The Mess The Church Is In Now

Catholic to Protestant

Few Christians disagree that the visible church is corrupt. It’s pretty much impossible to ignore the moral compromises infecting all denominations, as well as independent churches as scandals proliferate. Social media only makes matters worse. Some “discernment blogs” (particularly Pulpit & Pen) absolutely delight in reporting every negative tidbit they can find. To be honest, scandal sells.

Admittedly, sometimes we need to name names. I have boldly written about Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Sarah Young, Matthew Vines and others who inject false teaching into evangelical circles and thereby distort the Gospel. Additionally I have addressed popular trends like Holy Yoga, direct revelation, seeker-sensitive churches and the Social Justice Movement many times on this blog. I will continue doing so when I believe situations warrant such articles.

The visible church is unquestionably a mess.

We often forget, however, that the visible church has always been a mess. Paul wrote most of his epistles for the express purpose of confronting false doctrines and sinful practices within the First Century churches. As Roman Catholicism developed its system of justification by works, few professing Christians understood the Gospel of salvation by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The Protestant Reformation restored the Bible to common people, although many Christians died as martyrs. Catholic authorities accused these men and women of heresy because they accepted Scripture’s authority over that of the pope.

All too soon after the Reformation, Enlightenment philosophers attracted the attention of the Puritans, enticing them to integrate rationalism into theology. From there, liberalism and psychology easily blended into churches, always at the expense of doctrinal purity.

A friend of mine once scoffed at my blog posts about church history, explaining that she cares more about the mess the church is in now. Actually, I share her concern. That’s precisely why I blog so frequently about people and trends that assault the authority, inerrancy and sufficiency of God’s Word.

But in combating the current mess in the visible church, it can help to go back in time. Certainly, our ultimate stop must be the First Century, as we stand unwaveringly  on the Word of God. We must study, interpret and apply it in context. That’s why Michelle Lesley and I write regular Bible Studies in our blogs that lead you through large portions of Scripture, showing you the progression of thought propelling each verse.

Church history can aid our application of Scripture by showing us how Christians before us dealt with messes in the visible church. We can learn from the things they did right, but also from the things they did wrong. They can teach us how to identify false teaching, and consequently how to correct it with Scripture.

The visible church most assuredly is in a mess now. Church history testifies that it’s pretty much always in a mess. If we really want to restore the church to purity, why not trust church history to teach us how to apply God’s Word?

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Saturday Sampler: July 29 — August 4

2006_0719DownTownCrossJuly060010Leslie A definitely hits the bullseye with her Growing 4 Life blog post, What Is Your Litmus Test? Oh boy, do I wish every pastor in the world would read her words from the pulpit!

In How God Speaks To Us Today, Tim Challies draws from the first four chapters of Hebrews to demonstrate God’s chosen method of communication. He doesn’t go with the popular teachings on this subject, but instead lets Scripture inform him. Maybe more of us should follow his example of discernment.

Since John and I are currently reading Revelation together, The Book of Revelation Is Not About the Rapture by Richard Gilbert in Core Christianity caught my attention. You might find this article encouraging if this Biblical book intimidates you.

Arthur Fedlier BustI’m not a fan of either Pope Francis or the World Council of Churches. Leonardo De Chirico’s August post in Vatican Files, 152. “Either Ecumenical or Proselytizer”? No. There is a Better Option exposes the joint attempt to keep Christians from proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’d hoped Albert Mohler would comment on last weekend’s Revoice Conference, so I was glad to see Torn Between Two Cultures? Revoice, LGBR Identity, and Biblical Christianity appear in my inbox. He certainly presents an insightful analysis of the conference and its ramifications.

My Charismatic friends won’t like Why There is No Such Thing as the Gift of Tongues in The Cripplegate, but I think they ought to consider the arguments that Eric Davis FAO Shwartz Bearmakes.

You’ve got to admire Michelle Lesley for courageously writing Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue. She’ll undoubtedly get flack for her firm stand on this matter. The thing is, she’s absolutely right!

Thankfully, Denny Burk weighs in on last weekend’s infamous conference in St. Louis with Revoice is over. Now what? I have a few minor reservations about his article, but I include it here because of his extensive work on the topic of human sexuality.

