Saturday Sampler: March 10 — March 16

Massachusetts Town Flags
Town and city flags of Massachusetts displayed in the State House

When I started this blog in 2015, I could see that the church in America was headed for persecution. A lot of Christians see the same reality, including Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure. His blog post, Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness you are blessed, underscores what I’ve been saying all along.

Are You Living with a Misconception of Grace? Writing for Biblical Woman,  Sarah Bubar explores the effect our culture of entitlement has on how we understand the grace of God. She also explains grace from the Biblical standpoint.

She’s done it again! In One major way Christian self-help books damage you, Elizabeth Prata pulls back the cover to reveal a harmful evangelical practice. Ladies, this essay in The End Time deserves your attention!

Candidly admitting her struggles, Debi Martin of Sojourner Between Two Worlds shows us The Importance of Being in God’s Word. I’m currently reading through the Bible in 90 days as Debi did in 2012. It’s my second time doing it, and I highly recommend it.

I appreciate Erin Benziger’s devotional on The Sufficiency of the Word in Do Not Be Surprised. The worldliness permeating evangelicalism pressures people to settle for much less than God has given us.

Scripture delineates specific roles for women that the world considers oppressive. Thankfully, in an article for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis lists 10 Reasons Why the Bible Regards Women Higher than all Other Systems. I wish every evangelical (female and male) would read this one.

Yup, I struggle with reading my Bible too. So Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it by Michelle Lesley really reassures and  comforts me. She selects just the right Scriptures to make her case.

I’m not going to give away R. Scott Clark’s message in What Christians Can Learn From Drew Carey About Subverting Culture on the Abounding Grace Radio blog,  but I promise you that you won’t regret reading it. How do I know? I enjoyed reading it, and I’m far from being a Drew Carey fan.

Nick Batzig of Reformation 21 pleads for discernment ministries to strive for balance by writing A Horror of Theology. Bloggers especially need to consider the points he makes in order to avoid extremes that end up dishonoring the Lord.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Double-Minded? In More Ways Than John Smid Thinks

Rainbow and Cross

Love In Action dominated the first two decades of my adult life. The ministry sought to bring freedom to men and (to a lesser extent) women in bondage to homosexuality. In the now over two decades since I left my volunteer staff position with LiA, I’ve wrestled through a lot of feelings  and questions about the ministry, as have most people who went through the program and/or served with the ministry.

Perhaps no one has been more soul searching about Love In Action than John Smid. John spent 20 years in leadership positions with the ministry, eventually becoming its executive director. A series of events in the early 2000s, however, led him to admit his own inability to overcome homosexuality and to question the validity of ex-gay ministry. Today John Smid embraces his identity as a gay man, rejecting the Biblical truth that God condemns homosexuality.

Occasionally I read John’s blog. I love him, remembering our years of friendship before he banned me from his Facebook and Twitter feeds.  My husband John and I pray for him often, brokenhearted by decisions he’s made in the last nine years. His blog informs our prayers.

Last week I visited John Smid’s blog, and read his fascinating article, Was Love In Action Double-Minded? I have read it three times now, and I actually agree with most of his points. While we assured the general public that our goal was Read More »

Saturday Sampler: February 17 — February 23

Artistic Swirl SamplerStephen McAlpine invites us to Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow and Only You Had Ever Heard of Jesus. He presents an interesting challenge. Perhaps we ought to take him up on it.

Writing in Possessing the Treasure, Mike Ratliff reminds us that It is the ungodly whom God justifies. Well, of course, you say — that’s basic Christian doctrine! But don’t be so quick. Might some lingering vestiges of self-righteousness linger in your heart?

Sadly, more and more evangelicals insist that God speaks to them directly.  In response, Clint Archer of The Cripplegate writes God’s Book & God’s Voice to provide a Biblical perspective on this matter.

Now that Tabletalk Magazine is online, you’ll want to read Is Boasting on Social Media a Sin? by Nathan W. Bingham. Okay, it convicted me. But if I need to be convicted, praise the Lord for His faithfulness to convict me.

On her blog, Morning By Morning, Melissa N. Williams shares How My View of Scripture Changed. A Tribute to my local pastor. She offers wonderful encouragement about studying the Bible appropriately.

Haven’t we all complained about the growing viciousness in society lately? SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God asserts that such ugliness results from years of encouragement toward self-love. Narcissistic Meanies explains how she’s arrived at her conclusion.

What is The Writer’s Responsibility? Elizabeth Prata answers that question from a Christian perspective in The End Time. If you only post on Facebook and Twitter, her counsel still applies to you.

Hopefully, most of us see though the nonsense of “Gay Christians,” but now there’s a push for equally nonsensical “Christian Witchcraft.” In an article for Abounding Grace Radio, R. Scott Clark reminds us that Not Everything Called “Christian” Is. Charismatics, his closing paragraph might interest you.

Ask your church leadership to consider Preventative Measures: 6 Steps SBC Churches Can Take to Prevent Sexual Abuse by Michelle Lesley. Her common sense and dependence on God’s Word always astound me, but this time she’s outdone herself!

Let’s close with Colin Smothers’ insights on the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood blog: CBMW Mailbag: Should I pursue marriage at a young age? Although this article ostensibly addresses young men, we women can learn valuable priorities as we either contemplate marriage ourselves or counsel our younger sisters in Christ.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Flashback Friday: Self-Esteem And The Distortion Of Matthew 22:39

Originally posted October 7, 2015.

Mirror02Today, just let me vent about the notion that Christians should promote self-esteem. I will, in future posts, look at the origins of the self-esteem movement and the various ways it undermines Biblical Christianity, but today I simply want to express my frustration with its influence in evangelical circles.

I recall sitting in a Bible Study over 20 years ago and feeling my heart break as a young college student twisted these words of  Jesus:

 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. ~~Matthew 22:39 (ESV)

She explained, with the air of intellectual superiority so common to college sophomores, that Jesus taught in this verse the necessity of self-esteem in order to love one’s neighbor. When I countered that Jesus’ statement presupposed that people naturally love themselves quite well, she launched into a verbal dissertation about suicide, self-mutilation and the national “epidemic” of low self-esteem. The Bible Study leader, seeing that the girl had touched a nerve in me, wisely cleared his throat and resumed teaching.

I’ve heard others teach the same interpretation of Matthew 22:39 as that young college girl offered that night, and I still maintain that such an interpretation wrenches the verse completely out of context as well as reading a principle of pop psychology into it. If we look at the conversation in which Jesus made this statement, first of all, you’ll notice that neither Jesus nor the Sadducee lawyer ever mentioned self-esteem as a prerequisite for loving others.

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ~~Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)

In his article, Why You Don’t Need More Self-Esteem, Stephen J. Cole of Dallas Theological Seminary writes:

The question Christians need to ask is, does the Bible teach this? Does it teach that we need to build our self-esteem? Those who say yes usually support it with the verse, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). They say that you must properly love yourself in order to love your neighbor. But that is not the meaning of the verse. It assumes that we all love ourselves just fine, thank you. If we would show the same regard for others that we do in fact show for ourselves, we would be loving them as God commands. Even those who go around dumping on themselves don’t need to focus on loving themselves. Their problem is precisely that they are too self-focused. They need to consider the needs of others ahead of themselves. The mark of biblical love is self-sacrifice, not self-esteem (see Eph. 5:25).

Even in the case of a suicidal person, the problem is not that he does not love himself. Rather, he loves himself more than he loves anyone else. He is not considering what his death will do to family or friends. He is only considering himself: he is in pain and he wants out of his pain.

And, while Dallas Theological Seminary is a little more liberal than I’d prefer, I believe Cole gets it right here. Jesus clearly spoke from the common understanding that human beings have no difficulty cultivating self-love, but need instruction in loving others. An honest reading of Matthew 22:34-40 simply doesn’t support the self-esteem interpretation. And I resent seeing people distort the Word of God for the purpose of advancing a man-centered system like psychology.

Instead of perverting Matthew 22:39 into  yet another excuse to pamper ourselves, why don’t we just obey it? I understand that obeying it may actually involve self-sacrifice, even forcing us to “hate” ourselves in order to truly love someone else. But Jesus modeled just that sort of love when He took our sins upon Himself.

 Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Flashback Friday: Psychological Seduction

Originally published January 30, 2017.

The allure of  “Christian” psychology is twofold. First, it allows us to focus on ourselves without apology. Second, it promises wisdom over and above what the Bible gives us. As one might surmise, these two attractions intersect, offering us special understanding about ourselves. With the aid of a “Christian” therapist, we can unravel mysteries explaining why we continually fall into  sin (usually discovering that our sin patterns arise because someone or something caused us some type of trauma).

The more I learn about psychology (“Christian” or secular), the more I believe it betrays a propensity toward Gnosticism. We love thinking that we can “go deeper” than the Bible to explore the complexities of the human psyche. After all, not every Christian gets to understand the deep workings of the human mind, right? Psychology lets us join the spiritual elite.

Paul’s letter to the Colossians addressed false teachers who offered a deeper level of wisdom to Christians. Obviously, Freud and Jung hadn’t yet developed psychological models, but the principles Paul put forth regarding the source of wisdom and the necessity of rejecting proposed wisdom apart from that source speak just as well to the deeper wisdom of psychology as they did to the early seeds of Gnosticism in Paul’s day.

Paul roots his argument against looking for secret wisdom squarely in the supremacy of Christ.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. ~~Colossians 2:1-5 (ESV)

Did you notice verse 3? We find wisdom, not in the supposed enlightenment of humanity, but in Christ. And He reveals His wisdom through His Word. The apostle Peter made it clear that what we know of the Lord fully equips us for all the eventualities of the Christ life.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ~~2 Peter 1:3-11 (ESV)

Not very esoteric, admittedly, but that’s precisely my point! In Christ, we have every resource we need in order to overcome sin. We don’t need psychoanalysis to help us identify the roots of our personality struggles. Unless our physician can find a medical reason for psychological problems (which can, and should, be treated with appropriate medication), we can find everything we need to combat recurring sin issues in the Word of God.

Gnosticism, in any form, denies the sufficiency of Christ and the sufficiency of Scripture. Girlfriends, we mustn’t succumb to that temptation. Don’t fall for psychology’s seductive lie that it will help you better understand yourself. Instead of desiring self-knowledge, seek to know the Lord by studying His Word.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

“Anyone Can Read A Commentary”

Dear DebbieLynneA.J. Metcalf, an avid reader of this blog, wrote a thoughtful (and thought-provoking) comment on my post this past Wednesday. I published his comment with that article and wrote a brief reply, but I believe it warrants a fuller response than I can provide in the Comments Section.  So allow me to quote the meat of his comment here and then offer my thoughts.

Your controversial topics likely get more hits because so many of us depend on your great research and great writing on topics, subjects that we can’t get in enough places. We depend on you and your distaff compatriot discernment writers to bring us information we need.
We can read Scripture, our creeds/confessions and commentaries on 1 Corintians 15 “On the Resurrection”. We have our Systematic Theology books for this and other great and important doctrines.
BUT, WITHOUT YOU and a few others, WHO ELSE will bring us these “controversial” topics?
Many of us do not have time to pursue these even though we should pursue them.
Because we know we can depend you, however, we know where to send our loved ones.

First of all, I’m honored by A.J.’s high opinion of me. I question to what degree I deserve such confidence, but I appreciate his kind words and his faith in whatever analytical abilities I may have. Truly, his words encourage me.

But they also raise some important points that I’d like to think Read More »

Flashback Friday: Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

I originally published this article on May 19, 2017.

 

Serious Little Boy01Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize

Little blonde angelBetween the autumn of 1977 and the spring of 1994, I kept a personal journal. I’d write about a wide variety of topics, ranging from Scriptures I’d read in my Quiet Time (frequently taken out of context and misapplied) to practical jokes I played on my friends. For the most part, however, I wrote about my disappointments, my frustrations and my fears. Toward the end of that 17-year period,  I realized that journaling served mainly to fuel my self-pity. For that reason, I abruptly quit writing it.

Perhaps some people can journal without focusing on themselves. Those people should certainly maintain journals! Their journals offer rich treasures to those who read them. But I suspect, especially in this culture that exalts feelings and believes in following psychological principles, that most people use their journals for the purpose of venting.

After 17 years of venting my feelings, I woke up to the fact that venting only keeps a person’s attention fixed on his or her problems. Venting through a journal is even worse, in my opinion, because the act of writing slows down the thought process, prolonging the focus on a subject. So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion?

Self-absorbtion, however,  is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” ~~Mark 8:34-38 (ESV)

Popular evangelical teachers promise us “our best life now” and romantic dates with Jesus, urging us to get in touch with our feelings. They advise hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day and write their feelings out “to the Lord.” What horrible advice!

Honestly confessing our feelings to the Lord is one thing. Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus all had times of pouring their hearts out to God. But in so doing, they invariably wound up acknowledging His sovereign right to order their circumstances according to His will. They ultimately turned their eyes away from themselves and back to Him.

If you keep a personal journal that revolves around your disappointments, frustrations and fears, please consider the possibility that it may be locking you into patterns of self-absorbtion. If possible, turn your journal into something your descendants can read to find Christ. Let them see that, no matter what your circumstances, He remains faithful and deserves the glory.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday Sampler: April 29 — May 5

IMG_1982In the bizarre atmosphere of 21st Century culture, commonsense essays can refresh the spirit.  Garbage In… Garbage Out by SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God looks at a postmodern contradiction and its Biblical solution.

Offering encouragement though  How Do We Overcome the Fear of Evangelism in Unlocking the Bible, Denise (no surname given) directs our attention to Scriptural attitudes concerning witnessing. Her article challenges us, but it also reassures us of the Lord’s commitment to help us carry out the Great Commission.

