Martha Peace


Questions and Answers
Martha answers questions from the hundreds she has received from her conferences.

Q:  What advice would you give to a divorced Christian woman or a single Christian woman about Christian "singles groups?"

A:   For the most part, I would not encourage any single woman to order her social life or church life around a singles group. I think all Christians, married or single, should be serving the Lord and using their spiritual gifts in the church for the building up of the saints. Singles tend to separate themselves out and live, often, a very selfish life. As far as meeting a potential husband, I think a much better place would be through simply serving in and worshiping in the church. Then she would be the type of woman that a truly godly man would be seeking, and he would be the type of man that she should be seeking. Christian singles groups don't really give you an accurate picture of what someone's commitment to the Lord is really like.

Q:  We have several teenage girls in our church who dress immodestly in church and away from church. It bothers me and I'm not sure if I should say anything or not.

A:   Girls and women who dress immodestly are either naive and foolish (as to the effect they are having on men), or they are "harlots in their heart" and know full well the effect they are having on men. Either way, if you are the witness, you need to try in love to help them.

If they are older teens or adults, I would approach them privately (Galatians 6:1 and Matthew 18:15) and explain that they are immodest in dress. Use Scripture such as 1 Timothy 2:9-10. Don't get caught up in a discussion of "how tight?" or "how long should the skirt be?"  This is a heart's attitude and you don't want to make a lot of rules for them to follow. You want them to glorify God and honor Him in how they dress. Exhort them to repent and give God glory. Be very kind in your tone of voice but very clear with your examples.

If it is a younger teen dressing immodestly, I would go to her mother and tell what I had noticed and my concern. Don't gossip about this to others. If she doesn't repent, then bring in two or more witnesses (Matthew 18:16). And if she doesn't repent, then go to the elders in your church. That's all you can do except, of course, to continue to pray.
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Q:  How did you become a counselor?

A:  That's an interesting question because I never wanted to be a counselor. After I was saved, I only wanted to teach ladies' Bible classes. For five years at a solid Bible teaching church, the pastor helped me to prepare to teach the ladies' class. I did Bible books such as Genesis, John, and Colossians. Then providentially the Lord brought Lou Priolo to our church and I heard him speak. I really liked how practical and biblical he was. So, my husband and I took classes from Lou so that we could learn more personally and for me to be a better Bible teacher. It was Lou who after getting to know me suggested that I take the biblical counseling training. I told him, "No, thanks. I'm a teacher, not a counselor." Later my husband, Sanford, encouraged me to give the counseling a try. That's when I took the training seriously. So, the Lord made me a counselor even though it would not have been the path I would have taken. Of course now I'm glad He did.
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Q: What does it mean to be trapped by vain regrets?

A:  All of us have things that we regret whether it was something stupid we said or something sinful. We have choices that we made in life that if we had it to do over again, we would change. Reliving the past and playing it over and over is not honoring to the Lord. Biblically deal with the past by asking forgiveness or paying restitution when needed, but then honor the Lord by not dwelling on it. Being consumed with past regrets is one way to be very selfishly focused. Instead, we should be focused on the Lord Jesus Christ and honoring Him and graciously accepting the forgiveness that we have in Him.
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Q: Where do you start to help your husband understand that reading "Playboy" magazine, etc. is bad and not God's way?

A: If your husband says he is a Christian, I would lovingly but in a clear, straightforward manner, tell him "Honey, pornography is a sin. It is this kind of thing that the Lord Jesus was talking about when He said, '...but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart' (Matt.5:28). Your thoughts cannot be pure when looking at this, and you must repent. I love you. Is there anything I can do to make it easier for you to give this up?" Then, if he does not repent, proceed with the Matthew 18:15-18 process. For much greater detail, read chapter fourteen in "The Excellent Wife" book.

If your husband is not a Christian, appeal to his conscience to "do what is right." For example, "Honey, it's not right for you to be looking at pornography. It will cause you to be discontent with being married, it costs money, and you run the risk of the children finding it. Is there anything I can do to help you with this?" If an unbelieving husband won't repent, then pray for wisdom as to what to do. If the problem is bad enough that you think you should do something, consult with the elders in your church. Otherwise, keep praying and occasionally appeal to do to "do what is right." Also some pornography (such as child pornography) is illegal as well as extremely dangerous. If he will not give up that kind of pornography, I would contact the police (Romans 13:1-3). Your motive in all of this must be one of love and desiring to help your husband.
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Q:  What is the correct way to raise godly children with an unbelieving husband so that they will respect their father?

A:  The Scriptures are clear that children are to honor their father and mother whether they are Christians or not. Showing "honor" or "respect" is something that a child can do whether their father is acting as he should or not. Respect is shown in tone of voice, how they look at their father, the attitude with which they obey him, and how they speak of him to others. The child can be taught to do what is right and honor the Lord whether their father does or not. Certainly I do not think mothers should be "bad-mouthing" the child's father to the children (or anyone else for that matter!), but neither should she pretend that the father is a Christian and that his worldly views are alright. The mother has a responsibility to teach her children and bring them up "in the Lord". Part of that teaching is teaching them to be discerning about good and evil and about biblical beliefs and unbiblical beliefs. They need to learn that unbelievers do not think like believers and that only God can change that. So, the child should be praying for their Father's salvation, obeying their father graciously unless he is asking them to sin, and giving their father blessings and "overcoming evil with good". Children can be taught to think objectively about others' sin and to respond biblically to it all-the-while showing respect to their father because of his God-given position in the family. For more information on raising kids, I recommend my tape set "Raising Kids without Raising Cain" along with the workbook that accompanies the tapes. Also I recommend Ted Tripp's book, "Shepherding Your Child's Heart."
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Q:  I have a friend who confided in me that she thinks about killing herself.  She made me promise not to tell anyone, but I am worried.  What should I do?

A:  Go back to her and tell her that you made a promise you should not have made.  Ask her forgiveness, and ask her to let you out of the promise.  This is based on Proverbs 6:2-3 which says, "If you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth, do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, go, humble yourself, and importune [beg] your neighbor [to let you out of the commitment]." (Proverbs 6:2-3, adaptation added).  If your friend will not let you out of the commitment not to tell, explain that thinking about suicide is a sin issue and therefore you (if she is a Christian) must bring in other witnesses to help her (Matthew 18:15-18).  If she is not a Christian, church discipline does not apply; but being a law-abiding citizen does.  Suicide is illegal (Romans 13:1), and, therefore, you must come forward as a witness to try to prevent her harming herself and committing a crime.  Offer to go with her to tell her husband or parents or pastor or whomever would be appropriate.  If she refuses, then you must tell them.  Always take a suicide threat seriously.  And the next time someone asks you to promise not to tell, reply by saying, "Almost always I can promise to keep a confidence unless it involves an unrepentant church discipline issue or you tell me you are thinking of harming yourself or someone else."
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Q:  Sometimes I go into angry rages especially when my children are acting up.  I always feel guilty and apologize, but it keeps happening.  Is there anything that can help?

A:  Angry rages are a deed of the flesh (Gal. 5:20).  They are sin. That is the bad news.  The good news is that with God's enabling grace, you can repent.  Sinful anger is almost always a habit and will only be changed by thinking kind, tender-hearted thoughts instead of angry thoughts (Eph. 4:31-32).  For example, instead of thinking "That makes me so mad!", you ought to think, "My child is sinning.  How can I overcome evil with good?" (Rom. 12:21).  Then come up with a plan of action based on biblical principles.  Work hard at this.  Pray for repentance.  Confess the sin of anger right when it begins, when you first begin to feel irritated or frustrated. Humbly ask for God's forgiveness and your child's forgiveness.  You do not have to stay an angry person because "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come." (2 Cor. 5:20).
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Q:  How can a person achieve emotional wholeness?

A: Recently someone asked me this question, and I answered by using biblical terms instead of psychological terms. In order to rephrase this question in biblical terms you might ask, "How can a person be joyful and fulfilled in life?" The answer is by being in a right relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2), by obeying His Word, and thus by His grace manifesting the fruit of His Spirit in your heart and life. His fruit in your life results in "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). I cannot think of anything more joyful and fulfilling.
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Q:  I read a book that said in order for me to overcome my hurt over what someone did to me in the past that I must come to the point where I forgive God. Is that true?

A:  No, it is not true.  In fact, it is blasphemous. God hasn't done and cannot do anything wrong.  There is nothing that we have to forgive Him for.  We should not even think in those terms.  Instead, we should be grateful for His blessings and for the trials in our life that can be used for His glory and our ultimate sanctification (making us more like Christ; Romans 8:28-29).  Instead of being angry with God, we are to view ourselves as God's creature put on earth by Him to serve Him on His terms.  Thus, we are to "in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
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Q:  What does it mean in 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 that the "woman is the glory of man"? I thought we were to only give God glory.

A:  In the sense of worship and praising His worth as the only true God and our Creator, certainly we are only to give glory to God.  In the sense of honoring another person or helping them to succeed in their tasks, we can certainly give glory to man.  For instance, a child who honors their parents through respectfully obeying is giving their parent glory as others notice.  Also a wife who honors her husband through joyful, respectful submission and helping him has the attitude of glorying in the role that God has given her.  She is in that way, as Paul wrote, "the glory of man" (1 Corinthians 11:7)
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Q:  I am shy around others I don't know. In fact, I avoid new people at church and work. Is there anyway for me to become more comfortable?

A: The "bottom line" answer is to turn your focus from "self" to "loving others" (Matthew 22:39). Feeling uncomfortable around people you do not know well results from what you are thinking.  If you think, "I don't know what to say.  I don't want to be here.  I've got to get out of here," you will feel very uncomfortable and maybe even panicky.  If you think, "I don't feel comfortable but I am going to do whatever I can to make the other people feel comfortable. God will give me the grace to obey His Word that says, 'Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves'" (Philippians 2:3), then you will eventually begin to feel more comfortable.  Giving God glory by obeying Him has to be your overriding goal, not feeling comfortable.  Being loving and gracious to others is a virtue.  Pray for wisdom and grace.  Turn from your self-focus through putting on an others' focus.  The Apostle Paul put it well when he wrote in Philippians 2:4, "do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."
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Q:  Is it all right for women to be elders and deacons in the church?  I have heard some women say that "God has called me to this ministry."

A: This is a question that I am asked more and more often.  The issue is being debated even among conservative evangelicals.  The answer is simple -- no, it is not alright for women to be elders and deacons or pastors.  The reason is from Scripture.  If you were to read 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy and the book of Titus, you would learn much about the role of the pastor.  When the word "pastor" is used, the same Greek word is often translated "overseer," "bishop," or "elder."  So whether it says "elder" or "pastor," it is the same.  Clearly in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus the elder or pastor is a man -- for example, "the husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:2) and "if a man does not know how to manage his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5).  Concerning the deacons, they are also men.  For example, "Deacons likewise must be men of dignity... these men must first be tested..." (1 Timothy 3:8-10).  The women have a different role -- not inferior but different.  They are to teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-5), and they are to "adorn themselves by means of good works" (1 Timothy 2:10).  In addition, the Apostle Paul wrote in his instructions to the churches, "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet." (1 Timothy 2:12).  Women have told me that they feel "called" to be ministers or teachers to both men and women.  Certainly it is good to desire to minister to others.  But when our feelings tell us one thing and the Scripture another, we have to go with the Scripture.  God has greatly gifted women as He has men, and it is a joy for all Christians to use the spiritual gifts He has given them.  The only way to truly give God glory is to serve Him and use our gifts within the parameters clearly set forth in His Word.
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Q:  I have a "secret" sin that no one knows about.  I control my weight by making myself throw up after I eat.  I feel really foolish and embarrassed and don't want anyone to know.  What do you think?

A:  Making yourself throw up after you eat is what medical doctors call bulimia.  Bulimia is wrong for two reasons:  First, it can cause serious medical problems such as damage to your esophagus and your teeth.  Second, it is a sin because overeating is gluttony, throwing up is a lack of self-control, and wanting to be thin so badly that you are willing to sin is idolatry.  

It is likely that you feel guilty and embarrassed about this, but, since God "gives grace to the humble," I strongly suggest that you get help from the elders in your church.  They, likely, will send you to a medical doctor for an examination and also will assign a godly, older woman in the church to disciple you and hold you accountable.  Sinful eating patterns tend to be habitual and the change must not only be outward but also in your heart by what you think.  God wants us to be grateful for the food we have and not to abuse our bodies. He also does not want us to eat in a gluttonous manner but by His grace to put on self-control.  There is a wonderful book that I would like to recommend to you -- "Love to Eat, Hate to Eat" by Elyse Fitzpatrick (Harvest House Publishers).  Elyse has done a lot of work with ladies who have eating disorders, and her book is very practical and has a high and proper view of God.  One last thing: your "secret" is not a secret to God, and He has instructed us in His Word to "bear one another's burdens" (Gals.6:2).  Get help today, and do it for the Lord's sake.
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Q:  What is nouthetic counseling?

