of power in the church to manipulate others. We have had people over-step their role to try and dictate what a leader was doing. We have been lied about and lied to. We have had every personal decision critiqued by people in the church who have no business trying to dictate how we live our lives.

We live in the parsonage in a bad area of town. The floor slopes upstairs and for the first six months we were here, I didn't feel comfortable having my infant sleep in her crib because it wasn't level. The subfloor in both bathrooms are soft. The walls are separating from the ceiling. There are broken and rotting windows. The back deck is sketchy to say the least. We have had people show up when we weren't home--and they knew we were on vacation. We had a man strung out on drugs behind our house, cursing and throwing rocks in his underwear. A man tried to break into our home and, several months later the same man was wanted for a double homicide. Our neighbors constantly have police at their doors for drug-related activity. We have strangers strung out on drugs walking through our yard at any time day or night.

We don't feel safe in our home--the place where a pastor should have sanctuary.

And in the sanctuary, we deal with criticism.

I am not saying everyone in our church is like this. Actually, the vast majority are amazing and loving people. But the fact is when there are even two or three people who are constantly negative and constantly fighting unnecessary battles with the pastor, eventually it wears that pastor out. Eventually, it messes with their minds. Eventually, they become so exhausted and beaten down that they struggle sleeping restfully.

My husband is sleeping--but not restfully. I can see the tension still in his body. He tosses and turns. His breathing is rapid. And my heart is breaking for him. All ministry roles are hard. Every pastor struggles with stupid battles. But my heart breaks for my husband because he shouldn't have to fight them. No pastor should have to fight stupid battles. They need their energy for the real ones.

You guys, please pray for your pastors. But also let them know you're praying for them. Let them know you love them. If someone is speaking negatively about the pastor, please shhh them. Please, don't let your pastor fight those stupid battles alone. Please support your pastor, encourage your pastor.-- and please, because I know they struggle to, pray for your pastor's family. Pray for their spouses who have to watch helplessly as their husband or wife is bullied people who thirst for power. Pray for their children who have to watch their mom or dad become more and more worn out. Pray they do not become cold toward the church.

And please be the encourager of your pastor--not one of the people who harm them.

Shower them in love.

Depression is real for pastors. Discouragement is real for pastors.

They are not invincible to it. It has nothing to do with how close they walk with Jesus. And no, depression is not necessarily a result of bullying. But no one knows what goes on inside another's head. You don't know the struggles your pastor is dealing with, please don't become the reason the pile gets bigger unnecessarily.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Genesis 2 Feminist -- My journey from a Complementarian upbringing to a Biblical Egalitarian understanding

I remember it well. I was eight-years-old and I decided to pour my heart out to my [then] foster mother. "I want to marry a pastor when I grow up." The "that's cute" smile tickled her lips as she said that was something I could definitely do.
She then said, "You should probably learn how to play the piano. Pastor's wives play the piano." First, I thought this weird since the pastor's wife at the church I attended was not the one who played the piano... actually, that was my [then] foster father. 
I then told her, "Well, actually, I want to be a pastor too." 
"Oh, well, you can't do that sweetie. Only men are pastors. The Bible says so."

I was devastated. I had accepted Jesus as my savior at five years old, and for several months before this conversation, I had been listening to the Bible on cassette tape (remember those?). The more I listened to God's word, the stronger the pull to be a pastor became--but the woman who would in the next couple of years officially adopt me had just told me that the Bible said I couldn't be a pastor. I was heartbroken--but I decided to settle for just eventually being a pastor's wife (and yes, I did end up taking piano lessons--but they were in vain).

As I grew up, I remember certain things being "what boys did" and "what girls did"--boys went fishing. Girls helped with canning fruit. Boys played sports. Girls planted flowers. Boys went hunting, drove the truck, mowed the lawn, helped with the building projects. Girls sewed, cooked, cleaned, and had tea parties. I was groomed to become the "perfect housewife"--but I did fight the system a bit. I was a daddy's girl (having not known my birth father) and clung to my adoptive dad as often as I could. I begged him to take me fishing with him--he finally gave in when I turned 12. Keep in mind, my brothers had all been fishing with him countless times before turning 12, but I had to wait--one excuse was because I would be grossed out by the bait (I have never had any problem with it), another was that I would cry when the fish died (again, no issue whatsoever), finally--I might get seasick (I am the ONLY one in my family--aside from my dad--who can fish in the ocean without hurling). I proved to my dad that I could go fishing with him--and when he started guiding fishing trips, I would occasionally go along to help the "noobies" bait their hooks. But preference to go fishing was always given to the boys before I was considered (unless it was my birthday) and only if I had finished up the "girl's work" before I went fishing. 

