The Folly And Shame Of Weighing In Too Quickly

ae2c7-pearlonvictoriandesignLast January, well-known Christian apologist James White and Islamic scholar Yasir Qadhi conducted a two part dialogue to help their respective communities understand some of the actual beliefs of Christianity and Islam. On the first evening, they appeared in a church, where White permitted Qadhi to present Muslim beliefs without challenge. On the following evening, they met in Qadhi’s own Mosque, where White straightforwardly declared the Gospel.

In June, Christian radio host Brannon Howse unearthed the YouTube video of the discussion in the church, and has since launched a vicious attack on White. He believes White has violated 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, particularly in failing to refute Qadhi or proclaim the Gospel during the meeting in the church. The controversy escalated, even to the point of branding White as a heretic.

I’ve followed the bruhaha fairly closely, reading arguments on both sides and watching the video of the discussion in the Mosque (which, it should be noted, Howse and his supporters carefully avoid mentioning). Although I wrote a couple posts early in June which indirectly alluded to the controversy, for the most part I didn’t really believe I had enough information to state an opinion. And frankly, I struggled to the point of doubting my own discernment abilities, therefore putting off blogging about it until I could reach a solid conclusion.

I took my guidance from Proverbs:

13 If one gives an answer before he hears,
    it is his folly and shame.
14 A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
    but a crushed spirit who can bear?
15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
    and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
16 A man’s gift makes room for him
    and brings him before the great.
17 The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.
18 The lot puts an end to quarrels
    and decides between powerful contenders.
19 A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
    and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
20 From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied;
    he is satisfied by the yield of his lips. ~~Proverbs 18:13-20 (ESV)

I kept studying the various arguments, knowing I shouldn’t speak further until I felt assurance that I adequately understood whether or not James White did anything wrong. Only in the last week have I settled in my mind that, though he probably could have found wiser ways of staging the dialogue, he made no substantive compromises. Additionally, Brannon Howse erred by totally ignoring what happened at the Mosque, therefore misrepresenting the facts in order to smear White’s reputation.

Now that I feel ready to weigh in, however, everyone else has finally moved on to other matters. As well they should! The ugliness displayed on both sides dishonored Christ.

Part of me regrets waiting so long to voice my opinion. Blogging gains traction, in part, by addressing controversies  as they unfold. If a Christian blogger handles a controversial topic with humility and fairness, bringing out Biblical principles that direct readers to the Lord, I see no reason not to write about it.

I can’t stop remembering childhood experiences of crawling across  the lawn to join the neighborhood kids in play, only to watch them move to another yard just before I reached them. Once again, I’ve arrived too late.

But another part of me appreciates the Lord for teaching me to remain silent until I could properly research the situation. In this particular case, my investigations confirmed my original position on the controversy, but what if I had stated my opinion immediately and then discovered that I was wrong? Retractions rarely receive the same attention as original articles do.

In the end, writing a blog post in the heat of the controversy would have probably boosted my readership, at least temporarily, but I would have sinned by expressing an opinion before I really knew all the facts. Such recklessness has no place on a Christian blog. Praise the Holy Spirit for convicting me to wait, study and understand all aspects of the controversy before I put forth my thoughts.

That’s actually the greater lesson in all of this, when you think about it. Ironically, White’s primary purpose in having the dialogue with Qadhi was to help Christians understand what Islam actually teaches. Understanding other viewpoints enables us to present the Gospel with greater clarity because we know their way of thinking. When Christians listen before speaking, we can make a more effective case for the Gospel.

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Emotional Abuse, Divorce And Why I’ve Remained Silent About Them

Dear DebbieLynneA couple of years ago, a lady initiated an email correspondence with me. She suffered from an emotionally abusive marriage, and desperately wanted me to affirm her in seeking a divorce. More than that, she wanted me to blog about women in abusive marriages, presumably advocating for divorce in such circumstances.

I could do neither. Since that correspondence, however, I’ve often thought about the problem of emotionally abusive marriages. As someone who blogs as a ministry to other women, I sometimes wonder if perhaps people expect me to address this important issue. So today I want to offer some loosely organized reasons that I don’t believe I’m qualified to write much on this subject.

Of course I felt sad for the lady. Emotional abuse is terrible, and nobody should have to endure that sort of suffering. I really wanted to agree that God would bless her decision to abandon the marriage, especially as her emails overflowed with painful feelings of frustration and entrapment. Sadly, my understanding of Scripture doesn’t allow me to support divorce for any reasons other than adultery or abandonment.

Could I be too legalistic in how I interpret Scriptures on the topic of divorce? Yes, I absolutely could! I can see, based on commentaries and articles that I’ve read, the possibility of wider latitude in the application of the passages on divorce. Indeed, a desire to show compassion draws me to embrace that wider latitude.

The very fact that God has given me a godly husband and a happy marriage makes it difficult for me to identify with women who suffer through abusive marriages. Coming to terms with the disparity between myself and these hurting women challenges me to exercise humility. Since I don’t go through the type of suffering that they do, wouldn’t compassion dictate that I support their decisions to escape abusive marriages?

Yet if compassion would have me accept a relaxed interpretation of Scriptures concerning divorce, shouldn’t that same compassion lead me to soften my stance on same sex marriage? Why should a Christian who experiences same sex attractions be consigned to a lifetime of either marriage without real sexual satisfaction or celibacy? Wouldn’t either of those options constitute emotional abuse?

Compassion must flow from Christians, leading us to comfort people who suffer. I understand that principle. At the same time, compassion can’t permit us to water down God’s Word, even when God’s Word demands painful sacrifices from those we want to comfort.

The woman who emailed me  about her marriage. while she was genuinely hurting, could only give me the story from her perspective. Understand, I’m  by no means accusing her of lying. She presented the facts from her point of view, which is all anybody can do. But I hadn’t heard her husband’s version of the story, nor had I heard her pastor explain why he counseled her to remain in the marriage. I could have allowed a misguided sense of compassion to undermine appropriate Biblical advice, all because I couldn’t see all sides of her situation.

Perhaps God’s Word does make provision for abused spouses to end their marriages. I’ve read articles on both sides of the issue, and have concluded that I don’t have enough understanding to address the matter Scripturally. I’m sorry for ladies like the one who emailed me, but until I feel confident that I rightly understand the Bible about this subject, I’d rather write about subjects I actually do understand.

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My Messy Life Isn’t The Point (Even If It Means You’ll Have Cheesecake With Me)

44cb0-cross2bof2bgloryAuthenticity is apparently the latest evangelical craze, especially among women. When a blogger or teacher lets us see her “messy” life, she appears more approachable. Just like us, she has struggles with sin. What a relief!

The Bible unabashedly records the flaws of men and women commended as heroes of the faith. From Sarah and Abraham exploiting Hagar to the apostle Peter hypocritically reverting to Jewish legalism, otherwise strong believers in Sacred Text demonstrate the propensity toward sin that all humans possess. The most poignant example comes from none other than the apostle Paul:

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ~~Romans 7:13-20 (ESV)

Certainly, no teacher or blogger should give the impression that they’ve somehow risen above the temptations that “normal” Christians face. Doing so undermines the Gospel by insinuating that we can reach a point of trusting in our own righteousness!

At the same time, we can use “authenticity” as an excuse to showcase ourselves, rather than directing attention to the Lord Jesus Christ. An overemphasis on revealing our sins and weaknesses may really be a calculated attempt to attract followers. And certainly it denotes a preoccupation with self in place of adoring God and proclaiming His excellencies.

Two years ago, I discontinued a blog that, while it referred to Christ in almost every post, basically revolved around me. The Lord convicted me of my narcissism, leading me to start The Outspoken TULIP to focus women on Christ.

As our country moves toward persecution against Bible-believing Christians, we need less encouragement to feel better about our shortcomings. When bloggers and teachers prattle on and on about their “messy” lives, they subtly lull us into feeling better about ourselves instead of helping us recognize our need for Christ. He recedes into the background while the teacher or blogger assures us that we could have a gabfest with her over coffee and (if I’m involved) cheesecake.

As much as I want to make myself approachable, however, I’m more concerned with drawing my readers to Christ. Even more, I want this blog to honor Him, regardless of how readers feel about me.  I’ll gladly confess my sins when appropriate, and I definitely don’t want anyone thinking I’ve got it all together. But if this blog degenerates into something about me, it wastes my time and yours. Jesus Christ is the Person Who matters.

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Saturday Sampler: July 2 — July 8

Butterfly SamplerWhat a wonderful way to begin the week! Sunny Shell, in her Abandoned to Christ blog, writes #PsalmSunday: Psalm 48:10-11 as a brief, but powerful, devotional on why we should rejoice over God’s judgments. She gives us good food for thought with this one!

As Americans celebrate Independence Day, Clint Archer’s Heavenites: Our True Citizenship in The Cripplegate puts patriotism in its proper perspective. Loving America has its place, but Christians may want to rethink how closely we align ourselves with this present world.

They say history repeats itself. The Reformation 500 blog demonstrates this principle through its post Jesus Overthrows a Corrupt Priesthood.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day consistently produces outstanding blog posts, but Is it normal to feel like I’m sinning more? easily ranks among her best. She deals with a common fear that few Christians dare not ask out loud.

Make time to read Does Abstinence Teaching Really Promote Purity? by Aimee Byrd of Housewife Theologian. She takes the responsibility of sexual purity way beyond external behaviors. Doesn’t that approach remind you of something Jesus would do? Anyway, her angle on teaching purity can apply both to young teens and those of us who have been married for years.

Using the life of Solomon as an example, Jim Elliff of For The Church issues the warning, Don’t Just Tweet Your Proverbs to those of us who are in the latter stages of life. Younger people, however, also need to consider his admonition. Praise God for His faithfulness in bringing this piece to my attention.

John and I enjoy Christian podcasts. Because our disabilities limit our church involvement, we appreciate being able to augment the Sunday sermons our pastor preaches with sound teaching from men like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Mike Abendroth and Alistair Begg. Yet we understand that Man (Or Woman) Cannot Live on Podcasts Alone, as Courtney Reissig of The Gospel Coalition Blog helps us see. Unless physical limitations (such as those John and I have) prevent you from active participation in your local church, please don’t depend on podcasts as your primary source of spiritual nourishment.

Providentially, a brief teaching in Biblical Woman offers encouragement to those of us who actually have been relegated to the sidelines. How Do You See the Difficulties in Your Life comments on Philippians 1:12-19 to redirect or perspective on our limitations.

In Hanging on to the Life Ring Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life shows us how to survive the flood of false teaching that engulf present-day evangelicalism. Ladies, please don’t overlook this one!

Scripture-twisting is epidemic among professing Christians, and the 4th of July can bring some examples out of the woodwork. Michelle Lesley demonstrates this problem in her post, Top Ten 4th of July Twisted Scriptures. Dearest sisters in Christ, please remember to read verses in their proper context before you apply them to 21st (or 18th) Century America.

I’ve confessed before that I battle the sin of anger. Tim Challies brings much needed conviction to me with his article, Angered At and Angry With. He approaches the topic from a different perspective than usual, which makes it all the more interesting.

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Wanna Hear About John’s Deep, Dark Sins?

My husband John embodies many godly qualities, and his commitment to obeying God’s Word has made a dramatic impact on my attitudes and behaviors. I hope I grow up to be like him. He has no idea of how the Lord uses him to mold me into a Christian who lives increasingly in purity.

But I live with John. Along with his many virtues, I see his faults. Like everyone else, my husband sometimes falls in to various sins, reminding both of us that even he desperately needs a Savior.

If you’re honest, you’ll have to admit that my last paragraph aroused your curiosity, and you secretly hope I’ll write a nice, juicy expose parading his deep dark sins. Actually, as our culture more and more celebrates “transparency,” we come to expect wives to complain about their husbands, adult children to talk about the  mistakes of their parents and workers to gripe about their bosses. And Christians may sincerely believe that, in revealing the “unvarnished truth” about others, they protect themselves from idolizing that person. Or, more accurately, from the appearance of idolizing that person.

By extension, we can also practice “discernment” by gossiping about Christian celebrities. Yes, some false teachers definitely must be called out by name. Those who twist Scripture into man-centered teachings that lead people to a Jesus of their own making absolutely must be exposed for the charlatans they are!

But Bible-believing Christians who, on the whole, love the Lord and hold to sound theology need to be carefully considered before we raise concerns. And when we do raise concerns, we must avoid character assassination or jumping on “discernment” bandwagons before writing them off as apostates

It seems to me that something deep in sinful human nature finds pleasure in discovering the sins of other people. Maybe that’s why over 400 people to date have clicked on my article about Lysa TerKeurst, but only seven have bothered with the one on the Reformation and Galatians. Evangelicals flock to the smell of fresh blood.

Our ability to “objectively critique” Christian celebrities, our pastors or even our own husbands assures us that we aren’t idolizing mere men. How our friends admire our evident discernment! How they praise our objectivity! Yet, in truth, all we’ve really done is spread gossip and damaged the reputation of a genuine brother in Christ in order to bolster our own reputations. Ladies, this sort of thing is the furthest thing from Biblical discernment.

I’d rather run the risk of people judging me for idolizing my husband than sin against him and the Lord by disrespecting him. If anything, I need to show greater respect for John, both publicly and privately. Thankfully, John’s love for Christ and his pattern of obedience to Scripture provide me with enough raw material to keep me from dwelling on his flaws. The same goes for my pastor and for Christian celebrities that (as best they can) teach sound doctrine. After all, I’m too busy owning up to all the ways the Lord needs to deal with me!

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Unequal Yokes Or Respectful Dialogues?

UnliberatedScripture tells us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.” ~~2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (ESV)

Most Christians understand that this passage applies to much more than marriage. Those of you who follow my Tuesday series on the Reformation undoubtedly know that I by no means embrace ecumenical alliances. Furthermore, when I examine suspected false teachers, I often include looking at their associations in determining the legitimately of their ministry (though wrong associations, in and of themselves, don’t necessarily mean that a teacher is an apostate). God unequivocally calls us to separate from those who reject the Lord Jesus Christ.

That separation, however, never requires animosity, nor does it mean that we can’t learn from those who believe differently than we do. A public discussion of our differences (and even points of similarity) needn’t indicate that we have comprised the Gospel. Such compromise can happen, admittedly, but it doesn’t always occur.

Sometimes, properly understanding what Catholics, Muslims, atheists or Jehovah’s Witnesses (just to name a few examples) actually believe helps us witness more effectively, especially if we demonstrate a willingness to listen. Not all of us have the temperament to engage in such conversations, I realize. I can do it in writing, but not face-to-face (I consider my inability to do so as one of my many character flaws). But all of us ought to recognize the value in honest, respectful dialogue with people who embrace false beliefs.

Respecting someone enough to let them articulate their beliefs shouldn’t result in other Christians accusing us of violating 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. I may not have the grace to dialogue with someone of another religion in person, but I see tremendous value in extending that kind of respect to someone. Particularly if I want them to consider the claims of the Gospel!

Open, respectful dialogue, even when planned by both parties in a public setting, may not be the wisest course of action. But neither is it sufficient reason to accuse a brother or sister of compromising the Gospel. Before seizing on an isolated incident, examine the broader scope of that person’s teaching and overall ministry. It could just be that, precisely by having that dialogue, that person will make his or her separation from the world abundantly clear.

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Saturday Sampler: June 18 — June 24

Rose SamplerMark McIntyre writes Did he really say that? on his Attempts at Honesty blog primarily as an exhortation to men in pulpit ministry. But his words apply to all Christians as we proclaim the Gospel in face-to-face conversations and/or on social media. The truth, no matter how lovingly we present it, will always offend unbelievers.

How seriously do you take sin? According to R.C. Sproul of Ligonier, Sin is Cosmic Treason. Sproul gives a thorough explanation of sin’s nature and why God can’t tolerate it.

I completely agree with The Gospel Coalition Blog‘s Michael A G Haykin that Every Christian ought to be a good historian. Having enjoyed two years of a church history class in Adult Sunday School, I join Haykin in believing that church history displays God’s power and faithfulness to His people.

It’s wonderful to see Jessica Pickowicz blogging on Beautiful Thing after a long hiatus! Her blog post, The Not So Simple Life, evaluates the current trend of simple living by holding it up against practicality and ultimately against God’s Word. If you’re a busy mom, Jessica’s essay may be just the encouragement you need.

Denny Burk’s article, Mainstreaming fornication (a.k.a. “ethical non-monogamy”) saddens me.

In light of recent internet fights among well-known Christian apologists, I found Leslie A’s blog post, Engaging The Enemy on her Growing 4 Life blog, wonderfully balanced and refreshing. Biblical discernment doesn’t require us to win arguments; it simply enables us to stand on God’s Word.

Evangelism often means encountering people who, quite frankly, have no interest in the Lord. In his essay for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson writes Excuses… Excuses… to counter some of the better-known objections to the Gospel. In addition to citing pertinent Scriptures for each argument, Peterson also provides links to helpful articles.

Mike Riccardi’s post, Ecumenical vs. Evangelical in The Cripplegate traces the fascinating history of the Ecumenical Movement. It’s a good caution against blurring the lines of doctrine for the sake of unity.

Although Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was by far my least favorite assigned reading in   college, I respect Elizabeth Prata’s delight in reading it. And I absolutely love the way she uses a passage from the novel to remind wives to use prudence in Exposing or ignoring the ignominious blemish in our husbands for The End Time. Interestingly, I gave similar counsel just this morning to a young friend who will be getting married a few months from now.

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