Tuesday, January 29, 2008
If the preacher preaches the Word of God and his family is halfway decent, the church will love him and cherish him. Is this guaranteed?
I found this belief system in many of the pastors' wives attending the Pastors and Wives Seminars that Paul and I have led.
And I found that the older ones had pretty much left this belief, the younger ones still held to it, and then there was a group who were still struggling with it. This is an interesting discussion. The bottom line is that this is not a guarantee. And a quick reality check shows that in the majority of pastors' experiences just the opposite is true. There is a lot of hurt out there among pastors and pastors' families.
I could share many experiences I've heard and empathized with, but I'll limit my sharing to my personal experience. I was a pastor's wife when I married at age 17, so I just grew up thinking this was a normal life experience. I loved being a pastor's wife, and overall our experiences were generally positive. There was always the criticism and people leaving the church because they didn't like something; but that was offset by others joining and many successful endeavors.
One of our best learning experiences, and one I wouldn't wish anyone else to have to endure, was when we were at one of our churches. The previous pastor had moral problems and had left the church in disarray. Paul is a great preacher (of course I would say that, he's my man). He's been my pastor most of my married life, and I think he's the very best preacher I've ever heard. Okay, okay, I'll quit.
I say that to make a point. Paul's a good preacher and a good pastor. Our family had its issues, but we were okay, nothing to be ashamed of, just regular parenting and kid issues. Overall, a good family.
Now for the guarantee: Why didn't the church just love having us as did our previous pastorates? Reality: Paul was criticized because he wasn't the people person that the former pastor was; i.e., the one who had slept with three women in the church, one a staff member. Hmmm...
Paul was criticized because of his preaching. Everyone had an opinion and let him know what he should preach. He chose to do what he had always done up to that point, not be a crowd pleaser but be a Bible expositor, letting the chips fall where they might. Hmmm...
All this time people were joining the church. The church was growing, but the personal attacks were tremendous. Our young son had to listen to criticism of his Dad in the Sunday School class. It really hurt him. Hmmm...
My learning process through this was first confusion, then anger, then searching the scriptures why these things were so. Oddly, the church loved me and I could do no wrong. Now isn't that a fine set of circumstances? Not one to be cherished.
This time in my life was one of the richest learning times I've ever had. I learned firsthand that there are no guarantees in scripture except that God loves me and will never leave me. It was at this time that Hebrews 11 came alive to me, and I discovered things in scripture like Peter and James in prison, one was beheaded, the other experienced a miracle. And the experiences of Peter and Stephen compared; one preached and 3,000 were saved, and the other preached much the same sermon and he was stoned to death. Huh?
Why had I not seen these things before? I probably had, but had skimmed them because I wasn't ready to receive them. Now that I was hurting and looking, I was ready and these examples in scripture were of great comfort to me, showing me that there are no guarantees as I had thought there were. In fact, quite the opposite seemed to be the teaching of the scripture. Hmmm...
I came through this experience greatly enriched. Prior to this, I'm afraid I had the attitude that if you had problems, you either created them yourself or God allowed them and he was seeing you through. Now that might sound good, but it's quite arrogant. And because of this belief system, I had answers for you if you came to me with a problem. Hey, girl, just trust God to get you out of this and try to find out what He's teaching you, or if you're sinning, quit. That's it! What's so hard about counseling? (Isn't that unbelievable? But that was me. (oops, That was I. And I'm an editor.) A very arrogant and not very empathetic counselor.
Okay, to wind up this long post, let me say that bottom line is that God loves me and is with me. He will never, never, never leave me. That's it! My experiences in life may be rough and hard but these two promises are my foundation and I can stand strong and have confidence.
These guarantees are mine whether I'm a pastor's wife, in the corporate world, or wherever I am in my life. That's a message worth sharing.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Guarantee #7 I posted in the list of guarantees people claim from scripture on my post when I started this little mini-series was: God promised me that job.