I remember during holidays standing at the kitchen sink until past 10pm washing dishes while the boys watched football or other movies. I remember weeding my mom's flower garden while my brother played basketball or put around on his make-shift go-cart (an old riding lawnmower that my dad had taken the blade off of). I remember chopping fruit and veggies for canning and cooking while my brother split firewood with my dad out-back (another job I enjoyed). Eventually, my dad would let me mow the lawn and split the wood... but it was never just a job--it was a "young lady" doing "a boy's job"--and it bothered me... but at the time I didn't understand why.

Fast-forward to high school. Everyone was talking about colleges they planned to attend but I had no idea. Why? Because my future was planned. My mom wanted me to stay home and help her run a bed and breakfast. I would cook and clean with and for her the rest of my life. Why? Because, according to her, I wouldn't cut it as a wife and mother. I was too much like my birth mother. I don't understand why she saw it that way. 

My birth mother had severe mental illness and basically lived in a fantasy world. She would distract herself from reality by continuously immersing herself in fantasy books and movies (not that they are bad by themselves, but she would do it so much she couldn't distinguish between what happened to her in real life and what was a fantasy that she had read about). She WOULDN'T cook, clean, take care of us children, or anything. She ignored the fact that I had been abused by an older sibling and when she was confronted with it again later, she accused everyone of brainwashing me because her "innocent little boy" wouldn't have done that--and this is after he already had a rap sheet. 

No, my birth mother was insane (seriously)... Do you want to know how I was similar to my birth mother? 

I love to read. 

And my reading would provoke questions that I couldn't wait to answer--and so I would ask, or read more to find out... But when I asked--"I was living in a fantasy world", and if I continued to read to find the answer "I was shutting out reality". Truly, I was doing neither. I was simply engaging in knowledge and enjoying fictional writings-- no more or less than my peers. But because I wasn't being a homemaker to my mother's standards, I was no longer even being considered "good marriage material" began being groomed to be a "spinster." Every time I requested any college information, it was promptly thrown in the trash because there was no point in me going. I shouldn't be pursuing a career so college would mainly be to meet someone and get married (an MRS Degree)--I was even discouraged from trying to get a job to purchase my own vehicle--a vehicle is only needed if I am going to be driving myself around... my parents could drive me around and IF I ever was to get married, my husband could drive me around so I didn't need my own car, and I didn't need to get a job if I didn't need my own car. 

And then I turned 19 and everything came crashing down. My brother got in a severe accident resulting in being permanently physically disabled, and I was left home for nearly six months alone-- fortunately, I had been able to convince my mother the year prior to allow me to at least get my license so I wasn't stuck home, but due to the accident, my parents were spending every waking moment at the hospital with my brother--and so I decided to get the training necessary to help my brother when he would eventually come home from the hospital--I got my first job as a CNA.

However, the accident changed a lot in the family. My mother, whose abuse (and yes I am saying abuse because it caused a lot of issues that I am STILL working through) had mainly been verbal, became physical. In the course of a month, I showed up at work with bumps and bruises from where I had been injured and my co-workers told me to leave home. After about eight months, I did--and ended up moving closer to a boyfriend who was abusive as well--mainly verbally. He would constantly use my lack of a college education as a weapon against me and would demean me because I was a woman... but I didn't recognize this as abuse until later. What I did recognize as "wrong" but not yet as abuse was his insistence on my performing certain "favors" and would put me on a guilt trip saying how I must not love him if I am not doing this... but if I did give in, he would put me on a guilt trip because "I should have been stronger... I knew he was just a man and a man always wants... I should have said 'no' but I am a slut because I didn't." 

I knew this was wrong. I knew how he was treating me was wrong. But I was afraid. You see, I had been raised to believe that the one thing any man cared about was my virginity--and I no longer had that. It didn't help that immediately after my first experience, he had told me "No one else will want you now. You're damaged goods." and I was afraid to be alone. I put up with the abuse for two years--well almost. 

