Category Archives: Human Condition

The Kind Of Discernment That’s Kind

purple-bible

What are we doing as discernment bloggers? Lately, there’s a viciousness that I’ve never seen. A friend of mine, in discussing the matter, observed that some bloggers and podcasters appear to relish the task of calling out wolves just a little too much.

Now, I do agree with the perspective that women often won’t get it if pastors and teachers simply teach sound doctrine without ever naming names. Surely their favorite celebrity Bible Study teacher doesn’t teach error! After all, she tweets all the time about how many commentaries she supposedly reads, how she “prays the Scriptures” and how she loves God’s Word. Never mind that she teaches Old Testament passages as allegories and claims to receive direct revelations from God.

So yeah, calling out false teachers certainly has an important place in women’s ministry. Again, praise God for Elizabeth Prata, Michelle Lesley and Leslie A who boldly and consistently identify false teachers and demonstrate how these false teachers deviate from Scripture.

As an aside, I came to Reformed Theology primarily because my research of “Christian” yoga led me to discernment blogs. I thank the Lord for using those blogs to educate me on how to apply proper hermeneutics in studying the Bible and for solidifying essential doctrines in my mind. Those discernment blogs went a long way in getting me grounded in the Bible and protecting me from popular evangelical fads.

But the idea of discernment (not necessarily discernment itself)  is somewhat of a fad among Reformed Christians these days. Even more troubling, some discernment ministries have developed a nastiness about them that completely drives out even the willingness to extend charity.

When people use character assassination and nit pick, applying the heresy label to Arminians and Charismatics, they’ve crossed a very dangerous line. Arminians and Charismatics hold to some doctrinal errors, to be sure. I’ve embraced Armimian and Charismatic teachings during much of my Christian life, and I well understand the dangers of those teachings.

But I absolutely do not believe those errors meant that I was a heretic. Furthermore, looking at the Scriptural criteria for genuine salvation convinces me that, despite accepting those errors, my salvation proved real. Therefore I grieve that people so quickly decide that our Armimian and Charismatic brothers and sisters aren’t truly saved.

Discernment encompasses so much more than discrediting those we disagree with. Yes, the wolves need to be rebuked and avoided, but in a way that draws sheep closer to the Shepherd Who feeds them in the green pastures of His Word.

For that reason this blog (while naming names when necessary) best teaches discernment by immersing women in God’s Word.

In a few weeks (probably March, to accommodate my personal Bible reading plan), we will begin studying Christ’s resurrection through 1 Corinthians 15. We’ll notice how the apostle Paul addressed a popular false teaching about the resurrection that circulated through the church in Corinth (hint: he did it without naming names) and we’ll learn how teaching doctrine in a positive manner can feed Christians effectively.

Mostly, we’ll focus on honoring Christ instead of dishonoring people.  I hope many of you ladies will join me in studying this wonderful Christian doctrine. May we all grow in the sort of discernment that truly honors the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Of Cabbages And (The King Of) Kings

king-jesus

Cerebral Palsy has all sorts of interesting or annoying by-products (depending on one’s point of view), such as difficulty chewing food. As a result,  a shred of cabbage from a serving of coleslaw could slip down the throat prematurely, causing several hours of discomfort and pain on its journey down the upper GI tract. I rediscovered this unpleasant reality Saturday night.

As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep very well that night. At one point, I found myself pretty much ordering God to relieve my pain. Not asking with humble trust in a loving heavenly Father, but demanding with the self-centered attitude of a spoiled brat.

And before you charitably try to tell me that I judge myself too harshly, let me assure you that I know, quite well, the attitude of my heart at that particular moment. I viewed the Lord, just then, as a servant, expecting Him to cater to my wishes. Whether my perverted petition came from my Charismatic background or it merely exposed my sinful old nature, it clearly dishonored the Lord Who bought me with His blood and therefore has authority over me.

Jesus indeed came as a servant, demonstrating humility as an example for Christians to follow. And He commands us to pray for our needs, knowing that He will faithfully care for us because we belong to Him. But notice what I just said: we belong to Him! As such, we have the privilege of requesting things from Him, but not the right to demand His compliance.

Christ’s humility, while certainly giving us a pattern to emulate, directs our attention to His unique position as the king of Kings.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~~Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Despite His humility, the Lord Jesus Christ is our Almighty King Who will one day cause even His enemies to bow before Him. How dare we treat Him as if He has any obligation to answer our “prayers” according to our expectations! Shouldn’t we instead approach Him in grateful humility, asking Him for mercy and grace to honor Him whether He removes our trial or decrees that we go through it?

I didn’t exactly enjoy my experience with the cabbage Saturday night. But I treasure my experience of remembering that Christ is my King, not my slave.

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Saturday Sampler: December 31 — January 6

Ball Sampler 01

Reading Last day of  2017: Thoughts on time’s passage by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time, both sobers and encourages me. Having turned 64 in September, I relate quite well to many of her comments. It floors me that my Personal Care Attendants studied the Vietnam War in high school — Nixon pulled us out of that war when I was in 12th grade! All that aside, Elizabeth uses her musings to help us think about where time is headed.

