Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Same Sex Marriage: Who Really Wins

Christians (and by that, I mean those who truly believe the Bible) have reason to feel concern over the Supreme Court's disastrous decision on same sex marriage. Because I live in Massachusetts, where the Supreme Judicial Court legalized same sex marriage ten years ago, perhaps I don't feel quite as panic-stricken as people in other parts of the country do, although I realize a federal ruling carries much weightier implications than our state ruling has. Grief and righteous indignation are as appropriate now as they were in 2005.

Certainly, I foresee more overt persecution of those who publicly oppose same sex marriage. Businesses have already been ruined for refusing to participate in same sex weddings, as in the case of Aaron and Melissa Klein. And consider this chilling op-ed piece, SCOTUS: Religious Freedom Must Bow To New Rights, from Townhall.com. In 17 states (beginning with Massachusetts), Catholic Charities had to make the agonizing choice between allowing same sex couples to adopt children from them (thus violating Catholic doctrine) or close their adoption agencies (which they did). I may, at another time, spend more time demonstrating the relationship between same sex marriage and the erosion of religious freedom.

But my concern doesn't  mean Friday's decision alarms me. Since God is sovereign, this misruling only demonstrates that the Bible accurately predicted mankind's progressive rebellion against Him.
 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ~~2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)
While this passage doesn't mention homosexuality specifically, it definitely describes the underlying attitudes of LGBT activists and their supporters. In fact, America's legalization of same sex marriage comes from centuries of rejecting the Lord's authority. Western society has always thumbed its nose at Him, but in recent decades, that defiance has intensified.

Scripture says that the Holy Spirit, Who has restrained humanity from giving full vent to its sinful inclinations, will remove His restraints just before Christ returns (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). He will abandon people to their depravity in order to show the righteousness of His judgment and condemnation of those who reject His rule. 

Therefore, I consider the Supreme Court's misruling, in spite of its blatant disregard for the law of the Lord, to be an indication of Christ's return! I don't look forward to any persecution I may face as I stand for the truth that God designed marriage exclusively for opposite sex couples, but I most assuredly rejoice in anticipation of Christ returning and at last establishing His kingdom. My concern, though entirely justified, gives way to the joy of knowing I'll see Him soon.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Baseball On The Same Coast

My sister loves baseball! Being from San Francisco, of course she roots for the Giants. During last October's World Series (which her Giants won) John and I called her while a game was on TV. In essence, we watched two innings "together" despite being on opposite sides of the country.

In December, she told us that, as our Christmas/birthday gift to her, she wanted us to take her to a game at Fenway. SURE! We had absolutely no problem filling that request!

Quite appropriately, she dressed in Giants gear and I dressed in Red Sox gear.
We crawled through the caverns of Fenway, encountering Wally, the Green Monstah. Even though John took two pictures of me and Wally, my sister liked the one that least flattered me:

Finally, we both  cozied up to Wally.
John got really great seats on right field, which delighted my sister. We could see the entire field quite easily!
I immediately looked for (and found) the Red Seat, where Ted Williams sent the ball when he made the longest home run in history on June 9, 1946. Several fans wanted to pose with it, so John couldn't get a picture of it alone. Still, he got a great  shot:
Of course, we really needed a photo of all three of us:
The Red Sox lost (so what else is new, right?), but we all had a wonderful time. My sister stayed until yesterday, enjoying lunch with John's mom Friday, The Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum Saturday and meeting our friends at church Sunday. The activity wore me out, but I can't wait for her next visit!

Two Reasons I'll Wait

Naturally, I'll be blogging quite a bit on the Supreme Court's legalization of same sex marriage. The misruling poses enormous implications for Biblical Christians, guaranteeing legal persecution as we hold to Scripture's definition of marriage. The many ramifications of the Court's decision suggest that I'll be composing quite a few posts on this matter. For that reason, I choose not to delve into the topic right away.

Yes, it's this week's hot topic, and I could probably get a good amount of traffic by writing about it now. Admittedly, after five days away from blogging, I feel the temptation to post an article that would draw readers, but I have two reasons for biding my time.

