Thursday, July 19, 2018

Get Outta My Church!

We had attended a new church for a couple months and were initially glad to find a church that seemed to preach the Truth. It has been a difficult journey since moving to MD over five years ago. Even conservative Baptist churches are not preaching the Word; they are steeped in Secular Humanism.

So, we found this little church in a tight neighborhood and the "senior pastor" preached mostly expository messages. He veered off into opinion occasionally, but I've learned to tune that out. We even said "Amen" aloud a couple times. The people were friendly, a couple women even hugged me. They seemed sincere. They did not make announcements or utilize a bulletin of any sort, so we never felt we knew what was going on other than Sunday morning. I thought that was strange.

One Sunday, we got there to find that the "senior pastor" was out of town and his son, the "assistant pastor" would be preaching. This son is very green and clearly needs some homiletics training. But, we aren't going to cause a fuss over an ill-experienced preacher who is still learning to preach. We all start somewhere. However, one thing he said in his sermon struck a sour cord with me, but it had nothing to do with God's Word or God at all. He said our military men and women go into battle thinking they could never die; that they think it could never happen to them. He said they just go into battle with a flippant attitude. I shifted in my chair. My son had gone into battle....and before he did, he had to sign over power of attorney to us. He knew what could happen to him. He wasn't flippant.

Afterward, when this young man and his wife were greeting us at the door, I said - in passing, not as a confrontation - that our military men and women go into battle fully aware of what could happen to them.....but they go anyway. He said, "Oh, sure, sure.....yeah."

A few weeks later, the son preached again. This time, he butchered James 1, completely misrepresenting the passage and in a very damaging way. We felt bad for the congregation. At the door, as he shook his hand, my husband invited the young man to take a second look at James 1, read it over slowly and simply take a second look. Who would reject an invitation to take a second look at a passage of Scripture? Humility requires that we all respond positively to such an invitation.

However, the next day, my husband got an email from the "senior pastor" telling us that since David and I both met his son with opposition, and because he read my blog, we were no longer welcome to attend his church.

Now, because of red flags in their teachings and practices I was already seeing, I, personally, had already realized I could never put my full heart into that ministry. But, his reasons for kicking us out make no sense.

My threefold rebuttal:

Disagreeing with someone with zero military experience about the mindset of our military men and women is not opposition, it's education. Clearly, this kid is not teachable. Unteachable people are not qualified to preach/teach.

Inviting someone to take a second look at a passage of Scripture is not opposition, it's an act of love.

And concerning my blog, well, all I can say is, dude, you're not the first pastor I've scared off and it's highly likely you won't be the last.

I firmly believe every person who presents God's Word in any way, shape or form must be up for questioning. I will question everyone. Never one time did Jesus admonish someone not to question Him.

Any pastor who is not open to questioning, but frames any question or comment (and even invitations to look more closely at the Word) as "opposition" is not qualified to be in any pulpit.

I suspect - and this is pure speculation on my part - that this pastor is too afraid that the women in his congregation might find out they can have independent thoughts outside of their husbands' and pastors' control and he will have none of that. Every cult has to subdue the women at all times.

Carry on, little cult, carry on. One day you will know the truth.
~Tricia


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Whose Word is it Anyway?

I heard a young man preach last Sunday. I think the young man has potential, but he has a lot to learn about preaching God's Word. Throughout his sermon, he repeated that this is God's Word, this is what God has said, etc. He reiterated this several times, yet when it came to the actual Word, he changed what God said. He turned it into his own words, but kept God's name on it, passing it off as God's. He preached his word to the people, claiming it was God's Word, but it wasn't at all.

Here's what he did. He took James 1:2, which says, "...count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience," and he changed it to say, "...count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith, when you have the proper response, when handled right, produces patience."

Do you see the difference? He added "when you have the proper response, when handled right" to God's Word, effectively turning his sermon into one of Secular Humanism instead of one of God.

Whose Word is it? When we muddy the clear, pure waters of God's Word with our own secular, humanistic ideas and pass them off as God's, we are not only leading the sheep down a dangerous path, we are jeopardizing our own theology, making us more vulnerable to the rampant false teaching that plagues our churches today.

Be sure, it is God's Word and only God's Word will accomplish His purpose.

Listen to every sermon with a critical ear.

Take no one's word for God's Word.

Look things up for yourself.

If a preacher changes God's Word to suit an agenda (usually an attempt to control people's behavior), do not listen to that preacher.

You have the right and responsibility to question anyone who is teaching God's Word. If they do not receive your questions, they are not worthy or qualified to deliver God's Word.

Be like the Bereans, who were praised for looking things up for themselves. This was no small feat on their part, either, since #1, the entire Bible had not yet been written and #2, there weren't printed copies or a local book store to buy one from. STILL, they looked things up for themselves.....Acts 17:11-12a, "they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Therefore, many of them believed..."

~Tricia


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Is the Church Producing Weak Men?

I was recently asked, "Is the church producing weak men?"

My answer:

The church is failing to make strong disciples of either gender. It's not a question of whether men are being made strong in their faith, it's a question of whether any Christian is being made strong in their faith. A better question is, "Is the church equipping the saints for the work of the ministry?" and "Is the church making strong disciples who are grounded in doctrine?"

Asking whether the church is producing weak men is ignoring at least half the people there. No church leadership should be asking this question. I believe it's part of the problem. If we focus on one gender and attempt to produce strength in only one gender, we are weakening the entire church.

In Ephesians 4:11-13, it says, "And he gave some, apostles, some, prophets, some, evangelists and some, pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect (mature) person, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."

In these verses, there is no gender specification. While some might want to apply it in a gender specific way, it simply is not written in a gender specific way. Such an application would be amiss.

Now, to go back to the initial question of whether the church is producing strong disciples. There are weaknesses in the making of disciples in the church and that weakness is rooted in Secular Humanism, which is the primary thing being taught in a good number of evangelical churches. Secular Humanism comes wrapped in patriarchy and has been devastating to our churches as well as our sons and daughters.

My husband and I didn't raise our kids in a gender-specific way. By this I mean we didn't have different rules for the boys or the girls. Everyone had to live by the same rules in our house. There was no idea that "boys will be boys," meaning they got away with certain actions just because they were boys. Our girls got in as much trouble as our boys. Our girls got as dirty as our boys. Neither gender got special treatment. Everyone had to be kind, thoughtful, obedient, compassionate, and humble. And "Even Steven" has never been welcome at our house.

Many Christian people actually encourage men and boys to define themselves through strength, aggression and competitiveness. This hides the real character of Jesus Christ and leaves our men and boys feeling like they don't have a model of masculinity that allows for fear or grief or tenderness or the occasional sadness that can overwhelm any of us at times. To teach men and boys to define themselves through strength, aggression and competitiveness is faulty because Jesus says his strength is made perfect in weakness and we are to treat others as more important than ourselves. So, to define a "man" as one who shows strength, aggression and competitiveness is to misrepresent all men as ones who cannot identify with Christ at all.

If you want to save our children - save our sons - save our daughters, give them Jesus and realize their gender means nothing in light of the gospel. Kids don't need special treatment based on gender. Kids need Jesus and the life-changing power and news of the gospel of God.

Stop the influx of Secular Humanism into our pulpits and preach Jesus and this will make strong disciples of each gender....and you won't care what gender anyone is!

~Tricia


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Abandon This One Thing to have a Strong Marriage

The short answer to the one thing you have to abandon to have a strong marriage is: expectations. For those of you who want more than the short answer, read on...

I recently read an article (read it here) that a friend posted on Facebook. It's a good article, but I want to take the author's concept deeper.

The article says unmet expectations are the biggest marriage killers. Yes, I agree that unmet expectations are certainly marriage killers, or at the very least, marriage damaging factors.

I want to look at how evangelical churches fuel this marriage killer, doing much more harm than good.

One thing churches do is isolate portions of Scripture to one gender. They say, "Men, love your wives!" and "Women, submit!" and they seem to think this is how marriage works. They are wrong, this is not how marriage works. Loving and submission are not gender-specific concepts. Scripture teaches mutual submission in Ephesians 5:21 and personal humility without gender specificity in Philippians 2:3.

One could argue that the Bible does tell husbands to love and it does tell wives to submit and they would be right. But what the Bible does not do is teach love and submission as gender-exclusive concepts. However, many churches do teach them as gender-exclusive concepts and some even teach them as roles. Love is not just for husbands and submission is not just for wives.  Scripture is filled with examples that showcase this idea, like when God told Abraham to obey the voice of his wife, Sara. (Genesis 21:12)

Teaching love and submission as gender-exclusive concepts creates expectations that will certainly never be met. In this way, the church fuels expectations and this leads to an array of different results, including frustration, abuse, disappointment, disillusionment, and divorce. .

Love and submission are not roles. I've heard many evangelical pastors teach that a man's role is to love his wife and a wife's role is to submit to her husband. This is wrong. Through this teaching, the church is again creating expectations that can and will never be met. I've had many well-meaning women send private messages to my inbox telling me how God is not going to bless me unless I remain in "His assigned role for me," which they think is submission.

What these poor women do not understand is, submission is not my role. My "role" is the exact same thing it is for every Christian, male or female, across the globe: Love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself. That's my role and God and I are the only ones who get to decide what that looks like because He told me to work out my own salvation (work out what my salvation means and looks like in my life).

Love and submission are not roles and love and submission are not gender-exclusive. If you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself, you will love your spouse and you will submit to your spouse. The expectations are put on the Lord, not your spouse.

Put your expectations on Jesus, alone. He has invited you to do so and He cannot let you down. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to look to "Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith..." and He has kept no secrets, but laid out exactly what you can expect. You can expect eternal (abundant) life, you can expect an-ever present comfort in the Holy Spirit, you can expect guidance, peace that passes all understanding, a lack of anxiety, answered prayers, strength for each day, eternal hope, and on and on the list could go.

You cannot have these expectations of a spouse. What expectations can you have? Hmmm, very few. To even put any expectations on a spouse is tricky. If you communicate a few, like a joint commitment to stay out of debt or a joint commitment to raise the kids in a certain way, then an expectation can be ok. Even expectations like this can lead to frustration because each person processes these things in a different way. A wife might express that she wants the children to be raised on a strict daily schedule to keep order, but a husband might interpret that very differently on days he's in charge of the kids. This leads to chaos and frustration on the wife's part and if she says, "We agreed to the schedule," the husband could justifiably say, "We did have a schedule!" and her expectations are dashed. It gets cumbersome to lay down expectations when definitions are also required. Where does that even stop?

I'll tell you what you can expect. You can expect that God will continue to love you for eternity, that God will continue to be an ever-present help in times of trouble, that God will continue to meet your every need, that God is everything He has claimed to be - and more.

Set your expectations very high - and put them all on Jesus.
Then enjoy a long and happy marriage.
~Tricia

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Is this a Trick Question?

A met a young woman the other night. She was a guest in our home and, while friends with my two youngest sons, I hadn't met her until the other night. She reminded me of myself at her age. Petite, energetic, opinionated and outspoken. I liked her right away.

As I had off-and-on communication with her (they (she, another friend and my two sons) were watching a movie and grabbing snacks throughout), I noticed she used one phrase very frequently. She would often say, "Well, I'm a Baptist, so I don't do that..." or, "Oh, we're Baptists, we believe this or that," or, "Oh, you know us Baptists!" So, I was intrigued by this word usage and I asked her a few questions.

The next time she referred to being a Baptist in my presence, I said, "Oh, I see you're Baptist. Does that mean you ascribe to all the things your Baptist church teaches?"

She said, "Huh? I mean, um, is this a trick question?"

I said, "Certainly not. It's an honest question. I know what independent Baptist churches teach and I'm curious to know if you agree with and live your life by what they teach."

She said, "Well, I know women are supposed to submit to their husbands."

Now, before you think there were other words exchanged before she went straight to the topic of submission, let me assure you there were not. This was first and foremost on her mind. Her role is to submit. That's her main takeaway from her Baptist church.

I probed further, "Well, you're not married so that doesn't apply to you in that way, but don't miss the fact that men are also told to submit to their wives."

She looked at me curiously, but said, "Well, yeah......"

Then I asked my next question. I said, "Are you familiar with what is called the great commission?"

She said, "Well, I can't recall it word for word....."

I said, "It says something like, 'Go into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them....etc...basically a commandment to make disciples."

"Yeah!" she exclaimed, "That's it! Yeah."

I asked, "Who is Jesus talking to when he says that?"

She replied, "Ummm...hmmm...is this a trick question?"

"I promise, I'm not asking any trick questions."

"Ok, well, I think he's talking to his disciples."

"And," I said, "who are his disciples?"

"People who followed him at the time......and....us? Yes, us."

"So, he's talking to you?"

"Yes."

"Never forget that. He's talking to you. He's not talking to a husband who will then instruct or allow you to serve him. He's talking directly to you. I just wanted to plant that seed with you and make sure you follow Jesus, not a husband or church leader. He's talking to you."

"Yeah....." she said rather wistfully.

Statement analysis:

Had this delightful young woman answered me with anything other than submission, I likely  would not have gone down this path. Her first statement about her church was about submission in marriage. This speaks volumes to me. I suspect her church is out of balance because a young, single woman ought to be looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of her faith, and not what a future relationship with a human male might have to do with her relationship with Jesus or her church, or even with him, the human male. The fact that she thought, twice, that I was asking her trick questions could mean that she is being groomed to fit into a box that some man or male leadership created for her. I hope she smashes that box and never goes in there.

We are not doing our young people any favors by emphasizing a concept like submission which has been grossly misinterpreted and misapplied within the church. When we neglect to teach Jesus and emphasize a personal relationship with him, we are leading our young people astray, male and female.

I believe this is a conditioning or grooming tactic used by church leadership to ensure a woman knows her "place" and will follow their idea that submission should be a woman's focus. This is wrong. The Bible does not teach this. This is secular humanism wrapped in patriarchy, created to oppress and subdue women. Men and boys are groomed to think they are always the leaders and women and girls are groomed to think they are always subordinate. This is wrong. Absolutely wrong. It turns my stomach.

Do not be fooled, girls. You belong to Jesus and he is to be your priority. He's talking to you, not through someone else to you. Your focus should not be submission; your focus should be Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith. Let no one teach you differently. Walk out if they try.

Galatians 1:8 & 9: "But though we or an angel from Heaven preach any other gospel to you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be cursed. As we said before, so say I again, if anyone preaches another gospel to you than that you have received, let him be cursed."

~Tricia


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Who's your Boss? (Hint: It's not Your Pastor)

I recently read a church's position on a number of issues, including their "position" on women. Now, why a church has to have a "position" on women is beyond me. The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Greek nor Jew, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, but you are all one in Christ Jesus," so that pretty much puts the "issue" of women at rest for eternity.

For the record, women are not "issues" who need a policy. Women are joint heirs with Christ.

But, apparently, this church is so afraid a woman might teach a man that they created an entire policy to keep their women in line (cult much?). The church says, "The entire Bible teaches a hierarchy of roles for the home and the church..." and claims that "because the basis of this principle is grounded in the nature of creation...." and they depend on how "it was commonly applied in the original New Testament churches." They go on to say, "Galatians 3:28 (quoted above) affirms the equality of men and women. While the functioning of families and the church involve different roles for men and women, that distinction in no way implies superiority of either gender."

But, the problem is, none of this is true of what Scripture teaches. You can't have it both ways. You can't claim a God-given hierarchy, then tell the peons they are equal. Hierarchy, by its very definition, means they simply are not.

Hierarchy is defined as, "a system or organization in which people or groups are ranked one above the other according to status or authority." (Dictionary.com) Given that definition, which is consistent from other sources as well, I am confused as to how a church can tell its women they are equal when men are given authority and/or status above them and make rules for them. This particular church claims that "the entire Bible teaches a hierarchy of roles for the home and the church," but they fail to show where "the entire Bible" teaches this. (Hint: No part of the Bible teaches this; it is a man-made idea. This is Secular Humanism.)

The "equality" they speak of is not the same equality you are thinking of. Their equality means, yes, they have equal value as a human being because they are made in the image of God, but that's as far as their equality goes. Do you think they mean equal access to the Savior? No, they don't. They mean access to the Savior as long as their husband (or father if they are not married), approves and they look to him as a "spiritual head." They don't encourage women to be independent students of the Word, they encourage women to follow their husbands first and Jesus second. (Never, ever do this. This makes your husband an idol.)

This church's rule book also states, "we don't ask women to assume roles where authoritative teaching and discipline occur." Given this, a woman really has no authority over her own children if they are in the presence of any male church leader. What a danger! (Again, cult much?) This is exactly why Donn Ketcham, ABWE's star doctor, was able to create an environment of abuse and carry his pedophilia on for decades in Bangladesh. (ABWE = The Association of Baptists for World Evangelism and they condoned, covered up and spread their prized doctor's (Donn Ketcham) pedophilia in Bangladesh and Michigan.) The mission board (ABWE) and their supporting churches gave Donn Ketcham complete authority over the other missionaries lives, including the lives of their children. This was all a set-up; Donn Ketcham did this intentionally so he could carry out this pedophilia without hindrance. His entire reason for going and being there was to practice pedophilia and he did it with no resistance for decades. Read more about this here

There is no room for hierarchy of any kind in a church. Godly women don't follow this kind of teaching or support it in any way. The definition of pastor/elder/deacon/bishop goes against the teaching these pastors/elders/deacons/bishops promote. Their role is servant. They are servants, not authority holders. They are to serve, not police.

So, let's understand the use of the word "authority" in the New Testament. Authority does not mean power over someone else's life. Your pastors/elders/deacons/bishops do not have authority over your life; they can't demand you live a certain way and enforce that demand. Their authority comes with what they are preaching. They are to preach and teach with authority over what they are preaching, not over the lives of the listeners. That authority comes only through the true preaching of the Word. God has spoken and one - anyone - who teaches what God has spoken is doing it with the authority God built into His Word. They (we) have authority to preach and teach the Word because the Word is what carries the authority. They do not have the authority to boss your life. They do not have authority to promote their own ideas/interpretations. Also, there is no Scriptural basis for preventing women from having the same authority if they are teaching God's Word because, again, it's the Word that holds the authority, not the people teaching. Jesus, Himself, appointed the first evangelist - and it was a woman - and her words of His resurrection carried all the authority of that resurrection.

We also have a responsibility with God's Word when we are listeners. Even if we are not in a position of teaching or preaching, we have the responsibility to only follow those teachers/preachers/leaders who follow Christ. We are to make sure what they are teaching is in line with the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) and confront them if it is not. If you ever hesitate to question your pastor, know that any pastor worth their salt is not only open to questioning, but welcomes it and from anyone. Those who don't welcome questioning should not be teaching/preaching. You do not have to support those who refuse to submit to questioning. I personally scrutinize every single sermon I hear. I double check to make sure the preacher has stayed true to the context, to the consistency of God's character and does not cross over to Secular Humanism (an easy cross-over).

Deciding to join a church does place us in a position of submission so as not to disrupt the order of services, etc., but that position does not contain a hierarchy. We are all admonished to "Submit yourselves one to another" in Ephesians 5:21. Submission is not exclusively for women. We each, leaders and learners, are to submit one to another. Everyone, without exception, is to submit to the next person. This is not optional, but neither is it enforceable, i.e. no one can demand certain behaviors and/or actions from you.

I was visiting a church one time when a visiting preacher got up to preach. The first thing he said was, "I'm going to talk about Ephesians 5, but I don't want you to open your Bibles, I just want you to listen." Shocked, I looked around and saw nearly everyone lay their Bible beside them and not open it. Not me. I opened right up to Ephesians 5 and was dismayed to see that the man talked only of his own ideas and interpretations the entire time. Afterward, I confronted him. I introduced myself, told him I was a visitor and then told him I was dismayed that he'd asked people not to open their Bibles. Immediately, this man was sorry. He said, "You are absolutely right. I never, ever should have done that you can bet I'll never do it again. Thank you." I gotta say, that man had true humility. Yes, he really did thank me for confronting him.

Listen to every sermon you hear with a critical ear. Take no one's word for anything, but look it all up for yourselves. Question everything and if you can't find the answers in the Scriptures yourself, talk to the preacher and ask for clarification on what they said, then correct them if needed.

~Tricia




Saturday, March 10, 2018

Satan Gotcha Good, Church, Real Good

My ebook, The Poverty of Patriarchy, takes a look at the poverty (and resulting chaos) created by patriarchy. Despite what you've been taught in your church, patriarchy is not a Biblically condoned system of operation. When Jesus came, He blew patriarchy out of the water, yet the vast majority of evangelical churches retain it as though it's some badge of godliness that we should never abandon. And, those same evangelicals, instead of listening to someone with an opposing view, condemn us, call us liberals and limit their contact with us. They show no compassion or willingness to listen to something different than what they have been brought up to believe.

Of all things I've observed through encounters with these evangelical leaders, their lack of compassion speaks the loudest to me. They are immediately defensive and seem to be desperate to share their view at the expense of silencing mine. This experience has taught me that a lack of compassion is a first indicator of a lack of fellowship with Christ. These evangelicals are not all they are cracked up to be if they display a lack of compassion. They need to re-examine their relationship with Jesus and that requires getting down off their high horse.

This was especially evident to me when I revealed how an upsetting encounter with a janitor in the ladies room at First Baptist Church, Laurel, MD happened. You can read what happened here. I was met with anger, denial, threats, all kinds of name calling and many other ungodly responses from so-called Christians. But, there was one exception....one young man, when he heard about it from one of my sons, immediately said, "Is your mom ok?" He was the sole person, outside my family and true friends, who showed compassion. Even church leadership said, "That doesn't sound like Fitz." (The current pastor of that church did apologize, but as soon as the apology came out of his mouth, his wife negated it, saying I was "hurting the church." Um, no, Fitz is hurting the church and you all are by allowing him to continue to burst into the ladies room unannounced.)

That being said, it occurred to me this weekend that my book already needs a revision and update because I saw another missing avenue caused by patriarchy and I need to add this to the book. Billy Graham's funeral was broadcast over Facebook Live (and I'm sure other venues), so I was able to watch a portion of it. I heard all his kids give their testimonies of their father and one of his daughters said her resolve to preach the gospel wherever she went was strengthened due to her father's death.

As soon as I heard her say that, I realized that no evangelical church would dare let her go in their midst and preach the gospel. This was a stunning thought. Here is someone obviously moved and changed by the power of Jesus Christ, yet she would be prevented from sharing that gospel for one reason and one reason only: she's a woman.

Has the evangelical church as a whole limited the spread of the gospel by silencing their women and only allowing them to serve in a secondary role? I would not want to be guilty of this when I meet my Maker. Oh, my, I shudder to think of it.

For this reason alone, evangelical churches might want to revisit the Scriptures and discover for themselves that patriarchy is not God's intended way. Most churches depend more on tradition than Scriptural teaching when it comes to this issue. But, I repeat, Jesus blew patriarchy out of the water and we'd be wise to do the same.

Is patriarchy hindering the spread of the gospel? I believe it is. To allow half the followers of Christ to remain silenced is to hinder the spread of the gospel and that is not something I'm willing to be guilty of.

Satan gotcha good on this one, church, real good.

~Tricia