Saturday Sampler: January 28 — February 3

penguin-sampler

For an interesting take on the escalating controversy surrounding discernment ministries, investigate Elizabeth Prata’s Speaking up for discernment ministries in The End Time. I agree with her main point that discernment and Biblical literacy go hand-in-hand. She raises other important ideas worth consideration.

Michelle Lesley writes The Mailbag: Should I correct my boss’s errant theology? for Discipleship for Christian Women. Her principles can apply to several ticklish situations, as you’ll see by the first comment following her article.

Those of you who still believe that God speaks to us directly may want to read A Review of God Calling by Two Listeners on Pastor Gabe Hughes’ blog. We need reminders that God speaks through Scripture, not through New Age practices.

On his blog,  From Scripture to Revelation, Pastor Roger Skepple asks, Does the Bible teach Generational Curses? His answer is brief, Biblical and accurate. If you’ve been taught this doctrine, I encourage you to read this blog post and study the  passages he cites.

Ezekiel 1 flipped me out when I was a baby Christian, and it still boggles my mind. Michael S. Heiser provides helpful insight with What Does the Vision in Ezekiel 1 Mean? in Logos Talk.

Writing for The Vatican Files, Leonardo De Chirico responds to the question, Why Are Younger Evangelicals Fascinated by Roman Catholicism? Not only does De Chirico suggest possible reasons for this phenomenon, but he also offers thoughts on how to encourage fidelity to Biblical Christianity.

How’s about a double dose of Michelle Lesley’s writing this week? Throwback Thursday ~ Discernment Hysteria and the God Who Wins is even more timely now than it was when Michelle originally wrote it! Oh ladies, we desperately need to adopt her perspective on this issue.

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Insisting That God Speaks Apart From His Word

God's MegaphoneStarting off the New Year with an intestinal bug that results in minor (but headache inducing) dehydration sorta makes blog post ideas fly out the window, ya know? So now I sit at my computer keyboard, scrambling to recall the great ideas I had during a couple separate but loosely related Twitter debates I engaged in over the weekend.

I know — arguing on Twitter accomplishes little. The utter frustration probably lowered my resistance to the stomach ailment that decimated my yesterday, and I certainly didn’t persuade either of my opponents to rethink their positions.

Both conversations centered on the sufficiency of Scripture, with my opponents vigorously objecting to the proposition that God now speaks exclusively through the Bible. Both people claim to be Christians. And maybe they are, just as I was during the years I subscribed to Charismatic theology. I don’t  believe I can judge the genuineness of their salvation based on brief Twitter exchanges. But I do find it disturbing that people who profess to be Christians demonstrate such hostility to the statement that God speaks exclusively through the pages of the Bible.

One of them admitted that she wanted more than God’s Word offers.

Certainly, Scripture does seem limited sometimes. When we face major decisions or suffer heart rending tragedy, we want God to whip out His megaphone and speak directly to us. After all, He spoke personally to people in the Bible. Just this morning, as a matter of fact, I read several conversations He had with Abraham. If He spoke directly to Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, why shouldn’t He speak directly to us?

Answering that question would require multiple blog posts. And writing even one such post when I still feel tired from yesterday’s tussle with whatever bug assailed me really doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. It’s a valid question that deserves a thoughtful answer. I’d prefer to approach it when I feel healthier.

I would, however, like to address my dismay that so many evangelicals in our day do expect direct revelations from God. This expectation no longer confines itself to Charismatic circles, which further distresses me. We’ve forgotten that the Holy Spirit gives us everything we need through His Word.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

“That the man of God may be complete,” it says. Doesn’t that phrase imply that we don’t need mystical experiences or extrabiblical words from God?

Although the Church faces threats from those outside its walls, it faces even greater threat from false teachings within those walls. And every one of those false teachings in some sense challenge the sufficiency of Scripture. Consequently, we have a responsibility to stand firmly on the knowledge that we have everything we need in the Word of God. Applying His Word to our individual circumstances admittedly takes patient study, but the Lord will faithfully use it to teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness. What more could we possibly need?

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Welch Revivals, Bondage And Actual Obedience To The Lord

Bible Mask MedievalFor years, John and I have been getting DVDs from Netflix. For reasons that would distract from the point of this blog post, we’ll be closing our account soon, so we’re watching the last few movies on our queue.

A few nights ago, we watched a documentary about Evan Roberts, an evangelist during the Welch revivals in the early 1900s. I knew very little about either Roberts or the Welch revivals,  but I thought the movie might be interesting. And okay, I hoped to glimpse places I’d seen during my three months in Wales.

The movie definitely brought back memories (including memories of Wales), but not exactly the memories of lush green hills dotted with sheep or ruins of medieval castles that I’d anticipated. Instead, watching Roberts agony as he sought God through one spiritual experience after another while he burdened himself with the legalism of fearing to step outside of God’s  will reminded me of the Bible college I attended in Wales. And of Charismatic teaching in general.

I’d never really seen the connection between legalism and the dependence on spiritual experiences until I watched that movie, but the relationship struck me powerfully. Certainly we see it in 21st Century evangelicals (even those who don’t consider themselves to be Charismatics) as they urge us to expect personal revelation from God and warn us against “stepping out of God’s will.” I remembered the desperation to receive personal guidance, which caused me to wrench fragments of Scripture out of context, and pleading with God to speak to me lest I make a mistake and foil His plan.

What a sad way to go through life!

And what an affront to the sovereignty of God, as well as to His love! Yes, the Lord commands our obedience, but He calls us to obey what He clearly commands in His Word, not impressions or voices in our head telling us whom to marry or what job to accept. God’s principles outline what characteristics to look for in a husband. Marry whomever you please, as long as he possesses those characteristics and proposes to you. Take the job as long as the employer doesn’t ask you to violate Scripture. Don’t agonize unnecessarily, straining for some  mystical experience to offer confirmation.

People like Evan Roberts may appear quite spiritual, but their gnosticism never allows them to walk in the Spirit. Consider Paul’s words to the Colossians:

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. ~~Colossians 2:20-23 (ESV)

Although I don’t recommend the documentary (which is why I won’t give the title), I’m glad I watched it because it clarified some of the dangers in Charismatic teaching. I certainly praise God for mercifully rescuing me from that bondage.

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Saturday Sampler: August 27 — September 2

Star Sampler

 

In The Mailbag: What’s your take on White-Howse/Charlottesville/Trump? Michelle Lesley shifts our attention back to the Bible. Her perspective on how Christians should evaluate such controversies humbles me, which is always a good thing for someone as opinionated as I am. Keep her outlook in mind when the next social media firestorm hits.

Along that same vein, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day asks us to consider The overlooked gift of kindness. Great advice!

Mark Ward, in his intriguing article for Logos Talk, brings out The Twist in the Sermon on the Mount That You Probably Missed. Because I struggle with the sin of anger, Ward’s insight into the Lord’s use of a small conjunction gives me a lot to think about. Maybe you’ll appreciate his exploration of Jesus’ reasoning as much as I do.

Look at Prince on Preaching to read Anca Martin’s marvelous essay, The Rest Of Titus and Why It Matters For Women. I  haven’t investigated this website enough to actually endorse it, and a couple minor remarks in this piece make me slightly uncomfortable. That said, I still recommend this piece because it supports my objective in the Perspectives In Titus Bible Study that I feature on this blog each Monday. I hope her thoughts will interest you enough that you’ll join me next Monday.

Erin Benziger, author of Do Not Be Surprised, inaugurates a new series (comprised of devotions she’s previously written) on one of my favorite topics. Unshakeable Joy will both challenge and encourage you to rejoice in your Savior. I look forward to the rest of her posts on this topic.

Have you followed the series Jessica Pickowicz has been doing on Beautiful Thing? If not, her concluding article, Portraits of Superstition: The Christian Neapolitan, supplies links to the previous six installments along with suggestions for using the series as a women’s Bible Study. Then she writes her final portrait, which is probably the most pervasive problem in evangelical circles today.

Kim Whitten, in a post for Biblical Woman that had me crying one minute and laughing the next, writes How I Learned About Rejoicing in the Sock Aisle at Target.

Rethinking “God Hates the Sin but Loves the Sinner” by Alan Shlemon on the Stand to Reason blog holds a popular cliche up to both practical and theological considerations. Maybe it isn’t something Bible-believing Christians should say in conversations with LBGTQ people after all.

And while we’re on the subject of Biblical responses to LBGTQ matters, here’s the link to the Nashville Statement that the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released this past week. Personally, I like its balance of firm commitment to Scripture’s standards for human sexuality and hope for those entrapped by sexual sin.

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Saturday Sampler: August 20 — August 26

Tulips01For those of you going back to school, Ryan Higginbottom’s post, Above All Earthly Textbooks in Knowable Word encourages you not to allow the pressures of school to crowd out your devotional life. Looking back on my own college years, I can attest to each of his points.

Scrolling though Twitter, I found Worldview Changes Everything, which Leslie A published in Growing 4 Life back in July 2014. I normally don’t like including throwback blog posts in Saturday Sampler, but this one deserves attention. The closing paragraphs especially call Christians to healthy self-examination.

Everybody has an opinion, or so the saying goes. Answering that maxim, Elizabeth Prata asserts that You (I) don’t have to say everything in The End Time. Her humility here sets a godly example, especially in this culture of social media.

Beautiful Thing writer Jessica Pickowicz resumes her probing series on superstitions with Portraits of Superstition: The Princess Charming. She writes with a balance that I wish I’d had back in high school when I destroyed a memento from a family vacation thinking it was an idol with demonic powers.

We can find the Gospel even in this earliest chapters of Genesis, as Narrow Minded Woman shows us in Eve: “Mother of All the Living”.

Leave it to Michelle Lesley, a mother of five, to come up with a title like Watch Your Language! 10 Christian Terms that Need to be Cleared Up. Her reasoning on each term grounds itself in God’s Word, forcing us to carefully consider how our words represent the Lord. Are you guilty of saying any of these things?

The Rise of Digital Technologies and the Decline of Reading by Tim Challies may surprise you. His perspectives don’t follow popular wisdom on this topic, but maybe popular wisdom could use a challenge once in a while.

If you doubt my repeated assertions that Christians depend way too much on feelings, go to  excatholic4christ and read Tom’s piece, Emotional feelings and religious rituals no substitute for genuine faith in Christ and His finished work. He presents a sad but fascinating story of a woman who obviously needs discernment  (not to mention true salvation).

Amy Byrd of Housewife Theologian examines the historical context that may help us understand why God honored Rahab’s Lie. Like Amy, I’m not completely sold on this explanation, but it certainly does make sense.

 

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From My Archives: In Eve’s Footsteps

3d383-ladies2bstudy2b03My schedule is a little different this week, therefore diminishing my time for blogging. Please enjoy this article  from May 2016:

Eve’s fatal encounter with the serpent and subsequent rebellion in eating the forbidden fruit is such a familiar narrative to me that sometimes I fail to comprehend all of its implications. But an article in the January/February 2016 issue of Modern Reformation sent me back to the text in Genesis 3. Simonetta Carr’s article, “East of Eden,” tells the story as if through Eve’s words, comfortably familiar (as I said) until I reached  this paragraph:

As wonderful as the Garden was, the serpent convinced me we could have much more, right then and there, without waiting for God’s timing. The serpent appeared to be our friend, but he was strange. He could speak our language and seemed to know more than we knew, but I didn’t give it much thought then. It was an enticing prospect of having our eyes opened, of being like God and knowing more than what God had revealed.

The story continues as she heartwrenchingly wrestles with the realization that Able died and Cain suffered banishment as a result of her rebellion in eating the fruit, and I don’t mean to misrepresent the point Mrs. Carr intended her article to convey. At the same time, the paragraph I just quoted sparked my thinking concerning women and our attraction to mystical adaptations of Christianity.

Specifically, the closing phrase of that paragraph captured my attention.”Knowing more than what God had revealed.” Was that Eve’s motivation? Had Satan promised her revelation beyond the words of God, insinuating that what God had spoken to her and Adam wasn’t sufficient? Fascinating questions! I went to my Bible to verify this interesting possibility. Genesis 3:6 had my answer.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (ESV)

That phrase, “the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” gave me confirmation Simonetta Carr had indeed offered a profound insight. Despite the intimate fellowship that she and Adam regularly enjoyed with God, Eve liked Satan’s suggestion that they could possess knowledge beyond what He had revealed to them.