To begin with, I'd like to post photos from the Red Sox game that we attended with my sister this past Thursday. Okay, that post may appeal to a more limited audience (though sometimes you guys surprise me), and I certainly understand why that would be the case. But my Boston Adventures in part formed the foundation of this blog. As a result, I believe those photos belong here.

But the more serious reason for delaying comments on this error in the Court's judgment comes from a desire to weigh the thoughts of others by measuring their thoughts against Scripture. Definitely, legalizing same sex marriage in all 50 states ensures that Bible believing Christians who dare to call homosexuality a sin will suffer persecution. The issue therefore shifts from the moral validity of these marriages to how Christians should respond to the intense pressure to embrace sexual sin. And I prefer to think very carefully before I start putting my opinions on the Internet.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wonderful Words of Life





Sorry I don't have time to comment on today's hymn. Then again, do I really need to?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Flat Screens Or Present Shepherds?

With limitations on my time today, I will simply share these two videos of John MacArthur addressing his concerns regarding current evangelical trends. His insights offer much needed challenges to the people who claim Reformed theology while they employ worldly methodology in their churches. For those readers who take offense at  MacArthur's comments, I ask you to prayerfully take your objections to Scripture. The Lord will be faithful to grant you discernment through His Word.




Monday, June 22, 2015

Perverted Obedience

I could easily blame the Catholic college I attended between 1973 and 1977, as well as my three months at the Charismatic Bible College I attended in 1985, for my predisposition toward legalism. If I did so, most people would respond sympathetically. Convinced that my behavior stems inevitably from such a background, those sympathizers do little to correct my error.

Those who do challenge me generally represent the opposite end of the spectrum, insisting that grace means a complete freedom from regulation. If Jesus really paid the full penalty for sin, they reason, we have liberty to behave as we please. I well remember a former boyfriend using the words, "It's alright, Baby...Jesus always forgives us."

Neither legalism nor lawlessness have any place in my life. The abuse of grace should be obvious, but so many evangelicals these days seem to equate grace with license. I've written numerous times about that problem, and I fully expect to write about it in the future. Today, therefore, I prefer to deal with my sin of legalism.

Obedience to the Lord based on His revealed will in Scripture honors Him. In decrying legalism, let's first establish that He demands our grateful obedience, not wanting us to remain in the very sin that caused Him to die on the cross. But I have often distorted obedience into self-righteousness. In that perverted state, I've subtly deceived myself into thinking that my good behavior actually maintained my salvation. My sins upset me, but only because I believed they would eventually cause God to blot my name out of the Book of Life.

Legalism gave me a sense of control...but only when I "played by the rules." As long as I performed appropriately, I felt like I managed my salvation well. Perhaps I even felt like I managed God well. (What a gruesome concept!) Legalism exalted me when my obedience, motivated and empowered by the Holy Spirit, should have exalted the Lord Jesus Christ.

I could blame the exacting nuns who served as some of my college professors and the 32 rules of the Bible College. But those influences, although incredibly strong, merely nurtured the self-righteous attitudes that I hadn't fully renounced in my own heart. I was the real problem. Blaming external factors looks good from a psychological standpoint, but the Lord would have me accept responsibility by confessing my sin of self-righteousness and then trusting in His shed blood to clothe me in His true righteousness. Then He gets all the glory!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Where My Faith Rests

Usually, updated lyrics in hymns make me just a bit nervous. I fear they might water down a hymn's doctrinal content, thus defeating the very purpose of hymns. But as I watched several YouTube videos of the hymn I'd decided to feature today, surprisingly the one that modernized the lyrics also gave the strongest presentation of the Gospel.

I suppose I could elaborate on this hymn by talking about the sufficiency of Christ's death and resurrection. But anyone familiar with this blog knows that I look no  further than the Bible's account of His atoning sacrifice to fuel my faith. So let this hymn, with its clear affirmation of what Jesus has done for those who believe in Him encourage you to rest in His provision.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Self-Captive

Do you focus on your blessings, or do you stew in self-pity, figuratively shaking your fist at God for arranging circumstances differently than you'd like? All too often, I fall into the second category.

