Monday, April 30, 2018

Book Review: America's beloved novel, "Christy"

Above: The copy I am reviewing has a cover as in the upper left. The one I read as a teen is upper right. The lower left is the Kindle edition cover using a photo of the real Christy, (Leonora Whitaker), and lower right is another version of many covers that have been published in the last 50 years. Christy is still going strong.

According to this Wikipedia summary, the book Christy,
Christy (1967) is a historical fiction Christian novel by American author Catherine Marshall, set in the fictional Appalachian village of Cutter Gap, Tennessee, in 1912. The novel was inspired by the work of Marshall's mother, Leonora Whitaker, who taught impoverished children in the Appalachian region when she was a young, single woman. The novel explores faith, and mountain traditions such as moonshining, folk beliefs, and folk medicine. Christianity Today ranked Christy as 27th on a list of the 50 books (post-World War II) that had most shaped evangelicals' minds, after surveying "dozens of evangelical leaders" for their nominations.
These facts are amazing to me. Click to enlarge. Source
The book is listed as historical fiction, but the author Catherine Marshall said she drew heavily on her mother's life for the actual events recorded in the book. For the events that did not occur in Mrs Whitaker's life AKA Christy, such as the typhoid epidemic, the author researched diligently to present a historically accurate event that was true to the times and the place.

I love a teacher story so even though the book deals with many theological themes, I read it as an unsaved teenager for the teaching part, and enjoyed it fabulously. I got a notion a few years ago to revisit the book now that I am saved, in order to enjoy the theological parts as well. When I came across it at a Library Book Sale, I delightedly bought it.

On GoodReads, Christy has an average rating of 4.21 collected from 43,635 Ratings. There are 1,494 Reviews. Most of the reviews are 4 or 5 star. Wow.

On Amazon there are 76 ratings & reviews, and all of them are 5 or 4-star except for two ratings that reported a Kindle glitch.

I was hopeful.

I should know better.

Though thousands of people have given the book highest ratings, I must sadly depart from the crowd. I have three minds about the book Christy.

The Good, the Bad, the Upshot

1. As a secular story, it is an extremely well-written, absorbing (500-page) book that would capture any reader for the vivid descriptions of the majestic mountain locations and the well-drawn characters. The history alone and deep knowledge of lives lived in a long-ago time is enough to recommend the book. It definitely makes an impression from the first page.

2. As a faith story aimed at many Christian women, it stands alone in stark contrast to many books of its genre published today, in a good way. Modern faith stories have trivialized today's woman in her struggles with a chosen career, uncertainty of effectiveness in missionary work, her doubts about what she believes, romance, mentoring, friendships, and more. Today's faith stories usually include the silly main character (usually an antiques dealer or a florist) encountering a short-lived, superficial bump in the road made out to be a monumental struggle, a passing glance at some trite beliefs, and finishing with a direct whisper from God telling the girl to go marry Joe, and they lived happily ever after. Christy, on the other hand, delves into strong rapids swirling with rejection, fear, uncertainty, God's plan, romance, death, marriage, and love for neighbor under adverse circumstances. It has guts. It has grit. To that end, it's a true mission story.

3. As a faith story, it is a theological train wreck. I can't recommend it at all based on the number of false theologies it introduces. There's mysticism, Quakerism, direct revelation, biblical errancy, social justice, moralism, and more. Though there is mention of Jesus, more often the author chooses to use a generic name such as the "Authority", or simply "Someone." Someone? I was reminded of the verse in Acts 17:23, the monument "To An Unknown God". Though the characters wrestle with evil, a lot, sin is never ever discussed. The main character is shocked by the level of superstition and darkness in the people to whom she is ministering, but the solution of the Gospel is never raised. They just try harder to get the people to be moral and to love well. God's sovereignty is not presented, but man's free will is.

The short version is that the book Christy: Heavy Social Justice + A Good Dose of Mysticism + A Dash of Moralism = A book the world loves

The long version is that the book is not "just fiction." The novel presents itself as a theological faith story, and as such, it's incumbent on us to review that faith and compare to the Bible. Here are the nuts and bolts.

The copy from which I'm quoting is Mass Market Paperback from Publisher Avon, published June 2006. On page 103, Christy seeks advice from her mentor, a Quaker woman named Alice. Now, please understand, that Quakerism, or as it used to be known, quietism, "does not reflect a biblical approach to spiritual life," as John MacArthur is quoted. Much is made of Alice's quiet spirit, her centered approach, her great still pools of eyes that looked piercingly at you and spoke of the 'inner Light".

Matt Slick writes of the Quaker beliefs and practices, that they believe in general (though there are many different manifestations of people populating the Friends' Society) that the Bible is a guide but subordinate to direct revelation, they do not practice communion nor baptism, women can and are leaders and elders, (on Page 332 the pastor in the book deferred to Alice the Quaker to preach a funeral to the gathered community), salvation can be lost, and there is no such thing as total depravity. Never mind the complicated justification explanations. There is not talk of repentance since sin is downplayed. As a matter of fact, they believe sinless perfection can be achieved in the flesh. Many of these threads are overtly or subtly brought out in Christy.

