Below is an overview of a teaching I did recently at a Women’s Brunch at my church. It is always fun for me to get to speak to my own church family and encourage them with something from God’s Word! The theme of our event was “CONNECTING”. Our key passage was Titus chapter two.
Over the past few weeks, Pastor Shannon has been teaching out of Titus and he recently covered chapter 2. It's a chapter that I camp out in quite often because of the branch of my counseling ministry that focuses on what I call "Biblical Mentoring" that is born out of that chapter in Scripture.
One of my biggest ministry passions is for intergenerational ministry and bridging the generation gap in the body of Christ.
What I do besides being a mentor myself is to teach a course for women that equips you to mentor women, including the younger generations, by developing deep relationships with one another. Any time you want to know more about that, just pick up my brochures on the foyer table or better yet, ask me! (And for those reading this on the blog, just browse around the website for more information.)
I'm not going to talk too much about mentoring here today, but it's a good starting point because of the implications of Titus 2. There are specific verses in that chapter that are just for women but let’s look at the entire chapter.
Titus 2: You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
If you keep those Titus 2 verses 3-5 for women in context of the entire chapter, you see some things that have a lot to do with how we make connections with each other as women.
Titus 2 IS a charge to the older women to teach the younger women.
I also want to mention what this passage is NOT. It is NOT a to-do list or something you have to accomplish perfectly in order to be ok in God's eyes. Not at all. You “being ok” with God is not dependent on what you do. It is dependent on what Christ already did. We absolutely don't have to be perfect at any of this to achieve God's approval. If you are a believer, you are already approved of 100%, so you can stop striving. This is not about striving, but it is about enjoying Christ and representing Him in your relationships with others in His family.
As much as the context in Titus 2 IS about the older teaching the younger, there is more in the passage than just that. I think we are ok with applying some of the principles in Titus 2 to all of our woman to woman relationships. That is what I want to do today.
The passage has some things to say about the older teaching the younger some specific things. Those things are part of a woman's ROLES that needed to be addressed in that cultural context and they also apply to our cultural context.
Having said that, don't read this and say that it is saying that women can only be housewives or stay home moms, or have to be married for that matter. These particular roles were mentioned in Titus because of what was going on in the church at that time. Nowhere does it say that those are women's ONLY roles. For our purposes here, just remember that women are free in Christ to fulfill ALL sorts of roles. Married, single, mom, working woman, stay home mom, woman in ministry, and many more possibilities.
What we are addressing today is how that in any role that you are in, connecting doctrine to your role is what matters most. So think about it like this: It is in the context of our roles that doctrine gets passed to the next generations. That can happen in woman to woman relationships at home, at work, in the neighborhood, at church. Let me expand on that a bit.
Our roles are what we do, and who we are in life - what God calls us to and what we choose as a lifestyle. Doctrine is what we believe about God's Word. Consider the most essential of all doctrines: salvation. The Gospel. It is the Gospel most of all that needs to be connected to your roles. So it is also in the same context that doctrine, The Gospel above all, should be the focus of all of our relationships. Our roles matter. In those roles, we are encouraged many places in scripture to connect and relate to one another, woman to woman.
In fact why would there be so many "one another, each other and one to another" passages in Scripture if we weren't supposed to connect and build relationships together?
In your roles, it is important how you live. Those are the things others see in you and they enter in to your relationships with all ages of women. For example, one of my roles is a counselor. That permeates all of my relationships, because being a counselor is a big part of me. In that role as I relate to women, the Gospel is front and center. It is the same with you in your roles....wife, mom, friend, worker, teacher, whatever. In those roles as you relate to women, doctrine, the Gospel, should permeate those relationships.
I realize that there are challenges to all of this:
You are too busy.
You are too shy.
You are too insecure.
You are not equipped to handle the messy stuff.
You don't need friends.
You don't like being around women.
There are no women's groups to join.
You are too tired, stressed, overwhelmed to build relationships.
You probably have your own list you could add to all that.
But let's address those challenges with some really practical ideas. You really can't keep your excuses. Scripture doesn't excuse you, so neither can I. You HAVE to move past the excuses and start connecting with others, especially in our church family. Titus 2 along with all the one-anothers of Scripture are clear on this. So, what to do about it?
