Of Course God Speaks To Christians Today — But He Chooses The Bible As His Medium

Bible Speaking

More and more evangelicals have come to expect personal words from God. Even thirty years ago, such expectations were limited to Charismatic circles, but Baptist teachers like Henry Blackaby, Rick Warren and (yes)  Beth Moore have convinced more conservative Christians that all believers ought to experience God to speak to them apart from the Bible.

Thirty years ago people who  claimed that God spoke to them were considered mentally ill. Now, however, those of us who deny extra-biblical revelations receive sideways glances.  Most believers see us as abnormal and spiritually Continue reading

Flashback Friday — Doctrine: The Key To Worship

Bible And WorshipHaving begun my Christian life in Charismatic circles, I learned to think of worship in terms of my emotional responses to praise music or to my private prayer and Bible reading. If I felt fluttery feelings, I believed I’d experienced good worship. If such feelings eluded me, I concluded that I’d failed in worship.

Emotions certainly play a part in worshiping the Lord. I love Him, which naturally means  a level of emotional engagement with Him. I’d go so far as to argue that an absence of passion in  prayer, praise and Bible reading amounts to nothing more than dead orthodoxy. Such dispassionate religion hardly exemplifies the sort of worship that Jesus described as pleasing to God.

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” ~~John 4:23-24 (ESV)

Yes, by all means worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ in spirit should (and in fact, must involve our emotions! But unless something informs those emotions, we have no ability to worship Him correctly. Even worse, we have no assurance that we’re actually worshiping the true God. Therefore, in order to worship Him in spirit and in truth, we need to make doctrine the key to our worship.

I  care about doctrine because it helps me know the Lord. Not a Jesus fashioned as I think he should be, or one who adapts himself to current culture…though I admit that believing in such a compliant and flexible Jesus appeals to me. Truthfully, I wouldn’t mind tweaking the Bible here and there, making it just a little more comfortable, nor would I object to receiving extra-biblical revelations. But Scripture, studied in context and with a dependence on the Holy Spirit leads me to see Jesus as He actually is.

Do I  claim to know Him perfectly? No. In fact, I have only begun understanding the great doctrines of the Christian faith, partly because I  spent years in Christian groups that emphasized  experiential spirituality, partly because the days before the Internet made study materials less accessible to me (due to my disability and my finances), and mostly because I didn’t mind “going with the flow” of whatever my church went after at any given season. The fluttery feelings satisfied me.

Following the crowd and swallowing the Kool-Aid proved easier than learning to distinguish good doctrine from bad. Also, the non-resistance ensured my acceptance with peers and those in leadership. Quite often, people commented on my raised hand and heavenward gaze with admiration. My emotionally charged worship showed them an impressive example of spirituality.

Sadly, it also demonstrated that I worshiped the acclaim of my church more than I worshiped the Lord.

Now, as I read and study the Bible in context  (rather than scanning through it until something gave me spiritual goose bumps), the Lord reveals Himself. I watch His holiness in dealing with Israel, and His humility during His Incarnation. Currently, He teaches me the interrelationship between keeping His  commandments and loving other believers as I study 1 John.The doctrine of human depravity keeps me dependent on  Him, and the doctrine of His sovereignty strengthens my trust in Him. Scripture’s great doctrines show me His perspectives on relationships, sin, faith, money and just about everything else in life.

Most importantly, Scripture teaches me (for the word “doctrine” means nothing more than “teaching”) of Christ’s preeminence in all creation. He is not a god who suits himself to my fancy. Quite the contrary, He is the holy yet gracious King Who allows me the privilege of serving Him for all eternity. The doctrines of the Bible display His  majesty, drawing me to praise and worship Him in thrilled anticipation of being physically in His glorious presence.

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Why I See A Connection Between Charismatic Teaching And Occult Practices

Occult ChristianityGrowing up in the 1960s, I had exposure to many occult and New Age influences. My mom, although she in some respects had turned away from her Christian Science upbringing, introduced me and my sister to horoscopes, Ouija boards and yoga. The liberal Presbyterian church (PCUSA, of course) encouraged my fascination with occult and paranormal phenomena. On a youth group ski trip the pastor’s daughter read our palms.

Very soon after that ski trip, the Lord graciously brought me to Himself, and within a few months He allowed people to confront my interest in astrology. Over the next few months He helped me renounce other forms of occult and New Age practices.

