Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Offensive words from Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, and Perry Noble

Let's compare some statements of kings in the Bible who spoke offensively.

and the king answered and said, "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?" ~ King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:30.

Grabbing God's glory is never good. In Nebuchadnezzar's case, the Lord gave him a declaration that his sovereignty had already been stripped from him even as Nebuchadnezzar's words were still in his mouth. God said Nebuchadnezzar would be driven from mankind and live like a beast eating grass for 7 years. God was gracious to Nebuchadnezzar, because the time of beast-like living and insanity only lasted 7 years and when Nebuchadnezzar came out of it, he repented and gave God the glory for everything under the sun.

This next one is King Herod.

On the appointed day, Herod donned his royal robes, sat on his throne, and addressed the people. And they began to shout, "This is the voice of a god, not a man!" Immediately, because Herod did not give glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Acts 12:21-23).

In this second case where someone was stealing God's glory, God employed His perfect judgment upon Herod, and did not allow him to repent. Herod was killed immediately for speaking like a god in God's place. Grabbing His glory is never good.

This third case is a modern one. It's Perry Noble. Noble was the pastor of the largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention, NewSpring Church, located in Anderson, SC. He was fired for alcohol abuse, Perry's posture towards marriage, other unnamed behaviors, and a refusal to be corrected.  Since his firing, it turns out in news this week that Noble has decided to become a church consultant. He issued a letter explaining this, and in the letter he outlined his skills.
"What separates you from other church consultants," you ask.
Simple - I’ve actually planted and built a great church
The Bible says something about planting and growing-

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:7).

God surely is gracious. Noble is receiving a reprieve so far, because he has not been turned into a grass eating beast nor has he become a worm-eaten sack of flesh. But remember, grabbing God's glory is never a good thing.

For, "In just a very while little, He who is coming will come and will not delay." (Hebrews 10:37)

----------------------------------------------

Further Reading

Perry Noble fired from NewSpring Church

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Mail call #3: Why can't people who follow false teachers bear to hear disagreement about them?

Occasionally I receive email, blog comments, or Facebook messages asking questions about various topics and issues within the faith. Here is a question I received recently about false teachers and the people who follow them.

Q.  Are they truly deceived and cannot bear to hear any disagreement about the theology of their beloved [false] teacher?

A. The scriptures say that in the latter days (now) “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” 2 Timothy 4:3.

Note the action here. The false teachers are not accumulating followers. It’s the believers who go out and heap up false teachers for themselves! These false teachers like Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore would not exist if they had no followers (because there would be no money- the Bible’s explanation for the reason false teachers go into the false teaching business). The people who heap up these false teachers cannot endure sound teaching. It’s that simple. There is some sin in them that clings to what the false teacher is offering that will not allow them to endure the full truth.

When the false teacher's aberrant theology is pointed out to the follower, the follower shrinks back in anger and defensiveness, the need to protect their pet false teacher rising hard and fast in their darkened heart. We will go to great lengths to protect our sin.

This good quote from Tom Ascol is the antidote for falling into the sin of heaping up a false teacher:
Mature Christians are those whose lives are marked by such stability that they are not easily led astray by teachings and practices that are contrary to the Word of God. On the contrary, mature believers are "growing up in every way" into Christ. —Tom Ascol in Tabletalk Magazine
The way to avoid being tossed by every wind of doctrine and landing in partnership with a false teacher in the sin-dance is to stay grounded in the Word. Read it, study it, and meditate on it.

Charles Spurgeon had some things to say about the false teachers-

He who does not hate the false does not love the true; and he to whom it is all the same whether it be God's word or man's, is himself unrenewed at heart. . . . substituting for honest manliness a mass of the tremulous jelly of mutual flattery. 
Oh, if some of you were like your fathers you would not have tolerated in this age the wagon loads of trash under which the gospel has been of late buried by ministers of your own choosing. You would have hurled out of your pulpits the men who are enemies to the fundamental doctrines of your churches, and yet are crafty enough to become your pastors and undermine the faith of a fickle and superficial generation. I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisoned meat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people with enticing words, by men who would fain make merchandise of souls; and I marvel at those who have soft words for such deceivers. 
~Charles Spurgeon, sermon "Under Constraint," 1878.

collage by EPrata

Monday, November 28, 2016

God is light

God is many things. His attributes are infinite. We know that God is love. Did you know that "God is light" too?

See the verse.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5).

I like thinking of Jesus as Light. It's one of my favorite ways to think of Him. I use a lighthouse quite often in my blog banners and avatars.

God is light. What does that mean? We know what it means on a surface level. We understand and can read the words on the page. It's easy enough to understand the fact of the sentence. But what does it mean, spiritually? How can it inform me of His attributes and increase my knowledge of Him so I can love Him more and worship Him properly?

The word light in this verse is from a Greek word meaning phós. Strong's Concordance says it is defined this way-
in the NT, the manifestation of God's self-existent life; divine illumination to reveal and impart life, through Christ.
When were saved, our citizenship transfers, from being children of darkness to children of the Light. (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Light does reveal, doesn't it? It reveals all. What glorious light He is!
God is light—What light is in the natural world, that God, the source of even material light, is in the spiritual, the fountain of wisdom, purity, beauty, joy, and glory. As all material life and growth depends on light, so all spiritual life and growth depends on GOD. As God here, so Christ, in 1 Jn 2:8, is called "the true light." Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible 
As a matter of fact, look how many times Apostle John referred to Jesus as Light- (John 1:4–5, 7–9; 3:19–21; 8:12; 9:5; 12:35–36, 46; Rev. 21:23). One cannot walk in His light and also be walking in darkness (sin). One cannot serve two masters. Light is Light and darkness is darkness, and the two can't dwell with each other. If we claim to be in the Light but are holding on to sin without repentance we are lying that we're in fellowship with the Light. Disobedience is dark indeed.

God is purity itself. He is holy without blot or stain. Is there anything on earth that is pure? I think not. Gold has dross which must be extracted. A newborn babe, though innocent looking, has a sin nature. Even the light through which we see vistas and each other, is polluted. The cleanest and clearest thing on earth swill is subject to the curse. 

God's glorious light must be ablaze with stunning purity and glorious illumination. Sometimes  at church where the lights are a bit dimmer, a lady's diamond ring might catch the light and sparkle for just that flash of a moment. I always try to hold onto that flash but it's momentary. As beautiful as it is, it cannot be captured.

Matthew Henry wrote,
This report asserts the excellency of the divine nature. He is all that beauty and perfection that can be represented to us by light. He is a self-active uncompounded spirituality, purity, wisdom, holiness, and glory. And then the absoluteness and fulness of that excellency and perfection. There is no defect or imperfection, no mixture of any thing alien or contrary to absolute excellency, no mutability nor capacity of any decay in him:Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible
Picture the glittering brightness of this scene, our prophetic future: (Revelation 22:1-5).

1Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

His morally perfect sinless soul will illuminate the entire universe. His light will blaze out in uninterrupted glory, in a purity so clear that God, who IS light, will be our light. What a day that will be.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

The word eros is not in the Bible

How are we women to love Jesus? What is the nature of our love to our Savior? Or even of His love to us corporately and individually? Are there different kinds of love?

There are different kinds of love. In English, we use the word love in many ways, but it's still the word love. I love ice cream. I love a short commute. I love my sister. I love my husband. I love Jesus.

In the Greek however, the language of the New Testament, there are different words to express different kinds of love. There is agápe, éros, philía, and storgē.

Storge is used in the Greek to indicate a strong familial affection. I love my family, Also, I love my country. Storge is not in the Bible.