I got pregnant. Shocker right? I never told him. Instead, I started looking for a nanny job out of state to get away from him. I suddenly had a realization that I didn't want him around my children. Well, before I was even six weeks along, we got in yet another fight... but this one turned physical. He had been learning some martial arts and used a move on me--he threw me down, but I hit my stomach on the wood portion of the arm of the couch. It did more than knock the wind out of me, it caused a miscarriage. I grieved alone--First, because no one was supposed to know we were even sexually active, and second because I didn't want him to know that I had gotten pregnant in the first place. Who knows what would have happened then. Regardless, I pressed harder to find a nanny job, and in April of 2011, I finally moved away from him to Colorado. 

But we didn't break up.

Actually, I got lonely and began to miss the familiar. And we continued our relationship from afar. 

He came to visit for my birthday that June and the same pattern continued--at least until that Sunday. He told me that he didn't want us to keep the sexual relationship anymore. He was feeling guilty. I told him that I was happy with that decision, but should he even once try to make me feel guilty for not giving in, we will break up for good. 

Not even a month later---

We were skyping and he went off telling me that he was struggling with pornography and that it was my fault because I wasn't giving him what he "needed". First, he had a pornography addiction LONG before I was in the picture so I was not the one who had caused it nor the one who had kept it going...

***I feel like I should add a bit here*** when I moved to Colorado, I moved it with a Man, his wife, and their two children. I connected on a sibling level with the man and he became like a protective older brother. He saw the way my moods would shift to the negative after talking with my boyfriend and how happy I would be when he wasn't on my mind. I remember one particular conversation when he told me not to settle for the best I think I could do but to raise my standard to what I want in a man and in a relationship and to not lower it. I realized then that I was, in fact, settling for what I thought I could do instead of acknowledging that I didn't really want to be with my boyfriend anyway.

So when my boyfriend said that to me, that was it. I was done. I was sick of getting guilt-tripped no matter what decision I made and I told him--that day--July 3, 2011--that we were over. And I haven't looked back. 

Just under a month later, I met the man who is now my husband. Our relationship was completely different. First, he actually listened to me and my opinions. He would take my advice *gasp*. When I went to visit his family for the first time, I saw a totally different element to the world. I didn't notice any specified gender roles....everyone helped everyone. Everyone listened to everyone. I didn't notice this specifically at the time--again, I still had my blinders on a bit--but little by little as our relationship grew, It became more and more apparent. 

We ended up getting married on July 1, 2012, and that was when my real processing began. You see, I didn't realize there was any other way to look at the Bible other than what I had always been told--Women are to be the submissive helpers, yielding to their husband's authority...they must be quiet and not offer too many opinions or thoughts in church, and they definitely cannot be in authority at all over a man. But for some reason, my new husband didn't see the Bible the way I did. He would constantly push for me to be more assertive in the decision-making process (actually, he kind of created a monster there). He would ask my advice and, without hesitation, he would take it. He would listen to my theological thoughts and would offer input or acknowledge when he considered it valid without trying to put his own spin on it. And it was frustrating.

You see, my voice had been shut up for so long, I didn't like sharing my thoughts about a decision or giving advice, or daring to speak about anything theological--at least not seriously. It was mind-boggling why he would value my opinions as highly as he did. I was just a woman.

And then the battle started inside me.

A friend of his spoke one Sunday morning about his call to ministry--and I felt it again... not that I had ever stopped feeling it, but it was stronger and revived. The pull to be a pastor. But I told myself that women cannot be pastors. I tried to shut it up--but I decided to test the waters with my husband. He was, after all, very wise in his biblical understanding (at least to me at the time--we've both grown a lot since then). As we were getting into the car to head home, I told him, "I felt called as a little girl, and I still do, that I need to be a pastor." His response not only surprised me, but it caused a bigger battle to stir within me. 
"I kind of figured!" 
WHAT?!? -- I told him that I didn't think women should be pastors though. After all, men were called to be the head of the home, therefore they should be the head of the church--the church is, after all, more important. 
And then he said something that floored me. 
"I don't believe that."
WHAT?!?
He didn't believe that men were supposed to be the head of the home. He couldn't explain why... he just knew that in his personal studies, he never really found solid evidence that men were supposed to lead in the blueprint God designed. 
And for years I wrestled with that. 