Leonardo De Chirico  writes Did Pope Francis Say Mission? in Vatican Files to demonstrate this pope’s apparent problem understanding the Biblical view of evangelism. We should be deeply concerned that many professing evangelicals embrace Francis.

I couldn’t agree more with Michelle Lesley’s Sanctification > Resolutions: 6 Ways God Could Sanctify You in the New Year in Discipleship for Christian Women. Ladies, please don’t miss this godly and practical article!

Whether your pastor feels frustrated about numerical growth in your church or you struggle with discouragement in personal evangelism, read Who builds the church? by Mark McIntyre on his blog, Attempts at Honesty. Ain’t nothing like a Scriptural perspective to provide a breath of fresh air, now is there?

In case you’re still debating the value of New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll find interesting insight by reading Jordan Standridge’s Rescued from Meaningless Resolutions in The Cripplegate. I think he hits the nail on the head.

Why Should I Read the Bible in 2018? asks Leslie A of Growing 4 Life. Her six reasons might encourage you to keep reading long after the New Year’s zeal wears off.

Many Christian moms experience the heartache of a child who doesn’t come to Christ. I can only guess at the devastating emotions they go through. But Kim Shay, one of the ladies who blogs for Out of the Ordinary, writes They are our children, after all to address the most common emotional reactions to having a prodigal child.

Like SharaC, I question all the talk about “authenticity,” “messiness” and “brokenness” that’s so popular among evangelicals. Her article, Smoking in the Trenches appears on her Into the Foolishness of God blog, and offers some good fodder for thoughtful pondering.

 

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Camelot: Guinevere’s Hard Lesson On Adultery

Camelot Movie Poster
Photo credit: IMDb.com

In light of yesterday’s snowstorm (oh, the joys of living in New England!), John and I decided I’d spend they day in bed. I saw it as a wonderful excuse to watch one of my favorite movies: the 1967 screen version of Camelot.

Perhaps you’re shocked that a good Christian lady like me would enjoy a movie about adultery. Before you rush to judge me, I want you to consider the fact that Guinevere’s affair with Lancelot did far more than break King Arthur’s heart; it destroyed Camelot itself.  If Hollywood produced this film in hopes of glamorizing the adultery between Guinevere and Lancelot, I believe it failed miserably. For that reason, I see it as a cautionary tale on the destructive power of sin in general.

Viewing the movie yesterday, I paid particular attention to Guinevere’s opening song, in which she laments her impending marriage to Arthur. She longs to have knights battle (and perhaps even kill) for her. Marriage, she assumes, ends such possibilities of enjoying the “simple joys of maidenhood.” Right there, a Christian viewer should start questioning Guinevere’s moral character.

A bit further into the story, Queen Guinevere sings about the “lusty month of May,” again showing her secret pleasure in the idea of sexual sin. I’m not sure if Lerner and Lowe meant for this song to establish her as being morally perverse, but in my mind it certainly doesn’t make me sympathetic towards her. She, at this point, doesn’t think she’ll personally indulge in immorality — she simply likes the thought of other people renouncing self-control.

Obviously, when Lancelot comes to join the Knights of the Round Table, she does engage in immorality, despite continuing to feel love for Arthur. Immediately she discovers that the euphoria of her infidelity is offset by the guilt of betraying a husband who had always treated her kindly.

Arthur, it turns out, had fathered an illegitimate son, Mordred, long before meeting Guinevere. Eventually Mordred pops up in Camelot, intent on laying claim to the throne. Resistant to Arthur’s attempts to reform his character, Mordred entraps Lancelot and Guinevere, forcing Guinevere to be tried and condemned for adultery and treason. As war ensues, Camelot is destroyed.

Guinevere also suffers destruction. She learns, too late, that having knights spill their blood for her is anything but a “simple joy of maidenhood.” Her sin, combined with Arthur’s sexual sin, brought down everything she, Arthur and Lancelot worked so hard to build. All because she thought “a wretched thing or two” might be fun.

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New Year’s Resolutions Remind Us

2018 ResolutionsLast year at about this time, I wrote a post explaining my reasons for not making New Year’s resolutions. In it, I made the point that repentance should be a daily practice for Christians rather than annual resolutions that we can’t keep anyway.  I still believe that’s the more Biblical attitude.

I find the concept of New Year’s resolutions sort of interesting, though. Despite the fact that most resolutions concern themselves with superfluous matters with little eternal significance, the whole idea indicates a deep-down sense that we don’t quite live the way we should. We almost acknowledge that we have sin in our lives.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ~~Romans 3:23 (ESV)

We may even quote that verse in a self-justifying manner that implies we’re no more sinful than anybody else. Sure, we have a few character flaws, but doesn’t everybody? And our little New Year’s resolutions, even if we break them by January 20th (which we probably will), surely demonstrate a willingness to own up to our shortcomings.

