Pilgrim In This Barren Land

Christians know that, for all its glitz and glamour, this life can’t really offer anything of value. As citizens of heaven, we don’t feel at home here, and we easily see the emptiness of the world and its hollow pleasures.

Praise the Lord that, because of His love and faithfulness, He guides us through our pilgrimage in this life, promising to bring us safely to our eternal Home!

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Saturday Sampler: April 23 — April 29

Umbrella SamplerAs a Biblical response to Earth Day (a totally ridiculous celebration, anyway), John Ellis of PJ Media insists that Earth Day is Wrong: The Earth is Not Our Mother. It’s refreshing to see somebody take such a firm stand on this matter!

Women struggling with infertility rarely find helpful support from the church, as Rachel reminds us in her danielthree18 blog post, NIAW ’17: Sometimes? There’s Never a Pregnancy. Her heartbreaking article highlights the fact that theology based on positive thinking can cause incredible damage.

Learn to Discern: Philosophies in Opposition continues Leslie A’s series in her Growing 4 Life blog. Much of accepted evangelical thought has nothing to do with Biblical Christianity, and Leslie helps us see the contrast.

In an essay for Berean Research, Amy Spreeman writes about the Sufficiency of Scripture against 21st Century attempts to augment God’s Word. This piece walks us through Psalm 19:7-9 to demonstrate how the Bible speaks to every area of life.

Writing a guest post for Desiring God, 17-year-old Katherine Forster pleads, We Need More Bible in Youth Ministry. Kids know when adults shortchange them, so let’s stop entertaining them and start showing them respect. They really can study the Bible if we’ll just give them the chance!

Elizabeth Prata has no idea how some of her essays in The End Time speak to issues that have touched my life! Having spent 30 years in a church that constantly talked about “brokenness,” I read her blog post, I’m not broken, with great interest. You’ll appreciate Elizabeth’s Biblical approach to this matter.

I haven’t written about Hank Hanegraaff’s decision to join the Eastern Orthodox Church, but Michelle Lesley’s article, The Heart of the Hanegraaff Hubbub: Dethroning the God of Your Personal Experiences, captures the essence of the matter. Don’t miss this superb analysis of the situation!

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Psychology And The Source Of Knowledge About The Human Soul

Lady Reading BiblePsychology makes my blood boil, especially when people try to integrate it with Christianity! Although commonly considered a science, the discipline actually is comprised of theories that haven’t been proven (and really don’t lend themselves to scientific verification). The vast majority of the theories incorporate acceptance of evolution, humanism and occult ideas.

Over the past 40 years, evangelicals have embraced psychology as an augmentation to pastoral ministry, assuming that the Bible falls short of addressing the mental and emotional needs of humans. That assumption should make the hair on the back of your neck bristle! Essentially, “Christian” psychology boldly declares God’s Word to be impotent, while at the same time more than implying that psychologists and licensed counselors possess a special knowledge inaccessible to those of us who “merely” read the Bible.

The attitude that psychologists have a deeper understanding of human nature than the Holy Spirit (Who, after all, authored the Bible) smacks of modern-day Gnosticism.

To grasp the significance of equating psychology with Gnosticism, let me briefly review the basic premise of Gnosticism, and the apostle Paul’s response to it. In the late First Century and early Second Century, Gnostics taught that they held special knowledge over and above what most Christians had. Access to that knowledge required initiation into their group, but promised deeper wisdom into life’s mysteries.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul argued that Christ alone is the Source of wisdom. Notice how directly he made his claim in the following paragraph.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. ~~Colossians 2:1-5 (ESV)

Look carefully at verse 3. Wisdom and knowledge, in their entirety, are hidden in Christ, not in philosophical systems developed by people like Freud (an atheist influenced by Charles Darwin) and Jung (who depended on a demonic spirit called Philemon). And Christ gladly reveals Himself through Scripture.

The Apostle Peter insists further that knowing the Lord Jesus Christ gives us everything we  need to navigate through life.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ~~2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

Remembering that the Lord gives us knowledge of Himself through His Word, this passage in 2 Peter clearly teaches that we simply don’t need the special knowledge that psychology pretends to offer us. Not only can we pass up this modem-day Gnosticism by standing on the sufficiency of Scripture, we have an obligation to do just that!

Psychology may appear erudite and sophisticated because of it’s claims to understand the inner workings of the human soul, but Christians have access to the One Who created that soul. Why should we waste our time on foolish human philosophy when the Bible is right there, ready to provide all the answers we need?

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One Passage, Preached In Opposite Directions

Treasured BibleIn two months, I would leave that church anyway, since marrying John necessitated moving from San Rafael, California to Boston, Massachusetts. Even so, the rambling, 80-minute message by the guest speaker left me literally weeping.

Most of the people at that service found this speaker highly offensive. The guy who had invited him tried, rather unconvincingly, to distance himself, clearly embarrassed by the whole fiasco. His delivery, which included physically humiliating our pastor, offended pretty much everybody. The exhibition felt more like a circus than a worship service, and people began wandering out to the lobby because of their impatience with his incoherence and his theatrics.

