Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Persevering in Marriage: A True Story

Marriage is hard. It takes a lot of work, denial of self, service to the spouse, and submission. Having Jesus at the center is necessary for success and even then, some Christian marriages still fail. Without Christ, I am not sure how any marriage survives! Here is a heartfelt, true story about marriage from someone who knows. May you be encouraged as I was by this sweet testimony.


THIS STORY IS TRUE! Like most young couples, this couple was sure that they loved each other. They did not really need the one pre-marriage counseling session-- but it was required. So, there they sat before an aged pastor who had long ago performed the wedding of the parents of the young lady.

Wedding day-- It was a beautiful wedding in a large church's chapel. Every pew was filled. The weather was hot. The wedding went off without a hitch. BUT HIDDEN BENEATH were serious seeds of destruction. Troubles began soon. They mushroomed; but were still hidden from public view. However, in less than a year, all the emotions of love were deeply dead.

To the couple a son was born-- at which time her parents came. And somehow the sadness and hurt was seeping out. For before her parents left to journey several states back to their home, they looked the young father in the eye and said, "It all depends on you!" While not totally correct; but they were right more than they knew. They were met with stonewall silence.

A few months would pass and the young family flew back to the city where they got married. They visited with her family; the young husband later journeyed to another state to visit his family; and then back to their far away home, to work, and school. Just a few days later, as he arrived home at the usual 2-3 am from work-- a letter had been left. He opened it. His wife said, "It's over! My dad will be out on Friday to get my belongings."

The young man, alone in their apartment, raged with anger; and then wept like a baby; and then, he awakened upstairs friends and showed them the letter-- the neighbors were shocked. No one knew. The couple had been very good at hiding.

BACK DOWNSTAIRS in the apartment, the young man became overwhelmed with one conviction: He had vowed, "...until death do us part!" He had not a clue of how or if the marriage could ever be healed. He knew one thing-- by the authority of God's Word, he had to try. Thus, he got in his car and drove across several states to get to her parent's home.

The journey was instigated and empowered by one reality: THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD OF GOD. He was BOUND by the Word of God to try to salvage their hopeless marriage.

[Note: Looking back, it was especially right that he, the husband, should humble himself and initiate reconciliation!]

SOME MIRACLES TAKE A LOT OF TIME! This one did. But slowly this husband and wife began to learn the ways of God for marriage. It takes a heap of God's kind of forgiveness and a heap of God's kind of sacrificial love to heal a broken marriage, to re-kindle love, to restore love, to take love to higher heights.

YOU KNOW WHAT-- sometimes that young man, now much older, wishes that his marriage to his wife was more 'STORY BOOK'... all wonderful and sweet from day one until the end.

NEVERTHELESS, he is exceedingly grateful for the GRACE OF GOD in healing the broken hearts of he and his dear wife. Grief lingers for the hurt and sorrow caused-- nevertheless, GOD'S GRACE is greater than all our sin!

TODAY, HE IS FEELING SUPER BLESSED THAT God 'ruled and over ruled'... that God gave him a beautiful and wonderful bride, completer, and companion. YES, SOME MIRACLES just take more time!

On May 27, 1967, Cynthia Anne Baker became my wife, Cindy Bell! I AM TRULY A VERY BLESSED man to have been given such a treasure! I love you, Cindy! WOW! 49 YEARS
TODAY! LET'S DO 31 MORE! With those years added on, I will only be 102... and by then, you will only be..... ..... much younger! --- James Bell, Pastor



James Bell is a pastor ministering since 1975 at Southside Baptist Church in Gallatin TN.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Harambe's death was just

An unfortunate incident occurred today at the Cincinnati Zoo. A three-year-old little boy, intent on splashing in the water, slipped from his parents' view, crawled under bushes, through wiring, and slid down 15 feet into the moat in the Gorilla Enclosure. Inside were several gorillas, the alpha Gorilla being a 450 pound Silverback named Harambe. Harambe immediately rushed to the boy, dragged him roughly through the moat to the other side, and stood over the boy. Being the technological age, the event was captured on cellphone video and photographed.

The entire event lasted about 10 minutes, with the eventual decision by the Zoo's Dangerous Animal Response Team to shoot the gorilla dead in order to save the boy.

While onlookers interpreted the scene where Harambe stood over the boy as protective, and it could have been that the gorilla was initially attempting to protect the boy, there is a level of stress that animals raised in captivity can never escape. The gorilla was increasingly becoming agitated as the onlookers screamed and crowded the gorilla's eye view. He could easily have drowned the boy or severely injured him at any point. Silverback gorillas are not particularly aggressive but they are unpredictable and the gorilla's stress of being in captivity compounded with an unusual intruder, and screaming throngs, could have easily resulted in a death or injury at any moment. The boy was dragged through the water twice and up a steep hill once, he is lucky the gorilla didn't dislocate the boy's shoulder or leg.

Zookeepers initially attempted to give Harambe a species call to go back into the enclosure, but only the females responded. Harambe did not and his stress level increased at that point. He dragged the boy up the hill through vegetation and away from keepers and the screaming crowds. The decision was made to shoot the gorilla dead.

Here are a few headlines from the last hour. You can see they are heavily skewed toward the animal.
  • Harambe's rights were violated long before his tragic death
  • Gorilla Experts Weigh In: Did Harambe Have To Die?
  • Extended video of Harambe shows gorilla holding the boy's hand
  • #justice for Harambe
  • After death of gorilla, petitioners seek 'justice for Harambe'
  • 78K and counting sign 'Harambe's Law' in light of gorilla's death
  • We'd make the same decision, say zookeepers.
I have just a few thoughts on the incident.

Trust. When you take your children to the zoo, you are entering into a relationship of implicit trust. You've trusted that the Zookeepers have competently cared for the animals. You would not take your kids to see deranged, skeletal animals who have been abused. No, you trust that the animals are prime of their species and you and your children will learn something about them through your visit. You also trust that the Zoo has developed enclosures adequate to keep the animals in and most reasonable people out. (I say reasonable because someone with intent will always breach an enclosure.)

Therefore then, after ten minutes of assessing the situation and implementing less drastic strategies, the Zoo Response team made the decision to shoot the animal. We must trust their decision. When we walk around the zoo, we don't spend our time second guessing the animal care, and we don't second guess the enclosures, and we should not second guess the Zookeepers' ability to assess and decide. They have a specially trained response team designed to handle situations like these. We are not animal behaviorists, gorilla specialists, or even zookeepers. We are ignorant. So we should trust the experts in this case.

Judgment. Animal rights activists immediately sided with the gorilla, charging the parents with negligence and blaming them for the death of the gorilla. This is also not our business. In 2016 (if you are reading this in future months and years) is a time when everyone is an expert and everyone judges and everyone is outraged over something or other. All the time. The boy had wanted to swim with the gorilla, and had told his mother he wanted to. His mother of course said absolutely not. It is sin in us that makes us defy authority. In a matter of seconds he slipped out and was down in the enclosure. Every parent, relative, teacher, caregiver knows how fast children can be, especially when they have their mind set on something. They run into the road, they wander into the woods, they fall down wells, they pet the doggie, they put the bean up their nose, they do these things and usually there is no harm done. They're yanked back from the road, the dog turns out the be friendly, the well wasn't deep, they're found in the woods before dark, they sneeze out the bean. Usually these things happen in private and are swiftly resolved with no harm done. This time, it happened in public in front of judgmental throngs videotaping it and calling for charges to be made against the parents. This is a case where the phrase 'don't judge' can be said appropriately.