Philia was famously used by Peter in his response to Jesus when Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" (John 21:15-16). Philia is a kind of strong brotherly affection. It's where the word Philadelphia comes from. When Jesus asked Peter if Peter loved Jesus, using the word agape, Peter (ashamed) persistently used the word philia in reply.

Agape love is used in the Bible several times and it's an important version of the word. Agape means love but when it's used in the Bible it specifically means a love from God, defined by God. It is the very nature of God, "God is [agape] love". (1 John 4:8). Agape is a sacrificial love. It's the kind of love displayed by the Good Samaritan to the beaten and robbed man in the road. It's the kind of love we're called upon to love our enemies with, by the way. (Matthew 5:44). It's God's love, holy and good.

Eros is a sexual love, or at the very least, an intimate physical love. It's a fleshly sensual love.

I've written about the romaticizing Jesus movement. This is a movement where a female "Bible teacher" teaches or sings or speaks about a Jesus where we have intimacy with Him. These women use language to indicate physical activity with Jesus is part of our normal relationship with Him. These women have taken the concept of love and twisted it. They have stretched the metaphorical biblical language in the Bible of Bride (church) and Groom (Jesus) into realms where the actual marital bedroom benefits with an actual husband on earth are also part of our heavenly relationship with Jesus.

Ladies, this should not be.

"While it is true that the Bible utilizes images of marriage to parallel Christ’s relationship to the church, two things must be taken into account. Firstly, Christ relates to the church as a collective unit. He is married to the community as a whole and not to billions of individuals who claim to serve him–he is not a polygamist. Secondly, the love Christ shares with his church is not defined by the Greek term "eros" from which the English word “erotic” is derived, but is expressed with the noun "agape" (pronounced ah-gah-pay) which denotes love demonstrated in deeds. Those who view themselves as children of God are not called to exercise eros but agape; they are not invited to brief episodes of self gratifying sexual intimacy but to a lifetime of social and spiritual interaction." (Spectrum Magazine)

The word eros is the kind of love to Jesus and from Jesus these female teachers write about. I could post many examples from popular female "Bible teachers" who constantly express this kind of love in their lessons, or who describe their relationship with Jesus in this way, but I won't. You know what I'm talking about.

The word eros is not in the Bible. Not once. This erotic kind of love between a woman and her husband is fine and biblical. It's implied for example in Paul's missive to husbands and wives in 1 Corinthians 7. Yet even when Paul alludes to marital bedroom activity however, he never uses the word eros.

So for a teacher to use the word eros between women and her Savior is not biblical at all.

Ladies, when you hear a Bible teacher saying we love Jesus like a boyfriend, we are being enfolded in His arms, and worse things relating to our body, you know this woman is not teaching rightly. She cannot be rightly dividing the word of truth when she discusses physical intimate love to & from the Savior because that kind of love is not in the Bible. So where would she be getting this aspect of love from? Her flesh. False teachers always appeal to the flesh.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. (2 Peter 2:1-2).

We see so often depicted in this lyric by Kelly Carpenter and many other woman teachers a Jesus depicted romantically, but it's false.
You are my desire, no one else will do
‘Cause nothing else could take your place
To feel the warmth of your embrace
Kelly Carpenter – "Draw Me Close"
As a final thought, ladies, we can know Jesus through His word and learn of His many and infinite attributes through study of it.  His character is endlessly fascinating, and it's deeply satisfying to ponder His attributes. Why add an attribute to our relationship with Him that does not exist? We have enough in Him already. His grace alone is sufficient. He is wonderful and true and good. He is not our lover and He is not our boyfriend. He is not our cheerleader. He is the Ancient of Days, come to take His seat and make the earth His footstool! He is-

the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (Revelation 1:5)
the first and the last, who died and came to life (Revelation 2:8)
the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze. (Revelation 2:18).

The moment you hear or read of a singer or teacher speaking of Jesus is this eros way, now you know to avoid her immediately, and why. It's simply not biblical.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Further reading:

Sisters, Jesus is not your cheerleader
Toning down the truth of Jesus to make him more palatable actually does the opposite—he loses all richness of flavor and becomes a bland imitation. . . . The news we get to share is so much better than 'You’re okay, I’m okay.'
Romanticizing God
If we eroticize God, we may end up worshiping a buddy/boyfriend who bears little resemblance to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. As Nichole Nordeman said so aptly in song, "Let me not forget to tremble."
Romance with Jesus: the Bigger Picture
A common thread here is relating to or experiencing Jesus in a specific way, through the imagination or imagery of romance whether based on human relationships or subjective, mystical ecstasy in the mind.  This places a human idea on a pedestal and exchanges something glorious for something dull. Human romance may seem wonderful when it’s between a man and woman, and it is.  But should it be our model for relating to God?  Last time (and every time) I checked, the Bible doesn’t say, "Women, love Jesus as wives romantically relate to their husbands or as girlfriends romantically relate to their boyfriends."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Lawyer tested Him on the Law

Let's think about this verse today:

And when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they themselves gathered together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with a question: "Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?" (Matthew 22:34-36).

This lawyer was an expert not in civil law, but in religious law. By that time of Jesus' incarnation, there had been added to the original ten, 603 laws. The Jews were laboring under a heavy yoke of an expectation to keep 613 laws.

Here is a website with which I'm not familiar, but lists a simple version of all 613 laws with their scripture.

The 613 laws of the Old Testament (Called the Mitzvot)

If you take a quick glance down the list you see the issue. Anyway, we remember in the New Testament that the Rich Young Ruler thought he kept all the laws perfectly since childhood. This Lawyer standing in front of Jesus thought he was something else, as well.

As I heard on a sermon this morning by RC Sproul, the lawyer questioning Jesus on the Law was standing in front of the only Person who ever kept it perfectly.

Let that sink in for a moment. Picture the scene.

Its truth should ignite in us a fervor of love for this perfect Savior. We can read all the verses in scripture and ponder the attributes of Jesus, the God With Us.

In mythology, the gods were creatures made up by man's imagination, who could not control their lusts and emotions. When they came to earth they plundered humans and used them. If you read Greek or Roman mythology you see that they were no better than man, and usually a lot worse. The made up mythological gods were reflective of the worst of man. These false gods' sinful attitudes and actions were mirrors of man's.

Yet we see Jesus, the One True God, departing glory to live as a man-God for 33 years. We see Jesus, standing before the Lawyer, in all dignity. In all humility. The Author of the Law, the living embodiment of the Law, stood in front of the Lawyer, who was testing Him on the Law. In response, Jesus answered simply.

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40).

I hope that small scene, showing Jesus in dignity and majesty, love and patience, makes you love Him even more.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Announcing Publication of my new book: Prophecy In Grace

My next eBook in the series 'In Grace', the book "Prophecy In Grace", is available for purchase at the Amazon Kindle store! So excited! Here is the summary:

Almost a third of the Bible is prophecy, and though some of it is fulfilled, much of remaining prophecy is unfulfilled. What is to come? Can we know the future? What did Jesus say will happen? Is prophecy too complicated to understand? This book contains essays explaining the future history of believers and non-believers alike. What is the Rapture? Does Israel have a future? What about the nation of Egypt? Jordan? What about the timing of prophesied events? The author uses proper interpretation, scripture and commentaries from noted theologians to explain answers to these questions and more. Prophecy is the ultimate encouragement because it demonstrates the faithfulness of Jesus and His sovereign control over all things, including the history of man.