Here's another example of the phrase, "God promised…"
As I'm thinking about what to write here, there are many directions I could go. I could go down the road of any of the following:
- preachers who use phrases such as If you will…, I guarantee you God will…
- teachers who teach the claiming-promises guarantees
- the art of prooftexting any scripture for personal purposes
- the interesting practice of closing your eyes and pointing to a scripture and claiming that God said specifically to me for this situation…
- gullible listeners who follow false teachings and then give up
All of these would be good solid roads to travel with a good destination reached at the end. However, I think I'll traverse this road: What's more important? What job I have or what kind of worker I am? I believe it's the way we think that's the root problem.
We look at what we want and think if we can find a scripture or some spiritual guru who will tell us we can claim a scripture and have faith and God will give it, then we will be spiritual, faith-practicing servants of God.
Quite heavily missing in today's theology, preaching, teaching, and practice is the saturated teaching in the New Testament that no matter who we are, where we are, or what we are doing, we are to be the redeemed being God paid the highest price for us to be able to be.
Basic to my belief system is to realize I am living under the New Covenant not the Old Covenant. I understand the Old Covenant to teach that if I will, then God will. That is throughout. Conditional.
But the New Covenant is radically different. The new way is to enjoy what God has already done. There is no if. He already has, and because He has, then I can. I don't do or ask things hoping that because I have, He will. I know that He has already given me all I need, even above what I could ever ask or think, and I am to enjoy and BE the redeemed paid-for believer, no matter what my circumstance.
Back to the subject lest you think I have strayed. God promised me that job. Guarantee? I wonder. I believe God promised me and any believer that we are His and He has given us the ability to be His representative in any job, in any circumstance.
Maybe instead of spending all my energies and prayers claiming God's supposed promise of that job, making sure I am true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil. 4:8) and a worker worthy of my hire in my present job. Or, if I'm without a job, making sure I have my eyes wide open to all the opportunities afforded rather than tunnel vision to the one supposedly-promised job. Different attitude entirely.
You may think I haven't really answered or addressed the subject. I think I covered it well. I guess it might be perspective.
If you've read this, I welcome your comments.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The sixth guarantee that I listed on a previous blog was "God told me that she will be my wife." I'm addressing each one of these supposed guarantees in separate postings.
We've had this situation many times throughout our years of ministry. One particular situation became problematic. The young man had heard others give testimony to the fact that God told them who their mate would be and it happened.
He just knew that he had heard from God about who his wife would be. He told her. She had not had the same word from God, and let him know emphatically that wasn't going to happen.
He became obnoxious and somewhat of a pest to the young woman. The whole situation ended up in a counselor's office. In fact, the young man had to be told very clearly by others that he needed to back off and give it up. He did, and later moved and met someone else and married and now has a family.
Years later we had a similar situation where a young lady married her sweetheart and they went on an extended honeymoon. She had previously been stalked by a young man who insisted God told him that she was to be his. There was a very tragic ending to this story, great pain for all involved.
Where do young people get this idea, that God has promised them who their mate will be? Could it be that in our zeal to tell and show how God has led us and promised to be with us and give us good things that we inadvertently give the message that God promises things like this and if we just claim the promises and faith it, the guarantee is there that it will happen?
Again, I would challenge each of us to find in the scriptures anywhere that anything like this is even hinted at, much less promised. Some might say the promise was personal and spoken to the heart by God. Might be. But, sharing that as a teaching or as a promise for others to pick up and claim as a promise becomes a stumbling block to others.
I've also counseled women who say that they missed God when they married their husband, and many have suffered their entire married lives thinking they are outside the will of God. Sometimes I marvel at how far afield we get from the actual gospel and what's written in the scriptures. I enjoy trying to bring women back to actual truth and reality.
Reality check: My calling and my assignment is to be a godly person and a godly mate, be it husband or wife. (I reread that and laughed and wanted you to know that I've never thought I was called to be a godly husband, just a wife.) We can sure mess ourselves up by listening to well meaning testimonies and trying to apply those principles in our lives rather than searching the scriptures as Bereans whether these things are so.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Yes, God did promise that He would return, but the title of this post is referring to the next guarantee I listed in an earlier post: If my husband leaves, I will claim God's promise that he will return.