Human rights. People these days want justice for animals, zoos to be closed down, captivity to stop. Harambe was a particularly magnificent animal. Truly. Today's secular world automatically denies the human his rights (like, to live safely in a womb) and puts a primary emphasis on the animal- even if it's a jellyfish or cockroach, instead of a human. This was somebody's son, a human being, and that takes precedence over a gorilla. Sorry. God said man has dominion over the earth and all the animals. (Genesis 2:15). The animals were actually given to us as food and to make beasts of burden and to use as we wish.

Of course, I'm not advocating heartless shepherding of God's creatures. I'm saying that humans are made in the image of God. Animals are not. If it comes down to a choice between the animal and the human, we save the one who is made in God's image. (Genesis 1:26-27). It is a strange world where onlookers make petitions and screech for justice for the gorilla, are the same kind of people screeching to maintain their "right" to kill babies in the womb. To the ignorant (Ps 73:22), animals deserve to live over a precious son of two parents.

The Zoo. I applaud the zoo for their decision. He had been nurtured and raised in captivity for 17 years. He had been fed and protected to the best of the keepers' ability. They had a relationship with this animal. They had a program for this gorilla. They had intended to breed Harambe, and since he had just turned 17 years old he was about to come into his breeding time. The Zoo instantly set all that aside on behalf of the implicit contract I mentioned above. When we attend a zoo we trust that they have developed it in a way that protects us from harm, and I am sure they feel strongly about the value of human lives that enter there. While on their property, we are in their care. The Zoo is no doubt mourning the loss of a magnificent animal, an animal 'friend', and the now lost years put into the breeding program. They are no doubt grieving over the death of their animal and with him, their hopes to make an impact for endangered lowland gorillas. Yet they said they would make the same decision again. Why? Human lives matter.

The Bible. Genesis 1:26 says we have dominion over all animals. After the Flood, He reaffirmed our rule over the animal kingdom in Genesis 9:2, making one change. He put the fear and dread of man into animals, and into our hand they are thus delivered. It's pretty clear. Harambe the Silverback Gorilla had to die.

1. The Zoo made the right decision. Not because I have inside knowledge, but because I trust the Zoo to be able to assess the situation and in their animal behavioral knowledge, make a correct decision.
2. Human life is more precious than animal life, because God made humans in His image.
3. Rushing to stupid judgment based on facts we don't know is common these days. Christian, be prudent.

In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. (Proverbs 13:16)

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. (Proverbs 14:15)

Postscript: This is said with no snark and no sarcasm, but be it known that after the Rapture, one of the wrathful judgments God will send to the earth during the Tribulation will include killing a quarter of the earth's population through four specific judgments- one of them being death by beasts. (Revelation 6:8). Let's see where the 'hashtag justice for Harambe', PETA, and animal rights enthusiasts are when wild animals suddenly lose their dread and fear of humans and begin killing humans wholesale. They won't be leaving roses at gorilla memorials then, I would surmise.


Further Reading

Ken Ham: Cincinnati Zoo and the Gorilla

Jesus has been there

When people come to me needing encouragement, I often refer to Hebrews 2:18,

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

And to Hebrews 4:15.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Barnes Notes explains Hebrews 2:18,
The Saviour was subjected to both these in as severe a form as was ever presented to people. His sufferings surpassed all others; and the temptations of Satan (see Matthew 4) were presented in the most alluring form in which he could exhibit them. Being "proved" or "tried" in both these respects, he showed that he had a strength of virtue which could bear all that could ever occur to seduce him from attachment to God; and at the same time to make him a perfect model for those who should be tried in the same manner.
He is able to succour ... - This does not mean that he would not have had "power" to assist others if he had not gone through these sufferings, but that he is now qualified to sympathize with them from the fact that he has endured like trials.
Barnes Notes explains Hebrews 4:15,
Our High Priest is not cold and unfeeling. That is, we have one who is abundantly qualified to sympathize with us in our afflictions, and to whom, therefore, we may look for aid and support in trials. Had we a high priest who was cold and heartless; who simply performed the external duties of his office without entering into the sympathies of those who came to seek for pardon; who had never experienced any trials, and who felt himself above those who sought his aid, we should necessarily feel disheartened in attempting to overcome our sins, and to live to God. His coldness would repel us; his stateliness would awe us; his distance and reserve would keep us away, and perhaps render us indifferent to all desire to be saved. But tenderness and sympathy attract those who are feeble, and kindness does more than anything else to encourage those who have to encounter difficulties and dangers
In practical terms, Jesus has experienced everything we might feel in our own life. He has experienced temptation, malevolence, malice, ill will, murderous intent, suspicion, fury, hatred, contempt, disgust, resentment, distrust, bitterness, unfriendliness, dislike. Jesus was acquainted with grief, sorrow, suffering, He has been humiliated, despised, mocked, abandoned, rejected, persecuted. He has even been executed.

There is nothing we go through on this earth that Jesus as High Priest cannot pray for in intercession with which He has not already experienced and therefore empathizes to the highest degree. You have a loving Father in heaven who is all-powerful, ready to care for you in ways that are for your good and His glory. Be encouraged He is alive, at the right hand of the Father, attuned to your woes and sympathizes with you in perfect empathy.

What a God we have!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Are the tumultuous events of the world making you seasick?

Sister, do not focus on the darkness of this world, but instead keep looking at the horizon for the Bright and Morning star. (Revelation 22:16). During the long dark night, the appearance of the morning star means daybreak is imminent. In the old proverb, the darkest hour is the lowest ebb of the nightly cycle.

There is a fine line between watching the times and focusing on the times (or worse, dwelling on the times.) I understand this as a Christian who has been given discernment as a precious gift from the Spirit, a gift for which I am eternally grateful. In Dr Barhnouse's sermon this morning (listened to on Expositor.FM) he had urged us to focus on the horizon. This made me think of the time I spent living on a sailboat.

I am witness to the darkness before the dawn myself. I lived on a sailboat with my husband for two years, making sea journeys overnight offshore through day and night and a day and a night. Standing watch through the night, being out in the weather, alone on the sea, makes one desperately appreciate the light. The 3:00am watch is dark, cold, and seemingly endless. When one glimpses the first glimmer of a change from blackest coal sky to indigo then blue then the pink and golds of sunrise, the heart lifts and one feels that one has emerged from an endless tunnel in which one's very soul had been swallowed.

First cup of coffee after dawn watch's first light
I always become seasick on the boat whenever I was down below, and usually became seasick when in the cockpit, unless I was looking at the horizon. The smallest rolling yaw, the minutest pitching swell would set my stomach to churning. The only solution was to keep my eyes on the steady horizon. Staring at the waves was a sure way to become ill. This is because, according to LiveScience,
Although it might seem that looking at something steady would make the ship's movement all the more noticeable, it helped to focus on a distant, steady point on the horizon while at sea, the researchers found. ... Stoffregen suspects that the horizon provides a helpful point of reference, allowing people to sense the difference between their body's natural motion and the motion of the ship.
Gazing at the horizon steadies the gaze and helps the seasick-afflicted maintain equilibrium. Continual staring at the wicked world, and the wicked are like the sea which cannot rest, (Isaiah 57:20) will only serve to disrupt your equilibrium.

We discernment bloggers watch the events of the world as did the men of Issachar, understanding the times and knowing what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32), which is to urge all men to repent and be salt and light as Gospel sharers in the dark world. Our job is to be about the Light, not the dark. Watching the tumultuous sea for too long will darken the gaze and upset the stomach, metaphorically, if not actually! Watching the horizon for the Light of Christ who will appear is the antidote for the churning stomach of the times.

During the night watch (or any watch) we'd continually scan the horizon to stay on course, to watch for obstacles that would sink us, and to look for land. Land was home, safe harbor, and rest. If you watch for Jesus, keep looking to Him, and stay on His course, you will not be upset by the world's events nor will your eyes stay in the dark but see the Light continually. Since it is SO dark before the dawn, therefore when the Bright Glory of Jesus appears to rapture us home, His Light will be magnified and heightened in brightness untold!!

Praise the Lord that the darkness has not overcome the Light (John 1:5). Praise the Lord that He is the Light.

Jesus is the Light and the darkness has not overcome it.
No matter how tumultuous the sea, the Light is always there, shining steadily.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Do you know an untethered Millennial?

Do you know a millennial who is "untethered'? Someone who says they know Jesus but doesn't KNOW Jesus through His Word? Todd Friel of Wretched fame does. He witnesses on campuses throughout the United States and is saddened and alarmed by what he sees.

As a result, he is producing a movie called Untethered. He and his team are halfway to their financing goal. From their web page,

Source Wretched
Help us reach the “Untethered” generation!

Millennials are not stupid. But they are not wise. Even the worldview of young professing Christians is downright untethered from the Bible. We need to reach these kids, and our own kids, so their lives, hopes, futures and eternities are tethered in God’s Word.

Todd Friel will host this eye-opening 6 episode series that features on campus encounters with Millennials and an incredible lineup of great teachers:

-Dr. John MacArthur
--Ray Comfort
--Phil Johnson
--Emeal “E.Z.” Zwayne
--Dr. Steve Lawson
--Philip Decourcy
--Dr. Abner Chou
--Mike Adams
This show has a three-fold goal:
  1. To expose the minds of Millennials to understand how and what they are thinking.
  2. To equip the saints to reach this untethered generation.
  3. Provide the tools for parents/youth pastors/ Sunday school teachers to help our kids not become untethered.
You have our word, the Gospel will be front and center! We believe God us going to use this program to save many…for generations to come.


Please consider donating. Please consider praying for the film to reach hearts and minds for the glory of Christ. Praying for the team at Wretched is a great idea too! I'm looking forward to the film's release.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Strange Fire Q&A: Why have some gifts ceased and others continue? Are we picking and choosing?

One hundred years ago, the modern Pentecostal movement was born. By October 2013 the Pentecostal movement has morphed into the Charismatic movement with its particular brand of false doctrine, had infected much of western Christianity and polluted quite a bit of Christianity abroad. The excesses of the movement include faith healing, reports of raising the dead, babbling tongues, alleged prophecies and direct revelation, disorderly church services and worse. The movement assaulted the sufficiency of scripture, the inerrancy of scripture, besmirched the name of Jesus Christ and damaged the faith of many.

John MacArthur and his team at Grace To You took a stand against this movement and sought to bring clarity to why its doctrines needed comparison to the Bible correction. To that end, they organized the Strange Fire Conference, held in the fall of 2013. One of the main purposes of the conference was to initiate a substantive discussion about these issues. It achieved its purpose. Every sermon preached at the conference rebuked the movement simply by preaching the truth, and brought correct biblical doctrine to the fore. Given the outcry, it seems that the effect was immediate.

There were many good questions asked at the various seminars and Q & A sessions held during the conference period, but not all of them could be immediately answered. After the conference concluded, ministers and theologians at Grace Community Church and The Master's Seminary wrote out answers to these unanswered questions, compiled them, and put them on one web page.

The page is a treasure trove of good, solid rebuttals to and practical helps about what to do if encountering Charismatic doctrines in your church, in your family, or in yourself.


Why are the teaching gifts and others in the list of gifts in effect today if the others ceased? Do we pick and choose?
As in all matters of life and doctrine, we must follow carefully the teaching of Scripture. We must be careful to interpret the text and to apply its direct teachings and its principles to every area of life. God has indicated clearly in His Word that some spiritual gifts were given for the duration of the church’s time on earth and some were intended for use only during the establishment of the church. We don’t have the authority to decide which gifts belong in those categories, nor do we desire to make that decision. Our only desire is to follow what God has revealed to us in Scripture. 
The miraculous sign gifts accompanied the apostles and validated them as true spokesmen for Christ (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3–4). The ministry of the apostles and New Testament prophets was to lay a doctrinal foundation for the church (Ephesians 2:20). They laid the foundation on which the evangelists, pastors, and teachers can build (Ephesians 4:11–13). Evangelists anchor new people into the foundation, and pastors and teachers strengthen and grow them from the foundation. 
After the apostles died and the canon of Scripture was completed, the church has carried on through the equipping ministry of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. And now every Christian has the ability to discern truth from error by studying the written Word of God.
For a careful explanation of which gifts have ceased and how we know they were intended by God as temporary gifts, I refer you to Tom Pennington’s excellent teaching in “A Case for Cessationism.” Explore our sermon archive for more detailed exposition on the key passages related to the temporary spiritual gifts, such as 1 Corinthians 13:8–13, 2 Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 2:20–21, and Hebrews 2:2–4.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

We will not know the day nor the time

This essay was first published on The End Time in June 2009.

Matthew 24 is a major area in the bible that foretells the conditions at the time of the end. Jesus is answering His disciples' questions about when the end shall be and what the end time conditions will be like. It is called the Olivet Discourse.

1. Jesus declined to answer the first question as to when. Mt 24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." And He repeats this in verse 42: “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming..."

There are many other instances in the bible where it is stated explicitly the exact time is not revealed. Likely to keep us faithful as much as to throw satan off. However, despite the clarity with which the verse is stated, there are some who still choose to interpret it as something else. "We didn't know then, but we will know now" kind of interpretations. The bible interprets the bible and where it is clear (non-parable or allegory) it means what it says!

That did not stop Steve Coerper from predicting that on Pentecost, Sunday May 31 2009 we would be raptured. His take spun off many others and there was a mini-ripple of excitement among those who decided to believe twisted interpretations of the bible rather than the bible itself. Of course Mr Coerper wrote an addendum on June 1, to all of us who are still here and of course, not raptured. (Ed Note: since 2009, many others have predicted rapture, the Tribulation, down to the day and time. Of course, all have been incorrect.]

While I agree it is exciting to think the Lord may come in the next second, and I credit people for being a watchman and doing his best to alert us to imminence, it is folly in my opinion to interpret it to the time and day! We do know the seasons, and there is much scriptural support for being watchmen and commandments to understand the times of the signs, but we will NOT KNOW THE DAY.

2. We focus on the signs in Matthew but often forget this part: verse 13: "But he that shall endures unto the end, the same shall be saved. " What hope!!!!

We can endure, we have all the strength of the Eternal God under our feet to support us. Think of the surface simplicity of those words: 'he shall be saved.' SAVED! What blessings await! What glory and honor we can offer our Lord in person! What an eternity He offers us, glorified in body and soul! SAVED means saved from hell, from sin's judgment, from everlasting darkness, pain, tribulation, torment that the chains of sin hold us under.

Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

It matters not that the we are witnessing His efficient dismantlement of earthly and carnal idols. Because we are saved, we sing in the midst of chaos! "Many will see and put their trust in the Lord". If you're saved and you know it, act like it. Your confidence will be a blessing to someone!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Potpourri: should women teach men, writer's block, common false Gospels, & more

Patrick Deenan discusses How a Generation Lost its Common Culture
The essay discusses how the educational system has contributed to a massive and widespread ignorance in today's youth, a dearth of critical thinking, and wide-eyed panic when asked simple questions about history.

A good reference to Common False Gospels, with scripture included to refute them

Sunny Shell with an oldie but a goodie on What Do Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, and Sarah Young have in common?

Being missionally legalistic? Desiring God discusses.

God’s Big Work and Your Little Mission
Many people wrongly believe that Christianity is simply a new set of rules and guidelines for how to behave. More recently, due to the widespread emphasis on missional living, it’s the “missional to-do list” that now determines our personal righteousness. In both cases, people find themselves feeling more like spiritual slaves than gospel-freed children of God.

I posted this the other day in a stand-alone piece but it's too good not to post again. Here is Kevin DeYoung with 15 discernment diagnostics 

The false teachers like Beth Moore, Christine Caine and others have provided a poor example to women in terms of how far they can go with teaching men, and when they stand in for pastors at the Sunday Pulpit. Christianity Today articulated this trend in an unfortunate article stating, What Happens When We See Women Teach the Bible, because "a figure like Beth Moore shows evangelical women what’s possible".

Yes, Moore does show us what's possible, but not what's biblical. A generation of younger women have now been inoculated against the prohibition of women teaching men in church and other orthodox settings. Recently Housewife theologian Aimee Byrd started the downhill slide, while Mary Kassian still seems to be holding to biblical truth. Here are two articles on the subject.

I agree with the second, by Kassian, (except for #7, that bullet point I disagree with). I do not agree with Aimee Byrd's overall stance, sadly.

Aimee Byrd:What is Sunday School? What Does it Appear to Be? And Who Can Teach It?

Mary Kassian:Women Teaching Men- How Far is Too Far?

And then Wendy at Practical Theology for Women has a response to Kassian's piece. Good food for thought in all.

Tony Reinke is a Christian who writes about writing. He noted this week the difference between writing as a prose/novelist and writing non-fiction as a journalist. Having been both, I liked his comparison. He said the following in the piece titled Writers Block and Research,
You never want to solve a research problem with language. You never want to become such a fine writer that you can thread the needle and get through a thin patch in your research because you’re such a great prose artist.
I thought about how pastors do this with writing sermons ... and then about how bloggers do this...and prayed I never fall into that trap! Anyway, I recommend his blog.

Robin Schumacher is a great writer who produces substantive pieces. He offers this piece in the wrongs of the charismatic movement, saying,
I wasn’t necessarily upset that nothing supernatural occurred to me that night, but it did cause me to start researching the whole idea that the miracle gifts described in the New Testament were still active today. What I discovered many years ago needs to be understood – I think now more than ever – by all Christians, especially those involved in charismatic assemblies.
Go to Real Wrongs of the Charismatic Movement for more.

Sonnet 18, often alternatively titled Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?, is one of the best-known of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. My favorite quote from that sonnet is

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

In Maine, where I lived for 30 years, this is truer than true. Summer was fleeting and rather almost mournful because as soon as you began to relax and enjoy it, summer was over. I'm in Georgia now, and for me, the length of summer is just right. Even though there are false teachers, wayward theologians, charismatic chaos, and all the rest, birds still sing, gentle warm air wafts, children play, teachers educate, and life goes on. God made a beautiful world and for me, summer highlights its beauty more than any other season. (Except maybe spring, lol).

Whether you live in Arizona or Maine or Florida, summer is here with the opening threshold of Memorial Day upcoming in just a few days. I hope you have a safe and enjoyable summer. For me, this means school is over and my labors as a teacher's aide will cease for a spell. I don't think anyone looks forward to summer more than educators...unless perhaps it's the kids!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

List of links warning why Jen Hatmaker should not be followed

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3).

I'm taking a cue from Michelle Lesley and making a list of links that point you to credible women who warn us against the influence of false teachers. This list warns about the negative influence of author, blogger, and speaker Jen Hatmaker.

Jen Hatmaker’s Messiah Complex
Timothy J. Hammons writes of Hatmaker regarding "her lack of discernment, lack of understanding, lack of conviction, and the fact that she thinks that by being overly dramatic and emotional in her appeals, it all must be OK."

Christine Pack wrote on her Facebook page of four specific concerns with Hatmaker's teaching.  4 concerns with Jen Hatmaker's teachings.
I view Jen Hatmaker as the “heir apparent” to Beth Moore’s mantle. Hatmaker has made a career out of her charismatic personality, and her ability to garner followers through social media. This (the social media aspect) is something of a new phenomenon: popular bloggers (like Hatmaker) can post something to social media, and have literally hundreds of thousands of people see it in just a few minutes.

Hatmaker is so involved with the IF:Gathering that several articles below wind together their concerns with both the gathering and Hatmaker, who is one of the founders of that particular social justice/feminist movement.

Sola Sisters gives a strong warning about the IF:gathering and included is a solid section warning against Jen Hatmaker
Who is Jen Hatmaker? I've just started looking at her myself, but already, I'm seeing typical emergent double-speak for "I reject the authority of God's word and bend with the culture." But don't take my word for it.
IF:Gathering…is it a movement of God?
This author asks readers to "Consider how Hatmaker poses and then answers a fictitious problem of faith" and, "Hatmaker explains that faith does not erase doubt, insecurity, or fear, it just helps to overcome them. However, faith and doubt are so antithetical to each other that where one exists, the other does not exist. Faith eliminates doubt as light eliminates darkness. If faith cannot remove doubt, it is completely incapable of victory over it. Teaching that the existence of faith and doubt as both/and is eastern thought. God’s word is clear that the existence of faith and doubt are either/or. (Matthew 14:31 and James 1:6)."

The Bible has many warnings regarding false teachers and the destructive heresies they bring. Note the verse posted at the opening does not say they will bring minor mistakes, or easily overlooked oopsies, or honest errors from a sincere heart. The word that the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write is "destructive". In the Greek, that word is apĆ³leia and it means-
destruction, causing someone (something) to be completely severed – cut off (entirely) from what could or should have been. 
Ultimately, people following Hatmaker or any false teacher will end up completely cut off from Christ and destroyed as the false teachers will be destroyed. This certainty is affirmed in another verse which promises the same thing. In Revelation 2 there was a false prophetess Jesus metaphorically called Jezebel. Though He gave her time to repent of her heresies, she would not. So Jesus promised to kill her and also those who followed her. (Revelation 2:20-23).

False teaching is a serious, serious thing. It will destroy your witness and ultimately your soul. No wonder Paul says,

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Romans 16:17)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Divine personal encounters with God?

Charlatan: A false teacher who claims to have had a personal visitation with Jesus and/or God, such as Beth Moore, Jesse DuPlantis, Mike Bickle from IHOP, Kim Walker Smith and others. The next appearance of Christ will be seen by the entire world, not by a few, in secret.

"Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you beforehand. 26So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it." (Matthew 24:23-26).

WWUTT stands for When We Understand The Text, and their website and Youtube channel is a great resource rebutting common false teachings and fallacies in Christianity these days. Their videos are usually 2 minutes or under but are clear and verse-packed.

In addition, for 10 to 12 minutes a day, Monday to Friday, WWUTT studies the Bible and they also answer e-mail questions in these longer videos. Subscribe on iTunes here or on Podbean here. For questions and comments, send an e-mail to whenweunderstandthetext@gmail.com.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Praise Jesus, the Person

My favorite, favorite passage.

The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5, ESV)

I find this passage even more moving in the King James Version

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said in his great sermon, "Christianity: The Only Hope" that, and I paraphrase,

Christianity is not a belief as in men who believe this philosophy or that philosophy. Christianity is a fact. It is about the Person of Jesus Christ, what He did and what He said, and the meaning of His Person. Those who say in these modern times to focus only on the teaching and that it doesn't matter if Jesus was a man or a man-God or a teacher or whatever that we've got the teaching and that's what matters. "They've got it all wrong," MLJ said.

Christianity is a Person. This was the theme of the first century Church. It is the theme of the Gospel according to Luke, and it is the theme of Luke's book Acts of the Apostles. It is about the PERSON of Jesus Christ and all that He began to do and teach.

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,  (Acts 1:1)

We are witnesses to the person of Jesus Christ. We are not witnesses to a teaching, but to a person. The Apostles consistently talked about Jesus, they never started with the social situation or the political situation but spoke of Jesus and the Resurrection. They went to people and spoke of the Person.

For the full effect of the sermon go to the link above. On this Sunday and then every day, re-orient your thinking toward Jesus as Person, who He is and why He came. This Psalm of David speaks of WHO.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
(Psalm 103:1-5)

Lars Justinen, "Robe of Righteousness"

Saturday, May 21, 2016

My husband has cheated. Now what?

"Mawwiage, the blessed arrangement, the dweam wifin a dweam", or so said "The Impressive Clergyman", if you remember the funny scene from the classic film The Princess Bride.

Though the scene is funny, it is true that marriage is a blessed arrangement. God created the institution of marriage to be a picture of His loving, intimate relationship with His people. In the Old Testament, His people were Israel, and then after Pentecost, also the Church.

However, God knew that man is faithless, fickle, and adulterous. Many times, Israel strayed from her one true love- The One True God. Israel’s departure from their covenant with God pained Him many times.

Wives, as with everything in life, if we are in a situation where our husband has strayed, the Bible comforts us and informs us of how to go on. Let's look at the Old Testament first.

Jeremiah 3:14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.”

Jeremiah 31:31-33 Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

He even told the Prophet Hosea marry an adulterous woman, as a picture of His relationship with Israel.

Hosea 1:2 When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.

Thank God His love and promises are true and sure.

Hosea 2:19-20, I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.

New Testament: In His incarnation, Jesus was the God-Man come to preach righteousness and repentance and to teach disciples who would declare His name and His glory among the Gentiles. He is gathering members for His church, and those who are given entry will participate in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. In Revelation 19:7–9, John had a vision of the heavenly multitudes praising God because the wedding feast of the Lamb. Again we see the picture of Marriage in His relationship with us, this time, virginal betrothal of His Bride (Church) to Himself.

As a Man, Jesus was also betrayed by those closest to Him. Not by a wife, as Hosea was, but by one of His closest friends, who sold him to death for 30 pieces of silver. Peter betrayed Jesus three times, and even fled from Him. Judas was the world’s biggest betrayer, having been with Jesus from the beginning, seeing His miracles, and learning from Him, yet sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Though man has acted adulterously with God, Jesus still loves His elect. Moreover, Jesus is our High Priest and can sympathize in every way with those who have been betrayed, because he has been betrayed.

If you are a wife who is struggling to overcome a similar situation in your marriage, do not feel like your prayers go no higher than the ceiling. They rise to the ears of our Priest who intercedes for us, and to His heart. How own heart was wounded and betrayed but He forgave and and is King and Groom to those who betrayed Him. He loves you, a sinner, and He loves your husband, a sinner. He shows no partiality.

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Psalm 103:10-12 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

Galatians 6:1 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.

Luke 17:3-4 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

So…HOW does one go on after a betrayal? Only through the righteous strength of the Holy Spirit. Only through His Word, and prayer, and choosing to behave in ways that are consistent with holy living [no matter what the spouse is doing or what we think he is doing] can we overcome our sinful tendencies toward bitterness, jealousy, suspicion, and anger if a betrayal unfortunately occurs in the marriage.

I know it's painful. I know. The academic and theological tone of this essay is grounded in a close-up knowledge and experience of the devastation of adultery. It's the worst feeling to know your husband has sought after another. It is a direct violation of his body and your body. I've also seen that specific despair on the face on friends who have undergone the grievous process of adultery revealed. And yet, with God, restoration and forgiveness is possible.

 Here are some articles that may help.

Who is an Adulterer?

Healing From the Pain of Adultery

Forgiving Your Spouse after Adultery

Picking up the Pieces

Friday, May 20, 2016

Trump or Hill? The Master's Seminary offers biblical advice for Christians in an election quandary

I love America but to be honest, in my lifetime the political process has often failed to produce a candidate for President in whom my vote would not feel like a failure of conscience.

So I've always voted my conscience. I often vote third party or simply write-in. Others have told me that doing so "is a waste of my vote", because "they'll never get elected." But that's lemming thinking. I am not voting numerically, I'm voting the heart, conscience, and issues. I have one vote and I treasure it. I feel that throwing my vote into a numerical pot simply to "go along" is a waste of my vote.

The Master's Seminary published this short video offering a biblical perspective to those Christians struggling with the obvious quandary this year's Presidential Election presents. Here is their lead-in:
It's election season! So how should believers look at the 2016 race? Jesse Johnson, Associate Dean of the Master's Seminary's Washington D.C. location talks about it in this video. Jamie Jackson talks to Jesse Johnson about a Christian perspective on the 2016 US presidential election. How do Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton factor into the conversation? How should believers think about the current political landscape?

The video is just four and a half minutes long. I hope its concise but potent advice blesses you and gives you either food for thought or confidence in your own voting decisions.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Beth Moore bible twisting now includes "binding prayers"

I appreciated my friend Seth Dunn's warning about Beth Moore. He wrote on Facebook,

Here is what Moore wrote on Twitter, a bit larger,

Moore is referring to the following verses,

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:18–20)

These are verses which are frequently abused by the charismatic crowd, of which Moore is part. Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer also frequently refer to binding and loosing in the same vein as Moore did on Twitter, this is noted in the below linked essay. Moore's theology is often wrong on many counts, and incorrectly referring to binding/loosing is another example. The sad part is the number of "likes" her references have already garnered. Hence, the warning from Mr Dunn. Women, be wary of Beth Moore. She is a false teacher.

These verses from Matthew 18 about binding and loosing are so frequently abused that Dr John MacArthur included them in a blog series titled appropriately "Frequently Abused Verses Can Believers Manipulate the Power and Presence of Christ?" Of binding and loosing, we see from this excerpt from the blog's author Cameron Buettel,
As with previous posts in this series, the first thing we should check is the context of our passage. What do the surrounding verses tell us about the meaning of our text? In this case, the preceding verses are likely just as familiar as the passage in question:
If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15–17).
Just a simple reading of the text makes it clear that the focus is not spiritual warfare, unity in marriage, or empowering your prayer meetings. Instead, verses 15–17 speak exclusively about church discipline.
Therefore, all of Christ’s instructions about binding and loosing, unity, and the promise of His presence come in the context of church discipline. In other words, Matthew 18:18–20 means that when church leaders gather together to deal with unrepentant sinners, they have heavenly backing.
Please read the rest of the essay for an excellent explanation of exactly what binding and loosing are about.

And, it doesn't take much thought to see that the manner in which Moore used the binding prayer is faulty. As she said in her tweet, If she "often" has to deal with spine pain, one must ask why didn't her binding prayer against her pain "work"? The Word/Faith crowd will tell you that it's because you do not possess enough faith. From there, the downward spiral of incorrect interpretations continue.

Think about it, Paul didn't pray "binding prayers" against his own continuing pain from the thorn in his side (AKA messenger from satan). He instead prayed to Jesus to remove it. (2 Corinthians 12:5-10). Timothy didn't pray "binding prayers" to remove his nausea and frequent illnesses. (1 Timothy 5:23). As a matter of fact he was told by Paul to stop drinking only water (bacteria laden) and to take wine (antiseptic). Binding prayers are not mentioned in either remedy. Just those two quick examples reveal an absence of binding prayers from the actual Apostles, and another Jenga slab comes out of the wobbly charismatic doctrinal tower.

At root, what people who speak prayers to bind their pain are really believing is that they have power over demons, and that they have power to manipulate God, (i.e 'if I have enough faith then God HAS to perform this for me').

Pretty "audacious" if you ask me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Name above all names

Did you ever know how often the book of Acts refers to "the name"? A search on BibleGateway results in 62 times where the word 'name' is in a verse. Only a few of them are verses where the word is used to record the actual name of someone. The bulk of the verses in Acts refer to the name of Jesus. We are told Saul will suffer for His name, power is given in the name, they tried to stop preaching in His name, being baptized in His name, preaching the Good News in His name...THE NAME. Below is one of my favorite verses from Acts:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

We read this from Philippians 2:9

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name

Pondering the name and the fact that Jesus' name is the most highly exalted name in all the universe, led me to visualize this.

Praise Him today that you know His name in love and gratitude as a person not only professing Jesus but possessing Jesus in faith, as RC Sproul would say. We love the Name because we know the Person who revealed Himself to us in that name. He is high and lifted up. May the name of Jesus resound in your heart in faith, love, gratitude, and awe.



We will receive a new name:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17)


Hagar was the only Bible person to name God. She named Him El Roi, The God Who Sees.

She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." (Genesis 16:13)

Further Reading:

You are not alone- Jesus sees you!
We have a God who sees! You do not have to feel alone. You do not have to feel like He is distant from you. You do not have to feel like an insignificant speck, alone in your troubles.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Calvinism: The Continental Divide of Theology

WRITTEN BY Steven Lawson, Ligonier Ministries. Source below. Re-posted according to Ligonier's stated copyright policy.
Through the western regions of North America, there runs an imaginary geographic line that determines the flow of streams into oceans. It is known as the Continental Divide. Ultimately, precipitation falling on the east side of this great divide will flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Likewise, water falling on the western slopes of this line will surge in the opposite direction until it finally empties into the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, a vast continent separates these immense bodies of water. It is seemingly far-fetched to ponder that a raindrop falling atop a mountain in Colorado will flow to the Pacific, while another drop, falling but a short distance away, will flow into the Atlantic. Nevertheless, once the water pours down on a particular side of this great divide, its path is determined and its direction is unchangeable.

Geography is not the only place we find a great divide. There is a high ground that runs through church history as well—a Continental Divide of theology. This great divide of doctrine separates two distinctly different streams of thought that flow in opposite directions. To be specific, this determinative high ground is one’s theology of God, man, and salvation. This is the highest of all thought, and it divides all doctrine into two schools. Historically, these two ways of thinking about God and His saving grace have been called by various names. Some have identified them as Augustinianism and Pelagianism. Others have named them Calvinism and Arminianism. Still others have defined them as Reformed and Catholic, while others have used the terms predestination and free will. But by whatever name, these streams are determined by the Continental Divide of theology.

This metaphorical divide differs from the geographical Continental Divide in one key respect. Whereas streams flowing west and east of the Rocky Mountains descend gradually to the plains and lowlands where they meet the oceans, the terrain on the two sides of the doctrinal divide is quite different. On one side we find solid highlands of truth. On the other side there are precipitous slopes of half-truths and full error.

Over the centuries, seasons of reformation and revival in the church have come when the sovereign grace of God has been openly proclaimed and clearly taught. When a high view of God has been infused into the hearts and minds of God’s people, the church has sat on the elevated plateaus of transcendent truth. This lofty ground is Calvinism—the high ground for the church. The lofty truths of divine sovereignty provide the greatest and grandest view of God. The doctrines of grace serve to elevate the entire life of the church. The great Princeton theologian Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield, writing more than a century ago, perceptively noted, “The world should realize with increased clearness that Evangelicalism stands or falls with Calvinism.” At first glance, this stunning statement may appear to be an exaggeration, even hyperbole. But the more it is weighed, the more one discerns that evangelicalism—that part of the body of Christ that rightly adheres to the inerrancy of Scripture, the total depravity of man, and the sovereignty of God in all aspects of life—always needs the doctrines of sovereign grace to anchor it to the high ground. For without the theological teachings of Reformed truth concerning God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation, the church is weakened and made vulnerable, soon to begin an inevitable decline into baser beliefs, whether she realizes it or not.

Whenever the church becomes increasingly man-centered, she begins the downhill slide, often without recovery, and always to her detriment. Once yielding the high ground of Calvinism, a self-absorbed church puts its full weight onto the slippery slope of Arminianism, resulting in a loss of its foundational stability. Tragically, however, the descent rarely stops there. Historically, man-centered doctrine has served only as a catalyst for an even greater fall.

Adapted by EPrata from Dr Lawson's article
Rappelling down the slippery slopes of Arminianism, one is soon to find the church sinking deeper and deeper into a murky quagmire of heretical ideas. Such a descent inevitably gives way to liberalism, the utter rejection of the absolute authority of Scripture. From liberalism—given enough time— the church always plunges yet lower into ecumenism, that deadly philosophy that embraces all religions as having some part of the truth. Continuing this downward spiral, the church plummets into universalism, the damning belief that all men eventually will be saved. Yet worse, universalism gives way to agnosticism, a degenerate view that one cannot even know whether there is a God. Finally, the church falls into the deepest abyss—the hellish flames of atheism, the belief that there is no God.

Never has the need been greater for the truths of sovereign grace to be firmly established in the church. Her thinking about God desperately needs to be flowing in the right direction. As the church thinks, so she worships; and, as the church worships, so she lives, serves, and evangelizes. The church’s right view of God and the outworking of His grace gives shape to everything that is vital and important. The church must recapture her lofty vision of God and, thereby, be anchored to the solid rock of His absolute supremacy in all things. Only then will the church have a God-centered orientation in all matters of ministry. This, I believe, is the desperate need of the hour.

This excerpt is adapted from Foundations of Grace by Steven J. Lawson.

Resource The Continental Divide of Theology (http://www.ligonier.org/blog/continental-divide-theology/), Copyright 2016 by Steven J. Lawson, Ligonier Ministries (http://www.ligonier.org)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Because the husband listened to the voice of the wife...

Our pastor preached from Genesis 17 (Sarah and Hagar), 1 Samuel 1 (Hannah and her son), Galatians 4:21-31 (The Law v. Freedom as represented by Sarah and Hagar) at church this afternoon. Notice the language in Genesis 3:17 and Genesis 16:2. (More here)

And to Adam he said,

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
(Genesis 3:17)

Sarah leads Hagar to Abraham, by
Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, 1800-1882, German
And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. (Genesis 16:2)

In the former situation, because the husband listened to the voice of the wife, the entire race of man fell into sin. In the latter situation, because the husband listened to the voice of the wife, for 4000 years the Middle East has been at war due to the descendants of the two children from Abraham fighting each other (one from the Godly promise and the other from the fleshly demand).

Not that it isn't good for the husband to listen to the wife. A wife's counsel is good, (Proverbs 31:11-12, 26). The problem with Eve and Sarah, they were advising the husband to step outside God's ways. In Eve's case, to ignore God's commandment, and in Sarah's case, to go outside God's promise. Neither situation ended well.

Wives, give good counsel. You can't go wrong if the advice you give or the help you offer is inside the constraints of God's statutes. And in order to know where those limits begin and end, you have to read your Bible.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

15 Diagnostic Discernment Questions, What is Discernment, and How do I Increase it?

"Discernment". Source- Ligonier article linked at bottom

Five years ago Beth Moore was more cloaked in her language about receiving personal revelation. During her lessons she would say, "God laid it on my heart" or "God impressed upon me" which is still wrong because she was teaching from these impressions, and not the scripture.

Anyway, as time went on, she became more direct with her quotes from God. In one bible "lesson", Moore told the audience that God said this to her, and she quoted him-

"I’m gonna tell you something right now, Beth, and boy you write this one down, and you say it as often as I give you utterance to say it . . ."

So...that is prophetic language and it is clear that it is not from God. (Because what she said next was contrary to the bible). 1 John 4:1 applies here.

Five years ago I went on the Beth Moore retreat with some ladies. It was a weekend where we had devotionals together in small groups in the morning, fellowship all day, then we would gather to watch a DVD of a Beth Moore lesson and the leader would lead us in what Moore had 'taught'. In my case, we had finished listening to one of Moore's sessions on DVD. Moore spoke a long story about how God was speaking directly to her in specific sentences, and directing her on what to do at a given moment. As the lesson ended, a moment of silence passed and the screen went blank, the ladies sighed. One of them said, sadly, "I wish I had what she has."

I was so struck and saddened by this. Bible study is supposed to energize us, lift us, empower us! Yet these ladies were drained, believing that Moore has a 'more special' relationship with God than they had. In fact, they believed Moore had so much more of that special something than us that would be impossible for us to attain it.

It was a perfect example of how false teachers drain us.

I spoke up and said, "We DO have what she has, the Holy Spirit! We all have Him inside us!" But they looked at me like I was crazy.

What ended up happening on the retreat is that after each lesson, the women talked about Beth Moore, her 'power' in God, her teaching style, her life. Their desire to "have what she has" made them want to be like Beth Moore, not be like JESUS.

You see the problem.

The root of the false teacher problem is that too many in the church lack discernment. You might be surprised to learn that the false teacher problem plaguing us in today's church is not simply that ferocious wolves have come in, not sparing the flock. (Acts 20:29). It's also that those without discernment have let them. The Bible gives us our part in this problem too, saying,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, (2 Timothy 4:3)

False teachers DO something for the one who lacks discernment. And so they gather the teacher and follow them, happily, because that false teacher is filling some unholy passion, one that is contrary to Jesus (or they would be having Jesus fill it.)

In this essay by Pastor Kevin DeYoung, he lists 15 Discernment Diagnostics. Number 10 is pertinent here. With Moore, and all the women (and men) teachers who go around saying that have had a word from the Lord, read this:
10. Does it promote an unmediated approach to spirituality? Mysticism, in its technical sense, can be defined as an approach to God apart from mediation. False spirituality tries to foster intimacy with God that does not go through the mediated revelation of Scripture and does not lead one to the mediation of Christ on the cross.
Please read Pastor DeYoung's list. It is so well-written and incisive. Just a few sentences under each bulleted main idea, and it's like cold water thrown on a feverish brain. See if any of these stand out to you, and if so, take them to heart. Satan's subtlety knows no bounds, and it is easy to allow him to incrementally cloud our thinking. I loved how DeYoung phrased number 10; 'an unmediated approach'. Meaning, does the teacher teach from the Bible, where Jesus had taught us first, or is her approach unmediated and direct, skipping the mediator of the Inspired Holy Spirit's Word?

I bookmarked DeYoung's list. I hope it blesses you and that you find it helpful.


Further Reading

John MacArthur Short essay, Q&A: What is Discernment and Why is it Important?

Tim Challies Book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

Sinclair Ferguson essay, What is Discernment?

GotQuestions: How Can I Increase My Spiritual Discernment?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

There is a repentance that does not count

Here is a lesson from James Montgomery Boice, the preacher and theologian from the mid-century last century. He is teaching from Hosea 6. The sermon is titled The Repentance That Does Not Count. In this lesson, Boice is teaching about the elements of untrue repentance, and true repentance, as national Israel seems to be repenting but is not. Their lips speak words but their heart is far from the LORD.

By the way, if you want great preaching on the actual texts of the Old Testament prophets, Boice is a wonderful resource. I just finished listening to his series from Daniel. Now he is on to Hosea. You can find him on Expositor.FM, or OnePlace.com.

Here is Hosea 6:1-3

Israel and Judah Are Unrepentant

1“Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
2After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
3Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”

These verses are not really a genuine repentance, Dr Boice said. Can you detect what's wrong? They seem to have the right vocabulary, like the words "return", a great Hebrew word, the very thing that God had been calling Israel to do. Or in verse 3 the word acknowledge or "know". It's the very thing God had accused them of not having, knowledge. So, doesn't it sound good and proper? Doesn't it sound orthodox? asked Dr Boice.

It does sound orthodox, but it doesn't sound genuine. Two things are missing. First of all, there is no mention of sin. That's the obvious one. There is not one phrase within this confession that lets us know the people are aware they're sinners. They want to return, they want to be healed, they want to acknowledge, they want to be revived- all those things. But they make not the slightest indication at any point that they have done wrong. This is not the prayer from the publican that Jesus extolled, Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. (Luke 18:13).

At this point Dr Boice comments that there is a practical application that can be made in the present day. He preached this sermon sometime around 1976, a time when Newsweek (then, an influential weekly magazine) declared 1976 The Year of the Evangelical. President Jimmy Carter's convictions were highlighted, and there seemed to be a resulting great deal of religious interest, yet without an awareness of sin. There has never been a movement of the Spirit of God in history without an awareness of sin on a profound personal and cultural level as well. Consequently, when there's been a revival when this element has been present there has been a turning from sin to God and there has been something like national renewal. We don't see any of that in our time.

The second thing that's missing is harder to detect than the lack of mention of sin. What's missing is any truly personal relationship with God. The only time we become aware of our sin is when we become aware of God. When we become aware of God we become aware of our need for rescue from sin. When we become aware of our sin, we become aware of God in His greatness, Boice explained. Without those elements, it reduces religion to simply an equation. The Israelites figured, if they just get the equation right with all its proper elements in the right place, God would be gracious to them, just the same as if you threw the right number of chemicals into a vat with a spark then there's an explosion. God doesn't work that way. He is not impersonal. He won't be used, which is precisely what this implies. God is faithful to His nature and what He wants is a genuine repentance which these verses do not contain.

