Saturday, January 31, 2015

Don't Make God Spit You Out

This morning, as I read the letter to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), it startled me to realize that false converts had overtaken the church that, at one time, shared Paul's epistles with the Colossian church (see Colossians 4:15). By the time John had experienced his revelation, the Laodicean church had evidently deteriorated so drastically that they had no real connection with the Lord. Think about this sad passage with me:
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (ESV)
Not only did this congregation lack passion for the Lord, but it had no idea of its impoverished condition.  Yet our Lord, in His abundant grace, offered salvation and restoration to this rebellious church. If they continued in their indifference and false pride, He would vomit them from His mouth in mutual rejection. But if they repented and zealously heeded His Word, He would draw them into fellowship with Himself.

I believe many 21st Century churches, like the Laodiceans, find excitement in their music, their various outreach programs and/or their attempts to be "relevant" to the world while they demonstrate boredom with the doctrines that reveal Christ's nature. The may read the Bible, but usually only to see how it might benefit them personally. They don't realize how much they need salvation.

Yet the Lord still offers them hope, if they'll just admit their spiritual poverty and look to Him. This passage makes me marvel at God's patience with those who passively reject Him, and even more at His willingness to restore repentant churches (and individuals) to Himself!

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Trashing Of God's Grace

When I first got Internet access in 1997, I enjoyed online chat rooms. In some of my conversations in so-called Christian chat rooms, I encountered several people who claimed to love the Lord, but who apparently felt no qualms about sinful behaviors as part of their daily lives. Their comfort with sin perplexed me.

Their comfort with sin also intrigued me, causing me to wonder whether or not I could make moral compromises and still enjoy fellowship with the Lord. When I tried doing so, however, the Holy Spirit showed His faithfulness by making me miserable. Even the most theologically empty praise song would flood me with an awareness that the Lord hated my behavior. I knew I'd dug a gulf between myself and Him.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? ~~James 4:4-5 (ESV)
Why, then, didn't my chat room "friends" struggle with conviction? Why could they rationalize their sin until it no longer conflicted with their profession of  faith? Their accommodation of sin fascinated me, even after the Lord settled it in my heart that He would not tolerate that sort of  behavior from me.

In the years since then, I've learned that many people claim to be Bible-believing, Spirit-filled Christians, but have never truly experienced salvation. As a result, they feel equally comfortable in church or in activities that even militant atheists know dishonor the Lord.

Yesterday I demonstrated that morality, in and of itself, attacks the Gospel by offering a way to earn God's acceptance. Salvation through morality nullifies the need for Christ's atoning work on the cross by implying that we can achieve God's approval. But an abandonment of obedience to the Lord's moral standards, especially by people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians, also blasphemes the Gospel by trivializing sin.

Sin nailed our precious Lord Jesus to the cross, causing Him to suffer the full wrath of God that rightly belongs to you and me. God took sin so seriously that He sent His only Son to suffer its penalty for those who would believe in Him. That grace, however, changes its recipients,  giving us a desire to live in accordance with His character.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
His purpose in redeeming us goes far deeper than granting us entrance to heaven. Ultimately, the Lord desires a people for Himself, who share in His holiness. Those who reduce His grace into license to live self-indulgent lives ignore the serious nature of sin and completely miss the purpose of grace. In essence, they trash the very Bible they claim to believe.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Lifestyle Gospel

When asked to explain the difference between nominal Catholicism and evangelical Christianity, a friend of mine replied, "Christianity is a lifestyle."

True, the nominal Catholic she'd said that to exhibited a certain disparity between his professed belief in God and his day-to-day life. Though he'd once attempted to impress me with his claim to be a "Bible scholar" (I really fought hard to keep a straight face), everybody could see that Scripture made absolutely no impact on his moral choices. I believe the discrepancy between his claim of faith and his behavior prompted my girlfriend to describe Christianity as a "lifestyle."

Her description troubled me at the time, and it troubles me even more now. For while genuine salvation definitely leads to a lifestyle that increasingly renounces sin, that lifestyle merely shows evidence of the Holy Spirit's regenerative work in a believer. Moreover, outward morality can be mimicked by all sorts of people who don't believe the Gospel. The Pharisees of Jesus day held to a high moral code, remember, but they rejected Jesus Christ.

In fact, trusting in our own morality, even if we derive that morality from the Bible, completely contradicts the essence of the Gospel. Those who defend their Christianity on the basis that they go to church, read their Bibles daily, remain sexually pure (physically) and drink only in moderation prove only that they trust in their good works rather than in Jesus' atoning work on the cross. Oh, they may say otherwise (they know their responsibility to say all the correct things), but deep down they believe their religious activity and avoidance of certain behaviors is what distinguishes them from non-Christians.

Of course I believe that born-again Christians will grow in holiness, developing a disdain for sin. In that respect, we indeed do have a lifestyle that makes us different from those around us. The epistle of 1 Peter (obviously too lengthy to quote here) shows the relationship between regeneration and exhibiting the values of our Heavenly Father. In other words, we live a holy lifestyle because the Holy Spirit causes us to resemble our Father.

Christianity, then, differs from any other belief system in that God gives us new birth as we admit our own moral bankruptcy and trust in Christ's atonement.
1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ~~Ephesians 2:1-9 (ESV)
We point to His grace rather than our lifestyle. He alone deserves the spotlight because He is the One Who gave us the new life that, in turn, changes our values and behavior in ways that reflect Him. True conversion never points to self-accomplishment, but instead rejoices in the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Irony Of Celebrating Boldness--Reviewing "God's Not Dead"

Over the past two nights, we watched the movie, God's Not Dead. For reasons that have nothing to do with this blog post, we had to stop watching at the half-way point Monday night and therefore watch the balance last night. Please be advised that, to adequately communicate my disappointment, sadness, anger and fears about this film, I can't avoid talking about the climatic scene. So yes, this is a spoiler. But it fits our discussion of false conversion so well that I knew I needed to write about it today.