Sadly, however, I seemed to be the only one who objected to the actual content of what he taught.

He chose Ephesians 4:11-16 as his text:

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (ESV)

Sadly, he followed the Scripture-twisting script of extreme Charismatics in order to make this passage say that doctrine must be rejected for the sake of unity. Did he, in his efforts to promote the New Apostolic Reformation, realize that he taught precisely the opposite idea of what Paul meant in this passage?

I wept because, even though my friends were deeply disturbed by his methodology, they accepted his actual message as being perfectly Biblical. They completely missed the fact that his sermon made a diametrically opposite point to the text!

About three years ago, one of the elders from our current church preached on this same text. At first, remembering that horrible evening twelve years earlier, I flinched as John opened my Bible. Would this elder also try to teach that doctrine destroys unity?

But to my relief, the elder taught the passage correctly, presenting unity as a result of proper teaching. Unity, he affirmed, doesn’t require a minimization of doctrine. On the  contrary, God provided First Century apostles and prophets, followed by evangelists, pastors and teachers since then, to teach us how to be the Church.

Uniting over the foundational doctrines of the First Century apostles and prophets as faithful evangelists, pastors and teachers minister God’s Word to us keeps the Church from  fragmenting over doctrinal error. Proper doctrine aligns us under Christ’s leadership because faithful men explain His Word and enable us to access His Word for ourselves. (Faithful women can teach other women, as well as teaching children.)

The elder’s sermon three years ago offered tremendous comfort, assuring me that I could trust my new church to handle God’s Word properly. The leaders understand that right doctrine forms the very basis of Christian unity. Rather than casting doctrine aside, as the guest speaker that night suggested (for 80 long minutes), Christians must rally around true doctrine, carefully mining Scripture and treasuring every nugget and gem.

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Calvin’s Repudiation Of Personal Revelations

Discernment BibleIn writing about the Reformers each Tuesday, I’ve sought to emphasize their commitment to God’s Word. Present-day evangelicals, for reasons I don’t fully understand, have moved away from the idea of relying on Scripture as the sole means of hearing from the Lord, and instead pursue mystical experiences of direct communication with Him. The Reformers would have found such expectations puzzling.

John Calvin, as a matter of fact, directly refuted the concept of God speaking to anyone apart from His Word. Consider the following quotation of Calvin’s writing on the topic of Scripture’s authority:

Since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only record in which God has been pleased to consign His truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized unless they are believed to have come from heaven as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.

As far as Calvin was concerned, the thought of God speaking in any way other than Scripture shouldn’t even be entertained. He insisted that the Lord had spoken with full authority in His Word, and therefore believers could trust that written record of His truth.

But Calvin didn’t stop there in his repudiation of personal revelations. With boldness that would make a modern discernment blogger blush, he unapologetically equated the practice with outright heresy!

The fanaticism which discards the Scripture, under the pretense of resorting to immediate revelations is subversive of every principle of Christianity. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency is always to bury the Word of God so they may make room for their own falsehoods.

I doubt John Calvin would show much tolerance in a room full of 21st Century evangelical women off-handedly talking about things they believe God told them. But then, he lived in an age that cherished the Bible, having seen the Roman Catholic Church persecute (and often execute) men and women for simply owning a Bible in their own language. He valued Scripture too much to see its authority supplanted by claims of personal words from the Lord.

According to Calvin, such personal words “buried” the Word of God. Hadn’t the Reformers just excavated that same Word of God that had been buried under Roman Catholic tradition and papal authority for centuries leading up to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses? Why, in so short a time, would Calvin acquiesce to anyone allowing Scripture to then undergo a second burial? And wouldn’t a burial under something as subjective as personal mysticism (which might easily be attributed to too much wine or not enough sleep) be even worse?

Calvin’s words elevating Scripture over personal spiritual experience must echo through our minds today. Like so many aspects of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, they must remind us to treasure the Bible as God’s Word — His only Word — to His people. They must remind us not to bury such a incomparable treasure under the filthy vestiges of subjective experience.

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Forced Vacation From Our Perspectives In Titus Bible Study Series

Bible And WorshipYou may have noticed that I didn’t blog last Tuesday or Wednesday, and that Thursday I repurposed an article from my old blog, The Things That Come Out Of My Head. Since Easter, I’ve had a particularly vicious cold that has really wiped me out! I felt better Friday, which emboldened me to write the opinion piece on Hillsong, and consequently ushered in a relapse of my symptoms.

Therefore, John and I agreed that I probably shouldn’t write a Bible Study on Titus until next Monday.  I don’t like breaking my momentum, but neither do I like feeling run down. I look forward to getting back into our study next week, since Titus 2 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. Please plan on joining me when I resume this study. You might want to review the installments on Titus 1 (or read them for the first time) in preparation for Chapter 2.

