Monday, March 30, 2015

House Arrest Ends

Tomorrow, we plan to meet John's mom at The Cheesecake Factory, and Thursday John has a CT scan in preparation for an appointment with his oncologist next Monday. As April progresses, we have other necessary appointments, plus a date with another couple at the Museum of Fine Arts. We look forward to some Boston Adventures this spring, summer and fall, as God permits, and eagerly anticipate taking my sister to a Red Sox game at Fenway in June.

I've gotten used to writing daily blog posts. This winter (which kept us away from church for a total of 18 Sundays as well as keeping us housebound in general) ensured that I had plenty of time to write, so I took full advantage of our "house arrest" to develop this blog. I hope the Lord has brought people closer to Himself through my daily missives. He has definitely used the discipline to keep me focused on His Word!

Rest assured that I have no intention of hanging up my blog. But spring seems to have arrived...we hope. And its belated arrival plunges us into activity (both desirable and undesirable) that separates me from my keyboard. After three months of blogging almost daily, it will seem strange to skip days. But I'll get used to it!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Voices Responding

The crowd  cheered as they lined the path with palm branches. "Hosanna!" they cried, "Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!"

Only a few days later, the Man they had heralded as their long-awaited Messiah stood silently before them as a pathetic figure. He'd been savagely beaten and whipped by the Jewish Counsel, and by Roman soldiers, and wore a  crown of thorns that dug mercilessly into His brow. When Pilate asked what should be done with their King, the very voices that had cried in joy, "Hosanna in the highest!" called angrily for His crucifixion.

Before I judge that crowd in First Century Jerusalem, I must own that I easily mock Jesus when I rebel against His Holy Spirit. Yet His precious blood atones even for that cruelty, drawing me to repentance. As He died on that cross, He ransomed even me. And so, I shout in celebration, "Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!"

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Belated Thoughts On Lent

As a growing number of evangelicals observe Lent, some evangelicals take the position that it's a matter of Christian liberty. They appeal to Romans 14, which admonishes us against judging each other's convictions. And, to a certain extent, perhaps they have a valid point. If they observe it with an attitude similar to my attitude in wearing hats to church out of reverence, how can I--indeed, how dare I--pass judgment?

Lent, they claim, serves as a reminder of Christ's humility in sacrificing Himself for us. Okay, but why should that reminder be so shallow as giving up a food or habit between Ash Wednesday and Resurrection Sunday, knowing full well that we'll resume the practice as soon as we leave the church parking lot after Easter services? I can't help wondering if people believe (at least secretly) that their Lenten self-denial in some way commends them to God.

Thinking about Lent reminds me of Paul's words to the Colossian church:
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. ~~Colossians 2:20-23 (ESV)
When the Lord called us to die to self as a condition of following Him (Luke 9:23), He meant actual death. And spiritually, Christians must die to the demands of our sin natures (Colossians 3:5-10). The superficial self-denial of Lent comes no where near the demands that following Jesus requires, but rather inflates our egos with the false assurance of self-righteousness.

If a Christian observes Lent with a true attitude of wishing to honor Christ, I will not judge his heart. But I suspect that most evangelicals who are climbing back to Roman Catholic traditions observe Lent almost as a sacrament. That being the case, I have difficulty accepting Lent as something consistent with the faith that our Reformation forefathers suffered and died for. Further, I believe Paul would have opposed it, much as He opposed the ascetic practices that threatened the Colossian church. Let us die to sin, and be ready to die for Christ, rather than indulging in a 40 day fast each year.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Our Sin As A Backdrop

To fully appreciate Christ's death on the cross, we need to sense our utter sinfulness. Jesus died, not because we in any way merit His favor, but precisely because of our complete inability to do so. As long as we cherish any thoughts that we contribute to our salvation in even the slightest degree, we minimize His glory.

In desiring to glorify Christ for dying the death that you and I deserve, we cannot omit discussion of our depravity. At the same time, we need to keep the focus on Him by praising Him for His sacrifice on our behalf. Our wretchedness serves merely as a backdrop for His grace...much as black velvet accentuates the luster of a pearl.

As we face up to the ugliness of our sin, we see the Lord's gracious beauty in allowing Himself to suffer the horrors of crucifixion. The inhabitants of heaven unceasingly worship Him for His work to ransom a people for Himself.
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”
11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. ~~Revelation 5:6-14 (ESV)
Jesus, Who shed His blood because you and I could never dream of earning the favor of a holy and righteous God, deserves highest praise for redeeming sinners as vile as we. The more we see our moral bankruptcy, the more brilliantly His beauty shines, calling us to praise and honor Him.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Few Words For The Greatest Love

The thought of once again writing about the way Christ's crucifixion extends salvation to those who believe in Him paralyzes me today. Eight days away from Good Friday, I know I need to write about His wonderful love for His Church, but I sit at my keyboard with no clue of what to say.

