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Don’t Misuse the Gift of Personal Prophecy

Twelve years ago, when I was preaching at a Brazilian congregation in Florida, the Lord directed my attention to a young teenager sitting in the back of the church. He was leaning his head against the wall and looking very bored. But God gave me a prophetic message for this curly-headed guy, so I asked him to stand; then I spoke to him about his spiritual calling.

“God says you are going to be a spiritual warrior,” I told him.

The boy’s name was Felipe, and we became good friends after I gave him that word of encouragement. Today, at age 27, he’s a passionate follower of Christ and the youth pastor of his church.

I love the gift of prophecy because I’ve seen countless people like Felipe transformed by it. One prophetic message from God can break the power of discouragement. It can also launch a person into ministry or confirm God’s divine direction. As Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” A personal prophetic word is like a priceless piece of heirloom jewelry. You will treasure it for life.

Some people question whether personal prophecy is biblical. Yet prophets often delivered detailed messages to people in Old Testament times. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul urged believers to “earnestly desire” prophecy above all other gifts (see 1 Cor. 14:1). He also told the Corinthians that true prophetic ministry can expose the secrets of men’s hearts and bring them to repentance (1 Cor. 14:24-25).

In Colossians 4:17, Paul issued a word of prophetic encouragement to an individual on his ministry team. He wrote: “Tell Archippus, ‘Make sure that you fulfill the ministry which you have received in the Lord.'” Paul delivered this short but powerful message to Archippus to strengthen his friend. I am sure Archippus never forgot Paul’s very personal words.

Personal prophetic ministry is vital today. People need to know that God is not a dry doctrine; He wants to know us intimately, and He wants to speak to us in a personal way. Yet we must be careful to avoid the abuses that have given personal prophecy a bad name. Here are some helpful guidelines that will keep it healthy.

  1. Don’t chase prophecies. I know Christians who will travel across the country to attend a conference to get a word from God, yet they haven’t read the Bible in months or sat still long enough to hear from God on their own. Never treat the gift of prophecy like fortune-telling. When God needs to speak to you in an unusual way, He has faithful messengers who will deliver the message to you at the exact time you need it. Meanwhile, soak your mind in Scripture—and never elevate personal prophecy above God’s Word.
  1. Never give prophets elite status. Nowhere in the New Testament are prophets exalted to a privileged class. Paul himself said all members of the body need each other, and in his discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, he warns against ranking spirituality by gifting. He wrote, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you'” (1 Cor. 12:21).Some people are mesmerized by prophets who claim to know people’s phone numbers, addresses or Social Security numbers. Be sure to test the validity of a prophet’s gift if he attempts to impress people with his exotic prophetic abilities. True prophecy does not have to be spooky; its main purpose is to encourage the hearer, not to draw attention to the messenger.
  1. Never give harsh prophetic words. New Testament prophecy should encourage, comfort and exhort believers (see 1 Cor. 14:3). That rules out condemnation and harsh criticism disguised as a word from God. Our heavenly Father does not speak to His children in a hateful, scolding tone. He is an encourager, even when He brings needed correction. Remember: Paul said that if you use the gift of prophecy without love, it is useless (see 1 Cor. 13:2).I know of a church where a lady routinely gave personal words to people warning of calamities or judgments. She even claimed God wanted to kill them! Usually angry “prophets” like this woman claim to know all the unconfessed sins in a person’s life; the truth is they struggle to understand God’s love themselves, and they are seeking attention. Stay away from weird, abusive people who claim to be prophets but don’t show the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
  1. Soak in God’s Word. Prophecy will never, ever contradict the Bible. So if you want to speak God’s prophetic message to others, you must hide the Scriptures in your heart. If you fill your well with the Word, it will spill over and refresh many when you speak under the anointing of the Spirit. I often meditate on Proverbs 10:32a, which promises: “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable.”

If you feel called to prophesy, that’s great! God wants to speak through you to others. But don’t assume you know everything. Don’t be so eager to go until you grow to maturity. Find a mentor and learn how to minister with grace, love and biblical balance.

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The Most Dangerous Prayer in the Bible

More than 19 years ago, I found myself at a church altar in Orlando, Florida. God had been dealing with me about leaving my comfort zone. I had a great job with nice benefits, yet I felt spiritually unfulfilled. I knew there was an amazing adventure in front of me, but I had placed serious limitations on my obedience.