Todd Pruitt, in his post for Mortification of Spin, adds to the analysis of the Revoice Sacred CodConference by writing Same Sex Attraction, Temptation, and Jesus. He’s watched more of the conference videos than I have, and therefore can address one disturbing aspect that I didn’t know about.

Elizabeth Prata leaves us with An Encouragement befitting her blog’s title, The End Time. With all the garbage going on within evangelicalism, essays like this offer sweet comfort.

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Saturday Sampler: July 8 — July 14

July 1 2010 025Have you ever thought of Bible Study in terms of summer reading? Interesting concept, don’t you think? Leave it to Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word to inspire our summer devotional times with Bible Study: Fast and Slow.

We say it over and over, I know. Yet, as  Elizabeth Prata writes in The End Time, evangelical women (and some men) persist in declaring God Told Me! Once again, Elizabeth dismantles the error of direct revelation from God, hoping to convince more women to hear from God on His terms. As a bonus, she includes two 90-second videos; the Mike Abendroth video shouldn’t be missed!IMG_3852

Phil Johnson laments The Rise of Woker-Than-Thou Evangelicalism in Pyromaniacs. If he understands the “woke” phenomenon correctly (and I believe he does), we should be prayerfully concerned.

Who knew that attending a simple baseball game could result in a musing about the eternal ramifications of false teaching? John Chester of Parking Space 23 pulls off just such a feat with It’s Not Just Theology. If you’re someone who rolls her eyes at the mere thought of theology, Chester’s insights might offer you something worth considering.

As a former Charismatic, I well understand The Dangers of Emotionalism that Kelly Smith writes about in Whole Magazine.

Why Didn’t Paul Share His ‘Trip to Heaven’ Story? asks Mike Leake in Borrowed Light. This excellent examination of 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 refutes much of the mysticism that IMG_3889permeates evangelical churches.

Denny Burk writes Is temptation sinful? as an introduction to his new series examining homosexual desire. Can we really differentiate between the desire to sin and the actual sin itself. After reading this first article, I hope you’ll continue reading this series. The Scriptural principles apply to much more than homosexual sin.

I haven’t read Why Can’t We Be Friends by Aimee Byrd, but I’ve read enough of her blog posts on the topic to know that she’s basically objecting to the Pence Rule (Vice-President Pence won’t be alone with any woman other than his wife). In How Can We Be Friends? 4 Biblical and Practical Considerations for Co-Ed Christian Friendships, Michelle July 2012 Boston and Randolph 024Lesley offers an approach to the controversy that few people on either side have mentioned. Her thoughts show exceptional balance and understanding.

Three cheers for Tom Buck, whose guest post in Delivered By Grace encourages the Southern Baptist Convention in particular and Christian churches in general to Stop “Empowering” Woman and Start Equipping them to Biblically Lead. Pastor Buck really gets it right!

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How Can Christians Respond To 21st Century Controversies?

ancient-church-01Last year, despite a nearly universal aversion to history in 21st Century Western culture, many evangelicals tolerated talk about the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. After all, October 31, 2017 marked the 500th anniversary of  Martin Luther’s infamous act of posting his 95 Theses. Though the majority of Christians remained pretty much indifferent to this anniversary, they didn’t begrudge Reformed Christians our celebration. It was understandable, in a bewildering sort of way. And on November 1st, everything returned to normal.

But should we have closed our history books to once again gather dust and cobwebs? Can we now assure ourselves that the significance of the Reformation pales in comparison to the issues in our present time? The more progressive branch of evangelicals (including those who claim to be Reformed) now busy themselves with so-called social justice concerns like racism and misogyny, filing the Reformation away as irrelevant to today’s Christian culture. In turn, those of us who see dangers in the social justice movement push the Reformation aside in order to address more immediate matters.

Perhaps you feel that way. Perhaps you think last year’s celebration was all well and good, but that was then and this is now. You may be surprised to learn that I share the temptation to move on from the 16th Century and focus on 2018.

The Protestant Reformation, however, actually gives us the necessary tools for dealing with contemporary issues. I say this because the 16th Century Reformers all pointed back to Scripture. They correctly believed that Roman Catholicism had corrupted Christianity with unbiblical teachings and practices that took people away from pure devotion to God. They remedied that problem by making the Bible accessible to everyone and then by teaching it systematically through verse-by-verse exposition. Most importantly, they affirmed its authority as the Word of God.