But readers of my Autobiography With Purpose series will recall that I attended Pentecostal and Charismatic churches for the first 31 years of my Christian life. True, after 18 years the Lord showed me that the sign gifts ceased when the Canon of Scripture was completed, but He let me remain in the church for several more years. Throughout those 31 years, I occasionally observed random incidents that reminded me of my Continue reading

Why We Like To Believe That God Speaks Directly To Us And Why We Must Question That Belief

Ancient ScriptureThe other Sunday School teacher had taken the rest of our Special Needs class on a short excursion, leaving me with a particularly difficult little boy. His intellectual disability was profound, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was somewhere on the autism spectrum. In 1975, leaving a child alone with a teacher didn’t raise eyebrows, so there we sat for ten minutes.

“I hate you, Debbie,” he declared. I was minoring in Special Education that semester, so I tried reasoning with him the way my professor had taught me. Didn’t work. He repeated his proclamation several times, each time more loudly and eventually adding profanity.

Suddenly I had the thought to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” To my astonishment, the little boy sang with me! The others returned to find the two of us singing and laughing together.

For years I told that story as evidence that Continue reading

Cattle On A Thousand Hills Doesn’t Make The Promise We Think It Makes

Awful GlorySo often evangelicals encourage each other to expect the Lord to bless them materially by saying, “After all, our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.”  This remark alludes to a verse fragment in Psalm 50. They imply (if not outright declare) that they have unfettered access to material abundance because they claim God as their Father.

Some Scriptures, such as Matthew 6:25-33, assure us that our Heavenly Father will provide the things we need. The Lord indeed takes care of His own, sometimes even giving us much more than we actually need. For example, as I type this article, I’m looking at two of the three blouses my sister sent me as an Easter gift (I wore the other to church yesterday). The Lord definitely blesses His children.

But let’s look at how Psalm 50 uses the clause about God owning the cattle on a thousand hills. Back up to verses 1-6, in which Asaph draws a picture of the majestic Lord summoning His people Continue reading

By His Wounds We Are Healed — From What?

IMG_0791Like most physically disabled Christians, I’d be quite wealthy if I had a nickel for every time someone quoted the closing phrase of Isaiah 53:5 and/or the last sentence of 1 Peter 2:24 as proof texts that I should get out of my wheelchair and start walking. Usually, the people misquoting these verses implied (whether intentionally or unintentionally) that I failed to appropriate an immediate benefit of Christ’s work on the cross.

Looking back, I can easily see the spiritual abuse I endured because people misapplied the phrase, “By His wounds we are healed.” I doubt anyone actually meant to be abusive toward me, and I hasten to defend their motives. Nevertheless, they most certainly stand guilty of Continue reading

Saturday Sampler: April 7 — April 13

Teacup Sampler

Check out Fred Butler’s insightful remarks on Hip and Thigh as he answers the question Are Evangelical Continualists The Same As Mormon Continualists? His response should sober us.

As long as we’re asking and answering questions, let’s give attention to Should You Attend a Catholic Wedding or Funeral? by Michael Coughlan of Things Above Us. I didn’t expect him to take the same position I hold. But I appreciate his clear reasoning and his fidelity to the Lord.

I can’t agree with Grace Hody of Biblical Woman as far as women attending seminary (though I’m thankful she adds caveats about female seminary students not seeking vocational positions). That said, I definitely endorse the main points she makes in Why Should Women Study Theology? God has graciously provided wonderful alternatives to attending seminary classes that any woman with an internet connection can (and should) utilize.

Read Questions and Answers on SharaC’s blog, Into the Foolishness of God, for a helpful discussion on claims that the Bible is difficult to understand.

Elizabeth Prata, author of The End Time, answers the question: Am I doing something wrong if  I make a huge decision and don’t wait to hear from God? As a former Charismatic, I can attest to the bondage that waiting for “a word from the Lord” places on people. Elizabeth offers sound principles for decision making in this superb essay.

Writing for Morning by Morning, Liz Wann teaches on the importance of Seeing God first in Scripture as opposed to making the Bible primarily about ourselves. She draws from the exchange between God and Moses at the burning bush to illustrate her point. Fascinating insight!

Although we hear it often, Mike Ratliff’s warning to Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing in Possessing the Treasure. He contributes to the conversation by taking us to Scripture that illustrate the qualities of sound teachers.

Denny Burk asks Are biblical manhood and womanhood cultural constructs? He responds to Woke theology that somehow equates gender roles with “whiteness.”

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