Fast-forward several years, we had moved a couple of times--Once from Indiana to western Colorado--then from western Colorado to central Colorado, and then to Pennsylvania. During that time, I had tested my ministry abilities by working in the Children's departments--the one area I felt women were allowed to serve. And then we had to undergo Pastoral Assesment (a process on some Church of the Nazarene districts to evaluate the readiness of a prospective pastor to obtain his/her district license and continue on in their ordination process). During that assessment, I met several women pastors--and each of them showed me that the call upon their life was not only real but being used by God. I couldn't deny it any longer. I told God that if he was really calling me, I would answer--but he HAD to show me biblically how I can serve him... because I had always read the Bible in a way that said women must not be in authority. 

That day, as though to confirm that I was, in fact, called, several people came up to me asking if I was called to be a pastor--and that they could tell that God had gifted me for ministry. But I still didn't know what that meant.

So I waited to tell anyone else. 

For five months, I said nothing--and then I finally told our senior pastor (Jason was working as a youth pastor at the time). His response was gold. "Oh, I know. I could tell."

I was given a local license and was told to go ahead and start taking classes. I got to work on my schooling through Nazarene Bible College and started two weeks after giving birth to my youngest baby. I did my best in my classes but was still wondering about how women could be pastors--and then I had to take History and Polity of the Church of the Nazarene. As part of the class, we also learned about the Foundations of Women's Ordination---and we had to watch this video 



It points out that the passages in 1 Timothy as well as in 1 Corinthians speak about women learning before it ever speaks about them not being able to hold authority over men--and that triggered a hypothesis. You cannot teach something you do not know about--and maybe that is what Paul was saying.

So I started digging. I learned that Timothy was a pastor in a Church in Ephesus and Ephesus was a central hub for a pagan goddess (Artemis)-- Remember, within the general population, women were uneducated unless they had some social standing--the women in Ephesus who would have had ANY education would have been educated not in God's teachings but in the teachings regarding Artemis. Gnosticism was huge at this time and was constantly blending pagan and Christian teachings-- so women in THESE CHURCHES were told to be silent as they learn the truth instead of speaking up and possibly stirring up heresies.... I found this interesting, but still, I needed proof that women could preach.

So I dug around some more. and came across this:



Pastor Craig Laughlin points out the obvious when he says "the Bible interprets itself."-- My entire Biblical understanding had been based on three verses in two books of the Bible when there are MORE accounts of women being given spiritual authority BY GOD. So, no, God does not limit women to submissive roles within the church.

But I still battled with this idea that men are the head of the home. I kept pouring over my Bible trying to figure that out--and then I realized something--again, plain as day and obvious as can be.

Genesis 1:26-28

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

Now, clearly, this is the English and one could argue that it does not say "Them" in the original Hebrew. Well, actually it does. Genesis 1 says that God did not give dominion to Adam, but to "them" meaning male and female. But it doesn't end there.

You see, Genesis 2 provides a more detailed account. Adam was created first and God said that it wasn't right for him to be alone so he decided to make a "help-meet"... only... that is a HORRIBLE translation. The word that is actually used is "Ezer Kenegdo" which actually is translated "Helper like him"-- in other words, Adam was made in the image of God, therefore Eve was made in the image of God--but beyond that. Here's something interesting about this word "Ezer"-- it is used only twice in the Bible to describe women (and both are in the creation of women in Genesis 2)--HOWEVER it is used 16 times referring to God as Israel's defense against their enemies--- That doesn't sound like some submissive, passive, weak, "help-meet"--Women were not created to be passive and weak but as active defenders and protectors of our mates--and vice versa--we are each other's Ezer--remember: Helper Like Him... therefore Just as women are the helpers for men, men are the helpers for women.


"But what about this head of the household stuff?"

That doesn't happen until Genesis 3 and it is a result of the curse of sin and death. Eve's consequences were pain in childbirth and men would lord over the women--that was NEVER God's intent.

And news flash men, you guys feeling like you have to work your knuckles to the bone to provide for the family is part of the curse as well! 


But I have some wonderful news you guys!

When Jesus came, he established a new kingdom--and a new law--

And in doing so, he re-established the design he was going for in Genesis 2.

Now, don't get me wrong. Genesis 3 is still alive and well in this world--and in the church sadly enough... but God has given us the opportunity to no longer live under the curse but under his grace--a grace which pulls us back into his original intent. 

Women, let us not continue to burden our husbands with the expectation that they must lead the homes spiritually or financially--We are Ezer's--Let's be the warrior helpers we were intended to be and come along-side our men as we fight for our families together.

Men, stop burdening your wife with all the domestic duties (if any) and instead come alongside her and be her Ezer. Her warrior helper. 


Stop trying to force these supposed "biblical" gender-roles upon one another and see the design for what it really was--God wanting men and women to walk with him together in perfect community--each doing as God has designed and not as society dictates. 

You see, God's design is about love--that is really what it all boils down to--but can you really love someone fully if you are telling them that they cannot do what God has called them to do because of the way God designed them? Can you really love someone the way God loves them if you are telling them that God cannot use them EVEN AS GOD IS CALLING TO THEM TO BE USED BY HIM?

And are you really loving God when you are telling someone he CREATED and that he is calling that they are incapable of being used by him when THROUGHOUT the Bible God has called and used people just like them--people like Deborah, Junia, Phoebe, Abigail, Priscilla... just to name a few. 


When the first person Christ chose to share of his resurrection was a woman, the men of the church should have stopped and shushed--Of all the people close to Jesus to share the good news, he chose Mary. He could have chosen Peter or John---but instead, he chose Mary. Is that not significant? Is that not a clear indicator that God plans to continue to use women to share his message of grace and hope?

Who are we to try and limit God by something he created? We don't limit God by physics, mathematics, language--but somehow he is limited by biology? That doesn't make sense. We don't limit him by time, space, or matter---but somehow he is limited by X and Y chromosomes? We don't limit God by age, race, or background---but somehow God is limited by estrogen? No, I am sorry, but if God is omnipotent, that means that NOTHING is a limiting factor for God--and news flash: not only does God use women, but he uses women whether men are willing to step up or not-- Women are not the back-ups or the bench-warmers-- we are to be fighting, loving, living, and serving alongside our brothers right here and right now.

You ready ladies?

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Faith to Ask Questions

Let me shoot you a scenario. A Child is arguing with his mother about staying up late on a school night. He is telling his mon that he wants to stay up an hour longer "because all his friends are doing it," but his mother stands firm stating that he needs to go to sleep at his normal time. Then the inevitable question comes. "But why?"

Now, this mother can go through all the details of why he needs to go to sleep at a normal time--
---That he is a nightmare to wake up in the morning even with his normal sleep schedule...
---That he needs as much sleep as possible so he can focus at school...
But instead, she responds with:

"Because I said so!"

Now, we've all been there. We have either been on the receiving end of that statement or on the side of giving that statement---or both. As a parent, I know that I have used this several times. 

"Why mom?" 
"Because I said so." 

"Why is this like this?"
"Because that is just the way it is."

"Why is the sky blue?"
"Because it is."

We all get tired of the questions, but I'll tell you something. I find myself thanking God that he doesn't get tired of our questions. But I realized something. We approach questions about God, the Bible, and Christian traditions much the same way that we approach the questions our children ask.

"Why do we do this (or not do this) as Christians?"
"Because God said so."

"Why do we do church this way?"
"Because that is just the way it is."

"How do we know what the Bible says is true?"
"Because it is."

And sometimes, when we ask those questions, we are quickly reminded of "Doubting Thomas." We all know that story. He's the disciple who demanded that he would not believe unless he saw and felt Jesus' wounds on the Living Lord. Jesus answered his request but said, Because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (Jn 20:29). Boy, do we rag on Thomas. How dare he not believe? But we say nothing about Peter and John who ran to the tomb to see for themselves that it was empty--God knows they didn't believe the women who ran to tell them. We say nothing about the other eight disciples who failed to believe until Peter and John came and confirmed what the women had originally told them. What is different? The difference is simply that Thomas was the only one who voiced his questioning, so we give him a bad rap. I want to point something out. When Jesus told Thomas "Because you have seen me you have believed," he said it in a room full of disciples who had doubted his resurrection.