A:  Nouthetic (pronounced "new-thet-ick) counseling is biblical counseling. The word nouthetic is an English word that Jay Adams' coined from the Greek word, noutheteo. Noutheteo is a New Testament word that means to exhort, admonish, give instruction, or to place or set into the mind. The reason that Jay Adams' called biblical counseling "nouthetic" instead of simply "biblical" counseling was to differentiate his view of counseling from those who claimed their model was "biblical" even though they integrate various psychological theories into their beliefs. Nouthetic counseling uses just the Scripture (which is God's inspired Word and absolute truth). It is based on believing that God really has "given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). It is also based on the belief that when a person has a problem, you cannot go deeper inside that person than the "thoughts and intents of their heart" (Heb. 4:12). Nouthetic counselors are usually pastors and sometimes lay men and women who exhort and encourage (in love) those who need help with their problems. They give those they work with great hope and, at the same time, accountability. Many unbelievers have come to faith in Christ through biblical counseling, and many believers have, through the sufficiency of Christ and His Word, solved their problems in a short period of time. If you would like to know more about nouthetic counseling and/or training opportunities, I would invite you to visit the web site of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (www.NANC.org).
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Q:  Last week I woke up in the middle of the night and became very frightened.  My heart began to pound, and I felt like I couldn't breathe.  I woke my husband up, and he talked to me, and I finally calmed down.  Do you think there is something physically wrong with me?

A:  It sounds like you had a "panic attack."  A panic attack is a physical reaction to being frightened.  There is a release of adrenalin into your blood stream from the adrenal glands which are located above your kidneys.  The adrenalin gives you a surge of energy, causes your heart to beat faster and to pound, your hands to tremble, and you to feel short of breath.  It is a natural reaction by your body to a frightening experience such as realizing you are about to have a wreck or waking up and your house is on fire.  It is your body's way of preparing you to run or take action.  When you have a panic attack and there is no seemingly good reason for it, it is especially frightening.  Sometimes, there is a physical problem in the body that can cause the attacks, and that's why I recommend that anyone experiencing panic attacks have a good physical.  Most often, however, the physical examination does not reveal a cause.  In that case, the panic is coming secondarily from what you are thinking.  For example, if I am getting ready to board a plane to fly somewhere and think over and over, "I just know this plane is going to crash!", by the time the plane is in the air I will be feeling nervous and perhaps feeling panic.  Instead of playing over and over a make-believe, worst case scene in my mind, God wants me to "think on things that are true" (Phil. 4:8).  Things that are true are those that conform to reality.  The truth is "the plane is not crashing.  It is highly unlikely to crash.  And if it does, God will at that time give me the grace to go through it."  The truth also is "God will not give me more than I am able to bear..." (1 Cor. 10:13).  Panic attacks are miserable.  They frightened people so badly that their greatest fear becomes that of the fear itself.  Usually a panic attack lasts about twenty minutes, and you will begin to feel better.  The solution is to repent of your unbiblical thinking and to bring God into the circumstance.  We are to be like the Psalmist who wrote, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee."  As you work at thinking rightly about your circumstances and about God, He will help you to feel less and less panic.  Worry and fear do not have to consume you.  It is a very selfish and sinful habit but can be overcome through showing love to God by obeying His Word and love to others. (See Phil. 4:6-9, and I highly recommend reading Jerry Bridges' book, "Trusting God.")
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Q:  I work hard taking care of my family but struggle with resentment because I have no time or energy for myself.  Is this a sin, or is it all right to desire time for myself?

A: There is nothing wrong with desiring time for yourself (within reason); but there is a difference between desiring time for yourself and being resentful if you cannot have it.  This is a difficult question to answer without more details such as -- Do you think your husband is being sinfully unreasonable in what he is requiring you to do?  Do you have several small children and even with your husband's help you are in "survival mode?"  Are your children older but not doing their share of the work?  Are you disorganized or lazy and does that create additional, unnecessary work?  Have you over committed to projects outside of your home?  If your answer is "yes" to any of these questions, then you should respond appropriately depending on the question.

For instance, if your husband is sinfully unreasonable, appeal to him (gently and respectfully).  If he does not change his mind and you are convinced that he is sinning, then in love and again respectfully reprove him.  For what to do further regarding the issue of your husband overloading you with work, I will refer you to chapter 14 in "The Excellent Wife" book.

If the problem is you have several small children and you are in "survival mode," then pray for wisdom and perhaps ask for some outside help (either paid or volunteer from the church or your family) to help with the work.

If the problem is the children are untaught and not held accountable, then it is your responsibility to teach them and follow up to see that they have accomplished their chores until it becomes a habit for them.

If the problem is that you are disorganized or lazy, then read some good books on organizing and ask one of the older ladies in the church who is well organized to come over one day and give you some good suggestions.  Don't be lazy, get to work, and work "heartily as unto the Lord."  If you have over committed to projects outside the home, then make an assessment about what is really necessary and ask yourself, "What does the Lord want me to concentrate on now?"  Often the answer is your family.

In addition to all these suggestions, the bottom line for every woman who is struggling with resentment because she does not have time for herself is she must realize that her time belongs to the Lord, and she should desire for Him to use her as He desires.  If you feel resentful, then you are sinning. Don't think in terms of "I have my rights or I have to have my time."  If you do, you'll continue to struggle with resentment no matter how much time you have.  Think instead "How can I use the time that God has given me to show more love to Him and more love to others (including my family)."  Certainly, it is not wrong to plan something that you would like to do or ask your husband to help you, but do not set your heart on it so much that you are willing to sin if you do not get it.
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Q:  My husband says he is a Christian and goes to church.  However, there is no fruit in his life that I can see. What should I think?

A:  My Daddy used to have an expression, "I wish I had a nickel for every time I ...".  Well, I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me this question.  Ultimately, only God can know the answer.  However, there are some clear guidelines in Scripture.  For example, if your husband says he is a Christian and that he's trying to be good enough to earn his way into heaven, then he is clearly not a Christian.  Salvation is by grace and not works. (Titus 3:4-7).  Also, if he believes there are many ways to God and it does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere, then he is not a Christian.  The Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to God. (Acts 4:12). Most of the time, though, it is not that easy to discern when a husband is not a Christian.

One of the hallmarks of being a Christian is the new heart that God gives you -- a heart with a desire for God, to please Him, serve Him, trust Him, and love Him.  In other words, there will be fruit in their life and that fruit is often the obedience of the Christian.  There are many clear verses in 1 John concerning this fruit such as "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments" (1 John 2:3).  Another clear section that warns us if there is no fruit is 2 Peter 1:3-11.  Read over those verses, and pray for wisdom. I would also recommend that you share your concerns with your husband.  Speak to him in love and respectfully, and have as a heart's motive for him to be right with the Lord.  If after all is said and done, he still believes himself to be a Christian, then accept that and from time to time without nagging or being contentious, encourage him in the Lord.  It is only the church through the elders that can officially declare him to be "as an unbeliever" through the church discipline process in Matthew 18:15-18. Otherwise, treat him as a Christian until he either says he is not or the church goes through the church discipline process over some issue and he will not repent.
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Q:  I know the Bible teaches women to be submissive to their husbands, but what about a wife whose husband screams, cusses, and hits her?

A:  The Bible clearly teaches that wife is to submit herself to the authority of her husband (Ephesians 5:22; Titus 2:5; Colossians 3:18; I Peter 3:1).  The Greek word for "be submissive to" is hupotasso.  It is a military term that means to be ranked under in military order.  Hupotasso in no way implies that the wife is inferior, but it does clearly mean that she has a different role.  Her role has been given to her by God.  Many women believe themselves to be submissive because as they have told me, "I would never sell our house without my husband's permission!"  However, they are sometimes only submissive in the big decisions but contend over less important matters.  In contrast, the Lord expects us to be faithful to obey in the small things as well as the large.  So, wives are to be submissive to their husbands with one exception - if he asks her to sin.  In a case such as her husband asking her to sin, she would then have to obey God (who is the higher authority).  Most husbands do not ask their wives to sin, but some of them do.  Those that do ask their wife to sin might ask her to look at a pornographic movie or have an abortion.  Others might ask or even demand that she cover up his sin.  It is a sin for a husband to scream, cuss, shove, or hit his wife.  It is also illegal for him to hit her.  So, there are two issues in the question above: (1) the wife is to be submissive to her husband in all things unless he asks her to sin and (2) the righteous, appropriate, loving manner in which the wife should biblically try to help her husband who is sinning.  A wife whose husband is sinning should appeal to her husband.  And if he does not repent, she should tell him what he is doing is not right (based on Scripture if he is a Christian).  Either way, she would give a gentle, loving reproof (Galatians 6:1).  If he does not repent, her further course would depend on whether he is a Christian or not.  If he is a Christian, she should follow the steps of church discipline in Matthew 18:15-18 and if necessary call the police based on Romans 13:1.  If he is an unbeliever, the church has no authority over him, but, of course, the police and courts do. [For a detailed explanation of resources to help a wife whose husband is sinning, see The Excellent Wife book, chapter fourteen.]
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