The last guarantee I addressed was that if a wife remains submissive, her husband will not leave. I tried to put that supposed guarantee and this one together, but as I wrote I realized they were two very different events, and I chose to write about them separately.
So, I'm not referring to the second coming of Christ here; I'm referring to a wife who says that God promised her that her husband, who has left, will return.
I do believe that God sometimes makes a scripture come alive to an individual and that individual has faith and believes that God has personally promised that to them. I have no problem with that type of testimony. My problem is when that is given as a testimony and then the teaching follows that if you will...God has promised that He will... .
My pet peeve with Christian testimony services is that the testimonies are always success stories, success as defined by modern-day believers. Examples:
- I tithed the first dollar I made and gave a dime to the church. Now I'm a millionaire.
- I lost my job. I prayed and believed and God gave me an even better job immediately.
- My husband left me for another woman. I remained submissive and claimed God's promises and my husband repented and came back. He's now a better husband.
Here's my reality check. For every testimony I've listed above, I suspect there are dozens who would have to testify just the opposite. Examples:
- I tithed the first dollar I ever made and gave a dime to the church. I still have a lower paying job, but God has blessed and I'm grateful for all He's done for me.
- I lost my job. It's been tough. I have many friends who have lost their jobs. It gets pretty discouraging sometimes, but I know God loves me and He has provided. It might not be what I expected, but I am grateful for His presence and care.
- My husband left me for another woman. I was deeply grieved. I don't think that's what God wanted him to do. However, God has strengthened me and enabled me to go forward with my life and to honor Him in what I do. My husband may not return; it's his decision. I am responsible to God for my life and my decisions. God loves me and is with me. I trust Him with my life, which cannot depend on another person to make me happy.
Isn't it much harder to give glory and honor to God when He isn't blessing with material blessings? (Note: I use the word blessing loosely here.) I'm afraid we have been infiltrated with the health and wealth gospel, which to me is a distortion of the reality of scripture.
Back to the original guarantee that a husband will return if the wife is just faithful, believing, and submissive. There is no such guarantee in scripture. And maybe a speaker or a testimony giver doesn't mean to convey that message; maybe they just mean to give God the glory.
My challenge: If God really is to get the glory, we need to have real testimonies. Can we not trust and believe in a God who is not a modern-day Santa Claus, giving us everything on our wish list? Sometimes I wonder.
My scriptural basis for my thoughts is again verses in Hebrews 11:
- All the heroes of faith in this chapter, it is said of them: Not one received the promise...
- God said of these faith heroes that He was not ashamed to be called their God.
- God promised that His heroes didn't expect to receive their reward here, but looked forward to the heavenly city.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
The next guarantee to address: If I'm a submissive wife, my husband will never leave.
This was a very popular belief and teaching in certain Christian circles a few years back. I was a believer and a teacher of this so-called truth; I don't think I did, and I hope I didn't present it as a guarantee. But I realize how it could have been heard and could have easily been taken as God's promise or God's guarantee.
I could write volumes of examples of how I began to question what I was reading and interpreting from scripture. My earliest remembrance of a hard-to-answer counseling question was back in the seventies when two women came to my home and said their husbands were insisting they go to wife-swapping parties, which was the craze at the time. All four were believers and the husbands were demanding submission. That was a hard one!
Another example that stands out was when a youth minister's wife from another church came to my home for counseling. She threw three seminar notebooks on my dining room table, a blue one, a red one, and a brown one. I had attended each of those seminars. This young mother's youth minister husband had just run away with one of the girls in the youth group. This wife/mother yelled at me that she had done everything those notebooks had told her to do and asked how could this happen. This also was a very hard one!
Does the Bible say that if I as a wife am submissive that my husband will be faithful to me and never leave me for another woman?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is hard to concisely state. Perhaps summarizing some truths I've learned along the way will help convey my changed view of what the Bible is saying:
- Each person, male or female, husband or wife, will answer to God for his/her individual life. One will not answer for another.
- As I wrote in an earlier post, a goal of a godly marriage should be a desire; my attainable goal must be to be a godly wife because that doesn't depend on someone else to achieve.
- My mate's choices are his alone. He will answer and be responsible, as I will for mine.
- Each in the marriage must respect himself/herself and be responsible. Then show respect to the other.
Reality check: I am told in scripture, Ephesians 5:33, to respect or reverence my husband. What I've learned is that I cannot give what I do not have. I must first respect myself before I can give respect. That one principle of life is a changer. If a person learns to respect himself/herself even as God respects their person, thought patterns and behavior will almost always change. Respect for myself and seeing myself as God sees me enables me to live in grace and truth with a partner, respecting and loving him.
Nowhere in scripture can one find a guarantee that if a wife is submissive, her husband will never leave.
Husbands leave. Wives leave. No guarantees do we have about our marriage partner.
Guarantees we do have: As a believer I know God loves me and He will never leave me. Hebrews 13:5, Amplified: …for He (God) Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake nor let [you] down, [relax My hold on you].–Assuredly not!
Thursday, January 10, 2008
The third guarantee I listed two posts ago was: If you're being attacked, rebuke the devil and claim God's presence, and the attacker will flee.
Is this true? Is this a guarantee?
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Yes, I believe this verse is true. It is teaching a way of life. But is it a guarantee that you can claim and teach like it's a magical formula or chant that you use when you're in trouble? I don't think so. Why? That's not the purpose of scripture; i.e., a magic wand that you wave to get what you want or to get desired results.
How many times have you heard testimonies of someone who was being attacked and out came the claiming of God's presence and the attacker fled or some miracle happened? I've heard it countless times. And I've read of miracles in the Bible exactly along these lines.
So, what's the problem?
My problem is for every single testimony like that above I know of a dozen or more testimonies that have the opposite result.
Example: In two or three different seminars I attended years ago, I was given formulas for what to do when attacked, especially if you're a woman. Thousands were attending these seminars.
Later I counseled a young woman who one day returned home from buying groceries and she had her young baby in the car. She took the groceries into her apartment and a man was in the process of robbing them. He attacked her and raped her. She immediately did everything she had learned in the seminar. Nothing worked. The man continued and did not leave. She was brutalized.
She was devastated. Apparently she didn't do it right. Hadn't God promised He would? This is very difficult. The God who had been presented to her had failed her. What happened? I believe it's false teaching.
I do believe God has performed miracles for people; I believe He has delivered believers from imminent danger. The problem arises when how God worked in one person's life becomes the rule or standard or guarantee for everyone. Teaching if you will do this and this, then I guarantee God will do this and this, to me is false teaching not backed by scripture.
I could continue with numerous examples of believers who have been devastated because the guarantees they were taught were in scripture didn't work for them.
My reality check for today calls for this: Every time we are at a gathering and we hear a wonderful testimony of deliverance by God, we should have one or two testimonies where God did not choose to deliver in the same way, but the believer still loves and trusts God and honors Him for loving him/her and being with him/her no matter what happens. That's reality and that's the true gospel. Remember Hebrews 11!
Final thought: years ago at another church an old believer in her eighties told me that she believes God performs miracles for the new believers because they don't have a lot of faith and they need help. She continued that she believes God refrains from miracles with the strong and seasoned believers and is delighted by their faith in Him regardless of circumstances.
That was one of those freeze frame moments for me, something I will never forget, and as time has gone by, I know so much better what she was referring to and I agree.
May God help us be trusting and seasoned believers who know Him as He really is in grace and truth.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
The next guarantee many believe and teach that they say is in scripture is: if you claim a promise and have faith, God keeps His Word.
Of course, God always keeps His Word.
Does the problem then lie in how or what we interpret God's Word to be saying?
Haven't you heard some of these stories or testimonies?
