Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Here I Come To Save The Day!

Don't worry--I'll have lots more to say about psychology's influence on evangelicals in future posts. But I need a break from writing about it. So here's  a fun Mighty Mouse cartoon that sorta fits the general tone of this blog:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Foundational Counseling

Why shouldn't Christians take advantage of psychology just as they take advantage of medical procedures and treatments? Actually, many evangelicals do regard psychology as a viable component of pastoral counseling or (if they use professional counselors) a supplement to Biblical teaching. Even though most evangelicals will say otherwise, they clearly deny the sufficiency of Scripture.

But should Bible-believing Christians add psychology to their arsenal of spiritual weapons? Of course, my regular readers already know my answer. But let me offer my basic reason for rejecting the blending of psychology and the Bible.

Most of us, I believe, would consider Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung as the fathers of modern psychology. For that reason, we ought to know something about their spiritual outlooks. Did they hold views that agree with Biblical doctrine? Obviously, a thorough examination of their spiritual convictions lies well beyond the scope of this small blog post, and you'll need to do your own research, but let me prime the pump just a bit.

Freud, in his later life, embraced his Jewish heritage only in response to anti-Semitism. In all other respects, he demonstrated great contempt for religion.
"Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. [...] If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man's evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity." –Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 1939
Jung, on the other hand, had no trouble with spirituality, as his father was a Reformed minister. But he rejected the idea of specific creeds and approached the idea of God from a New Age perspective.
“It is only through the psyche that we can establish that God acts upon us, but we are unable to distinguish whether these actions emanate from God or from the unconscious. We cannot tell whether God and the unconscious are two different entities. Both are border-line concepts for transcendental contents. But empirically it can be established, with a sufficient degree of probability, that there is in the unconscious an archetype of wholeness. Strictly speaking, the God-image does not coincide with the unconscious as such, but with this special content of it, namely the archetype of the Self.”
Neither of these  men believed the Bible, and therefore they constructed psychological models based on human reasoning. Yet Christian counseling, like all form of Christian ministry, must rely exclusively on God's wisdom, which sets itself apart from human theories and philosophies.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. ~~1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (ESV)
Freud and Jung offer the sort of  human wisdom that appeals to unregenerate human  nature rather than having its foundation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That being the case, psychology has no business mixing with the pure counsel that can come only from God's Word. Please, dear sisters in Christ, don't settle for  counseling that adulterates God's pure Word with atheistic and New Age principles. Not when you have access to the wisdom of your Creator.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Disturbance Of Psychology

Some psychological conditions, such as bipolar disorder and clinical depression, have physiological causes that legitimately require medical and psychiatric intervention. Please bear in mind, as you read anything I write about psychology, that I appreciate the fact that some people, including friends of mine, need medications for such chemical imbalances just as surely as I need muscle relaxants to control my spasticity. Remember this disclaimer, please.

The practice of appending psychological models in the context of Christian experience in general, however, troubles me. And it does so for a number of reasons. Indeed, psychology encourages a large amount of self-focus that diverts attention away from the Lord Jesus Christ. It also fuels expectations of fulfillment and/or emotional satisfaction in this life in contrast to Christ's call to self-denial. Additionally, it opens us up to New Age philosophies which contaminate pure devotion to the Lord by drawing people into mysticism.

I've personally struggled with all three problems due to my involvement in fellowships that incorporated psychology into their counseling and teaching. As time progresses, I hope to narrate some of my experiences and observations in these posts in order to illustrate the ways psychology undermines the obedience to God's Word.

But today, I want to address my primary objection to so-called Christian psychology. Above all the serious problems I've mentioned, Christian psychology tacitly argues that Scripture doesn't  quite give us all we need in order to  live complete Christian lives. This underlying belief directly contradicts Paul's words to Timothy.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
 According to these two verses, God's Word thoroughly equips Christians to minister to each other. Paul makes no mention of exploring troubled childhoods, hypnosis or guided visualization as necessary tools in Timothy's ministry. Scripture, he said, gave Timothy everything he needed to shepherd his flock.

Sadly, all too many present-day pastors either incorporate psychological tools into their counseling or they  helplessly refer their people to professional counselors. Such actions communicate the notion that the man-made discipline of psychology supersedes the words of our very Creator. That supposition makes absolutely no sense! It denigrates Scripture while exalting paradigms of Freud (an avowed atheist) and Jung (a non-Christian mystic). In short, it demonstrates an attitude that God's Word, despite being authored by the Holy Spirit Himself, just doesn't have everything Christians need.