But we take this as "do not question God." Jesus did call out the lack of belief, but questioning God is not at all what is being addressed here. The angel (and Jesus himself) had commanded the women to tell the disciples that he rose. It was not what they questioned---it was why. They questioned, not to inform belief but because they doubted those who were sent.


Throughout the Bible, there are numerous accounts of people questioning God. The Psalms are riddled with questions of "Why?" The prophets regularly questioned God and even expressed blatant frustration with his call on their lives. Even Jesus questioned and pleaded with God. So why were the disciples "rebuked" and not the Psalmist? Why were Jesus' friends called out and not the prophets? Why is it okay for Jesus to question God but not his disciples?


Hebrews 11:1-2 says, "Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For by it our ancestors won God's approval." In verse six, it says, "Now without faith, it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."(Italics mine)

Those who earnestly seek him.

Seek. To ask, to request, to solicit, to call for, to entreat, to beg, to petition... to question. 

Matthew 7:7-11 says, "Ask and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be open to you. For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds., and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?"

Parents, we identify with this. If our child asked for something that is good for them, we would NEVER give them something that would harm them instead.

When my daughter was little, she loved vegetables even more than she does now. She used to ask for carrots and celery instead of dessert. You can bet your bottom dollar I did not wave a cupcake under her nose instead of giving her the desired carrots and celery. Nope, I excitedly gave her the veggies and beamed at the fact that she wanted something that was healthy. I still brag about that characteristic. That girl STILL loves her fruits and vegetables.  

Even still, when she asks for healthy snacks--like oranges or broccoli (seriously, broccoli)--I make sure that she gets a healthy snack. 

Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

God is longing to reveal his truth to us. But he is not going to bestow it on someone who refuses to seek it. 

"A discerning mind seeks knowledge, but the mouth of the fool feeds on foolishness" (Pro 15:14).

A discerning mind seeks knowledge.

How do we gain knowledge?  By asking questions. When we ask God for wisdom, for understanding, for knowledge, he will give it--

IF WE EARNESTLY SEEK IT!

"How much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him?"

But we live in fear of asking. We take "fear God" as "don't you dare question."

But those questions plague us. We read our Bibles and wonder... or at least I do... I wonder... and then I ask... and when I ask, I am always told: "Because the Bible says." But the question doesn't leave. I read the Bible and wonder why things must be this particular way, but was always told: "that is just the way it is."

"That is just the way it is."

THAT IS SUCH A LAZY RESPONSE!!!

#sorrynotsorry 

But for real. If anyone has used that as an excuse for why Church is the way it is, well folks, y'all are just being lazy!

"A discerning mind seeks knowledge."

"That is just the way it is," "Because the Bible says so," "Because the Pastor says so." These are dismissive statements. They are not knowledge seeking or knowledge enhancing. They are empty words of a lazy religion. The question is still there, unanswered and brushed--like a fungus, eating away at the seed of faith within the heart.

But the fact is, we are afraid. Countless Christians profess that you cannot love God and the sciences. In fact, John Wesly once said, "I am convinced, from many experiences, I could not study either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra...without being a deist, if not an atheist" (qtd. in Meunier). We fear the questions. We fear the closer examination. We want faith to be "at a glance" instead of "detailed analysis."

But Why?

Because Science, Mathematics, History, Psychology, Sociology-- these all force us to examine the Bible in greater detail. We view that as a doubt to its authenticity and there is the fear that if something with the Bible is found to be untrue, our faith will prove to be false. Well, if your faith is in the total historical, scientific, and mathematical accuracy of the Bible, sorry folks, your faith is in the wrong thing.

Now, don't get me wrong. I believe the Bible to be true. I believe, wholeheartedly, in 2 Thes. 3:16 
"All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." But it was also written by man, and sometimes some of the minor details recorded were wrong. ie: Jeremiah got the date of the fall of Jerusalem wrong--but that does not invalidate the Bible. Why? Because the Bible isn't about the dates. It is about God. We cannot put our faith in the minor details of the Bible. Our faith needs to be in the one the Bible is about.

Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."

As Christians, if we fear the Lord, we will continuously seek him--and seek knowledge about him. That means a closer examination of scripture.

"Fools despise wisdom and instruction."

Why do fools despise this? Simply because a fool does not want to be told they are wrong. They want to continue living life in bliss ignorance believing they have life completely figured out. 

"Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn't collapse because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn't act on them will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash" (Matt 7:24-27).

What is your foundation?

Is it the Rock?

Is it God and seeking Truth?

OR

Is it the Sand?

Is it the way you've always been raised to believe what the Bible says?
Is it your personal interpretation of scripture?
Is it what your Church, Pastor, or Parents believe?
Is it what is easiest for you to believe?

How many times do we become irritated when we hear someone use the excuse: "Well this is the way we've always done it" and fighting progress? This is the mindset that has kept women from equality. It is the mindset that kept the races segregated. It is the process that caused people to fight medical advances. 

And yet...

It is the same mindset that keeps us from growing in our faith, knowledge, and trust in God.

Tradition has its place, but remember--it isn't everything.

And "because that is just the way it is" is laziness through and through.
The "Why" must be answered.

As Christians, we cannot be afraid of "Why?" Our trust should be in God. He is strong enough to withstand any question we have. Whether it is about him, about why he works a specific way, why something happened the way it did... it doesn't matter what questions. He gave us a brain wired with wonder. We are supposed to use it.

A three-year-old does not fear questions. Any parent can attest to the fact that at that age, everything is "Why?" Maybe that is what Jesus meant when he said we must be like Childre. We must be willing to admit we do not have all the answers and not be okay with a simple statement of "that is just the way it is."

Look at your Pastor, your Sunday School Teacher, your Bible Study Leader, your College Professor--- these people are human. They study the Bible, but they do not have some special direct line to God for accurate interpretation that you do not possess. They read the same Bible you do. What they say is not the end-all-take-their-word-for-it-100%-of-the-time-Truth. They spend a ton of time studying what they will share with you and they will never share with you something they feel is inaccurate, but they are not the divinely-selected-interpreters of scripture. 

EACH OF US MUST STUDY FOR OURSELVES!

Once upon a time, only priests possessed the ability to read the Bible--and through that "power" a lot of heresies were born. These heresies were blindly followed because the people didn't know any better. When the Bible was translated into the common language, People were actually angry. Why? Because of fear. The Priests told them what to believe and how to express their "faith"--and ignorance was bliss. If they had to read the Bible for themselves, they would be responsible for what they discovered. But they didn't truly have faith. What they had was blind obedience bred out of fear. 

Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God."

We live in an age of ignorance. I am just going to say it. Browsing through social media, it is very evident. I scroll through my newsfeed and see numerous posts which express how uninformed everyone chooses to be. I cannot tell you how many "Pray for Dakota Miller" messages I have received.***For those of you who don't know, it is a hoax message that has circulated about an 18-month old boy who shot himself with a nail gun*** I have been getting those messages for the last two years and for the last two years I have bee responding with a link explaining that the message is a hoax.

How many of us received a message on facebook saying "Hi, I got another friend request from you yesterday... hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears..." a simple examination of this message stated that it was simply a forward and no one actually received a friend request from you or even the person who sent it to you---but no one wanted to accept that as the truth. 

The fact is, this age doesn't really care about what is true. The truth takes effort to find and it's much easier to post uninformed opinions or thoughts than to make sure what we are posting is true--and it is much easier to believe what we have always been told about the Bible (even if it doesn't quite make sense) than it is to seek the truth and know without a shadow of a doubt that what we believe is accurate. 

But a faith that is blind is not faith, it is ignorance. 

And ignorance is bliss.

Until it's not.

I am going to give you a challenge:

HERE IT IS:

Ask Questions.

Seek Answers--don't be content with lazy responses.

When someone else asks a question, don't give them a lazy answer.

If you don't know the answer, seek the answer.

Remember: A faith that is blind is not faith, but rather a fearful ignorance masquerading as submission to God and his will.

But God's will is for our faith to have a firm foundation--the Solid Rock

and The Solid Rock--the foundation our faith should be built on--is Christ.

The questions will come and the doubts may surface, but if our foundation is on Christ, no matter what answer comes our way, our faith will not be shaken.

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose" (Phil. 2:12-13). 











