Flashback Friday — Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize

Originally published May 16, 2018:

Little blonde angel

Between the autumn of 1977 and the spring of 1994, I kept a personal journal. I’d write about a wide variety of topics, ranging from Scriptures I’d read in my Quiet Time (frequently taken out of context and misapplied) to practical jokes I played on my friends. For the most part, however, I wrote about my disappointments, my frustrations and my fears. Toward the end of that 17-year period,  I realized that journaling served mainly to fuel my self-pity. For that reason, I abruptly quit writing it.

Perhaps some people can journal without focusing on themselves. Those people should certainly maintain journals! Their journals offer rich treasures to those who read them. But I suspect, especially in this culture that exalts feelings and believes in following psychological principles, that most people use their journals for the purpose of venting.

After 17 years of venting my feelings, I woke up to the fact that venting only keeps a person’s attention fixed on his or her problems. Venting through a journal is even worse, in my opinion, because the act of writing slows down the thought process, prolonging the focus on a subject. So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion?

Self-absorbtion, however,  is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” ~~Mark 8:34-38 (ESV)

Popular evangelical teachers promise us “our best life now” and romantic dates with Jesus, urging us to get in touch with our feelings. They advise hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day and write their feelings out “to the Lord.” What horrible advice!

Honestly confessing our feelings to the Lord is one thing. Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus all had times of pouring their hearts out to God. But in so doing, they invariably wound up acknowledging His sovereign right to order their circumstances according to His will. They ultimately turned their eyes away from themselves and back to Him.

If you keep a personal journal that revolves around your disappointments, frustrations and fears, please consider the possibility that it may be locking you into patterns of self-absorbtion. If possible, turn your journal into something your descendants can read to find Christ. Let them see that, no matter what your circumstances, He remains faithful and deserves the glory.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Please Don’t Thank Your Lucky Stars

Moon and Stars

The conversation after church shocked me. If he had been a new Christian, perhaps I wouldn’t have been quite so taken aback. But he had been saved for several years, and church leadership apparently considered him to be spirituality mature.

When he mentioned his horoscope, I couldn’t believe my ears! And he said it so casually, as if it was all very normal for a Christian to read horoscopes and give a little credence to astrology. After all, he wasn’t overly invested in the practice. It was an amusement that maybe had enough credibility to warrant his attention.

How a Christian could hold such an opinion baffled me then and continues to baffle me 23 years later.

Read More »

It Feels Good To Breathe Again

I suspected I wouldn’t be able to write the article on the second Spiritual Law today because of interviews for the Personal Care Attendant positions we needed to fill. I was correct. Even getting a chance to read my Bible today was an enormous challenge.

The interruption paid off. As it stands now, we’ve hired people for both positions, trusting that the Lord will work things out. I’m relieved, though emotionally exhausted and not entirely looking forward to training two people all at once. But yes, I’m praising the Lord for His provision. He has, once again, shown Himself faithful.

After this morning’s interview, I finally got to open my Bible. My schedule had me in Psalm 22.

Read More »

Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

Originally posted February 17, 2017:

93a68-wordjudgesheart

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days.  I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that   many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

Read More »

The Stubborn Facts About My Would-Be Idol

Me with Abigail and John Quincy Adams January 2013

Over 30 years ago, I sat in San Rafael, CA, hunched over a biography of Abigail Adams that my mom had given me.

In the early chapters, I thrilled to descriptions of Abigail Smith running through the woods of Braintree, Massachusetts to meet John Adams — the man she would soon marry. Reading on, I admired the support and sacrifices on her part as her husband served in establishing the United States of America. In short, I struggled a little with the temptation to idolize Abigail Adams.

Years later, marriage brought me to a town in Massachusetts that borders Braintree. The day after our wedding, John and I had supper in a restaurant in Braintree. I reminder sitting outside the restaurant, looking at the woods and wondering if Abigail had seen those same trees 200 years earlier.

Read More »

We’d Rather Read About False Teachers, DebbieLynne

Okay, I read my blog stats. Monday’s post reintroducing the Colossians Bible Study hasn’t received much attention, whereas yesterday’s post about a tweet Beth Moore “Liked” is soaring to over four times as many views as the Colossians post got.

I can understand this discrepancy in two ways.

Firstly, I can deduce that my readers already study the Bible on their own, and therefore don’t need another study to work through. Truth be told, I don’t go through the studies that Michelle Lesley posts each Wednesday for that very reason. When I met her in person three years ago, I explained that reasoning to her, and she graciously understood my position. She says other readers have told her the same thing.

I dearly hope that my readers forego the studies I write for the same reason. I hope each of you spends time going through God’s Word each day, reading and studying it in context. If so, I have absolutely no problem with you skipping my studies.

Read More »

Not A Tweet Any Professing Christian Should Endorse

I had never heard of Kristen Howerton before. I have no idea whether she professes to be a Christian or not. If she doesn’t, I can shrug off her recent tweet. Non-Christians can be expected to say the sort of things she said.

If she does profess to know Christ, however, her recent tweet troubles me, as it should trouble any Christian. Beth Moore’s evident endorsement of that tweet also troubles me. Read the tweet for yourself:

The problem with a professing Christian as visible as Beth Moore has little to do with the question of systemic racism. I really don’t want to address that question in this blog, primarily because such a discussion would distract from the purpose of this ministry. But I definitely want to explain why the sentiments Howerton expressed (and Beth Moore endorsed) conflict with the Gospel.

