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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Flashback Friday: Where Do We Find Assurance Of Salvation?

Originally published July 20, 2017:

Broken Heart Cross

If you’re like me, you’ve probably experienced serious doubts about your salvation. Such doubts generally arise in response to falling back into familiar patterns of sin. As you see yourself committing the same ugly sin, even decades after your conversion, you have to ask yourself whether or not you were ever  really saved in the first place.

In one respect, you and I definitely should ask ourselves this question when we find ourselves committing the same sin habitually. Children of God at some point start to resemble the Father’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-21, 1 John 3:4-10). Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians do persist in unrepentant sin, often rationalizing their rebellion and sometimes even believing that God approves of what they do. I know: I’ve done it.

Seeker-sensitive churches compound the problem by producing false converts who embrace an idealized concept of Jesus without submitting to the true Christ’s authority. These false converts see no need to repent and have no concern for personal holiness.

So yes, sometimes our sin should cause us to wonder if the Lord has truly done a work of regeneration in us. If we live without regard to His holy standards, some honest self-examination is most likely necessary.

But others of us, despite genuinely loving the Lord and wanting to obey Him, manage to get sucked back into sin on occasion. From our perspective, it seems like a habitual pattern because we repeat the same old sins time after time. We grieve every time we do it, fully aware that we’ve dishonored Him. Even if nobody else ever finds out what we’ve done, we know that we’ve violated His commands.

Like the apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-21, we hate our sin. We yearn to please the Lord, knowing that our sin put Him on the cross. How can we be so ungrateful? Why did we act like children of the devil, dragging our glorious Lord through the mud while we selfishly gratified our flesh?

As we fixate on the horrors of our sin, we accept Satan’s accusations that we’re nothing more than hypocrites. Because those accusations carry an element of truth, we believe his lie that we never really had salvation. We despair.

Sisters, we forget that assurance of salvation can never come from us. Paul wrote Romans 7 precisely to demonstrate that we don’t have any righteousness in and of ourselves. Looking at ourselves can never give us assurance!

Ah, but look at Paul’s  concluding paragraph in Romans 7:

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:21-24 (ESV)

Paul doesn’t deny his wretched condition, but he ultimately clings to Jesus Christ as his deliverer. He remembers that Christ paid for all his sin (every ounce of it) by shedding His blood on the cross. Of course, Paul’s not excusing sin or implying that God’s grace gives Christians permission to indulge in sin. Rather, he’s encouraging us to rest in what the Lord has done for us.

Sin should trouble a Christian’s conscience. We should live lives of repentance, earnestly desiring to reflect our Heavenly Father’s holiness as we declare the Gospel to a dying world. But, when our sin breaks our hearts, let’s shift our gaze to Jesus, finding assurance in Him.

Understandable Assumptions Don’t Mean Correct Understanding

My friend pointed to the girl across the room, acting as if I’d never noticed the severity of the girl’s Cerebral Palsy. My friend balked at the announcement that the girl would be baptized that evening, but not because she suspected the girl hadn’t really placed her faith in Christ. On the contrary, my friend knew that baptism signifies repentance from sin, and consequently wondered why we wanted to baptize her. She whispered critically, “Why does someone like her need to be baptized? How could someone that disabled possibly sin?”

I sort of understood my friend’s perspective. Like me, the girl was a quadriplegic, but she didn’t have the ability to type with a mouthstick or headstick. Like me, she had an extreme speech impediment, but I was really the only one who could decipher her grunts and facial expressions well enough to translate for her (thankfully my speech was clear enough for me to do so). Outwardly, the girl appeared to have few desires beyond skipping her peanut butter sandwiches in favor of dessert. How could someone that disabled possibly be considered a sinner?

I knew better. Having grown up with her at the school for disabled children, I knew quite well of her strong will and intense desire to have the social advantages that I enjoyed. Sadly, her learning disability prevented her from being mainstreamed part-time into regular school, and her unintelligible speech kept her from meaningful friendships — even with other disabled kids. Yet she definitely knew what she wanted, and she had no problem expressing her frustration in violent outbursts.

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Abortion: A Reason For Judgment And Hope

No one wants to believe that life begins at conception when she discovers that she’s pregnant against her will. Whether she suffered sexual abuse or willingly gave her body for the sake of pleasure, however, she has indeed created a human life. At that point, she probably feels trapped, desperately wanting to escape her pregnancy with as few consequences as possible. And even when she actually would like to keep the baby, her husband, boyfriend, parents or abuser may pressure her to “get rid of it.” Abortion can definitely seem like us easiest way out.

Especially if she convinces herself that it’s nothing more than a clump of tissue.

This webpage from BabyCenter.com, while it sadly avoids stating that life begins at conception, shows the week by week development of an unborn baby. Please notice that a baby’s heartbeat starts in the fifth week — before a mother usually knows she’s pregnant. Even if you can argue that the fetus isn’t a life prior to that occurrence, that heartbeat definitely indicates that life has begun! Psalm 139, in fact, includes a beautiful passage celebrating God’s care for the unborn:

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Jemima Puddle-Duck And Hebrews 12:1-2

Image taken from Amazon.com

Beatrix Potter is best known for her children’s book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Her story is heartwarming, exquisitely illustrated with the author’s own water color paintings. and gently moralistic (though it failed to deter my childhood disobedience). But Beatrix Potter wrote several other books, all of which lined my sister’s bookshelf — and probably still do. The collection includes The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, which you can read here at no cost. It only takes a few minutes to read, unless you linger over the pictures. This article will make a lot more sense if you’ll read the story,

Jemima Puddle-Duck fell into temptation, didn’t she? Trusting a fox who only wanted to dine on her unhatched eggs, she made a series of very stupid decisions. Temptation to get what she wanted (in a way that seemed easy and convenient) blinded her to an obvious danger. And even the dogs who rescued her from the fox ended up devouring her precious eggs. Her sin of inattention kept her from the one desire of her heart.

Reading The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck reminded me of a Scripture John and I recently read during our morning devotions together.

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What The Ed Litton Scandal Can Teach Christian Bloggers

You don’t have to belong to the Southern Baptist Convention to have heard that its newly elected president, Ed Litton, preached a sermon almost word for word that outgoing SBC president J.D, Greear had previously preached. A simple Google search will verify this fact. Justin Peters put out a video showing both sermons, which you can view here. And this scandal most assuredly needs much discussion, especially because (in the words of the more liberal element of the SBC) the world is watching.

Although the concept of the watching world was used at the SBC meeting in June primarily to excuse a refusal to deal with Critical Race Theory directly, I believe more conservative Christians should turn it around. The world is indeed watching, and it sees a new SBC president who passed off another pastor’s sermon as his own. My educated guess is that the world will see this situation as evidence of Christian hypocrisy. But others have already written about that aspect of Litton’s actions, so I feel no need to join that echo chamber.

Instead, I want to apply this situation to Christian bloggers. I’d already been thinking about writing an article on the matter, and a recent email Justin Peters sent to me and a few others confirmed to me that such an article should be written.

Bloggers, my sisters, aren’t pastors. But because we supplement the ministry of pastors, we must hold ourselves to the moral and ethical standards that God expects of pastors, elders and teachers. James 3:1 states that teachers will incur a stricter judgment. Writing a Christian blog, regardless of how small a readership one has, demands moral integrity.

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Don’t Fear Looking At Your Sin

We live in a culture that tells us to love ourselves. Self-esteem is, according to almost everybody, an essential virtue — one that we must teach our children as soon as we possibly can. Even in evangelical circles, people frown upon those who speak too often about our wretchedness.

But can’t self-esteem frequently keep Christians from examining themselves periodically to see if we are truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5)? Can it cause us to think of ourselves more highly than we should (Romans 12:3)?

You and I definitely should ask ourselves these questions when we find ourselves committing the same sin habitually. Children of God at some point start to resemble the Father’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-21, 1 John 3:4-10). Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians do persist in unrepentant sin, often rationalizing their rebellion and sometimes even believing that God approves of what they do. When we don’t see evidence of genuine repentance in our lives — or at least grief over our sin — we need to ask ourselves if we have really been born again.

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Useless Body, Useless Mind — All For God’s Purposes

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Our pastor livestreams the Wednesday evening Bible Study through our church website and our church Facebook page. At the concluding of each study, he takes questions submitted through emails or Facebook comments.

This week, someone asked how people with severe mental disabilities can be saved. With great compassion, our pastor equated such a situation with that of a child dying in infancy. He cited 2 Samuel 12:14-23 (particularly verse 23) and Deuteronomy 32:4 to substantiate the belief that God will take people with severe intellectual disabilities to heaven.

The brief discussion reminded me of a young man who lived in the nursing home where I spent two years. Cerebral Palsy had not only rendered him a quadriplegic, but it made him blind and non-verbal. As if that wasn’t enough, he Read More »

Flashback Friday: It’s Just A Small Little Sin

Originally published November 29, 2017:

Coffee Stained Wedding Gown

The Gospel teaches that men and women are sinners by nature and by choice, unable to stand in the presence of a holy God. But that same God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, came to earth and lived a sinless life before voluntarily suffering a painful crucifixion during which He accepted His Father’s wrath, thus atoning for the sins of all who would believe in Him. Three days later He rose from the dead, signifying that the Father accepted His sacrifice as well as assuring believers of eternal life in His presence.

The Holy Spirit regenerates Christians by enabling us to believe in Jesus Christ as the only Savior. This faith is immediately demonstrated by an attitude of repentance as an acknowledgment of Christ’s  authority over us.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.~~John 3:16-18 (ESV)

Believers know these things backwards and forwards…or at least they should. Sadly, most 21st Century evangelicals don’t readily articulate the Gospel when asked to do so. Even more tragic, many who claim to be Christians live as though Jesus exists to serve them when they ought to recognize themselves as His slaves.

As I see it, a major reason that evangelicals misunderstand and pervert the Gospel stems from difficulty accepting the fact that we actually need a Savior in the first place. Surely we aren’t that bad! And doesn’t  our good outweigh the mistakes we’ve made?

Think of it this way. It’s your wedding day, and you take your expensive white gown out of the closest. Laying it on your bed, you notice a few small spots. Coffee stains!  Your bridesmaids try to comfort you, pointing out that most of the  gown is still white. People probably won’t even notice those tiny brown stains,  they assure you with soothing voices.

But you know (and so do they) that the dress is ruined.

Even the smallest sin ruins us when we measure ourselves against God’s holy perfection. Everything else about us may be pristine, just like a wedding gown, but the yards of white linen and tulle can’t  atone for those tiny coffee spots.  And all our self-perceived goodness can’t make us acceptable to God.

That’s why Christ’s death on the cross is such good news. He paid the penalty for our sins, clothing is in His righteousness. He presents us to the Father in His purity, as though we’d never soiled ourselves.

If you haven’t yet placed your faith in Him,  I beg you to stop trusting the notion that your so-called good outweighs your sin. The stain may appear small to you, but it leaves you with damage that only Jesus can repair. Once you recognize your desperate need for the salvation that only He can accomplish, the rest of the Gospel falls easily into place.

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Before We Discern The Sins Of Others

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We all enjoy letting people think that we are “in the know,” don’t we? By billing ourselves as having the gift of discernment, we indeed can puff ourselves up…at least in our own eyes. But the same Bible that  commands us to call out false teachers and correct sinners also admonishes us to maintain an attitude of humility.

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. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. ~~Galatians 6:1-5 (ESV)

When we have concerns about a person’s ministry and/or personal conduct, therefore, we must first examine ourselves. Why do we feel the necessity to call attention to Read More »