First, allow me to quote the synopsis from the God's Not Dead website: image
Present-day college freshman and devout Christian, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), finds his faith challenged on his first day of Philosophy class by the dogmatic and argumentative Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo). Radisson begins class by informing students that they will need to disavow, in writing, the existence of God on that first day, or face a failing grade. As other students in the class begin scribbling the words “God Is Dead” on pieces of paper as instructed, Josh find himself at a crossroads, having to choose between his faith and his future. Josh offers a nervous refusal, provoking an irate reaction from his smug professor. Radisson assigns him a daunting task: if Josh will not admit that “God Is Dead,” he must prove God’s existence by presenting well-researched, intellectual arguments and evidence over the course of the semester, and engage Radisson in a head-to-head debate in front of the class. If Josh fails to convince his classmates of God’s existence, he will fail the course and hinder his lofty academic goals. With almost no one in his corner, Josh wonders if he can really fight for what he believes. Can he actually prove the existence of God? Wouldn’t it just be easier just to write “God Is Dead” and put the whole incident behind him? 
The premise of people making courageous stands for their faith inspired me, and I honestly liked most of the movie for that reason. As a college freshman, I sadly failed in my attempts to demonstrate that humanism is, in its very essence, diametrically opposed to Biblical Christianity, so I admired Josh for both taking a stand and doing in-depth research to substantiate his argument. The subplot of the Muslim girl who  suffered her father's rejection  when he learned of her Christian faith also made me like the movie. How wonderful to see young people risk so much for their faith.

Sadly, the producers and writers evidently had difficulty risking financial backing and/or industry support for the sake of the Gospel. As Radisson lay on the street dying because of a hit-and-run driver, the pastor gently guides him through a superficial acceptance of Jesus. In presenting his hollow imitation gospel, he briefly mentioned forgiveness of sin, but didn't really tell Radisson that his sin required the blood of Jesus. He said absolutely nothing about hell. Nothing about repentance.

Sure, the immediacy of Radisson's death meant the pastor had little time to embark on a doctrinal discourse. But the writers could have either let him phrase things differently or had another Christian character proclaim the true Gospel during earlier points in the movie. Many of the characters made admirable sacrifices for God, but they barely mentioned the Lord's sacrifice on the cross. And no one said a word about why He sacrificed Himself.

And, for all the discussion about God not being dead, why didn't Josh present the historical evidence for the resurrection during his classroom presentation?

As Radisson passed into eternity, horror gripped me. Had the situation been real, he would have entered hell, clinging to an incomplete (and consequently, false) gospel. A real-life pastor, who presumably would have had training in basic Biblical doctrine, couldn't sugar-coat the Gospel at such a crucial time! Or if he did, he would be guilty of producing a false convert.

Similarly, the producers and writers of God's Not Dead offer a shallow gospel that encourages false conversions among teens and young adults (their target audience). Why didn't they display the fortitude to present the Gospel as Scripture proclaims it? One that might result in true converts?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pictures Of A Storm

Thankfully, one of my PCAs has been staying with us during the blizzard, and so far we've had power. This morning John took some photos from our building's Community Room as well as from our living room. I thought I'd share them.
 John doesn't like the screen in this photo, but I think it creates an interesting effect.
They had just snow-blowered (is that a word?) the walk-way behind our building, and already the snow had covered it again!
 Doesn't really show the snow, but it's a great shot in terms of composition.
The wind blew so hard and the snow was so fine and dry that it didn't stick much to the trees. The snow's dryness minimized power outages, praise God.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Believers Who Miss The Gospel

"False convert" seems to be the latest buzz word in the types of blogs I read, and I struggle with the suspicion that we might over-apply the term. As I mentioned the other day, for example, I can't determine the genuineness of my own conversion during the time I participated in the Charismatic movement.

I embraced a lot of bad doctrine during those years, and yet I knew deep down that much of the theology didn't really square with Scripture. I just didn't know Scripture well enough to argue against Charismatic doctrine. But I did know that I had no claim to heaven apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Trusting in Christ rather than self-effort marks a true Christian. Although we must pay attention to other points of doctrine (particularly the sufficiency of Scripture), the basic Gospel must underscore everything else. The true Christian knows his depravity, and therefore has no option other than to rely exclusively on Jesus to atone for his sin.

In contrast, many false converts have great difficulty understanding the severity of their sin. Oh, they may give lip-service to the concept, but they secretly believe that they either took part in becoming Christians or have some responsibilities in maintaining their salvation. They sing about God's grace, but they can't really believe that He has done all the work. They feel driven to contribute something.

The apostle Paul addressed this prideful attitude in the letter to the Galatians. Of course I can't copy the entire epistle here, but  consider this passage as an example:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? ~~Galatians 3:1-3 (ESV)
Charismatics, Catholics, proponents of contemplative prayer and adherents of psychology all can fall into this category of false converts.  All these groups (and probably others) subtly add human effort either to salvation itself or to sanctification while minimizing the doctrine of depravity. In fact, some of them actively seek to bolster self-esteem, teaching that Jesus died for us because of our worth. The focus, in one way or another, reverts to  man's ability to earn God's favor--directly contradicting the  message of the Gospel.

Other false converts minimize the doctrine of sin, either by claiming that they're free to sin because of Christ's death on the cross (which paid for their sin) or by manipulating Scripture to excuse their particular sin. They violate the Gospel by refusing to let it conform them to His Holiness. They expect God to make them feel good, but reject any thought of surrendering their lives to Him.

The following passage from 2 Peter describes the attitude of false teachers, but I believe it also applies to others who use a faulty understanding of grace to justify sinful behavior.
19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” ~~2 Peter 2:19-22 (ESV)
Gay Christians (particularly those who once served as leaders in the ex-gay arena before going back to homosexuality), female pastors and elders and emergent church types provide the most prominent examples of those who minimize the gravity of sin. But by trivializing sin, they also trivialize the precious blood of Christ. Additionally, they pull the emphasis away from the Lord's glory and on to how He can satisfy them.

I've merely given an overview of false conversion today, but I expect to explore the topic more in the future. As we all examine ourselves to make sure He has genuinely saved us, may we keep our gaze on Christ, giving Him all the glory and adoring Him for saving wretches like us. May we adorn His Gospel.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Quotation

The great weapon with which the disciples of Jesus set out to conquer the world was not a mere comprehension of eternal principles; it was an historical message, an account of something that had recently happened, it was the message, “He is risen.”