So what should be done? The answer is simply not to repent in inadequate terms but offer a genuine repentance, which is not in Hosea chapter 6 or 7 or 8 or any chapter until you get to the end, chapter 14. There is a repentance that counts.


Here from the MacArthur Study Bible, we read the invitation from the LORD to Israel, to return to Him in genuine repentance-

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 2Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. 3Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.” (Hosea 14:1-2).

Israel was invited to return, bringing words of repentance accompanied by obedience, repaying God's gracious acceptance of them with "vows of our lips," explains MacArthur.

Israel will express genuine repentance, at the end of the Great Tribulation (Zechariah 12:10-14). Their repentance will be accompanied by mourning, fitly so. It will be accompanied by an acknowledgement at long last of who Jesus is. Israel's sorrow will be national and personal, every family throughout national Israel will mourn and cry out to the Lord. As Boice mentioned above, there has never been a movement of the Spirit of God in history without an awareness of sin on a profound personal and cultural level as well. Israel will demonstrate that in the end. And because the Lord is true to His nature, Hosea records the result of their repentance:

I will heal their apostasy; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. 5I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily; he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon; 6his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. 7They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow; they shall flourish like the grain; they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon. (Hosea 14:4-7)

Repentance that DOES count includes those elements, which are a profound sorrow for sin, and acknowledging who God is. As David said when he mourned his sin with Bathsheba-

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. (Psalm 51:4)

As Hosea recorded, genuine repentance includes vows too, these would be vows of obedience to God.

We all sin, sadly. Paul said "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24) and I have cried that myself more than once this week alone. Yet Jesus is forgiving- when we express genuine repentance, mourning our sin, (2 Corinthians 7:10) acknowledgment of who He is, and vowing obedience and actually then obeying. (Matthew 3:8) we are genuinely pleasing the Lord with our attitude.

Insincere repentance is what we often see today, among those who claim Christianity but are only displaying a religious interest yet without an awareness of sin. And when sin is mentioned, we are told we are judgmental, intolerant, and just plain mean. The same elements must be present in a genuine repentance that were commanded in Hosea's day, 2,700 years ago, are required now.

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13)
The tax collector's humility is notable in everything about his posture and behavior. Here was a man who had been made to face the reality of his own sin, and his only response was abject humility and repentance. God be merciful...he had no hope but the mercy of God. The is the point to which the Law aims to bring every sinner. ~MacArthur Study Bible
For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)

Therefore bless the Lord Jesus; mighty Victor, gentle Shepherd, merciful Father.

Further Reading

John MacArthur: Is Repentance from Sin Essential for Salvation?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Building your theological library

Tim Challies posted a great essay on how to start your personal theological library. He'd linked to lots of fantastic free resources to show that a quick kick-start can be done. All of the links were to online, downloadable materials, and for the person who reads stuff online or on the laptop/phone, it's a resource you definitely want to bookmark.

A Secret Way to Kick-Start your Theological Library by Tim Challies

Please read Mr Challies' essay. I'm sure I'm in a minority when I say I don't like to read on the computer but would rather have a solid book on my lap. In my essay I want to discuss starting your personal, theological library in hard copies.

We're on this earth for such a short time and the Lord has given each of us resources of one kind or another to make His name known and to help grow the church and its members. He has urged us to use these resources to glorify Him.

One legitimate use of money is to support the Lord's work through the religious institutions the Lord established (Matthew 23:23; Mark 12:41-44; Luke 8:1-3). We tithe or make offerings. We pay our taxes. We help the poor and needy, and we support missions. These are all biblical uses of our money. (Source)

Then we move into the realm of our giftings. If you're gifted with a love of hospitality you might use your money to take in needy children or adults so you can house them and feed them. If your gift is toward administration you might be using your money for purchasing things your church needs in order to run effectively. If you have the gift of mercy you might be using your money on gas to drive to a mission to serve, or using your money to support a hospice or hospital.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17)

We all have a ministry. It might not be formal, incorporated, or within the walls of the church, but we all do. In one way or another, you minister to people. In this essay I ask you to think about after using your money for the above things, to consider using your resources toward your ministry in a focused, intentional way.

If you possess the gift of teaching, you might want to use your money on books and materials that edify and teach the brethren. Over time I've built my own theological library, but always with an eye to having it be more like a lending library. Except for my John MacArthur Commentaries, I consider all other books that have come into my possession as temporary guests. Once I read them, I lend them. I know some of them won't get back to me and that's OK. Before I was saved I had a lot of pride in the number of my 6-foot-tall bookcases stuffed with quality books, some of them rare. It's taken a long time of self-discipline and submission to the Spirit to turn my mind from acquiring and coveting to freely giving away "my" books, which aren't mine to begin with.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

I read them, so as to grow in sanctification myself and be able to discern when a person might benefit from the resource I'm sharing. I read them also so I know for sure it's a valid resource. I don't want to defeat my purpose in giving someone a resource who needs building up only to discover it's not a good resource after all!

You might not have a formal ministry, but we all minister to each other in lots of ways. If you're the bookish sort, consider these various ways to build your theological library on a budget.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 19:17-19)

--Sometimes people send me theology books! Bonus!

--Sometimes you might receive a gift certificate to a bookstore or to Amazon or other online book store. Please consider using all or most of it to build your library. The local public library has secular novels and other books you can read for free. All other books beside the Bible and theological books serve a leisure purpose, and you know that evaporates pretty fast. Theological books written to edify the brethren might save someone's soul- and that lasts forever.

--When Amazon, Westminster Books, or Banner of Truth have a sale, look hard for theological books or other materials to purchase. I gave away my Gladys Aylward book and then another friend was interested in it so I looked today and Amazon is having a sale on that book for $5, so of course I bought two! Westminster has books in the Bargain section costing anywhere from 50 cents to just two or three dollars. There's, Tim Challies’ Free Stuff Friday Giveaways, supersales, two for one sales, Public Library sales (hey, it's possible!) … take advantage of all of these.

--Our pastor at the old church I attended resigned and he left his theological library behind. The Associate Pastor called me to come over and pick through. I was so blessed! If you're attending seminary, look for the Seminary Library used sales or castoffs or discards. If a seminary near you has a sale, make a point to save the date and go. Hopefully your pastor won't resign, but maybe there might come a day when someone is cleaning out their theological library and you could take advantage if invited.

--If ever you receive a donation consider turning it to buying materials for your ministry.

--Sacrifice. The Lord wants us to subvert our fleshly tendencies to indulge and to give sacrificially. Sadly, it has taken a long time to squelch my life-long habit of accumulating books to keep for myself and to turn my mind to the idea of immediately and happily giving them away as a ministry to edify a sister. I have been selfish for a long time but I'm learning how to build my theological library. It takes time and it's happening slowly, but it IS happening. It will for you too.

You’ll see. If your ministry is helps, perhaps you’ve noticed the Spirit draw you to yard sales or thrift stores that are selling the exact baking pan you need for when you next make a certain kind of cake for a grieving person. If your ministry is administration, perhaps you’ve noticed the pattern of just happening to be at the right place when an office store is going out of business and you have opportunity to buy administrative items for your church or ministry or mission.

If you have a ministry, think about building it in a focused and intentional fashion. Mine's teaching and discipling, so I'm building my theological library in all these and other focused ways. Then read the books yourself so you will grow, and then you will have a first-hand knowledge of what books to share with whom.

What Paul said:

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. (Romans 15:14)


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