Works Cited:

Meunier, John. “John Wesley's Advice to Stephen Hawking.” John Meunier, 20 Sept. 2010, johnmeunier.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/john-wesleys-advice-to-stephen-hawking/.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The *Real* Proverbs 31 Woman

I remember shortly after my oldest daughter turned 6 months old, I began looking for a job to help make ends meet at home. My husband was working overtime hours and as soon as he would clock-out, we would head to the neighboring town and work at the church until late into the night, so I decided it was time to contribute.

That was when the opinions came in.

That was when the pastor told us his views.

A woman’s place is in the home.

Referencing Proverbs 31, the pastor of our church at the time made his opinion of me working outside the home very clear.

In his mind, I was sinning.

And, actually, this is a very common view within the general Church today.
The man needs to be the bread-winner, the spiritual leader, the head of the household.
That is how I had always grown up.

Several years after struggling with needing to find a job, I was in a similar situation. Only this time Jason was the associate pastor at another church, and due to his secular job being shady in their dealings, he was laid off promptly after I gave birth to baby number two. The church only paid us with housing and when my little boy was a couple months old, we were feeling the struggle. Having burned through our little amount of savings, we were financially strapped. I called my mother, hoping for so support. I knew I needed to get a job, but leaving my baby home was devastating for me. But the support I so desperately needed from my mother was not there.

Instead, I was told “Your husband needs to get another job and support his family. A woman needs to be home with her children.”—Your husband is not being a good husband and father if he is not working sunrise to sunset on top of ministry hours to make ends meet, and you are not being a good mother if you leave your children to work outside the home for a few hours every day.

I was already devastated, and what my mother said hurt worse. I spent several months with no contact with her. She had wounded me, but more than that, she had caused me to doubt my own success at being a Godly wife and mother. So, as anyone who wants to know God’s heart would do, I dug into the word. And that is where I found it.

Proverbs 31—again—This was the biblical chapter I had read a billion times over as a teenager. I was determined to be a Proverbs 31 wife. I was going to be this ultimately successful parent who made both her children and her husband proud. But my mother said I was failing—but as I read it again with fresh eyes, I noticed something intriguing.

A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings, she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand, she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

This was not some submissive wife who depended upon her husband to be her provider. Actually, quite the contrary. She earned and was responsible for her own money. She works with her hands, she considers a field and buys it and out of her earnings plants a vineyard. She manages her household (which means she was in charge of the servants and maintaining the finances). She is charitable—and if you notice, she does not run her charity by her husband. Instead, at the very beginning of the section, it says that her husband has COMPLETE confidence in her. He trusts her and she trusts him. They are in a relationship of mutuality.

He has complete confidence in her, and he is respected at the city gate… I have heard so many instances where men will chat among themselves and joke about their wives squandering money—this is not one of those instances. The woman of noble character and her husband have a relationship of complete trust and respect; and as a result, both of them are highly respected by those around them. A husband constantly ragging on about his wife will not have a high level of respect from those around him (and neither will his wife as he has shattered any positive reputation she may have had) and vice versa. A relationship of mutuality is one in which both parties are cherished and respected by the other—neither dominating or dictating the direction of the relationship, but both working together toward a common goal within their relationship.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

A woman of noble character is a woman who does what she needs to do to take care of her family as a mutual provider for them. If she is a single woman—with or without kids—she is her provider. If she is married, then she works in conjunction with her husband to provide—whether financially or not. “Honor her for all that her hands of done”—meaning she works hard and needs to be recognized for it. “Let her works bring her praise at the city gate”—Do not even dare undermine or ridicule her for working outside of the mold you have placed her in. Let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Let her be publicly acknowledged for the effort she has put into supporting her family and those around her. Let us stop forcing women into the corner of submission telling her it’s the “Proverbs 31” way—it’s not. Proverbs 31, taken in context and truth, is empowering, emboldening, and all about a woman being made a mutual and equal partner in relationships… not about being a submissive partner who merely supports her husband by cooking and cleaning. Allow women to be who they are called to be—Who God has designed them to be. Let women be themselves.

A woman of noble character is a woman with her OWN character—stop trying to force women into your nice little mold of a sandwich making housekeeper. She was made to be so much more than that. She was made to be Noble!

Why We Won't "Go Home" -- An Open Letter To John MacArthur

Dear John, My social media newsfeed has been blowing up in light of your recent statement about Beth Moore. You mocked Beth Moore (and other...