Perhaps tomorrow, the words will come. Today, however, I simply rejoice that my Creator lovingly endured the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. I'll praise Him for including me, a sinful wretch of a woman, as one of His elect--with only His blood to commend me to His Father. The wonder that He would give Himself for me is more than I can put into words today.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Joel Osteen And Heart Conditions

Some professing Christians get uncomfortable with the Biblical truth that salvation can come only through faith in Jesus Christ. Such a proposition smacks of a judgmental attitude that, quite candidly, makes Christians and the Gospel look bad. Who really enjoys telling people that, unless they trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and turn from sin in obedience to Him, they will spend eternity in hell? I don't!

Apparently, neither does popular televangelist and author Joel Osteen, as evidenced by this clip from an appearance he made on Larry King Live a few years ago:

Notice his refrain that only God can know another person's heart. By stating this fact, he more than implied that someone without faith in Christ could achieve salvation on the merits of an upright heart.

Like Osteen, many professing Christians offer the cliche, "Only God knows the heart" as an expression of comfort and assurance. By contrast, Jesus taught that the human heart, in and of itself, teems with all manner of sinful inclinations. Look at Jesus' words in this passage, and try to tell me with a straight face that God can accept a  heart that Jesus hasn't transformed.
20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. ~~Mark 7:20-22 (ESV)
If the heart defiles people, how can the thought that God knows it possibly reassure us that a non-Christian has any hope of salvation? Michael Horton, in his book, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church writes:
 But where Osteen seems to think that God’s judgment of our heart (like his record keeping) is good news, Scripture treats it as the worst possible report since “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9 NKJV).
The thought that God knows a non-Christian's heart ought to drive us to earnest prayer that the person will hear the Gospel. We must plead with the Lord for His grace to bring that person to salvation. And we must pray for opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. If God  truly knows a non-Christian's heart (and He does) then we dare not suppose that He would accept that person on the recommendation of an unconverted heart!

Indeed, the more the Holy Spirit exposes  the corruption of my heart, the more I rejoice that Jesus died in my place on the cross. He requires that I depend completely on Him for my salvation. I have no hope apart from Jesus precisely because He knows my heart.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Although Bunnies Distract

Snow still covers the ground and the temperature has just climbed to 37 degrees, yet this coming Sunday Christians and professing Christians will observe Palm Sunday. A week later (obviously), we will celebrate Christ's glorious resurrection.

Many people, of course, will distract themselves from the Gospel message by focusing on chocolate bunnies, colored eggs and ham dinners. Most will make obligatory trips to church, and perhaps some may come away with vague feelings of inspiration. A few, praise God, will genuinely understand the Gospel message that Jesus died in their place to atone for their sin and rose three days later so that He could give eternal life to those who trust in Him.

Christians commemorate the Lord's death, burial and resurrection throughout the year, recognizing them as so much more than the ushering in of spring. The apostle Paul identified these three events as the very core of the Gospel!
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ~~1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (ESV)
We underestimate the absolute centrality of the death, burial and resurrection, undoubtedly because most pulpiteers litter their sermons with mysticism and psychological jargon. They give the Gospel honorable mention before rushing on to more "relevant" subject matter.

Yet how could anything possibly be more relevant than Jesus dying for our sin and rising again? I base my very life on the events of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, clinging to them as my source hope. Certainly, I enjoy fluffy white bunnies and baskets of dyed eggs. But I find sustenance in the heart of the Gospel.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Hypocrite's Final Ashes

For various reasons, I have decided against publicly offering details on two sins that the Lord has called me to confess this weekend. At least, I won't name the specific circumstances. Both sins come down to selfishness and hypocrisy. In offering details, my appearance of humility would really be a third commission of these sins. Probably not the best idea.

Instead, let me quote the Scripture passage that the Holy Spirit used yesterday to confront my sin.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ~~Matthew 6:1-6 (ESV)
Isn't it so easy to turn our works for the Lord into occasions for others to praise us? We quite obviously forget that, by seeking the temporal reward of human praise, we forfeit eternal rewards. In so doing, we pretty much betray our lack of interest in eternal treasures as well as our desire for self-promotion. Honoring our Father takes a back seat to winning acclaim from people here and now. We use our Christianity to point to ourselves instead of dying to ourselves to direct people to Christ.

I've settled for rewards that will burn away to ashes when I stand  before the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). As much as I relish the accolades of others, I now wish I could trade them in to hear my  Father say, on that day when He examines my Christian works, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

And My Song Shall Ever Be

When I sing a hymn about the marvels of my Savior's love, I want an arrangement that keeps the lyrics at the forefront while still having music that reflects and encourages a sense of joy. Although Jesus suffered a gruesome and barbaric form of death, He did  so in my place, accepting brutal punishment that properly belonged to me! How could I sing about such a wonderful Savior with an attitude of detachment? Short answer: I can't!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Our Shame, His Splendor

We generally ignore, or (at the very least) downplay, the doctrine of human sinfulness. After all, this doctrine conflicts with our precious self-esteem by insisting that nothing good dwells in us (Romans 7:18). As a response to our natural resistance to accepting the Bible's assessment of our depravity, I spend a lot of time emphasizing the point.

Yet I don't mean to be misanthropic. In acknowledging that none of us has any ability to commend ourselves to a righteous and holy God, I certainly take no delight in my words. That said, we each must arrive at a true understanding of our wretchedness in order to comprehend the magnificence of Christ's work in saving us.

Let's expand on the Scriptural passage I quoted Thursday in order to observe the Lord's astonishing grace in saving us.
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. 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. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)
As you can see, our depravity merely showcases the Lord's grace and mercy. If we warranted His favor, however, His grace would change to obligation, and we would rightly congratulate ourselves rather than worshiping Him. 

Christ deserves His place as the focal point of creation. When we recognize the overwhelming depth of our moral bankruptcy, His wonderful kindness in bearing our sin on the cross captivates our attention and draws us to worship Him. Then we realize that He alone deserves all the glory!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Quotation

"The clear message from Genesis to Revelation is either go to hell with your own righteousness, or go to heaven with the righteousness of Christ credited to your account by faith alone. Faith in Christ is saving; faith in anything or anyone else is superstition"(Horton, In The Face Of God , 20).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Why Did He Do That?

Every now and again, evangelicals get so caught in the details of Christian living that we lose sight of the actual Gospel itself. Quite possibly, this shift of emphasis happens because, from start to finish, the central Gospel message directly assaults self-esteem. We want to believe that God sees something in us worth saving and that we contribute to the salvation process. The Gospel frustrates us by refuting both propositions.

Today, I want to address the Gospel's position on human worth. Certainly, I adamantly embrace  the pro-life position that, from conception to final breath, every human life has value. We must, as we talk about human worth, maintain a clear distinction between conversation on abortion (and euthanasia) and conversation on our inability to merit salvation. Please remember that these are entirely separate issues!

Popular evangelical writer Max Lucado once wrote:
“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning… Face it, friend. He is crazy about you!”
As wonderful as Lucado's words sound, however, they leave non-Christians (especially false converts) with the impression that God practically worships us. What a perverted view of His gracious love! Scripture teaches that He loves  us because of His grace, not because we possess any attractive qualities. We can't bring a single thing to the table!

Instead of viewing ourselves as the centers of God's universe and thinking that He waits breathlessly for us to "make Him Lord and Savior," let's consider Scripture's assessment of the situation.
 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)
Not the  most flattering portrait of us, is it? I don't enjoy knowing that, apart from God's grace, I was dead in my sin, and a child of wrath. I'd much prefer to believe that He saw some little spark of goodness in me that made me worthy of His love and His death on the cross.

Ironically, Jesus shed His precious blood on my behalf precisely because I couldn't do anything to merit His favor. Therefore, my salvation necessarily throws the spotlight back on Him. Despite the stench of my sinful inclinations, the Lord chose to save me from the eternity in hell that I so richly deserve. Understanding the depths of my depravity enables me to rejoice in Christ's unexplainable and wonderful love for me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Gulping In Writing

Good writers draw on two things: experience and passion. That being the case, I avoid writing about the metric system, knitting techniques, Bible prophesy or my life with Cerebral Palsy. Even when I have experience in an area (such as my life with Cerebral Palsy), I may lack interest in the topic (such as my life with Cerebral Palsy).

Sister Nicholas once said that heightened emotion, like anger or romance, often leads people to use language with greater eloquence. But when I participate in an intense  conversation, I generally don't step back far enough to evaluate how anyone uses vocabulary or syntax.

My blog posts Saturday and yesterday, however, reminded me of Sister Nicholas' remark. In both cases, I wrote from experience, but I also had emotional investments in the subject matters. The power in these two pieces caused me to reflect a bit about my blog, as well as my writing in general.

I have never been one of those people who writes because they can't live without writing.Yes, I know about all the characters (Jo March, Anne Shirley, Emily Byrd Starr and Laura Ingalls Wilder) who couldn't live without writing. Believe me, I feel properly guilty that I lack their compulsion to capture everything I hear, feel, see and think into words. Alas, I can live comfortably without writing.

That said, I enjoy the craft well enough to be good at it, and I consider it as my primary means of serving the Lord. Which, in turn, brings me to the passion that fuels most of what I write. Even though I  could happily live without writing for its own sake, I can't live without writing about Him and about the value of His Word. Occasionally,  certainly, I'll enjoy writing about childhood memories or excursions into Boston (and I see nothing wrong in those diversions once in a while).  But mostly, my passion leads me back to Christ and His teaching.

All generations have endured assaults on God's Word, attempts to distort the character of God, and a denial of humanity's fallen condition, so my concerns about the 21st Century evangelical subculture hardly amount to addressing new problems. Yet the fact that these problems accelerate in our time, coupled with the fact that I've been active in churches which have entertained theologies that erode doctrinal purity, weighs so heavily on my heart that I absolutely must write about them. Writing about them allows me to gulp for fresh air.

The Gospel, as it identifies man's fallen nature and the Lord's gracious plan of redemption for those who believe, provides refreshment that answers to the putrid apostasy of our present age. So yes, I will write about Christ, and His victory over sin. I will confront distortions to His Scripture and trends that chafe against sound doctrine. And I will praise Him for giving me the ability to write passionately about the Gospel that changed my life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An Open Letter To Elton John

Dear Elton John,

Since my college days (in the mid-70s), I've loved your music. I can remember sitting in the student lounge pretending to read Tennyson's Idylls Of The King when all the time I was actually listening to Crocodile Rock on the radio. I still love that song, which I bought from iTunes a few years ago. In future (depending on my finances), I anticipate purchasing  Rocket Man, Philadelphia Freedom, and your duet with Kiki Dee, Don't Go Breakin' My Heart.

In order for you to fully appreciate my enjoyment of your music, you need to know that I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. In 1971, He showed me that, by nature and by choice, I was a sinner hurtling toward an eternity in hell. He used a classmate and friend of mine to give me the glorious news that He personally paid the penalty for my rebellion against Him by His death on the cross. Because He rose from the dead, He has given me His power to live in obedience to Him. I therefore buy mostly hymns on iTunes because those beautiful old songs remind me of how gracious He's been to me.

As a Christian, Sir Elton, I believe that the Lord speaks authoritatively, and to every generation and culture, through His unchanging Word, the Bible. You probably know that the Bible declares your homosexual lifestyle as sinful. Despite society's increasing approval of homosexuality, I must stand by Scripture's denouncement of it, trusting the Lord's infinite wisdom.

In standing firm in my convictions regarding your lifestyle, however, I feel free to purchase and enjoy the wonderful music that I fondly associate with my college years. My disagreement with how you live doesn't compel me to boycott the music you produce. In fact, tolerance actually means acceptance in the midst of disagreement, does it not?

For that reason, your boycott of Dolce and Gabbana disappoints me.  I understand, Sir Elton, that their statements in opposition to same sex marriage and invitro fertilization trouble you in much the same way that your desire to punish those of us who speak against homosexuality troubles me. Yet disagreement with this company's moral convictions shouldn't lead to your intolerant attempt to cripple their business.

When I buy your music, I don't condone homosexuality. I tolerate that aspect of who you are because I love your product and delight in what you can do with a piano. Can't you appreciate their  line of clothing regardless of their personal opinions? Shouldn't tolerance go both ways?

Monday, March 16, 2015

"Christian" Psychology's Presuppositions

So, as you've read my various complaints against "Christian" psychology, you may wonder how Scripture could adequately address all the psychological problems that 21st Century evangelicals face. Such an inquiry seems reasonable, I must admit. But think carefully about its underlying presuppositions.

To begin with, the question presupposes that 21st Century struggles differ in complexity from the struggles faced by ancient people. And certainly, present-day technology has intensified life in many ways, while at the same time reducing the depths of relationships. We get away with narcissism much more easily, and we have greater access to sexual stimulation with less perceptible consequences. Fewer children grow up in homes with married, heterosexual parents, and society increasingly redefines both gender roles and acceptable sexual conduct. As a result of all these factors (and perhaps others), of course we feel as if we suffer in ways unique to our day and age.