Also available is the first book in the series, Encouragement In Grace. It's at the Amazon Kindle store here.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving Morning

Hello from near Athens GA. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Dawn here opened spectacularly!









Thankful

Why did the turkey cross the road?
To prove he wasn't chicken!


Enjoy your meal, breaking bread with friends and family.



For 43 years I rebelled against Christ, and He plucked me from my mire and saved me anyway. Today I'm thankful for grace.



Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope your travel goes smoothly, your meal is delicious, and your family is tame.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Kay Cude poetry: Keep Christ central in the midst of trials

Kay Cude poetry. Used with permission. Click to enlarge

Artist's statement:
The beginnings of a trial can be tumultuous and heart-wrenching, as well as physically and emotionally exhausting. But as we seek Scriptural guidance and encouragement from fellow believers, we quickly see that all of our communication and advice must center upon Christ and our personal relationship with Him. It is when one relies upon "other" solutions (or self), that one quickly experiences the futility of our "natural" reasoning and responses. When our trials exclude Christ as the resource of resolution, fleshly reactions will lead us into deeper distress with greater turmoil; an impasse can arise and anger, hurt feelings, confusion and chaos usually pursue.
I don't like painful trials; I don't know anyone who does. Yet I am so very grateful that Christ captures my attention during those times and makes it abundantly clear that He is the only source who can truly sustain, teach, discipline and encourage me while He refines and strengthens me, in and for Him. It is Christ who must always be the primary topic during our trials, because without the working of His indwelling spirit, our words and actions become futile.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Pharisees plotted to kill Him from that day

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. God's glory showed through this magnificent sign, and many believed in Jesus from that day. (John 11:40, 45).

However, some of the Pharisees did not believe. Further, the sign inflamed their darkened and evil hearts, and they plotted to kill Jesus from that day.

First, note the two different reactions. These are the only two reactions to Jesus, ever. Ultimately there's belief or hardening. Next, we read,

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." (John 11:47-48).

Now, maybe it's because I'm teaching the reading skill 'cause and effect' with my second grade reading group. Or maybe I'm just not interpreting this correctly at all. I looked at commentaries and parallel verses and they all seem to focus on the Roman part, and not the belief part. But I noticed a definite cause-and-effect relationship.

The Pharisees as a group largely were non-believers. They were actually false teachers. They were given the task of shepherding Israel and they utterly failed in many ways. When told to repent by the Author of the faith, they refused.

The Pharisees (Sadducees and scribes) wanted to protect their power base and their national identity in the face of occupation from Rome. But that was the effect of their stance in refusing to believe. What caused the Pharisees to so fiercely protect their power base was that people believed in Jesus.

They wanted to stop that.

Let that sink in for a minute. The Pharisees were so consumed with themselves that they wanted to STOP people from believing in Jesus. That's what they were worried about. The effect of widespread belief in Jesus would be a diminishing of their own power, but the cause would be belief in Christ. Their wholesale consuming thought was to prevent people's souls from attaining peace in their Messiah and forgiveness of sins and thus reconciliation with God.

Imagine, the false teachers of Israel wanting to stop people from believing in their own Messiah.

If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, ...

But false teachers of that day to this, are consumed with self. They are not consumed with Jesus. They want to protect their turf, whether it's being known or false charismatic signs, or rich royalties from many false books, or wielding power and influence and fame. They want to STOP people from believing in this same Jesus as scripture presents.

Yes, we know the Pharisees wanted their power. Yes we know that they didn't believe in Jesus. But they actively wanted people to NOT believe in Jesus. It's the same with false teachers today. Many, many people email me or comment that I'm not empathetic with false teachers. I need to give them a chance, I need to love them more. I need to leave them alone because it's not my place to judge.

Yet, they aren't shy about not leaving me alone. They are actively out to stop me and other women from believing in Jesus. They do everything they can to protect their power base, and to destroy, lie and steal joy and truth from anyone they can. The false teachers have the same motivations as the Pharisees did, and thus they have the same issue with Jesus: they do not believe and they want to stop people from believing. You fill in the blank-

Cause: Power (John 11:48 ) Effect: non-belief. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)
Cause: Greed (2 Peter 2:3). Effect: non-belief. (2 Peter 2:2)
Cause: Lusts (Jude 1:16). Effect: non-belief (2 Peter 2:18).
Cause: Fame (Luke 6:26 ) Effect: non-belief. (Luke 18:14)

If you think of it that way, then it's easier to keep our eyes on Jesus and not confuse external feelings about the false teachers with doctrinal truth. Do not swerve.

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called "knowledge," for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you. (1 Timothy 6:20-21).


Monday, November 21, 2016

Should we shut off our mind?

Ladies, do not shut off your mind
I saw tweet below posted by Joyce Meyer on Twitter. Someone had retweeted it with a comment correcting Mrs Meyer's stance.

Joyce Meyer Verified account ‏@JoyceMeyer:
Sometimes we need to shut off our minds and pay attention to our heart. -Joyce
Meyer was asked by someone on her stream about the danger of listening to the heart, and she countered with a single verse of Psalm 51:6, and I post the verses before and after for context:



For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Of course, the Psalm is about David singing his repentance to God for his sin of going in to Bathsheba. The verse which Meyer quoted, about teaching us wisdom in the secret heart, is interpreted generally by most to mean that LORD unearths the sin that is in the secret heart and replaces it with His wisdom. Again Meyer is off base with her interpretation.

But that's not here or there. My point today is to focus on the exhortation by this false teacher to stop our thinking. I refute that. We never stop our thinking. Christianity is a thinking religion. These verses discus thinking, or setting our mind on things:

Philippians 4:8, Romans 8:5-6, Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:2,  2 Timothy 2:7.

We are constantly told to meditate on Him, to fix our mind on Him, to think these things over, to ponder His ways.

In the 2 Timothy 2:7 verse, we're told to think about what Paul is saying, and the Spirit will give understanding. We think, ponder and/or set our mind on, and the Lord gives understanding, wisdom, and growth through the renewing of the mind or the transforming of the mind. That's how it works in the faith. As we think about the Word of God, the Spirit gives understanding of it. When we shut our mind off from His word, the primary way the Spirit grows us in the faith is disconnected. Our minds will not be transformed.  This is dangerous and unwise.

Colossians 2:8 says that we become captive by falling for philosophy and empty deceit. Both of those are mind engagements, not heart, not feelings, not acts. The mind.

Peter tells us to be sober-minded, (2 Peter 5:8) not sober hearted, not carried along by feelings, not full of experiences.

When we shut off our minds to Christ, eventually He finishes the job, and then we can't think straight at all. Romans 1:21, 28 shows this.

Ladies, beware of any teacher that advises you (us) to shut off our mind. We have the mind of Christ!

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:5)




Sunday, November 20, 2016

Are You a Bible-Thinking Woman?

I'm just a regular church woman. I attend services consistently, I read my devotional Valley of Vision regularly, I read the Bible and I study it too. I listen to sermons online as I go through the week, and I pray, though not as often as I should.

When I'm in small group I try to be the elder model of the Titus 2 woman for the younger, and I do my best to submit to authority in spiritual life as well as secular.

I don't hold special seminary degrees, though I take classes online when I can. I have a talent of writing I use for the Lord within the scope of the Spiritually delivered gifts (discernment and encouragement). I'm not trained in any exceptional way, and I'm mindful of that when I write and speak.

My heart is firmly locked in the battleground between true doctrine and false doctrine. I hate false doctrine. I hate anything that steals glory from Jesus, and false doctrine does that. I hate anything that draws women away from seeing the glory of Jesus, and false doctrine does that.

False doctrine growing in the heart of a woman does not show itself, because it's in the heart. False doctrine grows in the dark, nestled in the unattended corners of the mind, where sin flourishes, untouched by the Word. It can't be seen, except for when the woman speaks. But even then, the false that's growing in her isn't usually visible until it's more fully matured and the false doctrine stays silent until then. What one can see, is the book they are carrying around with them.

It absolutely pierces my heart with daggers to see a woman carrying around a Beth Moore study...the latest Ann Voskamp book...Misty Edwards CD. By this I know (unless she is reading/listening for research purposes) that she lacks discernment and unwittingly is absorbing the lies these teachers/singers promote.

The massive attention given in churches to the pulpit is rightfully done. This is where truth is preached. The attention given to the youth and college age is also rightfully given. Our youth are increasingly failing to be taught and maintain even a minimal biblical world view, as the series by Todd Friel et all Untethered shows us. The men being discipled by elders is also important, they are the next generation of deacons, pastors, missionaries, leaders, not to mention being leaders in the home. And who doesn't like the childrens' church services and activities? It's fulfilling to share Jesus with eager hearts such as the kids have. Lots of money is poured into the childrens' ministries in many, many churches.

Sadly the women's ministry is often given short shrift. It's admittedly hard to maintain eagle eyes on every ministry, all the time. When the volunteer list becomes short, or the ladies seem like they're doing OK with no issues or complaints bugging the pastor, something has to give and often it's the women's ministry. With raising up men in church being given such priority, as it should, oftentimes the women aren't being raised up. So...women turn to extra-church ministries for study or spiritual advancement.

I read this essay and I liked it. The author, an pastor's wife in LA, asked the question, Are You a Bible-Thinking Woman?
Woman of faith, woman of God, or godly woman, is often used to describe a Christian woman. How often do you hear someone say, she is a Bible thinking woman? Maybe it’s because we all assume that if we are a Christian, we automatically are Bible thinking women. But unfortunately, not all of us professing Christian women, have committed to being a Bible thinking woman. So what exactly is a Bible thinking woman?
So... are you a Bible thinking woman? Do you refer to the Bible for your life skills? For your spiritual answers? As your moral benchmark? Read the short article to see the author's explanation of her three main points about what encompasses a Bible thinking woman.

#1- Hold Scripture in high regard.
#2- Renews her mind with the Word.
#3- A woman who thinks.

Bible thinking women tend to fall for false teachers less often. Though they (we) can and do stumble we have guarded their hearts with the Word, and if we do follow one it tends to be for less time because the false is spotted sooner.

Stating that one is a Christian is not the same as being a Bible-thinking woman. We develop a biblical worldview from our Bible reading and study, listening to solid preaching, and having a lively prayer life with Jesus in close relationship with Him. Don't assume just because you're a believer that you are a Bible thinking woman. That comes with study, practice, submission to the Spirit and spiritual authorities, and pursuing a holy life. We grow into mature, Bible-thinking women.

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith in God, (Hebrews 6:1)


Saturday, November 19, 2016

How dangerous are para-church women's ministries?

Last week Jen Hatmaker, a popular writer who claims Christianity as her belief system, came out in full support of homosexual marriage. As a response. LifeWay, arguably America's largest Christian bookseller, stopped selling Hatmaker's books.

Also last week, virally popular blogger, recently divorced Glennon Doyle Melton, who claims Christianity as her belief system, came out as gay, announcing that she was dating a female soccer player.

So what? one may say. Who are these women anyway? There is a bigger story behind the Hatmaker debacle. Christianity Today published an article by Kate Shellnutt titled The Bigger Story Behind Jen Hatmaker. In it, we read:
Titles by Bible teachers Lysa TerKeurst, Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore regularly outsell new releases from pastors such as Max Lucado and T. D. Jakes, according to rankings from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Bloggers such as Hatmaker and Ann Voskamp—with books popular enough to land on The New York Times bestseller lists—have triple as many Facebook followers as the biggest congregations in the biggest denomination in the country.
And we know the demographic that largely uses Facebook: women. And these 'Bible teachers' are influencing your girls, wives, women, sisters...etc. Worse, these 'Bible teachers' are not associated with any church. Pastor, do you ask the women in your flock who they are reading? You should.

Hannah Anderson was quoted in Shellnutt's CT article because she has recently discussed this very issue in her podcast. Two women exchanged emails in a deeper follow up. Shellnutt asked Anderson the following- "What do you see as some of the pros and cons of having so much momentum around women’s ministry at a national level?" and Anderson's answer is sobering,
Consider how few female evangelical leaders are visibly attached to an institution such as a church, seminary, or non-profit that did not grow up around their personality. Name a male leader like Rick Warren and you immediately think of Saddleback Church. Say Beth Moore or Ann Voskamp or Jen Hatmaker and most of us will draw a blank about which local church these women affiliate with. This is not to say that they aren’t connected, but their local church isn’t a visible or central a component to their public ministry. Hannah Anderson blog
I don't lay the blame for the emergence of extra-church false teacher female ministries totally at the feet of the local church, nor do I agree that it's because women 'can't find space' at their church as mentioned below. Or, maybe it is, the discontented women who want leadership roles and step outside their church tor form organizations that will allow them to do that, such as Jennie Allen of IF:Gathering, and Christine Caine of Propel.

However, the fact is, if you think about the most popular national women's ministries, they're led by women who don't seem attached to their own local church.
Being distanced from ecclesiastical institutions also means women’s ministry inadvertently becomes shaped by market forces. Nationally known female spiritual leaders are by-and-large entrepreneurs and most often, out of necessity. Because women struggle to find space in the established Church, they end up creating their own institutions, whether as collectives or around themselves. The latter is both fed by and feeds evangelical celebrity culture.
I recommend the article by Hannah Anderson linked just above. It's extremely well-written and laser focused on the issue of para-church female-led ministries being influenced by merchandising and that the reason they are so influenced is that they are unhitched from a church.

Here are some quotes from both the articles and elsewhere on the topic:
National women leaders should be a reference point, but not a replacement for female leadership at the local church level. ~ Jen Wilkin
The scenario is usually about a group of well-intentioned women studying a popular book that is marketed for women’s ministry groups, and it is full of bad doctrine. But the author is extremely likable, she has done many good deeds in the name of the Lord, and frankly, the women in the group are now invested. They are offended that someone is questioning what they think has been an edifying study. ~ Aimee Byrd
I've always said that if Jesus came back the first place he'd go today would be the Christian Bookseller's Association..." RC Sproul, sermon "The Cleansing of the Temple"
For years, you’ve sold books by prosperity preachers and false prophets such as Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, John Hagee, and Jesse Duplantis. I’ve seen their books in your store.They were there today. For years, men and women have come into your store looking for spiritual bread and you’ve sold them the leaven of very men who devour houses. Prosperity preachers sell a false gospel and false hope to people who don’t have a whole lot. You help them. ~ Seth Dunn, in An Open Letter to a local Christian bookseller in his town.




Friday, November 18, 2016

Mail Call #2: How can some good pastors be so off-track and not see doctrinal error in materials they use in church?

Occasionally I receive email or Facebook messages asking questions about various topics and issues within the faith. Here is a question I received recently, and it dovetails with an essay I'm preparing for tomorrow based on a verse in John 11.

3. How can a pastor who I believe loves Christ be so off track?

This question, which was from more than one person, revolved around pastors who are OK in the pulpit but allow false teachers to infiltrate Sunday School, Women's Ministry, or the Youth group; or who recommend books or materials to their members that are less that solid.

