The Hidden Reefs In Worship Songs

Jude famously wrote his epistle to warn believers against false teachers. He used several strong images to describe them, ensuring that his readers would understand the danger these teachers presented. Let me quote a couple of verses with these images.

12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. ~~Jude 12-13 (NASB95)

He begins by calling them hidden reefs. Living in the First Century when travel depended on boats and ships, Jude undoubtedly knew how unseen reefs could tear up a sailing vessel before the sailors even knew a reef was there. He chose this image to emphasize his point from verse 4 that false teachers come into churches under the radar, avoiding detection by blending in with church culture. Often, Christians don’t realize they’ve been deceived by these false teachers until it’s too late. These figurative hidden reefs shipwreck the faith of unsuspecting souls.

In the 21st Century, false teachers seem to be all over the place, requiring that we know the Word of God backwards and forwards. To this end, it’s imperative that we submit ourselves to churches in which our pastors not only preach with faithfulness to Scripture but also encourage us to rightly divide the Word. In most cases, familiarity with the Bible is the best defense against falling into deception.

This past week, however, I learned that sometimes even the best shepherds can unintentionally let a stray wolf wander into the fold. This potentially serious mistake usually happens when they put too much trust in leaders of the music team.

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Horrified Fascination: Thoughts On Last Week’s SBC Annual Meeting

I’m relatively new to the Southern Baptist Convention, and I belong to a SBC church that largely ignores what the upper echelons do. Our pastor identifies more with Grace Community Church and The Master’s Seminary than with any SBC entity (at least as far as I can tell). Following Michelle Lesley, Founders’ Ministries and various people on Twitter has generated my interest in the Southern Baptist Convention over the past three or four years. I therefore begin this blog post with the necessary acknowledgment that I don’t know as much as I should about the organization.

I only watched the Tuesday and Wednesday live streams of the meeting, but judging from my Twitter feed, most of the action happened during those two sessions. Consequently, my remarks will be focused on what I personally witnessed. If anyone reading this article watched more — or was actually there — and can correct my perception, please use the Comment Section to offer more clarity.

Despite my disclaimer, I have definite opinions that I believe I can express with some degree of Biblical accuracy. Please consider these opinions, not as me whining because things didn’t go as I wanted (although I am angry, disappointed and extremely disgusted by what happened), but as a sober warning. Even though not all of you belong to SBC churches, the events of last week should remind all of us that we can fall all too easily into compromise with the world.

 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. ~~1 Corinthians 10:12 (NASB95)

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The Folly Of Pride, Gay Or Otherwise

I shouldn’t have gone on his Facebook page the other day. I knew I’d find photos of him with his new “husband,” along with posts condemning Christians who dare to say that homosexuality is a sin. And I should have known that I’d come away feeling saddened once again by his rejection of the truth that he used to proclaim.

He has chosen the world’s distortion of sexuality, and he takes pride in his choice. But Scripture has a much different view of the relationship between worldliness and pride.

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. ~~1 John 2:15-17 (NASB95)

As we enter Gay Pride Month, I think of my many friends from those years in ex-gay ministry who decided the fight against that particular sin wasn’t worth the effort. Each of them accepted the lie that God made them gay and wanted them to embrace their sexuality. A few settled for living in celibacy while “celebrating” their same sex attractions (I’m not sure how that works) while others pursued committed relationships. One or two remained in heterosexual marriages, expecting their spouses to understand that these are “mixed marriages.” I gather that they all are talking about Pride right now.

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Exceptions Don’t Invalidate General Rules

Someone on social media kind of complained a few days ago that people too quickly point out their mitigating circumstances whenever they see posts laying down Scriptural principles. I am one of the people she meant, though I doubt she had me in mind when she wrote the post. As I’ve mulled over her remark, I’ve had to agree that people these days are far too sensitive, especially when circumstances beyond their control force them to be exceptions to the rule.

One topic in particular seems to compel me to voice my status as someone with exceptional circumstances. Whenever I hear admonishments against staying home from church, I immediately experience defensive feelings, certain that others judge me as a hypocrite who has no business writing a Christian blog. And if I stayed home from church simply out of personal preference as a matter of convenience, they’d be absolutely right!

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Throwback Thursday: Unacknowledged Pharisees

Originally published March 11, 2016:

Biblical Unity

My insistence on sound doctrine as an essential element in Christian maturity has, more than once, spurred people to call me a Pharisee, either directly or by insinuation. People making that connection also sometimes point out the perils of dead orthodoxy, reminding me that the Lord cares more about how I live than about my finer points of theology. In some respects, I understand their concerns. And, in one sense, I agree with them. After all, Paul’s advice to Timothy applies to everyone–not just pastors:

 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)

Yet the apparent hostility to the idea that sound doctrine (by which I mean the teachings of the Bible)  matters troubles me. The rallying cry to disregard doctrine “for the sake of unity” often tolerates (or even promotes) violations of Scripture such as Contemplative Prayer, pragmatism, women in leadership and the acceptance and celebration of homosexuality. Some who bristle at the word “doctrine” believe these are secondary matters. Others still recognize  that the Bible does prohibit homosexual behavior, but increasing numbers of evangelicals now question the “traditional interpretations” of “the six clobber passages.”