Here are some things that I've come up with that I think will help. These are all things I have purposed to do myself, and no they are not all easy and no I do not enjoy them every single time. And no, not every connection has ended up in a solid friendship. But I want to be serious about connecting to the body of Christ. Not for me. Not even primarily for you! But for Jesus. For the gospel.
I have learned that there is only one way to start connecting - it is:
Stop waiting for all your ducks to be in a row. You will never accomplish that. This is not about one more thing on your to-do list, but it is your ministry to one another.
Christ IN you makes it possible, because of the Gospel, to get over ourselves and be intentional about connecting with others.
How do you do it? Here are some things to STOP:
1. stop complaining about how disconnected you feel at church.
2. stop blaming the church for being unfriendly or not meeting your needs.
3. stop waiting for a formal women's group to start the way you think it should
4. stop making it more about yourself than others.
5. stop using the excuses about how much you don't click with women
6. stop complaining about how nobody encourages you or notices you.
7. stop comparing yourself to other women
8. stop gossiping about other women.
And here are some things to START:
1. Start seeing women in our midst through God’s eyes. We all have issues, no one is worse or better than the other. Those that you compare or judge are the very ones who may need you in their lives.
2. Start praying for the women of the Harbor. For the years that I led women's ministry, I made sure to pray for every woman in this church by name every week. I'm not bragging! I am just saying that if I can do that, so can you. Or just pray for one or two that God has put on your heart! Can you imagine if every single woman attending The Harbor was being prayed for specifically, by name, ongoing?! I would be so encouraged by that, wouldn't you?
3. Start encouraging women. Send emails, notes, facebook posts. Not just to your friends, but to those you don't know as well, too. And maybe even to those you don't like. If you prayed for someone, tell them once in awhile!
4. Start to embrace the differences you see in other women. Diversity is not a bad thing, it is a beautiful part of God's amazing creation! Get to know women who are different from you.
5. Just do it. You don't need a specific women's event to build relationships. We don't need to do this kind of large event often so that you can connect with women. This is a good place to focus on our relationships, but no close friendships are going to happen just by being here today.
They also don't really happen at church on Sundays. You have to go beyond that - that is more true to the biblical definition of “church" because church is the people, not a place or a time.
In the context of wherever you serve or participate in church, you have many opportunities. What ministry are you serving in? What other women are there? Just start talking with them. Ask them about their lives.
Tell them about yours. Being intentional means being present. It's the only option if you want to build relationships. Every Sunday morning there are announcements about things that are all opportunities for you. You see each other every Sunday morning - why not acknowledge others?
6. Start to go beyond your circle. It’s easy to stick with the same safe friendships, and good discipleship can be happening there. BUT Titus 2 challenges us to something different than comfort zones.
Once you have made that initial connection, do something with it. Invite for coffee, lunch, or friend on Facebook and interact there. It can be one other woman older, younger or the same age, or a few women, really! Do whatever fits. There are no cookie cutter ideas here.
Once you make a good connection, move past superficial contact and look at God's Word together. Pray together. Do a gospel-based Bible study together. There are so many possibilities there.
The church does not have to do this for you, you can do this for yourself by just inviting a friend of two to get to know each other. You do not need a church leader to make this happen.
You only need yourself and one other woman and your Bibles.
All those starts really are summed up with one statement. It is this:
BE THE ONE.
Stop waiting for someone else to initiate a relationship. Be the one.
We say this other phrase all the time, but it's so true: it's not about YOU.
It's not about you, but it's not even really about others!
It's about the Gospel.
The relationships we have together are to reflect the Gospel. They were not created for our enjoyment, pleasure and fulfillment (although those can be byproducts of them). They were created for the sake of spreading the Good News. Maybe if we understood this, and if the Gospel became our motivation for relationships, maybe we would not complain so much about being disconnected from others.
Maybe we would realize our relationships are not even about US. Maybe we would reflect Jesus to others in the context of our relationships as women. This idea of women connecting with other women is serious stuff - it is actually for the SAKE OF THE GOSPEL.
Maybe we should view this as more than friendship building. It is, in reality and in context of Scripture, a Gospel ministry. It's a means of grace, commissioned to us by God.
So my parting comment to you is actually a question for self-reflection out of verses 11-14, which are among the most concise explanation of gospel-centered living found in the Bible.