As I buried my head in the carpet in that church, I realized God was requiring unconditional surrender. He wanted me to wave a white flag. I knew what I had to say, but it was difficult to form the words. Finally, I coughed them up. I said the same thing the prophet Isaiah prayed long ago: “Here I am, send me!” (Is. 6:8b).

This is what I call a dangerous prayer. It should include a warning label!

I believe when you utter these simple words, heaven takes a Polaroid picture of you with your hands up—and an amazing process begins. God closes in on us in order to crush our fears and demolish our selfishness. Then He gives us the holy boldness to speak what we were afraid to say.

When I prayed this prayer in 1998, I immediately had a vision while I was still on the floor. I saw a sea of African faces. I knew I’d be going to Africa, and I was scared to death. I had no idea how I would get there, what I would say or who would pay for the trip. So I swallowed hard and prayed again: Here I am, send me!

Less than two years later, I found myself standing on a huge stage in a sports arena in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, speaking to 7,000 pastors. I did not enjoy the bumpy flight across the Sahara, and my knees were knocking when I preached. I felt as if I had been pushed way out on a limb.

But even though I was terrified, my fear was mixed with incredible joy. The Lord had overcome my resistance, and He was using me. Since that trip, I have ministered in more than 30 countries. This week, I have been in Malaysia and Singapore, all because I prayed a dangerous prayer.

Grace is so amazing. God not only gives us the power to serve Him; He plants in us the desire to surrender to His will even if we are scared of the consequences. This is what the apostle Paul described when he said: “For God is the One working in you, both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

God has an uncanny way of wooing us into obedience and submission. Our flesh may protest; our fears may paralyze us. But in the end, if we will simply lift our hands in surrender, grace takes over. He gives us power, strength and a willing heart. And the results are supernatural because it is God at work in us.

Jesus taught His disciples to cultivate this willing spirit and to pray this dangerous prayer. He told them: “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).

This is what I call a trick prayer. You pray it at your own risk. When we ask the Lord to send workers into His fields, we are really praying, “Here I am, Lord. Send Mike—or Chuck—or Barbara.” But the Lord of the harvest will likely tap you on the shoulder and say, “Well? What about you?”

The church has advanced throughout history because of people who surrendered to God. One of them was the brave David Brainerd (1718-1747), a missionary to American Indians during the First Great Awakening. Although he died of tuberculosis at age 29, his legacy of total consecration lives on in his journal, published by his friend Jonathan Edwards.

Brainerd recorded this very dangerous prayer in his diary: “Here am I, send me; send me to the ends of the earth; send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort on earth; send me even to death itself, if it be but in Thy service, and to promote Thy kingdom.”

We rarely hear prayers like that today. Brainerd’s passion would be considered politically incorrect fanaticism today. We don’t promote self-sacrifice; we have a new gospel of self-fulfillment. We don’t talk about carrying a burden for lost people; we ourselves are lost in our comfortable materialism.

I wonder what would happen if all of us prayed Isaiah’s prayer with full sincerity. What if you raised your hands and left all your fears, worries, excuses, stipulations, limitations and conditions on heaven’s altar—and invited God to use your life in any way He wants.

I invite you to take the risk. Pray a dangerous prayer, and see how God will use you.

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Don’t Run If God Has Called You to Speak

This past Sunday I stood in a pulpit, looked out over a congregation of mostly strangers, cleared the lump in my throat and preached a message that the Lord had laid on my heart from the Bible.

Thousands of men and women speak publicly like this every week. It’s what preachers do. No big deal. But even though I speak often, I’ve found that preaching the gospel is one of the most frightening assignments anyone could attempt. I feel as if I die a thousand deaths right before I do it, and I die several more times after I go home and evaluate what happened.

After one discouraging experience in which an audience stared coldly at me with their arms folded, I determined that preaching surely must not be my calling. I shared my struggle with an older pastor.

“Sometimes I feel discouraged after I speak,” I said. “Does that ever happen to you?” I was sure he would counsel me to stop preaching.

His answer shocked me. “Son, I feel that way every Monday morning,” he said.

When I tell friends that I stubbornly resisted the call of God to preach because of my lack of confidence, they act surprised. They don’t know how much anguish I went through. They think most people who stand in pulpits want to be there. They can’t believe that I wrestled with God for months when I felt He was calling me to speak.

We assume God chooses certain people to preach because of their oratory skills. But true preaching is not a natural exercise—it is one of the most supernatural tasks anyone can ever be called to do. It requires an imperfect human vessel to yield himself or herself to speak the very words of God.

If we do this in the flesh, the results are miserable; if we wholly trust the power of the Holy Spirit, prophetic preaching unleashes supernatural anointing.

Most preachers in the Bible were reluctant. Moses made excuses about his stuttering, Gideon tried to disqualify himself because of his family background, and Jeremiah complained about the responsibility of carrying a prophetic burden. Jonah bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the Mediterranean Sea so he wouldn’t have to give his unpopular sermon!

And the apostle Paul, who was a silver-tongued Pharisee before he met Christ, was stripped of his eloquence before he preached throughout the Roman Empire. He told the Corinthians: “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:3-5).

If Paul trembled when he spoke, I have no right to complain when I feel butterflies in my stomach for the thousandth time.

Charismatic revivalist Arthur Katz wrote about the power of true preaching in his 1999 book Apostolic Foundations: “The only one qualified to preach … is the one who wants to run the other way, like Jonah. … The man who sighs and groans when called upon to speak, who does not want to be there, who feels terribly uncomfortable … is the man out of whose mouth the word of true preaching is most likely to come.”

That is certainly not the way most of us view pulpit ministry in contemporary America. We celebrate the smooth and the polished. We measure the impact of a sermon not by whether hearts are slain by conviction but by how high the people jump when the preacher tells them what they want to hear.

That kind of carnal preaching may win the accolades of men, boost TV ratings, get lots of hits on social media and even build megachurches. But the kingdom is not built on hipster style or smug self-confidence. We need God’s honest words, sent straight from the authentic heart of a broken vessel. The church will live in spiritual famine until reluctant, weak and trembling preachers allow His holy fire to come out of their mouths.

If you have a message from God, stop running. If you are wrestling with God like Jacob did, quit resisting, and let your Maker break your pride; He wants you to walk with a limp the rest of your life so you can lean on Him rather than on your own ability. Die to your fears, doubts and excuses, and drink the cup of suffering that accompanies the genuine call of God.

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How to Control Your Tongue in the Trump Era

Last week, President Trump issued a tweet from the White House, mocking MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski’s appearance and questioning her sanity. And after both Republicans and Democrats in Washington begged Trump to use a more civil tone in his communication, he took to Twitter again, calling Brzezinski “dumb as a rock” and her on-air partner, Joe Scarborough, “crazy.”

What is going on here? Trump’s defenders say liberal journalists deserve harsh treatment because they relentlessly insult the president. Trump’s deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said her boss “fights fire with fire.” She added: “The American people elected a fighter.”

Liberal politicians and journalists questioned whether Trump is mentally stable. Meanwhile Republicans begged their leader to calm down. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Trump’s tweetstorm was “beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics.”

This is all new territory for us as Americans. Social media now allows our president, along with his political enemies, to toss verbal grenades while the audience listens to the explosions in real time. I’m sure politicians said awful things about each other before the digital age. But with Twitter, the ugliness is out there for us all to read and respond to with our own angry retorts.

Trump was certainly not elected because of his politeness. He is gruff and feisty, and his remarks often sound like those of a playground bully. His in-your-face attitude is what endeared him to many voters who are sick of conventional politics. They want a president who acts like a professional wrestler, breathing threats and flexing his muscles.

It remains to be seen whether this combative tone will work for President Trump or whether it will backfire. But this is certainly not the tone we need in the church today. Politicians may argue, and comedians may pull ugly stunts. But as a Christian, I can’t lower myself to this level.

I am called to reflect the love of Jesus. So are you.

The spirit of the world wants us to take sides in this nasty battle. The devil wants us to hate each other, bicker and throw mud. But the kingdom of Jesus transcends this divisive world. We are called to love people and share Christ with them. If politics prevents you from fulfilling the Great Commission, then you have traded your faith for an idol.

I know some conservative Christians who have become much angrier since the 2016 election. They can chop liberal politicians and journalists into pieces with their words. I also know some left-leaning Christians who have changed into monsters because they are so angry. They seethe with so much animosity toward Donald Trump that they are becoming the bully they say he is.

In this age of outrage, we have lost our first love. How can we rise above this ugly conflict and speak as prophets to our culture? The best way to maintain a prophetic voice is to control your words. Let’s remember these simple rules:

  1. Think before you speak. James 1:19-20 says: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” The definition of discretion is “the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense.” If someone says something to you that makes you angry, bite your lip and wait before you lash out.

You do not have to have the last word. Don’t ruin your testimony by being impetuous. Proverbs 29:20 says it bluntly: “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Sometimes the best thing to do in an argument is to shut up. Proverbs 17:28 says: “Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise; and he who shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”

  1. Learn to respond in the opposite spirit. Anger breeds anger. Mudslinging provokes more mudslinging. But when we have the Holy Spirit inside of us, we have the power to overcome the flesh and manifest the attitude of Jesus. When someone begins arguing, you can turn the conversation by showing compassion or mercy. Proverbs 15:1 says: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” You can set the tone.
  1. Let love be your guide. I Corinthians 16:14 says: “Let all that you do be done in love.” That’s a simple but powerful command. If what you are about to write on Facebook isn’t loving, don’t post it. Let love temper your words and your social media communication. Love builds a platform for you to share Christ, but angry, bitter or demeaning words remove all hope of you communicating the gospel with others.

Don’t allow today’s toxic public conversation to infect you with hate. Let’s model civility, reconciliation and kindness to a nation that needs the love of Jesus. And let’s pray that our president, who is surrounded by Christians, will learn to restrain his anger before he tweets.

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6 Ways Not to Take an Offering

I’ve seen it all when it comes to church offerings. Once when I attended an outdoor service in Nigeria, deacons used wheelbarrows and pickup trucks to collect money because more than 500,000 people were in the audience. Yet I know a pastor in Malawi who collects the equivalent of 80 cents in his offering plate each Sunday because his members are so poor. With that money, he has planted several churches.

Giving is a huge part of the Christian life. Jesus encouraged generosity; the first disciples collected offerings; and the apostle Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7b). Paul taught us that collecting money to support the church’s mission should be done with integrity and that believers should respond with generous hearts.

But even in those days, some Christians resisted the idea of giving to God’s work. Others used strong-arm tactics to get their hands in people’s pockets. We are still dealing with this problem 2,000 years later. Here are six of the most reckless tactics used today to raise funds in church:

  1. The endless appeal: Some preachers drone on and on for 45 minutes to collect an offering—and then they take another 15 minutes to pass the buckets. This is rude and insensitive—and it reveals a lack of faith on the part of leaders. You don’t have to talk people out of their money or hold them hostage until they give out of frustration. Trust God to supply the need rather than begging.
  1. The salesman’s extortion: Certain slick preachers in our movement are known for their uncanny ability to open people’s wallets. But these fundraising “skills” are more akin to those of a used car salesman than a minister of the gospel. They promise magical benefits to those who give large amounts. They also set deadlines. I once heard a preacher suggest that if people gave “right now,” their unsaved children would find salvation!

Never give in response to manipulation. Paul taught us that when we sow, we will reap. But in the same passage, he also said if we sow to the flesh we will “reap corruption” (Gal. 6:8). If you give in response to a prompting of the Holy Spirit, you will be blessed. But if you give because the preacher twisted your arm or used pressure tactics, your gift will not be blessed. Paul told us to give “not grudgingly or out of necessity” (2 Cor. 9:7).

  1. The give-to-get tradeoff: There is no question that God blesses generous people. If you keep your hands open to God by giving, He will open a channel of blessing for you. But God is not a slot machine, and His goodness is not for sale. Never believe a preacher who says you can buy the Holy Spirit’s anointing. And never follow a preacher who guarantees you will get a new house or a new car if you put a certain amount in the offering plate.
  1. The Holy Ghost auction: Numerous times I’ve heard a preacher announce that he needs a certain number of people to give $1,000—and he will wait for hands to go in the air. Next, he needs $500 gifts, $250 and so on. Within a few minutes, the church has become a cattle auction. Sometimes the donors are asked to stand—suggesting that God blesses rich people but not the widow on a fixed income who doesn’t have means to give a big amount.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because they liked to blow trumpets in public to announce they were giving to the poor. He told them: “When you do your charitable deeds, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deeds may be in secret” (Matt. 6:3-4). Can you imagine Jesus asking rich people to stand and give their large checks while everyone in the audience applauds them? He actually pointed out a poor widow and raved about her tiny gift.

  1. The railing judgment: I cringe when I hear pastors tell people they will be under a curse if they don’t tithe. I don’t tithe to appease God’s anger; I give more than a tithe because I love to share God’s goodness. We should never put a guilt trip on people while collecting money. The church is no place for threats. Zacchaeus was a greedy tax collector, but Jesus did not attack him for his thievery; He extended mercy—and this melted Zacchaeus’ heart and made him a lavish giver.
  1. The pathetic apology: Sometimes we act timid about collecting offerings, maybe because the world thinks all Christians are fakes and that churches are “all about money.” But we have nothing to apologize for! We are involved in the greatest mission on planet Earth, and God Himself supplies the funds needed to evangelize the world.

When we collect offerings, we are engaging in a holy process. God is just as much involved in the offering as He is in worship, the preaching of the Word or the demonstration of spiritual gifts. God allows us to be His vessels to give, and then He rewards us abundantly so we can give more. The church has been sustained for 2,000 years by supernatural giving. He is in our midst. While we seek to become more generous, let’s learn to be more faithful in the way we steward God’s money.

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Don’t Swallow the ‘Red Pill’

Zach and Amanda (not their real names) were happily married and attending a growing church on the east coast. They started a family and got involved in ministry. Things were going well for this young Christian couple. But then Zach took a major spiritual detour.

He swallowed the Red Pill.

You may not know anything about this infamous pill, but you need to learn fast before it affects marriages in your church. Some Christian men today have come under its influence, mainly through the popular Reddit online discussion site.

At first Amanda noticed her husband was developing odd attitudes about women. He would talk about how “all women” are highly emotional and how they want to manipulate men. Then Zach began to play mind games with his wife: ignoring her, blaming her for everything or cutting off sexual contact for days to teach her a lesson.

Then he started demanding total submission from Amanda. He began quoting 1 Peter 3:6, which says that Sarah called her husband Abraham “lord.” Meanwhile he would sometimes call his wife stupid if they argued.

“It was definitely mental and psychological abuse,” Amanda says. “His love was conditional. He would say, ‘You need to follow me completely, and then I will give you what you need.'”

Finally, Amanda couldn’t take it anymore. She began to fear that Zach might abuse her physically. “I was constantly crying. I was miserable and depressed,” she told me this week in an interview. Although Amanda is not ready to give up her marriage, and she hopes for restoration, her trust in Zach is shattered, and she has started seeing a counselor.

The Christian community needs to be on the alert for the influence of the Red Pill movement because it’s developing a cult-like following. It is described as a “men’s rights movement”—which sounds benevolent enough—but the fruit of this movement is anything but right.

Many authors over the years have advocated a men’s movement, including Robert Bly, Rollo Tomassi or the Christian blogger known as Dalrock. But Red Pill has taken the philosophy to the level of a religion. The Red Pill discussion site was launched in 2012 by Robert Fisher, a congressman from New Hampshire who describes himself as both preacher’s kid and atheist. He hid his true identity on the site for a few years, but he resigned from his government post last month after his connection to Red Pill was revealed.

The movement is much bigger than Robert Fisher now. The site has 200,000 active subscribers. It promotes the idea that there is a “war on men” in modern culture and that the only way to fight back is to demand total submission. It even preaches that all women secretly want to be dominated because they are inferior. Some of the most outlandish tenets of this patriarchal online cult include these:

  • Despite what feminists say, women don’t want equality or respect—they want to be dominated by a strong man.
  • Women today should spend more time on their personal appearance and less on work or education because men are not attracted to intelligent women.
  • The stereotypical American woman is a “self-entitled brat” who has been influenced by “feminist hogwash.”
  • All women are alike. Red Pill advocates invented a buzzword, “AWALT,” to explain this concept. It means “All Women Are Like That.”
  • Men should consider male-dominated trades because mechanics, electricians and plumbers are able to avoid negative female influences in the workplace. Men in a corporate culture or in academia risk being emasculated by women.

The actual name of the movement is a reference to the 1999 movie The Matrix, in which the character Neo takes a red pill to tap into the dark secrets of the universe. Followers of Red Pill are urged to open their eyes so they can see that women have collectively joined together in a global conspiracy to dominate men.

Fisher, who started Red Pill to help men navigate “the woes of dating in the American culture,” certainly does not espouse Christian ideas of holiness or decency. Part of Red Pill’s philosophy is to help men conquer women sexually. Fisher wrote in 2013: “I treat women like they’re subordinate creatures, and suddenly they respect me.”

Another tenet of Red Pill involves “negging,” a flirting technique used by pick-up artists. Men are encouraged to use low-grade insults or offensive teasing to undermine a woman’s self-confidence—so that she will ultimately be more vulnerable to a man’s sexual advances.

Believe it or not, Christian men today are embracing these crazy, unbiblical ideas. They think God wants them to be crude, abusive and dominant—even though the Bible calls husbands to be humble, kind and compassionate models of sacrificial love (see Eph. 5:25-30).

If anyone around you is taking this Red Pill, warn them now. If anyone in your church is promoting these toxic ideas, don’t let them spread, or you will face a crisis. Now is the time to teach men that godly masculinity isn’t about bossing women around or acting superior.

Real men aren’t macho, abusive or controlling. Real men don’t put women down or feel threatened by them. Real men don’t compete with women; they are happy to be equal partners with them. Real men don’t swallow the Red Pill.

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Break Free From the Patriarchal Spirit

Mexico is a violent place for women. When I visited the city of Monterrey a few years ago, a pastor’s wife named Estér told me she visited a hospital every month to pray for one or more women who had been seriously injured by their husbands. In some cases, the victim was a minister’s wife.

“It is so common here,” Estér told me. “The pastor’s wife just goes home from the hospital, puts makeup on her bruises and never tells anyone what happened.”

Last week, I traveled to the city of Querétaro in central Mexico to speak at a Christian men’s conference. During my visit, I learned that a new wave of domestic violence has hit the country. It is estimated that at least seven women are killed every day in Mexico by their husbands or partners.

And the violence is becoming more deadly due to increased rivalry between drug cartels. Women are often used as pawns by gang leaders to inflict revenge on each other.

Two years ago, more than 7,000 women had been reported missing in Mexico, half of them under the age of 18. Domestic violence is often the reason Mexican women try to sneak over the U.S. border.

How can we respond to this tragedy? Of course, we should provide shelters and counseling for female victims. But the most effective strategy is to go to the root of the problem—by confronting the men who abuse. And this must start in the church, because Christian men often abuse their wives and then justify their behavior with Bible verses.

For too long, the evangelical church has ignored the problem of abuse, and this has enabled abusers. We insist on teaching that men have some kind of God-ordained power to be “priests of the home”—when Scripture actually teaches that all Christians—male and female—are priests. (The Bible actually never calls husbands “priests of the home.”)

God never intended marriage to be about hierarchy, domination, control or abuse. If we are ever going to stop abuse in the church, we must teach men to break free from a patriarchal spirit. We must take these three scriptural steps:

  1. Treat your wife as an equal. It’s true that God asks women to submit to their husbands; yet in the same passage in Ephesians, husbands and wives are instructed to submit to each other (see Eph. 5:21). Paul taught that married people have authority over each other’s bodies (see 1 Cor. 7:3-4), again stressing the concept of mutual submission. And Peter warned husbands that their prayers would be “hindered” if they do not treat their wives as “fellow heir[s] of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7, NASB). If wives are fellow-heirs, they are equals!

The gospel not only restores human beings to a relationship with God, but it reaffirms the dignity of women and their equal value. When a husband understands this and treats his wife with honor and respect, his marriage will reflect heaven.

  1. Serve your wife selflessly. Many Christian husbands ignorantly think Scripture gives them the right to boss their wives around, bark orders, demand sex or manipulate them with threats. They interpret the verse “the husband is the head of the wife” (Eph. 5:23, MEV) to mean that they can sit in their recliners like kings while their wives do all the housework and take care of the children.

That is not a marriage, it’s slavery. In God’s kingdom, “headship” is not dictatorship—it is servanthood.

Paul introduced a radical concept: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Eph. 5:25). This is the opposite of a cocky, macho attitude. A husband who loves Jesus will get out of his recliner and help with the dishes, play with the children and share the burden of family responsibilities. A husband’s love should be sacrificial.

  1. Encourage your wife’s spiritual gifts. I’ve known many Christian men over the years who kept their wives under tight surveillance. An insecure husband doesn’t want his wife to further her education, start a career or assume any leadership role because he views her as inferior (or maybe because his wife’s success exposes his weakness). Yet God’s desire is for a husband to be his wife’s biggest cheerleader. The man who was married to the Proverbs 31 woman, for example, praised his wife—not only for her virtue but also because of her success in the marketplace (see Prov. 31:28-29).

The Holy Spirit has the power to subdue the male ego. But we will never overcome the crisis of domestic abuse until we begin teaching the gospel of gender equality and challenging Christian men to swallow their patriarchal pride. Let’s quit promoting erroneous religious notions about male domination and get back to what the Bible really says about equality, mutual submission and honor.

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