J. Gresham Machen

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To This Blog Post

When I woke up this morning, I knew I wanted to address the issue of false conversion. But I planned to approach it by examining my own spiritual history and analyzing whether or not my affiliations in a Charismatic church and a seeker sensitive church necessarily made me a false convert. Maybe my personal story might have interested some people and disappointed others as I challenged the notion that receiving faulty teaching automatically disallows genuine salvation, but just a few hours ago I realized my self-serving motives for wanting to tell my own story.

Yes, it's my party and I can cry if I want to. Or more accurately, it's my blog and I can navel-gaze if I want to. Except that I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, so therefore He has authority over what I write and how I write it. In 2006, I started this as a "vanity blog," admittedly, but the Lord has changed its direction and has made it more about Him than about me.

The topic of false conversion demands attention, certainly, and I will indeed devote some posts to it. Many evangelicals honestly believe they know Christ and adhere to the Bible when they really have adopted a form of "Christianity" that follows worldly philosophies...and sometimes devilish ones. Such people often sincerely desire to live in obedience to Christ and to enjoy His salvation, but they embrace teachings and practices that  contradict the Gospel. Some are, in spite of faulty theology, genuinely saved. Most are not.

As I explore this problem of counterfeit Christianity, I don't see much benefit in trying to figure out exactly when the Holy Spirit regenerated me. I believe He did it when I always claimed He did, but I know that I spent decades struggling with doctrines that encouraged me to think I participated in my conversion. In truth, Jesus saved me at some point, but the particulars simply don't matter. As long as He receives all the glory for taking my sin upon Himself and cleansing me with His blood, I rejoice. And if He can use my posts to liberate others from false conversion into the new birth, I'll praise His wonderful Name.

Friday, January 23, 2015

I Don't Feel Like Blogging Today

Do you mind if I skip blogging today? Probably not. And I won't flatter myself into thinking that missing a day here and there makes an earth-shattering difference to any of my readers.

It does, however, make a difference to me in that the Lord very often uses my blog to train my thoughts on Him...even when I don't specifically write about Him. If I spend a post recounting a Boston Adventure or showing you my latest art project, I still sense an awareness that I represent Christ. As a result, I understand that my tone and content may not contradict the Bible's teaching. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, my blogging needs to remain consistent with His values.

Such consistency comes easily if I limit my blog posts to times of inspiration. But consider this analogy: When John and I first met, we only spoke two or three times a week, so we could camouflage our faults and present our best qualities to each other. But once we started spending more time in each other's company, the reality of who each of us was surfaced.

If I blog daily, even on days like today when I'd really rather not, I get an opportunity to peel back my "good Christian lady" facade. Although I feel uninspired and a little grumpy, I accept the challenge to write something that (hopefully) honors Jesus. You may detect my struggles with boredom this past week, but I hope you'll also notice my desire to exalt and praise the Lord regardless of my emotional condition.
23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. ~~Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV)
You know, I trust, that the principle I've set forth here applies to much more than simply blogging. It extends to every area of my life. Christians represent the Lord all the time, regardless of our feelings and dispositions. And yet, when we remember His goodness to us, we count it a privilege to give our lives completely to Him.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Portal To His Grace

Why can't we ignore the doctrine of human depravity? Surely, pointing it out doesn't help people feel good about themselves, so therefore it mustn't really glorify the Lord. Let's focus our conversations on His love for us and His grace in our lives instead of talking about our wretchedness. Christianity might appeal to a whole lot more people if we play down the negative Bible verses and promote the positive aspects.

Yeah...except Jesus called us to make disciples that observe His commandments (Matthew 28:18-20), not market Him as a product. And Scripture, when we read it in context, does next to nothing to boost human self-esteem. For instance, consider His very unflattering description of the human heart:
18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. ~~Matthew 15:18-19 (ESV)
This morning, I read a testimony by a new member of the Naomi's Table Google+ group, in which the dear lady shared how the Lord exposed a sin in her life (and no, I won't repeat what her sin entailed). As she realized the severity of what she'd done, the Holy Spirit convinced her of her absolute wretchedness before Him. Interestingly, however, her experience of humility and repentance enabled her to truly appreciate the grace, mercy and love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I've had multiple episodes (beginning two weeks before Jesus saved me) when the Lord caused me to face the terrible corruption that permeates my heart. To call those times of conviction (for indeed, God judges me guilty and convicts me of breaking His righteous Law) unpleasant would be a gross understatement. No one enjoys such discipline!

Yet in those awful times of coming to terms with the vileness of my heart, I best see the extravagance and marvel of the Lord's grace toward me. The gravity of my sin serves as a backdrop to display His beauty in calling me to Himself. How glorious of Him to forgive me, and then to purify my heart and adopt me as His daughter!

The Lord's love is so marvelous precisely because we can  never deserve it!
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. ~~Ephesians 2:1-7 (ESV)
Christ shows His love, mercy and grace most powerfully to those who acknowledge their inability to deserve His love, mercy and grace. As we acknowledge and accept the gruesome truth that we "were by nature children of wrath," we can't help but exalt Christ for shedding His innocent blood to pay for our sin. Looking at our depravity crushes our egos, certainly. But recognizing the ugly truth about ourselves opens our eyes to behold His wonderful grace, causing us to praise and glorify Him.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Penguin's Message

I drew this little guy in Painshop Pro X5 a week or so ago because I need him for a birthday card. Paintshop Pro is, by far, the most comfortable of the three digital art  programs on my current computer, and I believe I've decided that I'll use it as my default program from here on out. I like its wide array of effects features; from what I can tell, it offers more of them than CorelDRAW, and certainly more than Painter Lite (which I deeply regret purchasing).

I didn't produce much digital art in 2014 because CorelDRAW 2014 Home And Student overwhelmed me (it still does). Since I spent a lot of money to download CorelDRAW, however, I placed myself under an obligation both to learn it and to make it my primary program. I successfully taught myself a few techniques, but I knew I needed more detailed instruction.