Of course, by mid-January, life has resumed its dull rhythms, and we’ve all but forgotten those resolutions. We’ve also forgotten that we have flaws (really sins, though we’d prefer not to use such terminology) that require correction.

But perhaps the problem goes even deeper. If we’ve actually sinned, it follows that we’ve violated God’s standards. That premise leads to the idea of His authority to judge us. And if He does show us the mercy of forgiveness, He has a claim on us. Either way, He has us in His debt, and we don’t like it. New Year’s resolutions are much more comfortable than coming to Him as sinners in need of repentance.

Making New Year’s resolutions can be fun, so please enjoy your Christian liberty to make them as part of celebrating the holiday. But don’t use them as a substitute for dealing seriously with sin. The Lord will show mercy as we repent and trust Him to change us. Let’s resolve to live in repentance throughout the coming year.

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Rejoicing Like The Prostitute

Forgiveness

Every time I read the first few verses of Psalm 32, I remember the joy I experienced as a new Christian.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah ~~Psalm 32:1-5 (ESV)

The relief of the Lord’s forgiveness absolutely exhilerated me, flooding me with a desire to pour out my gratitude. I of course served the Lord imperfectly (to say the least), making myself more obnoxious than useful to the Kingdom, but my zeal came from sincere motives. Jesus had forgiven me, changing my eternal destiny from the torments of hell (which I deserve) to the joys of heaven. For that extreme mercy, I adored Him then and adore Him even more today.

God’s forgiveness isn’t something we should take lightly. The person who truly understands the enormity of his or her sin appreciates His forgiveness in ways that someone who doesn’t take sin seriously never will.

When we believe in our own supposed goodness, thinking that we somehow merit salvation, we end up robbing ourselves of tremendous joy. We expect God’s forgiveness, almost viewing it as an entitlement rather than a gift that calls us to love the Giver.

We most clearly see this principle demonstrated in Luke 7:36-48, which I beg you to read. Jesus, in this passage, was dining at the home of a Pharisee named Simon when a known prostitute entered the house. Coming up to Jesus, she began bathing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. This unwelcome interruption confirmed to Simon that Jesus couldn’t possibly be a prophet! Otherwise He would have realized what a contemptible creature was touching Him.

Look at the Lord’s response to Simon’s secret thoughts in telling, and then applying, this parable:

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” ~~Luke 7:41-48 (ESV)

Jesus knew exactly who touched Him! He knew the gravity of her sin, and her horrendous reputation. But He also knew her sorrow over her sin, and her faith that He would forgive her.

I identify with that woman. Knowing the vileness of my sin, and yet the wonder of His forgiveness, brings me immense joy and causes me to love Christ. From the backdrop of Luke 7:36-48, I can claim Psalm 32:1-5 as my testimony. I can experience the blessings of forgiveness because I know how desperately I needed forgiveness. And I know He has been gracious.

 

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I Can’t See God’s Grace Without Seeing Who I Am

NegativeNobody particularly enjoys reading about human sinfulness or God’s wrath. We much prefer blog posts that celebrate His goodness, love and mercy. I’m stating the obvious, of course, but I do so because I suspect some readers may believe I take some misanthropic pleasure in writing about God’s judgment.

Frankly, I can appreciate that sentiment. I also would rather read (and write) about God’s grace. I like thinking about how much He loves me. I don’t want to be  confronted with my wretchedness, or to realize my utter dependence on Christ’s righteousness because I have no righteousness of my own. Humility often feels distinctly distasteful to me.

Scripture, however, has absolutely no interest in making people feel good about themselves. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and apostles to compose scathing indictments against humanity.

10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~~Romans 3:10–18 (ESV)

Clearly, the apostle Paul’s compilation of Old Testament Scriptures doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture of the human race. Yet he doubles-down on the theme of human depravity all the way through Romans 7 so that his readers will comprehend our desperate need for a savior.

Romans 7, as a matter of fact, spotlights Paul’s personal struggles against sin, escalating to a point of hopelessness just before he presents the only hope of deliverance.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:21-25 (ESV)

Our wretched condition, repulsive as it is, allows us to see how precious God’s love, mercy and grace really are.

Sadly,  postmodern Western society has not only bought into the lie that people are basically good, but it perpetuates that lie in a plethora of ways. To make matters worse, evangelicals now adapt their theology to accommodate that lie!

Consequently, I emphasize human depravity in my articles with the goal of accentuating how glorious the grace of God truly is. Until we come to terms with our inescapable wretchedness, we regard His goodness lightly. Sometimes we even convince ourselves that He owes us His love (a ridiculous proposition).

I long to write posts praising the Lord for His unfathomable grace and mercy. As a woman who has seen her own vile rebellion forgiven, I well know that I best understand the wonder of His grace when I face the ugliness of who I am apart from Him.

 

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