By embracing God's Word, and having your heart profoundly affected by The Gospel, you will desire to change from "what can this relationship do for me" to "God is honored when we step outside of ourselves and reflect the Gospel as We intentionally build relationships with his people."
What honestly motivates you when you seek to build relationships? Is it for you, is it for the other person, or is it primarily for the sake of the Gospel?
Insights from a Counselor’s Life
Proverbs 16:9 "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."
Occasionally people will ask me what I do as a Biblical Counselor and what a typical day looks like. That is impossible to answer because every day is different. I am giving you a snapshot of what happens in just one random weekday in my life. If you are wondering what it is like to be a Biblical Counselor, maybe this will give you some insights.
6:00 a.m. - A text message arrives, startling me out of a deep sleep. It is from a a young woman I am counseling through a very difficult divorce situation. She is having second thoughts as she considering returning to an unrepentant abusive husband. I remind her of the things we have discussed in our sessions. She just needed to know I was praying for her. I don’t mind waking up early. Biblical Counseling is intensely relational and i avail myself 24/7 (with a few appropriate boundaries set.) It is my ministry.
6:15 - I can’t go back to sleep even though I had planned a morning off. I get up and head downstairs for the things that are essential to the beginning of my day:
*Ipad with Logos Bible software
7:30 - After prayer and Bible reading, I start checking emails. I see several that will need to be answered today. I get started so that I can finish them by the end of the day since it is a three day weekend and I want to spend the time with my family. But wait - wasn’t this supposed to be a morning “off”? I don’t mind the emails. It is my ministry.
I spend some time throughout the morning with my daughters who are both at home working through some school work. I grab the moments with them off and on all day so that we stay in communication. My girls are very independent (almost 17, and 19) but they also enjoy time with their mom. We talk about every topic you can imagine and then we go on with our days. I love time with my kids. It is my ministry.
By noon, I am headed to my office at the church. There are counseling appointments to prepare for because they begin right after school. Teenagers need late afternoon appointments due to school schedules. I am privileged to serve many teenage girls. It is my ministry.
As I am preparing (pulling possible homework assignments for the girls who are coming that day, reviewing my notes from prior sessions) my pastor asks to speak with me. We spend about 45 minutes talking through something that came up and needed more clarity. I did not plan for this distraction, but my pastor is really no distraction at all. It is my ministry.
2:00 - Back to the counseling prep. The phone rings. A woman is seeking counseling for her depression. We get acquainted for a few minutes on the phone and make an appointment for next week. I hang up, and pray for her, asking God to protect, encourage, and comfort her while she waits to see me. These phone calls are often the beginning of God-ordained relationships for the purpose of serving others with Gospel-centered care. It is my ministry.
I get distracted by a text message sound. It is from my daughter who attends the local college. She is excited to tell me about a good meeting she had. I then text my younger daughter, just to check in. She’s fine, she says. Contact with my children is no distraction at all. It is my ministry.
2:30 - Back to the counseling prep. I get distracted by the “ding” of my Facebook messenger, and I check it. It’s a woman from my church asking to get together to talk over some concerns of hers. I write back, and we set a date for coffee tomorrow. It really is no distraction at all. It is my ministry.
2:50 - Back to the counseling prep. I get distracted again, this time by my dad calling. I always answer him if I am not in a counseling session because I am his primary helper. He doesn’t understand “wait until I am not so busy,” so I pick up the phone. He is just lonely and wants to tell me about his day. I listen and remind myself to keep a grateful heart that I get the great privilege of tending to my elderly father in this season after the death of my mom. This “distraction” is really no distraction at all. It is my ministry.
A text from my husband comes in - “what are we doing for dinner?” “I have no idea,” I answer. He says he will go to the store to pick something up. He’s great like that - he and I both work hard all week and we share the load. He does laundry every day. Yes, I am a blessed woman. Hearing from him is no distraction at all. It is my ministry.
3:15 - 15 minutes left before my first teen counselee arrives. Final prep is done, and I’m ready. After a cup of coffee and a quick check of my Facebook feeds. There is a question posted on my business page, so I take a minute to reply to it. I enjoy connecting with people from all over the globe. It is my ministry.
I get a text from a close friend. She would love to meet for coffee this afternoon. I tell her that today is my “marathon counseling day." I stay late to see all the teen girls I am counseling once a week. So we make a breakfast date instead for tomorrow. I purpose to intentionally make time for my friends through the week. They don’t realize this, but they are a critical part of my ministry. Without them, I would be way too serious, too self-focused and lose perspective. They sharpen me, laugh and cry with me, and let me in to their lives and I love them dearly. There is always time for friendship if we choose it. I choose it. Friendship is no distraction at all. It is my ministry.
I say a prayer for my counselees who are about to walk in. I ask The Lord to set me aside so that it is only the Spirit Who is the true Counselor. I ask for wisdom, insight, and discernment. I ask for clarity. I ask for these young ladies to have courage to be honest with me, knowing that they possibly won’t be. It’s ok, I tell them, God is patient and because of His Spirit in me, I can be patient, too. Secrets that result from shame take time to surface. I pray that they will surface so that we can apply The Gospel and God’s Word and watch Him change their hearts. He will. In His timing, not mine. Prayer is essential. It is my ministry.
3:30 - 7:30 - Three back to back counseling sessions. This is not how I schedule the rest of the week - I would not have the stamina for that much intensity more than once a week. Counseling is intensely draining and nobody can withstand more than a reasonable amount of sessions in any given week. Being involved in this front lines kind of ministry is hard on one’s own soul without proper time management and perspective. Without the Holy Spirit, I would not do what I do. I am not smart enough without Him. He speaks clearly in the sessions, and a little more progress is made in all three hearts. As we counsel, I hear myself say things that I, too, need to hear and apply in my own life. I am sure to offer an appropriate amount of transparency with my counselees, but not so much that I am making this about “me." I am, after all, a sinner just like them. I have many of my own struggles and we can always relate. We all agree to meet again next week. God has once again amazed me with how He knits our hearts together as these are girls and women that I would otherwise never get to know. In my office it feels like a safe warm sanctuary to many. Only God can do that. Thank You, Jesus. (One of the girls confessed a sin she has been hiding from everybody for a year. She weeps, and I cry with her. This particular girl has become precious to me after many months of counseling together. Now God can begin His healing work in her heart. I stop right there and pray that she will clearly understand that she is forgiven in Christ.) I grow to love the people I serve. It is my ministry.
I type up some notes to reflect what we covered in the sessions, and what progress has been made. I note some things that I want to address next time. I send a follow-up email to one of the parents, asking if they could accompany their daughter to the next appointment to work through some family dynamics together. I thank her again for allowing me the great privilege of walking alongside her daughter in this season of healing from her past. I also remind her to remind her daughter to do the homework I assigned because the homework takes her to God’s Word where her true counseling happens between her and The Lord. I have been showing her how to interactively study what He has to say about her sin and her suffering. Counseling is more than just one session. It is the preparation and prayer ongoing as well as the connection and relationship between sessions. It is my ministry.
7:45 - I head home. Exhausted. Thankful. Blessed. Amazed that God would use someone like me to help others with His Word. I am just as hungry and thirsty for help from His Word as my counselees are. I end the workday in awe of The Gospel that not only saves us, but changes us in this daily process we call sanctification.
I eat a late dinner, sit down with my family who all happen to be home this night, and relax with our favorite show on Netflix. Later, I do some reading for the next book I will review. I love to research resources for counseling and mentoring. It is my ministry.
Before I go to bed, I open my laptop to look at tomorrow’s calendar. It will be a different day than today. I will be working on a new writing project, doing some social media marketing, and checking in with my Board of Directors. No counseling tomorrow - it is going to be a day that is all about the business end of running a Nonprofit ministry. And breakfast with my friend!
I also notice an email from a colleague that I want to address right away because I want to always be attentive to those who have come alongside me and have been giving me opportunities to write, speak, and promote Word of Hope Ministries online. I pinch myself again because these opportunities are not things I would have sought for myself, but I am blessed to go where God leads. It is my ministry.
My days are varied. No two are ever the same. I juggle many business and ministry tasks and somehow it all gets done with time left for family and friends. I often ask God to “multiply my time” and He is faithful to somehow do it. I can’t explain it, but I am grateful for it!
Life as a Biblical Counselor is good. God is good. It is HIS ministry.