And yeah...that attitude bothers me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I'm Not Having Fun

"Mom...I'm bored!"

Trying to keep a straight face, my mother would suggest cleaning  my room. That task, besides being completely disagreeable, would have consumed several hours that I wanted to invest in more pleasurable pursuits.

Lately, I approach blogging with a similar, though more subtle, attitude. I have plenty of topics at my disposal, all of which need to be discussed, but all of which I consider distasteful for various reasons. I'd simply prefer to spend my time on other things. In short, I don't want to do the hard work of examining topics through the uncompromising grid of Scripture.

Yet I know that, even though the circulation of my blog is relatively modest, God has entrusted me with writing ability and a  concern to address certain problems in the professing church. As a result, He holds me responsible to use my ability, as well as my concern, for His purposes (Matthew 25:29).

In keeping with my conviction that the Lord holds me accountable to blog about matters that I strongly believe threaten the integrity of the professing church, I feel the need to voice my views regarding Christian psychology. I'd rather avoid this topic, since several people I know either hold degrees in psychology or receive "Christian" psychological counseling. Writing on this subject risks at least one friendship. Probably more.

I don't suffer from writer's block; I suffer from the fear of man. So I need to act like a grown woman, write what I believe aligns with God's Word and trust the Lord with any fall-out that may occur. Ultimately, He calls  me to please Him, not myself.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Okay--I'll Grovel!

If you aren't already watching or listening to the Pyromaniacs Conference, Sufficient Fire, you really should be! Dan Phillips, Phil Johnson and Frank Turk, bloggers for Pyromaniacs, assembled last month at Copperfield Bible Church (where Dan pastors) to present this two-day conference on the Sufficiency of Scripture.
Image courtesy of TeamPyro
Long-time readers of my blog, unless they have severe comprehension problems, know that I treasure the doctrine that Christians need nothing to supplement the Bible. I critique various trends and teachers within the professing church precisely because these trends and teachers threaten either the authority or the sufficiency of God's Word. Most of the time, I make a less-than-adequate case.

Team Pyro, being far more studied in Biblical theology than I'll ever be, thankfully makes up for my shortcomings with this conference. Yes, I know we all lead busy lives, but I urge you to watch these videos, listen to the audios or download the podcasts to play during your commute. This topic deserves attention. I beg you not to ignore this crucially important conference.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Integrated Ideas

This past Christmas season, John and I again watched It's A Wonderful Life, choosing to overlook its glaringly flawed theology regarding the creation of angels in favor of enjoying a Christmas tradition. And I certainly did enjoy all the familiar lines. For example, when George fails to kiss Mary outside the old Granville House, a disgusted neighbor on a nearby front porch mutters in exasperation, "Oh--youth is wasted on the young!"

Looking back on the episodes  of my own life, I quite agree with that crotchety old neighbor. I look back on my 20s and 30s (and even my early 40s), when typing took far less physical effort than it does now, and I wish I'd done things differently. The Lord has changed my theology so much since those days that I wince at many of the ways I used my writing ministry.

I cherished my role as Correspondence Counselor at Love In Action. Despite my self-centered attitudes that will undoubtedly result in fewer heavenly rewards (see 1 Corinthians 3:12-15), part of me honestly wanted to serve the Lord through that ministry. From my vantage point now, however, I see that my longing for acceptance and affirmation as a staff member motivated me to compromise my belief in the sufficiency of Scripture.

Love In Action claimed to be centered on the Bible, but in practice we augmented Scripture with psychology. Thankfully, my position protected me from having to lead clients through techniques like visualization and "healing prayer," which most of the staff knew I couldn't endorse. But I still accepted the premise that Scripture alone couldn't fully address the complexities of homosexuality. Or any other life-dominating sin.

As years passed, I found myself often confusing pop-psychology with Biblical Christianity, even to the point of considering that Oprah Winfrey might be saved because she said many of the same things about the effects of childhood trauma on adult behavior that we asserted. Essentially, I'd begun viewing psychology as a necessary component of Christianity. In order to experience victory over sin and the power of the Holy Spirit, I believed, people needed a good grasp on psychological principles.

Since the Lord sovereignly pulled me out of Love In Action 18 years ago, He has slowly restored my commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture. Psychology can't augment the Bible because, as God's Word, only the Bible offers God's answers.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
My youth certainly lacked the wisdom of trusting Scripture as the only authority in dealing with sin. How I wish I had a young body that could type as much now as I did then, so that I could direct people exclusively to God's all-sufficient Word!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Quotation

Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning.