In the book, on page 308, Alice teaches Christy that not only spiritual blessings but material blessings can be gained if we just "claim them."
God has all kinds of riches for us. Not just spiritual riches either. His promises in the Bible are His way of telling us what's available. But this plenty doesn't become ours until we drive our stake on that particular promise and thus indicate that we accept that gift. That, Christy, is 'claiming.'
This is a strange conversation to be having when the poverty around them was so dire that the unsanitary and impoverished conditions of a cabin she was visiting and its inhabitants made her vomit. Just 'claim riches'? For shame, Miss Alice.

A few sentences later, Alice explains the problem is evil exists and not to compromise with it. She said we must fight it. How? "Listen for His orders on strategy against evil..." She did not instruct Christy to seek that advice from His word.

Subtly, the Quaker character steers Christy away from specifics of the Bible, mentioning the Bible a lot but not consulting it as the Word of God filled with Holy Spirit life and solutions to today's issues. Given today's young women who already have a tendency to listen for direct whispers and heavenly advice, the subtle dismissal of God's word as authoritative and final is troubling and I would not put this book in front of young women for that reason alone.

Love is the key for Quaker Alice, and for the book's characters in general. Not repentance. Yes, love is important. However the character teaches that we can have Jesus' friendship "only if we are willing to let go our resentments and our hating and our feuding and our our name-calling and our shooting and love one another." [emphasis theirs]. In essence, our works (loving well) brings Jesus to us, which is consistent with Quaker theology. The closest the character got to the Gospel in her sermon was to say to "trust our Friend, and He will root out bitterness and replace it with love." We need more than trust, but to repent and believe. (Mark 1:15).

These theologies were evident in the book, spoken through this main character Miss Alice. This is what "Alice" was teaching "Christy" and thus, the reader.

The pastor in the story was a man who was not settled in his beliefs. He didn't seem to be saved at all, as a matter of fact. In the end he seemed to give up the pastorate completely. He wrestled with many theological problems, and not the hard ones, either. He did not believe in biblical inerrancy, taught that the soul goes to sleep after death, wasn't sure about our resurrection after death, (but humans are probably immortal because the flowers come back every spring, don't they?) didn't believe in Jesus' miracles because they very likely have a natural explanation, and how one lives is more important than what one believes. "Dogma isn't important. It's the results in the community that count. As for the Bible, it's an amazing book, the best book of wisdom that we have." Pragmatism at its best.

These theologies were evident in the book, spoken through this main character. This is what "David" was teaching "Christy" and thus, the reader.

The missionaries wrestle with the problems of poverty and illiteracy and seek to solve them in human terms and works. On page 405, Christy is ruminating on the ideal (religion) versus the practical (everyday needs). She never sees the connection between the so-called "dogma" and the real life issues the people to whom they minister face. In their view, the people's physical needs always outweigh their Gospel need, and they always will, because none of the three characters see man's depravity as the root issue. Yet in fact, it's the opposite: man's spiritual need is much greater than poverty, illness, or illiteracy, as dire as they may be. Here on page 405 Christy finds the solution, which is no solution.
How would believing in the love of God solve problems like illiteracy of poverty for the highlanders? Now I saw the connection between Miss Alice's certainty about the inner guiding Light and Grundtvig's ideas. God did have a master plan for the Cove, and Grundtvig was saying that we could find that plan by looking deep into the human spirit.
Therein lies the rub. First, the characters try to solve the issues of the day by looking everywhere except the Bible. Second, did Christy come to the mountains to solve social ills, or to save souls? The social justice theology so prevalent at the turn of the last century was evident in the book, spoken through this main character. I'll address social justice in a separate blog essay this week. Third, do we solve societal ills by 'looking deep into our own spirit'? Or do we turn to THE Spirit and fall to our knees and ask Him to enter us as the seal of the guarantee, after repenting of our sins? We know the answer. Any place we look at in history where the Gospel took root, schools, orphanages, and hospitals sprung up, where prior to the Gospel, charity was little known.

The book ended with a trip to heaven, seeing people who had passed on, and reveling in the "Light"  -but no Jesus was evident. Sigh. I'll address heavenly trips in a separate blog essay this week.

