Flashback Friday: Psychological Seduction

Originally published January 30, 2017.

The allure of  “Christian” psychology is twofold. First, it allows us to focus on ourselves without apology. Second, it promises wisdom over and above what the Bible gives us. As one might surmise, these two attractions intersect, offering us special understanding about ourselves. With the aid of a “Christian” therapist, we can unravel mysteries explaining why we continually fall into  sin (usually discovering that our sin patterns arise because someone or something caused us some type of trauma).

The more I learn about psychology (“Christian” or secular), the more I believe it betrays a propensity toward Gnosticism. We love thinking that we can “go deeper” than the Bible to explore the complexities of the human psyche. After all, not every Christian gets to understand the deep workings of the human mind, right? Psychology lets us join the spiritual elite.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians addressed false teachers who offered a deeper level of wisdom to Christians. Obviously, Freud and Jung hadn’t yet developed psychological models, but the principles Paul put forth regarding the source of wisdom and the necessity of rejecting proposed wisdom apart from that source speak just as well to the deeper wisdom of psychology as they did to the early seeds of Gnosticism in Paul’s day.

Paul roots his argument against looking for secret wisdom squarely in the supremacy of Christ.

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)

Did you notice verse 3? We find wisdom, not in the supposed enlightenment of humanity, but in Christ. And He reveals His wisdom through His Word. The apostle Peter made it clear that what we know of the Lord fully equips us for all the eventualities of the Christ 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. 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. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ~~2 Peter 1:3-11 (ESV)

Not very esoteric, admittedly, but that’s precisely my point! In Christ, we have every resource we need in order to overcome sin. We don’t need psychoanalysis to help us identify the roots of our personality struggles. Unless our physician can find a medical reason for psychological problems (which can, and should, be treated with appropriate medication), we can find everything we need to combat recurring sin issues in the Word of God.

Gnosticism, in any form, denies the sufficiency of Christ and the sufficiency of Scripture. Girlfriends, we mustn’t succumb to that temptation. Don’t fall for psychology’s seductive lie that it will help you better understand yourself. Instead of desiring self-knowledge, seek to know the Lord by studying His Word.

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I’d Rather See Myself As DebbieLynne Than As Debbie

DebbieLynne As Queen

How I see myself

Forgetting the previous year’s experience, I’d enter the Physical Therapy room at Marindale School for the Orthopedically Handicapped looking forward to watching a movie all about me.* But the black and white child projected on the screen was a monster who exhibited jerky, uncontrolled movements and a grotesque spinal curvature. My therapist pointed to the screen cheerily announcing, “There’s Debbie!”

I wanted to say, “No! That’s not me at all!” Oh, I understood that I’d been born with Cerebral Palsy, and by age 8 I could rattle off my various symptoms. I knew about tonic neck reflex, involuntary movement and athetosis  better than most adults, and I knew my physical limitations quite well. But I’m sorry: That horrible creature galloping sloppily across that home movie screen simply wasn’t me!

I learned to Continue reading

If I Must Be Born Again, How Do I Manage It?

IMG_0356As a young Christian,  I had a zeal for evangelism. Not a talent for it, mind you, and not the best motives, but certainly the burning conviction that everybody needed to be born again. So I’d drive my motorized wheelchair all over my high school campus, passing out tracts and telling people they must be born again.

I frequently referred to John 3:1-8 as substantiation for my message. That indeed is the appropriate passage.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ~~John 3:1-8 (ESV)

Actually, I ignored verses 5, 6 and 8 because I just plain didn’t understand them! Anyway, I wanted to emphasize the apparent command to be born again. I demanded that people repent of sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to escape eternal hell. In my overly simplistic mind, accepting Jesus and living for Him caused someone to be born again.

My misinterpretation of the words “must be” created the problem, both in understanding the concept for myself and in presenting the Gospel to others. By separating those two words from their context, I emphasized human responsibility over the prerogative of the Holy Spirit.

Being born again isn’t a human accomplishment; it’s the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. on those He wills to save. In fact, the words of the apostle John two chapters earlier help clarify that very point.

12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ~~John 1:12-13 (ESV)

Notice verse 13, please.  Although the acts of receiving Him and believing in His name are involved in becoming children of God (verse 12), the spiritual birth results from God’s will, not human will or effort.

Jesus taught Nicodemus that, though being born again is an essential requisite to  entering the kingdom of God, it isn’t something we do ourselves. As John MacArthur has explained numerous times, we played no part in our physical births, so what makes us think that we could possibly have anything to do with our spiritual ones?

Yes, Jesus said we must be born again. Like a child must be a certain height and weight to ride in a car without a booster seat. Like you have to be 18 to register as a voter. You can’t reach those conditions through your own efforts, but those conditions must be met. Although we must be born again, that rebirth happens through the work of the Holy Spirit.

I still have evangelism as a high priority, even if I do it better online than in person. I also still want people to know that they must be born again. Now, however, I understand what it means and how it happens. That understanding makes a huge difference!

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How Advice On Blogging Resembles Church Growth Strategies And Why Both Demean You

Head Stick Pics 007As a blogger, I’m supposed to understand that you readers can’t read lengthy paragraphs. Just like church growth strategists understand that you can’t listen to sermons over 20 minutes long.

You need easily readable blog posts and digestible worship experiences for a few critical reasons.

  • You have short attention spans
  • You shouldn’t have to use Dictionary.com or learn Biblical doctrine
  • You need bloggers and pastors to quickly tell you how their material immediately benefits you

According to a blog I read on the art of blogging, I apparently expect you, my readers, to read with more maturity and engagement than you can muster. Reformed pastors have the same unrealistic expectations of people in their pews.

If I want more readers, I should dumb down my blog, just as my pastor should dumb down his sermons to gain new members.

Okay, I’m ready to stop writing this parody of the blogging advice blog (although I certainly entertained myself by imitating his writing style and implementing some of his suggestions). Having majored in English Continue reading

Familiar Psalm, Unfamiliar Hymn

Tragically, one could argue that hymns in general are unfamiliar to most professing evangelicals. But I digress.

Psalm 23 is well-known, even among non-Christians. Almost any movie with a funeral scene includes a minister somberly reciting its words as mourners gather around the grave, allowing avid movie buffs to subconsciously memorize it regardless of their religious views. And those who identify as Christians definitely find comfort in its beautiful imagery.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” We draw strength from these words, as well as the words which follow them. Often we speak them to ourselves in times of crisis, assuring ourselves that — despite the most unspeakable circumstances — our Shepherd continues to guide and protect us. We take solace in knowing that we “will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Last Sunday I encountered a hymn based on Psalm 23 that I’d never heard until then. I’m guessing it’s unfamiliar to many of you. Perhaps it might give you fresh perspective on this psalm that we know so well.

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Saturday Sampler: November 18 — November 24

Reflecting Balls Sampler

I’m not going to tell you why Clint Archer contributes Moths & Roaches: Responding to the Light to The Cripplegate this week. I want your curiosity to bug you until you read it.

Those of us who lean to the right politically should pay attention to Tim Bates’ Judge the Left Rightly in Things Above Us. He masterfully helps us subjugate our political affinities to the authority of Scripture.

Pyromaniacs features Hohn Cho’s insightful post, Voting and the 2018 Elections. Okay, it’s lengthy (even by Pyromaniacs standards). But he makes several important points that Christians need to contemplate. A few of his thoughts might even offer you some refreshment and encouragement.

As part of a series he’s writing for Abounding Grace Radio, R. Scott Clark discusses the Canons of Dort (5): God Ordains Means To Call His Elect. As a Reformed Baptist, I would add only that God’s means also includes personal  evangelism, a task that every believer should perform. Other than that amendment, I completely agree with Clark.

