Monday, June 30, 2014

When Anger Should Be

I'll agree that Jesus treated (and continues to treat) broken sinners with the utmost compassion. His hauntingly tender Parable of the Prodigal Son (which I'd like you to read before you continue with my post) conveys His eagerness to forgive those who come to Him in humility. Yet this same Jesus twice overturned tables in the Temple (John 2:13-17, Matthew 21:12-13) and pronounced merciless judgements on the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 21:11-36).

Time doesn't permit me to cite all His warnings of eternal damnation for those who  reject Him, or His warnings to those who defiantly disobey Him. Neither have I time to show you passages that demonstrate His  contempt for religious hypocrisy. But Jesus was anything but gentle with those who ignored, misused and/or perverted God's Word in favor of their own agenda.

As in all generations, the 21st Century professing  church teems with deviations from sound doctrine.  Many people  believe these false teachings have increased over the past two decades because evangelicals, although once known for fidelity to Scripture,  now increasingly  compromise those very Scriptures with political correctness.

And yes, that sort of  compromise angers me! Self-focused anger, which arises from wounded pride and selfish impatience, of course dishonors the Lord. And I can even pervert righteous indignation when I presume to  control sinners by throwing temper tantrums (James 1:20 cautions that human anger doesn't accomplish God's righteousness). Yet we should feel a certain anger and revulsion, first at our own sin, and secondly at the sin that  pollutes the  body of Christ and assaults the authority of the Bible.

So if my harshness toward the things that fly in the face of sound doctrine offends you, I hope you'll ask yourself why you don't feel angry when sin contaminates the visible church. I'll keep examining my anger, asking the Holy Spirit to expose any  misuse of righteous indignation, but I'd invite those who  believe that anger toward false teaching has no place in Christian conversation to read the scathing words of 2 Peter. Perhaps there's room for both gentleness and godly anger.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Out Of A Virtual Cubby Hole

In my search through the hallways and cubby holes of YouTube this afternoon, I stumbled upon a video claiming to represent the original version of  John Newton's iconic hymn, Amazing Grace. Whether or not it indeed has the original words and melody, this version presents such rich theology that I knew I had to post it!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Brutal Truth

When John had cancer two years ago, I tearfully begged  his surgeon to find a way to treat it other than surgery. His tone of voice showed more impatience than compassion as he gruffly answered, "I'm trying to save your husband's life!" His apparent arrogance offended me. And more significantly, I whole-heartedly believed that, due to his breathing limitations from having Polio, surgery would certainly kill John faster than the cancer would.

In my opinion, surgery represented a ruthless, almost savage, approach to John's cancer, and I desperately wanted a gentler way of dealing with it. Again, I tried to reason with him. By that time, John had been severely weakened from a heart attack, so the doctor informed me (again with an apparent  lack of compassion in his tone), "Without the surgery, he only has weeks to live."

Surgeons have to steel their emotions, or else they probably couldn't face the  life-and-death nature of their profession. If both his tone and his decision smacked of brutality, he wanted me to understand the even greater brutality of colon cancer. He would take great risks, even those that deeply upset me, in order to save my husband.

I've been accused, many times in my life, of being  harsh in my presentation of doctrine. Instead of approaching false doctrine with negativity and anger, why don't I try a gentler, more positive approach? Why not have the compassion that Jesus had?  The gentleness that Paul instructed Timothy to have?

Gentleness indeed has its place, especially with people who recognize their sin and know how  desperately they need a Savior. Once the Holy Spirit used Scripture to expose the the utter depravity of my heart, convincing  me that I deserved nothing but eternal separation from God in hell, the mercy and kindness of Jesus dying on the cross in my place filled me with joy! But that joy  could never  have come until I  came face-to-face with my spiritual  cancer.

I'd been active in my church, quite convinced that my religious activity guaranteed my acceptability to  God. My gentle pastor never confronted sin in my life. In fact, he assured me of my salvation, not because Jesus died for me, but because he saw me as a "good girl." His gentleness ignored the cancer of sin that would have damned me to hell if Jesus hadn't  led me to some harsh, uncomfortable passages in the Sermon on the Mount.

Like the brutal truth that saved John's physical life two years ago, brutal truth brought me into eternal life. So if my posts seem brutal and unfeeling, think back to John's surgeon....and realize that he showed great compassion after all.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I'll Say it Again...And Again

On the surface, it seems that another bout of writer's block has infected me. I find myself staring blankly at the computer screen, mentally fumbling for something to write that I haven't written several times over. I chastise myself for being a "Johnny One Note" by my constant posts insisting on the authority of Scripture. I admonish myself that readers need variety. "Too much of a good thing," and all that tommy-rot.

Meanwhile, false teaching (or at least poor teaching) continues to corrode evangelical  churches because mystical experience, pragmatic marketing and political  correctness now dominate them. According to an April 23, 2012 article in the Huffington Post, for instance, 80% of unmarried "Christians" engage in premarital sex, claiming that the Bible's prohibition against it doesn't hold up under today's cultural norms. As usual, the Bible takes second place to satisfying "felt need" and conforming to the world's standards.

 Many other examples of disobedience abound, so I cite premarital sex among professing Christians as merely one of a proliferation of violations. Another time, maybe I'll discuss the issue at length, but for now  I mention it only as a symptom of a growing tendency to have a form of Christianity that minimizes the Bible, thus eradicating obedience to the Lord.

This subjugation of obedience to the Lord to human preference happens precisely because evangelicals either read Scripture carelessly by taking  verses out of context or by interpreting it through subjective experience. The hard work of studying it, and the even harder work of properly applying it, holds little appeal to many professing Christians because they don't really accept it as the actual Word of God.

Therefore, I believe I must repeatedly write about Scripture, even if people accuse me of riding a hobby-horse. Although my sphere of influence remains limited, I pray the Lord will use me to encourage reverence  for God's Word.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Disturbances and Philosophical Progress

People who  know me well also know that I handle adversity very poorly. Being self-centered, I grumble at minor irritations and express unbridled outrage at major calamities. My world, in my not-so-humble opinion, must never be disturbed.

Yet the Lord continues to allow disturbances, both great and small, to punctuate  my life. In my younger years, I regarded these disturbances as interruptions to "real life,"  but I've since accepted the fact that real life consists of  both delights and disasters. So, there's some philosophical progress.

As years passed, I eventually got to the place at which I could even agree theoretically with Romans 8:28--

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  (ESV)
Of course, I much prefer quoting that particular verse in hindsight than I do during a trial. But when people (with all the sensitivity of Job's comforters) mention it when I feel flattened by life's struggles, I agree very grudgingly. Inwardly, I wonder why He has to work unpleasant, and even painful, things for my good and His purpose.

Now, far too many years after I should have understood that Jesus saved me for His sake rather than my own, I've started to understand that disruptions and sufferings give me opportunities to represent Christ. People watch my responses to circumstances, and sometimes they judge the Lord based on my behavior. Sadly, I usually send the message that He can be disregarded during times of frustration, and that life revolves more around my immediate comfort than around His eternal purposes.

The Lord wants  me to serve Him by accepting difficulties as opportunities to reflect His nature and exhibit faith in Him. Yes, I'll fail sometimes, forgetting that He created me for His pleasure rather than Him existing for my benefit.  But I'm making philosophical progress that He will mature into actual behavior. Praise Him for that progress.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Random And Completely Unoriginal

Why does 90 seconds creep by so slowly when I'm waiting to rinse out hair conditioner, but 90 minutes whizzes by when I need to finish a blog post before supper?

Why did God make armpit hair?

Ignoring Scarlett (Alexandria Ripley's  second-rate sequel to Gone With The Wind), did Scarlett get Rhettt back, or did she end up in a miserable marriage to Ashley?

And why on earth did MGM cast Leslie Howard as Ashley when he couldn't overcome his European accent? (Remember Ashley's deep Southern heritage.)

How did I get to be 60?

Would America have eventually become independent from  England if Boston hadn't thrown that tea into Boston Harbor?

What did either Popye or Bluto see in Olive Oil? She had no figure, and even less personality.

Should I even mention that Disney's Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty instantly fell in love with handsome princes despite knowing absolutely nothing about their character?

Why did God make mosquitoes?

Why do people who believe in evolution fight so hard against climate change? And if they  believe in "survival of the fittest," why do they worry about endangered species?

Why does Hebrews 11 list a hedonistic womanizer like Sampson, who had practically no regard for the Lord, among the heroes of faith?

Now that I've spent 90 minutes typing these ridiculous and generally unoriginal questions, I'll let you go. You probably now wonder why I bothered writing something so silly. Well, it never hurts to ask!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Real Heart Of Worship

One contemporary praise song claims to come "back to the heart of worship," assuring Jesus that "it's all about You." Ironically, the bulk of the song belabors its writer's supposed penitence  over turning Christian music into an idol instead of extolling the Lord's many wonderful attributes. Makes me scratch my head. All about Jesus? Unless I'm really dense, the song seems to revolve more around Michael W. Smith than around the Lord.

The hymn I've chosen to feature this week truly is all about Jesus, and particularly celebrates Him as both God and Man. No one really knows who wrote this hymn which depicts nature's splendors only to declare them pale when compared  to those of Christ, and his anonymity only enhances the Lord's centrality. This hymn gets to the heart of worship by training our thoughts toward Jesus.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Deluded Through Dilution

Should watered-down approaches to Christianity really disturb us? After all, salvation comes through faith in Christ, not through having a perfect command of doctrinal intricacies. And, in one sense, I agree that Christ, rather than doctrine, must be our exclusive object of worship. The Bible did not shed blood to atone for sin, nor did the Father raise it from the dead. We may not get everything right in our theology, but we'll still be saved if we believe in  Jesus.

Having made that argument, I hasten to add that the great doctrines of Scripture ensure that we believe in the true Jesus, and not a Jesus that we fabricate to suit our personal tastes. Right doctrine shows us Who Jesus is, how He sees life and what He values. It provides us with true intimacy with Him by giving us access to His mind and heart much more reliably than supposed mystical experiences ever could. In short, right doctrine leads us to the true Jesus Who alone can save us.

When churches water down the Gospel by elevating experience over doctrine or by minimizing doctrine "for the sake of unity," they may fill their services. But by diluting the Gospel to "market" it more effectively (a questionable attitude toward evangelism in its own right), these churches run the risk of leading people to false Christs. And, in so doing, they keep them from authentic salvation. Personally, I find the whole matter profoundly disturbing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Distortion Of Grace

For a brief period in the late 1990s, I tried to consider the possibility that, since God's grace covers my sin, I could indulge my fleshly desires without guilt. I encountered evangelicals online who managed to reconcile their love for Christ with their libertine activities. Frankly, their ability to rationalize behavior that clearly contradicted Scripture intrigued me, and I wondered if maybe I'd been too legalistic in my striving against sin. Could I join them in living as I pleased while still claiming to follow Christ?

Thankfully, I couldn't. I'd sit in church, unable to sing songs about devotion  to the Lord because I knew that He grieved over the thoughts and intention of my heart. In His faithfulness, He kept  me from compromising His Word in order to pursue sin. He had schooled me in His Word enough that I knew better than to abuse His grace so that I could dabble in the things of the world.

Since that ignoble time in my life, I've watched many professing Christians, including personal friends, embrace the same false view of grace that the Lord helped me escape all those years ago. Their error breaks my heart! As deeply as I understand the feeling of relief in believing that one can gratify carnal desires without renouncing Christ, I know that Satan has terribly deceived them.

I pray for the Lord to restore them to Himself as they read His Word.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Deadly Liberation

More than a few times, the Lord's decisions, prohibitions and/or expectations have given me a desire to turn away from Him. Unlike people who can cleverly manipulate Scripture to justify (or even condone) sinful choices, I just can't convince myself to refashion God to suit my own preferences. Nor  can I edit doctrines out of the Bible simply because I dislike them. So when I've  had  difficulties accepting His ways, I've known that I'd either have to chuck Him altogether, or I'd need to humble myself and come back into obedience. I see no middle ground.

Rebellion against the Lord, I must admit, holds a certain appeal to me. Am I the only Christian brave enough, honest enough or maybe stupid enough to say that sometimes I just don't want to follow Jesus? Well, if no other Christian struggles with the desire to walk away from Him with fists clenched in defiance, I'll still confess my times of wanting to do so. If such transparency disappoints people, so be it. I have times that I want life on my terms so badly that I really wouldn't mind liberating myself from God's authority.

My moments of wanting emancipation from the Lord never last very long, nor do they come frequently. Even when those feelings reach their most powerful point, I know that I can't live without Him. My mind automatically defaults to an incident recorded in the Gospel of John  after Jesus had preached a particularly offensive  message:

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God." ~~John  6:66-69 (ESV)

Jesus is the Truth, and apart from Him eternity offers only the damnation of hell. I came to Him, all those years ago, fully aware that I needed salvation....salvation that He alone could give because He paid for my sin by shedding His blood on the  cross. If I spurn His sacrifice, just so I can play around with sinful pleasures during my brief stay on earth, I'd forfeit both eternity with Him and the joy of knowing Him now.