As for the book presenting theology and not being "just fiction", here is Dave James, Ministry Coordinator for The Alliance for Biblical Integrity speaking of these issues regarding the book The Shack. Substitute the title of The Shack for the title Christy and you have the meat of the argument-
So, then how should we classify this novel?
Is it theological fiction? 
Or is it fictional theology? 
If it is fictional theology, then it is theology that has no biblical basis. That would make it heresy by definition. So, one can’t claim that it is fictional theology and still defend it as a basis for personal spiritual growth, comfort and encouragement. 
But what about theological fiction? 
If it is theological fiction, then wouldn’t it have something of a parallel in the genre of historical fiction? How does historical fiction work? In general, it uses (and must use) true historical events as a framework for the book. For example, no historical novel could ever put the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1950. If it did, then such a book would be relegated to "fictional history" – and no one would take it seriously from an historical perspective. 
However, many people do take The Shack very seriously. And those who do take it seriously now view God differently than they did before. In other words, their theology has changed. But their new theology is not found in the Bible. And not only is this new theology not biblical, it actually contradicts the theology of the Bible. Therefore, any emotional or spiritual impact that The Shack might have is based on something other than the truth – which in other words, is a lie. Quite obviously, believers cannot base their spiritual growth on a lie. If they try to do so, something might happen, but it can’t be called "spiritual growth."
I cannot overlook the absence of the Gospel in Christy, the lack of focus on sin, the silence of the need for repentance, the constant mystical direct revelation, the emphasis on inner truth derived from voices and whispers and not the Bible, and the exalting of a Quaker as the steadiest, most mature religious person in the book.

The author herself listed her main religious points of the book:

1. Just social service work - bettering the material situation - does not change people. It takes, in addition, the love of God,

2. God does not love just the 'good people', He loves all of us,

3. Let us be proud of our mountain folk and their great heritage.

The Shack has already come and gone. Christy, fifty years later, has staying power. It's spawned spin off book sequels, two television series, and a TV-movie. It's still in print. In the Morgan Gap (the actual Cutter Gap) an annual ChristyFest is held. Not recommended. Leave Christy in her mountains, and seek better, more theologically sound women to spend time with, be taught by, and to be inspired by.

I'd much rather read and re-read Gladys Aylward's book The Little Woman, about her years in inland China as a missionary.
Elisabeth Elliot's travails in Ecuador.
Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place.
Lottie Moon.
Amy Carmichael- A Chance To Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot.
Give Me This Mountain by Helen Roseveare.
My Heart In His Hands: Ann Judson of Burma by Sharon James.
Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield.
A Reformation Life: Katharina von Bora by Rudolf Markwald.

If you like inspiring teacher movies and books, try these

Music of the Heart, movie with Meryl Streep
Mr Holland's Opus with Richard Dreyfus
Dead Poet's Society with Robin Williams
Stand and Deliver with Edward James Olmos
To Sir, With Love with Sidney Poitier, book by by E. R. Braithwaite
Goodbye, Mr Chips, with Robert Donat; book by James Hilton
The Water is Wide with Jeff Hephner (2006) AKA Conrack (1974 with Jon Voight), book by Pat Conroy
Akeelah and the Bee with Laurence Fishburne,book by James W. Ellison

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Ancient brick making in Palestine: Photo

So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people and their foremen, saying, "You are no longer to give the people straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the quota of bricks which they were making previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it. Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, 'Let us go and sacrifice to our God.' Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it so that they will pay no attention to false words." (Exodus 5:6-9)

Photos from Palestine from the late 1800s an early 1900s are a joy to view, because the methods of the people, dress, and vistas were largely unchanged from the days Jesus walked. It was only in the 1930s and 40s that development began in earnest and especially after Israel became a nation again in 1948 that things began to modernize and the old ways were vanishing.

In the 1800s, as travel became easier with trains and modern steam ships, many upper class men and women in Britain or America took a Grand Tour of Europe. Interest grew and soon many expeditions to Palestine took place. The Ottoman lands were such a curiosity that a plethora of Travelogues to the Middle East burgeoned in the 1700s to early 1900s.
Travelogues of Palestine are the more than 3,000 books and other materials detailing accounts of the journeys of primarily European and North American travelers to Ottoman Palestine. An in depth survey of Palestine topography, and demographics was done by the Cartographer, Geographer, Philologist. The number of published travelogues proliferated during the 19th century, and these travelers' impressions of 19th-century Palestine have been often quoted in the history and historiography of the region...
One such travelogue book in my Logos Software is Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galilee, and another is the one I've quoted below, Egypt Through the Stereoscope. The stereoscope is "a device for viewing a stereoscopic pair of separate images, depicting left-eye and right-eye views of the same scene, as a single three-dimensional image." That's why the image below is a double image.

I'm going through Dr Abner Chou of The Master's Seminary lectures on Exodus. (Note- that link will expire on July 31, 2018, as Wikispaces is closing and hosted lectures will go away unless you download them prior). I find it interesting to see what it might have looked like and enjoyed this view from a hill above an Egyptian brick-making operation taken from a Travelogue Expedition in the early 1900s written by Dr James Breasted. The book is available today and is considered culturally important.

Anyway, enjoy this long-ago view of making bricks in Egypt, and imagine thousands of years ago the cries of the Hebrews as they toiled under the merciless overseers and merciless baking sun. Then the Lord raised up Moses...

click to enlarge

‎Just north of the chief ancient city of the Fayum, we stand looking nearly eastward over the ruins of Crocodilopolis. Behind us stretches the Fayum, rising at last to the vast waste of the Sahara, spreading out to the far Atlantic. Beyond the trees that mark the sky-line before us the Nile is twenty-five miles away.
‎Deep down under these ancient crumbling walls lie the scanty remains of a town at least as old as the twelfth dynasty kings, who 2,000 years before Christ recovered this district from the waters of the lake. They built a temple here sacred to the crocodile god Sebek, after whom the city was called by the Greeks, Crocodilopolis.… When the Greek kings, the Ptolemies, came into power, they used the rich fields of the Fayum as gift lands with which to reward their soldiers.… Some of the greatest products of Greek thought have turned up among the house ruins, such as the Constitution of Aristotle, poems of Sappho and innumerable fragments of Homer.…
‎We see here modern natives engaged in brick-making by the same methods that were employed five thousand years ago. The soft mud is being fixed under the feet of a fellah, while another at a table molds it into bricks. These are taken while still in the molds and carried to the yard by a third native who gently detaches them from the molds and leaves them to dry in long rows.… In spite of the lack of firing they make a very desirable wall; in a practically rainless climate they stand well.
‎From Egypt Through the Stereoscope, by James H. Breasted, Ph.D., with twenty patent maps and plans, 1905

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Crystal Caves in Mexico remind of New Jerusalem

This encouragement essay first appeared on The End Time in February 2010.


Christians who diligently focus on worship, study, encouragement, and ministry are doing the right thing. But Paul eagerly looked forward to his crowns and to the rewards awaiting him. He often encouraged his brethren with news of the future rewards and glory. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the Crown of Righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7-8). We are made a promise, "Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded." (2 Chronicles 15:7) It is right and also good to look forward to what the Lord has prepared for us, including rewards, for they are also His handiwork.

In 2000, miners accidentally broke through to a heretofore unknown chamber. It contained the most magnificent crystals ever seen anywhere on earth, absolutely stunning the geologists. Some of the crystals had grown to be 60 feet high. The place is called the Cave of Crystals and it is in Naica, Mexico. Because the chamber is exceedingly hot and humid and humans are overcome with the bad air within minutes, and also to preserve the display, the cave is closed to visitors except under strict circumstances. "This year, BBC Two sent Professor Iain Stewart into the cave, and he "got a rare glimpse of the subterranean spectacle while filming for the new BBC series "How the Earth Made Us." If you ignore the show title and focus on the cave, you will be blessed. The trailer is only 1:20 minutes.

Now, Christian, capture the wonder and amazement of the beauty of these magnificent and translucent crystals and translate that to a tiny window of the beauty of the gems and crystals that are awaiting us in New Jerusalem!

The New Jerusalem
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband." (Rev 21:1-2)

"The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl." (v. 18-19)

"The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass." (v. 21)

"I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." (v. 22-23)

Oh, the tremendous beauty that is awaiting us with our Lord! His creativity is unparalleled. That He will share this beauty with us is amazing in itself, but that He is creating it for us, to dwell with him, is enough to bring me to my knees. When you watch this video of the gorgeous crystals, think of the street of gold in New Jerusalem, think of His light and His glory illuminating the entire city, the world, the universe. Think on this: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:3). The place He is preparing is so much more beautiful than the Crystal Cave at Naica, the mind cannot conceive its artistry.

Will YOU be there? You will be if you ask Him forgiveness of your sins and make Him the Lord and Savior of your life. Understand that sin cannot enter into the heavenly realms and that you, if you have sin in you, will be excluded from this glory. But if you repent of it and ask Him to forgive, you will be walking the street of gold with all the other forgiven sinners in eternity.

Christian, the Crystal Cave at Naica is not what awaits. What He is preparing for us is even better. Can our eyes take it in? Can our hearts remain beating or explode with joy at His grace and generosity? When you feel tired, when satan whispers 'it's not worth it' or 'why bother', think on New Jerusalem's beauty that the Lord took care to make for us, and persevere.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Discernment: What is it and how should it be used? Part 2

In part 1 of this two-part series, yesterday I'd written about what discernment is, and that there is discernment as a skill that all Christians are to train themselves in (Hebrews 5:14), and discernment as a gift of the Spirit given to some. (1 Corinthians 12:10).

In this final part 2, we look at how the gift of distinguishing of spirits is supposed to work.

One might think from the mushrooming of discernment blogs lately that all the discernment folks do is go around crying out all day like the Monster Shouter in the movie The Stand. Not so. Speaking is the very last thing a discernment person does, after first employing other steps (This is in my opinion, developed from experience. Your mileage may vary).