There are many possible reasons. Here are a few I can think of.

One reason in answer to the question might be simply the pastor’s inattention and/or busyness. I remember a powerful sermon from about 4 years ago delivered by Pr. Jim Murphy of First Baptist of Johnson City NY in a sermon called "The Subtlety of Satan". He repented on the pulpit and also charged his church to repent too. He said that he had allowed satan to get his tentacles on his congregation via the church library, the Sunday School, and the Women’s ministry (including Beth Moore materials.) He said he was protective of the pulpit but had been inattentive and too busy to guard those other areas and the devil had gotten in.

However, there is one critical difference between a false pastor and a true pastor who has simply become busy and inattentive. The true pastor will listen to your concerns and prayerfully consider them by checking against the Bible and with his elders. He would either teach you in all gentleness why you are in error, (2 Timothy 2:25, Galatians 5:23, Ephesians 4:2) or in all humility, accept what you’re saying and check it out for himself. A false pastor will become angry, and make accusations against you and blame you. Thankfully, if the cause of being off track is inattention, it does not last forever. Eventually the Spirit brings him to repentance, as Pastor Murphy powerfully and transparently showed us in his own life.

Another reason a pastor can be so off track is that he might be lazy. It’s easier to allow the ladies to continue in their Beth Moore study than it is to confront them and endure their lady-wrath. Or another way to be lazy is simply not check the materials his people are using and rely too much on the Sunday School Superintendent or Ladies Ministry leader to make these decisions. However, a good shepherd will remember he is responsible for the souls of all his sheep's souls, and won't over-rely for long.

If he is lazy, one way to check is by googling his sermon titles and key points of the sermon and find out if he is plagiarizing, that is, passing off his sermons as his own but they are really canned from some storehouse online somewhere. If he is lazy at the pulpit he will be lazy elsewhere, like not being diligent in vetting study materials for the women and Sunday School. Plagiarism by the way, isn’t a new problem. God charged the false prophets leaders of Israel thru prophet Jeremiah of plagiarism. It is the lazy way out.

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. (Jeremiah 23:30).

Sadly, one reason he could be off-track could be that he may not really be a believer. I'm very sorry to have to say this. We say it carefully and only as a last resort. The Bible is clear about how powerfully the false convert can mirror a real one. For one, Judas was living intimately with the disciples, and when Jesus said one of them will betray Him, not one disciple asked if it was Judas. They all asked if it could be themselves rather than Judas. (“Is it I?”) He had all the disciples well fooled. Philip baptized Simon the sorcerer, he had Philip fooled, but his dark heart was revealed later when Simon asked Peter to give him the Spirit for money. Demas walked with Paul and only betrayed his black heart when he left to go join the world. Demas had fooled Paul. So false converts can rise to even leadership positions, and fool all those who know them. For a while. Sin eventually shows itself, or there's an eventual failure to bring fruit.

In any case, you look at your pastor or any believer over time. There are only two ways to go. The believer grows, is on the narrow path, and is developing fruit. Upward. The lost, false convert, even a false pastor, is on the broad path, goes downward, and develops thorns and thistles. The Holy Spirit in the true believer will NOT allow false doctrine to remain in that person for long. That’s why we look over time. Any person can make a mistake, even pastors. That's OK, it happens. The key is the reaction by the pastor when he is respectfully asked about whatever it is concerning you. Hopefully he will make a course correction be repented of, and the pastor AND his flock grows because of his humble example. If not, then the Spirit is not in him.

If you see something of concern, first, pray. The Spirit's ministry is to point to Christ. The Holy Spirit wants purity and truth. He is always working. So pray to Him for your pastor, and He will be the catalyst for the necessary changes in him...or you! In all things, submit to those who lead you and pray for them. Love is patient and love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)... As a matter of fact, before you go speak to your pastor about your concerns, Love your pastor this way-

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.




Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Forgotten Victorian Craze for Collecting Seaweed, and other biblical thoughts on women's roles

I subscribe to a funky and interesting magazine called Atlas Obscura. The daily digest presents articles about little known places and events from today or the past and brings new life to them. For example, did you know that all the NY City Public Libraries were built with apartments in them, so the caretaker could live on premises? This was to keep the coal stoves burning, which had to be stoked constantly. Photos of the now-defunct spaces intrigued me. The empty, roomy apartments in the most contested real estate locations fire up my imagination.

I read yesterday of a fad in Victorian times (that's the period Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901). It was seaweed collecting. Natural history was a huge endeavor back then. As travel became easier (trains, steam ships) and missionaries went abroad, so did flora and fauna collectors. Carl Linnaeus' work as a zoologist and botanist led to the creation of modern-day biological nomenclature for classifying organisms. This work has led to Linnaeus' distinction as the father of taxonomy, says the Carl Linnaeus page. Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution also fueled interest in classifying and organizing the world around us.

As the Atlas Obscura reports,
Nineteenth century Britain was a hotbed of biological enthusiasm. "Natural history was absolutely huge," says Dr. Stephen Hunt, a researcher in environmental humanities who works at the University of the West of England. Households filled up with painstakingly stuffed mammals and birds. So-called "gentlemen scientists" traveled the world drawing, describing, and collecting plants and animals. As railway networks grew, and labor advances led to more leisure time, ordinary citizens got in on the trend. Microscopes became more affordable, and collecting clubs popped up across Britain.
Ease of travel and new theories sparked an interest in the natural world and the Britons ambled over hill and dale, mountain and sea to collect, classify, draw, press, save, and discuss what they had collected.

One can easily imagine the draw toward the seashore, in Victorian times as now. When I was traveling on a sailboat, I collected shells. I organized them in a fishing tackle box according to the taxonomy outlined by Linnaeus. It was fun to try and organize the world. It was interesting to connect to the sea creatures around me. Shells are fascinating and beautiful, and for the budding botanist, I suppose their fascination with the plant world equaled mine of the sea.


In Victorian times, the beach-going women wore their multiple layers of wool skirts to the ankle, parasols overhead, mincing delicately along the wavelets lest a female should fall and expose something, like a shinbone or that most enticing of cartilage, the kneecap.

The reason that there was not a Victorian-era craze of women collecting seashells or plants and only of seaweed collecting, is because of sex. Atlas Obscura continues,
Women, though, were still largely left out. The biggest natural history clubs of all, the Royal Society and the Linnaean Society, refused female members, and barred women even from their "public" meetings. Hunting animals was too dangerous, and digging up plants was, well, too sexy. "There was a taboo on botany, because Linnaean botany was based on the sexual parts," says Hunt. "That was seen as controversial."
The excessive prudishness and rigid, Pharisee-like adherence to gender roles (especially for women) of the Victorian era was a pendulum swinging response to the loose morals and licentiousness of the Regency period immediately prior to Queen Victoria's ascension to the throne. Cultural prohibitions against women collecting flowers because they might be unduly stirred by a stamen ... seems excessive.

That is precisely why we don't look to the culture for guidance as to male and female roles. The old chestnut that 'back in Bible days women were regarded as chattel' and 'we have made advances in culture and societal understanding' does not hold true. Liberals say, 'Women can and should teach in church and even be pastors, not like in those dim old days.

We have a mere 70 or 80 yer life span on average. Sometimes it's much shorter. We have no long-term cultural memory. We are too deeply involved in society to be able to have any sort of objective perspective on changing times, shifting morals, or what is considered a normal cultural standard.