And sin, though momentarily enjoyable, would never satisfy me. Jesus does. He doesn't satisfy my sinful desires, true enough, but He abundantly satisfies my longing for Him. I know my clumsy words fail to explain the wonders of a proper relationship with Him, but I can say that I've missed Him terribly during those times of attempted rebellion. Trying to leave Him only showed me how much He means to me, and how hollow and miserable life is without Him.

The Lord refuses to release me from His loving hand, faithfully reminding me that He has the words of eternal life. Where would I go if I left Him? Thanks to His grace and power, I'll never experience the answer to that question.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Just A Brief Thought

My  doctor recently removed a suspicious mole from my neck. Thankfully, it was benign. But suppose it had been malignant. And suppose further that I hadn't mentioned it to her because, for whatever reason, I thought it was "no big deal?"  Clearly, ignoring such a mole would have given cancer free reign to my body, and eventually I would have died a very nasty death.

Suppose my seemingly insignificant mole represents sin; an obvious analogy, perhaps, but one we really should revisit. Sin usually seems as if it's "no big deal," but Scripture says it always grows like a  cancer until it causes the death of separation from God. So be obedient to rid yourself of any sin the moment you see it.

Monday, June 16, 2014

No More Self-Congratulation

Friday's broadcast on No Compromise Radio outlined the necessary four steps to "giving a testimony" (the Christian lingo for recounting one's conversion experience). Pastor Mike hammered home the point that such testimonies must emphasize the Lord's redemptive work rather than rehashing details of our sin or suggesting that we had any share in our salvation.

The broadcast made me think, with deep regret, of the many times I've shared my testimony with self-congratulatory motives. The emphasis, however, really belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Any notion that I, while dead in my sins, could have possibly "accepted Him"  or "given my life to Him" misunderstands the entire concept of salvation. Jesus alone bears the title of Savior.  I did not act as His co-savior.

We need to clarify our theology on His sovereignty in bringing about the new birth, especially because He calls the humble, not the proud, to salvation. Those who believe the lie that they can contribute anything toward their admission to heaven ultimately lose out, failing to grasp the central message that Jesus did everything when He shed His blood to atone for our sin.

Please make certain that you trust entirely in Jesus for salvation. Your obedience to Him should be an indication of His work in you instead of your attempts to secure your place in heaven. When you truly understand His merciful response to your utter helplessness, you will appreciate the miracle of His salvation. And it will be unthinkable to try to share His glory.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

All Three Of Him

Won't the Kingdom of God, when Christ finally returns and establishes it, resound with the unhindered praises of all God's  creatures? The prospect thrills me! I get even more thrilled, however, when I remember that those praises belong to the Triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Of all the wonderful doctrines of Scripture, I best love the doctrine of the Trinity. Of course, I could never begin to understand how one God can exist in three distinct Persons without disrupting His unity. But the very mystery of it draws me all the more deeper into praise and adoration! And when  He reveals Himself fully, my praise will blend in perfect harmony with all His creatures to  humbly worship Him.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fluctuations Can't Bring Stability

On a pleasant spring morning in 2001, I met several friends (with whom I served in a multi-church Youth Group) to caravan from San Rafael to Sacremento for a one-day Youth Specialties seminar. Sitting though a day of learning crazy games meant to somehow engage kids so that we could then speak to them about Christ slightly disturbed me, but I managed to convince myself that I was just middle-aged and needed to update my thinking.

The afternoon lecture, however, troubled me more  seriously. The speaker referred to the standard model of "Facts, Faith,  Feeling," in which youth workers used to present the facts about the Gospel, encourage the kids to respond with faith and assure them that feelings would follow. In post-modern America, the speaker argued, that model no longer works. Post-modern kids rely on experience. Therefore, they need to feel God first. Remember Romans 5:17, which says that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. Feelings, judging from what I've seen in reading Scripture almost daily for 43 years, only appear now and then, with Christian joy and peace  abiding in each believer regardless of emotional fluctuations.