First, if a person has the gift of discernment, its employment should always be paired with prayer. One's initial response before employing the gift (or any gift) should always be to pray. Daily confessing one's sin and being submitted to the word is important because this tunes a person in their walk. Then, if you have a discernment concern, don't make a move without prayer. Discernment is a gift from the Spirit and thus, the Spirit operates it in the person's life and for the betterment of the Body. So pray to the Spirit in the Spirit!

Next, I observe for a long time before making a move. I wait on the Lord- maybe the prayers will be answered and the situation resolved without further action. Maybe the person will repent, or see the light. I wait because the Lord might want to use another discernment person int he church and not me this time. I wait because I could be wrong. Being a trigger happy discernment person would confuse things and be a poor witness for Jesus.

The next step I employ is to be patient while all this is going on. I keep it to myself, or touch base with one mature person outside the situation to ask them to pray for me. Then I wait some more, patiently.

Picture discernment people standing alone at a high forward outpost, watching over the military field for invaders. Or on a Forest Fire tower watching out for the flame. You can see the invaders or the flames much earlier than can the people busy down in the fort. You sound an alarm, like "They are coming, they are on the horizon." Or, "the flames are getting closer." If your church had observed you and confirmed you have the gift, they will listen and take action. Others, sadly, will not listen to you until or unless they can see the flames, but by them often it's too late, a lot of damage has been done.

In the old TV cowboy western show Bonanza, (1959-1973) the opening credits featured a map of the ranch. This is a piece of Americana. Then in the middle of the map you see a small flame, then quickly it grows and destroys the map.

In the church, the flame is some sort of sin, moral or doctrinal. It's that the elders overlook divorce in its members, or one of the leaders is having an affair, or the pastor holds to a form of contemplative prayer. It's that an influential female is giving copies of Jesus Calling to friends, or that the youth are hosting an IF:Gathering Local. These might not even be known or visible yet, but the person gifted with discernment will sense it. Sin grows and destroys. Left unaddressed, it will burn through the church, taking members in its wake.

Small sin, perhaps not yet uncovered. A person who can distinguish
between spirits can sense it.

Uh-oh, discord and division happens.

Left unaddressed, it could split or destroy the church. Revelation 2-3 shows how
greatly this angers Jesus.

Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation are relevant to today, recording Jesus' displeasure over tolerating lying prophetesses in the church, allowing false doctrine, being busy without love for Jesus, coasting on reputation, or being lukewarm in faith. The discernment person warns, exhorts, suggests, having seen and sensed the false prophetess early, the false doctrine when it crept in, the cooling of fervor, and so on.

I was a new member of a church once, where the pastor was very popular and had been at his post a long time. The church was growing in leaps and bounds. Yet I was distressed after hearing the sermon every week. I was disquieted in my spirit. I seemed to be the only unhappy one around. Discernment work is often lonely. Each week my mind kept nagging that the sermon was 'empty' or as Gertrude Stein famously said about the city of Oakland, "There's no there there." I prayed for the Spirit to help me discern what was happening. Was my disquiet on my side, being unsubmitted, sinning, or displaying an unholy discontent, or did my disquiet have a moral or doctrinal basis?

Eventually the agitation grew to an unbearable level. This is where I moved beyond prayer, waiting, and patience, and entered the research stage. I googled some of the pastor's main points and quotes. I compared to the Bible. It turned out that he was plagiarizing other sermons word for word and had been for at least 4 years before I got there. Some of the sermons were from Joel Osteen and Rick Warren. No wonder the goats were filling in the church, there were goat words issuing from the pulpit.

It was the Spirit's gift of discernment that graciously allowed me to hear the emptiness behind the words. There was no truth to them because they were from a different spirit. It was His mercy that kept nagging at my mind and heart until the critical mass was reached. However I did not go forward based on a feeling. I prayed, researched, compared to scripture, and discovered that the words from the pulpit were lies from other liars. Jeremiah 23:30 addresses pulpit lies, false prophets stealing words from each other, and claiming they are from God.

It was then I brought my information to an elder. The men took it from there. Once delivered to the men, my part as a person employing the gift reverted to the prayer level. I prayed that they would do the biblical thing in a biblical way.

It's admittedly difficult as a woman with the gift of distinguishing of spirits. I need to be bold but humble, strong but meek. In this scenario described above, my role would not be to go all around to other members speaking and proclaiming what was going on behind the scenes, mounting up allies. It would not be to pressure the men. It would not be to confront the plagiarizing pastor. Instead, I prayed for the elders and deacons (and the pastor).

Anyone employing the gift should employ it humbly. It would be a terrible thing that instead of using the gift in proportion to our faith as Romans 12:6 advises, to go forward in incomplete information, pride, or bias.

Always, scripture says that the gifts are to build up the body. An individual training themselves up in discernment uses discernment when they hear a sermon or chooses a book. Those with the gift of discernment use it for not just themselves but the local body to build it up.

strive to excel in gifts that build up the church. (1 Corinthians 14:12)

A person with discernment relies on the word of God. Test all things against the word, (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1). A believer with the gift of discernment is accountable to God for its use. Pouring Bible into one's mind and heart is the best and only way to ensure that when a counterfeit comes along, the discernment person will be able to detect it early and certainly.

And, prepare to operate the gift in loneliness. Everyone loves the woman with the gift of mercy. She brings cake. She comforts. The discernment person lol, not so much. She brings distress. "What do you mean that the book I'm carrying around is authored by a different spirit? I love that author!" And they edge away from you in the pew.

It is all worth it though, if your discernment work builds the body, if it fulfills your ministry, and if it honors Christ. Again, as with every spiritual gift, honor Christ with it.

Further Information

Discernment Part 1

Bonanza Map Illustrator Has Died: NBC reports

Challies: The Gift of Spiritual Discernment

Alistair Begg sermon: A Call to Discernment

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Discernment: What is it and how should it be used? Two-Part Study

Discernment ("discerning of spirits", 1 Corinthians 12:10) it is a gift that the Holy Spirit gives for the edification of the body (1 Corinthians 14:12).

Now, discernment is also a skill that all Christians should employ. Each individual believer is supposed to test the spirits so that one can see if what one is learning is good or untrue. (1 John 4:1, Acts 17:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

However, some Christians have been given 'an extra dose' of discernment if you will, in the form of the Spirit's gift. Sadly, many churches dismiss the existence of this gift as expired. Other churches just ignore the gift and its operation in the church. Others over-rely on the gift and see evil spirits around every corner and wind up focusing on demons instead of Jesus.

It is my stance that the gift of discernment is a permanent, edifying gift (as opposed to a temporary sign gift such as tongues, prophecies, or healing). It is in operation today in some believers- as a gift from the Spirit. So, what IS discernment exactly? It's obvious to see how the gift of teaching, serving, exhorting, and mercy and administration operate in the church. But how is discernment supposed to operate in a local body for the edification of believers? This two-part series examines this question.

Here is information as to the first question, 'What is discernment?'
In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically. ~John MacArthur, Defining Discernment
If you search the internet for help on the practical uses and application of the gift of discernment in the local body, you will admittedly get all sorts of wacky theories in your results. The global church hasn't been very helpful on how the gift of discernment should operate in the local body, and that oversight has left the door wide open to all sorts of approaches. What we do know is that all the gifts are supposed to edify the body.

People usually think that the gift of discernment is just a demon-detector. It can be, but not solely and not often. Discerning of spirits means the person is attuned to whether someone is speaking from the Spirit of God or from another spirit, and this usually applies to biblical wisdom. Here are some verses that focus on discernment, both the personal skill we all should hone, and the gift given to some for the edification of the body.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (Philippians 1:9-10).

To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:10).

The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. (Proverbs 17:24)

Demon detecting is rare in my opinion but it does happen. I'll relate two instances. This first one is an example from John MacArthur from 1976, of how a church member gifted with discerning of spirits could detect that a women was not speaking from the Holy Spirit:
I remember going into the prayer room one time, right here, and a certain occasion happened on a certain night. A girl came in there and began to speak and to pray. And one of our staff stopped right in the middle I demand to know what spirit that is. That's not the Holy Spirit. That's the gift of discernment and praise God it protected the church from a very difficult situation and moreover protected her. When it was all said and done God delivered her as well.
Another example is from myself. It was a similar situation. I was a member of a small Sunday School class. One day, an older man and an older woman not members of the church and unfamiliar to me, entered and sat down. A few people seemed to know them, from long ago. Immediately I got a bad feeling, and as a few more minutes went on, the feeling became worse. The man replied to a Sunday School Curriculum question and I could 'hear' and 'know' that his answer was from a different spirit.  He seemed to latch on to me, and our eyes locked. He continued speaking, but it seemed more like a different language or an enchantment than a normal reply to a biblical question. I kept my eyes on him, said nothing, and prayed in my mind very hard. He continued speaking, almost seemingly in tongues. I don't know what he said, it was in English, but it was from such a different spirit it might as well have been tongues. It sounded to my discerning ears like Polish, a language with a lot of sibilants.

Finally he stopped and I stared intently at him and prayed in my mind. The class was over soon and he chose not to attend the service, but left with his woman friend.

Afterward another person in the class said he knew and felt something going on between us, and noticed the atmosphere had thickened. I said it was spiritual warfare but it was over now. I was glad he spoke up because that way it was confirmed to me that it wasn't just my imagination as to what had happened.

These kinds of things don't happen often, but they do happen. Paul knew that a slave girl saying something perfectly normal was possessed by a demon. (Acts 16:16-18). Peter knew Ananias was lying to him (to the Spirit, Acts 5:1-3). Another time Paul looked intently at a crippled man and knew he had the faith to be healed. (Acts 14:9).

However the skill of discernment and the gift given to some more often means being able to compare what is being taught to scripture and testing accurately to see if it is from the Holy Spirit or another spirit.