Present-day believers face serious issues unknown to people 500 years ago. But Martin Luther and his contemporaries faced equally serious issues unknown to the First Century apostles. Yet beneath all the issues that seem so unique to each generation lie principles that the Lord addresses in His Word. For that reason, the Reformation teaches us the value of returning to Scripture.

Additionally, the Reformers model ways to handle persecution. I particularly think of William Tyndale, who was savagely executed for translating the Bible into English. The Reformers suffered greatly for their commitment to God’s Word. As our own times produce increasing hostility towards Christianity, we’d do well to study those Reformation martyrs instead of whining that we’re losing our religious liberties. Indeed, many Reformers like John Knox probably would be puzzled that Protestants would consider religious liberty to be an inalienable right.

Dear sisters, please don’t relegate the Reformation to mothballs. The grand celebrations may be long over as we exchange heated Tweets about white Christians perpetually repenting for how our ancestors offended black people or about the Southern Baptist Convention’s alleged misogyny. But we can best respond to such controversies by following the examples of the Reformers. Like them, we must go back to God’s Word and rightly divide it. Now, more than ever, we must remember the Reformation.

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Saturday Sampler: May 27 — June 2

balloon-turtle-samplerElizabeth Prata certainly hasn’t “unhitched” from the Old Testament. Her essay, The Man of God and the old prophet (and don’t forget the shriveled hand!) in The End Time, shows how delightful it is to discover lessons from Old Testament history that apply to Christian life today.

In The Upward Call, Kim Shay pleads, Older woman, don’t be a trope. Being officially an older woman, I greatly appreciate her admonition.

Even Beth Moore the Broken Clock can come up with correct ideas once in a while. Okay, her solutions lack Biblical integrity, but occasionally she actually identifies a problem accurately, as Jason Marianna reveals in his thought-provoking post in Things Above Us. Don’t worry — he’s not endorsing Beth Moore. But he acknowledges that the Lord may, in one rare instance, have used her to shed light on a real problem within the church. Who knew?

Catholicism teaches that the concept of Purgatory comes from Scripture. Tom, blogging at excatholic4christ, refutes that error with Does 2 Timothy 1:16-18 teach Purgatory? This entire issue gives one more example of practicing discernment by understanding the Word of God in its proper context.

I’ve never thought of self-control as the linchpin for the fruit of the Spirit. But in her article for Biblical Woman, Courtney McLean celebrates The Gritty, Grace-Filled Virtue of Self-Control by showing how this attribute activates love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness and gentleness.

Oh boy, do we despise being told that we can’t do something! But Kristen Wetherell rightly contends that The Only Way You Can Do God’s Will requires first acknowledging your absolute inability to do God’s will. Intrigued?  Then check out her blog post on Unlocking The Bible.

I once taught that same sex attractions were only sinful if a person acted on them. In his latest Pyromaniacs post, Regarding “Sexual Orientation,” Evil Desire, and the Question of Moral Neutrality, Phil Johnson corrects my erroneous thinking by appealing to the teachings of Scripture. Praise God for Christians who stand firmly on God’s truth, even when doing so contradicts popular opinion!

Appealing to the writings of Martin Luther, Stephen Nicholas of Ligonier answers the question, Is Sola Scriptura a Rejection of Teachers and Tradition? This essay gives a wonderful response to both critics of Reformation principles and people who misuse those principles.

Writing on the Phylicia Masonheimer blog, Anatasis Faith explains How to Avoid the Bible Journaling Mentality that adversely affects so many Christian women. If you only read one blog post featured in this Sampler, make it this one!

We end Saturday Sampler with another Elizabeth Prata essay, this one responding to Kim Shay’s piece above. Act Your Age expands on Kim’s points, drawing from a wider variety of Scriptures to demonstrate how God calls older women (like me) to behave. She beautifully rounds out Kim’s thoughts, adding her own touch of wit.

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Saturday Sampler: April 29 — May 5

IMG_1982In the bizarre atmosphere of 21st Century culture, commonsense essays can refresh the spirit.  Garbage In… Garbage Out by SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God looks at a postmodern contradiction and its Biblical solution.

Offering encouragement though  How Do We Overcome the Fear of Evangelism in Unlocking the Bible, Denise (no surname given) directs our attention to Scriptural attitudes concerning witnessing. Her article challenges us, but it also reassures us of the Lord’s commitment to help us carry out the Great Commission.

An Unpleasant and Unpopular Truth appears in Leslie A’s blog, Growing 4 Life as a challenge to examine our lives. A mere profession of Christ, remember, doesn’t necessarily mean that genuine conversion has taken place.

IMG_2004As a lesson in discernment, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time writes a thought-provoking Book Review: America’s beloved novel, “Christy” to examine the theology inherent in the popular book. Kudos to Elizabeth for daring to review such a well-loved book with such candor and balance.

Clint Archer, in his contribution to The Cripplegate, reinforces what is Of First Importance: What will be on the test when we die? Those of you participating in my new Monday Bible Study series on 1 Corinthians 15 should especially appreciate this article.

As long as you’re reading The Cripplegate, check out What Pope Francis Should Have Said to Emanuele. I always enjoy Jordan Standridge’s writing; this piece may help you understand why I’m such a huge fan of his work.

IMG_1992As Christians, we must make careful distinctions in our language, and we must hold our critics to those distinctions. In Dear Media: Please Distinguish Conversion from Conversion Therapy, Denny Burk demonstrates the importance of defining terms by  citing the conversion of a gentleman who survived the terror attack on the Pulse nightclub.

Religious OCD or Scrupulosity by Fred DeRuvo at Study – Grow – Know juxtaposes the troubling methods of psychology against Biblical counseling.  Please, if you still can’t see the dangers of psychology, read Fred’s piece and seriously consider the points he raises.

Would I recommend a blog post simply because the illustration favors the Boston Red Sox? No. Peter Krol’s Context Matters: the Faith Hall of Fame in Knowable Word merits recognition for its skilled handling of Hebrews 11 in and of itself. But I admit that the homage to the Boston Red Sox doesn’t bother me a bit!

All photos taken May 2, 2018 at Boston Public Garden by John Kespert

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Saturday Sampler: April 22 — April 28

Spring Sampler

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood reports on the disturbing Assembly Bill certain to become California law. Colin Smothers’ article, Banning Christian Orthodoxy in California, serves as a sobering warning to those who stand for Biblical principles.

Even though Steven Lawson writes Is It Necessary to Preach Divine Wrath? with his fellow pastors in mind, his article on the Ligonier blog also applies to us in our evangelism efforts. In this era of trying to make the Gospel palatable, we need this reminder to present truth in its entirety.

I always look forward to Mondays and Thursdays because I know Leslie A will be posting on Growing 4 Life. No disappointment this week! Please read How Do I Respond to My Enemies? as another example of her Biblical wisdom.

Jordan Standridge of The Cripplegate takes the pope to task in Five Reasons Why Pope Francis’ Answer Was Demonic. Standridge doesn’t conceal his anger. And he shouldn’t! Assuring anyone that an atheist gained entrance to heaven will lead countess souls to hell, all for the sake of this man’s popularity. We should all be as outraged as Standridge!

Go over to excatholic4christ for Tom’s post, Roman Catholics and Astrology: “Am I a Taurus or an Aries?” To my dismay, I’ve also heard evangelicals talk about horoscopes as if they provide nothing more than harmless entertainment. Let me be clear: astrology is strictly pagan at best, and a possible gateway to demonic activity. Stay away from it!

Why Christian Blogs Aren’t What They Used To Be by Tim Challies examines the growing trend of vanishing Christian blogs. He offers a few intriguing suggestions to explain the movement away from blogging. But his closing paragraph, typed in italics, is worth the whole article for its encouragement to continue blogging.

In her own unique style (which I absolutely love), Michelle Lesley details Scriptural evidence that God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship. Michelle addresses some extremely important problems in contemporary church life with this article. For that reason I strongly recommend you read it.

In his most recent blog post for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson begins his series on Reasons to Study the Book of  Revelation by introducing us to the value of eschatology. I love his perspective that the book of Revelation is essentially about Jesus Christ.

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