The Reformation Reflects Today’s Church

Modern ReformationAs this year leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has progressed, I’ve grown disappointed (if not a little frustrated) with my lack of structuring my study time. So many men and women risked their lives standing against the Roman Catholic Church for the sake of the Gospel — some even becoming martyrs rather than compromise God’s Word. I’d anticipated telling their stories as a way of inspiring you (and myself) to stand firm against the erosion of sound doctrine in our own day.

The truth is, my almost 64-year-old body can’t accommodate my to-do list. Bible Study, blogging, social media and trying to be a wife collide with expanded Personal Care Attendant schedules and slowing typing speed, leaving less time and energy to research Knox, Lady Jane Grey, Zwingli and others who did so much to restore Biblical Christianity to Western civilization. Would Christ’s words about the spirit being willing and the flesh being weak apply here?

Maybe. But I digress.

With three months still to go until October 31st, I intend to continue using Tuesdays to keep the Reformation before you. Why? Because I believe Christianity in postmodern times has been corrupted as badly as it had been in the 16th Century, and consequently that Bible-believing Christians in our day need the fortitude and conviction that led those Reformers to praise God as their bodies were burned at the stake for the sake of the Gospel. Their willing spirits certainly conquered their weak flesh!

The assaults on Biblical Christianity came from Roman Catholicism during the Middle Ages as the church developed traditions that had more to do with supporting the opulent lifestyles of popes, cardinals and bishops than with the Gospel. Let’s briefly review the teachings that first prompted Martin Luther to openly question the church.

As we’ve seen throughout this series, teachings on the sacramental system, Purgatory and Indulgences taught people that, although their baptism as infants brought them the initial grace of salvation, they perfected that grace through the sacraments. But even then, they might need to spend time in Purgatory atoning for sins left unconfessed. Of course, purchasing Indulgences for themselves or loved ones could shorten that time, admitting the suffering soul to heaven.

Not surprisingly, medieval Catholicism suppressed access to the Bible. Obviously, reading the Bible without the church’s official annotations and apocryphal books would expose the errors propagated by church authorities.

Professing Christians in our day have different false teachings, in addition to having various vestiges of Roman Catholic mysticism, making it necessary to look again at the Reformers and the doctrines they recovered. As those Reformers directed people back to reading the Bible in its proper context, we must hold to solid Biblical doctrine and resist evangelical fads.

Neglecting the Protestant Reformation may be fashionable, but it increases our vulnerability to present-day false teaching. I’m clearly not the polished church historian that I’d like to be, and I may fail to tell the stories that need telling, but if I can keep the Protestant Reformation before you, perhaps you’ll start researching it for yourselves. You just may be surprised by what it reveals about the 21st Century church.

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From The Archives: Unnecessary Self-Analysis

I originally published this blog post on January 30, 2016.

The Lord, for reasons known only to Him, kept me single until a month before my 49th birthday. His decision  troubled me greatly, to say the least.

During those anguished years of singleness, “Christian psychology” made its way into the church I’d joined. Consequently, I felt compelled to analyze my desire to marry, much as my friends tried to analyze  their same sex attractions.  Borrowing from that church’s use of psychological models, I reasoned that uncovering the underlying cause of my longing for a husband would unlock ways that Jesus could directly provide me with romantic fulfillment.

You may have guessed that my quest never yielded the answers I sought. I struggled with enormous self-condemnation because Jesus didn’t satisfy me. So of  course  I then searched for explanations regarding my apparent resistance to Him. I read countless “Christian” books on co-dependency, emotional dependency, inner  healing, and all sorts of other psychological blocks to “receiving God’s love.” But my  desire for marriage stubbornly remained.

Looking back, I easily see that romantic fulfillment was an idol. Mercifully, the Lord did eventually bless me with a marriage far beyond my expectations, for which I praise Him. But what if He hadn’t?

Scripture says that God  created us for His pleasure and purposes, not so that He could cater to our “felt needs.”

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
    and by your will they existed and were created.” ~~Revelation 4:11 (ESV)

The King James Version says “and for thy pleasure they are created.” So, while my marriage extends happiness as a wonderful by-product, the Lord actually brought it about to glorify Himself. If He had chosen to keep me single, He would have also done that for His glory. My emotional gratification really matters little in comparison to how He chooses to glorify Himself through me.

As post-modern evangelicals shift increasingly toward a gospel that requires the Lord to meet our emotional needs, we lose sight of the true Gospel that revolves around Him. The Lord primarily cares about making us holy. He died in order to take the wrath of God that rightly belongs to each of us so that we, as a corporate Church, might be His eternal Bride. Thus, His purpose in redeeming us goes far beyond our temporal happiness.

When we then shift the emphasis from His eternal joy to what we can get out of Him in this life, we cheapen the Gospel. In fact, dear sisters in Christ, we cheapen Christ. The hours we waste in psychological counseling could be used in studying and applying Scripture as we seek to live in holiness before Him.

“Christian” psychology, by offering non-existent answers to questions we have no business asking in the first place, subtly shifts God into the role of our Servant. Even though He does graciously bless us, we must break out of our insidious attitude that He has an obligation to fulfill us emotionally. We exist to please Him, and we can rejoice that He takes pleasure in us.

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Boston Public Schools And The Moral Training Of Children (Or: Musings From The Subway)

IMG_3957On the subway yesterday, the man across from me was reading a local newspaper. I happened to glimpse a headline that Boston public schools plan to start teaching emotional and social skills.

Initially I reacted positively, thinking about the Snowflakes on college campuses these days who can’t tolerate anyone or anything that challenges their typically liberal beliefs. I echo others who correctly point out that college no longer encourages kids to think through a variety of viewpoints, but instead brainwashes them to adopt the liberal agenda. As a result, college kids (and their instructors) refuse to listen to those who disagree with their accepted dogmas.

Maybe teaching emotional and social skills to younger children would thicken their skin, I thought to myself. Um, public schools? In Boston? Obviously I suffered momentary brain lapse. Whatever they define as “emotional and social skills,” I highly doubt that they encourage kids to consider conservative and Biblical perspectives!

Thinking further about the headline, it occurred to me that parents, not schools, should teach emotional and social skills to their children. Granted, few secularized parents do teach these things. Over the past 50 years, parents have abdicated more and more of their responsibilities to the schools, allowing the very indoctrination that produces Snowflakes in the first place.

I understand that, because I don’t have children of my own, some of you mothers may resent me for daring to comment on what parents should and shouldn’t do. And I concede that I have limited understanding of the difficulties and complexities of child rearing. Furthermore, I realize that single moms face even more struggles. For those without husbands to take the lead in teaching your children, I can appreciate that having the schools help shoulder your burden can be an enormous relief.

Yet I also know that parents (and especially Christian parents) ought to take charge of training their children how to navigate through life. Such training depends on teaching and modeling Scripture’s commands and principles. Moses’ instructions to Israel certainly apply to Christian parents.

18 “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 20 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. ~~Deuteronomy 11:18-21 (ESV)

The apostle Paul gives us a similar charge:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. ~~Ephesians 6:4 (ESV)

Scripture doesn’t have parents entrusting their children to secular institutions when it comes to the arena of morality and ethics. I don’t know exactly what “emotional and social skills” the Boston public schools intend to teach, but it’s probably a safe bet that the Sermon on the Mount won’t be part of the curriculum.

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Eugene Peterson’s Predicament: The Unintended Consequences Of Compromise

Two facedSo Eugene Peterson, author of The Message paraphrase of the Bible, finally admitted his support of same sex marriage, only to backpeddle the following day after LifeWay announced they would no longer sell The Message. There are so many directions we could go with this story, most of which my fellow bloggers have already covered. I’ve come late to the party, it seems, and therefore have nothing new to bring to the table.

Yes and no. Agreed: The Message already betrayed Peterson’s sympathies toward LBGTQ concerns years ago, softening key passages on homosexuality so much that people in the Gay Christian Movement have embraced this version  as a legitimate translation. But look at his rendering of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 as just one example:

9-11 Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.

Compare that to the English Standard Version, which is an actual word-for-word translation done by a board of Biblical scholars:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Again, many other bloggers have pointed out how Peterson’s watered down rendition leaves wiggle room for committed same sex relationships. Peterson can assure us that he believes marriage should be heterosexual and monogamous all he wants, but clearly he has no intention of condemning homosexuality as sinful. He needs to straddle between appealing to his ultra liberal denomination (PCUSA) and keeping LifeWay happy so they will sell The Message.

Compromise does catch up with people, doesn’t it? And in Peterson’s case, he’s now lost credibility on both sides. As LifeWay pulls his books, gay Christian Matthew Vines tweets:

Matthew Vines tweet

Either way, Eugene Peterson’s attempts to placate both sides has indeed cost him plenty. Admittedly, taking a  firm stand on either side of the issue would also have drawn criticism, but at least he would have retained some allies. Of course, his liberal theology and his shabby misrepresentation of God’s Word still would have given him much to answer for on Judgment Day, but now he faces judgment from both liberal and conservative Christians.

We must view Eugene Peterson’s predicament with fear and trembling rather than with self-righteous glee. Whether we admit it or not, each of us faces the temptation to compromise the truth. As time progresses,  each of us will have to take a stand specifically on homosexuality and transsexuality. Any attempts we make to please both camps will ultimately result in displeasing everyone. Just ask Eugene Peterson.

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More Than Mere Opinion

At times, I’ve wrongly characterized blog posts I’ve written about Christian doctrine as my personal opinion. Perhaps I did so to soften offensive statements. After all, Bernie Sanders showed us recently that stating the truth that those outside of Christ will not enter heaven disqualifies someone from holding public office. Clearly, speaking with certainty about even the most basic tenets of the Christian faith has become highly dangerous. Couching those tenets as mere opinion at least offers a buffer against the world’s animosity (or so we tell ourselves).

Our postmodern culture insists that truth depends on personal interpretation. “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” The only absolute I see in postmodern philosophy is that Bible-believing Christians require silencing. If the culture fails to silence us outright, then it must characterize the Gospel as no more than opinion…and misguided, antiquated opinion at that. Once this characterization establishes itself, people have no difficulty dismissing the Lord and replacing Him with spiritual systems tailored to their own preferences.

Postmodern thought, however, really goes back to the same old humanistic rebellion against the Lord that mankind has perpetrated since Adam and Eve defiantly ate the forbidden fruit. Each of us, unless the Holy Spirit intervenes, trades God’s truth for the ideas that we concoct for ourselves.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. ~~Romans 1:18-25 (ESV)

Certainly, I hold very strong opinions on a variety of matters ranging from the alt-left’s reaction to last November’s presidential election to women covering their heads in church services. And I recognize that such matters are legitimately open to debate. But when it comes to the clear teaching of Scripture, I refuse to regard my fidelity to it as subjective opinion.

I undoubtedly misunderstand passages of Scripture here and there. When I do, the last thing I need is for people to indulge my opinion! I need people to correct my error by showing me how my ideas deviate from God’s word. Remind me that Scripture must be properly understood and interpreted in context so that I’ll correctly discern the Lord’s truth and apply His truth in accordance with His will. Don’t let me settle for my own meager opinion when I need the  firm foundation of His truth.

Senator Sanders’ clear persecution of Russell Vought signals increasing persecution of American Christians. Will we react by minimizing our beliefs as nothing more than personal opinion that we can amend if it becomes inconvenient? Or will we stand firm in our convictions, convinced that Jesus is the Truth? If Jesus indeed is the Truth, we must declare His Gospel boldly, confident that our faith goes far beyond mere opinion.

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What You Win Them With

Love and truthOn a recent episode of The Dividing Line, James White quoted the maxim, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” His, point was that churches using entertainment as a means of evangelism would necessarily then have to continually provide entertainment in order to satisfy their new converts. Otherwise they’d be rightfully accused of bait-and-switch tactics.

Youth ministry, sadly, has become dependent on entertaining young people, rationalizing that teenagers won’t come to meetings that consist solely of Bible Study and singing. Bible Studies must be kept short, youth leaders insist, because teenagers have short attention spans.

Yet these same kids are expected to sit attentively through five periods of classroom instruction each day. Granted, some of their teachers feel obligated to crack jokes constantly to hold their interest, but most teachers don’t. The kids go to school to learn math, literature, history and science, not to play. Their school experience proves that they are perfectly capable of participating in a Bible Study without requiring additional incentives.

Let me say this clearly.  If they’re not interested in the Bible without fun and games, they’re not interested in the Bible. You can have the most outrageous activities you want, but please realize that a steady diet of entertainment does absolutely nothing to attract them to the Lord. Kids, like anybody else, come to Christ by hearing His Word.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ~~Romans 10:14-17 (ESV)

Look, I’m not against an occasional pizza party or movie night. I like having fun as much as the next gal. But let’s give adolescents the benefit of the doubt by treating them as young adults who can, by the grace of God, sit through a Bible Study without needing some auxiliary method to lure them in. As James White said, “What you win them with is what you win them to.”

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He Said, “Look Mommy — I’m Wearing A Dress!”

glory-cloudA few days ago, someone told  me that her three-year-old godson met his mother when she came to pick him up from preschool, greeting her with the words, “Look Mommy — I’m wearing a dress!” Horrified, his mother asked him why he was in a dress. He pointed to his teachers and claimed, “Them gave it to me!”

“Oh no,” the teachers argued, “we gave him a choice. We want our children to use costumes to express themselves.”

My friend said that her godson, if he’s not telling the truth about something, normally changes stories when he’s later asked again. But this time, he firmly stuck to his narrative that the teachers made him wear a dress. Therefore, his parents believe that the school pressured him into wearing the dress, perhaps letting him “choose” between two or three dresses.

It turns out, as I suspected it would, that this little boy attends a preschool that accepts state monies. I pretty much believe that the purpose of giving him a dress was to desensitize him, as well as the rest of the children, to transgender issues.

I do believe public schools have a mandate to normalize LBGTQ orientations. Since Obergefell legalized same sex marriage just over two years ago (it seems like it’s been so much longer!) and Bruce Jenner declared himself to be a woman named Caitlyn, I’ve noticed a greater push to force Americans to embrace these sexual deviations wholeheartedly. And the best way to reach this goal, obviously, is to indoctrinate young children.

And people wonder why I so strongly advocate homeschooling?

As troubling as the attack on Biblical views of gender and sexuality is, however, I have confidence that the Lord has complete control. While He hates the sin engulfing our world today (and please, I mean much more than simply sexual sin), He’s allowing a rise in lawlessness to demonstrate our need for Him.

Is His Second Corning imminent? I hope so. Actually, I really believe it’s probable. But I also believe I would be presumptuous to make a dogmatic prediction. I can, however, assert that the Lord is using our collective sin as a judgment on our culture. Please see Romans 1:18-32 as substantiation for my position.

Certainly I reject the idea of coercing a three-year-old to cross-dress. If I was his mommy, he’d never set foot in that school again! But as reprehensible as the school’s actions were, I don’t wring my hands in helpless dismay. The Lord, even though He hates such perversion, remains completely sovereign. In His perfect time, He will bring His righteousness to us so that all creation will bow before Him, confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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