My grumbling and self-pity, besides being incredibly unattractive to others, demonstrates my ingratitude toward my Savior. The Lord, while He certainly doesn't cater to my every  desire, has given me so much! When I consider the severity of my disability and then think about all He has given me in spite of my physical limitations, I have to wonder why I feel sorry for myself. Shame on me!

My spoiled-child attitude thankfully stands forgiven because of Christ's shed blood. By His grace, I can confess it as sin and repent by taking joy in all the wonderful things He's done. Even better, I can joyfully anticipate that glorious Day when He establishes His eternal kingdom, at last emancipating me from my preoccupation with myself so I can wholeheartedly worship Him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer's For More Than Blogging

After a seemingly endless and decidedly brutal winter in New England, spring has whizzed by at break-neck speed. According to my calendar, summer officially begins this coming Sunday. Winter's duration and severity kept me and John sequestered in our apartment so that the extreme cold wouldn't adversely affect our breathing, landing one or both of us in the hospital. The extended time in our home conditioned me to blog daily.

I appreciate having had that time to concentrate on blogging, particularly because I've developed my writing skills and (more importantly) have deepened the theological content. Christ has greater prominence in my posts, as well He should. Consequently, I feel an increased responsibility to blog regularly and frequently so that He  may be consistently be lifted up before my readers.

Summer changes things, however. Already, spring has given me and John a few days for Boston adventures and medical appointments. Our activity will increase during the next three weeks, and especially between June 24 and 29 when my sister comes from California to collect her Christmas/birthday present (we're taking her to a Red Sox game at Fenway.) As a result, I'll blog less leading up to her visit, and not at all while she's here.

I pray that, despite producing fewer blog posts this summer, the posts I do write will honor the Lord with intensity, accuracy, and unmistakable adoration for Him. Even when I write about our infamous escapades in Boston, which I'm sure to do, I  look forward to writing with thankfulness to Him for allowing us to enjoy the city.

Winter will return soon enough, and then I'll have plenty of time for daily blogging. Furthermore, dear readers, you'll have more time to read what I write. Doesn't it sound like my summer "'schedule" will benefit you as much as it benefits me?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Apples And Pulpits

Have you ever noticed the parallel between Eve's temptation in the Garden and women who qualify (or flat-out reject) 1 Timothy 2:12? I don't remember where I first read about this parallel, so I can't properly give due credit, but I must acknowledge that this notion didn't originate with me. That said, I believe we need to consider the possibility that women who seek to teach men or who aspire to pulpit ministry commit the same sin that Eve committed.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.~~Genesis 3:1-6 (ESV)
Eve and her husband had been given full access to every tree in the Garden, with only one exception (see Genesis 2:15-17). She should have been thankful for the Lord's abundant provision, but Satan twisted God's Word so that she questioned God's goodness...or at least her understanding of His Word. 

Last Tuesday, I gave two examples demonstrating ways that people twist 1 Timothy 2:12 to rationalize women serving as pastors. Like Eve, such people fall for Satan's question, "Did God actually say...?" Despite all the wonderful ministries the Lord opens to women (including the joys of teaching other women and children) they want to also teach and lead men, unwilling to accept the only restriction that Scripture places on them.

As a redeemed woman, I trust God's wisdom in "denying" me the right to teach men. Maybe men could learn something from me. But that's really beside the point. Unlike Eve, I choose to appreciate all the wonderful ways the Lord does permit me to serve Him, realizing that He has every right to withhold certain spheres of service. May I serve, not by coveting ministries that He assigns exclusively to men, but in gratitude for the wide variety of opportunities He gives me.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

All I Offer--Nothing

When a person comes to Christ, of course changes happen. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to progressively transform wretched sinners into saints that reflect our Heavenly Father as He gives us His values and His priorities. He bestows His grace so that we might live in His holiness.