Polycarp

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Listen To The Right One

Few people read the book of Lamentations, probably because of its depressing tone. In this book, the prophet Jeremiah glumly mourns over the destruction of Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian Captivity.

Jeremiah had begged Judah to escape this ghastly judgment of God, beseeching them to obey God's Word rather than the lies of false prophets (see Jeremiah 29:8-9), but Judah preferred to follow leaders and prophets who corrupted God's Word by mingling devotion to Him with idolatry. As God finally executed the judgment that He had warned of through Isaiah, Jeremiah and other true prophets, Jeremiah wept bitterly over how false prophets and corrupt priests had misled the people.
14 Your prophets have seen for you
    false and deceptive visions;
they have not exposed your iniquity
    to restore your fortunes,
but have seen for you oracles
    that are false and misleading. ~~Lamentations 2:14 (ESV)
 Jeremiah's words remind me of all the professing Christians who haven't learned from the mistakes and sins of Israel and Judah. Like them, we prefer false teachers to the truth of Scripture, and we open ourselves to the practices of the world.  We won't tolerate talk of repentance or hell, much preferring sermons about blessings and God whispering sweet nothings in our ears.

I don't know how God will judge professing Christians, but I  believe we would be wise to pay attention to Judah's missteps. The Lord has shown grace to us just as He showed grace to the ancient Hebrews, and we mustn't abuse His grace as they did. He has given us even fuller revelation than He gave them, and (unless we are  false converts) His Spirit empowers us to live in obedience. I praise Him for books like Lamentations that encourage us to shun false prophets in favor of His Word.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Missing Jesus

My parents started attending the neighborhood church because, like many parents in the 1950s, they believed their children  needed some sort of religious foundation. They had both walked away from their Christian Science upbringings, and loosely  self-identified as Protestants.

They moved to Terra Linda (a subsection of San Rafael, CA) in the mid-50s, just before my sister's birth. Still post-WWII, the suburban community lay in its infancy when my parents made a $1,000 down-payment on their then newly built house. Around that time, the residents established a community church. Soon afterward, that church affiliated with a liberal branch of the Presbyterian denomination and named itself Christ Presbyterian Church.

As a young teen, I participated actively in Christ Presbyterian's Youth Group, and sometimes drove my power wheelchair to Sunday morning services. At around the same time that I went through confirmation classes to become a member, the Lord brought Christians into my life who taught me the Biblical Gospel. Not long after my conversion experience, He made it painfully evident that Christ Presbyterian neither believed God's Word nor understood Jesus. I left.

If you asked me what Christ Presbyterian believed back then, I'd say that they mostly promoted social reform. Even my mom, a life-long Democrat with an abiding contempt for Ronald Regan, felt that the church emphasized politics more than it should have (thus the reason I took myself to church in  my power chair). I remember very little preaching about any of the foundational doctrines...except the sermon about it not mattering whether Christ rose from the dead literally or figuratively. I left on Easter Sunday, 1975 because of that sermon.

Today, I explored the church's website. They have a woman pastor now who blogs about some vague spirituality, but rarely mentions either the Bible or Jesus. In two places, the website "proudly" (their word) proclaims support of LGBTQ members, including ordination and same sex marriage. Their mission work has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with proclaiming the Gospel, but instead focuses on humanitarian aid.

I found no doctrinal statement.

Granted, I didn't seriously expect to find that my childhood church had miraculously come to repentance. I just wondered how it talks about the Lord. Part of me thinks I should listen to some of "Pastor" Linda's sermons, but I pretty much already know they won't center around Christ.

When a church abandons doctrine, it has nothing to offer. I grieve that this church, which gave me my first Bible at the end of third grade Sunday School, shows such little concern for Scripture. I pray that evangelical churches, as they begin to minimize doctrine in favor of "social justice" won't make the same mistake.
My eyes shed streams of tears,
    because people do not keep your law. ~~Psalm 119:136

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Whew!

I  can breathe now. My evening PCA has been released from the hospital and expects to work for me tomorrow night. I've gotten two birthday cards made and printed, Kindle gifts ordered and (with John's help) a third card almost done announcing that we'll take the recipient to a Red Sox game in June (her birthday's next week). You know?--It feels good to breathe!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Uncomplicating The Old Testament

Have you heard sermons that use Old Testament stories as allegories to Christian life? How about Bible Study groups that do so? I remember attending a women's Bible Study group back in the early 1980s, in which we used Alan Redpath's book, Victorious Christian Living as a study guide for the book of Joshua. According to Redpath, the book of Joshua illustrates the progression from salvation (crossing the Red Sea with Moses) to sanctification (possessing the Promised Land).