 

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Saturday Sampler: April 16 — April 22

Blend SamplerHave you been following Leslie A’s excellent series on developing discernment on her Growing 4 Life blog? Even if you haven’t, Learn to Discern: Preparing Your Heart and Mind is very much worth your time and attention. She lays a Biblical foundation for cultivating discernment.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day writes Jen Hatmaker, the ‘Christian Machine’, and Genuine Orthodox Christianity in response to Hatmaker’s Good Friday post comparing the backlash to her support of same sex marriage to Christ’s sufferings on the cross. Please,  Ms. Hatmaker,  grow up!

Michelle Lesley has a passion for teaching women how to study the Bible for themselves. Her article, Bible Book Backgrounds: Why You Need Them and Where to Find Them, provides an excellent resource for studying God’s Word.

I so appreciate Rebekah Womble of Wise In His Eyes for her balanced and Biblical perspective in Beware the Lies of Emotionalism. Our culture has wrongly influenced the visible church that feelings, rather than God’s Word, lead us into a right relationship with the Lord.

Writing for Parking Space 23, Allen Cagle encourages church music leaders to ask, Should We Sing That Song? Those of us in the pews might also benefit from these guidelines for evaluating worship music.

The newest trend in evangelical circles exalts “authenticity” and “brokenness.” As Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition Blog says in his piece, Beware of Broken Wolves, false teachers often use these postures as a means of spreading deceit to the rest of Christ’s Body.

 

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Why I Regret Using Hillsong’s Music As Part Of My Wedding (And Why You Should Avoid The Group)

9af2c-deviationThe song, as far as I could tell, focused on the Lord’s incomparable greatness and sought His help to worship Him with everything in me. It reminded me that not even the wonderful man next to me could ever mean as much to me as Christ. Although I committed myself to John that day, I maintained a higher commitment to my Savior. Therefore I believed the song fit our wedding perfectly!

At the time, I had no idea that Hillsong, the supposedly Christian group that wrote and popularized the song, represented Hillsong Church, an extreme Charismatic church that promotes Word of Faith teachings. Sadly, I have since learned the truth about the church, and have consequently been convinced to categorically avoid their music.

Over the almost 15 years since my wedding, I’ve had more exposure to Hillsong’s music through the church we attended early in our marriage, and some of those songs betrayed the group’s aberrant theology.  As my exposure to their songs increased, I also began coming across articles about the church, its beliefs and finally its ambiguous posture toward homosexuality.

The difficulties with Hillsong can’t be contained in a single blog post, particularly when I’ve just spent an hour rummaging through Google searching for a definitive article that would conveniently consolidate all the documentation I want in one handy place. I can only urge you to research Hillsong Church for yourselves, asking why they have women pastors, why an unrepentant homosexual serves on the worship team of their New York church and why their music never mentions repentance or God’s wrath.

Notice that I have trouble making a distinction between Hillsong’s music and their church. This overlapping is precisely the reason we must avoid their music. Music has tremendous power over human emotions, which in turn inform how we think. The doctrinal imprecision of Hillsong’s lyrics, coupled with the hints of Word of Faith ideology, lower a listener’s resistance to their church’s message. For that reason Bible-believing Christians must regard their music as highly damaging.

We live in an age that celebrates emotion at the expense of Biblical doctrine. Hillsong’s music thrives on this tendency, subtly pulling people in to its Prosperity Gospel. As discerning Christian women, however, we must recognize the dangerous influence of Hillsong’s music, and the even more dangerous teachings of their church. Buying their music only finances their spread of false teaching. Using their music in our weddings, whether intentional or not, endorses doctrinal error that might cause others to deviate from sound teaching. And we just can’t take those risks.

 

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Psychology Is More Than We Need

If you’ll look at the archives to the right on this blog, you’ll find several essays that detail the various reasons that Bible-believing Christians must completely reject psychology. Although I may revisit some of those objections in future posts, today , let’s talk about the underlying issue. When we join psychoanalysis to Scripture, we very openly admit our belief that God’s Word lacks the ability to address a person’s spiritual needs.

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

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

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

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

Something that happened a number of years ago might help to demonstrate a more Scriptural approach to anger. Just as I needed to complete my PCA’s time sheet and print it for her to sign (we needed to  fax all the time sheets before she returned the following Monday), Adobe Reader froze. When I restarted it, Dell started installing 29 updates. I knew my PCA didn’t feel well and wanted to go home, which pressured me. Obviously, she couldn’t wait around while my computer updated itself.

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

I immediately thought of Scriptures about wives submitting to husbands and about controlling anger. Although I felt like continuing my temper tantrum, I simply obeyed God’s Word. I didn’t fall back on psychological explanations for this latest tirade. I simply acknowledged my sin and repented. Knowing the Lord’s will that I exercise self-control was sufficient.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~~2 Peter 1:3-8 (ESV)

The Lord has taught me that, as Scripture deepens my knowledge of Who He is and how He sees things, I don’t need the man-made discipline of psychology. His Word tells me everything I need to know.

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