Those who minimize concern over the erosion of doctrine typically equate conservative Christians with the Pharisees of Jesus’ earthly ministry, charging that we live by the “dead letter” of Scripture rather than by the Spirit of the Living God. I shall resist the temptation to embark on a lengthy discussion of their hypocrisy in making that judgment. Instead, I want to give attention to their implication that God’s Holy Word is a “dead letter” that requires human intervention (such as Contemplative prayer or pragmatic evangelism strategies) to revive it.

Hebrews 4:12 describes God’s Word as “living and active.” Additionally, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches  both that the Spirit of the  Living God authored each word of Scripture, and that  Scripture adequately gives us all the teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness necessary for serving Him. Far from being a “dead letter” that opposes the Spirit, the Bible is His sword, operating by His power.

The Pharisees dogmatically  claimed that they adhered strictly to God’s Word, and fiercely objected to the “new” doctrines that Jesus proclaimed. In reality, however, Jesus routinely brought them back to the original intent of His Word, rebuking them for corrupting it with their traditions, loopholes and embellishments. For example:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” ~~Matthew 15:1-9 (ESV)  

Could it be that the  real Pharisees shun the pure doctrine of God’s Word, preferring the human traditions that now creep into churches despite their claims of fidelity to the Bible? Could a return to the doctrinal purity of Scripture pose a threat to their unacknowledged doctrine of cultural accommodation? Perhaps not. Only the Lord knows the thoughts and intentions of their hearts. But they might consider the possibility, especially before attaching the Pharisee label to those of us who stand for sound doctrine.

Fairytale Weddings And Happily Ever After Marriages

A romantic proposal and a sparkling diamond ring have a way of filling the mind with thoughts of a long white gown and a church full of flowers. Most girls dream of their wedding day, usually taking mental notes as they attend weddings of friends and family members. Once they say yes, they have a thousand things to plan and organize. Her day to be a fairytale princess is finally arriving, and she has so many details to work out to make her special day perfect.

Weddings indeed should be beautiful. Throughout the following years, couples should look back on their wedding days and remember both their vows of commitment to each other and the joy they experienced as they looked into each other’s eyes and promised to love, honor and cherish as long as they both shall live. In the weeks leading up to her death, John’s mom repeatedly showed me her wedding album, wistfully recounting her happiness. John and I watch our wedding video each year on our anniversary to laugh about his struggle to lift my veil, to relive the intense romantic feelings and to recall the promises we made before the Lord. Certainly, weddings must be such special events that we never forget their wonder.

Sadly, many women invest so much thought and energy into weddings that they neglect to prepare for marriage. Oh, they attend the required premarital counseling sessions with their pastors. Usually. But they don’t always really pay as much attention to those sessions as they pay to the wedding coordinator. After all, the Lord has brought them the perfect guy. What could go wrong? Better to focus on orchestrating the perfect wedding…right?

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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: 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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Learning From Interacting With Critics Of Gabe Hughes

Pastor Gabe Hughes recently posted an item on Twitter that resulted in a temporary (I hope) suspension from the platform. Here’s a screenshot of his “offensive” Tweet:

The WWUTT account posted the screenshot to inform Gabe’s followers of the ban. Many comments ensued to express support for Gabe and disgust at Twitter’s censorship. Of course, I agree with those comments, and pray that they will encourage him. Obviously he wrote it to highlight the spiritual pandemic that has infected Western culture for the last several decades — a pandemic that even mature Christians ignore. Kudos to Gabe for risking his Twitter account in order to speak truth!

One comment, however, accused Pastor Gabe of violating (or deliberately ignoring) Twitter’s Terms of Service. Her accusation intrigued me, particularly since I sometimes post tweets standing against most of those sins. I wondered how much freedom Twitter gives Christians to express Biblical points of view. Her response didn’t exactly surprise me (given her profile), but it reminded me that people who defend LBGTQ tenets don’t always use good logic in their argumentation.

Consider this screenshot that she sent to me:

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Not Just A Scripture For College Students

If you’re a mom sending your child off to college, undoubtedly you’re worried about him or her being pressured to abandon Scriptural values in favor of philosophies that seem more enlightened and scientific. If you’re a college student, you may wonder if you’ll be able to withstand the constant assaults on Christianity. Even many Christian schools offer liberal doctrine that draws people away from sound Biblical teaching.

I well understand those concerns. In fact, I believe they’re valid. Even when I went through college in the 1970s, I struggled to maintain my Biblical views in the face of ideological challenges. The second semester of my sophomore year, in particular, caused me tremendous spiritual turmoil when I took both a philosophy class and a psychology class. Thankfully, Paul’s counsel to the Colossians served as my anchor during the semester. As far as I’m concerned, every college student should make Colossians 2:8 her motto.

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