Saturday Sampler: February 11 — February 17

Umbrella Sampler

Psychology has no place in the church, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life shows us in What Should I Look for in a Biblical Counselor? It encourages me to see more Christians speaking up about the dangers of “Christian” psychology.

In addition to my own trials lately, I’ve watched a friend suffer through her husband’s terminal cancer. So Sarah Walton’s article, Why the Church Needs Suffering in Unlocking the Bible, refreshes my perspective by bringing me back to Scriptures and principles that I’d all but forgotten. See whether or not her words benefit you.

Reprising her March 3, 2017 blog post, Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women lists 40 Things to Give Up for Lent. Number 1 is my personal favorite. What’s yours? Use my Comments Section to tell me.

I’m not the only blogger to reprise her article about the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy.  Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised also resurrects  the article she wrote three years ago. Erasing the Grey definitely deserves your attention!

Those of you who are moms will appreciate Scott Slayton’s When You Lose Your Temper With Your Children on One Degree to Another. Even aunts and people in ministries to children can benefit from Slayton’s godly counsel. As a matter of fact, anyone with anger issues should apply the principles to all their interactions with children and adults.

In a second post written for Unlocking the Bible, Judy Allen suggests Five Questions to Ask About Entertainment. Each question has a corresponding Scripture to help us evaluate the media we consume in ways that honor the Lord.  I love the way she challenges us to think of what we read, watch and do in terms of spiritual merit.

Assisted suicide is not a pretty topic, but it’s something Christians will need to address. Jen Oshman discusses Five Reasons for Assisted Suicide (And Crucial Responses to Each One) to help us navigate conversations with those who honestly think this practice is a humane way to deal with human suffering.

The aggressive movement of the LBGTQ community has serious ramifications for Christians, as Is it okay for the state to take your child away because you won’t affirm his transgender feelings? by Denny Burk demonstrates.  I struggled over whether or not to include such a dark article in Saturday Sampler, but decided that I created The Outspoken TULIP to prepare women for the persecution that knocks at the door of the Western church. Therefore I believe it necessary to draw your attention to this matter. Scenarios like the one Burk narrates will only increase. We must prepare for them.

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It’s Not About Why A Good Man Suffers

God Answers

Of course I’d read the book of Job many times throughout my 47 years of being a Christian, so its story hardly surprised me as I read it this week. Yet this time I noticed Job’s attitude. During the course of his trial, it degenerates from trusting God to questioning Him to flat-out anger against Him.

Job knew that He’d initially done nothing to warrant the severe suffering that God allowed Satan to heap on him. When his three “comforters” asserted that God was punishing him for sin, he vehemently denied their analysis. Sadly, as they persisted in their accusations, Job slid into the sin of self-righteousness, eventually demanding that God answer to him!

As we know, God finally puts a halt to Job’s temper tantrum by reminding Job that He created heaven and earth. Therefore He has authority to act however He pleases, and His creatures really don’t have any right to call Him into account. Thankfully, Job then repents of his self-righteousness and receives a restoration of God’s blessings.

Let’s talk about Job’s self-righteous anger against the Lord for a bit. I’d never really noticed it until this week, but I believe it holds a key to understanding the whole message of the book.

In college, a classmate who categorized herself as an agnostic summarized the book of Job as an exploration of the question, “Why does a good man suffer?” I thought of her assessment this week as I read Job’s self-righteous protests of his innocence, and I realized the glaring fallacy of her statement.

God used Job’s suffering to reveal Job’s heart. For all his attempts at piety and obedience, deep down Job ultimately trusted in himself rather than God for his justification. God used the trial to confront Job with his arrogance. Although he’d done nothing to provoke God’s judgment when the trials began, his reaction to the unfair remarks of his “comforters” led him to express his deep-seated self-righteousness. And it was ugly.

God, in His grace, allowed Job to recognize his need for a Savior. He graciously brought Job to repentance, and then rewarded Job for that repentance. The book isn’t about a good man who suffered as much as it’s about a good God Who uses suffering to show us both our sin and His wonderful grace.

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Lord Almighty Or Cosmic Sex Partner?

Sweet FlowerAs I researched Ann Voskamp, I read several quotes in which she described her erotic encounters with God. I’ve decided to neither record those quotes here nor link to documentation containing them because they’re just too graphic (I know at least one of my regular readers is only 17, and shouldn’t be exposed to such imagery). Those who seriously doubt the veracity of my claims can easily do some Google searches — though I recommend it only if you really require evidence.

Frankly, I wish the critiques I read on her hadn’t used direct quotes. A few of them literally nauseated me. I hated her portrayal of the Lord Almighty, the Most Holy ruler of all creation, as if He was a character in a pornographic novel.

Tuesday I wrote about the dangers of regarding Jesus as a Boyfriend or Husband. Typically those fantasies (as perverted as they are) don’t entail a great deal of sexual content. Sadly, Ann Voskamp worsens the perversion with ideas about the Lord that no professing Christian should even consider. As Christians, we must always live in awareness that the Lord, above all else, is holy.

My greatest problem with Ann Voskamp lies in her apparent inability to understand God’s absolute holiness. Yes, there’s a sense in which He demands that we imitate His holiness, but in a more basic respect His holiness differentiates Him from His creation. Thus it differentiates Him from us. Because of His innate distinction from us, the very thought of viewing Him as a sexual partner borders on blasphemy.

The Lord deserves our worship as a holy God rather than our sexual fantasies about Him. We indeed enjoy the intimacy of knowing Him through His Word, but that wonderful intimacy has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality.

Ann Voskamp exemplifies the sensuality that, according to the apostle Peter, characterizes false teachers.

 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. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. ~~2 Peter 2:1-2 (ESV)

Women are excited by the idea of a love affair with Jesus, Who of course would be a perfect Lover. Women, however,  need the true Lord Jesus Christ, Who reigns in holiness and calls us to worship Him in purity. Let’s reject any teacher who would reduce our holy God to the filthy status of a sex object and instead worship Him in spirit and in truth.

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Why Jesus Won’t Be Your Valentine Tomorrow

Tulip Sampler 01Out of curiosity, I spent some time Sunday afternoon researching Ann Voskamp, a popular evangelical teacher, writer and speaker whom we can safely categorize  as a false teacher. Michelle Lesley lists several articles evaluating Voskamp that support my allegation. The two most prominent factors in distinguishing her as a false teacher are her tendencies toward panentheanism (God is in everything) and her erotic descriptions of her relationship with God.

The second factor begs the question: Should Christian women see the Lord in sexual, or even romantic, terms? During my single years, female leaders in my church certainly encouraged me to do so. I learned from my multiple failed efforts to view Jesus as my Husband that the type of cosmic romance that teachers like Ann Voskamp promotes does extensive emotional and spiritual damage to women.

The problems with the “Jesus is my Boyfriend/Lover/Husband” approach to Christianity could keep me blogging for several weeks. Indeed, I would like to write about some of its harmful effects later this week. Because Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore perpetuate this blasphemous notion, we need to understand why it goes against sound Biblical teaching.

This teaching not only damages women by encouraging a self-centered understanding of God, but it drags us into enormous self-condemnation when we can’t sustain romantic feelings toward Him. Many times as a single woman (I didn’t marry until I was almost 49), I tried to imagine Jesus as my Husband, only to be frustrated with myself when I felt unsatisfied with Him.

My apparent deficit in appreciating Him romantically led me to feel spiritually inferior. I wondered why I still longed for a husband who could physically touch me when I knew full well that only Jesus  could love me perfectly. Evidently, I had skewed priorities. I felt intense shame, wrongly believing that He should be enough for me.

The teaching that Jesus fulfills our romantic and/or sexual desires, however, seriously perverts Scripture’s teaching on how believers should express intimacy with Jesus.  Loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength has more to do with obedience to Him than with having  Him satisfy my romantic desires. The same principle applies to all Christians. Look at His own description of our love relationship with Him:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ~~John 15:9-10 (ESV)

I do, very much, believe that the Lord blesses Christians with an intimate knowledge of Him. We talk to Him in prayer, pouring out our hearts with confidence that He cares about our deepest concerns. In turn, He speaks to us through His Word, disclosing Who He is and what He desires. Sisters, that’s intimacy!

Ann Voskamp’s “intimacy” with Jesus has a particularly disturbing component that I want to discuss Thursday (I have a Valentines Day date with John tomorrow). I hope today’s essay laid a foundation that we can build on at that time. Please guard against seeing the Lord in a role that He simply doesn’t have. Instead, rejoice in your correct relationship with Him.

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50 Shades, 40 Days…And None Of The Above (Reprise)

In response to Fifty Shades Freed being released in theaters this past Friday, I’m republishing a post I wrote on February 18, 2016. Please consider its points. And please stay far away from that movie!

2c5ac-swansMost of my readers probably would have no problem with me denouncing 50  Shades Of Grey (book or movie), despite the fact that I’ve never read anything more than  Wikipedia’s synopsis of the book (which was bad enough). In fact, if I had read the book itself, a majority of those same readers would most likely write me off as a hypocrite for writing so much about personal holiness and then reading such pornography.

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

So why, when I refuse to read books by Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer and Rick Warren, do professing Christians believe I have no grounds for criticizing them? I have, actually, read some of their blog posts and Twitter feeds, as well as watching their YouTube videos. But that doesn’t satisfy those who ardently support these people. They demand that I invest hours slogging through books that will only reiterate the bad theology that I’ve already seen on their blogs, Twitter feeds and videos.

In other words, I don’t question these teachers before I’ve done my homework. For instance, several years ago, the church John and I attended went through Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose campaign. Both of us initially felt excited about the campaign, especially since the Sunday School Superintendent had asked John to lead the Adult class during those Sundays.

But as we watched the promotional videos leading up to the campaign, we noticed  how frequently Warren wrenched Scripture out of context in order to advance his agenda. Because I have a shameful history of misusing God’s Word in that way (the Lord has graciously brought me to repentance), I picked up on it quickly. In response to my discomfort about him, I researched him and discovered quite a few people who also saw serious flaws in his doctrine. After a few days of  fighting through his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, I could see that Rick Warren simply didn’t respect God’s Word. Therefore, John and I chose not to participate.

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

If people commend me for pursuing moral and sexual purity, shouldn’t they also appreciate my desire for doctrinal purity? Obviously, I believe they should. The Lord calls for both types of purity.

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~~1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV)

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It’s WHO We Know That Matters

Sometimes Christian bloggers, because we teach God’s Word, can come across as know-it-alls. Occasionally we even fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we actually do. Thankfully the Lord graciously humbles us when we get cocky, reminding us of our limitations before Him.

In particular, we have no idea why the Lord chooses any of us for salvation. None of us has done anything to attract Him to us — much less to merit His favor! Why would a holy God, Who has every reason to condemn the lot of us,  condescend to bring any of us to a saving knowledge of Himself?  If we’re honest, we see no reason for such mercy. It should baffle even the most astute Bible scholar.

But, as today’s hymn tells us, we can embrace this question by placing our confidence in Him. We don’t know all the answers, but we know Him. We especially know His faithfulness to His people. Maybe that’s all we need to know.

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