That idea made me think of the mysticism that pervades many evangelical churches today. Although many men get sucked into this terrible trend, it appears to be the most pronounced in women’s ministry. Immediately I think of Beth Moore’s claims of revelations from God and Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling. I also remember countless women’s retreats and Bible Study meetings where leaders encouraged us to “allow” the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself, not in the pages of Scripture, but “personally” during times of “listening prayer.”

All too often, evangelical “Bible” teachers send the message that the Bible only goes so far in showing us what we need. Typically (and I speak from both personal experience  and first-hand observation), evangelical women receive subtle pressure to understand their psychological wounds and/or to  experience God emotionally. They may certainly start with a Bible verse that “ministers” to them (i.e., that gives them goosebumps), but they must then seek “more.”

One example of the mysticism evangelical teachers push on women comes in the form of “intimacy with God.” Jesus must be their “Lover,” especially if they’re single. Beth Moore and Ann Voskamp both urge women to enjoy “romance” with Him…with Voskamp  boldly advocating erotic expressions of such romance. Sometimes single women are actually shamed for wanting a flesh-and-blood husband when Jesus “offers” them emotional and even sexual satisfaction.

That spiritual rush, of course, exceeds the limitations of mere Bible study. As with other forms of evangelical mysticism, this intimacy with God suggests that we need more than what He has given us in His Word. But didn’t Eve plunge all of creation into decay and death precisely because Satan convinced her that she needed to digest the knowledge of good and evil? Didn’t he persuade her that God’s Word didn’t give her everything she needed?

Evangelical women fall for the same stale lie that Satan first told Eve. Thankfully, we can trust that God’s Word really does supply everything necessary for us to live on this side of heaven.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

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Bluebirds Don’t Speak As Clearly As The Bible Does

Thy Word is a LampI’ve written about the assaults on the sufficiency of Scripture more times than I can count. I’ve majored on this theme because most of the assaults come, not just from mainline liberal churches that reject the Bible’s authority anyway, but also from evangelical churches that claim to believe the Bible as the Word of God.

Increasingly, churches that would theoretically reject Charismatic teaching are embracing the idea of God speaking personally to individuals apart from the Bible. They argue that we need supplementation, especially in making decisions such as whom to marry or what job to take. One friend once reminded me that I never found a Bible verse saying “thou shalt marry John.”

Actually, the expectation that God should speak to me personally about marrying John very much complicated my decision. At one point, I asked for a sign of three bluebirds in one day. At sunset, having only seen two bluebirds outside my window, I felt very despondent. Then I noticed a painting of a third bluebird on my computer’s screensaver! Did that count? Most days, I assured myself it did; often, I struggled with nagging doubts.

Had I superimposed my great desire to marry John on the third bluebird? Should I ask for another sign? If another sign showed that God didn’t want me to marry John, which sign should I follow?

And why didn’t God simply speak to my heart, as I believed He had on other, less consequential, occasions?

Sure, I knew what the Bible said about the type of man I should seek to marry. And obviously, John met those qualifications! He exhibited Biblical attitudes in keeping with God’s commands to husbands, and I could see that he would lead me to obey the Lord in our marriage. Really, it was a no-brainer, with plenty of Scripture confirming that such a marriage would honor and glorify the Lord.

If I had trusted Scripture’s sufficiency as much as I claimed to trust it, I would have saved myself a lot less angst. I might have enjoyed the courtship even more than I did, and I certainly would have displayed a more godly character worthy of a man like John.

It troubles me to see people straining to hear God’s Voice or frantically searching for signs when a simple study of Scripture in context would enable them to make godly decisions without unnecessary struggle. No, you won’t find a verse telling you to take a certain job, marry a certain man or move to a certain town. But you most assuredly will find principles, based on Scripture as a whole, through which the Holy Spirit will guide you toward God’s will.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

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