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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If I Mention Beth Moore, Will You Read This?


Tulip SilhoutteI’m disappointed.

Yesterday I blogged about the mystery of the Trinity. I thought it was a helpful lesson in discernment, demonstrating how good doctrine can guide us in discerning truth from error.  To tell you the truth, I still think so.

At the time of this writing, however, only 28 people have read that post.

Over the past two-and-a-half years that I’ve operated this blog, I’ve noticed that readers flock to articles with the word “discernment” in the title, and you absolutely swarm to anything with Beth Moore’s name. But you aren’t nearly as enthusiastic when I write about topics like the resurrection or the Trinity. And Bible Studies? I’m lucky if 20 of you read any of them!

Evidently, you like the idea of being discerning, but you’re not that interested in the doctrinal work that builds discernment.

That problem puts me in an awkward position. You see, the Lord has convicted me to name false teachers only rarely. I’ve come to believe that discernment is best developed, not by being up on all the  latest celebrity teachers, but by knowing God’s Word and key Biblical doctrines.

We all know that the appalling lack of discernment among 21st Century evangelicals directly corresponds to an overwhelming spike in Biblical illiteracy. Beth Moore succeeds in developing her following because her fan base doesn’t understand principles of hermeneutics well enough to recognize that she consistently wrenches Scripture out of context and misapplies it, all while appealing to her audience’s narcissistic hunger for self-esteem.

There’s a time to expose Beth Moore, most assuredly. My blogging friend and colleague Elizabeth Prata has arguably the most comprehensive collection of articles on this false teacher imaginable. If you really need evidence that Beth Moore doesn’t teach correctly, Elizabeth certainly can provide the assistance you need.

Similarly, Michelle Lesley offers resources on a variety of false teachers ranging from Beth Moore to Lysa TerKeurst, and I recommend that you avail yourselves of her excellent research.

But I believe Elizabeth and Michelle would agree with me that the most effective way of developing discernment comes from studying Scripture and knowing sound doctrine. I may occasionally call out a false teacher here and there in this blog, but I’d rather direct you to good doctrine as a way to cultivate discernment skills. I believe that drawing you toward Bible Study and highlighting main doctrines will best show you how to discern.

14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness. ~~2 Timothy 2:14-16 (ESV)

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What John Calvin And Martin Luther Say To Rick Warren And Beth Moore

Medieval Tower

Yesterday I tried to demonstrate that today’s popular teachers who promote new paradigms and/or claim to receive personal revelations from God are completely different from the Reformers of the 16th Century. I noted that, while these present-day teachers distract us from Scripture, the Reformers called Christians back to God’s Word.

So why should we bring up 500-year-old people instead of tackling Beth Moore, Rick Warren and the others directly?  How does understanding a group of religious dissenters from the Renaissance help us combat the false teachings that permeate 21st Century evangelicalism? Most Christians (even those who have excellent discernment abilities) ask such questions.

And in some respects, the people asking those questions have a point. Yet many of the errors that Beth Moore, Rick Warren and others make run parallel to errors that Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other Reformers had to correct.

For example, Beth Moore often bases her teachings on visions and personal revelations she claims to have received from the Holy Spirit. A simple Youtube search on “beth moore visions from god” will document this fact. One of the reasons discernment bloggers warn so strenuously against Beth Moore is precisely because of her extrabiblical revelations.

But did you know that John Calvin devoted Chapter 9 of his seminal book, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, to the very topic of extrabiblical revelations? It’s a short chapter, which you can read by clicking this link, but it offers a Scriptural argument (as long as you know that he understands prophecy to mean the Canon of Scripture) against personal revelations.

On a wider scope,  Rick Warren’s statement that Catholics and Protestants have the basic doctrines of Christianity in common probably would have perplexed an older Martin Luther. Hadn’t Luther risked his very life refuting Rome’s teaching that grace came through the sacraments and through purchasing leftover merits accrued by Mary and the saints? Hadn’t he insisted that justification comes through faith alone?