For instance, Redpath compared Joshua's victory over the five Amorite kings in Joshua 10:16-27 to our triumph over various sins as  Christians. As Joshua executed the king, so Christians must slay our sins (never mind that Jesus already put sin to death through His death on the cross, as Colossians 2:14 explains). By minimizing Joshua 10:16-27 into an allegory, Redpath soothed our post-Vietnam War sensibilities as he assigned us an unscriptural responsibility for our own sanctification.

The Old Testament certainly has lessons that the Lord expects Christians to apply, as Paul asserts in 1 Corinthians 10:6, but it is really an historical book, not a series of analogies. Through the various accounts, we see man's depravity, and we also see the Lord's patient determination to have a holy people. Joshua killed Canaan's inhabitants, not to symbolize a Christian response to sin, but because God didn't want them to lead Israel into idolatry.

Redpath, and teachers like him, encourage us to liken ourselves to Joshua. Scripture, on the other hand, simply presents Joshua as the historical leader who led Israel into the Land that God gave to Abraham. Reading the entire Old Testament has the  value of revealing the Lord's character through His relationship with Israel (and Judah), but we shouldn't fabricate analogies out of every story. The New Testament writers tell us when Old Testament events serve as allegories, and we can leave it there as we appreciate the Lord's wonders in the narrative.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Words Of Empty Faith

In the mornings, John and I have a time of Bible reading and prayer together. Lately, we've been reading the Gospel of John because both of us regard it as a favorite. Today, as we began reading the account of the crucifixion, Pilate's behavior sparked my thinking about saving faith.
So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.” ~~John 19:16b-22 (ESV)
As my husband read these words, I thought back to the passage we read yesterday, in which Pilate shows an evident belief in Jesus, but allows political pressure to determine his ultimate course of  action. Yes, I understand that God orchestrated everything perfectly so that Jesus would die for our  sins; Jesus told Pilate point-blank that He ultimately controlled the situation (John 18:36), so please don't misconstrue my point. While God certainly took advantage of Pilate's cowardliness, His sovereign control in no way excuses that cowardliness.

Pilate had some measure of faith, as evidenced by his repeated attempts to acquit Jesus. That faith, however, crumbled under the weight of his tenuous relationship with Rome. He didn't need his superiors to hear that he'd permitted Jesus to rival Caesar....and  the Jewish leaders had indeed threatened to level that charge against him if he failed to authorize Jesus' crucifixion.

Whatever faith Pilate may have had in the Lord couldn't conquer his self-interest. From this example of counterfeit faith, I conclude that genuine faith chooses the Lord, regardless of personal  cost. The Lord actually said  that very thing.
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  ~~Matthew 16:24-25 (ESV)
When professing Christians habitually elevate their own desires, reputations and ambitions  over loving and serving Christ, they pretty much behave as Pilate did. I know (believe  me!) that putting the Lord ahead of  self often frightens even the most devoted Christian. Our old nature constantly kicks and screams, resisting His  requirement of death to self. Yet following Christ demands nothing less.

Pilate's empty faith proclaimed (and actually with a small  degree of boldness) Jesus as King, but his actions proved that his faith lacked authenticity. His false belief challenges me to live a life that truly puts the Lord first, even if doing so costs me my very life. The challenge, though decidedly unattractive, thrusts itself on everyone who claims to be a Christian. How we respond makes the conditions of our hearts abundantly clear.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Not The Best Priorities

Although I knew company would  come this afternoon (a young couple from church and their four children), I deferred my time in God's Word until after they left in favor of playing with Paintshop Pro. I wanted to experiment with making masks. I still haven't made what I really want to make, but I see progress:
I wish I'd gone to Scripture earlier, but I can't help being kind of excited about learning new techniques in Painshop Pro. Next time, though, I think I'll spend more time in my Bible...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sunday Quotation

“For though we very truly hear that the kingdom of God will be filled with splendor, joy, happiness and glory, yet when these things are spoken of, they remain utterly remote from our perception, and as it were, wrapped in obscurities, until that day.”

John Calvin

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Double Rings On My Left Hand

After nearly 49 years of being single, I treasure my marriage. I'd grown up dreaming that a handsome prince (riding a white stallion, of course) would swoop me up and carry me to his castle so we could live happily ever after. I'd also grown up with the message that people (and women in particular) with Cerebral Palsy as severe as mine  simply didn't marry. As a result, I praise the  Lord that He graciously allowed  me to wear double rings on the third finger of my left hand.

