Understandable Assumptions Don’t Mean Correct Understanding

My friend pointed to the girl across the room, acting as if I’d never noticed the severity of the girl’s Cerebral Palsy. My friend balked at the announcement that the girl would be baptized that evening, but not because she suspected the girl hadn’t really placed her faith in Christ. On the contrary, my friend knew that baptism signifies repentance from sin, and consequently wondered why we wanted to baptize her. She whispered critically, “Why does someone like her need to be baptized? How could someone that disabled possibly sin?”

I sort of understood my friend’s perspective. Like me, the girl was a quadriplegic, but she didn’t have the ability to type with a mouthstick or headstick. Like me, she had an extreme speech impediment, but I was really the only one who could decipher her grunts and facial expressions well enough to translate for her (thankfully my speech was clear enough for me to do so). Outwardly, the girl appeared to have few desires beyond skipping her peanut butter sandwiches in favor of dessert. How could someone that disabled possibly be considered a sinner?

I knew better. Having grown up with her at the school for disabled children, I knew quite well of her strong will and intense desire to have the social advantages that I enjoyed. Sadly, her learning disability prevented her from being mainstreamed part-time into regular school, and her unintelligible speech kept her from meaningful friendships — even with other disabled kids. Yet she definitely knew what she wanted, and she had no problem expressing her frustration in violent outbursts.

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The Most Important Aspect Of Dealing With False Teachers

For years, I researched several popular false teachers (most notably Beth Moore) with the motive of helping women escape their deceptions. To a point, that research benefited me, and hopefully benefited some of my readers. I still appreciate the bloggers and podcasters who keep up with these teachers and faithfully warn against them. Doing so requires a lot of time and effort, usually incurring a lot of abuse from followers of false teachers. When this form of discernment ministry is done properly and with a right attitude, it can be worth the persecution just to save one person from the lies that could damn their souls (Jude 22-23).

Aging with a physical disability has significantly reduced my desire to research false teachers, however. I now leave that work to people with more stamina. Oh, I might occasionally pop out a blog post alerting readers to a dangerous teacher, but I doubt I’d make it a regular practice. And the Lord has convinced me to compliment the ministries of those courageous bloggers who name names by teaching women discernment through sound doctrine.

This past month I’ve been reading 2 Peter, an epistle known for its teaching on handling false teachers (Chapter 2) and unbelieving scoffers (Chapter 3). Over the past few days, Chapter 1 has caught my attention, as Peter lays a foundation for the bulk of his epistle by encouraging his readers toward God’s Word as the source for knowing God. Interestingly, during this week’s Bible Study reviewing Colossians at our church, my pastor emphasized that Paul’s approach to refuting false teachers hinged on teaching right doctrine. The best way to spot false doctrine, he said, is to saturate oneself in true doctrine. Between 2 Peter and my pastor, I learned that the most effective approach to dealing with false teachers comes from knowing God through His Word.

Peter begins his second epistle with one of my favorite passages.

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Can Shut-Ins Serve Their Local Churches?

During the last three years (even before Covid), health problems and New England winters have prevented me and John from physically attending church. Thankfully, I’m getting better, so we anticipate returning to in-person worship in April. Meanwhile, we praise God that our church streams its Sunday morning services and Wednesday night Bible Studies. Recently, we had to download Zoom (for my annual doctor visit), which will allow me to participate in our church’s bi-weekly women’s Bible Studies. We maintain contact with our pastor, and one of the elders (along with his wife) visits us often. This period has relegated us to the status of shut-ins.

We typically think of shut-ins as being sick, elderly and/or disabled, which is certainly true. But we should also include caregivers who must miss church in order to assist us. I guess I could write a post listing ways churches can minister to shut-ins, seeing that most of my readers probably are able-bodied. Perhaps I will write such an article in the future. But right now I want to give you tools to encourage shut-in friends and family members in taking whatever responsibility they can to serve their local churches. And I pray that any shut-in reading this post will apply the principles I lay out.

Scripture teaches that the local church is a body of believers (1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:10-16). Those who are able to physically attend church, therefore, need to meet faithfully with their brothers and sisters as frequently as possible (Hebrews 10:23-25). At the same time, those of us who are (to borrow a phrase from Michelle Lesley) providentially hindered from attending church need to adopt the attitude that we’re still very much a part of the body. We possess the same privileges and responsibilities as all the other members in the congregation. Today I want to talk about some of those responsibilities.

Let’s look at a passage from 1 Corinthians 12 for a moment.