Yet we can only come to Him when we recognize how totally incapable we are of offering Him anything. The Lord calls us to set aside all self-righteousness so that we trust exclusively in the shed blood of Jesus. This weeks hymn reminds me to offer my nothingness to the God Who gives me His fullness.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Where I Conform

My convictions regarding the roles of women, both in marriage and in church structure, stem from studying Scripture. Some verses (such as 1 Timothy 2:15 and 1 Corinthians 11:4-16, as I admitted yesterday, require extra study because in isolation they appear to say that women need to bear children to be saved and wear hats to church in order for God to accept their worship. Both ideas, of course, flatly contradict the Gospel of salvation by faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, so we definitely need understanding as to why the Holy Spirit directed Paul to write them.

Aside from these verses, however, the verses on gender roles do not assault the Gospel. For this reason, I see no legitimate reason to tease them out with convoluted explanations. Okay, we don't like the prospect of submitting to our husbands. And yes, we probably could preach just as well as  men...and sometimes better. But our feelings and ambitions mustn't influence our interpretation of God's Word. I don't always like what Scripture says (and there are issues besides male leadership that I'd happily reject), but the Lord expects me to conform my will to His Word rather than the other way around.

Essentially, my convictions about gender roles represent a greater conviction that the Bible, as the very Word of God, speaks with absolute and final authority. Certainly, it clashes violently with  human ideology. Should we expect otherwise? Yet that very struggle to yield to Scripture that opposes our cultural norms gives us opportunity to walk in obedience to our loving Savior as His Word transforms us.
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 12:2  (ESV)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Women: Distinctly Equal

The following post qualifies as an actual teaching. That being the case, I ask  that my gentlemen readers skip this post to protect me from disobeying the Lord. Thank you.

"The Bible says it. I believe it. That  settles it."

Many post-modern evangelicals dismiss that quote, as well as that line of reasoning, arguing that it equates to "checking one's brain at the door." (Do they realize that they're equally trite?) When gender roles  come up, such people particularly assume that accepting the Bible's declarations at face value demonstrates an unwillingness to reason things out.

Sometimes, certainly, we do need to study a verse in more detail, particular when it appears to contradict the general flow of Scripture (1 Timothy 2:15, for instance), but much of Scripture needn't undergo massive torture simply because we don't like it. And therefore, the passages that teach the distinct roles between men and women don't require a vast amount of explanation. The Holy Spirit pretty much moved on the men who penned Scripture to write clearly.

Moses, for instance, described Eve's creation by emphasizing that she came from Adam for the purpose of helping him.
18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.” ~~Genesis 2:18-23 (ESV)
Clearly, the order of creation places Man in a leadership position. But note that Man's position in no way suggests Woman's inferiority or spiritual inequality. Her very purpose as Man's helper, in fact, demonstrates that she brings something to the table that he couldn't have brought without her.

In 1 Corinthians 11:3-12, the apostle Paul discusses this headship of Man and the simultaneous mutuality between Man and woman. I don't want to quote the passage here, lest I distract you with the complicated issue of head coverings. But let me point out two sections of this passage that I believe refer back to Genesis 2:18-23. 

Firstly, Paul establishes male authority within marriage.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. ~~1 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV)
Husbands, although they are accountable to Christ, have the responsibility to exercise leadership in their households. Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18 and 1 Peter 3:1-6 all enforce this marital structure by instructing wives to submit (always balancing this command by telling husbands to love their wives). The New Testament consistently promotes male leadership within marriage.

Secondly, Paul affirms that husbands and wives, while having leader/follower roles, are mutually dependent.
For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. ~~1 Corinthians 11:7-12 (ESV)
As far as spiritual standing, the Lord makes no qualitative distinctions between men and women. I refer you to Galatians 3:28 (in proper context) and 1 Peter 3:7 as evidence that women share equally in the inheritance that Christ has for believers. The dignity of women that Genesis 2:18-23 implies, therefore, comfortably co-exists with gender specific roles in marriage.