How does the gift work in the local church? Imagine in your mind discernment people standing watch alone at a high forward outpost, surveying the military field for invaders. Or watching from a Forest Fire tower, spotting smoke. You can see the invaders or the smoke much earlier than can the people on the ground, busy in the fort. You sound an alarm, saying "They are coming, they are on the horizon." Or, "I see smoke!"

If your church elders have observed you and confirmed you have the gift, they will (hopefully) listen and take action. Others, sadly, will not listen to you until or unless they can see the flames, but by then often it's too late, a lot of damage has been done. Discernment people see and know things earlier. The early spotting helps protect the church, or alternately helps build someone up in faith as in spotting a promising young seminary candidate full of faith, or a young woman possessing unusual wisdom.

More tomorrow on specific steps in using the gift of "Discerning of Spirits".

Further Reading

Critical Issues Commentary- Discerning Discernment: The Meaning and Significance of Hebrews 5:12-14 in the Christian’s Call of Discernment

GTY Blog essay: The Marks of Immaturity, and How to Keep Growing

GotQuestions: How Can I Develop My Discernment?


Tim Challies- The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

John MacArthur- Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern (Note: This book is all about discernment, I am reading it now. It is very good.)

Scripture picture #6: The Last Blood

Scripture picture theme this week: The Blood. Each scripture photo will be accompanied by a song about the blood of Jesus. Never forget about the blood.

The Last Blood
Praise the Lord the saved are no longer under condemnation and wrath but are justified by the blood!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Scripture picture #5: Freed from Sins by the Blood

Scripture picture theme this week: The Blood. Each scripture photo will be accompanied by a song about the blood of Jesus. Never forget about the blood.

Covered by the Blood

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Scripture picture #4: Power in the Blood

Scripture picture theme this week: The Blood. Each scripture photo will be accompanied by a song about the blood of Jesus. Never forget about the blood.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Scripture picture #3: He forgives by the blood

Scripture picture theme this week: The Blood. Each scripture photo will be accompanied by a song about the blood of Jesus. Never forget about the blood.

There Is A Fountain

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Grace Upon Grace

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16).

What do you mean grace upon grace? What does he mean? He means grace literally grace in the place of grace. That’s the Greek. Grace in the place of grace. Grace just keeps replacing itself. It’s overlapping. 
It’s like waves. If you go down to the beach, and you watch the waves, you don’t know where one ends and one begins, they just roll on top of each other. That’s the notion expressed in the way this is framed. Waves of grace rolling on us. Romans 5:2 says, "We stand in grace, we literally are engulfed in waves of grace." You don't live on past grace, you don't live on stale grace, you live on grace replacing grace replacing grace, replacing grace. Grace on top of grace, His mercies are new every morning. There are no gaps in His grace. This is an amazing, amazing statement. ~John MacArthur We Beheld His Glory

What a tremendous gift His grace is. I'm so thankful for my salvation, that I have the privilege of knowing Jesus as Savior and Friend, and no longer as my enemy. He is a good, good Father.

Grace upon grace. Praise Him.

Scripture photo: So Jesus suffered... The Blood #2

Scripture picture theme this week: The Blood. Each scripture photo will be accompanied by a song about the blood of Jesus. Never forget about the blood.

Crowder: All My Hope

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Scripture picture: Theme this week- The Blood

Scripture picture theme this week: The Blood. Each scripture photo will be accompanied by a song about the blood of Jesus. Never forget about the blood.

Nothing But The Blood

What is your opinion of When Calls The Heart?

Challies posted a link to an article by The Gospel Coalition about Janette Oke and the TV series from her book titled When Calls the Heart. I used to watch WCTH for the first couple of seasons.

The Theology and True-Life Tragedy behind Hallmark’s Hit Show, "When Calls the Heart"

The television series features a pampered city woman who relocates to Alberta Canada in the early part of the 20th century to become a schoolteacher. Her love interest is a do-right Canadian Mountie. The series is based on Oke's books, developed by Michael Landon Jr, and presented on the Hallmark Channel. It stars Erin Krakow as the teacher, Daniel Lissing as the Mountie, Lori Loughlin and Jack Wagner. I remember Jack Wagner from my avid General Hospital-watching days. I love Lori Loughlin, especially the Hallmark Garage Sale Mysteries she stars in.

At the time I was watching When Calls the Heart I was also watching another Canadian show called Murdoch Mysteries that was set in the late 1800s and early 1900s. I became disappointed with Murdoch because of the overt preaching of feminism by the co-star to her TV-believing love interest (he is a Catholic). I abandoned the series even though I enjoyed the premise. In similar Hallmark Mysteries as Loughlin's Garage Sale Mysteries I found feminism present also, mostly in the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries and Murder She Baked movies. I stopped watching. Only Lori Loughlin's seemed to be largely absent of the bossy woman syndrome.