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Abortion: A Reason For Judgment And Hope

No one wants to believe that life begins at conception when she discovers that she’s pregnant against her will. Whether she suffered sexual abuse or willingly gave her body for the sake of pleasure, however, she has indeed created a human life. At that point, she probably feels trapped, desperately wanting to escape her pregnancy with as few consequences as possible. And even when she actually would like to keep the baby, her husband, boyfriend, parents or abuser may pressure her to “get rid of it.” Abortion can definitely seem like us easiest way out.

Especially if she convinces herself that it’s nothing more than a clump of tissue.

This webpage from BabyCenter.com, while it sadly avoids stating that life begins at conception, shows the week by week development of an unborn baby. Please notice that a baby’s heartbeat starts in the fifth week — before a mother usually knows she’s pregnant. Even if you can argue that the fetus isn’t a life prior to that occurrence, that heartbeat definitely indicates that life has begun! Psalm 139, in fact, includes a beautiful passage celebrating God’s care for the unborn:

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Flashback Friday: Butterflies Might Be Pretty, But They Flutter By Quite Quickly

Sorry for another Flashback Friday, but my week has been crazy. Too much has been going on, leaving me unable to write a full article. I found the following blog post, which I wrote on May 15, 2019, and thought you’d enjoy reading it again:

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The early years of my relationship with John overflowed with euphoria. I can remember sitting at my computer and feeling thrilled when an instant message from him popped up on my screen. The first time I visited, we couldn’t keep our eyes off each other.

The day after our wedding, we sang, “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” to each other. We were giddy! People told me that the butterflies would eventually subside. Intellectually, I knew they were right,  but my emotions told me a much different story. I simply couldn’t imagine looking at John without feeling butterflies.

I’m not sure when the butterflies flew away. One day I just realized that they had given way to a much more satisfying love. This new love satisfies me even more, for it roots itself in commitment to John and to the Lord.

Loving a husband definitely includes romantic feelings, but we do ourselves a terrible disservice if we limit our understanding of love to butterflies and fireworks. As fun as those things are, they lack the splendid depth of mature married love.

Butterflies don’t stick around when the finances force your husband to cut back on meals out. They flutter away when he can’t stop coughing, and they shy away from his hospital room after cancer surgery. His annoying habits put butterflies to flight — or at least turn them into dull brown moths.

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Flashback Friday: After Darkness, Light (With An Updated Introduction)

Post Tenebras Lux

Four years ago, Reformed Christians celebrated the 500th anniversary of the event held to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther, then an Augustinian monk, simply posted his Ninety Five Theses asking for a scholarly debate on the Roman Catholic practice of selling Indulgences. At the time, he had absolutely no intention of breaking from the Roman Catholic Church; he only wanted to encourage an examination of its teachings in light of Scripture. Sadly, Rome hadn’t the slightest interest in having “a drunken German monk” question Papal authority, and eventually Luther was excommunicated as a heretic.

At around that time, God awakened John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli and John Knox (among others) to the necessity of getting back to God’s Word. Through their faithful unwillingness to compromise with the errors of Roman Catholicism, these men laid the foundation for the Reformation. Their willingness to suffer and risk their lives so that you and I could read the Bible and worship the Lord according to its teachings should be celebrated! Therefore, on October 31, 2017, I commemorated the 500th anniversary of the official start of the Reformation by writing the following blog post.

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Where’s My Statement Of Faith?

Does a Christian blogger really need to include a Statement Of Faith on his or her website? Strictly speaking, maybe not. There aren’t any actual rules or regulations for blogging — Christian or otherwise — because blogs are self-published, and therefore guided by the conscience of each author. From that perspective, one might argue that no one mandates that a Christian blog must include a Statement Of Faith, and thus one is unnecessary.

One might further argue that a blog itself is a Statement Of Faith since its individual posts over time reveal the author’s beliefs. I see merit in this supposition, particularly since a Statement Of Faith can’t possibly present every nuance of an author’s theology. Readers get to know a blogger over time, especially if articles cover a fairly wide range of subject matter. No writer possesses enough skill to condense all of his or her beliefs into a single webpage. If we want to fully understand a blogger, we have to read a good amount of that person’s work. Indeed, that commitment to read someone’s blog with a degree of thoroughness should be a priority in properly vetting that person. After all, anybody can copy-and-paste an orthodox Statement Of Faith from a website and then proceed to promulgate all kinds of error. For example, see Beth Moore’s What We Believe page and the About page for Joel Osteen’s church.

And yet, vetting a blogger (or any Christian ministry) begins with examining their stated doctrine. Look again at Beth Moore’s beliefs. Among all the points that do align with Scripture, she tucks in a crafty little item that demonstrates her lack of obedience to the very Bible that she earlier claimed to believe. She writes:

We believe we have been “baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1Corinthians 12:13) and recognize the value and equality of all members of the body of Christ. We are “all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

Did you notice that subtle opening to egalitarianism? It opens a big door to justify her unbiblical practices of preaching with men in the congregation. Thus, her Statement Of Faith drops a tiny clue that she’s not a teacher we ought to follow. Similarly, Joel Osteen’s page absolutely ignores the issue of sin. In fact, neither of them mention anything about judgment, hell or God’s wrath. leaving us to wonder why Jesus died on the cross. So their Statements Of Faith, while giving the appearance of fidelity to God’s Word, offer hints of doctrinal error,

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The Big Anniversary Was Four Years Ago, So Let’s Forget It For A While

Few people these days know much history, mostly because they assume it has nothing to do with them. It’s boring and dusty, full of dates to memorize and bloody battlefields where too many young men surrender their lives. And we’ve all suffered through history classes in school with teachers who drone on in monotone voices that make our eyelids heavy. Once we walk across a graduation stage and firmly grip that diploma, we assure ourselves that we’ll never have to think about history again!

Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017, I blogged every Tuesday about various aspects of the Reformation in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Whittenburg, Germany. Sadly, those articles attracted very few readers, probably because people prefer reading about current controversies. Critiques of Beth Moore always get more clicks than essays about Luther, Calvin or Tyndale, And I admit to understanding that boring history teachers in everyone’s past have taught us that watching paint dry is more interesting than 16th Century religious squabbles. But I believe the blog posts about the Reformation were important four years ago, and I believe blog posts about the Reformation are just as important now.

This October 31, we need to remember the Reformation, even though it’s not the major anniversary that it was four years ago. As evangelicals, we still must be mindful of our spiritual heritage. Furthermore, we owe honor to the men and women of the 16th Century who suffered immense persecution to restore Biblical worship to the church. Neglecting church history sets us up to repeat the errors of past generations.

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The Gateway To Error

Each morning Daddy struggled to put on my leg braces. In an effort to move my leg into position, my muscles would tense to the point of becoming rigid and all but impossible for him to get into the brace. When I explained that I just wanted to help, he’d bellow, “Quit helping me — you’re making it harder!” My seven-year-old mind reeled with confusion and hurt.

Then I’d be at the school for handicapped children, working on an arithmetic problem or an art project. The volunteer assisting me, out of the kindness of her heart (or maybe impatience to get the job done), would do just a little something that I could have done myself. Invariably, Mrs, G. (one of the aides that took care of our physical needs) would see the infraction and give me a big scolding for accepting unnecessary help.

So what was a seven-year-old to do? Should I obey Daddy or Mrs. G.? Was I supposed to relax and let able-bodied adults take over, or was I supposed to do whatever I could? I loved and wanted to please both these adults, and yet carrying over the principles one taught me seemed to violate the principles that the other taught. I tried to be obedient, but it was genuinely difficult to discern how they wanted me to behave.The two scenarios happened repeatedly, and neither adult had the slightest idea that I found their instructions contradictory.

At that age, I hadn’t yet been introduced to the concept of context.

But I am not writing about my childhood angst for the purpose of talking about myself, Rather, I want to use my experience to illustrate the importance of understanding things within their appropriate context. As adults, we chuckle at my childhood dilemma because we see that trying to help Daddy with my braces was vastly different from letting volunteers do things that Mrs. G. knew I needed to do for myself. Context should have shown me how to respond in each situation.

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What Do I Know Of Holy?

Several years ago, a Contemporary Christian Radio station I listened to frequently played a haunting song entitled “What Do I Know Of Holy?” I no longer listen to much of Contemporary Christian music, preferring hymns (including modern hymns by the Gettys, Bob Kauflin and Stuart Townsend) that promote solid doctrine. But at the time, I was just beginning to practice discernment, and still allowed myself little compromises here and there. So I’d listen to that song, with it’s breathless female vocalist, agreeing that God’s holiness is more than even the most mature Christian can understand.

In one sense, I agree that we will not see the holiness of the Lord until we stand before Him in glory (1 Corinthians 13:12). Our earthly bodies simply aren’t equipped to see Him in all of His majesty, From that perspective, we certainly should have humility enough to say that we can’t understand His holiness. We can only anticipate that wonderful day when He takes us Home to be with Him.

At this point in my walk with the Lord, however, I have to rethink my assumption that we can’t comprehend holiness at all. Although the song once appeared to be a beautiful expression of humility, it now betrays an emphasis on personal experience. As I listened to the song again yesterday, I cringed at the absence of Scriptural understanding. So I’d like to demonstrate why I believe Christians can and must develop a robust understanding of holiness.

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