Paul directly appeals to Genesis when he told Timothy that women should not hold positions of authority or teaching over men.
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)
I'd like to blog about this passage in its broader context at another time, but I include it today because of its firm stance that churches, to be Biblical, require male leadership. Paul bases this requirement on both the order of creation and Eve's rebellion against Adam's leadership when she ate the forbidden fruit. Paul connects the restriction to the Genesis narrative in order to refute claims that he limited the scope of women's ministry as a capitulation to 1 Century Ephesian culture.

Scripture definitely affirms spiritual equality between  men and women, but that equality doesn't negate the Lord's institution of gender roles. Post-modern society resists these roles, just as it tries to distort gender and sexuality as a whole, but Christians must accept the Bible's teaching over culture's demands. God created us male and female for His purposes, and we should celebrate our gender distinctions as a way to honor Him.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Argument For Women Pastors That Fail

As I've studied arguments for both the ordination of woman and the evangelical acceptance of homosexual relationships (and I've studied both issues separately many times over), I've noticed that advocates of both practices use similar types of reasoning. First, they'll claim that the passages that prohibit these practices reflect cultural biases, and therefore God didn't really mean for them to dictate 21st Century behavior. Then they'll twist Scripture by taking it out of context and/or reading things into it.

Currently, I want to limit my discussion to women in church leadership, though at a later date I anticipate addressing the typical relationship between the two issues. As usual, I've started this post much later than I'd planned, so we won't get very far today (I'd hoped to listen to the Equipping Eve episode, The Submissive Wife, Part I, but that won't happen today).

But let me show you just a couple examples of how professing Christians try to explain away 2 Timothy 2:11-12.
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. (ESV)
The website for Brethren In Christ Church (I find amusing irony in the sexist name of the denomination) offers this explanation:

Paul's seemingly prohibitive statement about women in public ministry is likely a response or plan of action to deal with women who were new Christians, talented, and endowed with spiritual gifts of leadership, but not yet trained and seasoned for leadership in the congregation. These new Christian women likely were also mixing pagan practices and Christian doctrine. One must keep in mind that prior to this time, only the men had the privilege of learning through formal study. Paul's assertion in verse 11 that "women should learn" was indeed a new day for the believing woman.
Responding to the women's lack of training and maturity, Paul therefore declares, "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she is to keep silent (2:12 NRSV). The literal translation from the Greek is, "I am not presently permitting a woman to teach or to have authority over men...." The verb used is present active indicative. It was never intended to be a prohibitive statement or a prescription for all times, places, and cultures. If it had been written for that purpose, there are Greek verbs and tenses which would have been used to clarify the intention. (Source)
The appeal to Greek verb tenses almost convinces me, except for the fact that the apostle Paul based his restriction, not on 1st Century custom, but on God's original order of creation and Eve's vulnerability to deception (see 1 Timothy 2:13-14). And as for  "mixing pagan practices with Christian doctrine," might I suggest that "Christian" feminism pretty much does the same thing by adopting worldly standards?

A website called Circle Of Christian Women evaluates 1 Timothy 2 in the context of wives and husbands rather than women in general:
1 Timothy 2:12 is not a blanket rule for all women of all churches. If it were, then the women could not speak at all, for the same verse that tells them not to teach also tells them to be silent.

If all women had to keep silent in church, then that would be promoting disobedience to God, for they could not prophesy, pray, testify, sing, exhort, do personal work, or even get saved.

Whenever an interpretation to a verse contradicts the rest of the teaching of the Bible, we know this interpretation is incorrect, for the Holy Spirit will never contradict His own Word.

This is the chief verse that is used to oppose women preaching and yet it says nothing about preaching, nor does it say anything about a public worship or church service. But, on the contrary, this verse is giving instructions to wives as to how they were to conduct themselves in regard to their husband. Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:35, "And if they will LEARN anything, let them ask their husbands at home." Now he states in 1 Tim. 2:12 that the woman should learn in silence, and should not usurp authority over the man. Paul is dealing with more of a home problem than a church problem.