But more than treasuring marriage for its own sake (which would certainly be understandable in light of my disability), I deeply cherish the man who made me his wife a little over twelve years ago. In place of a white stallion, John rides a white wheelchair, and  his castle consists of a two-bedroom apartment in an elderly/disabled complex. And yet, he's everything I'd dreamed of in a husband!

Unlike the fairy-tale princes who lack any real personality, my charming prince possesses a godly character that inspires me in my walk with the Lord. His love for God's Word shows in his determination to live in accordance with its teachings. Of course he has chinks in his armor, and needs the grace of God as much as anyone else, but I don't wish to publicize his faults. Instead, I take delight in all the ways He does resemble Christ.

John has known me for 17 years. He's seen me at my worst...many times. Most other men wouldn't tolerate my obnoxious behaviors, and even fewer men, after witnessing such behaviors, would continue loving me as deeply and passionately as he does. Each time John responds to my ugliness with forgiveness and encouragement, treating me like a princess, he reminds me of Jesus.

I celebrate this Valentine's Day with tremendous joy that the Lord brought me into marriage at all. I shake my head in bafflement that He would bless me in this manner. But even more, I praise Him that He would let me marry a man as wonderful as John.

Friday, February 13, 2015

50 Shades, 40 Days And None Of The Above

Most of my readers probably had  no problem with me denouncing 50  Shades Of Grey yesterday, despite the fact that I've never read anything more than  Wikipedia's synopsis of the book (which was bad enough). In fact, if I had read the book itself, a majority of those same readers would probably write me off as a hypocrite for writing so much about personal holiness and then reading such pornography.

And such a dismissal of my integrity would definitely be warranted. If I read that sort of book, my readers shouldn't respect anything that came from my keyboard ever again. I know enough about the book to understand that reading it dishonors the Lord. I really don't need to read the book (or see the movie) to know that it's sheer pornography that I must avoid. Obviously. I can't imagine anybody arguing with me on this point.

So why, when I refuse to read books by Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer and Rick Warren, do professing Christians believe I have no grounds for criticizing them? I have, actually, read some of their blog posts and Twitter feeds, as well as watching their videos.

For instance, several years ago, the church John and I attended went through Rick Warren's 40 Days of Purpose campaign. Both of us initially felt excited about the campaign, especially since the Sunday School Superintendent had asked John to lead the Adult class during those Sundays.

But as we watched the promotional videos leading up to the campaign, we noticed  how frequently Warren wrenched Scripture out of context in order to advance his agenda. In response to my discomfort about him, I researched him and discovered quite a few people who also saw serious flaws in his doctrine. After a few days of  fighting through his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, I could see that Rick Warren simply didn't respect God's Word. Therefore, John and I chose not to participate.

Of course, people scolded us for condemning Warren's teachings without reading his entire book. Yet many of those same people would undoubtedly applaud me for writing against 50 Shades Of Grey, all the while respecting my integrity for not reading it.

If people commend me for pursuing moral and sexual purity, shouldn't they also appreciate my desire for doctrinal purity? The Lord calls for both types of purity.
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~~1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 Shades To Avoid

This week, Christian bloggers tend toward addressing 50 Shades Of Grey (both the trilogy of books and the upcoming movie). I considered jumping on the bandwagon, since I worry about some young evangelical women who could possibly read the books and/or see the movie. Actually, I know an evangelical woman who did read the first book.

During my deliberation, I wondered whether addressing the topic in this blog would make sense. In the first place, I assume that most of my readers probably read many of the same blogs I read, and consequently know why they should run as far away as possible from such obvious pornography. Secondly, I assume most of you are women who share my love of God's Word, and therefore already understand what He says about moral purity.

Assumptions, however, often have a way of falling apart. In reality, once I click the "Publish" button, I have no idea who might end up reading what I've written. Quite possibly, one of you could be reading my little purple blog for the first time. You may well consider yourself an on-fire Christian, and yet you may see no apparent disconnect between enjoying the books/movie and identifying as a follower of Jesus. So perhaps you need to be cautioned to stay away from 50 Shades Of Grey.

Although I haven't read the books (and never will), I've  read enough about them to understand what they celebrate and that they describe sexual behaviors that I have no business imagining. Non-Christians may indulge in that sort of thing all they want, but those of us who call ourselves by His Name bear a responsibility to reflect His holiness in our behavior.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. ~~Ephesians 5:3-12 (ESV)
I can say without reservation that the pornography represented by these books and this movie have no possibility of pleasing the Lord. Engaging with such things contaminates our minds, compromises our purity, and confirms to the world that they rightly consider us to be hypocrites. For those reasons, we must avoid all books and movies of this nature. Instead, let us seek ways to honor Christ.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Taking It Personally

In my present struggle, the Lord  calls me to look to the cross, rather than to myself, remembering both the doctrine of human depravity and the doctrine of atonement. Very possibly, He has allowed this Personal Care attendant trial to help me look at the depth of my sin.

In seeing how hopelessly ingrained sin is in me--how it permeates every fiber of my being, I well understand the anguish of the apostle Paul.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
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 7:14-25 (ESV)
Like Paul, I do desire to live in obedience to the Lord, and to see evidence of His Spirit's fruit in my life. Sadly, trials generally serve to expose my carnal nature, manifested (of course) in a variety of sinful attitudes and behaviors that, quite frankly, turn my stomach. In summary, I can't escape the fact that I am completely and thoroughly vile.

Yet Paul, in verse 25, shifts the spotlight away from himself and on to Christ. Christ took the punishment for Paul's incessant sin, as well as for mine. So often, I've written about the atonement, and now I must rest in it. My attitudes and behavior lately stink, but they bring me back to the very heart of the Gospel, showing me my absolute dependence on His cleansing blood! He alone liberates me from the judgment I deserve because He bore my judgment when He hung on that cross.

These days, many professing Christians hold doctrine in disdain, viewing it as an academic exercise that has little to do with the nuts and bolts of  daily life. But as I flail my way through this PCA trial, the Lord brings two doctrines center-stage, and I see that they touch very intimate areas of my life.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Slipping Mask

I put yet another ad for a Personal Care Attendant on Craigslist today. Each time I go through this attendant search, it gets harder emotionally, and trusting the Lord takes more effort. The trial exposes my selfishness and anger, leading me to feel discouraged about my relationship with the Lord. Trials have a way of taking off my masks, forcing me to see how little I evidence His transformation in my life.

On a surface level, I struggle with fear of not getting the type of PCA I want, as well as the fear of going into a nursing home. Additionally, I'm just plain tired of the constant stress of advertizing, interviewing and training every few months. I don't want to keep doing this!

But the deeper level disturbs me even more. I don't like seeing my lack of faith, my anger, and my self-pity. This afternoon, all these vile reactions to the situation had me question my salvation. I know my works don't save me and my sins don't damn me, but I'd certainly like to see more evidence of the  Holy Spirit's fruit in how I conduct myself through this situation. Please pray that I won't  prove to be a hypocrite.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Relentless Trials And Abundant Grace

Yesterday I wrote one of the best opening sentences ever...and promptly forgot the main purpose I'd had in writing it. Still can't remember. Today, my brain chokes from snow fatigue, Personal Care Attendant problems, and a frustrating conversation with someone. Sadly, I don't feel very Christian at this point.

Thankfully, my position as God's child has nothing to do with how spiritual I feel. While the  Lord would like me to adopt a more trusting attitude amid my trials, He won't rescind my salvation just because I displease Him at the moment. In fact, His faithfulness to correct my self-pitying attitude gives me assurance that He indeed regards me as a legitimate daughter.
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ~~Hebrews 12:7-11 (ESV)
Even beyond the wonderful fact that God accepts me as His daughter, His acceptance of me comes on the basis of Jesus' death on the cross. Certainly, He desires that I repent of my dismal attitude so that I'll better reflect His nature, but He judges me through Jesus. 
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. ~~2 Corinthans 5:21 (ESV)
So yes, I need to align my attitude with His holy standards. But in my many failures to trust His faithfulness, reflect His grace toward argumentative people and praise Him for His goodness, I rest in what Jesus has done on my behalf. In spite of all that upsets me on this relentlessly snowy day, I can rejoice in Him.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Challenge I Face In Bloggiing

As a woman blogger, I walk a very fine line. God's Word clearly prohibits women from teaching and having authority over men in the context of the church (1 Timothy 2:11-14), putting me in an awkward position as I write about God's Word. I know men read this  blog, so I want to be careful, as I examine Scripture, not to cross the line into disobedience.

I do believe that women can, and should, talk about the things the Holy Spirit shows us as we study His Word. But in doing so, we must avoid establishing ourselves as teachers (unless we know with certainty that only women make up our audience). Therefore, I tend to refer to myself in blog posts by writing about my personal application of the Scriptures I discuss. Sometimes I slip into "teaching mode," which disturbs me because doing so violates God's clear command, but I pray that I manage to pull back when that happens.

This concern arose in response to an introductory  comment in the Do Not Be Surprised blog earlier this week. Erin wrote, "If ever this blog were to become about me​, I would have to shut it down," meaning that she wants her blog to focus completely on the Lord Jesus Christ and His pure doctrine than on her. She's made similar comments at other times, and I admire her commitment to exalt Him. She sets a wonderful  example.

Erin, like me, also firmly upholds 1 Timothy 2:11-14. On her radio program, Equipping Eve, she customarily asks men to step out of earshot so she can teach women without fear of also teaching men. Also like me, however, she doesn't confine her blog to a strictly female readership. Perhaps I'd do well to study her blog to understand how she keeps from teaching.

For now, however, I intend to solve the dilemma by apologetically inserting myself into my posts, keeping a personal tone that prevents me from establishing myself in a teaching role. I may be taking the wrong approach. If so, I trust my Heavenly Father to correct me. After all, I write this blog, with all its imperfections, to honor Him.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bump--God Says So!

Last night I read a chapter in Things That Go Bump In The Church dealing with the largely unpopular doctrine of election. Pastor Mike Abendroth of Bethlehem Bible  Church in West Boylston,  Massachusetts examines this controversial topic by demonstrating God's inherent right to choose who becomes a Christian and by making the connection  between election and God's love.

Several years ago, I would have balked at the doctrine of election, undoubtedly fabricating arguments against Abendroth's assertions. My arguments, of course, would most likely have been based more on emotional reasoning (how's that for an oxymoron?) than Scripture, mostly because Scripture pretty much makes election an inescapable fact. Beneath my blustering excuses to believe in free will, however, I primarily objected to the concept of election because it assaulted my pride. It put God, rather than me, in control.

Abendroth goes even deeper in evaluating why election threatens our sense of control:
If you do not believe in unconditional election, it is because you have a problem grasping the depravity of man and what happened when our federal head, Adam, sinned. The solution to your mental difficulties with a God selecting some is found in the moral corruptness of man. If man were good enough to save himself, the crucifixion was a cruel execution of the Son for no reason at all. Spiritually dead people need to be made alive by a sovereign act of God Himself.
He's right. As much as I'd always given lip-service to the depravity of man, only rarely did I honestly see my own spiritual bankruptcy. And even when I did acknowledge the depth of my sin nature, I craftily managed to twist even that moment of humility into pride at my ability to  recognize  my wretchedness. As a result, I always subtly congratulated myself on 1) accepting my need for a Savior and 2) giving my life to Jesus.

Scripture sharply contrasts my self-congratulatory illusions.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. ~~Ephesians 1:3-10 (ESV)
As Abendroth points out in his examination of the above passage from the  Bible, God chose His elect "before the foundation of the world." We had no opportunity, at that time, to participate in our salvation. Furthermore, our salvation took place, not for our benefit, but "according to the purpose of His will." Our salvation, therefore, is more about the Lord than about us.

Yet He wondrously loves us! His love for me baffles me (as well it should), but it also causes me to adore Him for His grace and mercy. Nothing in me can ever merit His election, so His choice to  save me, to make me a recipient of His love, floods me with the desire to worship and serve Him. Even that desire results from His Holy Spirit's activity in my heart, and thus glorifies Him. Abendroth's chapter on election intensified my joy and amazement at God's generosity in saving someone as unworthy as me. What a gracious God!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thursday Quotation

From the greatness of the price paid, judge of the greatness of thy peril; and from the cost of the remedy, judge the dreadfulness of thy disease. Great indeed were thy wounds of sin, which could be healed only by the wounds of the living and life-giving flesh of the Son of God; desperate indeed was the disease which could be cured only by the death of the Physician Himself.

Johann Gerhard

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Bringing 1629 Into Now

Several months ago, our pastor announced on Facebook that he intended to pray for revival (meaning a return to Christ and to His Word) in New England, asking who would join him in praying toward that end. As I recall, I made a comment that he could count  me in. I meant it sincerely.

Years ago, I visited Plimouth Plantation, where the characters of the original Mayflower settlers affirmed their Biblical convictions. The actors portraying them did such a convincing job that I honestly felt as if I enjoyed actual Christian fellowship with them! (That fantasy came to a screeching halt when I asked one of the children if she knew Jesus loved her and the "mother" hastily whisked her away.) I came home marveling at the strong Christian faith that founded New England. I also came away sad, and quite bewildered, by the lack of Biblical Christianity in present-day New England. Consequently, I very much agree that this part of the country  desperately needs to turn back to its spiritual roots.