Read More »

Throwback Thursday ~~ Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize

Originally published May 16, 2018

Little blonde angel

Between the autumn of 1977 and the spring of 1994, I kept a personal journal. I’d write about a wide variety of topics, ranging from Scriptures I’d read in my Quiet Time (frequently taken out of context and misapplied) to practical jokes I played on my friends. For the most part, however, I wrote about my disappointments, my frustrations and my fears. Toward the end of that 17-year period,  I realized that journaling served mainly to fuel my self-pity. For that reason, I abruptly quit writing it.

Perhaps some people can journal without focusing on themselves. Those people should certainly maintain journals! Their journals offer rich treasures to those who read them. But I suspect, especially in this culture that exalts feelings and believes in following psychological principles, that most people use their journals for the purpose of venting.

After 17 years of venting my feelings, I woke up to the fact that venting only keeps a person’s attention fixed on his or her problems. Venting through a journal is even worse, in my opinion, because the act of writing slows down the thought process, prolonging the focus on a subject. So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion?

Self-absorbtion, however,  is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” ~~Mark 8:34-38 (ESV)

Popular evangelical teachers promise us “our best life now” and romantic dates with Jesus, urging us to get in touch with our feelings. They advise hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day and write their feelings out “to the Lord.” What horrible advice!

Honestly confessing our feelings to the Lord is one thing. Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus all had times of pouring their hearts out to God. But in so doing, they invariably wound up acknowledging His sovereign right to order their circumstances according to His will. They ultimately turned their eyes away from themselves and back to Him.

If you keep a personal journal that revolves around your disappointments, frustrations and fears, please consider the possibility that it may be locking you into patterns of self-absorbtion. If possible, turn your journal into something your descendants can read to find Christ. Let them see that, no matter what your circumstances, He remains faithful and deserves the glory.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Don’t Fear Looking At Your Sin

We live in a culture that tells us to love ourselves. Self-esteem is, according to almost everybody, an essential virtue — one that we must teach our children as soon as we possibly can. Even in evangelical circles, people frown upon those who speak too often about our wretchedness.

But can’t self-esteem frequently keep Christians from examining themselves periodically to see if we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)? Can it cause us to think of ourselves more highly than we should (Romans 12:3)?

You and I definitely should ask ourselves these questions when we find ourselves committing the same sin habitually. Children of God at some point start to resemble the Father’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-21, 1 John 3:4-10). Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians do persist in unrepentant sin, often rationalizing their rebellion and sometimes even believing that God approves of what they do. When we don’t see evidence of genuine repentance in our lives — or at least grief over our sin — we need to ask ourselves if we have really been born again.

Read More »

Throwback Thursday: Rightly Dividing And Wrong Division

Originally posted January 9, 2016:

Those of us who believe in adherence to sound Biblical doctrine frequently endure accusations of divisiveness. The majority of present day evangelicals believe that unity among Christians requires an abandonment of doctrine to the degree that salvation and discipleship revolve around a “Jesus” who conforms to individual preferences.

Empty PewThose of us who stand up for doctrinal purity quickly learn that doing so invites censure. We learn that we must keep our convictions to ourselves, lest we cause “division.” We dare not question women leading worship, church growth strategies, contemporary music that lacks theological content, contemplative prayer or replacing Bible Studies with small groups that focus on subjective impressions of how Scripture speaks to each member of the group. Standing for truth, in an increasing number of evangelical churches, means that we cause division.

Yet Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament epistles, saw division very differently than 21st Century evangelicals see it. Consider this quote:

Paul regards divisiveness as those who depart from sound doctrine. Doctrine is not the cause of disunity, departure is. ~Carl Trueman

Responsible reading (not to mention study) of Paul’s epistles bear out Trueman’s point. The apostle wrote several of his epistles (most of them, actually) with the purpose of clearing up doctrinal error and preserving correct teaching. As a matter of fact, right doctrine meant so much to Paul that he refused to tolerate those who would corrupt it with human philosophies. He furthermore warned church members to reject anyone who deliberately and persistently deviated from the truth.

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)

Notice that the divisions Paul condemns thwart the doctrine that he and the other apostles taught. He never targeted Christians who stood for God’s Word in opposition to attempts to dilute or distort it to suit their own agendas. As he saw it, the Body of Christ could only experience true unity by teaching and obeying the doctrines given by the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. Those who watered down those doctrines caused disruption in the church.

And today, the very people who plead for “unity” seek to erode theological truths around which Bible-believing Christians should unite. Instead of  blindly accepting repetitious “praise” songs that focus on human feelings rather than the Lord’s character and work, for example, we should courageously point out how these songs deviate from Scripture. Similarly, instead of embracing pragmatic church growth strategies, we should encourage our pastors to preach expository, verse-by-verse sermons so that the Word will produce faith that results in genuine conversions.

Those of us who insist on doctrinal purity do so because we love the Lord. We want to see His church united around  His Word, forsaking subjective interpretations of it in favor of understanding it properly and obeying it faithfully. We grieve when people deviate from the clear teaching of Scripture to follow evangelical fads, agreeing with Carl Truman that true division comes though such people.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin