It Should Happen Rarely, But It Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Bible Turning Pages

I’ve written several articles warning against seeing discernment merely as the identification of false teachers. When we limit our definition of discernment to that one function, we run the risk of degenerating into gossips and scandal-mongers. I could easily write several more articles explaining why a single focus on exposing false teachers dishonors the Lord.

In standing against this truncated understanding of discernment, however, I’m keenly aware that Christians can go to the opposite extreme of never mentioning false teachers. They insist that knowing Scripture well will protect a person from falling prey to doctrinal error.

In many respects, I agree with their position. In fact, just last evening I Continue reading

Of Course God Speaks To Christians Today — But He Chooses The Bible As His Medium

Bible Speaking

More and more evangelicals have come to expect personal words from God. Even thirty years ago, such expectations were limited to Charismatic circles, but Baptist teachers like Henry Blackaby, Rick Warren and (yes)  Beth Moore have convinced more conservative Christians that all believers ought to experience God to speak to them apart from the Bible.

Thirty years ago people who  claimed that God spoke to them were considered mentally ill. Now, however, those of us who deny extra-biblical revelations receive sideways glances.  Most believers see us as abnormal and spiritually Continue reading

Refuting False Teaching By Keeping Christ In Focus

Flowering trees 01

Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible.

Okay, I lied — it’s definitely my favorite. John’s gospel is a close second, and I love it for the same reason that I love Colossians: both books center on showing us Who Christ is. I know, of course, that the entire Bible reveals Him, but these two books paint particularly clear pictures of Him. Therefore, I go back to them as often as I can without neglecting the rest of God’s Word.

So I’m currently working through Colossians during my personal time with the Lord, making preliminary notes before I go back over it using commentaries. What a rich, satisfying experience! I feel as if I’m dining at one of Boston’s finest restaurants!

This morning I came across a verse in Chapter 2 that absolutely thrilled me, as well as encouraging me in developing better discernment skills. In fact, I believe everyone in discernment ministry ought to Continue reading

Flashback Friday — Doctrine: The Key To Worship

Bible And WorshipHaving begun my Christian life in Charismatic circles, I learned to think of worship in terms of my emotional responses to praise music or to my private prayer and Bible reading. If I felt fluttery feelings, I believed I’d experienced good worship. If such feelings eluded me, I concluded that I’d failed in worship.

Emotions certainly play a part in worshiping the Lord. I love Him, which naturally means  a level of emotional engagement with Him. I’d go so far as to argue that an absence of passion in  prayer, praise and Bible reading amounts to nothing more than dead orthodoxy. Such dispassionate religion hardly exemplifies the sort of worship that Jesus described as pleasing to God.

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” ~~John 4:23-24 (ESV)

Yes, by all means worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ in spirit should (and in fact, must involve our emotions! But unless something informs those emotions, we have no ability to worship Him correctly. Even worse, we have no assurance that we’re actually worshiping the true God. Therefore, in order to worship Him in spirit and in truth, we need to make doctrine the key to our worship.

I  care about doctrine because it helps me know the Lord. Not a Jesus fashioned as I think he should be, or one who adapts himself to current culture…though I admit that believing in such a compliant and flexible Jesus appeals to me. Truthfully, I wouldn’t mind tweaking the Bible here and there, making it just a little more comfortable, nor would I object to receiving extra-biblical revelations. But Scripture, studied in context and with a dependence on the Holy Spirit leads me to see Jesus as He actually is.

Do I  claim to know Him perfectly? No. In fact, I have only begun understanding the great doctrines of the Christian faith, partly because I  spent years in Christian groups that emphasized  experiential spirituality, partly because the days before the Internet made study materials less accessible to me (due to my disability and my finances), and mostly because I didn’t mind “going with the flow” of whatever my church went after at any given season. The fluttery feelings satisfied me.

Following the crowd and swallowing the Kool-Aid proved easier than learning to distinguish good doctrine from bad. Also, the non-resistance ensured my acceptance with peers and those in leadership. Quite often, people commented on my raised hand and heavenward gaze with admiration. My emotionally charged worship showed them an impressive example of spirituality.

Sadly, it also demonstrated that I worshiped the acclaim of my church more than I worshiped the Lord.

Now, as I read and study the Bible in context  (rather than scanning through it until something gave me spiritual goose bumps), the Lord reveals Himself. I watch His holiness in dealing with Israel, and His humility during His Incarnation. Currently, He teaches me the interrelationship between keeping His  commandments and loving other believers as I study 1 John.The doctrine of human depravity keeps me dependent on  Him, and the doctrine of His sovereignty strengthens my trust in Him. Scripture’s great doctrines show me His perspectives on relationships, sin, faith, money and just about everything else in life.

Most importantly, Scripture teaches me (for the word “doctrine” means nothing more than “teaching”) of Christ’s preeminence in all creation. He is not a god who suits himself to my fancy. Quite the contrary, He is the holy yet gracious King Who allows me the privilege of serving Him for all eternity. The doctrines of the Bible display His  majesty, drawing me to praise and worship Him in thrilled anticipation of being physically in His glorious presence.

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Correction Must Come From God’s Word

baaa1-stainedglass03I got a little pushback on yesterday’s blog post. That’s fine.  Because I’m human, and therefore fallen, I certainly can get things wrong. May God give me the humility to accept correction when I publish articles that misrepresent His character and/or violate the teachings of Scripture. In fact, I beg my readers to show me any doctrinal errors in my writing!

31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
    will dwell among the wise.
32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
    but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor. ~~Proverbs 15:31-33 (ESV)

You should worry about me if I show a resistance to receiving correction that’s grounded in God’s Word. The Lord does not permit anyone to exalt human wisdom over the authority of Scripture, least of all a housewife with a blog! If I make the mistake of thinking that I am somehow above the ability to insert error into my writing, I definitely need godly people to rebuke me from Scripture.

Notice, please, my emphasis on the Word of God as the standard for correcting me. The challenges I received to yesterday’s post (both on my Comments Section and on social media) appealed to personal experience, misapplied Bible verses (at least that person tried — initially — to reason from Scripture), ad hominem attacks and worldly philosophies.

Colossians warns Christians to be careful about worldly philosophies.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. ~~Colossians 2:6-10 (ESV)

We receive faith through the Word of God, according to Romans 10:17. From there, Scripture fully equips us in all spiritual matters, as we see in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:3-5. Rather than being persuaded by the philosophies invented by human wisdom and subjective experience, Christians cling to God’s Word as our ultimate authority.

Furthermore, we don’t add to His Word by observing religious regulations or spiritual practices. Going back to Colossians, we see the folly of depending on human wisdom and tradition for godliness.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. ~~Colossians 2:16-23 (ESV)

So, while I welcome correction and will happily retract any and all blog posts when I’m shown that I’ve distorted or contradicted clear Biblical teaching, I reject arguments that don’t come from Scripture. As a Christian, I have a responsibility to maintain a humble and teachable attitude, but I have an even greater responsibility to keep God’s Word as the standard for distinguishing truth from error.

Please don’t hesitate to correct me using the Comments Section at the end of each blog post I write. Public error demands public rebuke. But make certain that, in offering correction, you appeal to His Word as your basis for correcting me. Anything less dishonors Christ.

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Flashback Friday: Where Worship Belongs

Originally posted on August 27, 2015

Even the most liberal of evangelicals would insist on the Lord being the focus of worship. Scripture makes this focus necessary by insisting not only that He created all things, but that He created them for Himself so that He might be preeminent. Less than a year ago, our pastor preached on this very topic as he approached Colossians 1:15-19. Let me expand a bit on the text to provide a  fuller context.

11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:11-20 (ESV)

I love this passage primarily because it teaches the amazing doctrine of Christ’s deity, as well as the doctrine of  His Incarnation and His atoning work on the  cross. These words  certainly draw me into an attitude of worship  as they show me Who He is and what He has graciously done. These words also remind me that everything  He has created exists for no other purpose than to bring glory to  Him.

Practitioners of so-called Holy Yoga would say that their form of yoga allows them to worship the Lord more fully. I passionately disagree with that claim based on the fact that yoga (even when it’s dressed up with Bible verses and praise music) is Hinduism. Much to my frustration, their website no longer explains what Holy Yoga actually is, but Chris Lawson of Spiritual Research Network found this quote (which I remember reading) on an earlier version of the Holy Yoga website.

Holy Yoga was created to introduce physical worship of the Lord through prayer, breath work and movement to all seekers and believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of denomination…The purpose of the ministry is to introduce people to yoga as a form of collective (mind, body and spirit) worship…as well as certifying teachers through the registered yoga school (RYS) of Holy Yoga…to facilitate Christ-centered classes in their individual churches, studios, and community spaces….Our sole purpose at Holy yoga is to introduce people to a unique and powerful yoga experience centered on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To deepen the experience, Holy Yoga classes are practiced to contemporary motivational Christian music…Yoga is NOT a religion; it is a practice of mind and body control. When led by scripture, prayer and worship poses; it is a practice that encourages patience and cultivates an understanding of what God can manifest in our physical and emotional bodies. 

That closing sentence betrayed the inconvenient fact that Holy Yoga is more about experiencing physical and emotional manifestations of “God” than about Biblical  worship. But according to an article by Christian  Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) entitled Should Christians Practice Yoga? (this title is a link), this focus on experience pretty much sums up the primary goal of yoga.

The problem is that yoga is religious in nature.  The point of the practice of yoga is to unite oneself with God.  Take this quote from the Yoga Journal: “Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.”4  As one can see, Yoga is more than just a physical exercise.  We as Christians do not want to make our mind more flexible.  We do not want to leave our mind open to false teaching.

Today, I will leave out any discussion of yoga’s worship of Hindu gods (although  I hope to address that matter at some point) and instead emphasize the point that yoga, “‘Christian” or otherwise, subtly shifts the focus from the Lord to self. As I watched video after video on the Holy Yoga  website, the preoccupation with “meeting God on your mat” came up several times. Although you have to pay the  big bucks before accessing anything that explains exactly how Holy Yoga enables you to better experience the Lord, it indeed indicates that  a wonderful experience awaits you on your mat.

Scripture always presents worship as adoring and praising the Lord. Often, such adoration does engage our emotions, but those experiences come as by-products of worship. I don’t need yoga when I have Scripture to tell me about Jesus. Instead of mystical experiences that make me feel degrees of ecstasy, let me learn to die to myself and use my life to serve and glorify Him.

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Why We Like To Believe That God Speaks Directly To Us And Why We Must Question That Belief

Ancient ScriptureThe other Sunday School teacher had taken the rest of our Special Needs class on a short excursion, leaving me with a particularly difficult little boy. His intellectual disability was profound, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was somewhere on the autism spectrum. In 1975, leaving a child alone with a teacher didn’t raise eyebrows, so there we sat for ten minutes.

“I hate you, Debbie,” he declared. I was minoring in Special Education that semester, so I tried reasoning with him the way my professor had taught me. Didn’t work. He repeated his proclamation several times, each time more loudly and eventually adding profanity.

Suddenly I had the thought to sing “Jesus Loves Me.” To my astonishment, the little boy sang with me! The others returned to find the two of us singing and laughing together.

For years I told that story as evidence that Continue reading