Category Archives: Love

Saturday Sampler: April 2 — April 8

Three BeautiesLeslie A., who blogs at Growing 4 Life, writes Learn to Discern: Living in the Light to instruct and encourage those of us who are labeled as negative for our interest in discernment.

In her latest blog post for Biblical Woman, Candi Finch answers the question, Did I Educate Myself Out Of Marriage? She gently takes us back to the Word of God to correct worldly ideas about attracting a man as well as about marriage in general.

Although Denny Burk’s article, Why the Church Needs More Gray Hair, specifically addresses men, we “women of a certain age” can also benefit from his comments.

I love it when other bloggers address my pet peeves. In His Name is Yahweh, Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate addresses the superstitious avoidance of using God’s Name — even in English Bible translations.

What does it mean to teach by allegorizing the scriptures? asks Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. Elizabeth helps us understand appropriate rules of interpreting and applying the Word of God.

KrizSummer artfully contrasts the world’s view of love with the Biblical definition of it in her post, Love is NOT Like That. Besides reminding us of basic points,  she adds thoughts that few people (including Christians) consider.

 

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How To Love Gays

Rainbow HeartWhen a teenaged Christian posted a Facebook comment condoning same sex marriage a few years ago, the comment took me aback. Granted, the teen was not from a Christian family and attended public school, so she was heavily influenced by an increasingly liberal culture. And that culture shames those of us who uphold Biblical morality. I believe she considered her post to be loving toward the LBGTQ community.

Yet another friend of mine (a middle-aged man who had renounced his homosexuality in favor of living in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ) once complained to me that people who told him to accept himself as a gay man were the most  unloving people he’d ever met. “They wanted to keep me trapped in a lifestyle I hatred,” he explained, adding that real love would have affirmed his desire to honor the Lord.

I agree with him. He had found freedom to be the man God called him to be. True, he never developed attractions to women, but he had found victory over his enslavement to homosexual lust. He believed those who sought to pull him back to his old ways were the ones demonstrating hatred.

But, liberals will object, homosexuality celebrates love! They can say that as often and as loudly as they wish, but the “love” they celebrate is eros. It focuses on sexual gratification rather than building up others in Christlike behavior. For them, love demands unquestioning agreement with liberal values. Especially when it comes to LBGTQ issues, thank you very much!

In terms of Christianity, however, the Greek word rendered “love” is apape, not  eros. To clearly understand agape, I refer to 1 Corinthians 4-7:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (ESV)


God’s love, according to this passage, doesn’t angrily demand rights, as gay activists do, nor does it celebrate anything that contradicts Scripture’s teaching. Homosexual love may equal heterosexual love in terms of romance, but it cannot honor the very Lord who declares homosexuality to be sinful. Until very recently, even non-Christians held to a vague acknowledgment that homosexuality clashed against basic Christian values.

According to my friend who left the homosexual lifestyle, real love gave him hope. Real love called homosexuality a sin from which he could repent instead of an unalterable condition from birth. Therefore, truly loving people trapped by same sex attractions (or any other sin) means proclaiming the Gospel. Jesus died for their sin too!

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Amazing Love–That Thou My God Shouldst Die For Me

With Valentine’s Day coming up, it just seems appropriate to feature a hymn celebrating God’s love. Of course,  His love most powerfully manifests itself in His grace to save us from the wrath that our sins deserve.

Therefore, what better hymn than Charles Wesley’s “Amazing Love,” which so vividly describes the salvation process? Each time I hear or sing this hymn, the Lord reminds me of his wonderful love in liberating me from my prison of sin. Why would a holy God do that for a wretch like me? Indeed, His love can only be described as amazing!

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What I Didn’t Say About Discernment

truth-in-lovePerhaps because I have a severe speech defect, I have a deep aversion to being misunderstood. I’ve been thinking over Friday’s essay, fearful that I might have inadvertently left people with the impression that I oppose discernment blogs and discernment ministry. Maybe I’m being overly cautious here, but I’d like to clarify my essay by affirming that I appreciate discernment ministry as being essential to the Body of Christ.

Friday I wanted to point out that many people who bill themselves as discernment bloggers aren’t really as discerning as they claim to be.They vet pastors and teachers on the basis of secondhand information without also vetting the source of that information. Case in point: using an article by a Charismatic writer who’s desperate to discredit John MacArthur as substantiation that MacArthur has ties to Freemasonry. Really? That’s the only documentation she could find? I’m sorry, but that approach shows a lack of real discernment.

What about my recent article on Joni Eareckson Tada, then? Am I guilty of trying to dig up evidence to brand her as a false teacher? To be honest, I’ve experienced that temptation in researching her. By the grace of God, however, I think I’ve avoided that sin, and I’ve approached my concerns about her with much fear and trembling (as well I should!).

As it stands now, I just have concerns about Joni. Those concerns don’t come from outside sources; they come from reading her writing, listening to her speak (in person as well as YouTube) and noticing various details that cause me some alarm. You’ll kindly observe my reticence to disclose those details. That reticence comes because I frankly don’t know whether I’m discerning actual problems or if I’m nit-picking. Therefore, I won’t write further about Joni until I’m certain that I’m genuinely discerning actual problems.

If I wanted to establish myself as a discernment blogger, I might turn my concerns about Joni into an arsenal of stink bombs to use against her. And surely some of my readers would admire my apparent gift of discernment. Thankfully, others would see that I would be tearing the woman down for the purpose of building my reputation as a woman of discernment.

That, my friends, was my point Friday. True discernment never attacks another person for the purpose of enhancing one’s own credentials. Consider the apostle Paul’s remarks to the Corinthians who thought they were masters of discernment.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. ~~1 Corinthians 8:1-4 (ESV)

When discernment bloggers write for the purpose of displaying their supposed wisdom, they make it painfully evident (to everyone except themselves) that their knowledge has grossly inflated their egos. This self-serving attitude has absolutely no place among God’s people. Rather, whatever discernment God gives us should be used to cultivate personal holiness and to build up other Christians by steering them towards the Lord and His Word.

So in cautioning you against presumptive declarations of having gifts of discernment, I by no means want to imply that Christians shouldn’t cultivate personal discernment. And I fear that some of my readers might have inferred that I no longer endorse calling out false teachers or exposing aberrant practices in evangelical circles.  Please know that I would never make such a commitment.

The Bible clearly teaches Christians to contend for the faith. We just spent a few months studying the epistle Jude wrote, and we learned that all Christians bear a responsibility to practice discernment. The fact that some bloggers misuse the term “discernment” to slander people and/or to promote themselves doesn’t negate the necessity of Biblical discernment.

I pray daily that this blog will, more than anything else, honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. That means that it must never degenerate into a “discernment blog.” But it also means that, when necessary, we must look at teachings that deviate from Scripture. When those occasions arise, may the Holy Spirit enable me to address matters in humility, seeking only to direct women back to Christ.

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Our Joy Brings Them Sorrow

1 Co 13Since writing yesterday, I’ve thought some more about the people who have expressed grief, anxiety, fear and frustration over Donald Trump’s election. Many of their comments remind me of the emotions I experienced eight years ago.

Back then, I struggled to believe that the Lord had placed Barack Obama in leadership. I still don’t understand His purposes in doing so, but Scripture clearly teaches that He brings rulers into power. Though I grieved over all the losses America would suffer during His administration (particularly in terms of restrictions on abortion), I recognized my responsibility to prayerfully support the president He has given us.

And I continue praying for his salvation, for God to grant him wisdom and for his physical protection. I hate almost everything he’s done, and I feel enormous relief that Hillary won’t continue his disastrous policies. I look forward to the repeal of Obamacare, and I rejoice in the possibility of conservative justices on the Supreme Court. Yet I want to respect President Obama in obedience to God’s Word.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. ~~1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV)

In short, even though I believed (and still believe) that President Obama had a wicked agenda, I owned him as the president God had raised up.

Despite my acknowledgment of the Lord’s sovereignty in placing Obama in the White House, November 5, 2008 was, for me, a day to mourn. As Obama himself said, America is no longer a Christian nation. To mourn our rejection of Judeo-Christian values, I went to King’s Chapel Burial Ground in Boston to lay flowers on the grave of John Winthrop. Winthrop, who came to Massachusetts in 1630 as Massachusetts Bay Colony’s first governor, envisioned New England to be a City on a Hill, shining forth as a Christian community. Had he lived to see the founding of the United States of America, I suspect he would have extended that vision.

As I sat next to Winthop’s grave, I anticipated Obama’s adminstration. A socialist economy. Expanded special privileges for people who choose to practice homosexual lifestyles. The removal of restrictions on abortion. A softer stance on terrorism. Taxing the rich to further entrap the poor into dependence on the government. It all goes so contrary to a nation that obeys God’s Law and seeks His glory. My heart broke at the thought of my beloved country embracing ungodly policies and thumbing its nose at the Lord Jesus Christ.

So I wept beside John Winthrop’s grave.

But then I moved toward hope. I asked John to take my Bible from my pocketbook and read Psalm 37. I drew comfort from the knowledge of God’s sovereignty. And, while I’ve spent the past eight years watching the United States of America erode, I have also watched Him protect His own. He has been faithful.

Now I see the anguish of people who fear Donald Trump just as deeply as I feared Barack Obama. Though I adamantly disagree with their belief that progressive policies best serve our nation, I believe they love America just as deeply as I do.

I ask those who rejoice with  me at the prospect of undoing some of the damage wrought by Obama to step back from the celebration for just a moment. Let’s remember the despair we felt eight years ago. Dare we be callous, even in our joy, to those who genuinely grieve right now? Shouldn’t we show them the  compassion that we wanted to receive when they elected Obama? We have a wonderful opportunity right now to reflect the love of Christ. Let’s do it.

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The Delight Of Irresistible Grace

Tulips01John didn’t hold a gun to my head, forcing me to marry him. Neither did he resort to blackmail. He never threatened me. In no way did he coerce me into this marriage. Rather, I married him both willingly and eagerly, absolutely delighted that he would choose someone like me for his bride. I guess you could say that, even though he chose me, I entered the marriage of my own free will.

But looking at it another way, I found John irresistible, even from our first online conversation. I’d arrange my schedule so that I’d almost always be home and on my computer by 4:00, when I knew he’d be online. I simply couldn’t stay away from him, even during that brief time when I’d broken our engagement. Obviously, I didn’t want to resist him. But that doesn’t negate the fact that I felt drawn to him in a way that I found…well, irresistible!

I say all this because it helps me understand the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. While all analogies break down at some point, reflecting on the way I felt inescapably drawn to John, as well as my sense of wonder that he selected me (when he could have had any woman on the planet), gives me a way of understanding how the Lord draws His elect.

Christians throughout the centuries have fought against the teachings on election, predestination and Irresistible Grace by arguing that God gives us a Free Will to either choose or reject Christ. They often interpret passages about election by emphasizing God’s foreknowledge. According to their theology, God elected those that He already knew would accept His invitation to salvation. Thus, a person makes the ultimate decision regarding whether or not they would be included in His elect.

I sympathize with those who take that position more than people might think. Until very recently, it may surprise you to know, I pretty much subscribed to that line of reasoning. Although it would be sinful for me to speculate on why others hold tightly to the doctrine of Free Will and the idea that election depends on God’s foreknowledge, I can explain my reason for embracing them: pride.

I wanted to take some of the credit for having become a Christian, and the whole idea that a sovereign God actually elected me was just too humbling. I admired myself for “deciding” to follow Jesus,  and I’d often word my testimony to gain the admiration of other Christians.

So yes, I actually understand why the very thought of Irresistible Grace troubles Christians who believe in Free Will. Furthermore, I acknowledge that most of those people probably have purer motives than I had.

Yet, Scripture always nagged at me, faithfully confronting me with the reality that God had called me to Himself without any assistance from me. Many passages worked together to convince me that He had done all the work, but I have neither the time nor the space today to show all of them to you. Therefore I want to limit myself to the one passage (familiar to my regular readers) that the Holy Spirit used to finally change my mind.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

Notice the premise that, until God showed His mercy, we were spiritually dead. Ladies, let me state the obvious: dead people can’t do anything for themselves! But taking it even  deeper, dead people have no wills even to choose life. It follows, then, that God gave us the willingness to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ when He brought us from the death of our sins to life in Him.

Advocates of Free Will typically insist that the doctrine of Irresistible Grace reduces us to robots. But as I mediate on the beautiful description of transformation in Ephesians 2:1-10 (as well as other Bible passages about His sovereign grace in choosing His elect), I see myself willingly responding to Him. Rather than dutiful or grudging obedience, I take great joy in following Him. And, quite frankly, I find His grace totally irresistible.

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Harshly Loving

ConflictIt saddens me that an increasing number of people who claim to be Christians look at life from the world’s perspective. Take, for example, the contemporary understanding of love. Many professing evangelicals (particularly those influenced by the Seeker Sensitive and the Emergent Church movements) would elevate a worldly  version of “love” over truth and, in so doing, would minimize the importance of doctrine in favor of a kumbaya sort of spirituality. Yet Scripture very clearly reveals a love that utterly refuses to compromise truth.

About a year and a half ago, reading through Jeremiah, I noticed that the Lord’s attitude toward false prophets appears, at least to our sensibilities, to be enormously unloving. As one example, consider Jeremiah’s final interaction with the false prophet Hananiah.

12 Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’” 15 And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16 Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’”

17 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died. ~~Jeremiah 28:12-17 (ESV)

The Lord apparently lacked love for Hananiah. Why? Because the Lord, in His love for Judah, resented the lies that Hananiah repeatedly told them regarding the Babylonian Captivity. The Lord, through Jeremiah, repeatedly warned Judah (as well as other nations) that He would use Nebuchadnezzar as His instruments of judgment, and that 70 years would pass before  He would bring Judah back to Jerusalem. Hananiah’s false prophecies that the Captivity would end in two years offered Judah a false sense of security that kept them comfortable in their sin and discouraged them from taking God’s Word seriously.

So God essentially killed the false prophet instead of “gently correcting” him. He had Jeremiah prophesy words of judgment rather than tenderly calling Hananiah to repentance. Shouldn’t Jeremiah have, in God’s love, understood that Hananiah sincerely believed God had spoken to him, and that he merely wanted to encourage Judah?

I’ve been pondering many of Jeremiah’s comments to and about false prophets and shepherds, applying them to 21st Century  evangelicals who distort Scripture and promote a false gospel of self-esteem, prosperity and direct revelation from God. Beth Moore naturally crossed my mind, as did several other evangelical teachers who lead people astray.

Lo and behold, when I logged on to Twitter on the very day I’d read Jeremiah 28:12-17, I found a link to Beth Moore’s blog post, scolding (and at one point, ridiculing) those of us who have confronted her false teaching. Evidently, by tweeting our criticisms directly to her (as I do periodically), we show “unkindness.”

More recently a friend reprimanded me for a Tweet I made regarding the idea of sending healing thoughts. While I agree that we must be as respectful and winsome as possible in correcting doctrinal error (2 Timothy 2:24-28, 1 Peter 3:15),  I also know that sometimes even the gentlest comment can be misconstrued as harsh and unloving.

Yet shouldn’t we address the various ways someone mishandles God’s Word? Shouldn’t we love those who embrace doctrinal error enough to warn them against her false teaching? Jeremiah evidently didn’t think so. In fact, his love for God’s people — and more importantly, his love for God’s Word — caused him to speak harshly to those who spoke falsely in the name of the Lord.

Dear sisters in Christ, by all means be as gentle and respectful as possible when you proclaim the Gospel and refute false teaching. But please don’t buy into the popular notion that, in order to truly exhibit love, you must compromise truth. On the, contrary, please love people enough to speak the truth. Otherwise, your “love” might be more worldly than Christian.

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