After the Victorian era came the short Edwardian period, then the flappers, higher hemlines, women entering the workforce as secretaries, telephone operators, and nurses. The pendulum had swung again. Cultural changes happen more often and more rapidly than we think. In the United States, it only took 15 short years for all 50 states to change the high and narrow standard for allowing divorce to a no-fault, EZ, anytime divorce. That's lighting fast.

God is called the Ancient of Days. He alone has the high perspective of us humans. He alone has the invention of time itself in His hand. He knows what we believers need. He instituted roles for men and women, youths and elders. He set the qualifications of deacons and pastors. He inspired scripture urging fathers and mothers to perform their respective roles. There are no cultural reasons for allowing women to teach in the structure of church and no cultural reasons for men to abdicate leading in the structure of the church. There are only biblical reasons and Godly standards. God's standards are always best.

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:12).

Now go collect some plants and shells, you never know when the pendulum will swing the other way and those activities will be seen as too salacious. ;)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

From unclean to pure lips

Do you ever feel like such a terrible sinner that the very words of repentance and sorrow pouring from your lips in prayer to heaven is a blot on the name of Jesus?

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13)

I can relate to Isaiah (the lips part, not actually seeing the LORD!)

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:5).

But then in His Day He will purify our lips and when we praise Him we will be clean! Imagine praising Him from pure lips!

"Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him shoulder to shoulder". (Zephaniah 3:9 NIV)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Movie review: The River Thief

Source

A new movie starring Joel Courtney, Raleigh Cain, and Tommy Cash, (Johnny's brother), called The River Thief is out in selected theaters. It is being billed as a faith based movie, or a Christian movie.

For what is being said is a faith movie, it's an unusual one, to be sure. However in my opinion it is far from being anything remotely Christian. It's more of a freshman entry of an action movie from writer/director ND Wilson than it is anything faith-based.

The film focuses on a youth named Diz (Courtney) who drifts from town to town along the Snake River in Idaho, stealing to survive and also just for the fun of it because he's good at it. He calls himself Diz, and though it's never explicitly stated, we surmise the namesake is from St. Dismas. In Catholic tradition, St. Dismas was the name of the Penitent Thief on the Cross. Diz is a motherless boy turned drifter and thief whose father left before he was born. He is on his own, great at stealing, but now wanting a change in his life and haphazardly trying to find his long-lost dad as he goes from town to town.

Diz slows down and remains in and around one particular nameless town along the river, struck by the waitress in the local diner. Diz had racked up a $30 bill and snuck out without paying, the spitfire waitress named Selah (Raeleigh) chases after him and gives him a piece of her mind. Her granddad Marty (Cash) reaches out to Diz, paying his bill and inviting him to dinner at the house he shares with Selah.

During the course of events, Diz also unfortunately steals a million dollars in drug money from two men, one the town's bad cop, the other named Clyde, who works for the Sinaloa Cartel. Diz clumsily attempts to woo Selah, fend off vague spiritual approaches by Marty, and survive the vicious intent of the bad guys to catch and skin Diz for making off with their million dollars. It all comes to a surprising conclusion and the credits roll with a voiceover.

First, the pros:

Lead actor Joel Courtney is a wonderful, natural actor. He was in Super 8 and his acting was well-received. Tommy Cash is the grandfather who is a little less a natural actor but is warm and sincere and generally seen as a good man by even the evil men. Marty rings true in the movie. Selah is spunky, bordering on angry-bitter. While her character is less developed and more perplexing, she has flashes of natural acting in several scenes as well.

The cinematography is stunning. The look of this movie is a stark beauty which bespeaks hopelessness and hope both at the same time. The aerial shots as well as the scenes by the river are tremendous. The opening scenes with cat burgling Diz deftly lifting valuables from one and all along the river, even boats anchored in the middle of it, are tense and well executed. Just the opening scenes with little to no voice acting give insight into the thieving character that promises to plumb depths ... which are sadly never attained.

Cons

For a "Christian" movie, there is a high body count. Six people are killed at point blank range in the film, quite a lot for an 87 minute movie. There is also profanity, light and sparsely uttered, but it's there.

The grandfather, Marty, sings a few verses of Will the Circle be Unbroken, but there are no church scenes, church is not mentioned, and either is prayer mentioned or seen. Jesus is only mentioned once, when Marty said "Jesus gave me a thief..." . The Gospel is not given. Once Marty said to the bad guy, "you picked the wrong side". There are no bible verses spoken that I can remember, but instead, homilies imbued with a sense of importance as if they were verses. There are only vague references to Someone who created Diz, (Who gave you those hands? Those eyes?). The boy wants a change in his thieving life and the best the grandfather can say is that it is "gratitude that sets you free."

No. It is not. Repentance and faith in Jesus is what sets you free.

The climactic scene in which we would expect the Gospel to be given, instead is a disappointment. All the Grandfather said was "Can you hear the angels singing?" as he looks beatifically at the ceiling.

One reviewer on IMDB said,
This movie is advertised as a Christian movie, but, other than some random Bible verses quoted a few times by one of the older gentlemen in the movie, there wasn't much to identify it as such.
Lol, and they weren't even Bible verses, but platitudes, delivered with solemn gravity to make them seem Bible-ish.

The initial promise of the film to be a gritty action film are never realized as the film lurches from interesting scene to interesting scene with halts and perplexing segues in between. The initial promise of the film to be a redemptive character study within the context of the Christian faith are also sadly never realized either.

This reviewer said it well: (SPOILERS!)






One of the great virtues of The River Thief is an atmosphere of deeper significance which attends one scene after another— or, what poet Robert Wrigley referred to as the “air of meaning more” in a class I took from him back in college. The “air of meaning more” is that hard-to-pin-down quality of ineffable suggestiveness which emerges from referencing the right objects, the right names, the right places, and using the right words. The “air of meaning more” is the sensation that there is something behind a closed door, even if it is never opened.... However, a few moments later, as a dead Diz speaks to us from the Resurrection of the Righteous, I had to wonder whence came the salvation of this character?
Simply using a voiceover with lyrical scenes of a stark landscape do not make the Gospel. The Gospel makes the Gospel clear. The 'air of meaning more' in the end lets us down and the whole movie means less than it ought.

I do not recommend it.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Discernment case in point: Glennon Doyle Melton comes out as gay

Two and a half years ago, in spring of 2014, I wrote about a popular blogger and author named Glennon Doyle Melton. Melton's blog called Momastery boasted 70,000 views per day, hordes of followers calling themselves 'Monkees', and a fan base for her books most bloggers only dream of. Melton's influence in the mom world and faith world cannot be overestimated. The Houston Chronicle wrote of Melton this past September,
The world can be divided into two groups: those who've never heard the name Glennon Doyle Melton, and those who know pretty much everything there is to know about her. ... The number of people who know these things about Doyle Melton is not insignificant. She's a writer whose publicity team estimates that her blog and social media posts reach 7 million readers a week. And that camp is about to get a lot bigger. [with the upcoming release of her new book]
To millions of women, Melton was THE Christian example.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Kay Cude poetry: At The Rapture

Kay Cude poetry. Click to enlarge. Used with permission.

Artist's Statement:
I was deeply drawn to this painting because of the look on the face of the child clutched out of death into the arms of his beloved mother. I see peace mixed in with awe as he looks into the face of one who has nurtured him since birth; the face of the one he is so grateful to see. I am reminded of the nurturing love of the Father and Son for Their beloved redeemed; perhaps we will have that same look upon our faces as we look into the glorious and wonderful face of Christ Jesus at the Rapture.




Saturday, November 12, 2016

The dignity of our spiritual release

I was reading the Valley of Vision, A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotionals, which is a stunning book, by the way. It's one of the top three books on my shelf, after the Bible and barely before Pilgrim's Progress.

In my version, there is a prayer on page 60 titled simply, "A Christian's Prayer". One particular line spoke to me deeply. The Christian who was praying (writing) the prayer wrote,
May I remember the dignity of my spiritual release
When I think of the spiritual battle that took place immediately prior to my release, the word 'dignity' does not come to mind. Anger, wrath, blood, resistance, hate, submission, exhaustion, wonder; now, those words seem to fit my final approach to and through the cross.

When I think of the Lord on the cross, the word dignity does not come to mind there, either. Humiliation, nakedness, wrath, blood, sorrow, mocking; now, those words seem to fit the circumstances of the Lord on the cross and His work to release the captives. As a matter of fact, those are the words we read in the Bible that exactly describe Jesus on the cross.

And yet, the word dignity in the context of our spiritual release also seems to fit perfectly, too, doesn't it?

The dictionary defines the word dignity as

--the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.
--a composed or serious manner or style.

Jesus' life on earth during His incarnation was one of dignity. While He was ministering, even when He was angry, He was composed. He wove a whip of cords (John 2:15) before He used the whip to drive out the merchants. Weaving the whip took time and purpose. Jesus did nothing in blind anger. Rather, even in anger, He was composed.

We all know people who behave in a dignified manner. External dignity or dignified behavior is not what the Puritan who wrote the prayer had in mind. It's our spiritual release that is the dignity.

We all were the prodigal son, slopping pigs in loneliness and despair. We all were in such spiritual need that we began to look with longing on the very food the pigs ate. (Luke 15:11-16). We were a leprous, filthy, horror and a blot to the our eyes of Jesus. Except, He did look upon us. Even more, He came down.

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

What a great and splendid Savior we have!

Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18).

The dignity of our spiritual release. Ponder it.

Robe of Righteousness, by Lars Justinen


Friday, November 11, 2016

Mail Call #1: Why don't they check against the Bible?

Hawkeye on the TV show M*A*S*H on Mail Call day
I receive questions and emails about theological topics from readers, as most bloggers do. My email address is listed in the 'About This Blog' tab. Sometimes someone will ask a question in a comment. There's a comment in the queue in which someone asked me a great question that I haven't posted yet. I will, I am working on an answer.

One particular question I frequently receive is on the topic of discernment. Some people have been given the spiritual gift of discernment. All Christians are supposed to exercise discernment, whether they have the gift or not. (Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1). However, for the edification of the local and global body, as an early warning system, the Spirit has given an extra measure of discernment. The folks possessing this gift can detect false doctrine or a false teacher. People with this gift can detect whether the spirit working in a person is the Holy Spirit or another spirit. They can spot a counterfeit, or detect something off in a person's life, teaching, or words. And so on.

People with this gift see truth so clearly, cling to it so tightly, and react so joyfully, it's sometimes hard for them to understand how or why everyone can't see what they see, understand what they know, detect what they detect. it's perplexing to them. They love the scriptures so much they wonder why any and all Christians don't leap into truth every chance they get. So the discerning person will gently point out that a certain teacher is false. They'll share that the teacher is using them as merchandise, or is promoting an ungodly agenda. And the reaction of the hearer will be one of dismissal, apathy, or anger. In most cases, there will be a refusal to even go to scripture and hear out the case. And here comes the mail call question.

Q. Are they misinformed (as I once was) because they absolutely rely on misinformation and will not seek to find confirmation for or against a teacher who says questionable things?

It's heartbreaking to see loved ones in one's family or church or work life pursue ungodliness by following false teachers. It's even worse when they decide to cling more tightly to that false teacher instead of investigating the issue. In discernment discussions, we often refer to Acts 17:11. I'd like to point out something in the verse that isn't discussed much- the comparison

Paul noted in Acts 17:11 that "these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."

What this tells us is that, just like today, not everyone checked the scriptures to see if what Paul was telling them was so. Not all people hear and then eagerly check. He said the Bereans were "more" noble, which by virtue of the word more, we understand the Thessalonians were "less" noble. The Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians because they checked, and the Thessalonians didn't.

The scriptures record that in Thessalonica some did believe, but others (the Jews) were incited by the scriptures and mobbed Paul and forced him out of the city down to Berea. This tells us that not only do some people fail to test scripture but that some hold onto their version of scripture so hard they become varying degrees of enraged when their pet theories or philosophies are exposed.

Other times when they refuse to listen to you or to check to see if it is so, it’s because of a situation called ‘deception by investment.' A believer has followed the false teacher for so long, or invested so much personal worth, (money buying their books, travel time to their conferences, etc) or have staked their own personal credibility in promoting this teacher, that they do not want to face the fact that they might have been wrong all this time. So their pride won’t allow them to check against the Bible and they continue on in their deception.

If this is hard to believe, remember, unsaved people suppress the truth very well despite the fact of the existence of the earth telling them every minute that God’s invisible qualities are readily seen. (Romans 1:18-19). For saved people or false converts, it’s the same thing. They suppress the truth that a certain teacher is false. We creatures are good at suppressing. It happens all the time, every day, to the saved and the unsaved.

The difference between a false convert refusing to have an ear to hear and the saved person who initially has a bad reaction to the news their favorite teacher is a false one, is the Spirit in them. If the person has the pagan spirit in them, over time they will continue to follow the false teacher.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

However, the Holy Spirit in a person will never allow them to continue sinning, and following a false teacher is sin. He will alert them by giving them ears to hear, and soon enough, the words you've shared will enlighten their mind and begin the transformation by virtue of being carried by the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit's ministry is to point to Jesus, who is Truth. He will not allow a person to continue pointing to the false. So even if you initially receive a bad reaction (hopefully not a mob chasing you out of your town or your church!) if the person is truly saved, they will respond soon enough by repenting and falling away from that false teacher, or false doctrine, or false practice.





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Further Reading

What is discernment and why is it important?

How to identify false teachers




Thursday, November 10, 2016

How to Witness-Lite

I was saved when I was 43 years old. At the time just before grace came and released me from spiritual bondage, I was working two jobs. In the morning I'd work from 6:30-10:30 putting up Post Office mail. Sorting the mail behind the wall of PO Boxes, I could hear the conversations occurring in the lobby. There was a particular Bible-believing pastor who used to come in and cheerfully greet everyone. It wasn't one or two seconds before he would mention Jesus. Not 'Lord', or "Him', or 'God', but he'd say "Jesus". Things like, "Isn't it a great day on Jesus' world?" or "How are you on this day Jesus made?"

I'd become inflamed when I heard the name of Jesus. I believed that there was a God, the existence of the world in its complexity made it obvious. I was one whom the verse in Romans 1:19-20 applies,

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 

However, I was also one for which the previous verse applied, too,

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

And, what truth was I suppressing? Jesus, for He IS the truth. Therefore any mention of Jesus by anyone, with all its attached concepts- sin, repentance, wrath, inflamed my heart and mind and I suppressed it all.

When I'd hear that name I'd push the mail into the PO Boxes a little harder, I'd grind my teeth, I'd mutter to myself, "Why doesn't he shut up? Doesn't he know nobody wants to hear that bunk? Doesn't he know that nobody's listening??"

Of course, lol, I was listening.

Soon after that, my carefully built fortresses I'd built in my heart and mind were as wafers and wisps in the face of Jesus' power who, in His irresistible grace, in His timing, instantly crumbled them all down. I became a believer.

The lessons there were some I never forgot. Please allow me to share these few tidbits.

I know we feel funny when we witness to people. Sometimes we think we have to approach people in a way to share deep, complicated, theological truths in a private setting. Sometimes we beat ourselves up for missing an opportunity, or failing to be clear, or for being fearful we'll forget critical component.

When we speak to each other as believers, or when we to those we interact with as we go through our daily life (clerks, tellers, cashiers, etc), we should say the name of Jesus, specifically. Saying His name in the public square has power. Not as in magic genie power, but because the name of Jesus is the only name, the name above all names, and the name upon which we come to salvation, the name of Jesus incites people.

Secondly, have conversations about Jesus in the public sphere. Speak of him in the college cafeteria, in the meeting before it begins, at the coffee counter. Just a quick exchange with the friend you're with of what you learned about a specific verse, or reciting a scripture, or an insight regarding a parallel verse. Others around you hear these conversations. You may never know who heard them, as the pastor never knew I was listening, but the Holy Scriptures have impact upon whom the Lord decides they will have impact. Speak His truths in public, the word will not come back empty.

Of course we do want to witness as to the full message when we can. But when we can't, don't feel like you've failed. Speak His name or a few verses to someone in the public square. The name of Jesus and His word has power to chip away at the hardest of hearts.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Concluding thoughts on the US Presidential election

Once again our electoral process worked and the American people went to the polls and voted for their candidate. Donald J. Trump, and American businessman, author, and entrepreneur, was the winner over Democrat candidate Hillary R. Clinton.

Hillary Clinton has been deeply embedded in the political machine her entire life. She rose to notice and prominence as a young 27-year-old lawyer in 1974 when she was on a junior member of the House Judiciary Committee's temporary Impeachment Inquiry staff during the House of Representatives' investigation of Watergate. Subsequently, she was appointed the first female chair of the Legal Services Corporation in 1978 and became the first woman partner at Rose Law Firm in 1979. She has been First lady of Arkansas when her husband Bill Clinton was governor, First Lady of the United States when her husband was elected President, Senator for the State of New York, and Secretary of State.

Her public life has been one of constant rising success, all the way to November 7, 2016 when she nearly won the American presidency, but lost it instead.

As it is, Republican nominee Donald Trump, an outsider who has never held an elected position, was elected.

I've never seen the world accept a defeat laying down. I've seen what the world does when its plans are thwarted, especially when it had pinned its hopes on one who is as deeply embedded in it as Hillary Clinton is.

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 15:19)

Friends, continue to pray.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

The earth groans, too

The creation itself groans under the weight of the curse laid upon it.

And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; (Genesis 3:17a)

For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Romans 8:22).

And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out." (Luke 19:39-40)

For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond. (Habakkuk 2:11)
the stones, &c.—Hitherto the Lord had discouraged all demonstrations in His favor; latterly He had begun an opposite course; on this one occasion He seems to yield His whole soul to the wide and deep acclaim with a mysterious satisfaction, regarding it as so necessary a part of the regal dignity in which as Messiah He for this last time entered the city, that if not offered by the vast multitude, it would have been wrung out of the stones rather than be withheld (Hab 2:11). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
A humble praise to the Lord of all creation, the One who has the very earth in His hands. The King of all Glory- Psalm 24:1-4

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof,
    the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
    and established it upon the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false
    and does not swear deceitfully.

In response to Bible reading, prayers, and devotional this week, I offer my own humble praise to the Lord, who will release the earth and all its believing inhabitants from the curse. Our hearts will be refreshed and made free from sin's presence. The earth itself will flourish without tempest or stain. What a day that will be!


May the frothy brine
hurling itself upon the stony shores
and heaving in boundless surge
soon whisper your glorious name
in serene tranquility.

May the trees which quiver and shake
in unending winds
driven relentlessly against them,
soon stand as majestic towers of tranquility,
affirming your creative glory.

May the ground under the feet
of the righteous and wicked,
fields and foundations that reel like a drunkard,
soon quell in serene repose
placid under the nail scarred soles of the returning King.

May the earth disgorge its dead-
some to eternal life and others to unending contempt,
yet all to cry out that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

~ By EPrata

[Inspiring verses: Philippians 2:11, Zechariah 14:4, Isaiah 24:20, Luke 19:40]





Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Is it raining frogs yet? Thoughts on US Presidential Election

Bob Schieffer is a political reporter. Out of the total 58 elections the United States has enacted since the beginning of our elections process, Schieffer has covered 14 of them. His perspective is valuable by virtue of his lengthy experience as knowledgeable observer throughout 58 years. Yesterday he said the following:
I have seen a few [elections], but I’ve run out of ways to say I've never seen one like this. It’s as if the nation is enduring some kind of curse," Schieffer said on the CBS Evening News Monday."
Even the non-saved person such as Mr Schieffer knows and understands God's hand upon the earth and on this nation. We have turned our back on God in all the ways possible and as a result, we are under judgment. God's hand upon us is not one of soft care but hard abandonment. Romans 1:18-32 has the progression- we have had a sexual revolution, we then had a homosexual revolution, and now we have such reprobate minds we can't even declare for certainty what our own biological gender is. The nation IS under a curse. Obviously the curse is so palpable that even the blinded mind can detect it.
Schieffer went on to say, "What should we expect next – that it will rain frogs? I wouldn’t bet against it."
His reference of course is to the biblical plagues God sent upon the Egyptian Pharaoh who would not let the Israelite people go. The plague of frogs was the second plague, as we read in Exodus 7:25–8:15. I surmise that Schieffer's reference here is to the unnatural conditions one finds in the United States, as compared to previous elections and conditions upon which candidates had promised to fix. How interesting that when one comes up against an unnatural condition, one's mind turns to the Bible and its plagues or other events in which to compare.

Finally, Schieffer said,
"We tend to call every election the most important of our lifetime, but this one might well be. Those of you who are voting for the first time, take it from me – this election is not business as usual," Schieffer said. "This one is different – and not in a good way."
It does feel different. Time will show just how different. It says a lot on how far down the judgment path this nation has traveled since 2008 when many, many folks detected an evil supernatural quality to Obama, so much so that lots of folks thought he was the antichrist. And now they are feeling this election with its crop of candidates is worse? That's saying something.

When God abandons a nation, He gives us the leaders we deserve. In His judgment against Judah and Jerusalem, He gave them mere boys to lead. (Isaiah 3:4). Later in Isaiah 3 we see that sometimes as a judgment He gives them women to rule over them. (Isaiah 3:12.)

In Isaiah 19:11-12 we see that the nation's wise men had become foolish, their wisdom vaporizing like dew on a warm day. They could not deal with the crises at hand and had become helpless to fix them. This is because they were ignorant that God's judgment was the cause.



If any of this sounds familiar, it should. These cycles of blessing and judgment have gone on since the Garden and they will until Jesus concludes His redemptive plan. Humans have always been either one of two things, sinful or righteous in God. If they are sinful they do not know God and worship the creation. Their foolish hearts are darkened and their minds cannot think correctly. If the people of a nation are righteous in Christ, they (we) submit to the temporal happenings with grace and good humor.

Despite the hoopla over the US Presidential Election, God's redemptive schedule is still on track. Nothing is hindering it, nothing is throwing it off balance or behind schedule. Even if frogs rain down on post-election morning, I will still praise my Savior for His grace and works. This nation is enduring a curse. However, His children are never cursed. Our standing in Him is made righteous through Christ, and our citizenship is in New Jerusalem. Presidents come and go, but our Ruler is eternally on His throne.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:12).

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