Galatians 6:9 "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
If you are interested in learning more about the ministry of Biblical Counseling, please visit www. wordofhopeministries.com
I was recently privileged to review "Good News for Weary Women" by Elyse Fitzpatrick at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website. You can see the original review posted HERE. I am now posting the review here as well because I have been telling every woman I know "YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THIS BOOK!" Here's why:
Women Are Weary
A few months ago, I saw a post on Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Facebook page asking for input. She said “I’d like to know the dumbest things people tell women they have to do in order to be godly.” Hundreds of women responded, and it was extremely insightful and also troubling. Those weary women’s responses revealed a need for a different approach than the average Christian bookstore offers. Many “Christian self-help” books on the market insist on giving women a step-by-step process towards godliness, but Elyse’s book, Good News for Weary Women: Escaping the Bondage of To-Do Lists, Steps, and Bad Advice, gives women a better way—the way of freedom and grace found only in the gospel.
I just need to do ______ (you fill in the blank) for God to be pleased with me. What list of “rules” do you use to try to make yourself feel good enough? Where do you go for advice? What step-by-step plan do you have for improving yourself? In Good News for Weary Women, Elyse shows us the way to freedom from the bondage of our lists, rules, and bad advice.
“There is good news for you. You don’t need to learn secret steps, try harder, wear yourself out in an attempt to be beautiful, snag Mr. Perfect, or raise perfect children. You are already welcomed, loved, forgiven, and completely okay....And you can love Him because He has already loved you” (xii).
There Is Good News
Elyse builds her case that the gospel has been forgotten when it comes to how and where women are getting their advice for how to live and please God. She accounts for the pressures from the media, things we watch and read, and even from our churches. These pressures have led women to have a warped view of “success.” “…as if success were a Christian construct or our sanctification depended on anyone other than Christ” (xvii).
Throughout the book, we are taken on a journey to see how we have succumbed to the temptation and tendency to be performance-driven women. In every chapter a woman will find herself both convicted and challenged to reconsider how she views the impact of the gospel on her own heart and life.
A look at the history of how women’s roles have been historically addressed reveals the lies we have believed that hinder our understanding of identity. We are then given a biblical view of our true identities as believers. “And belief in the good news is the only way for you to find freedom in your identity in Christ” (16).
A look at our strivings to earn God’s favor reveals a critical error in our thinking. Throughout the chapters we are presented with the Biblical antidote to our wrong-thinking. “God is already pleased with us if we are in His Son.”
A look at our self-effort to keep ourselves clean is countered throughout the book. The remedy, the gospel, is given. “…we need to remember the gospel every day: we are already loved, already perfected, already approved of, already justified.”
A look at the defeating ways that we try to assure ourselves that we are okay reveals our denial of Christ. Elyse walks us through scriptural teaching that counters our performance-driven mindset. “Our pursuit of self-perfection is a denial of Christ because it is His work to make us okay, to justify us.”
Every concept in every chapter points us to the gospel as the answer to our weariness. Elyse’s ability to point women to Truth from God’s Word brings hope to their struggles as she winds up the book with a replacement for our exhausting and impossible to-do lists. This new list is God’s list for us, and it IS good news to the woman who needs an escape from the bondage of performance!
Heart Change Through Practical Application of Truth
Elyse teaches us from a perspective of honesty and transparency about her own struggles and temptations through her life. She is entirely relatable, which makes it easy to recommend this book. It is full of applicable scriptural teachings throughout each chapter. There are also more Scriptures to study along with reflective questions at each chapter’s end. There are more Scriptures that target women’s specific struggles in the appendix for some deeper study and reflection. The questions are helpful to assist the reader to personalize and make practical the excellent teachings that are targeted to the heart of our weariness.
I intended to read this as a potential book to use as homework for my counselees. I also hoped it would be beneficial for the women I am training to be mentors to the younger generation. It did not disappoint, but it also became very convicting to my personal walk as I was challenged to look at the areas of my own heart that are given over to the idolatry of self as I, like all women I know, struggle with remembering the gospel every day as Elyse teaches so clearly.
Good News for Weary Women is useful for both individual and small group reading and study. It would also be an excellent tool for a counselor or mentor to read and discuss with a woman she is helping. I recommend every Christian woman read this book as it biblically addresses our desire to fully trust and rest in Christ.