To my shame, I didn't put revival on my prayer list until today. I kept meaning to do so, and occasionally I'd mention it to the Lord, but I seriously lacked the commitment of praying regularly for God to restore our region to the faith of those early believers. Thankfully, I serve a patient Savior Who kept reminding me of the spiritual poverty in this area!

As I pray, I will ask the Holy Spirit to begin revival by reviving me. I know He has stirred my passion for Him considerably in the past eight months, and in the past few weeks I've developed a deeper excitement  about my daily Bible reading. But what if the Holy Spirit needs me to fix even more of my attention on Christ? These recent snowstorms, because they threaten me with the possibility of being without PCA help, certainly expose my lack of faith in Him as well as my preoccupation with my own comfort and convenience. Plainly, He needs to consume my thoughts and affections much more than He does.

Perhaps you also live in an area that has turned away from the Lord and His Word. Would you begin praying for revival? Time is growing short, and the Lord needs us to accept His cleansing and then proclaim His Gospel to a world that has thumbed its  nose at Him. Don't make my mistake of procrastination; put it on your prayer list today.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Let's Confront Me First

Those who know me well, sadly, would hardly choose the word "gentle" to describe me, and they'd use the word "humble" even less. To my shame, I'd have to agree that neither adjective suits me. My lack of these character qualities obviously grieves me, first and foremost, because I dishonor the Lord by my aggression and pride. Additionally, they challenge me in regard to correcting others when they sin.

The Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. ~~Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
Certainly, Paul makes the point here that, while we do have the responsibility to confront sin in one another, the Lord wants us to do so gently and in an attitude of humility. We can so easily fall into the same sin that we've just reproved somebody else for committing, and our hypocrisy will betray our haughtiness. We forget that God has shown us tremendous grace and, consequently, that He desires us to extend similar grace to others.

I suppose I could belabor this thought by appealing to other Scriptures that supply confirmation, but I don't see a need for  doing so. I see that the Lord calls me to repent of self-righteous attitudes and behaviors, and I'm directing this post to myself with the expectation that publicly acknowledging my sin in this area might increase my sense of accountability.

Yesterday I wrote about the duty to correct those who sin, and I stand by everything I  wrote. I plan future posts on that duty. But this caveat needs stating, if only to remind myself of how the Lord wants me  to humble my heart before Him. He has been wonderfully gentle and gracious in dealing with the myriad of sins in my life. How, then, can I justify any pride even as I address sin in others?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Augustine On Twitter And Discernment Blogs

I glean many blog post ideas from Facebook and Twitter. This morning, for example, I came across this interesting quote attributed to Augustine:

I'd never considered that exact perspective, even though many Scriptures direct us to confront sin in each other. The Lord Himself even provided us with step-by-step instructions on how to deal with an erring brother (or sister) within the context of a local church.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” ~~Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV)
The apostle Paul gave different (though not contradictory) directions to Timothy in regard to those who sin in defiance.
As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. ~~1 Timothy 5:20 (ESV)
Yes, I understand that Paul specifically  gave this counsel to Timothy as part of a letter dealing with Timothy's duties as the pastor of the church at Ephesus, and I don't want to take it out of context. At the same time, I've seen many discernment bloggers apply this verse when they (dare I include myself in their company by saying "we?") call out public figures like Beth Moore and Rick Warren (among others) for their sin of false teaching. Such bloggers also boldly address popular, but sinful, trends like Holy Yoga and  the Gay Christian Movement. If they (we) misapply this verse, may the Lord both correct us and give us the humility to receive correction with repentant attitudes.

Since some of the elders from my church read my blog, and one of them thanked me just last week for challenging false converts, I tend to think that I haven't violated the parameters of Scripture. I trust that my church's leadership would tell me if something I wrote crossed a line. Thus, I believe I have applied 1 Timothy 5:20 in an appropriate manner.

Many current teachings and trends in the 21st Century church need to be rebuked. Augustine of Hippo would, I believe, support bloggers who risk unpopularity and suffered ridicule in order to correct those who sin.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday Quotation

"Oh, that I might live to see that day when professors shall not walk in vain show; when they shall please themselves no more with a name to live, being spiritually dead; when they shall no more (as many of them now are) be a company of frothy, vain, and unserious persons, but the majestic beams of holiness shining from their heavenly and serious conversation shall awe the world, and command reverence from all who are about them; when they shall warm the hearts of those who come nigh them, so that men shall say, 'God is truly in these men!'"

JOHN FLAVEL

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