Thoughts From An Old Fogey: Teenagers Are Brighter Than Youth Leaders Think

Teenage Girl04When I tell people (particularly  those engaged in youth ministry) that I spent my high school years attending three Bible Studies a week in which we actually studied the Bible, they often respond by saying kids are different now. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have shortened their attention spans so that they have trouble sitting through a half-hour verse-by-verse exposition of God’s Word. Teens in the 21st Century need games to work off their energy and snacks to look forward to after sitting through a 15-minute topical teaching.

A few years  ago, for instance, a youth group leader from another church told me Continue reading

Luxurious Bible Study? Oh Yeah!

Bubble BibleWhen I hear the word “luxuriate,”  I generally envision a nice long bubble bath in a jacuzzi. Preferably by candlelight.  Chocolate and/or cheesecake should definitely be involved. Maybe even some soft music in the background, Hey: an old lady can dream, can’t she?

But I woke up this morning knowing that I would luxuriate in my favorite passage in all of God’s Word. I’ve been working through Paul’s letter to Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: How Not To Subdue Pink Elephants

Originally posted November 1, 2017:

Pink Elephant

Funny how growing in the Lord and getting Biblical teaching changes the way one views things. A little over twenty years ago I left my position as correspondence counselor for an ex-gay ministry, largely because of my personal circumstances. Sure, a few things about the ministry bothered me a bit, but for the most part I believed in what they did. I accepted no criticism of them from any quarter.

To be clear, I still believe homosexuality violates God’s intent for sexuality. Those who engage in it, even if their engagement never extends beyond fantasy, stand guilty of sin. Furthermore I still believe homosexuality can, like every other sin, be forgiven and forsaken through the blood of Jesus Christ.

 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

Over the passage of twenty years, however, I’ve come to question the wisdom of building an entire ministry around one specific sin rather than around the Lord. When people meet together, and especially when they live together in a residential program, should we really be surprised when they fall back into the very sin that they’re seeking to escape?

A friend once counseled me, when I was single and struggling with desires for marriage, that simply telling myself not to think about marriage would invariably backfire. “It’s like trying not to think about pink elephants,” she said. “The harder you try not to think about pink elephants, the more you think about them.” She was right. Try not to think about pink elephants, and see what happens.

The answer to controlling my fantasies wasn’t in thinking about how sinful my fantasies were. Nor was it in gathering with other single women and talking about the struggles to control our desires for marriage. We thought praying together and asking the Lord for psychological insight into the root causes for our desires would eventually free us from our bondage to romantic fantasies.

We ignored a simple principle from Scripture.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.~~Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV)

Walking by the Spirit means nothing other than filling our minds with God’s Word and ordering our lives in conformity with His teaching. It does require discipline, yes, and admittedly self-denial causes emotional pain. But the more we delight in the Lord, the less we want things that offend Him. Walking by the Spirit isn’t easy,  but it is certainly simple.

The Bible never advises us to surround ourselves with people who struggle with the same sin we do. Instead, it encourages us to look to Christ with a commitment to glorify Him.  In so doing, we really do experience victory over whatever pink elephants we battle.

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Snippets Of Scripture Can’t Teach God’s Word Responsibly

IMG_1892When the church John and I used to attend embarked on Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose campaign, the leadership showed promotional videos during the three Sunday services leading up to the campaign. As I watched the first video, I couldn’t help noticing how frequently Warren quoted Bible verses out of context in order to substantiate some of his claims. Reading only the two opening chapters of The Purpose Driven Life, I saw the same trend, made worse by his use of multiple translations and paraphrases to provide his desired effect.

How did I recognize that he quoted Bible verses out of context? Simple: I’d done the same thing when I wrote counseling letters for Love In Action. I knew the psychological principles that our ministry embraced. All I had to do was shoehorn Continue reading

Flashback Friday: Which All People Did Jesus Die For?

Originally posted April 25, 2016

Pink tulips framedThe doctrine of Limited Atonement seems contradictory to the Bible verses that talk about Jesus dying for all people. I had difficulty accepting the doctrine because of such verses myself, so I do sympathize with my Christian brothers and sisters who believe God’s Word refutes it. Consequently, I pray that I can maintain an attitude of humility as I demonstrate how to understand these Scriptures while still affirming that Christ shed His blood specifically for those who would believe in Him.

Obviously I can’t examine every verse that people use to support the belief that Christ died for everyone in this single article. And it would probably be tedious if I wrote a separate article about each verse in question. So I’ve decided to show you just one passage, which I believe offers helpful context. I will also explain how the passage fits into the broader context of the apostle Paul’s teaching. Once you see my hermeneutic in understanding this passage, I pray that you’ll apply it to the other Scriptures on this issue.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-15 (ESV)

I see verse 11 as   clearly as you do. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,” it says. But verse 14 says with equal force  that He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession.” This verse makes it evident that God has formed a particular group of people, distinct from the world in general, to belong exclusively to Him. Therefore Christ’s sacrifice only applies to this select group.

How does verse 14 then square with verse 11? Looking at Titus 2:1-10 provides the needed context:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.~~Titus 2:1-10 (ESV)

Notice that Paul addresses a variety of sub-groups within the church in Crete. Although each sub-group has its own distinct responsibilities, they all function in ways that bring honor and glory to the Lord. Salvation crosses lines of gender, age and socioeconomic position. Paul affirms the same principal in Galatians 3:25-29.

Having once been a Jewish Pharisee who believed salvation was limited to his ethnic group, Paul delighted in knowing that  Gentiles could enter into God’s Kingdom through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (see Romans 1:16 and Ephesians 2:11-22). Titus 2:11, therefore, ties in with these Scriptures  (and others like them) to celebrate the glorious fact that Christ opens salvation to every race and nation. Salvation appears, not just to Jews, but to believers from every nation!

Praise the Lord that all who believe in Him, not just the physical descendants of Abraham, have the privilege of His salvation. We should feel humbled by His generosity to include us in His elect, mindful that we’ve done nothing to deserve His favor.

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Refuting False Teaching By Keeping Christ In Focus

Flowering trees 01

Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible.

Okay, I lied — it’s definitely my favorite. John’s gospel is a close second, and I love it for the same reason that I love Colossians: both books center on showing us Who Christ is. I know, of course, that the entire Bible reveals Him, but these two books paint particularly clear pictures of Him. Therefore, I go back to them as often as I can without neglecting the rest of God’s Word.

So I’m currently working through Colossians during my personal time with the Lord, making preliminary notes before I go back over it using commentaries. What a rich, satisfying experience! I feel as if I’m dining at one of Boston’s finest restaurants!

This morning I came across a verse in Chapter 2 that absolutely thrilled me, as well as encouraging me in developing better discernment skills. In fact, I believe everyone in discernment ministry ought to Continue reading

Don’t Analyze Your Sin — Kill It!

Killing SinPsychology has many inherent problems. Regular readers know quite well that I strongly oppose incorporating it into evangelicalism because of its roots in evolution and the occult as well as the way it encourages narcissism. Since churches began embracing psychological counseling in the late 1970s, Christians have learned to view their propensities for besetting sins (alcoholism and homosexuality mostly, but not exclusively) as addictions.

Suddenly, Christians dealt with individual sin patterns through lengthy counseling programs, frequently looking at their childhood hurts to identify root causes of those sins. My pastor in California, for example, believed that my uncontrolled anger stemmed from a traumatic event when I was very young. Perish the thought that it Continue reading