Until the Catholic Church rescinds the Council of Trent, which stridently condemns the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, Protestants must recognize that Catholics preach another gospel. Therefore we cannot accept Rick Warren’s embrace of Roman Catholicism. The very Reformation itself exposes Rick Warren as, at best, a seriously compromised evangelical.

Of course, we must ultimately measure truth by the Bible, not by the Reformers. Calvin and Luther had a few blind spots of their own. But the Reformers teach us how to apply Scriptural principles to teachers like Beth Moore and Rick Warren. Studying the Protestant Reformation enhances our discernment. Don’t underestimate its value.

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Why Beth Moore, Rick Warren And Ann Voskamp Aren’t Like The Reformers

Ancient Scripture

We’ve talked a lot about popular teachers such as Beth Moore, Rick Warren and Ann Voskamp on this blog, highlighting their claims that God speaks to them personally and shows them new — or at least  deeper  — understandings of Christian spirituality. Invariably, these understandings (really the same recycled lies of false teachers throughout history) result in twisting Scripture and/or elevating something to the same level as God’s Word.

One might argue that these teachers aren’t a great deal different from Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other 16th Century Reformers who split from Roman Catholicism. On the surface, it admittedly appears to be the case. Can we really consider these 21st Century teachers as heretics when they actually might see a new direction that the Holy Spirit wants for His Church?

I believe there’s a tremendous difference between 21st Century teachers and the Reformers of the 16th Century. And I’m here to tell you why I believe there’s a difference.

In the first place, the Protestant Reformation never set out to divide from the Roman Catholic Church. That fact, sorry to say, gets largely overlooked by both Catholics and Protestants as we discuss 16th Century church history. Some even believe that the Reformers deliberately wanted to start a new religion.

You may counter by reminding me that the teachers I’ve mentioned also have no desire to divide the Church. Indeed, Beth Moore and Rick Warren famously advocate for unity among professing Christians, even to the point of obscuring differences between Protestants and Catholics. Doctrine, they say, divides the Church. In contrast, they believe the Holy Spirit has given them new revelation that leads to new ways of knowing God and/or “doing” church.

The Reformers, on the other hand, based their reforms on the Scriptures in their original languages. They saw inaccuracies in the Latin translations of the Bible, as well as false teachings within Roman Catholic tradition and an unbiblical elevation of papal authority. As a matter of fact, they objected to the supposed special revelation that God allegedly gave to popes, insisting instead that God’s Word contains all the revelation we need.

The Reformers eventually did have to break from the Roman Catholic Church, but only because the Roman Catholic Church first broke from Biblical Christianity. Luther, Calvin and the others went back to God’s Word as the only trustworthy means of hearing God’s voice. Furthermore, they labored hard and long to make the Word of God accessible, both through translating it into common languages (only clergy in the 16th Century knew Latin) and by preaching expositional sermons verse by verse to teach Christians proper ways of interpreting the Bible.

One hallmark of false teachers is that they promise something new. The Reformers, however, restored God’s people to the old Gospel of Jesus Christ. To them, novelty and innovation only breeds the corruption of sound doctrine, drawing people away from the simple truth of Scripture.

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How Could Understanding Sola Scriptura Apply To 21st Century Evangelicals (Or Does It?)

sola-scriptura-02October 2017 has arrived, bringing more intensified blog posts and podcasts about the Protestant Reformation. Hopefully a few evangelicals will gain interest in this watershed moment in church history (indeed, in world history) as the conversation escalates.

Sadly, most probably won’t.

History in  general bores most people. I’ve mentioned before that one friend of mine prefers to concentrate on the mess in the 21st Century Church rather than study what happened 500 years ago. To her, the Reformation seems largely irrelevant. And I definitely agree that the visible Church has very serious problems that Christians should address vigorously. Sitting in an ivory tower memorizing the Five Solas seems ineffectual when people like Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker and Lysa TerKeurst are actively promoting false teaching and obscuring the truth.

Yet I would argue that false teaching proliferates precisely because most evangelicals have ignored, neglected and/or forgotten the Five Solas and other legacies of the Protestant Reformation. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), for example, would go a long way in correcting most of the errors in present-day evangelicalism.

By 1517, the Roman Catholic Church had devolved into a religious system that suppressed the Gospel for the sake of political power. Popes depended on the unquestioning obedience of the laity, and consequently they developed a theology that made people rely on works and religious taxation (as exemplified in the sale of Indulgences) in order to retain their hold on people.

Keeping the Bible and the Mass in Latin helped them maintain control over everyone. By making God’s Word inaccessible to all but the highest levels of clergy, the Roman Catholic Church avoided questions about its unbiblical doctrines and practices. As you might expect, therefore, the Reformers’ emphasis on preaching the Word and translating it into languages that people could read for themselves posed a substantial threat to Rome.

Today, the Bible is readily available in an astounding variety of formats, and most false teachers will encourage their followers to study it. They obscure it, however, by promoting supplemental teaching, mystical experiences or self-centered interpretations that cause people to follow them. They discourage proper hermeneutics and rush to annex psychology,  Charismatic gifts and/or mysticism to Bible Study, thus distracting people from the clear teaching of Sacred Text.

Studying the Protestant Reformation, and observing how the Reformers drew people back to the Bible, would go a long way in correcting many flaws in the present-day church. As we see how Luther, Tyndale, Calvin and other 16th Century Reformers insisted on Sola Scriptura and the other Solas, we learn to resist error and cling to the truth. If ever a generation needed to study the Reformation, it’s this one.

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It Goes Beyond Calling Out Beth Moore

Floating BalloonSince I’ve been blogging about the various problems with many discernment ministries and discernment bloggers over the past couple years (and especially in recent weeks), some of you may have the impression that I look down my nose at discernment in general. If so, you’ve misunderstood me. I actually value discernment quite highly as something every Christian absolutely must exercise. The Word of God says that Christians should grow in discernment.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~~Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)

Do you notice that Paul would have discernment, as well as knowledge, connected with abounding love? Did you also notice that he would have Christians abound in love, knowledge and all discernment for the purpose of glorifying God with purity, blamelessness and righteousness? God indeed calls us to discernment, but the discernment He means is a great deal different from the thing that many self-proclaimed discernment bloggers exhibit.

Discernment certainly includes naming names to identity false teachers. Please don’t misunderstand me as saying that we shouldn’t call out Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, Rick Warren or any of the other evangelical celebrities who have damaged the Body of Christ in recent years. The Bible Study I led you through on Jude just last year made it clear that discernment requires us to recognize those who distort God’s Word. So yes, doing so remains an indispensable function of discernment ministry.

But, dear sisters in Christ, it’s only one of several aspects of discernment. Biblical discernment, at its heart, distinguishes between good and evil, and then makes further distinctions between good, better and best. It rightly interprets Scripture using proper hermeneutics to judge teachings and behaviors to ensure our conformity to the Lord’s will.

Discernment ministry should never exalt our supposed discernment skills. Personally, I find it off-putting when someone tells me she has the gift of discernment. I’ve seen too many women who believe they have that gift who are really gullible. (One friend of mine who prides herself on being discerning sought physical healing at a Benny Hinn crusade.) When we set ourselves up as purveyors of discernment, we display a type of pride that can seriously undermine our credibility.

I pray for discernment, but the Lord repeatedly humbles me by allowing me to see how often I still lack it. Thankfully, His Word offers me a way to develop discernment as I go through life. As I submit to His revealed will in Scripture, He enables me to discern His will in any given situation. He also helps me determine whether or not something conforms to His Word.

I’ll keep blogging about discernment, not because I fancy myself as being discerning, but because I want to grow right along with you in being a godly woman. I want discernment for the sake of honoring the Lord, not for the purpose of building my own blogging empire. If so-called discernment doesn’t direct hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ, is it really discernment?

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