Flashback Friday: Charismatics Aren’t Like Joseph

Originally posted December 23, 2016:

bethlehem-dazzle-frameDuring my years as a Charismatic, I remember using all sorts of Scriptures as proof-texts to validate whatever spiritual experience I happened to be practicing at the time. Most of the Charismatics I knew did the same thing to greater or lesser degrees.

At Christmas time, Matthew’s nativity narrative gave me and my Charismatic friends excellent proof-texts to substantiate our claims that the Lord spoke to us personally. Three times in Matthew 1 and 2, the Lord sent Joseph dreams, in which He spoke very clearly to instruct Joseph. For example, look at God’s intervention when Joseph learned that his fiancee, Mary, was carrying a Child that he hadn’t fathered.

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. ~~Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV)

Naturally, we concluded that, since the Lord spoke to Joseph, we had good reason to expect Him to speak to us in dreams, visions, still small voices or what have you. Our conclusion certainly seemed reasonable at the time, granted, but let’s think through a few points regarding who the Lord generally spoke to in Scripture and why He spoke to them.

In the Old Testament, God spoke to prophets, or to people who would further the development of Israel (and the Messianic line). He didn’t speak to everyone in Israel, nor did He speak about inconsequential matters. He was building His nation, teaching them how to worship Him and to separate themselves from those who worshiped false gods and committed abominable sins.

Likewise, in the New Testament He spoke to apostles and prophets until His Word was written down by some of those same apostles and prophets. Those apostles and prophets, according to Ephesians 4:11-16, built the foundation of the Church by the revelations that the Holy Spirit gave them. That revelation (at least the revelation that we needed) has been preserved in the Bible’s canon.

The Lord spoke to Joseph because Joseph would serve as the legal father of Jesus, thus legitimizing His claim to David’s throne. In turn, this claim validated Jesus as the Messiah. Had Joseph divorced Mary, Jesus would not have had this legal claim. Therefore, God had to intervene by speaking directly to Joseph. Notice that His instruction that Joseph name the Child Jesus fulfilled prophecy.

God spoke two more times to Joseph (Matthew 2:13-15 and Matthew 2:19-23), both times to protect Jesus from an early death and, again, to fulfill prophecy. The Lord spoke to Joseph for specific purposes that resulted in Jesus growing to Manhood, demonstrating Himself to be God, dying on the cross to atone for the sin of those who would believe in Him and rising from the grave to break the power of sin. God’s words to Joseph held eternal consequences.

God’s words to Joseph were vastly different from the things that present-day evangelicals (particularly Charismatics) claim to receive. Joseph, like other key figures in Scripture, played a critical role in God’s plan of redemption. That being the case, 21st Century Christians need only the Bible in order to hear everything the Lord wants us to know.

Hebrews 1:1-2 says that, in these last days, God has spoken through His Son. Praise God He spoke to Joseph back then, so that we would have His Son’s Word for all eternity!

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Remembering The Wonder Of The Incarnation

The Word became fleshLess than a year into my walk with the Lord, I sat in my friend’s living room with other kids from my high school (including a girl I’d never met) for Thursday night Bible Study. My friend began his opening prayer, speaking in an unusually forceful tone as he praised God for becoming a Man. He managed to find at least four ways to reiterate the idea.

Before he could finish praying, the visiting girl lept up, covered her ears and ran out of the house shouting, “Blasphemy!”

Baffled, I asked the leader what had just happened. He explained that she belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a cult that denied Christ’s deity.

At that point, my confusion intensified. I knew that Jesus Continue reading

There’s Nothing Humbug About Christ’s Incarnation

bethlehem-christmas-2012To tell the truth, I haven’t been very enthusiastic about Christmas this year. Other bloggers have been writing about it since Thanksgiving, God love them, faithfully reminding their readers to focus on the Lord. Well, we definitely need such reminders.

Maybe it’s weariness from the seemingly relentless trials bombarding me since my birthday, or maybe my aversion to seasonal things grows more pronounced as I age, but I simply haven’t wanted to read or write Christmas themed posts this year. Circumstances severely limited excursions to Boston in 2018, and I think I view Christmas as the beginning of another long New England winter that keeps us away from both Boston and (even worse) church.

I’ve developed a Continue reading

Starting Advent Sunday Hymns

I seriously considered breaking with my tradition of posting Christmas hymns during the month of December. It seemed all too predicable. Too expected!

But think about all the predictions the Old Testament prophets made about the coming Messiah. Each prediction filled believing Jews with hopeful expectation, knowing that Messiah would bring freedom. While most Jews ended up missing Messiah when He came, some actually did understand Who He was.

This Advent season, perhaps we need to expect Christ’s Second Coming, which He Himself predicted. He was faithful to fulfill the predictions of the prophets; should we expect anything less now?

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The Amazing Love Of The Savior

So often, we take it for granted, don’t we? Yes, yes, we agree with confident nods of our heads, Jesus died to save us from sin. So, clutching our little Get Out Of Hell cards, we file away our blessed assurance and carry on with our lives.

But every now and again, the Holy Spirit reminds us of how desperately lost we were until He revealed Christ to us. He reminds us of the amazing love that caused the Second Person of the Trinity to leave His glory so that He could shed His blood in payment for our sin. He reminds us of our enslavement to sin before He shattered our chains and allowed us to follow Him.

When we remember, how can we take His amazing love for granted?

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Veiled In Song, Good Teaching See God’s Incarnate Deity

Few Christmas hymns are as beloved as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Featured in A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life, this hymn reaches millions of people each year, enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.

The almost universal love for this hymn delights me because it teaches a boatload of Biblical doctrine easily and in a pleasurable manner. In particular, it proclaims with incredible clarity that God came to earth as Jesus, the newborn King.

The various repercussions of His Incarnation dance throughout the song, teaching us so many glorious truths about the Lord. How many doctrines can you find?

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Christmas For Bloggers: Christ’s Example Put To Practice When There’s Nothing Original To Say

Bethlehem Green tintSometimes familiarity does breed a sort of contempt. Boredom is, when you really think about it, a type of contempt for the blessings of life and the opportunities to serve the Lord and people with the talents and abilities He gives us. Boredom loses the sense of wonder, yawning at events that should overpower us with awe.

Even the most devout Christians can approach the Christmas account with boredom, and therefore with contempt. We’ve heard it all so often, from the Holy Spirit causing Mary to conceive to the wise men following the mysterious star. We know about the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah, the angels appearing to lowly shepherds and Christmas making Easter possible.

Sadly,  even the amazing truth of God coming to earth as a helpless infant can lose its impact over time.

Bloggers can struggle at this time of year, feeling pressure to come up with fresh angles to the story. What can we say that hasn’t already been said? How can we capture people’s attention and lead them to a renewed sense of awe? And really, how can we rekindle our own sense of awe?

Several of my fellow bloggers have managed to write essays that have given me insights into Christmas that I’d never had before this year. I appreciate those insights, and have grown in my understanding of the Incarnation because of their blog posts. Thank you, ladies, for teaching me more about the glories of God in human form, and His plan of redemption.

But the things I’ve learned during this Christmas season are only mine to ponder this year — not mine to write. Perhaps next December, when I’ve lived with those concepts for twelve months, I can relay them with my own passion, but right now I’d do little more than parrot what my sisters have written. I fear I’d be flirting with plagiarism.

So what can I contribute to the Christmas conversation in 2017? Nothing particularly novel, I’m sorry to say. Although my fellow bloggers have graciously nudged me out of my boredom with the familiar (praise God), I don’t feel equipped to do the same for my readers without impinging on bloggers that I deeply respect.

Jesus came as the obedient Son of our Heavenly Father. Paul, in this passage so frequently quoted at this time of year, describes the Lord’s humility as both a wonder in itself and an example for Christians to follow.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 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 2:3-11 (ESV)

I could have taken ideas from my fellow bloggers, reworded them cleverly and passed them off as my own.  Only a few people would have noticed, and several readers might have been impressed with my supposed originality. I would have essentially stolen other people’s work to gain attention for myself.

Instead, I shared one article on Twitter and Facebook (both my personal page and The Outspoken TULIP page). You’ll find the rest on last week’s and tomorrow’s Saturday Sampler. These bloggers did outstanding work, and therefore deserve full recognition.

Meanwhile, may I remember that God Himself became a Man in order to die a humiliating death so that He could bring salvation to those who believe in Him. Any sacrifice I   could purport to make obviously pale in comparison to His humility, but the magnificent example encourages me to avoid selfish ambition.

So, even though other bloggers roused me out of my boredom with Christmas, I come to you empty handed this year. And perhaps my inability to offer any unique perspective can remind all of us of our wondrous Savior Jesus Christ Who emptied Himself for our salvation. O come, let us adore Him!

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