An Unpleasant and Unpopular Truth appears in Leslie A’s blog, Growing 4 Life as a challenge to examine our lives. A mere profession of Christ, remember, doesn’t necessarily mean that genuine conversion has taken place.

IMG_2004As a lesson in discernment, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time writes a thought-provoking Book Review: America’s beloved novel, “Christy” to examine the theology inherent in the popular book. Kudos to Elizabeth for daring to review such a well-loved book with such candor and balance.

Clint Archer, in his contribution to The Cripplegate, reinforces what is Of First Importance: What will be on the test when we die? Those of you participating in my new Monday Bible Study series on 1 Corinthians 15 should especially appreciate this article.

As long as you’re reading The Cripplegate, check out What Pope Francis Should Have Said to Emanuele. I always enjoy Jordan Standridge’s writing; this piece may help you understand why I’m such a huge fan of his work.

IMG_1992As Christians, we must make careful distinctions in our language, and we must hold our critics to those distinctions. In Dear Media: Please Distinguish Conversion from Conversion Therapy, Denny Burk demonstrates the importance of defining terms by  citing the conversion of a gentleman who survived the terror attack on the Pulse nightclub.

Religious OCD or Scrupulosity by Fred DeRuvo at Study – Grow – Know juxtaposes the troubling methods of psychology against Biblical counseling.  Please, if you still can’t see the dangers of psychology, read Fred’s piece and seriously consider the points he raises.

Would I recommend a blog post simply because the illustration favors the Boston Red Sox? No. Peter Krol’s Context Matters: the Faith Hall of Fame in Knowable Word merits recognition for its skilled handling of Hebrews 11 in and of itself. But I admit that the homage to the Boston Red Sox doesn’t bother me a bit!

All photos taken May 2, 2018 at Boston Public Garden by John Kespert

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The Unsafe Space Of “Christian” Psychology

UnliberatedIn this past Saturday’s edition of Saturday Sampler, I linked to Michelle Lesley’s insightful blog post examining the hypersensitivity that permeates our culture and has seeped into evangelical churches. I agree with her that the root of the problem is plain old self-centerdness. The more we turn away from glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, worshiping Him as the centerpiece of His creation, the more we fixate on ourselves. And that fixation naturally encourages us to elevate the importance of our feelings.

The apostle Paul accurately predicted that, as history draws near to Christ’s return, people would manifest a variety of characteristics in opposition to the fruit of the Spirit.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ~~2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

Notice, if you please, that Paul listed “lovers of self” at the top of this description. In one sense, all the other characteristics flow out of self-love, but I believe Paul intended to name it as merely one of these characteristics. Consequently, I maintain that the sin of self-love has shown itself in the current hypersensitivity that we see in 21st Century Western society.

Obviously, the sin of self-love has always plagued humanity. Think of Haman in the book of Esther and Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel as glaring examples. But I believe the advent of modern psychology has greatly exacerbated the problem — both in secular society and in the visible church.

Psychology tells us that we can’t love others properly unless we first love ourselves.  In Christian circles, we superimpose that premise onto Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves (see Mark 12:28-31). Even as an unregenerate child in Sunday School, I understood that Jesus meant we should love others the way we already love ourselves, but “Christian” psychology confuses this straightforward command, transforming it into evidence that God calls us to self-love.

“Christian” psychology invites us to demand that people validate our feelings. Never mind the many Scriptures that command us to lay aside our own wants and needs to esteem others above ourselves, and ignore Scriptures that rightly portray us as vile wretches dependent wholly on God’s grace and mercy. Forget that, without Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, we deserve only eternity in hell. “Christian” psychology would have us nurture the same sense of entitlement that dominates today’s world.

Think about all the personality tests that circulate among churches. Utilizing psychological models, they encourage us to focus on ourselves. I’ve participated in a six-week “discipleship” program that employed psychological principles to help me analyze myself. And don’t get me started on all those women’s retreats urging me to expose my dysfunctional childhood so that Jesus could heal my brokenness.

Yes, Western society enjoys a preoccupation with self, enhanced by a nearly universal embrace of modern psychology. Regrettably, professing Christians (some of whom may be legitimate converts) have fallen for this drivel and, as a result, compromised sound theology in order to inflate their self-love. In so doing, they exhibit the same hypersensitivity that characterizes their non-Christian counterparts.

Ladies, the Lord wants His people to be markedly different from the world. Where they insist that we not offend them, we must forgive those who offend us. We must stop promoting ourselves in order to promote the Lord and seek the best for those around us, even when doing so requires self-sacrifice.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin