Friday, February 28, 2014

Stop the Submission; Stop the Abuse

I am happy to report that Bill Gothard might finally have to answer for his abuses over the years. Many are saying it's about time. I can honestly say I saw it coming. I saw it in Bill Gothard; I saw it in Jack Hyles (I was in his church twice); I saw it in the ABWE missionary I met and shook hands with as he promoted himself. I saw it, I see it and I have figured out what's causing it, at least in part, and why it gets to continue like it does.


All abusers require submission in order to carry out their abuse. As an abuse survivor, I am acutely aware of this fact. If you stop the submission, you will stop the abuse.

Now, I am fully aware that this statement flies in the face of modern fundamental Christian churches, but hear me out. The Bible surely talks about submission, but I fear our churches and para-church organizations have taken it a step too far. This extra step opens the door to abuse very wide, and every time. The very first step in stopping the abuse is to stop the submission. The very first step in stopping the submission is to understand what the Bible really says about submission.

Submission started with sin. In the garden, when God was telling Adam and Eve the results of their sin, He told the woman, in Genesis 3:16, that her "desire will be toward her husband and he will rule over" her. So, the idea of submission is a result of the fall. God was telling them what they would face in the future; He was not ordering the husband to rule over the wife. There is no command given in this statement.

Ephesians 5:22 tells wives to "be subject to" their own husbands "as unto the Lord."

Colossians 3:18 states, 'Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord."

Each of these passages have one word in common above the others and it's not the word "submit." As a matter of fact, the Ephesians reference does not even have the word submit in it in the Greek. Look it up and see. The one word these verses have most in common is "husband" and a particular husband at that....."your own husband."

Women, we are to submit to our own husbands. Period. There is no other man on the planet to whom we owe submission in that context. We are to "submit ourselves one to another" as Christians, as stated in Ephesians 5:21, but that does not mean all women submit to all men. It means all men and women submit to each other in a church context. It means the female voice is just as important as the male voice.

When Christ died on the cross, He brought in the age of grace and His Word went from husbands ruling over wives to husbands being commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it. (Ephesians 5:25) A husband who is looking to do that hardly has time to brow-beat his wife into submission for his struggle is far greater, I dare say.

Women, stop submitting to men who are not your husband!

I have been married for nearly 35 years.  We have reared eight children. Submission is not an issue in my marriage. Submission is not an issue in my life, either. I submit to the law of the land, I submit to the Word of God as the Holy Spirit moves in my heart. I submit to other Christians in our service of the King. But, I simply do not and will not submit to any other man simply because he's a man and I'm a woman. I do not submit to preaching that is not aligned with the Word of God. I look things up on my own and decide if they are true. I hold no one else responsible for that besides myself.

I never have. I never will. But, this has not gone over very well with other men.

When we stop submitting to men who are not our husbands, it opens a door to freedom. It empowers us to question men like Bill Gothard. It makes us think twice before we automatically submit to the unreasonable demands of a mission board over how to school and/or raise our children.

I don't deal with men who expect me to submit to them and their way of thinking. Years ago when my husband and I owned a rental property business, we would look at a potential house to buy and some of the real estate agents would not so much as look at me, let alone give credibility to anything I had to say in any deal. They would look only to my husband. When we realized what was happening, we dealt with it swiftly and effectively. We simply would not buy a house or property from any agent who did not treat me as an equal in Johnson Rentals. When an agent practiced this, we politely thanked him for his time and were done. No female agent ever did this, by the way; it was only the men.

I truly believe one of the keys to stop abuse in the church, on the mission field, and in any Christian or non-Christian workplace is for women to stop submitting to men who are not their husbands. Husbands and wives can become a united fortress for their families, that no one can penetrate. This protects their children from abuse more than anything else.

This thinking enabled me to make my son's Marine Corps Drill Instructor stand down and apologize to me in front of his recruits. I knew he had no authority over me, so when he cussed in front of my two little boys, who were four and six at the time, I politely asked him to stop talking like that in front of my little boys. I told him that they are so young and impressionable and they would think it's ok to talk like that. The DI immediately apologized to me over and over and said he'd clean up his mouth. My son and his fellow recruits silently rejoiced. (I worried for a minute that he wouldn't let my son graduate boot camp, but he did.)

Abuse survivors like myself learn that we have power over ourselves and we become unafraid to exercise that power no matter who disagrees or tries to quiet us.

Oh, and quieting us is a common tactic to allow the abuse to continue, or at least ensure the abuser doesn't get caught. In many cults, this is called making the women and girls "keep sweet." In the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) cult, run by Warren Jeffs from his prison cell, this is what they do. They first subdue the women with submissive teachings, then they oppress them if they try to exercise a mind of their own, then they accuse them of causing trouble if they don't "keep sweet." This is eerily similar to what I've heard some men say.....they criticize women who are outspoken about abuse in an attempt to quiet them. They'll say things like, "Oh, she's always harping about that." or "Are you ever going to give that up?" or "You're just like that because you think you were abused." or "Can you believe her? Ha!" And the list goes on. Don't "keep sweet." Speak up about abuse, every single time. Some young man or woman will thank you one day.

Every cult that ever was works openly to subdue the women!  Without exception.

Don't be that woman. Don't submit to men who are not your own husband. And if your husband is demanding you do something unbiblical or something you disagree with, stand your ground against it. God comes first. And if you need help with that, contact me.

And, if you're not married but live on your own as single, you submit to no one any more than any man does and should. Don't submit to men just because they are men. Submit to one another in your church, but the men should also be practicing this.

I know a pastor who is so insecure about submission that when a godly woman in his church was widowed, he didn't know what to do with her, so he ostracized her and accused her of being out there "practicing fornication" in the world. This woman had served her Lord in her church for years and was in her 70s when this happened to her. She left his church. I don't blame her. I would have gone with her had I been there at the time.

I am heartbroken for the young people who were hurt by Bill Gothard. I am heartbroken for the people I know whose marriages were destroyed due to his unbiblical teachings. I am burdened beyond expression about this and I will continue to speak out against abuse. I will continue to empower women to stand up and have a voice of their own. I will continue to encourage women to choose Jesus, like Mary, Martha's sister did, because that cannot be taken away from them.

You all have the right to choose Jesus. And you don't have to do it quietly to be godly.

If someone wants me quiet about abuse, they can stop supporting abusers.

Monday, February 24, 2014

6 Practical Things that Mean Your Church is Dying

My title for this blog post might seem a little weird to some people because many think they would automatically know if their church is dying. It has been our experience that people do not know. And sometimes the pastor(s) don't even know. I have made a few observations of dying churches and thought these observations might help some pastor or church member wake up to the fact that their church just might be dying. This is a small list, but it has been very telling for many.

6 Practical Things that Mean Your Church is Dying:

1. The baptismal pool is filled with cobwebs. Spiders don't build cobwebs in places that are frequently filled with water. If your church's baptismal pool is dusty and cobweb filled, it's time to look back and see when it was last used. If it's been a while, get on your knees and pray for the lost souls around you. Pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers. Be the first in line.

2. Classrooms are used for storage. We've seen many churches who use former classroom (and even sanctuary) space for storage. If your church is using teaching or classroom space for storage instead of teaching, find out why. Get on your knees and ask God to fill those spaces with eager souls who want more of His Word.

3. The people are more concerned with tradition than lost souls. When the idea and practice of doing things the way they've always been done is more prominent than the winning of lost souls, it's time to get on our knees and ask God for a burden for souls. I guarantee you that if you pray for souls, your focus will shift and your burden will grow like a creek in a flood. People who are dying into a Christ-less eternity couldn't care less about what type of music you sing in your services or which Bible version you prefer. Those things don't matter in Hell.

4. People gossip. If people are gossiping in your church - if you are gossiping - your church is not growing but is dying a slow, painful death. I once knew a church whose members often said, "We don't gossip here." All I can say is, for a church that doesn't gossip, they sure talk about people a lot. Gossip kills churches, causes rifts in relationships, minimizes Christ's work on the Cross and causes younger Christians to stumble. It also slowly destroys those who do the gossiping.

5. The nursery is empty or almost empty. An empty nursery indicates a lack of young families. Once a nursery empties out, churches often move into a maintenance mode and simply sustain what they have.

6. New people are from other churches. If you are seeing new people in your church and you find that they are mostly coming from other churches, that's a red flag. New people in our churches need to be new Christians. We need to be filling our churches with people we've been leading to Christ; new babes in Christ. If most of the new people in your church are simply hopping over from another church in town without a sound, doctrinal reason to leave that church, they will simply hop away from your church when something doesn't go their way there. Be wary of church-hoppers. They are not profitable to a growing church. They will ultimately destroy your church.

The all-encompassing solution to every problem listed here is prayer. Jesus, Himself, gave us the solution to these things. In Luke 10:2, He told us to pray to the Lord of the Harvest that He would send forth laborers. He said the fields are already white unto harvest. As a matter of fact, He said the harvest is great. Not just ready, but great!  The fields need no prep work; they are ready to be harvested. We prayed to the Lord of the harvest and so far, hundreds have come to Christ, four new churches have been planted and opportunities to preach and teach have increased abundantly even in the midst of personal trials. Do the praying; God will give the increase.