Leading young people (or anyone, for that matter) to use mere feelings rather than the historical facts taught in Scripture and verified by other sources does them an enormous disservice. Emotions that embrace Christ one moment may shun Him the next. Hormone-driven teens struggle even more to evaluate life without feelings affecting their judgement. Contrary to the teaching at the Youth Specialties seminar, kids must build their faith on the bedrock of biblical truth, not the shifting sands of how they  feel. So must adults, actually.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Honoring A Name

For quite some time, the idea of blogging about my name, as well as my frustration that people disregard how I introduce myself (either DebbieLynne or Deb) by insisting on calling me Debbie, has kept bubbling up in my thoughts. One morning earlier this week, I awakened well before time for the alarm clock to squawk, so I occupied myself by mentally formulating a post addressing the matter. I even knew what photo I'd use!

As I looked at the clock again, this time a scant two minutes before the alarm would rouse John and set our day in motion, I knew that writing such a post would be self-serving. Sure, it might help me convince more people not to call me Debbie. It would undoubtedly satisfy my desire for catharsis. But, I asked myself, how would it glorify the Lord?

Short answer: it wouldn't.

Perhaps I started this blog to showcase my art and writing. But eight years have elapsed  since my inaugural post. Somewhere in this past year, I've arrived at the conviction that my blog should mainly promote Jesus rather than shining the spotlight on me.

Admittedly, I may forget this priority from time to time, although I believe I can share my artwork and Boston Adventures in ways that bring the honor back to Christ without contrivance. And  "without contrivance" is indeed the key. Honor for Him must form the foundation for my writing rather than being tacked on as window dressing to make me look more pious. Writing about my disdain for having the name Debbie applied to me simply has no basis in seeking God's glory, and trying to masquerade the topic as a spiritual issue would, in the end, dishonor His Name.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Confession Of A Time Miser

Today filled itself with various frustrations, each of which exposed my self-centeredness and continued struggle with rage. Some may accuse me of being too hard on myself for confessing my sins so publicly. Such people, however, would flood my Comments section with merciless rebukes if I used this space to embark on an unbridled rant about all or any of the occurrences that intruded on my plans.

And believe me, I definitely want to rant! Various circumstances interrupted  my plans to build today around what I wanted. The day didn't go my way. Since tomorrow will necessarily revolve around going to the doctor to have stitches taken out (she removed a mole last Friday), I had looked forward to reserving today for my artwork. Consequently, I now feel robbed and  resentful of the assorted aggravations that consumed my time.

Yet, who said  that time belonged to me? Actually, I belong to the  Lord, who purchased me with His blood. His total ownership of me gives Him authority to order the circumstances of my day according to His purposes, even if His purposes include confronting me with my selfishness and  lack of patience. Again!

The Lord, more than anything else, desires to make each of His children holy. Though I believe He cares about my artwork, my blog, and all the other ways I can use my abilities to honor Him, He cares a great deal more about reproducing His character in me. Perhaps the onslaught of frustrations congested the day in order to show me how much more I still need to submit to His Spirit and repent of supposing that anything, including time, belongs to me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Itchy Ear Preaching

2 Timothy  4:1-4 flies in the face of the Seeker-Sensitive strategies of the Church Growth Movement's attempts to remake the Gospel into a commodity that  conforms to the preferences of those it seeks to evangelize. In these four verses, the apostle Paul solemnly charged Timothy to keep his preaching centered on God's Word, which would counter the more popular false teachings that threaten believers.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-4 (ESV)
Evangelicals used to be known for their fidelity to the Bible, and received much contempt for standing against popular culture in favor of upholding God's Word. During the 1970s and 1980s, we clung to conservative theology. Some of us (myself included) had come to Christ while we were members of mainline denominations. Upon our conversions, we recognized the liberalism that had seeped in to those denominations, and subsequently left those churches due to their abandonment of Scripture.

Now subtle (and not so subtle) error has worked its way into evangelical churches. As with mainline churches 40 years ago, evangelical churches minimize and/or adjust God's Word to accommodate sinful choices or to integrate mystical forms of spirituality into their "worship." Many evangelicals now follow the sad example of mainline churches, allowing false teachers to draw them away from sound doctrine.

Sadly, this abandonment of Scripture mirrors various churches leading the Church Growth Movement. Doctrine, according to church growth experts, must take second place to activities and practices designed to attract non-Christians. 

While such entertainments may fill pews (and offering plates), however, they generally don't cultivate mature disciples. Only faithful preaching by men who refuse to waiver from the Bible and will teach it in proper context can produce genuine Christians. Such adherence to Scripture guards people against the deceptions that so plague present day evangelicals. 

I pray for the leaders in the church we attend to continue preaching the Word without letting popular trends distract them. If the church grows numerically, great...but I'd like to see it grow in grace and truth, shunning false doctrine and practices, regardless of whether the church rolls grow or shrink. A  full church of empty souls does nothing to expand Christ's Kingdom.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In Tune With A Pensive Gorilla

I suppose I could tell you about yesterday's Boston Adventure to the Franklin Park Zoo, and post some of the photos John took. He did get some great pictures of the black swans, like this shot:

He also got several of a very pensive gorilla who apparently both understood and resented his duty to submit to photographs. I especially like this pose:

The other animals seemed  reticent about getting near enough to be decently photographed, though I believe I can  do some cropping to make some pictures work. The animals may have been intimated by the approximately eight (by my estimation) groups of elementary school children on field trips that absolutely swarmed the zoo. I wanted to  get away from all those  kids myself!

So, sadly, our excursion doesn't really inspire me to write a stellar narration. We went. I had wheelchair problems. The Lord mercifully got us home safely. I suppose I could write an interesting account of the whole fiasco, and maybe even enliven it with  some humor. But I find myself feeling as bored with it as that poor gorilla appeared to be with his paparazzi.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Employment For Loosened Tongues

Jesus deserves unbridled praise from every human  being, not only for His innumerable blessings, but because of Who He is. May we join Charles Wesley in singing "the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of His grace!"

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Questions About Deborah

Don't expect a thorough teaching on Deborah from me. Since men, as well as women, read this blog, I need to be careful not to lapse into teaching when I explain the various biblical positions that I hold. That type of care obviously intensifies when I write about women assuming positions of  authority in churches. I can just imagine how quickly people would accuse me of hypocrisy! More importantly, I want to be obedient to the Lord, using my writing in ways that honor Him. If I then crossed the line from affirming biblical truth to actually teaching, I would be rebelling against Scripture's prohibition against women teaching men.

Yet whenever I express objections to women in church leadership, people waste no time in challenging me to account for women in Scripture who seem to have held leadership positions. Certainly, each of these women should be explained, and I believe it can be successfully demonstrated that not one of them sets a precedent for women taking church leadership roles.

Of all these women, Deborah usually gets mentioned the most frequently because she judged Israel during the period of the judges, and God indeed spoke through her to command Barak to fight against Sisera. Read Judges 4 to get the whole story.

I notice that verse 4 merely states that Deborah judged Israel, whereas Scripture generally introduces judges using the phrase, "the Lord raised up..." Couple this different introduction of Deborah with Judges 21:25, which says "everyone did what was right in their own eyes," and ask the obvious question: Did God appoint Deborah as judge, or did she assign the role to herself? I don't know. Frankly, neither do you! And the fact that He spoke through her in the specific instances concerning Barak may not necessarily validate her entire prophetic ministry. Could God have used her much as He used Balaam's donkey? Again, I don't know. But these questions seem reasonable.

But even if Deborah served as a judge because the Lord placed her in that position, should we assume that she therefore sets the stage for women to be pastors or to lead congregational prayer? This past week, I  chatted with pastor and fellow blogger and Dan Phillips about Deborah as a sanction for women pastors via Twitter. Dan pointed out that Old Testament Israel is not synonymous with the New Testament Church. Would we make Sampson a model for Christian pastors? Hopefully not! Than neither should Deborah serve as one.

As you can see, I have studied Deborah, and I see no reason to cite her (or any of the other strong women in Scripture) as a reason to accept women pastors.  I could go into greater detail in exploring Deborah's ministry, but again, I must  resist the temptation to establish myself as a Bible teacher. Instead, I hope you'll see that we can question her role of judging Israel, and that we have  no reason to form a correlation between any of Israel's judges and Christian pastors. With that, I will move on to other topics.

Friday, June 6, 2014

My Body Says Not Today

My day revolved around going to my doctor to have a suspicious-looking mole removed. She thinks it's benign, especially since it was only skin-deep, but of course we need to wait for the biopsy results before breathing a sigh of relief. When I return next Friday to have my stitches removed, perhaps she'll be able to tell me what the biopsy shows.

So, although I feel prepared to begin demonstrating that Deborah's ministry of judging Israel and spurring Barak to go into battle against Sisera does not validate Christian churches having women in leadership positions, my body says I need to rest this afternoon. I think I'll take its advice.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Settled Convictions

On the matter of women pastors, I've studied the matter twice with an open mind. The first time, in 1979, I did so fully expecting to find biblical support for the practice, and came away disappointed that I couldn't find any. When I again tackled the topic in 2000, I doubted that I'd reach different conclusions, but I was willing to be proven wrong.

This time, I approach it with settled conviction, much as I'd approach a study of the evidence for Christ's literal resurrection. I've reached conclusions about both issues, but study further in order to offer intelligent answers to those who refute my beliefs on both well as other topics.

Having a firm conviction may, indeed appear  closed-minded, particularly to those who disagree with me, but such people may not understand that I took decades to reach my position. Being theologically conservative doesn't mean I've  checked my brains at the door. In fact, it may actually mean that, rather than passively accepting the way churches adapt to current culture, I'm willing to conform my thoughts to God's Word. And if so doing makes me closed-minded, well, okay!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

When Christianity Trumps My Politics

My fleshly nature would like to celebrate President Obama's many (oh, so many!) missteps. With each new scandal eclipsing the last in severity. Republican victories in November seem certain, and I even feel hope for a Republican win in 2016.

As a Christian, however, I refuse to rejoice in my president's failings. Rather, I choose to pray for him in obedience to Scripture.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. ~~1 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV)

During the Bush administration, evangelicals quoted this passage with great enthusiasm, and found it easy to pray for a man who championed biblical values. But Paul wrote in a time  when Rome ruled the world, persecuting Christians for daring to proclaim that Jesus had greater authority than Caesar. Thus, praying for the welfare of those who persecuted and oppressed them probably didn't come naturally. Their obedience to pray for their ruthless and heathen leaders must have demanded much more resolve than 21st Century American Christian need to summon in praying for Obama.

Obama's policies trouble me. Some of his actions horrify me, actually. But I pray that God will help him reverse his erroneous agenda, learn from his many mistakes and leave the White House in 2017 with a good legacy and a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Though his downfall would benefit my political party, I don't allow myself to take pleasure in his failures. Not when I can pray that God will bless him.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Patchwork Explanation

We found it necessary to fire another weekend PCA Saturday night, so now we again put our lives on hold while we conduct interviews. Yesterday, we postponed these frustrating and time-consuming proceedings in favor of a jaunt into Boston, where we ate lunch at the Esplanade.

On whole, the day remained uneventful, with the exception of loud blasts and billowing smoke from the Common that caused me  to grab John's arm in fear that another bomb had gone off. Thankfully, the blasts merely commemorated some sort of military observance, so I calmed down and considered the subsequent blasts merely irritations. Otherwise, the day revolved around buying sunscreen (we ran out on our first reapplication).

So, I don't really have much to say today. Certainly, not about Deborah, though I hope many of you read The Womanliness of Deborah that I posted here Friday. As soon as we hire someone, I anticipate more time to study and write, as I desire to help people understand why God's use of Deborah in achieving victory for Israel does not substantiate the practice of allowing women to exercise spiritual leadership over men.

For now, however, don't expect anything deep from me. I'll be here, at least most days, managing to let you know that you can't escape me, and I may even come up with something entertaining. Just give me grace to deal with my PCA search for now, so that I can better concentrate on more theological posts and better narratives of Boston Adventures later.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rich Doctrine, Great Music

I love the rich content of the old hymns. Those who read this little purple blog with any degree of regularity know this fact about me, and probably find it amusing that I'd bother to make such an obvious statement. But some things bear repeating. So I don't mind saying numerous times that I love old hymns, and love them because of their theological content. When those hymns reinforce the great doctrines of Scripture, and particularly the doctrine of salvation through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, I get really excited!

Yet, having been saved through the Jesus Movement in 1971, I confess my taste for updated music. Up until the last eight or nine years, I preferred  contemporary praise songs, overlooking the weak (and sometimes erroneous) doctrine in favor of an updated style. Worship does, after all,  involve emotions, and the newer music does engage my emotions more profoundly than hymn music does.

So I like the way Indelible Grace has updated Charles Wesley's hymn, "Arise, My Soul, Arise" which celebrates the wonderful doctrine of justification. I hope you'll enjoy the music as much as I do. But please let the words of man's humility and God's magnificent provision of forgiveness and redemption be your main focus. May these words increase your adoration of Jesus.


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