It Was Just A Thought …But God Used It

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2012, John spent most of his two-and-a-half month hospitalization at a rehab hospital, so he had to be transported by ambulance to doctors’ appointments at Massachusetts General Hospital. Consequently, I had to take The RIDE by myself to meet him at doctors’ offices. Usually, I did so with relatively few difficulties (for The RIDE, that is). But one memory from that period still haunts me.

I had to leave before the appointment ended, knowing The RIDE was scheduled to pick me up at a specific time to return home. I arrived at the waiting area with about five minutes to spare, so I tilted back my wheelchair, knowing that RIDE drivers are supposed to come inside and call passengers by name.

After about ten or 15 minutes, the thought struck me that I should wander outside and see if my van was there. Maybe I subconsciously recalled a paratransit van in Memphis leaving me at work years earlier, or maybe I just felt antsy, but I drove my power wheelchair outside and surveyed the pick-up area.

I did see a van, so I asked if he was there for Deborah. He said he certainly was. He boarded me, and we made the journey home with no particular incident.

Later that evening, however, I learned Continue reading

Flashback Friday: Understanding Beth Moore

Originally posted May 2, 2016.

NarcigesisEarlier today I reviewed a couple articles critiquing Beth Moore. Increasingly, her critics notice  what they call her narcigesis. Narcigesis is a recently coined term describing the practice of interpreting a passage of Scripture as an allegory about one’s personal spiritual experience. Matt Slick’s C.A.R.M. article on Moore cites several examples of her poor exegesis, including this one:

  • Quote: “As stated in the introduction to this book, we may not always be sure God wills to  heal us physically in this life of every disease or prosper us with tangible blessings, but He always wills to free us from strongholds. You will never have to worry about whether you are praying in God’s will concerning strongholds. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” (Gal. 5:1)(Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds by Beth Moore, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tenn., 2009, p. 36, italics in original)

    1. Response: The context of Gal. 5:1 is dealing with being under the law (Gal. 4:21). Paul contrasts children under the law and “children of promise” (Gal. 4:28). Paul was warning the Galatians about being enslaved to the Mosaic law, which is why he says in the next verse ” . . . that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.” Beth Moore has improperly applied a verse, taking it out of its original context and meaning, and used it in a manner for which it was not intended–as the Biblical context demonstrates.

As I read through Slick’s article, my mind went back to all the sermons, Bible Studies,  books and women’s retreats where I saw this hermeneutic applied. I remembered two women’s Bible Study leaders in particular that consistently taught using that methodology. At the time I attended their Tuesday morning meetings, I believed that they rightly applied the Bible to modern spiritual struggles. Slick’s article tempted me to resent those two women (as well as other leaders in Charismatic churches) for teaching me this illegitimate way to study and apply God’s Word. Shame on them!

Then, to my horror, I remembered all the counseling letters I wrote for Love In Action in which  I did the same thing. Shame on me, both for misusing the Bible and for self-righteously throwing stones at those who taught me. Shame on me for looking down my sanctimonious nose at Beth Moore! Praise God for His correction and forgiveness!

Beth Moore definitely needs to be called out for her irresponsible handling of God’s Word, so please don’t misunderstand me as excusing her behavior. On the other hand, please do understand that Moore has most likely learned, as I did, that Scripture lends itself to allegorical interpretation. We must judge her narcigesis as being disrespectful to the  Scripture she professes to love and harmful to the people who sit under her teaching, but we must also pray that the Holy Spirit will gently lead her to repentance.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.~~Galatians 6:1 (ESV)

Matt Slick’s article didn’t change my conviction that Beth Moore is a false teacher who poses a great danger to the Body of Christ (for several reasons). But it did remind me that I once practiced one of her most glaring errors. That humbling knowledge helps me pray that the Lord will show her the same compassion He’s shown me.
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The Unusual American Tolerance Of Christian Values

ConstitutionIf you take the Bible seriously, people have most likely branded you as a narrow-minded bigot. That accusation hurts, doesn’t it? After all,  we live in a culture that celebrates the tolerance of sin and false religion, but is markedly intolerant of Biblical Christianity. Astonishingly, many American Christians are surprised by this animosity. They forget that Jesus told His disciples point blank that the world would reject us because it rejects Him.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~~John 15:18-19 (ESV)

To understand why American Christians struggle with the current hostility towards Christianity, we should briefly look back on our history. New England was first settled by Puritans, who sought to establish a land that held to Biblical precepts. 150 years later, people already deviated from Puritan doctrine, but they continued to adhere to many Christian principles when framing our new nation. John Adams famously declared:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

The 19th Century further eroded Christianity in the United States with the advent of liberal theology and cults like Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism. Yet Americans still largely embraced Christian values and revered the Bible at least as a moral standard. Though the first half of the 20th Century brought a little more spiritual erosion, open hostility towards Christianity only gained momentum after the 1960s.

The momentum accelerated in our present century, and pretty much doubled when the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states.  Older Christians, remembering days when America still respected Christian values to a certain extent, feel puzzled by recent challenges to religious liberties.

Although America’s Christian foundations began crumbling even before the Declaration of Independence was written, most Americans regarded Biblical principles as noble and desirable until the last decade. Therefore the open hatred of Christianity shocks us.

We’re shocked because our American experience insulates us from knowing how Biblical Christians have suffered persecution throughout history. My 2017 Tuesday posts on the Protestant Reformation give a small glimpse into some of that persecution. If we understood that Christians have been hated throughout the 2000 years since our Lord’s crucifixion, maybe we’d realize that God mercifully gave us 300 years of tolerance before allowing us to suffer for His sake.

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Saturday Sampler: November 19 — November 25

bible-sampler

Thanksgiving has passed, but the holiday season is just ramping up! You might want to read Michelle Lesley’s 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays for some practical evangelism ideas. I am planning on implementing #10 myself.

For an intriguing approach to Bible reading, consider Why You Should Live in the Psalms by Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another. I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll try his suggestions, but it definitely captures my interest. See what you think.

Obviously, bloggers this week focus quite a bit on Thanksgiving. Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life writes about the topic from an interesting angle in her blog post, Freezing Out Fear. It’s shorter than most of her posts, but it’s no less powerful.

The holidays can certainly bring out the best and the worst in us, can’t they? In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Melissa Krueger illustrates how A Beautiful Table and a Bitter Heart can dishonor the Lord.

Continuing her very convicting series on “acceptable” sins, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised gives us Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Selfishness. She makes points about this particularly damaging sin that I’d never considered, and her perspective might challenge you a little as well. The entire series is definitely worth your time!

We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation nearly a month ago, but let’s not suppose that we can move on to other things and forget all about it. Equip, a blog out of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, features Stephen J. Wellum’s article entitled Are the Five Solas Biblical? We all need this refresher.

Pastor Gabe Hughes examines the recent #Churchtoo campaign on Twitter that intends to indict Christian churches for allowing (if not encouraging) sexual harassment and assault. His article, #Churchtoo: Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Church…And How Not To Do It, looks at the sin of sexual abuse from a Biblical perspective rather than as a reason to discredit Christianity.

Writing for Common Slaves, Joe Reed offers an extended quotation in Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics. If you can’t get enough of “discernment ministry,” you might do well to read this one.

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“The Word Did Everything”

Powerful WordReading an old issue of Tabletalk magazine yesterday, I spotted a fascinating quote Martin Luther made in regard to the Protestant Reformation. I have no idea of the context which occasioned this remark, and perhaps we don’t really need to know why he said it. At any rate, it gives us much to ponder.

I did nothing; the Word did everything.

At first, Luther’s humility might take us off guard. Looking back, we see that God used this little German monk, who otherwise probably would have been nothing more than a footnote in history at best, to change the course of Western civilization. Let me offer just one example of how the Reformation affected history.

Because of Martin Luther, millions of Christians have been liberated to hear and read the Word of God that lead them to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A century later, a group of these Christians would sail to the New World, hoping to establish a land that honored the Lord and reflected His ways. Their descendants, while largely corrupted by 18th Century Enlightenment thought, built a nation based on Biblical principles and faith in a Creator Who endowed us with inalienable rights. Such a nation could never have existed if the Protestant Reformation hadn’t severed Christians from papal authority.

So Luther’s humble words could cause us to stammer incredulously a bit. He did nothing? Puh-leeze!

Yet Luther saw a vitally important point that I believe we must acknowledge. In and of himself, Martin Luther indeed was an insignificant man. But God’s Word opened His spiritual eyes, enabling him to see how the Roman Catholic Church had replaced the true Gospel with human traditions that exploited the common people and permitted popes,  cardinals and bishops to live opulent lifestyles.

More importantly, God’s Holy Spirit used Luther to bring the Bible to the people so that everyone had access to the truth. This access to Scripture in turn allowed men, women and children to come to the Lord directly, no longer dependent on the mediation of priests.

Once Luther and the other Reformers began preaching God’s Word and encouraging their hearers to read it for themselves, the Lord began a revival that swept across Europe like wildfire! Despite the many compromises and deviations that have since sullied the visible church, filling it with false teachers and false converts, the Word of God continues to bring people to saving faith.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

I agree with Martin Luther. Although the Lord used him powerfully to restore His Church to Biblical Christianity, He did so by opening Luther’s eyes to the Word. From that point onward, the Word indeed did everything.

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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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Calvin’s Repudiation Of Personal Revelations

Discernment BibleIn writing about the Reformers each Tuesday, I’ve sought to emphasize their commitment to God’s Word. Present-day evangelicals, for reasons I don’t fully understand, have moved away from the idea of relying on Scripture as the sole means of hearing from the Lord, and instead pursue mystical experiences of direct communication with Him. The Reformers would have found such expectations puzzling.

John Calvin, as a matter of fact, directly refuted the concept of God speaking to anyone apart from His Word. Consider the following quotation of Calvin’s writing on the topic of Scripture’s authority:

Since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only record in which God has been pleased to consign His truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized unless they are believed to have come from heaven as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.

As far as Calvin was concerned, the thought of God speaking in any way other than Scripture shouldn’t even be entertained. He insisted that the Lord had spoken with full authority in His Word, and therefore believers could trust that written record of His truth.

But Calvin didn’t stop there in his repudiation of personal revelations. With boldness that would make a modern discernment blogger blush, he unapologetically equated the practice with outright heresy!

The fanaticism which discards the Scripture, under the pretense of resorting to immediate revelations is subversive of every principle of Christianity. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency is always to bury the Word of God so they may make room for their own falsehoods.

I doubt John Calvin would show much tolerance in a room full of 21st Century evangelical women off-handedly talking about things they believe God told them. But then, he lived in an age that cherished the Bible, having seen the Roman Catholic Church persecute (and often execute) men and women for simply owning a Bible in their own language. He valued Scripture too much to see its authority supplanted by claims of personal words from the Lord.

According to Calvin, such personal words “buried” the Word of God. Hadn’t the Reformers just excavated that same Word of God that had been buried under Roman Catholic tradition and papal authority for centuries leading up to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses? Why, in so short a time, would Calvin acquiesce to anyone allowing Scripture to then undergo a second burial? And wouldn’t a burial under something as subjective as personal mysticism (which might easily be attributed to too much wine or not enough sleep) be even worse?

Calvin’s words elevating Scripture over personal spiritual experience must echo through our minds today. Like so many aspects of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, they must remind us to treasure the Bible as God’s Word — His only Word — to His people. They must remind us not to bury such a incomparable treasure under the filthy vestiges of subjective experience.

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