Freedom Of Discernment & Discipline - with Phylicia Masonheimer
If you really think about it, are you developing your own interpretation of the Word, or are you only getting your ideas about what the Bible says from other sources? When you do dive into the Bible, what's your heart posture - what expectations do you have?
Phylicia Masonheimer is a Bible Teacher and theologian who teaches Christian women how to discern truth in the Word. She helps them be disciplined on their journey to strengthen their faith in God by discussing the deep and often unasked questions. It was an absolute honor to talk with her about this recently.
Phylicia is also a wife and mom to two little girls. She got her Religion degree at Liberty University in Virginia. Her role as a Bible teacher and theologian is to teach complicated theological concepts at a level that the average Christian woman can understand and implement.
I found Phylicia a year ago and I often send people to her because of the way women feel so safe in the space that she creates. It's a space where they're not afraid to ask the really, really hard questions that I think we all fight with at some point in our spiritual journey. She is able to articulate answers in the most beautiful, well thought out and easy to understand ways.
She has a history of having a strained relationship with her sexuality. And when her Ministry began talking about this, she knew she needed to address it in a broader sense. So, she started writing about it. As that platform expanded, she looked into why the beliefs she had around sexuality even existed and then really explored what the Bible had to say about it. This is where she realized that there were a lot of big theological words used to explain it all, that for somebody who didn't have a religion degree or didn't go to seminary, could be really hard to understand.
Before diving into this work, Phylicia worked in higher education for 5 years as an admissions counselor and recruiter. She loved it - she got to travel around the US and recruit homeschool students to the university and then became an independent contractor who counseled students independently. But then the Lord called her into something new.
Answering The Hard Questions About Faith As An Online Bible Teacher
Phylicia believes in the importance of having a robust faith. And to have strong faith, you have to be able to ask the tough questions. You have to be able to ask "why?".
Not only does Phylicia help women see the excitement and beauty within the Bible, but she also teaches that there is freedom within Christianity. We can differ on some things. Yes, we have a certain unity around the Gospel, the truth of who Jesus is, and the core doctrines of Christianity...what Christianity is at its core - we can unite around that. What she's hoping to create is a collective of individuals who hold the same core values and beliefs.
Something I struggle with from time to time in the spiritual side of my mentorship, coaching and wider community, is people asking me for wisdom on some of the more touchy issues. And I can often find these hard to answer. So I asked Phylicia how she goes about it...
She expressed how challenging it can be and what a huge responsibility it is - she doesn't take it lightly at all. It's very hard to be in a position where people think that you might have wisdom on every Christian issue under the sun. She does an 'ask me anything Monday', on Instagram where she gets an average of three hundred questions!!! She addresses these by looking for themes and answers to what seem to be the recurring issues. But what she also does (which I LOVE) is answer questions that a lot of people aren't, in fact, answering (maybe only 1 or 2), but that she knows are very relevant to other audience members and they're just not so comfortable asking. This is from a practical standpoint.
In terms of actually answering the questions, if she hasn't researched an issue enough, she won't answer it. She won't answer a question based on her own wisdom or assumptions. She'll go and read about it and try to see all the different views on that issue before she'll say something about it. I respect this standpoint of hers so much. As she says, it's the responsible thing to do!
The last thing she does (which I love the MOST), is tell people not to take her word for it, but to go research it themselves. To dive into the Word. Study it out. Read and listen to solid resources (including the Bible of course) and consider the different angles. Then come to their own conclusion. She wants to guide people but doesn't want to be the final word for them.
For me, when I can go to the Word, just BE with the Word and allow myself to study alone in the Word, I'm so much more likely to come to a conclusion, rather than trying to get to a conclusion from consuming so many different people's opinions. This leads us well into a massive issue for a lot of Christian women...
Second-Hand Interpretation - Why Every Woman Should Be Her Own Theologian
Growing up, I understood the 'brand' of Jesus, but not so much Jesus himself. When I first was curious about Who Jesus is, I was consuming sermons and reading devotionals, but I wasn't really cracking open my Bible fully unless it was like to go highlight a verse.
Within the last year and a half, I've realized how much being a student of the Word has allowed an intimacy with Jesus that I've never had before. And not only that, but a confidence that I was looking for. I truly didn't know I could get it from studying the Word, but how wrong I was.
When you get really passionate about owning your faith, and go to the source, you begin to really KNOW God. When all we do is consume information about God and the Bible through pastors, podcasts, and devotionals, and we never open the Bible for ourselves, what we're doing is creating this second-hand faith. And what this says is "I'm not mature or capable enough to understand the Bible on my own...I need all these other people to tell me what to think". While their interpretation is helpful and we should use commentators and scholars to help us understand, we do want to be reading the Bible for ourselves because you are capable of understanding it. All you need to do is start exposing your self to it.
The Holy Spirit's role is to help you understand the Word of God. So, have confidence in your faith that the answers will come. You WILL to get to a point where you can read the Bible on your own.
Be Aware Of Your Heart Posture As You Dive Into Reading The Bible
It's common for us to open the Bible expecting to get something for ourselves out of it. It takes practice and discipline to just go into it to simply learn more about your father and who he is. When you get to this point, it will change everything. If you're leaving the Bible feeling frustrated because it didn't change you, take a look at your intentions first and then change how you show up the next day.
Realize that just showing up to meet Him in the Word is a step of faith on your part - He is going to meet you and speak to you even if you don't feel it or feel like it. Showing up is a step of faith. It says, "God, I'm a Christian. I am a disciple of Christ, and therefore, I'm going to come to your word in faith that you're going to use this in some way".
When I read a passage that maybe doesn't feel super applicable to my day, I just say "Lord, I don't really see a lot in here that stands out to me, but I trust that you're going to use this and show truth to me in some way". There can be a lot of shame surrounding Bible study because we feel like we've failed if we don't 'get' it or it's not immediately applicable. The reality is this is ancient literature, so it's gonna be hard to study!
What you're doing is storing up truth. You're putting this truth into your mind and into your heart. And then the Holy Spirit will declare that back to you and through you when you need it. Your work, your step of faith is to show up and be in the Word. He will use this to support, strengthen, and equip you.
Discerning Truth In The Word And Becoming Your Own Theologian
I'm all about building my discernment muscle. It's a beautiful thing when you're able to recognize when you don't really agree with something. When all you're consuming is sermons, devotionals, and books, you don't really have that strength of discernment.
Phylicia realized she needed to start talking about this with other Christian women, and that's kind of how the conversation started. There are so many of us out here really struggling with knowing what's true.
As Christian women, we want to grow in character. We want to become better people. We want to serve our families and our communities. For this reason, we're a target market for self-help type material, which is fine, but the issue becomes when we get materials marketed to us as devotionals or Christian lifestyle books that aren't actually completely biblical. We read them thinking "this person's a Christian, so everything that they say is true". When we're not grounded enough in the Word to know that it might not be all true, our faith can become confused. We have got to be able to know when something is truly biblical and when it's not.
Grace-driven Productivity and Discipline
I just love how Phylicia talks about grace-driven productivity. She started a productivity course because she was getting so many questions about how she handled her business, ministry, marriage, family - you know, all the things that we juggle. So she decided to distill it down into a course. She couldn't possibly coach everybody who wanted to be coached on this.
She noticed that a lot of productivity advice out there was saying things like 'create an hourly schedule' or 'create this specific system'. Having a rigid system isn't going to work for everybody - it'll fall apart if you try to take a system that worked for one person and put it on somebody else.
Phylicia's course is partially based on practicality and partially based in what scripture says about rest and Sabbath; this lead to the concept of grace-driven productivity. If we're able to give ourselves grace and we're able to say, "you know what, I didn't get everything done, so I'll just move that to tomorrow", and we create flexible systems for our personality types, then we're not going to get trapped in the hustle mindset. We're not going to get trapped in this failure that overwhelms us so that we never get anything done in the future.
But it also still drives us to NOT procrastinate or put off tasks. The longer we put things off, the more anxiety and dread creeps in. When you look at what is causing you anxiety, it's likely there are things you're avoiding doing that are playing a part. If we break them down and schedule them out across the week, it's not so overwhelming. Having a more flexible approach is accessible to many personality types. BUT we need to be careful we aren't slapping grace over laziness.
Grace motivates obedience and change.
Just like when I say "discipline creates freedom", grace can drive productivity, even if they seem like they're on opposite ends of the spectrum. Have a think about what grace-driven productivity and discipline look like for you.
For Phylicia, discipline looks like going to bed earlier and getting up earlier so that she can have her time with the Lord quietly and then have a workout. Those 2 things really help her feel prepared and equipped for her day. But if she doesn't get to do these things, it's still ok; she gives herself grace. Just because you don't show up with God one morning, doesn't mean he hasn't shown up for you that day.
But she knows if she chooses discipline; if she chooses to go to bed earlier instead of following what she feels like in the moment, she'll get to start her day with the Lord. And that in turn makes her a better wife, a better mom, and a better business owner. It's kind of a cycle - the more time she spends with the Lord preparing for the day, the more discipline He leads her into which gives her more freedom to be a better woman.
Remember, you can reset any time you want. You don't need to wait 'til January 1st, or the 1st of the month, or the next Monday. You can literally reset the next day, hour or minute. I know that if you eat something not so great for breakfast, it's tempting to be like, "well, great, now I have an excuse to eat whatever I want the rest of the day", even though you know it's not serving you to do so. Remind yourself you can start over at that NEXT meal.
Check out Phylicia's website phyliciamasonheimer.com and follow her on Instagram @phyliciamasonheimer. She has a podcast AND book launching in 2020, so keep your eyes out for these! The podcast will be called TBD and the book is titled Stop Calling Me Beautiful - Finding Soul Deep Strength in a Skin Deep World. I don't know about you, but I can't wait!!!
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If you liked this post, check out episode 74 of my podcast - The Chasing Freedom Show. It's seriously one of my favorite episodes! You can find it on Spotify, iTunes, or SoundCloud. If you love the episode, screenshot and share it with me on social media @trainertanner #chasingfreedom.