The Essence Of Spiritual Warfare

Sword

Standing for truth, in an increasing number of evangelical churches, means that we cause division.

Yet Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament epistles, saw division very differently than 21st Century evangelicals see it. Consider this quote:

Paul regards divisiveness as those who depart from sound doctrine. Doctrine is not the cause of disunity, departure is. ~Carl Trueman

Responsible reading (not to mention study) of Paul’s epistles bear out Trueman’s point. The apostle wrote several of his epistles (most of them, actually) with the purpose of clearing up doctrinal error and preserving correct teaching. As a matter of fact, he drew an interesting correlation between refuting false teaching and Continue reading

Analyzing Others Instead Of Taking Personal Responsibility

Judge NotDuring the years that so-called Christian psychology influenced me, I read a book that seemed to describe my mother perfectly. Applying its descriptors to her convinced me that I suffered as a victim of her dysfunction. My analysis of her was ever so convenient, giving me wonderful excuses to rationalize my sinful behavior toward her.

Occasionally those pesky Scriptures about honoring your father and your mother would cross my mind. In such moments, I’d see the disconnect between Christian psychology and Scripture. Somehow,  I’d always find a way to Continue reading

The Bible Makes Clear Statements On Homosexuality; Why Christians Should Follow It’s Lead

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For the first three decades of my adult life, I was involved with ex-gay ministry on some level. Readers of my Autobiography With Purpose will find some details of that involvement here and here. When I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Greater Boston Area in 2002, I thought I’d never have to write about homosexuality again. Or even think about it.

Less than three years later, Massachusetts Continue reading

Flashback Friday: What’s Wrong With The Box?

Originally published on September 23, 2016.

walker_8th-gradeEveryone wants to “think outside the box” these days. And I do agree with the idea of innovation, creativity and exploration. My husband, for instance, ardently objected to wearing blue jeans until he was in his mid-50’s. His box told him that jeans were for farmers. But one day, our neighbor gave him three pairs of jeans. After I coaxed him to try on a pair, he decided jeans were comfortable! For a few years afterwards he only wore his Dockers to church!

So, I’m not opposed to broadening one’s horizons or trying new things. Having said that, however, I believe the box can be too quickly discarded. I believe, very firmly, that the box, more often than not, provides the framework for innovation, creativity and exploration.

Let me explain my position by taking you back to my verse writing class in college. My professor insisted that, before we could successfully write free verse, we needed to learn to write sonnets. Sonnets are very restrictive in their form. They must be exactly 14 lines of iambic pentameter, following one of two specific rhyme schemes. The first quatrain presents the main idea, generally in terms of a metaphor. The next quatrain adds to the metaphor, giving it a bit more complexity and texture. And then, the all-important third quatrain adds a twist (or, as my professor put it, “creates a problem”). The final couplet (not a quatrain this time) both resolves the conflict and gives the reader a new image.

To defend sonnet-writing to that 1977 class of  young adults still enamored with the free-spirited ideals of Woodstock, Betty Freidan’s bra-burning and the questioning of authority , my professor kept reminding us that “Freedom is in the form.” To my surprise, he was right!  As I practiced taming my thoughts into iambic pentameter, using the strict rhyme scheme to select vibrant words, and using the quadrants to unfold my metaphors, I enjoyed watching my sonnets come alive. The form, rather than oppressing my creativity, generated it. I saw my writing soar with a freshness that I’d never seen in the trendy  free verse I’d been producing since high school.

I often carry my professor’s dictum, “Freedom is in the form,” into my relationship with Christ. In contrast to people who live life as “free spirits” who have no concrete direction, I find solid guidance through the teachings of Scripture. Admittedly I do so very imperfectly (just as I still write sonnets very imperfectly) but I’m so thankful that God gives me a framework for my decisions, my relationships and my morals. The Lord, through His written Word, provides the structure that enables me to soar into worship.

King David, in Psalm 119, demonstrated that God’s Law provides wonderful liberty for those who abide in its principles.

25 My soul clings to the dust;
    give me life according to your word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me;
    teach me your statutes!
27 Make me understand the way of your precepts,
    and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow;
    strengthen me according to your word!
29 Put false ways far from me
    and graciously teach me your law!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
    I set your rules before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
    let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your commandments
    when you enlarge my heart! ~~Psalm 119:25-32 (ESV)

That image of running in the way of His commandments reminds me of the walker I had in childhood that allowed me to run! I needed to be in leg braces, and to be strapped into the structure (pictured above), but once in it, I enjoyed running all over the playground. To this day, I remember the exhilarating feeling of freedom that running gave me. When I ran, I appreciated the walker. Rather than regarding it as an encumbrance, I took tremendous joy in my emancipation.

Obedience to God’s Word emancipates Christians from sin, setting us free to serve the Lord with abandon! The structure, which the world so often characterizes as restrictive, actually allows us to run like children. When I reject the supposed freedom to rebel against God’s commands, I enjoy the same exhilaration that so thrilled me when I ran in that walker.

It sounds so cool to “think outside the box,” but perhaps we can’t really think clearly  outside the box of Scripture. As I see life, the proverbial box gives me the framework so essential to innovation, creativity and exploration. Whether I’m writing, remembering my walker or working out my Christian faith, I’m grateful for the structure. Sometimes, I’ll “think outside the box,” but I’m so delighted to actually have that beautiful box!

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Your Attempts To Love Examined Through Scripture ~~ Part 3

1 Co 13

Growing up in the late 60’s, I absolutely loved The Beatles. To this day, I recall their harmonization as they sang, “All You Need Is Love!” At the time, however, I thought of love as a flowery feeling that magically accepted everyone (unless they supported the war in Vietnam, of course). I had no clue that Biblical love demanded dying to self and standing with the Lord for His priorities.

Tuesday I began taking you through 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to show how people — in this case, discernment bloggers and our critics — can exercise love even while disagreeing. I continued the discussion yesterday. Today I’d like to keep working through this well-known passage, including a clause that probably  would have made The Beatles Continue reading

Do You Use Thomas Jefferson’s Scissors?

Thomas Jefferson

Photo taken at Dreamland Wax Museum in Boston

Legend has that Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States of America, would use scissors to cut out portions of the Bible that he didn’t like. I’m not sure he literally did so, but almost no one believes he held to orthodox Christian theology. According to this article on The Jefferson Foundation website, he certainly made himself a judge over how much of Scripture we should believe.

Yes, I wrote an article on this topic only last Friday. But l didn’t get to really address the underlying problem with the attitude that we can determine which parts of Scripture to embrace and which parts to reject.

Humans have elevated themselves over the Word of God since the beginning of creation. Look again at Satan’s tactic in seducing Eve:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. ~~Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)

“C’mon, Eve, God didn’t really say that! Oh He did? Well, surely you know He just wanted to keep you down! You can stand up to His oppression.  As a matter of fact, eating this delectable fruit (doesn’t it look yummy?) will make you as intelligent as He is. I mean, you can already outwit Him just by ignoring His ridiculous little command.”

Pride always assures us that we know better than to believe that the Bible is actually God’s Word. When something in its pages doesn’t square with our theology, we play with the original language, decide it’s no longer applicable or we ignore it altogether. Like Thomas Jefferson and Eve, we declare our ability to decide what parts of Scripture to believe and what parts to cut out.

Such pride exalts self over God.

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Who Gives Us Permission To Edit God’s Word?

Edited Bible 02

Yesterday I wrote an article using Scripture to substantiate the doctrine of hell. As painful as it is to think about people going to hell, we cannot dismiss the Bible’s many warnings about it simply because they offend our sensibilities. More broadly, we cannot interpret Scripture through the grid of human philosophies.

As we discuss hell, women preaching, Charismatic teaching or any other topic of debate, we need to look to the Word of God as the arbiter of truth. Not to C.S. Lewis or John Calvin. Not to sermons or YouTube videos. Not even to blog posts on The Outspoken TULIP. These resources may or may not be helpful if they point us to Scripture, but we must be careful not to let them have equal authority to God’s Word.

Furthermore, we must never allow ourselves to edit God’s Word to suit Continue reading