Friday, February 14, 2014

John MacArthur Disagrees with Jesus

I recently heard a sermon by John MacArthur upon the suggestion of a friend.  This was the first sermon I'd ever heard John preach. There is no gentle way to say that it will be the last sermon of his I ever listen to. Some have wanted to know my specific problems with this sermon. I'll try out outline them here. I cannot, however, be as thorough and comprehensive as I'd like to be. Time restraints are preventative to that, but I trust that anyone who wants to search these things out to see if they are true, will certainly do so on their own.

I have a problem when a preacher uses a non-contextualized talk to springboard to a general topic, then promote his own agenda.  In this referenced sermon, John MacArthur made some sweeping, generalized and harmful comments about women that have nothing to do with the passage he said he was claiming to preach, nor with the overall teachings of Scripture.

He said, "The intent of what the Word is saying here is that women need protection." (Referring to Genesis 3:15&16)
And he also said, "She has a certain vulnerability. The need for protection. The need for a leader. She needs a strengthener."
He said that Eve was deceived only when she had gone out of the protection of her husband.
And he said, "A woman has a deceive-ability when out from under the headship of a man. Rulership was intended for man."

He based these comments solely on the fact that Eve first took of the forbidden fruit in the garden as she fell to Satan's deception.

Let's look at God's Words about this. Eve was not deceived while "out from under the protection" of her husband. The Bible says Adam was with her when she partook (Genesis 2:6). Their eyes were not opened, however, till Adam ate the fruit.

The sweeping comment about women having a "certain vulnerability" and" needing protection" seems to go against what God said when He created woman. It was the man who needed assistance. God created woman because man needed help and protection. The word for "helper" is ezer and means assistant, succour and often has military connotations throughout Scripture. The word is used 21 times in the Old Testament and is used to mean strength and power. (Deut 33:26, 29) He created woman as an equal to the man. He gave them equal dominion over the earth and everything in it. (Genesis 1:28)

Any rulership husbands had over wives was a result of the fall. (Genesis 3:16) That is not an overall intent of God for only men to be rulers or leaders. God had women rulers and leaders all throughout Scripture and they ruled over men. They told men what to do. They led the men and with God's blessing and appointment to do so.

Also, because the idea of rulership was a result of the fall, Jesus conquered all that on the cross. A church-age husband is completely out of line to announce his perceived "rulership" on any level because he is commanded in Scripture to love his wife "as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her." Any abuse of this is just that - abuse - and an indication that the man has stepped out of his God-given role as sacrificial giver. (Also, Ephesians 5 calls for mutual submission between husbands and wives, eliminating the submission argument altogether. Besides, do husbands really want the kind of submission that comes from them demanding it? Submission indicates willingness by its very definition and Paul tells the Ephesians it will be mutually given in a proper marriage relationship.) John MacArthur disagrees.

Another general statement he made was, "Part of the curse is that she will desire to control men and he would have to rule over her." God did not say that. God did not say that women will desire to control men and that men, in turn would have to rule over her as though it's a reaction to that. Mr. MacArthur added his own words to God's Words here, changing the meaning of Scripture. (The Book of Revelation tells us what happens to people who add to God's Word.)

He started out saying that he was going to address the role of women in the church, but he branched out big time to include women everywhere. Clearly, women's roles in the church were very widespread in the NT church. Women led. Women taught men. Women served along side Paul, traveling with him and his missions team, were imprisoned with him, etc. Look up these women: Phoebe, Chloe, Junia, Priscilla, Anna, Lydia, Mary (who sat at Jesus' feet with the men), Eunice, Lois....and others. Priscilla went on a missions trip with Paul.  I can see why Mr. MacArthur had to avoid that.

Mr. MacArthur said that Paul was saying that a woman must embrace God's appointed role for her, which, according to John MacArthur, is motherhood. Even though he says that not all women are mothers, he also says that's God's appointed role for all women. Clearly, since men can't have babies without the intervention of modern science and misadventure, motherhood is ONE of the many roles of women. But, Mr. MacArthur's presentation doesn't really allow room for that idea. He wants to put all women in this neat, little box he's created and call it a day. This is spiritual abuse.

Toward the end, he said, "They [women] are delivered from the results of sin and are able to maintain a positive influence in society and in the church by accepting their role as a mother."

Why isn't the Christian world shouting blasphemy about this statement? Delivered from the results of sin by being a mother???? Seriously? The Mormons teach something very, very similar. Be careful, ears, what you hear.