Writing from Australia (which legalized same sex marriage only last year), Stephen McAlpine shows us the rapid fallout Australian Christians now face. I’m the bad guy? How did that happen? chronicles the increasing persecution to people who dare to stand for a  Biblical view of human sexuality. I wonder, reading his words, if American Christians have become desensitized to the sexual revolution.

For a truly helpful explanation of baptism, see Tom’s post, RE-baptized??? What’s that all about? on excatholic4christ.

Please read Elizabeth Prata’s Movie Review – American Gospel: Christ Alone in The End Time. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but Elizabeth’s review gives me the extra nudge I need. See what you think.

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Flashback Friday: A Dead Turtle Is Better Than No Turtle At All

Originally posted on November 25, 2016:

 

Yesterday might have been a painful day for people who have experienced loss. The Christian blog posts extolling all the reasons we should give thanks may have felt like slaps in the face to those who grieve during this holiday season. I understand.

If you’re going through a difficult time, please bear with me, considering the possibility that what I have to say, despite its humor and whimsy, might actually encourage you. You’ve undoubtedly heard 1 Thessalonians 5:18 quoted a lot this past week, but I want to quote it again.

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  (ESV)

On this day after Thanksgiving, allow me to tell you a Christmas story from my childhood that demonstrates how thankfulness can transform disappointing circumstances into times of rejoicing.

Since Mom (who had been widowed when I was 10) was dating her first boyfriend since Daddy at the time, it must have been my 12th Christmas. She surprised me and my sister with a pair of box turtles (which, in 1965, were legal pets in California). I can remember going out to the tree and seeing that shallow, bright yellow tub that housed our new pets.

One turtle was very active, at least insofar as turtles can be active. I don’t recall how we determined that it was meant for my sister, and speculation on that point would detract from this story. I do remember gently prodding the sedentary turtle–my turtle–thinking he just needed a wake-up nudge. When he failed to respond, I moved him a bit more forcefully.

My 9-year-old sister, skilled in diagnosis, said matter-of-factly, “I think he’s dead.”

We made a few more futile attempts at getting him to move before I agreed with her conclusion. At that point, my wails of lament began! Of course, my crying awakened Mom, who came flying down the hall to see what on earth was wrong!

I’m not sure what happened next. I just remember being in the bathroom, weeping inconsolably, when Mom’s boyfriend arrived for Christmas breakfast. Seeing my pre-teenage dramatics, he looked inquiringly at Mom and grunted, “What’s wrong with her now?”

Mom sighed, “Her turtle died.”

“Is that all?” he bellowed with laughter. He turned to me and said, “Cheer up. A dead turtle is better than no turtle at all!” We all burst into laughter at his unique perspective, and enjoyed the rest of that Christmas.

Long after that boyfriend disappeared from our lives, Mom, my sister and I often comforted ourselves in minor disappointments with the mantra, “A dead turtle is better than no turtle at all.” Despite its macabre tone, it reminded  us to be grateful, no matter what.

I realize,  of course, that a  dead box turtle hardly compares to real trials such as a  miscarriage, a spouse with cancer or a lost job. All too often, life throws things at us that  hurt unbearably, and I’d never trivialize such instances with my quip about dead turtles. The same Bible that  commands us to give thanks in everything also commands us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Even in standing for truth, the Lord calls us to act with  compassion and sensitivity towards those who genuinely hurt.

That said, those who grieve mustn’t wallow in their grief. I know, all too well, how easily we can   shake angry fists at God when His decrees run counter (or even threaten to run counter) to our desires. Almost five years ago, my husband came very close to death. Had I lost him, the Lord still would have called me to thank Him for John’s salvation, as well as for allowing me to be married to such a godly man.

Thankfulness doesn’t come easily for anyone. But, when we look away from our disappointments and to the Lord Jesus Christ, we find reasons to cultivate thankfulness. I don’t know if anyone is reading this essay with a broken heart today, but I do know that even that woman can find compassion as she remembers Christ’s love for her. Even through her tears, she can thank Him, trusting both His sovereignty and His love for her.

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