This verse still applies to us today. It is wrong for a woman to usurp authority over her husband (in church, home, or any place else) as was the case in Paul's day. She should not try to teach him or speak words that would cause discord and confusion, but should rather be silent and in subjection to her husband.

It is also to be understood that if anyone, whether man or woman, is usurping authority over the God-given leadership of the church, she or he is to be silent, and not to teach, or act in such a way that would create discord in the assembly.
 Um, no. 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, if anything, places further restrictions on women in church, and certainly doesn't soften the impact of 1 Timothy 2:12. This argument just makes no sense, and it completely ignores the context of the verse.

These are only two examples of how "Christians" manipulate God's Word to justify the worldly practice of women in church leadership. Rather than remaining faithful to Scripture, they twist verses to fit the 21st Century attitude that we must avoid any type of gender distinction (thus tying in with the homosexual and trans gender agenda). Next time I post, I hope to make a case for gender distinctions, demonstrating that those distinctions reflect God's original intent for His creation.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Approaching Femininity

For the past few days, prompted both by Bruce/Caitlin Jenner's "coming out party" as well as by concerns (that are better left unspoken) about a personal friend of mine, I've been thinking a lot about gender roles lately. Therefore, I found it interesting that our pastor preached on roles within marriage, having Colossians 3:18-19 as his text.
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. (ESV)
And yes, the points directed to wives convicted me of how often I still struggle to submit to John.

During this time of sorting through my still formulating thoughts on my femininity, I want to spend some time  writing about why I so enjoy being a woman. Regretfully, I frittered away so much time playing with Paintshop Pro and Facebook today that I left myself almost no time for blogging, but at least now I can set a direction for my next few posts.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Let Me Side With Jesus

Last week drove home the reality that Western culture no longer even pretends to accept Christian values. This sad fact shouldn't surprise us. Jesus told us, in no uncertain terms, to expect animosity when we align ourselves with Him because the world stands in opposition to Him.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~~John 15:18-19 (ESV)
These days, it takes fortitude to resist societal pressure in favor of holding fast to the commands and teaching of God's Word. Sadly (though understandably, I must admit), many evangelicals  now capitulate to such worldly ideas as pragmatism, mysticism, the ordination of women and the normalization of homosexuality (just to name a few). As I watch the world's values infiltrate the visible church, I echo the question that today's hymn poses.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Duggar's Closet Skeleton, And Why It Makes Me Tremble

Like Josh Duggar, I have skeletons rattling their bones in a few of my closets. The Lord has seen my repentance, just as He has seen Duggar's, and I rest in His forgiveness. Jesus paid for my sin on the cross, I've repented, and those matters don't have to be revisited.

Yet, they could come out if someone wanted to discredit me badly enough. That thought makes me tremble! Although God has most assuredly forgiven me, and although I've repented, Duggar's exposure in the media reminds me that forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean the removal of consequences. So, while I hope I never have to account for sins that Christ has declared absolved, I realize that He could permit someone to uncover them.

As unfair as such exposure would appear, I praise God for this using Duggar's current circumstances to show me the threat of vulnerability in my life. Through it, He has increased my desire to live in holiness from this point forward. Sadly, I can't undo the times that I've rebelled against His clear teaching. But, by the power of His Holy Spirit, I can move forward in resolve to live in a manner that won't dishonor His Name.
13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. ~~1 Peter 3:13-17 (ESV)
In truth, everybody has at least one secret sin. You may have confessed it, repenting in all sincerity, but you live with the horrifying possibility of someone unearthing it. Therefore, if you've taken any delight in Josh Duggar's public humiliation, please think twice about your veneer of self-righteousness. And join me in deciding to go forward in holiness for the Lord's glory.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mourning For Myself And The Duggars

Matthew 5:3-12  gives us Jesus' Beatitudes as an introduction to His Sermon on the Mount. At a future time, I may do an in-depth study on this challenging passage, as I gratefully remember how the Holy Spirit used it to show me my lost condition just before He brought me to salvation. Today, however, I want to make a couple brief comments about verse 4 and two of its practical applications.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. ~~Matthew 5:4 (ESV)
Most of the commentaries I consulted about this verse agreed that the Lord specifically meant mourning over sin. I tend to favor this interpretation because it fits the context of the  sermon, flowing well from Matthew 5:3 and the idea of facing our own spiritual and moral bankruptcy.

First and foremost, I need to ask myself whether or not I grieve over sin in my life. If not, I clearly need the Holy Spirit to readjust my perspective until I understand  how He feels about it. Each time I go against His moral standards, even in ways that seem insignificant, I  forget that Jesus bled and died to atone for that thought, attitude or behavior. My sins offend a holy God. He paid a terrible price to save me from their eternal consequences.

The first time I mourned over my sin, God allowed me to  go through two gut-wrenching weeks of despair, knowing that I had failed to meet His righteous standards. But when a friend helped me understand that Jesus paid for my sin on the cross, accepting the punishment as though it belonged to Him, the Lord gave me the comfort of His forgiveness. And He gives me that comfort as I mourn over my present sin.

Secondarily, believers should mourn over the sins of others. I think of this point in juxtaposition to the unbridled glee that many people have exhibited this week over the exposure of Josh Duggar's molestation of his sisters. Those who rejoice in how this public revelation holds Duggar and his family up for ridicule display a horrible lack of love, since love doesn't rejoice in wrongdoing (see 1 Corinthians 13:6).

Certainly, Duggar committed a terrible crime, and sinned against a holy God. I can't justify his actions. But many people, rather than grieving that this young man violated his sisters, lost his own innocence, betrayed his parents' trust and sinned against God, unabashedly celebrate this "evidence" of Christian hypocrisy. What an inappropriate, self-righteous attitude!

Sin, whether our own or that of someone else, should create deep sorrow in us. Jesus assures us that He will comfort us in such mourning, and I  trust Him to be faithful.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Because I'm A Girl!

The verse-by-verse Bible teaching I received during my high school years, with its frequent explanation of Greek words and historical background, made me want to be a pastor. In those days, I didn't regard my speech defect as that much of a barrier, and in later years I did teach children's Sunday School with a fair amount of success. I didn't pursue pastoral ministry, however, for one simple reason: Scripture forbids women from teaching men.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 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. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. ~~1 Timothy 2:8-15 (ESV)
Oh, I've studied the arguments in favor of allowing women to preach many times over, and at one point well after college I reconsidered my position on the matter to such a degree that, when our church offered a Saturday morning preaching class, I took it. I couldn't shake 1 Timothy 2:12, however. After earning an A in the class, I became convicted of my disobedience to God's Word and repented.

I tell you all this in order to introduce an article I read last night entitled Gender Moves? In it, Professor Bruce A. Ware of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY explains why Christians must hold to complementarianism in church leadership and marriage roles. Rather than attempt to distill his points, which make a compelling case, I'll leave you to read Gender Moves? for yourself.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

He Can Call Himself Caitlyn, But He's The Same Man

Sorry. Politically correct or not, I absolutely refuse to refer to "Caitlyn" Jenner with female pronouns. He may have legally changed his name and made some cosmetic alterations to his body (and has not ruled out the possibility of total gender reassignment surgery in the future), but he can't totally escape his intrinsic, God-given masculinity.

In their article, What Is Gender Reassignment Surgery? A Medical Assessment With A Biblical Appraisal, Dr. Craig Kline, M.D., and David Schrock (Assistant Editor of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) write:
Complete “gender reassignment,” or the comprehensive transformation of one sex to the opposite, is impossible. Interestingly, this fact was recently echoed in an editorial in The Wall Street Journal written by the former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital. This important fact needs to be remembered during any discussion of gender reassignment therapies. No treatment may alter the genetic genotype, and sex-linked traits will always be expressed by the native genome. Many sexual characteristics, such as stature, bone  structure, pelvic anatomy, and vocal cord structure (i.e., the deepening of the voice) cannot be reversed with any treatment. Aware of these limitations, physicians treating patients with gender dysphoria seek to bring about limited changes in the bodies of their patients to produce an appearance that is acceptable to them and allows them to more fully integrate their bodily appearance with their desired gender.
It follows, therefore, that Jenner's sex-change is merely a cosmetic and legal illusion. As much as he feels, and now looks, like a 40-year-old woman, his surgery and hormone treatments can't truly eradicate biology. He remains a 65-year-old man who married (and divorced) three women and fathered six children.

Before you write me off as a bigot who uses morality to ignore my responsibility to exercise compassion toward Jenner, please hear me out. I have no doubt that he agonized over his belief that he received the wrong genitalia at birth. His three attempts at marriage more than convince me that he made every effort to accept his  masculinity. During my 12 years of working as a correspondence counselor for an ex-gay ministry, I read a few genuinely heart-wrenching letters from people who struggled with gender dysphoria. So, while I believe gender reassignment surgery openly rebels against the Lord's sovereign wisdom, I don't deny that Jenner must have struggled hard and long before embarking on his journey.

Having stated my feelings of compassion for his unquestionable emotional turmoil, however, I must not allow emotion to override my commitment to Biblical truth. In essence, Jenner has shaken his fist at God, patently accusing Him of giving him the wrong body. Ironically, that very body enabled Jenner to find fame as an Olympic gold medalist in 1976. Had he been born with a female body, would he have achieved the fame and fortune that has allowed him to enjoy fame and fortune?

Sadly, Jenner now lives in complete fantasy, all the while believing he's finally living as his "true" self. Because he  claims to be a Christian, I pray that the Lord will show him that He made no mistake in creating him  as a male.
13For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them. ~~Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Without The Fun, Such Great Joy

Photo from Amazon.com
The Lord brought me to salvation in 1971, at the height of the Jesus People Movement, which Kent A. Philpott chronicles in his book, Memoirs of a Jesus Freak. A few months after  my conversion, I began attending the Bible Studies that Kent led, and he baptized me in 1972. I wish, of course, that my involvement in the group hadn't led me into Charismatic theology, but I don't want to address that topic today. Instead, I want to praise the Lord for using Kent to give me a passion for God's Word.

Those Tuesday and Saturday night Bible Studies consisted primarily of high school students (like myself), 20-something hippies (most of whom had been drug addicts) and a few recovering alcoholics in their 40s, though other people also came. The youngest attendee I recall started coming before she had completed 8th grade, if memory serves me correctly.

We all sat in a huge circle, without age dividing us, as Kent taught verse-by-verse through various books of the Bible. Admittedly, we also liked the contemporary music as opposed to hymns, but most of us loved learning God's Word enough to sit through hour-long teachings. Aside from the pot-luck dinners preceding the Saturday night Bible Studies, I remember only a few organized fun activities. Sure, we'd do social things on smaller scales and  apart from meetings, but Kent saw no need to entertain the teenagers. He treated us as adults, and we behaved accordingly.

So the present-day trend of segregating kids into youth group and then spending so much youth group time playing games or going to paint ball establishments, bowling allies and the like baffles me. Why not make youth groups voluntary, and then teach the Bible with the expectation that the kids want to study it every bit as seriously as adults do? I've heard that kids today are "different" than they were 40 years ago, but I have to question that line of thinking. I can't help believing that if we treat high school kids with the type of respect that Kent showed us, they will hunger for God's Word and want to study it.

Kent didn't do everything perfectly, and, as I said earlier, I regret that we got involved in Charismatic teaching. Yet I appreciate the way he instilled a love for Scripture in me. Had he entertained the high school kids in our group instead of including us with the adults and expecting us to rise to their level, I doubt that I would have developed such a reverence for Scripture. I pray that churches will learn to give their teenagers a diet of God's Word rather than the cotton candy of fun and entertainment.

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