About this time last year, therefore, I bought David Bouton's CorelDRAW X6: The Official Guide. CorelDRAW 2014 Home And Student is the no-frills version of CorelDRAW X6, so the book corresponds to my software for the most part. Obviously, my version lacks some bells and whistles of the full version, so I don't get bent out of shape when one of Bouton's tutorials asks me to do something beyond the scope of my version. But for the past three or four months I've been trying to do a tutorial, only to find that my software sometimes cooperates and other times rebels. Naturally, such capricious behavior discourages and frustrates me, resulting in my reluctance to work through the book.

So I pretty much failed to do much art at all.

This year, by God's grace, I hope to be more productive. I still want to use CorelDRAW (it does some things that I like quite a  bit), but I now realize that, until I learn more about CorelDRAW, I have the liberty to enjoy Paintshop Pro. And creating my little penguin reminded me that digital art can--and should--be fun!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Question's Phrasing

How can I glorify the Lord Jesus Christ today? Such a question sounds very pious. But the degree of piety actually depends on the attitude, motivation and emphasis of the  person asking the question.

All to frequently, I find myself asking it this way: "How can  I glorify the Lord?" Underneath that slightly more honest question lurks an even more insidious question. I want to know how I can show off my spirituality by doing something that appears to glorify Him (but actually draws attention to me). Sadly, I know how to frame words so that people can't see that I use Christ's glory as a platform to promote myself.

I could, with all truthfulness, say that everybody falls into this same trap. And nobody could argue that point...not if they looked at themselves honestly. All of us suffer with tainted motives steeped in self-centeredness, and it simply does no good to deny that we love to feed our egos. But my mother always said, "The fact that everyone else does it doesn't make it right."

Thankfully, Jesus Himself frees me from my sin of hypocrisy. I can't glorify Him from a pure heart, but He glorifies Himself by forgiving my sin and purifying my heart.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~~1 John 1:9 (ESV)
He then shifts the emphasis back to Himself, where it rightfully belongs. He helps me  rephrase my question, so that I ask, "How can the Lord Jesus Christ glorify Himself though me?"

Monday, January 19, 2015

Where My Writing Belongs

Most people know Lucy Maude Montgomery for her book, Anne of Green Gables and its sequels. My first Montgomery books, however, defied the more traveled road. Granny gave me my mother's childhood copies of Emily of New Moon and Emily Climbs (I honestly can't remember whether or  not she gave me the final book of the trilogy, Emily's Quest) when I was around 12, undoubtedly because Mom hoped I would imitate the main character by developing a passion for writing.

To their disappointment, I found Emily's  various romances much more interesting than her literary aspirations. I've been reading the series again (I may finish Emily's Quest tonight or tomorrow), and I must confess being gripped with curiosity as to how she and Teddy will end up together. When my PCA tore me away from it last night, Teddy manifested signs of mutual love toward Emily's  best friend, Ilse. Oh, the  anguish of having to respect the schedules of PCAs!

Gran and Mom would be gratified, however, to know that my current reading of the Emily Trilogy has  stirred my interest in writing a little. So often, I've come to this blog with a bit of resentment regarding the subject matter. I've wanted to simply enjoy the act of writing for its own sake. I've felt the weight of writing things that I well know most people don't want to  hear. And I've wanted to just write fanciful stories. The  Emily Trilogy has brought those longings to the surface.

Sometimes I cherish the thought of simply writing  about the woods that line the stretch of road through the Blue Hills Reservation, and my daydreams of Native Americans possibly inhabiting those very woods before white settlers established the town of Milton, MA in 1640. I'd enjoy writing down my fantasies of those people stalking wild deer or becoming lovers or playing with their children. Never mind that, in reality, I have absolutely no idea if anyone ever lived in those woods (actually, I rather doubt they did).

But even Lucy Maud Montgomery would advise me to write about what I know. I know nothing about tribal people who may or may not have lived in southeastern Massachusetts prior to 1640, but I know a great deal about the false teachings in present-day churches. I have very little interest in studying 17th Century Native Americans, but I have a passion for researching evangelical trends. And I increasingly desire to honor the Lord Jesus Christ through my writing.

Emily is merely a character in a series of three novels. Montgomery developed her vividly, to be sure--so vividly that I experience her emotions as I read. But do I really want to write from my romantic dreams as Emily does? For that matter, do I burn with the same desire to form words into sentences and paragraphs, feeling unable to truly live unless I write? Despite the wishes of Gran and Mom, no. For me, writing  serves my greater passion of telling people about Christ. And that's as it should be.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Quotation

"Remember the perfections of that God whom you worship, that he is a Spirit, and therefore to be worshipped in spirit and truth; and that he is most great and terrible, and therefore to be worshipped with seriousness and reverence, and not to be dallied with, or served with toys or lifeless lip-service; and that he is most holy, pure, and jealous, and therefore to be purely worshipped; and that he is still present with you, and all things are naked and open to him with whom we have to do. The knowledge of God, and the remembrance of his all-seeing presence, are the most powerful means against hypocrisy."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Log In My Own Eye

Why do some Christians (like me) attack those with whom we disagree? Does the act of pointing out the "errors" of "false teachers" give us a feeling of spiritual superiority as we self-righteously look down our noses at them?

Well, yes. That happens on occasion. I don't believe I should assign such motives to others who call out false teachers, but I must have the integrity to admit that I've sometimes struggled with that sort of holier-than-thou attitude. Denying that ugly reality doesn't do any good. Like everyone else, I continually fight my old nature, which always enjoyed inflating my ego. In this battle against my own sin nature, I well understand the apostle Paul's frustration with his own sin:
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:21-25 (ESV)
So when I catch myself self-righteously calling out people like Beth Moore, Rick Warren or any of the others that frequently appear in this blog, I need to confess my conceit and repent. Displaying whatever discernment I may have for the purpose of elevating myself woefully dishonors the Lord.

But confessing my self-centered motives doesn't automatically mean I shouldn't criticize those who misrepresent and/or distort God's Word. It merely means that I must acknowledge my sin and accept His correction before I correct anyone else. His discipline allows me to then address the sins of others.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. ~~Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV)
The escalation of weak doctrine and outright false teaching in the 21st Century church both saddens and angers me. My sadness and anger, however, must never devolve into a platform for showing off my supposed spirituality. Rather, a true desire for Christ's glory and for the proper teaching of His Scripture must motivate me. As He enables me to lay aside my sinful attitudes, He also empowers me to stand for His truth. And I pray that, as I make that stand, He will glorify Himself...and only  Himself.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cozy Girl Talk With Beth And Joyce--Part III

At the conclusion of the televised chat between Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer on Meyer's Enjoying Everyday Life (whew--I finally got the name right!) broadcast, Moore calls Meyer "a mighty, mighty woman of God." Yesterday, however, I blogged about one of Meyer's most well-known doctrinal errors and provided a link to CARM's article documenting her other departures from orthodox Christian doctrine. Clearly, Joyce Meyer, far from being a "woman of God," shows herself to be a false teacher.

So does Meyer's status as a heretic necessarily make Beth Moore a false teacher for appearing on her broadcast? Not exactly. The difficulty comes from Moore's affirmation of Meyer as "a mighty, mighty woman of God." Moore based her assessment, not on Meyer's character or teaching (both women admitted in the video that they didn't know each other very well yet), but on her tour of the Joyce Meyer's Ministries facility. Moore implied that the largeness of the ministry demonstrated God's favor.

(Didn't the First Century Pharisees equate wealth and success with God's favor?)

At best, Moore's pronouncement that Meyer is "a mighty, mighty woman of God" betrays Moore's lack of  discernment. When you consider the shallow criteria for making such a declaration, you should be asking where else Moore makes shallow judgments. How carefully, for example, does she really study God's Word? Can you trust her fidelity to Scripture when she  confers such confidence on a blatant false teacher? According to the apostle John, by blessing Meyer, Moore participates in her sin.
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. ~~2 John 7-11 (ESV)
Zero in on verses 10-11. If you'll remember my blog post Wednesday, you'll also recall that Beth  Moore's very purpose for appearing on Enjoying Everyday Life focused on promoting "unity" that ignores doctrine. She likewise completely ignored Joyce Meyer's very erroneous doctrine, some of which borders on blasphemy, to call her "a mighty, mighty woman of God" solely because of Meyer's material success. Not only does Moore make an assessment from a faulty criteria, but she joins herself to a known heretic.

The young pastor's wife who confronted Beth Moore on Twitter recently expressed concern that Moore has aligned herself with Meyer, as well as with other well-known false teachers. I agree with her concerns. For all their talk of "unity," these people shred the Body of Christ by ripping away the foundational doctrines that hold His Church together. I've written this series because pure doctrine separates Christians from the lies of false teachers and draws us to the real Jesus.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cozy Girl Talk With Beth And Joyce--Part II

To understand why many people (including me) believe Beth Moore's appearance on Joyce Meyer's Enjoying Every Day Life television program this past October further erodes Moore's doctrinal credibility, we need to examine the teachings of Joyce Meyer. Even though women from many denominations love Meyer's broadcast on TBN and read her books, Meyer basically preaches a standard Word Of Faith doctrine, including Kenneth Copeland's heresy that Jesus paid for sin when He went to hell rather than by shedding His blood on the cross.

Her teaching about Jesus making atonement in hell isn't her only aberration from orthodox Christianity, but it's certainly the most glaring. She writes:
"Jesus paid on the cross and went to hell in my place. Then as God had promised, on the third day Jesus rose from the dead. The scene in the spirit realm went something like this: God rose up from his throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless son of God, 'let him go.' Then the resurrection power of Almighty God went through hell and filled Jesus. On earth his grave where they had buried him was filled with light as the power of God filled his body. He was resurrected from the dead--the first born again man." (The Most Important Decision You'll Ever Make, by Joyce Meyer, second printing, May 1993, page 36)
Yet Scripture teaches that Jesus declared "It is finished!" while He still hung on the cross (John 19:28-30). Some may interpret Ephesians 4:9 and 1 Peter 3:18-19 as Jesus descending into hell after His crucifixion, nothing even remotely suggests that demons tormented Him during that time. Yet Meyer teaches a very graphic account of Jesus' time, as this sample of her preaching demonstrates:

As dramatic and exciting as her narrative is, it has absolutely  no Scriptural basis. The thought of God the Father pacing helplessly as the host of hell tramples the Lord constitutes sheer blasphemy, totally ignoring the fact that the Triune God maintained complete control during the entire crucifixion. Furthermore, in asserting that Jesus did not fully accomplish atonement until He suffered in hell, Meyer renders His shed blood insufficient payment for sin. Such an allegation repudiates the whole of Scripture.

Christian Apologetics and Resource Ministry (CARM) has an article which lists more of Joyce Meyer's false teachings. Make time to read the article and check out the documentation. You will, I believe, conclude that Beth Moore exercised incredibly poor judgment (at best) in affirming Meyers as a "mighty woman of God."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cozy Girl Talk Witth Beth And Joyce--Part I

On August 13, 2014, Beth Moore joined Joyce Meyer to tape a segment for Meyer's Enjoying Life Every Day television broadcast. I'll grudgingly resist the urge to make jokes about the fact that the show aired on October 31, assuming it was sheer coincidence. Ahem! Yes, well anyway, I've decided not to link to the video because 1) I don't want to appear to endorse either woman and 2) you have better things to do with your time.

During their oh-so-cozy little girl talk on working through disagreements while preserving "unity," Moore and Meyer clucked about how they had learned to let God fix their poor broken husbands. As I watched that segment, I wondered if their husbands felt disrespected. I hope I never talk about any differences I have with John the way they talked about their husbands.  That part of the conversation made me feel both embarrassed and sad.

The second half of the program moved into the topic of unity within the Body of Christ. Regretfully (but predictably), the "unity" Moore and Meyer advocated wasn't the unity around doctrine that the apostle Paul advocated in Ephesians 4:11-17, but rather a unity despite doctrine.

That unbiblical view of "unity" doesn't surprise me, but it certainly confirms that neither of these women teaches Scripture correctly. The  Bible, in too many places for me to cite here, insists on right doctrine. Almost all of the  New Testament epistles, as a matter of fact, specifically address doctrinal error, often calling out false teachers and demanding that they leave the churches.

Moore lamented: "The witness of our disunity is deplorable. Throw down those denominational lines. It is insulting to Christ to be separate. ... We love the same Jesus. We love the same scriptures. ... Even if we did not have that in common, if we could say our salvation is found in Christ if He died and rose again and how to be saved and Jesus sits at right hand of God, then that is my sister, my brother.” “I would serve anywhere and anybody even if they didn’t have close to the same belief system.”

Sorry, Ms. Moore, but such thinking doesn't really hold water. The Jesus of the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, sacrifices himself every time Catholics take the Eucharist, and Charismatics view Scripture as only one way that God speaks. Many people profess faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus without knowing how or why they effect salvation. In fact, Joyce Meyers teaches that Jesus paid for our sins in hell, not on the cross. Such doctrines matter!

I've just begun to introduce the problems of Beth Moore's appearance with Joyce Meyer. Tomorrow, I hope to go a little deeper into the matter, exploring Moore's unqualified endorsement of Meyer. If all goes according to plan, Friday I will discuss why Moore's endorsement of Meyer reflects so badly on her own credibility. I pray that my posts will encourage proper unity around sound doctrine so that women can gain discernment that leads to maturity.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Beth Moore Should Read Jude

I began my  current plan of reading through the Old and New Testaments (three chapters of  the Old to one chapter of  the New) on January 1, 2013. Typically, I read no more than one chapter a day. Sometimes less. Since I type with a headstick, it takes time to type notes on the passages I read. Yet typing notes forces me to articulate the overall context of what I read, and consequently  I've learned quite a bit about the Bible's message and how it all fits  together.

I've explained my reading plan to help you understand why I happen to be in Jeremiah and Jude at this precise time. Beth Moore's recent blog post, in which she basically stamps her foot because  a young pastor's wife  had the courage to name her as a false teacher, has set off a flurry of blog posts discussing false teaching in general and Beth Moore in particular. Interestingly, both Jeremiah and Jude address the issue of false prophets/teachers. Consider this passage from Jude that I read this morning:
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (ESV)
This evening, I won't go into specifics about Beth Moore, mainly because I spent so much time researching her (again--sigh!) that I used up my day. I plan, Lord willing, to get into one of the more troubling issues about her very soon. But right now, I want to make a brief comment on Moore's blog post, contrasting it with Jude's letter.

For instance, Moore complains that the "trend" of exposing false prophets/teachers damages the Body of Christ.
We are the Body of Christ. We are brothers and sisters. Even when we are utterly convinced the other person is wrong and we have doctrinal ducks in a row to prove it, we are never to treat one another “as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (2 Thessalonians 3:15) Yes, we must hold one another accountable and hold ourselves accountable. We question one another. We by all means keep discussing and debating and entering into healthy disagreements.

But we stop short of labeling one another things like false teacher and heretic until we’ve done our homework.
She's said things like this before, most notably in her televised meeting with Joyce Meyer (which I'll discuss in a future blog post). Moore promotes the sort of "unity" that ignores differences between Charismatics and Cessationists, and indeed between Catholics and Protestants. For all her talk about "accountability," she prefers blurring doctrinal distinctives in favor of "unity."

In contrast, Jude laid aside his plans to write about the salvation that unifies believers in favor of instructing believers to contend against false teachers. Jude had looked forward to writing a nice letter extolling the salvation that brought Jews and Gentiles together. The Holy Spirit, however, led him to write about how the Lord would weed out heretics from the church. The fact that the Spirit included Jude's letter in the canon of Scripture demonstrates His commitment to doctrinal purity.

As Beth Moore blogs against those who call her to account, the Lord providentially led me to read Jude's letter, which responds so beautifully to the issue at hand. As the Body of Christ, we must preserve unity by condemning false teachers who scatter sheep by proclaiming wrong doctrine.

Monday, January 12, 2015

No Surprise, But Heartbreaking

Another friend who had served in the trenches of ex-gay ministry has just "come out" as gay, or possibly bisexual.  Yes, I'd known him back when I worked in those trenches, and have stayed in touch through various social media platforms. And, although I knew this man has  been involved in an Emergent Church these past few years, I'd rather assumed that he still recognized homosexuality as a sin and that he  continued to oppose same sex marriage.

On the other hand, his admission doesn't really surprise me, given the people of compromise in his circle. I'd been so amazed and proud of him when Exodus International imploded a few years ago because he'd maintained the biblical position on homosexuality. At least, for the most part.

His embrace of homosexuality in itself troubles me, but no more than it troubles me that another friend of mine has been making a series of rebellious choices in her life. Homosexuality dishonors the Lord, just as many other sinful attitudes and behaviors dishonor Him. So, while my friend's decision to once again label himself as a gay man breaks my heart, I realize that it merely represents a deeper problem.

Both friends have approached the Lord expecting Him to fix their circumstances. Over the past four decades, the Gospel has been slowly eclipsed by false promises of emotional well-being, demoting Jesus from His rightful place as King of kings and Lord of lords to the menial role of Cosmic Bellhop. And when He doesn't make us feel better or remove our struggles with lust, anger, depression or whatever, we turn to our own methods of coping with the pain.

The visible church has exchanged sound doctrine for experience. And when experience lies to us, telling us to accept homosexual impulses, reject the counsel of more mature Christians and seek lifestyles that focus on pleasure, we end up either distorting God's Word or abandoning it altogether. And Scripture pretty much says this turn to selfishness would happen.
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ~~2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)
The news of my friend's return to homosexuality grieves me, but I can't say it entirely surprises me. I think the lack of  surprise--the awareness that the erosion of biblical preaching in his church and many other evangelical churches--troubles me more than his homosexuality in and of itself. May God have mercy.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

For The Love Of Beth Moore

As my regular readers know, I've been blogging about God's love for the last three days, trying to demonstrate that His love never undermines either His holiness nor His truth. Many professing evangelicals (particularly those influenced by the Seeker Sensitive and the Emergent Church movements) would elevate a worldly  version of "love" over truth and, in so doing, would minimize the importance of doctrine in favor of a kumbaya sort of spirituality. Yet Scripture very clearly reveals a love that utterly refuses to compromise truth.