- She said she had a promise from God that she would not die of cancer. She is believing him for healing. But, she died!
- God told her to just keep believing him and her husband would return to her because God hates divorce and he promised he would restore her marriage. But, he didn't.
- I have a promise that girl will marry me. But, she didn't.
As a pastor's wife, I was called on to talk with many about their problems and struggles in life. There was a time that I was talking to several who were struggling with what I described above. I needed to find some answers.
With that mindset I began reading many familiar scriptures, the usual ones that prompted people to claim promises.
Two truths I think I saw from that special time stand out from these accounts in scripture:
- Looking at and comparing Peter and Stephen.
- The story of James and Peter in Acts 12.
- The last few verses of Hebrews 11.
In Acts 12 Herod went after James and Peter. Peter was imprisoned, but what happened to James? (I love asking this question when I'm presenting this. Everyone knows the story of Peter being miraculously released from prison and all the surrounding circumstances. We love that story.) But, Acts 12:2 says Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword. Everyone conveniently forgets that. Hmmm...
Now come the hard questions:
- Did God love Peter more than he loved Stephen or James?
- Why was Peter spared but Stephen was stoned and James was killed?
- Do you think Peter claimed more promises than Stephen or James?
- Do you think Peter had more faith than James or Stephen?
Or, could the answers really be, God was glorified and honored in both Stephen's and James' deaths and Peter's deliverance?
Could it be that God has purposes beyond what He reveals to His children?
So, what about claiming promises and having faith? As I read and study and look desperately for guarantees in Scripture, I seem to truly find only two that stand out and are really guaranteed:
- God loves me as He does each of His children and nothing can separate us from His love. Romans 8:35
- God will never leave me. Hebrews 13:5
God has definitely promised and guaranteed that He loves me and that He is always with me. What more could I possibly want? With those two guarantees in my heart and soul my real faith shows and my trust in Him is evident because I know that whatever happens I am guaranteed these two absolutes. Yeah!!
To conclude: During the above mentioned study time, I came across an odd scripture in Hebrews 11. This is the chapter that lists all the heroes of faith and what they endured, and verse 39 says: And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise. And the reading continues, (of whom the world was not worthy).
And then early on in that chapter, verse 16, is a phrase that's worthy of meditation, and God was not ashamed to be called their God.
Okay, here's today's reality check. Our true gospel is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth as a human, lived, died, and arose, and returned to the Father. He did this for us. And He guarantees us believers that He will always and forever love us and will never, ever leave us.
Fabulous guarantees. With those in heart and hand, I can walk this earth as a stranger and look forward to the heavenly city where all the promises are fulfilled and will be received.
I'll leave you with this final thought that I ask myself: Is God ashamed to be called my God? Do I present Him as a heavenly Santa Claus type that just hands out goodies (claiming promises), or do I know Him and present Him as Who He really is, the Son of God who loves me and is ever with me? My calling is to believe Him and to trust Him in reality.
Then, no matter what happens, these guarantees of His presence and His love carry me through life and enable me to help anyone who has been deceived by believing the name it and claim it false gospel.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
I said I would address each of the guarantees that people say they see in scripture in subsequent posts. Here's the first. Others will follow.
Guarantee #1: If you raise your kids right, they will always follow God.
How many times have we heard quoted and have we quoted: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
I've heard this quoted in seminars on how to raise children. I've heard parents weepingly quote this verse in despair because they "trained" but the child "departed."
The question then arises: is this a promise? is this a guarantee? Or, is this verse a proverb, which is a wise saying that generally holds true for life?
Remember, this scripture is in the book of Proverbs. It is a proverb and cannot be translated as an absolute promise or guarantee, which some people erroneously say it is.
Claiming this scripture as a guarantee in life has other major problems, one problem being we can't claim promises for other people. Along this line of thinking I would like to delineate between a goal and a desire.
- A goal is something I can accomplish by myself with God's help.
- A desire is something I would like to accomplish, but cannot by myself because another person is involved.
From these definitions, let me ask you two questions:
- Is it okay to have as a goal to have a godly marriage?
- Is it okay to have as a goal to raise godly children?
The answer to both is: no!
I cannot have as a goal to have a godly marriage because that depends on another person, my husband. The goal I can have and accomplish is to be a godly wife. I can have as a desire to have a godly marriage, but my actions and responsibilities are toward my goal of being a godly wife, no matter who or what my husband is. God and I can meet that goal.
Now, let's apply that same principle to having godly children. No, I cannot have as a goal to have godly children because it depends on my unique children and their choices. I may have a sincere and strong desire to have godly children, but my goal has to be that I am a godly mother, no matter who or what my children choose to be and to do.
Now, why is this so important? Because we work to accomplish our goals and one of the greatest causes of anger is a blocked goal. Think about it. Are you angry because your children are not your trophies of meeting your goal of raising godly children? Have they or are they disappointing you?
Many parents quote Proverbs 22:6 incessantly to their children and use this as pressure to try and make them shape up and become godly children. Don't we all run from outside pressure that others put on us to make us into something they think we should be? I do!
I taught this at a seminar and afterward a mother came up to me crying and said I had helped her immensely. Her story: years ago she had heard a radio sermon on how to raise godly children and from that day forward that was her goal. Her daughter was now in complete rebellion, and no matter what she did, the daughter continued in anger and rebellion.
The principles above, when presented, opened her eyes and she was broken, yet excited to change her goal to being a godly mother and let her daughter make the decision whether she would be a godly person or not. She realized that much of her anger toward her daughter was her blocking the mom's goal of raising a godly daughter, which she had promised God she would do.
I have been amazed at how a simple thought process of separating goals from desires (using the definitions above) has changed my thoughts, actions, and feelings. The phrase that emanates over and over is, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Free indeed!
To conclude: I do not believe Proverbs 22:6 is a guarantee in scripture. It's a wise saying that's generally true, a proverb, but the final verdict lies with the individual (the child) whether or not he or she will be a godly person. I hope these thoughts will help us not misuse or abuse scripture, but hold and practice all scripture in grace and truth.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
What guarantees do you find in scripture?
Here are some I've heard:
- If you raise your kids right, they'll always follow God.
- If you claim a promise and have faith, God keeps His Word.
- If you're being attacked, rebuke the devil and claim God's presence, and the attacker will flee.
- If I'm a submissive wife, my husband will never leave.
- If my husband leaves, I will claim God's promise that he will return.
- God told me that she will be my wife.
- God promised me that job.
- If the preacher preaches the Word of God and his family is halfway decent, the church will love him and cherish him.
- If I can get another Christian to agree with me, then I know God will give what I ask.
- If I am a good Christian and do everything I think God wants me to, he will always take care of me and mine; I am safe and will not suffer.
- If I pray hard enough and have enough faith, God will heal the one I'm praying for.
- If I have a quiet time in the morning, I will have a good day.
You could probably add many more.
Question: Are each or any of these guaranteed in the scripture?
My thoughts in the next post.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
I've started this blog to write about my pet peeve and my favorite find. They're one and the same, in a sense.
My pet peeve is people who are relationally fake. Do you know what I mean? Have you ever met someone and after conversing for awhile, you realize you're talking to an image of the person and you're not talking to the real person at all?
On the other hand, have you related to someone that you knew was sharing from the inside out? I'm not talking about sharing deep and dark secrets or all of one's past, but I'm referring to that intuitive sense you have when you meet someone and converse and you know that person is "real," whatever that means to you. You just know!
That's what I hope to make the theme of this blog, realness in relationships. Also, I want to address realness in religion, although that's almost an oxymoron. Religion by definition could be classified as unreal. But to many people religion encompasses their belief system, so it's in that sense that I use the word religion. My belief system is a relationship with God, and the man-made systems to me are religion. That may be as clear as mud, but it makes sense to me.
Thanks for reading this and I invite you to comment and go with me on the quest for reality.