Few people these days know much history, mostly because they assume it has nothing to do with them. It’s boring and dusty, full of dates to memorize and bloody battlefields where too many young men surrender their lives. And we’ve all suffered through history classes in school with teachers who drone on in monotone voices that make our eyelids heavy. Once we walk across a graduation stage and firmly grip that diploma, we assure ourselves that we’ll never have to think about history again!
Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017, I blogged every Tuesday about various aspects of the Reformation in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his Ninety Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Whittenburg, Germany. Sadly, those articles attracted very few readers, probably because people prefer reading about current controversies. Critiques of Beth Moore always get more clicks than essays about Luther, Calvin or Tyndale, And I admit to understanding that boring history teachers in everyone’s past have taught us that watching paint dry is more interesting than 16th Century religious squabbles. But I believe the blog posts about the Reformation were important four years ago, and I believe blog posts about the Reformation are just as important now.
This October 31, we need to remember the Reformation, even though it’s not the major anniversary that it was four years ago. As evangelicals, we still must be mindful of our spiritual heritage. Furthermore, we owe honor to the men and women of the 16th Century who suffered immense persecution to restore Biblical worship to the church. Neglecting church history sets us up to repeat the errors of past generations.
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When someone says that the Lord told her something, it’s good to feel uncomfortable. Occasionally, but all too rarely, she means that she learned more about the Lord during her time in His Word. Usually, however, she means that she received a personal message from Him, quite separate from anything He said in the Bible. If people challenge her claim, she’ll usually counter that God spoke directly to Abraham, Moses and Paul. Since “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), it stands to reason that He would also speak to Christians now, she explains.
Well, God does speak to Christians now. He speaks every time we read His Word. Although many 21st Century evangelicals dismiss comments like that by adding that we mustn’t “put God in a box,” we should celebrate the wonderful truth that His Holy Spirit breathed His very words out through the pens of Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles so that we could hear what the Lord would say to us.
Many people would concede that the Lord does speak to us through Scripture in a general way, but would then argue that the Bible alone doesn’t address specific circumstances. Therefore, they conclude, He augments His Word with personal revelations, just as He spoke personally to people in the Bible. And we need to challenge that line of thinking.
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If you’re a mom sending your child off to college, undoubtedly you’re worried about him or her being pressured to abandon Scriptural values in favor of philosophies that seem more enlightened and scientific. If you’re a college student, you may wonder if you’ll be able to withstand the constant assaults on Christianity. Even many Christian schools offer liberal doctrine that draws people away from sound Biblical teaching.
I well understand those concerns. In fact, I believe they’re valid. Even when I went through college in the 1970s, I struggled to maintain my Biblical views in the face of ideological challenges. The second semester of my sophomore year, in particular, caused me tremendous spiritual turmoil when I took both a philosophy class and a psychology class. Thankfully, Paul’s counsel to the Colossians served as my anchor during the semester. As far as I’m concerned, every college student should make Colossians 2:8 her motto.
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Her question on Twitter read:
I affirm the Virgin Birth, the Deity of Christ, the Supernatural Miracles of Christ, Christ’s Atoning Death, and the Burial & Literal Resurrection of Christ. Should I be anathematized for not breaking fellowship with Egalitarians who affirm the same things?
Since she only gave me a half-hearted permission to quote her Tweet by admitting that she posted it in a public forum, I’ve decided to withhold her identity in this article. I have no interest in damaging her reputation. I want to address the content of her question, but I don’t want to make any personal attacks.
So let’s begin with her concern about being anathematized for having fellowship with Egalitarians who affirm the basic tenets of the Christian faith. I absolutely do not believe she should be anathematized! The word means to condemn someone to hell. It’s a particularly strong word. No Christian should use it lightly, and if we actually do use it, we need to be very sure that we apply it to someone who persists in grievous and unrepentant sin. So her question saddened me by making me wonder if others had condemned her for having fellowship with Egalitarians.
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What qualities should we look for in anyone (male or female) who professes to teach God’s Word?
Before I profile women bloggers and teachers that I believe merit our attention and trust, I would like to invest a little time in giving you tools for vetting such people for yourselves. In fact, you should use these tools to evaluate me! Discernment doesn’t come from letting someone tell you who to follow and who to avoid. Rather, it comes from knowing what characteristics God says a Christian leader should have.
As obvious as it seems, the most important characteristic of a sound teacher is her ability and obedience to handle the Word of God responsibly. Every teacher makes an occasional misstep, but a good teacher works diligently to apply proper hermeneutics when she presents a text.
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, ~~2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NASB)
Good Bible teachers find their doctrine from the Word rather than using Scriptures (usually out of context) to support their assertions. Not only do they depend on the immediate context of the verse or passage, but also the genre of the book they teach. For instance, Psalms is a collection of poems originally set to music, so often it uses metaphorical language. Trees do not literally clap their hands and believers are not literally sheep. Yet the four gospels record actual miracles, most notably Christ’s literal resurrection from the dead. These miracles must never be taught as metaphors or allegories!
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It looks as if I will be typing blog posts for myself hopefully by the end of April. We hired a morning PCA, so I plan to start using my wheelchair more often. For now, however, John is graciously typing at my dictation, so I am unable to quote Scripture or provide links to Scripture.
“He lives! He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.”
Some of you may sing this anthem during your Resurrection Sunday worship, and the music may help you feel the excitement of knowing that Jesus rose from the dead. And it’s good to excited about His resurrection. The fact that He rose from the dead gives us hope that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life that He claimed to be. Believe me, nothing excites me more than to know that He is risen, just as He said.
But I’ve been thinking about the anthem, “He Lives.” If you read my blog regularly, you probably know that when I’ve been thinking about the lyrics to a song, it means I will critique it. And as I’ve thought about this particular song, I’ve found increasing reason to question its suitability as a Christian worship song.
The stanza I quoted at the beginning of this article bothers me the most when I think of this anthem because it bases belief in the resurrection on subjective experience. While other phrases in the song disturb me, this stanza sums up my problem with the writing. The song writer implies that emotions validate the truth that Christ lives.
But emotions change more than the weather in New England, and feelings that Christ lives within my heart can change to feelings that religion is just a concoction of the imagination. If Christ really rose from the dead, we need objective evidence that He did so. That objective evidence carries us through times of feeling doubt. So let’s talk about the evidence of Christ’s resurrection.
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I once heard someone ask a pastor what to do when Bible reading seems dry. The pastor answered (quite seriously, I’m sorry to say), “Just keep reading until something jumps out at you.” He went on to explain that a verse that catches our attention is what the Holy Spirit has for us that particular day.
Never mind the context. Never mind the intent of the human author, or the way his original readers would have understood the verse. Above all, never mind that God spoke that verse very specifically, with a meaning that doesn’t change in order to accommodate our individual circumstances. All too often, professing Christians read the Bible with the expectation that they can arrive at a personal, subjective interpretation.
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I originally posted this article on July 15, 2016. Aside from the particular events mentioned in the first few paragraphs, the thoughts seem all that much more relevant to the situation in 2020. See whether or not you agree.
Still struggling to evaluate my thoughts on the black men who were killed in Minnesota and Louisiana, as well as the police officers who were killed in Dallas, I watched last night’s news of the terrorist attack in Nice and felt numb. How do we absorb all these horrific events?
I didn’t want to blog about Minnesota and Louisiana until more facts became clear. Too often, I’ve made comments on past blogs, Facebook and Twitter before I really understood all angles of whatever situation I happened to opine about. I’d therefore resolved to start holding my metaphorical tongue until I actually developed a decent idea of the matter at hand. Yes, I risk being misunderstood as indifferent to the world around me. But being misjudged beats making misjudgments, as I see it.
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As I’ve mentioned before, I had started posting these Bible Studies back in January. At the end of February, a compression fracture in my back forced me to discontinue it. About a month ago, I felt well enough to resume it, and I decided to run the original installments again just to reestablish some continuity. However, I’m augmenting these reruns with a few additional comments to provide clarification or because I missed something earlier.
Although we’re getting into the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians today, our text will demand that we look at some background information on the false teachings that he addresses. I aim to demonstrate how he uses sound doctrine, rather than direct discussion of the errors at hand, to steer the Colossians away from faulty theology and practices.
We’ll most likely only get through two verses in this installment of our study, but (as usual) I’ll quote the whole passage for the sake of context.
9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being 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. ~~Colossians 1:9-14 (ESV)
If you take verses 9 and 10 at face value, you could get a fairly accurate interpretation of them. Definitely, Christians should pray for each other along these lines, getting beyond the superficial prayers for health, finances, marriages and other temporal matters. Therefore these two verses encourage us to pray for each other far more deeply than we generally do.
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Praise God for bloggers like Elizabeth Prata and Michelle Lesley who tirelessly research popular teachers and warn against the ones who mishandle Scripture. Sometimes we need to identify people and call them out. Early in the development of this blog, I joined them in writing about false teachers who routinely seduce women with their doctrinal errors.
I haven’t entirely abandoned that practice. At times, women need to be told directly that the teacher they follow so adoringly is failing to offer them healthy spiritual food. In such instances, I have absolutely no problem writing articles exposing such teachers.
That said, I believe we think of discernment ministry much too narrowly. Usually people associate discernment exclusively with calling out false teachers, forgetting that true discernment encompasses so much more than simply naming names of evangelical celebrities to avoid.
Fully developed discernment requires the hard work of studying God’s Word and learning its great doctrines.
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