As I've been reading through Jeremiah this month, I've noticed that the Lord's attitude toward false prophets appears, at least to our sensibilities, to be enormously unloving. As one example, consider Jeremiah's final interaction with the false prophet Hananiah.
12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’” 15 And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’”
17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died. ~~Jeremiah 28:12-17 (ESV)
The Lord apparently lacked love for Hananiah. Why? Because the Lord, in His love for Judah, resented the lies that Hananiah repeatedly told them regarding the Babylonian Captivity. The Lord, through Jeremiah, repeatedly warned Judah (as well as other nations) that He would use Nebuchadnezzar as His instruments of judgment, and that 70 years would pass before  He would bring Judah back to Jerusalem. Hananiah's false prophecies that the Captivity would end in two years offered Judah a false sense of security that kept them comfortable in their sin and discouraged them from taking God's Word seriously.

So God essentially killed the false prophet instead of gently correcting him. He had Jeremiah prophesy words of judgment rather than tenderly calling Hananiah to repentance. Shouldn't Jeremiah have, in God's love, understood that Hananiah sincerely believed God had spoken to him, and that he merely wanted to encourage Judah?

I've been pondering many of Jeremiah's comments to and about false prophets and shepherds, applying them to 21st Century  evangelicals who distort Scripture and promote a false gospel of self-esteem, prosperity and direct revelation from God. Beth Moore naturally crossed my mind, as did several other evangelical teachers who lead people astray.

Lo and behold, when I logged on to Twitter today, I found a link to Beth Moore's most recent blog post, scolding (and at one point, ridiculing) those of us who have confronted her false teaching. Evidently, by tweeting our criticisms directly to her (as I do periodically), we show "unkindness." Yet shouldn't we address the various ways she mishandles God's Word? Shouldn't we love those who fall under her spell enough to warn them against her false teaching?

I've written several posts explaining some of the problems with Moore's theology. Here's a link to that archive:

Beth Moore's Teaching

I intend to write additional posts exploring Moore's departure from Bible Christianity, not to be unkind, but in hopes of encouraging women toward doctrinal purity. As Jeremiah loved Judah enough to stand against Hananiah, so I love my readers (and the Word of God) enough to take a stand against  Beth  Moore. Love can't do anything less.

Friday, January 9, 2015

God Instead Of Hallmark

How many wedding cards showcase the words from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 with beautiful flowing script (usually lavender) on a dreamy pastel background?

Of course it's a beautiful and romantic passage, especially when  an artist formats it in such a poetic manner. After  all, the Holy Spirit Himself inspired the apostle Paul to write those words to describe both how God loves us and how He desires Christians to love each other. Obviously He would, in His perfection, give us a description of love that resembled poetry. I wouldn't expect anything less of Him.

The words, however, go far beyond literary sentiment to pose a challenge so formidable that the Lord used them 44 years ago to confront me with my desperate need for salvation. As I read them, the Holy Spirit held up  a mirror that revealed my selfish inability to love anyone with godly love. Let me put those words in a plain font without the lilac clusters and rainbow background so that you can consider the high standard they represent.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)
The love this passage insists upon doesn't allow either the lover or the beloved to taint themselves with sin. It demands purity and self-denial on every possible level, calling us more to holiness than to romantic or sentimental emotions. God's love can't blur His commitment to  righteousness. Quite the opposite: His love commands us to live in obedience to His righteous standards, which we can do only if His Spirit controls us.

God's love won't conform to human  definitions or expectations, but instead places Christians under His expectations. Thankfully, His Holy Spirit graciously gives us His power to love, teaching us through the Scriptures how we can demonstrate His love in our daily lives. I praise Him for loving us with a love that embodies His holiness, grateful that love can really  be as beautiful and holy as He is.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Don't Give Me Mushy Love

God's love supports the entire Gospel message, with John 3:16 offering the most vivid description of His love.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (ESV)
So many Christians, both genuine and nominal, cherish this beautiful verse as assurance of the Lord's grace and gentle favor.  Nominal Christians, sadly, derive nothing but a false sense of security as they misconstrue this verse into a promise of universal salvation. They mistakenly understand "love" in terms of a feel-good sentimentalism that passively tolerates all manner of attitudes and behaviors.

John and I once interviewed a woman for a PCA position who enthusiastically told us, "God is my Buddy." During the brief time she worked for us, we could plainly see that her concept of God had absolutely no resemblance to biblical Christianity. Her interpretation of God made no moral demands on her, but smiled indulgently as she ignored His commandments and lived life on her own terms. She believed  God's love for her protected her from His disapproval.

Most people, if they acknowledge God at all, tend to see God in similar ways. His love, they reason, trumps His holiness, giving them license to adjust His Word to their personal preferences. 

I actually like the idea that the Lord could shower His love on me without that love requiring me to repent and conform to His holiness. Such love would make like  easier and a great deal more pleasureable, and I certainly wouldn't object to more ease and pleasure! 

But such a shallow, insipid "love" would also seriously compromise God's holiness, making Him unworthy of our adoration. Could we honestly love, let alone respect and worship, a god who related to us as little else than a  cosmic Buddy? And would His lowered standards and allowances for sin even qualify as real love? I don't see how it possibly could.

Jesus came, and indeed shed His blood on the cross, as the ultimate expression of God's love for man. His love deserves to be proclaimed and celebrated! In doing so, however, we can't distort His love at the expense of His other qualities...particularly His holiness. Quite the contrary, we can marvel at the wonderful and inexplicable truth that a holy God, for reasons that none of us can ever hope to understand, loves us.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Completely Unreasonable Love

No one objects to hearing about God's love, do they? All of us draw tremendous comfort from Scriptures that assure us that He is a loving Father Who desires to shower us with mercy, grace and blessing. I know I depend on His love for me, fully aware that I can't live without it. Even if I could live without it, however, I wouldn't want such a lonely experience.

The Lord's love for me doesn't make sense, although I used to flatter myself that He saw something in me that attracted His attention. As I've grown in my understanding of His Word, I find it increasingly impossible to believe my self-flattery because too many passages insist on human depravity. Intellectual honesty forces me to accept the Bible's assessment that, when left to my own devises, I unwaveringly gravitate toward sin, making myself completely repugnant to Someone as holy as He. And my obvious unworthiness of Him highlights the startling wonder that He loves me.

Most people don't really like hearing that He loves us in spite of our innate wretchedness. We want to bask in His love, certainly, but we also want to buoy our self-esteem by finding (or inventing) reasons that we merit  His love. We desperately want God to love us because we are inherently worthy, not because He is wholly generous and good.

But the very fact that we have no way of making ourselves loveable to Him helps us recognize the beauty and outrageous generosity of His love. He takes us out of the world for reasons that baffle us, and He boldly refers to us as His children. We see no cause for Him to love us. No reason that He should adopt us as His children. Yet the sheer unreasonableness of His love for us brings us into heartfelt worship.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. ~~1 John 3:1 (ESV)
The Lord had no reason to show me His least, not as far as I can see. Nothing in me warrants His kindness and favor, and I have no ability to make myself beautiful to Him. The very fact that He chooses to love me with no provocation on my part causes me to love Him in return, joyously grateful that He would show me the grace of loving me.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Lengthy Explanation Of A Panda Drawing

My sister lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and follows the Giants with the sort of ardent devotion I hope I have for the Lord. During one of the World Series  games this past October, we called her and enjoyed watching the game "together." Of course, she knew all the players and their back-stories, so she educated us as the game progressed. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a baseball game as much!

She introduced us to Pablo Sandoval, an  oddly overweight player who quite amused me when he ran bases. After Sandoval jumped over a tag-catcher to score a run in a 2008 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, one of his teammates nicknamed him the Kung Fu Panda. Watching the World Series game with my sister this past October, I got a kick out of all the orange and black pandas that Giants fans rabidly waved in the stands.

Once the Giants won the heart-stopping final game of the World Series a couple nights later, Sandoval didn't waste a second as a free-agent. To my delight, he signed a four-year contract with my  beloved Boston Red Sox! The signing, in and of itself, made me deliriously happy. But even better: my sister will come out this spring or summer to attend a game at Fenway with me and John!

In anticipation of the game, I've drawn this cute  little guy:

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Darkness Must Motivate

This new year has begun seriously, as evidenced by Josh Alcorn's suicide. The lawless attitude swells on all sides, with punctuation from protesters who decry "police brutality" and almost encourage executions like the double-shooting of the officers in New York City. We live in a time when only God cannot be tolerated.

Jesus told us that, in the last days, the world would harden in its sin and ostracize those who stand for His Gospel.
3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. ~~Matthew 24:3-14 (ESV)
Okay, most evangelicals probably downplay this passage in favor of Scriptures promising God's blessings, and more uplifting verses would make a much nicer way to usher in 2015. And I just finished drawing an adorable panda, which I really could post today with the light-hearted explanation of why he wears red socks. 

Truthfully, I'd rather share my little panda. But I believe today I need to acknowledge that our world grows dark as cultural Christianity loses its restraining influence on Western Civilization. We can't ignore the truth much longer: our world wants nothing to do with the God of the Bible, nor does it have any tolerance for those of us who proclaim Him.

In stating this truth, however, I hasten to add that the very gravity of the situation should stir our hearts to declare the Gospel with renewed conviction. Whether people turn to Christ or not (and we should earnestly pray that He will soften hearts to receive His Word), the Lord calls us to tell people that He offers the only way of salvation. Instead of wringing our hands over the encroaching spiritual darkness, we can allow that darkness to motivate us to share the light of the Gospel. These dark days give us opportunities to shine.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Another Baseball Bat

Though I feel better today, I knew blogging about Josh Alcorn's suicide would demand more energy than I can (or should) expend right now. By God's providence, however, I came across a video by James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries that says many of the things I wanted to say...and then some. The video lasts an hour, but I implore you to budget time to listen to it. As Dr. White says, situations like this one demonstrate, very clearly, that theology really does matter.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Status: Not As Desired

The topics I want to examine this week require much energy, which I simply don't have right now. Thursday, I pushed myself to blog about Wales, and ended up bringing back my fever. Not particularly good. So even though I feel better today (aside from being incredibly tired), I need to ease up on blogging. Hopefully I can do something interesting here tomorrow.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Mixed 30-Year-Old Memories

Thirty years ago today, some friends and I excitedly boarded a plane to London, anticipating three months of missionary training at the now defunct Living Waters Bible College in North Wales. Looking back, I can't say that I learned much Bible at the school. The leaders gravitated toward legalism, and a low-grade form of Charismatic experience. That said, I praise the Lord for those three months, treasuring the opportunity to spend time in both Wales and London.
At the train station in Wales  Jan 3, 1985

It would, of course, be preposterous to even consider trying to record all that the Lord did with me during my time at Living Waters, though I definitely consider it one of the most important, intense and inspiring times of my life. Living in Wales (ever so close to England and, consequently, the home of the great writers I'd studied at Dominican) filled me with wonder. At the same time, I struggled with health issues and homesickness.

The fact that I remember so little of the actual classes encourages me, since I question their doctrinal purity. Early on, for example, we had a week entitled  Old Testament Survey, during which we studied Song of Solomon as an allegory of Christ's intimacy with each believer. Next, New Testament Survey highlighted the miracles of Jesus, insisting that He makes those same miracles available today. The classes after that fade from my memory, and I'm fine with that.

I mostly remember the funny stories, such as when we lured one of the girls downstairs by singing praise songs. When she entered the Round Room, she found the Resusi-Annie doll from our First Aid class on the sofa "playing" a guitar. Another time, I "stole" one of the guys' hats, which my  friend hid in her room for five days.

One memory, however, stands out as an encouragement that, despite my Charismatic leanings at the time, the Lord had given me a measure of discernment. Toward the end of the course, two converted gypsies came to teach for a few days.  On their last afternoon, they met with each student individually to "prophesy" over them. Every student but me. I refused to meet with them, knowing that they merely "Christianized" gypsy fortune-telling. Leadership disagreed with my stand, and my PCA accused me of stubbornness, but people respected my convictions.

Six years later, I began my journey away from Charismatic theology. But that afternoon in Wales, perhaps the Lord planted a seed of discernment, certainly protecting me from an occult experience that I really didn't need.

Thirty years ago today, I embarked on one of the most exciting adventures of my life. Not a perfect adventure, I admit, but one that demonstrates the Lord's kindness and faithfulness.


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