If we think carefully, however, we realize that the outward trappings of 21st  Century life merely expose the same tired human sins that have typified mankind since Adam first let Eve taste that forbidden fruit. The particulars may look different, and the temptations may lie more closely in reach, but the human heart and mind really haven't changed from Paul's description in Romans 1:18-32.

We also presuppose that our modern "understanding" of human nature gives us an intellectual advantage over the men who wrote the Bible. We  believe Freud, Jung and other pioneers of psychoanalysis gave us tools and insight that the world sadly lacked prior to their "discoveries." Yet, as I've pointed out in previous posts, Freud and Jung based their "science" on either atheism (Freud) or a spirituality that merges "Christianity" with mysticism and Eastern religion (Jung). Thus, we betray our conviction that psychology, although an invention of men who openly rejected Christianity, can offer us a greater depth of insight than the Word of God can.

Paul's words in Colossians directly refute that line of reasoning.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. ~~Colossians 2:8-10 (ESV)
Dear friends, the Lord Who created our minds knows us infinitely better than theorists in psychology ever could! In His generosity, He has revealed His Word through His prophets and apostles. 2 Peter 1:2-3 maintains that the knowledge of Christ (which comes through God's Word) provides us with everything we need for godly lives.

We Christians are filled with the King of all creation! As we incorporate His Word into our  daily lives by reading, studying and acting on it, we honor Him. We may or may not "feel better about ourselves," but we will bear fruit for His kingdom. Our energy will go into loving, serving and adoring Him, causing us to put our lives in proper perspective. We will then presuppose that Christ really is all we need!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Note To Self

The hymn I chose today reminds me that I can trust my Heavenly Father. Why do I need this reminder so often?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Mom's Ageless Answer

"Mommy," we asked, "how old are you?"

She smiled her mysterious smile and then responded simply, "Over 21."

When March 14 rolled around that year, we gave her the gifts that Daddy had helped us buy for her. As we enjoyed birthday cake and ice cream, we looked at her with the earnestness of seven and nine-year-old daughters. "Mommy," we asked, "are you over 22 now?"

Mom continued keeping her age a secret from us, which bothered me because so many of our friends knew the ages of their parents. When I would point that fact out to her, however, she'd firmly retort, "A true lady never reveals her age."

I guess we shouldn't have opened her wallet that day, but at nine and eleven my sister and I saw our opportunity to discover Mom's age. We slipped out her driver's license (just for a moment, you understand) and located her  date of birth. Hastily, we restored the document as we did the calculations. If I hadn't shared our discovery with a teacher who subsequently  congratulated her on how young she looked for her age, she never would have known what we did.

After that incident, I carefully avoided answering my friends who, for whatever reasons, considered themselves entitled to know Mom's age.  Even though, in an unladylike manner, I freely revealed my age, I'd learned to respect her privacy. Sometimes, even well into my own forties, I'd respond to inquisitive friends by saying she was "over 21."

You can imagine my shock, therefore, when my ladylike mother began telling people that she'd reached her 80's! Once I managed to scrape my jaw off the floor, I asked her why she suddenly disclosed her age so willingly. She replied, "Once you reach this age, honey, it's something to be proud of!"

When she went on Hospice last May, she had my sister take a picture of her holding the flowers we'd sent her for Mother's Day.
Two months later, she lost her battle with cancer.

Today would have been Mom's 99th birthday, and she probably would have admitted it quite proudly. She knew she looked considerably younger, and she enjoyed watching people react in astonishment when they saw her date of birth. Then again, being a bit of a prankster, she may well have (with a mischievous twinkle in her eye) simply told people that she was over 21...again.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Psychology Is More Than I Need

After detailing the three major problems with "Christian" psychology, let's talk about the underlying issue. When we join psychoanalysis to Scripture, we very openly admit our belief that God's Word lacks the ability to address a person's spiritual needs.

Okay, I put that point bluntly. And, if you must know, I did so very deliberately because most evangelicals honestly don't realize how deeply their reliance on psychology attacks the doctrine of Scripture's sufficiency. In fact, I suppose that the vast majority of evangelicals who combine psychology with God's Word sincerely believe that the Lord uses the "science" of psychology to "go deeper" than the Bible without contradicting it.

They would regard psychology as a provision the Lord has given us so that, in better understanding ourselves, we can more effectively apply Biblical principles to our daily lives. Of course, they assume that psychology will ultimately eliminate temptation so that they can honor and obey the Lord without effort...which perhaps explains why they feel such an urgent need for something "more."

