Contending For The Faith Or Being A Contentious Woman?

As the Internet shrinks the world, exposure to false teachings grows more common than ever. Just Google “Women’s Bible Study” and you’ll immediately be hit with Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and Anne Graham Lotz. There are also lesser known teachers whom I haven’t researched, many of whom more likely than not mishandle God’s Word at some level. I’m not saying that all women Bible Study teachers are false teachers (Susan Heck and Martha Peace are certainly trustworthy women), but by and large it’s much easier to find doctrinal error than to find solid teaching.

So it’s more crucial than ever to follow Jude’s example of contending for the faith (please see Jude 3). Offering correction when we see doctrinal error, although it usually seems harsh and unloving, is really one of the most compassionate acts a Christian can perform. Sometimes we’ll actually convince someone to turn away from heresy and embrace Scriptural truth.

In no way should we minimize the value of contending for the faith!

At the same time, we must recognize our potential to contend in an argumentative attitude. All too often, I’ve been guilty of feeling my oats to such a degree that I have sought out devotees of Beth Moore simply so that I could pick a fight. I stayed in those verbal battles, determined to show my opponents my superior debating skills. In short, I contended with impure motives.

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The Folly Of Pride, Gay Or Otherwise

I shouldn’t have gone on his Facebook page the other day. I knew I’d find photos of him with his new “husband,” along with posts condemning Christians who dare to say that homosexuality is a sin. And I should have known that I’d come away feeling saddened once again by his rejection of the truth that he used to proclaim.

He has chosen the world’s distortion of sexuality, and he takes pride in his choice. But Scripture has a much different view of the relationship between worldliness and pride.

15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. ~~1 John 2:15-17 (NASB95)

As we enter Gay Pride Month, I think of my many friends from those years in ex-gay ministry who decided the fight against that particular sin wasn’t worth the effort. Each of them accepted the lie that God made them gay and wanted them to embrace their sexuality. A few settled for living in celibacy while “celebrating” their same sex attractions (I’m not sure how that works) while others pursued committed relationships. One or two remained in heterosexual marriages, expecting their spouses to understand that these are “mixed marriages.” I gather that they all are talking about Pride right now.

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An Unexpected Perk Of Disability

When the phone rang before 6:30 a.m. Monday, I knew my PCA was calling out. She had a serious family emergency that required her presence. I’d been without a regular PCA all weekend, and spent Sunday in bed to accommodate my girlfriend’s Mother’s Day schedule (I deeply appreciate her for filling in on Mother’s Day to keep me clean), so I felt a little disappointed Monday. It took until 10:30 to locate a backup PCA.

Usually, situations like this make me grumble. Since I can’t use my hands, being in bed means I can’t type or read. John has to call around for backup help because I can’t operate a phone. I just lie in bed, aware that I’m physically as helpless as a newborn baby.

Times when PCAs call out or just plain don’t show up remind me of my total dependence on other women. Instead of congratulating myself on my writing and artistic abilities, my days stuck in bed confront me with the actual extent of my disability.

Those confrontations are an answer to prayer.

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I No Longer Think I’m Moses Jr.

During my years in Charismatic churches, I frequently heard that Christians possess the same Holy Spirit that worked through the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. I quite agree. The way we applied that belief, however, now troubles me. We expected that His presence in our lives meant that we had the power to perform miracles, and certainly that God would speak to us personally. Long after we abandoned the miracle idea, we clung to the conviction that God augmented Scripture with personal words.

In the past 30 years, the idea of hearing directly from the Lord has seeped into non-Charismatiic churches. In the 90s, Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God, swept through Southern Baptist churches, insisting that all believers needed to hear from God regularly. In fact, the book said, failure to hear direct and personal words from God indicated definite problems. Beth Moore introduced Blackaby’s ideas to her audience, which transcends denominational boundaries, and now it’s almost universally assumed that every Christian should hear from God independent of the Bible.

This trend disturbs me for a number of reasons, causing me to write more posts about it than I can count. I’m dumb enough to think that people will see how unbiblical this teaching is. Sadly, I periodically bump into the reality that people don’t want to surrender their perceived experiences.

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Making God As We Want Him

You’ve all heard it: “My God would never [fill in the blank]!”

When someone takes offense at a Biblical statement, that’s often the default response. The person doesn’t care what the Bible says about God’s nature; she simply wants God to fit into her preconceived notions of Who she thinks He should be. Sometimes she’ll even picture Him as a She. In essence, people who tell others about their God really believe in a god of their own making.

The God of the Bible, in contrast, has never tolerated such foolishness. As a matter of fact, He opens the Ten Commandments with a clear statement that we must worship Him instead of worshiping gods of our own imagination.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. ~~Exodus 20:2-6 (NASB95)

Starting with verse 5, God explains His reasons for forbidding idolatry by revealing a few aspects of His character. The first aspect focuses on His jealousy, which few people would dream up if they invented an object of worship.

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When You Shout The Same Thing Over And Over, You Add Nothing To The Conversation

Good bloggers have a specific focus. When someone starts a blog, it’s important to find her niche, and to build her posts around that niche. For instance, The Outspoken TULIP focuses on teaching women discernment through sound Biblical doctrine. Most of the blogs I read fall into that niche as well, and occasionally I interact with those women through social media or by email. We concentrate on defined areas because readers look to us for answers in those areas. God gave us this ministry so that He would be glorified.

So often, I’m tempted to veer off from the purpose of my blog for the sake of just writing. As enjoyable as such a vacation might be, it would ultimately change this blog into something I don’t believe the Lord wants it to be. I could start another blog devoted to the art of writing, and it would still honor Him. But it would need to be a separate blog. I don’t want to diffuse this blog by meandering into ideas that would distract women from discipleship. Consequently, I narrow my subject matter to select categories that contribute to my overall theme.

Even when a blog intentionally narrows its focus to a few related aspects of Christianity, however, the author should find a broad spectrum of sub-topics within that focus. One Scripture will most likely lead to more Scriptures, leading the writer to think about angles that give fresh perspectives. Too much of a focus leads to repetition that ends up annoying readers. Additionally, it can damage the writer’s credibility,

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Throwback Thursday: Unacknowledged Pharisees

Originally published March 11, 2016:

Biblical Unity

My insistence on sound doctrine as an essential element in Christian maturity has, more than once, spurred people to call me a Pharisee, either directly or by insinuation. People making that connection also sometimes point out the perils of dead orthodoxy, reminding me that the Lord cares more about how I live than about my finer points of theology. In some respects, I understand their concerns. And, in one sense, I agree with them. After all, Paul’s advice to Timothy applies to everyone–not just pastors:

 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~~1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV)

Yet the apparent hostility to the idea that sound doctrine (by which I mean the teachings of the Bible)  matters troubles me. The rallying cry to disregard doctrine “for the sake of unity” often tolerates (or even promotes) violations of Scripture such as Contemplative Prayer, pragmatism, women in leadership and the acceptance and celebration of homosexuality. Some who bristle at the word “doctrine” believe these are secondary matters. Others still recognize  that the Bible does prohibit homosexual behavior, but increasing numbers of evangelicals now question the “traditional interpretations” of “the six clobber passages.”

Those who minimize concern over the erosion of doctrine typically equate conservative Christians with the Pharisees of Jesus’ earthly ministry, charging that we live by the “dead letter” of Scripture rather than by the Spirit of the Living God. I shall resist the temptation to embark on a lengthy discussion of their hypocrisy in making that judgment. Instead, I want to give attention to their implication that God’s Holy Word is a “dead letter” that requires human intervention (such as Contemplative prayer or pragmatic evangelism strategies) to revive it.

Hebrews 4:12 describes God’s Word as “living and active.” Additionally, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches  both that the Spirit of the  Living God authored each word of Scripture, and that  Scripture adequately gives us all the teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness necessary for serving Him. Far from being a “dead letter” that opposes the Spirit, the Bible is His sword, operating by His power.

The Pharisees dogmatically  claimed that they adhered strictly to God’s Word, and fiercely objected to the “new” doctrines that Jesus proclaimed. In reality, however, Jesus routinely brought them back to the original intent of His Word, rebuking them for corrupting it with their traditions, loopholes and embellishments. For example:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” ~~Matthew 15:1-9 (ESV)  

Could it be that the  real Pharisees shun the pure doctrine of God’s Word, preferring the human traditions that now creep into churches despite their claims of fidelity to the Bible? Could a return to the doctrinal purity of Scripture pose a threat to their unacknowledged doctrine of cultural accommodation? Perhaps not. Only the Lord knows the thoughts and intentions of their hearts. But they might consider the possibility, especially before attaching the Pharisee label to those of us who stand for sound doctrine.

Flashback Friday: Thankful Beyond Compare

Originally published March 8, 2016:

Swan and Ducks

Throughout my life, I’ve fallen into the sin of ingratitude. For the most part, I succumbed to this sin as a result of comparing myself with able-bodied people. I can remember the envy I nurtured in my heart during my two years in Memphis, listening to my co-workers talk about their homes and marriages, and feeling resentful that I was single and living in a nursing home. When they encouraged me to be grateful for a roof over my head, food in  my belly and people to get me up each morning, you bet I felt like smacking them! But, as angry as I was that I couldn’t have the goodies that they had, I was even angrier that their comments exposed my sin of ingratitude.

Rather than comparing myself to my co-workers, I believe the Lord wanted me to compare myself to the blind, non-verbal quadriplegic two doors down from me whose mother wouldn’t even touch him when she visited. Or the woman who had been disabled when a drunk driver smashed into her car, killing her baby and damaging her mind and body so severely that her husband immediately  filed for divorce. Or all those with Cerebral Palsy that had spent their entire adult lives in that roach-infested place, with no hope of getting out. Had I contrasted my life to theirs, I think I would have been much more grateful for all the Lord had given me.

Scripture frequently has to tell us to thank the Lord for His blessings precisely because we naturally gravitate toward ingratitude. We convince ourselves that, compared to certain others, we don’t receive what life supposedly owes us. Or, to put it in terms we’d never admit, we don’t receive what God supposedly owes us.

Our real problem is that we have an inflated opinion of ourselves coupled with a deflated view of the Lord. Rather than recognizing that we actually owe Him everything, both because He created us and because He shed His precious blood to pay the penalty for our sin, we demand that He cater to our desires. I say “we” because I still allow myself to dabble in the sin of ingratitude. I’ll cast the first stone at myself, but I seriously doubt that I’m the only one guilty of taking His goodness for granted.

With that being the case, we all need the Bible’s reminders to praise and thank the Lord for His goodness to us. Psalm 100 is one of many passages of Scripture that directs me to praise and thank Him.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations. ~~Psalm 100 (ESV)

It helps me to compare myself to that quadriplegic young man in the nursing home. But that might not be the most Biblical approach to cultivating gratitude, now that I think of it. Instead of comparing ourselves with people more fortunate or less fortunate than ourselves, perhaps we’d do better by focusing on Who God is and how graciously He cares for us.

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The Annoying, Acceptable Sin Of Complaining



As Mom’s car crossed the Richmond-San Rafael bridge that early afternoon in 1970, my sister and I knew were only minutes away from the train station. We also knew that Granny would probably stay for about a year, primarily to help care for us while Mom worked. We dreaded it, but not because we’d have to share my bedroom during the time Gran stayed. Okay, maybe bunking together bothered us a little — both of us had reached our teenage years by then, and had gotten used to our respective privacy. But we had a much greater concern. One that we hadn’t voiced to our mother until the car carried us across the bridge.

I can’t remember which one of us had the courage to address the proverbial elephant in the room, but one of us finally asked the question that had been consuming our thoughts for weeks: “Is Gran going to complain all the time again?”

Mom chuckled, more out of sympathy than amusement. “Honey,” she replied, “I don’t think Granny is happy unless she has something to complain about.”

We groaned, anticipating an unpleasant year. It never occurred to us that we were actually complaining about our grandmother.

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Blessing Or Cursing The Men In Our Lives

Driving me home from college every day, my mom would reach a particular on-ramp that indeed was dangerous. She firmly believed that one day someone would be killed there (to my knowledge, thankfully, her prediction hasn’t come true). I still remember her lips tightening in disdain as she muttered, “A man must have designed this!”

Actually, she muttered those words any time she encountered things that she deemed inconvenient or illogical, explaining to me and my sister that women would not make anything so complicated or dysfunctional. She taught us to degenerate men, as if the poor things simply didn’t possess the intellectual abilities that characterize women. Yes, men came in handy now and then, she conceded. But for the most part, women could manage just fine — and perhaps better — without them.

Definitely women would have designed that on-ramp better!

As we prepare for Father’s Day, and the many sermons pointing out the shortcomings of fathers, I find myself thinking about Mom’s disparaging remarks. Society pretty much echoes her sentiments. Television, movies and even comic strips routinely portray men as buffoons. At times, according to my husband (an authority on all things pertaining to Superman), even Clark Kent had occasional moments of ineptitude. I believe I can safely say that our current culture all but celebrates male bashing.

Ladies, I know we get frustrated with the men in our lives sometimes. But don’t you think that we frustrate them just as much as they frustrate us? Maybe more? And yet, our culture wastes no time in labeling them as misogynists if they dare say anything the least bit unflattering about us. This double standard has no place in Christian conversation!

James, the half-brother of the Lord, may not have written specifically about male bashing, but his passage on the tongue in Chapter 2 of his epistle definitely applies to the matter. Look at the passage with me as we consider what we say about our husbands, dads, brothers and male friends.

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