When people of influence make sweeping comments, even on the heels of a disclaimer to the contrary, they are setting women up for abuse, pure and simple. What if a young Christian woman listened to this as a new babe in Christ? It would shape her thinking and it would cause her to stop thinking for herself and fall prey to men whom she perceives as "godly" and cases such as what ABWE, Bill Gothard and others allowed will continue to happen.

Women, do not be afraid to be strong in doctrine and stand up against this type of teaching. You don't have to make a scene when you stand up for it, all you have to do is stop listening to it. Stop reading it. Stop going to a church that teaches this nonsense. Blog about it if you have a blog.

A godly woman fears the Lord (Proverbs 31), not man. Jesus praised Mary for learning at his feet (as the men did in those days) and told her sister, Martha, that Mary had chosen that which could not be taken from her. (Luke 10:38-42)

Like Mary, all we as women have the opportunity to choose what cannot be taken away from us. The underlying tone of John MacArthur's sermon is one of abuse and an attempt to keep women out of sight. I know pastors who take his words to their pulpits and abuse their congregations with this very teaching. It's abusive to the women for obvious reasons, but it's also abusive to the men because such pastors are not strengthening their men in doctrine, they are filling their heads with lies, often turning them into bullies. It's so subtle that unless you've been exposed to it and its devastating effect, you might not realize the full implications it has. People like John MacArthur will answer to God for what they have done, but, in the meantime, we don't have to sit and take it....from anyone.

I am very, very thankful to be married to a man who wants me to think on my own, who wants me to be grounded in Scripture and who is not afraid for me to stand up for myself.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Stop Buying Bible Study Books!

A Case for Inductive Bible Study
A personal story

          For the longest time I felt cheated.  I couldn’t afford all the latest Bible study books on the market. We had eight kids and the budget was stretched to its max with their needs already. There was simply no room for something as luxurious as a Bible study book.  So I used my Bible, my concordance, my husband’s lexicon and his inter-linear Greek New Testament, a Bible dictionary and other tools to study my Bible.  I had taken Principles of Bible Study in college so I was familiar with the “how to” of  inductive Bible study. But, for the longest time, I felt like I was missing something.  Whenever we would go to a conference or I would go to a women’s seminar, all the ladies would talk about the latest Bible study book on the market and they were so excited.  But, I would return home to my own, independent Bible study methods time and time again, literally for a couple of decades. 

Ok, so the kids grew and some left home and the budget loosened up a bit.  I was finally able to purchase a couple of these Bible study books that were so popular.  Imagine my excitement!  When I got my first one, I was taken aback by its contents.  Why, it wasn’t a Bible study book at all!  It was filled with opinions, Scripture taken out of context and very shallow applications of what were, to me, rich passages of Scripture filled with promise and Truth.  I was sorely disappointed and a bit confused.

I quickly went back to my personal, inductive Bible study, by choice this time, and there I will remain!  Nothing on the market replaces or even comes close in comparison to inductive Bible study.  I make observations, do the interpretations and the Holy Spirit applies His Word to my heart and life.  My portion is observation + interpretation.  I have seen far too many good-intentioned teachers wrongly apply the Scriptures, leading to a false teaching that they, themselves, would never want to teach!  No one can apply the Scriptures to your life – only the Holy Spirit can do that and only the Holy Spirit should do that.  So, my study does not include application.  In the studies I teach, I often teach a Scriptural Truth, then I will ask my students if that Truth will change their perspective, and if so, how?

If you are studying God’s Word, you will learn God. 
Who He is. Why He is. What He is.

What I have learned in more than 30 years of personal, inductive Bible study:

1. Discernment - when we know Truth, we easily recognize error. Discernment isn’t necessarily something that has to be developed with effort.  Knowing the Bible produces discernment; it’s not up to me.  Biblical knowledge is the only way to get discernment.

2. Discipline - a dissatisfaction developed in me if I didn’t study a portion of Scripture thoroughly - I've always had to get to the bottom of it! This led to an overwhelming desire to see a study through to the end, to seek answers I didn't see right away.

3. Consistency - I had to approach all Scripture the same way every time. Even though I am the “creative type” and tend to go more according to my moods (like what I feel like having for dinner, etc.) I have been much more consistent with my Bible study than in any other area of my life.  I quickly learned that Bible study is not about my moods or even about what I want to learn; it’s about Jesus Christ and learning more about Him.

4. Grammar skills - grammatical content and structure is vitally important to inductive Bible study and I found that I lost meaning if I didn’t stop to consider the grammatical structure. This attention to grammar has helped even in my freelance writing, making me a better writer.

It's now easier than ever to do inductive Bible study. There are online lexicons, fabulous software programs and great concordances just a mouse click away. 

Stop buying Bible study books and just study your Bible. Don't settle for someone else's observations about the Bible, make your own, before you read theirs.