I often articulated to myself (but never to others) that  I wanted "more" than the Bible offered in dealing with my sin of anger. The Bible simply says to put anger away and walk in patience and humility. I wanted, however, to understand the  "root causes" of my anger, thinking that such an understanding would eliminate the emotion and in turn eradicate the temptation.

Sounds wonderful, until you realize that the focus shifts from self-denial and trust in God's authority to my own comfort.

This morning's episode might demonstrate a more Scriptural approach to anger. Just as I needed to complete my PCA's time sheet and print it for her to sign (we need to  fax all the time sheets before she returns Monday), Adobe Reader froze. When I restarted it, Dell started installing 29 updates. I knew my PCA didn't feel well and wanted to go home, which pressured me.

John got on his computer and opened my second email address where (praise God) I daily back up time sheets. He found hers, but it printed improperly, forcing him to retype the entire two-week time sheet from scratch. As he struggled typing in all the numbers, I vented my rage and frustration without restraint. Finally, he commanded me to stop.

I immediately thought of Scriptures about wives submitting to husbands and about controlling anger. Although I felt like continuing my temper tantrum, I simply obeyed God's Word. I didn't fall back on psychological explanations for this latest tirade. I simply acknowledged my sin and repented. Knowing the Lord's will that I exercise self-control was sufficient.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~~2 Peter 1:3-8 (ESV)
The Lord has taught me that, as Scripture deepens my knowledge of Who He is and how He sees things, I don't need the man-made disciple of psychology. His Word tells me everything I need to know.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Making A Face

Just showing you progress on the digital portrait. We spent today at John's doctor's office in Boston, so I have no time to write.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Christians Mixing Drinks

I'd recently joined the Love In Action staff in May of 1985, so I excitedly launched on a program of reading books on "inner healing." One evening, as I poured over LeAnne Payne's book, The Broken Image (which, just to be clear, I do not recommend), a  close friend and co-worker came by my house to deliver stuff from the office.

Instead of greeting him properly, I looked up from the book and complained, "A bunch of her stuff reminds me of the occult."

Despite writing about her "deep concerns" regarding "Jungian Christianity," LeAnne Payne believed heavily in many Freudian-Jungian models by which people could assess root causes of their homosexuality. Then, through techniques such as listening prayer, they could break free of the psychological forces that kept them in bondage to that sin. She particularly relied on dream interpretation as a tool for psychological healing.

Pop-psychology, merged with the Charismatic theology of mysticism, indeed pulls professing Christians into New Age types of spirituality. Throughout my time in Charismatic circles, I witnessed countless personality tests, spiritual gifts tests and deliverance from demons sessions that blended psychology with mysticism. Invariably, those leading the sessions took Scripture out of context.

Now more mainline denominations also embrace psychology. Not surprisingly, they have   at the same time opened themselves to mystical practices--most notably, listening prayer.

I would suggest that psychology lends itself to New Age influences because Jung engaged in a wide variety of occult experiences, even in his childhood. As a founder of psychotherapy, Jung quite naturally incorporated those elements into his "science." Thus, Bible-believing Christians have a responsibility to reject psychology.
21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? ~~1 Corinthians 10:21-22 (ESV)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday Quotation

“Over the centuries, seasons of reformation and revival in the church have come when the sovereign grace of God has been openly proclaimed and clearly taught. When a high view of God has been infused into the hearts and minds of God’s people, the church has sat on the elevated plateaus of transcendent truth. This lofty ground is Calvinism—the high ground for the church. The lofty truths of divine sovereignty provide the greatest and grandest view of God. The doctrines of grace serve to elevate the entire life of the church.”
Steven J. Lawson, A Long Line of Godly Men; Volume one: Foundations of Grace (Reformation Trust, Ligonier Ministries; 2006) p. 22.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Unnecessary Self-Analysis

The Lord, for reasons known only to Him, kept me single until a month before my 49th birthday. His decision  troubled me greatly, to say the least.

During those anguished years of singleness, "Christian psychology" made its way into the church I'd joined. Consequently, I felt compelled to analyze my desire to marry, much as my friends tried to analyze  their same sex attractions.  Borrowing from Love In Action's use of psychological models, I reasoned that uncovering the underlying cause of my longing for a husband would unlock ways that Jesus could directly provide me with romantic fulfillment.

You may have guessed that my quest never yielded the answers I sought. I struggled with enormous self-condemnation because Jesus didn't satisfy me. So of  course  I then searched for explanations regarding my apparent resistance to Him. I read countless "Christian" books on co-dependency, emotional dependency, inner  healing, and all sorts of other psychological blocks to "receiving God's love." But my  desire for marriage stubbornly remained.

Looking back, I easily see that romantic fulfillment was an idol. Mercifully, the Lord did eventually bless me with a marriage far beyond my expectations, for which I praise Him. But what if He hadn't?

Scripture says that God  created us for His pleasure and purposes, not so that He could cater to our "felt needs."
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.” ~~Revelation 4:11 (ESV)
The King James Version says "and for thy pleasure they are created." So, while my marriage extends happiness as a wonderful by-product, the Lord actually brought it about to glorify Himself. If He had chosen to keep me single, He would have also done that for His glory. My emotional gratification really matters little in comparison to how He chooses to glorify Himself through me.

"Christian" psychology, by offering non-existent answers to questions we have no business asking in the first place, subtly shifts God into the role of our Servant. Even though He does graciously bless us, we must break out of our insidious attitude that He has an obligation to fulfill us emotionally. We exist to please Him, and we can rejoice that He takes pleasure in us.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Nobler, Sweeter Song

It's time, dear readers, to return to my practice of sharing the great hymns of the Christian faith on Sundays. The rich theology combines with music to let us soar into adoration of our wonderful Savior, drawing our emotions to Him. The neglect of these powerful hymns, therefore, diminishes this blog.

This past week, I encountered a hymn less familiar to me than most hymns. To say it simply, I fell in love with it! It not only reminds me of the atoning blood that Christ shed for me, but of that glorious day when I'll stand before His throne to sing His praises.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

He Takes My Breath Away

While my thoughts about the Shepherds'  Conference settle, and I attempt to catch up on the blogs I normally read (but have neglected this week), I keep returning to the astonishing truth that the Scripture comes from the very breath of God! I've known this fact for 44 years, of course, yet the conference made me grasp it as I never have  before.

The Greek word pneuma can be translated as either "spirit" or "'breath." Although the Holy Spirit is a Person, as eternal as the Father and the Son, He emanates from the Father as if He is His very Breath. Hold that image in mind as you again read 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
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. (ESV)
The thought of God breathing out His Spirit to  give us Scripture heightens my awareness of its value. So often, my familiarity with the Bible can dull me to the wonder that God, the majestic Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth, personally gave His Word to the prophets and apostles so that they could pass it to us!

This week I open my Bible software program a little more reverently and a little more excitedly because I recognize the treasure that displays itself on my computer screen. God's breath warms me through those ancient words, directing me as I walk with Him. I couldn't be more amazed!

The Shepherds' Conference Comes Home

Vimeo has now posted all but the last two videos from the Shepherds' Conference, and I imagine they'll post those very soon.

The Shepherds' Conference 2015 Videos

Friday, March 6, 2015


Merciful heavens!--the Shepherds' Conference has given me so many ideas for blog posts! Of course, my poor little brain doesn't quite know where to start, so I'll likely re-watch some sessions in the coming weeks. Thankfully, several sessions have already been posted on YouTube (The Shepherds' Conference 2015). People will undoubtedly add more as time progresses.

This year, the conference addresses the inerrancy of the Bible. Naturally, non-Christians pretty much uniformly deny inerrancy (if, that is, they give any attention to Scripture in the first place), and we should expect them to deny it. Sadly, many professing Christians also deny it.

Such people don't always realize they deny that Scripture has no errors. They may confess inerrancy with their lips, and yet demonstrate that they doubt its sufficiency. Think about it: how could an inerrant Bible, as the very Word of God, possibly be insufficient? Yet, as I've said so many times before, when we attempt to supplement God's Word with pragmatism, mysticism or human wisdom, we imply that the Bible lacks something necessary to our well-being.

I can't accept such a suggestion. If any of the Bible is God's Word, than it can't have error or lack.
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)
I hang my hat on the Bible's sufficiency and inerrancy, trusting the Holy Spirit to use it to show me everything I need to know as His adopted child.  I praise Him for using this year's conference to strengthen my awareness of His Word.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Serious Prayer Of An Unserious Artist

Has it really been over two (and maybe over three) years since I've drawn a portrait? To my shame, yes. Lately, however, I've been asking the Lord to help me get more serious about my artwork. This past Friday, therefore, I found a photo that my friend Robin emailed me I-don't-know-how-many years ago and committed myself to draw it.
By Monday, I'd drawn her skin and eye-whites.
In the last three days (between sessions of the Shepherds' Conference, of course), I've given her eyelashes and eye-color.
So, I've made good progress already. I hope to keep up my momentum so that I won't get bored with this project. At the same time, I'll do some "quickie" drawings to illustrate blog posts and to give myself mental breaks. All in all, I praise the Lord for renewing my interest in digital art. He does answer prayer!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Simple Concept, Profound Impact

In praying about my struggles in trusting God's faithfulness to me (a silly struggle, since I really should know better), I've begun thinking about the fact that the Father has adopted me as His child. In so doing, He has willingly assumed full responsibility for my care.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. ~~Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV)
The assurance that He not only made Himself my Father,  but He chose me to be one of His children gives me a fresh perspective on His faithfulness. What a blessing!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Who Needs Forbidden Fruit At A Banquet?

Clearly, my next four days promise to revolve around the Shepherds' Conference. Yes, I understand that, as a woman, I lack the Biblical  qualifications to be a pastor, and that the conference exists for the purpose of equipping men for church leadership. Still, God's Word makes provision for women to learn Biblical truths.
11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. ~~1 Timothy 2:11-14 (ESV)
Notice that it says, "Let a woman learn..." I may not hold a position of authority over men, but the  Lord graciously allows me unrestricted access to His Word. Like Eve coveted the one tree God told her not to eat from, I could  covet the one area of ministry that the Lord withholds from women.

Unlike Eve, I choose to rejoice in all  that the Lord makes available to me. He is not a sexist miser seeking to repress women, but rather a generous Father Who blesses His daughters abundantly. So I will thank Him for allowing me to learn from His Word, and to watch this conference. I will look, not on the one thing He withholds in His wisdom, but on the many blessings He lavishes on me. And I will enjoy this conference!

Update On The Shepherds' Conference

If you tried the link I provided for the Shepherds' Conference, I'm sure you were frustrated, disappointed and confused. It came to light that someone maliciously hacked the conference website.

The hackers, however, didn't know that we can also watch the conference at either the Grace Community Church website or The Master's Seminary website.


Shepherds' Conference 2015

My blog posts will be short these next few days...
Shepherds' Conference 2015

Monday, March 2, 2015

My Finger Pointed Away From Me

As both the ministry I served and the church I attended increasingly blended psychology into their doctrines, I grew more comfortable with introspection and self-analysis. Too often, for example, I'd demand that my mom "'validate my feelings" when we had a conflict. Of  course, I had absolutely no interest in  "validating" her feelings.

The teaching I received (and regurgitated through my  counseling letters) almost always blamed parents for a person's sin patterns. While such teaching included the obligatory instruction to forgive (as befits Christians), such instruction didn't receive nearly as much attention as exploring our "wounded" pasts in order to understand our current struggles with habitual sin. We emphasized endless examinations of  childhood traumas, most of which emanated from relational problems with our parents.

I remember a particular Monday night women's meeting in which the leaders wanted us to list ways that our parents had "damaged" us. One lady left her sheet of paper blank. All of us tried to coax her into remembering something. When she insisted that there simply wasn't anything to remember, we concluded that she was "in denial." We should have rejoiced in how  beautifully she obeyed God's Word!
“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” ~~Ephesians 6:2-3 (ESV)
Once or twice, after reading Ephesians 6, I felt as if the leaders discouraged obedience to this command. But my friends successfully brought me back to the premise that we couldn't freely honor our parents until we "worked through" all the "issues" caused by our "dysfunctional" relationships with them.


The disconnect with God's command to honor parents stands out as the predominate way psychology influenced our understanding of Scripture. We also, however, took various personality tests which allowed us to explain away certain sins. Case in point: one of my tests "revealed" that I tend toward melancholia, thus providing me with a convenient excuse to engage in self-pity.

Naturally, we gave lip-service to concepts like repentance, and most of us did fairly well at abstaining from genital sex outside of marriage. We avoided obvious sinful behaviors, wanting to demonstrate our "Biblical" morality. But when we fell, we dug deep into our psyches trying to understand the reasons we failed rather than simply repenting and letting Scripture transform us.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~~Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)
By His grace, the Lord has changed my heart, showing me that He alone gives me power over sin because of His resurrection and His Spirit living in me. The causes for my sin really don't matter; He is the solution.

Thirty years later, I readily see that the ministry and the church corrupted the clear teaching of Scripture by synthesizing it with psychology. I believe psychology's emphasis on self-exploration undermines worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ. It produces a  self-centeredness that hinders us from truly loving others. I know this because it hardened my heart toward Mom.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday Quotation

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

~~Westminister Confession
Chapter 1, Article 4


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