I felt that though less overt than Murdoch, WCTH, was also heading down the feminism road. Oke's novels are known for their plucky Pioneer heroines who survive against all odds, tragedies, and difficulties, carried by their faith. WCTH follows that same pattern. But there's a fine line between plucky pioneer survivor woman and bossy feminist.

Did I abandon When Calls The Heart too soon? Was I too sensitive about feminism? It's a stumbling block to me so I avoid even the aroma of it, having been raised as one and having mothers and sister and aunts that are feminists. I may be overly biased against it. I'd like your take on the series, since I don't have a truly objective perspective.

I abandoned When Calls the Heart for another reason, lol. The first season was lush and the scenery and cinematography was a feast for the eyes. The wardrobe was terrific and beautiful. The suits, coats, and dresses were absolutely gorgeous. However in the second season, they changed the wardrobe person and the clothing became anachronistic. Hallmark intentionally did this, seeking a less historical feel and 'blending' of modern. I don't know why. Maybe the expense. However, in my opinion they went too far and the clothing became too modern and did not match and 1910's setting. It drove me crazy, it absolutely did. My brain screamed every time they emerged from some house wearing 1950s-looking clothes. I couldn't take it.

I'm not alone in this opinion. There was even a petition to bring back a more historically accurate wardrobe in season 2 of When Calls The Heart.

Good, wholesome television is hard to come by these days. If I made a mistake giving up on the show, then I'd like to return to it. So, what do you ladies think of Janette Oke, her theology, and the TV series When Calls the Heart?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Please don't say "broken" when we mean sin

Are we broken?

According to the dictionary definition of broken, are we "fractured or damaged"? As humans, do we need fixing?

Christians know that there is something wrong with the world, indeed. Even unsaved people mutter and wonder what in the world is going on. Why is the world like this? they ask. Why has it always been like this? they wonder.

I hear and read the word 'broken' a lot now in reference to this issue. The word has come into popular Christian use. Here are just a few  recent published essay titles-
  • The Meaning of Brokenness: Being Broken in the Sight of God
  • How to Find Beauty in Brokenness
  • Brokenness is Seeing My Sin BIG
Is it acceptable to use the word broken when referencing already-saved Christians? Or even non-saved people?

It's my stance that it is not. As was stated so well here,
For Christians, it is vital that we be open-eyed and discerning about the destructive ways that language is being manipulated. We need to recover the biblical view of words ...
We well know that language gives words meaning, but that meaning can be fluid. For example, the American definition of marriage, of a legal union between one man and one women, had been stable for centuries. The over the last few decades, marriage has come to mean any civil union between any number of people of any (or no) gender or sexual orientation.

Or this from the website Darrow Miller and Friends
In the old dictionary, justice was defined as equal treatment regardless of race, sex or religion. In the new dictionary, justice is equal outcome, regardless of personal action or behavior.
In this example, Tolerance in the old definition meant "ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with." Nowadays the word tolerance has come to mean rejecting all moral absolutes, including biblical absolutes.

When we use important Christian words, we need to say what they mean, too. Just because we say the word sin, doesn't mean who you are speaking to will have the same understanding of what sin is that you do. It seems basic, but that's where we are now.

Manipulation of words to change perceptiopn or to catalyze movements is an entire academic field of study. It's called Linguistic Anthropology. Satan changes word meanings in order to confuse both believers and non-believers, and to push forward his agenda.
I argued that a new religion has taken root in the West, and it advances by redefining words — vacating them of their true meaning, and hijacking them to serve new purposes. (Source)
For example,
 ... As John Stonestreet reminds us, "there’s a long history detailing the manipulation of language for the purpose of social control". George Orwell described the process well in his book 1984. The language was forever being altered, "to make all other modes of thought impossible. … This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings…." Source

The word broken is one of those words that is being used to change perceptions, in this case, to redefine sin. Broken can indicate anything that is massively fractured, down to only a little dented. Being only broken can mean-

My car is broken, it needs a new transmission.
My car is broken, the tail light is out.

The truth is, we are not broken. We are sinners WITHOUT righteousness. We are totally corrupt. We need HIS external righteousness. We are not just broken, but beyond repair. We're dead! That's why the Bible says when we're saved, we are a new person, from a new birth, regenerated, born again, given a new heart. And so on.

We are not entities that need a patch or a fix or a tweak. Using broken instead of sinner allows wiggle room for seeing my sin as small. One might start our magnanimously seeing one's sin as big, as the essay headline above, but if you see yourself only as broken, inevitably you'll reduce your sin to only a minor indiscretion.

Secondly, we are not broken (in need of a fix). We must be remade completely! This is because we are thoroughly corrupt. Sin pervades us, our entire nature is one of sin. There is no corner of light in us, it is all darkness and evil. (Genesis 6:5).

Can a leopard change its spots? Can an Ethiopian change his skin? (Jeremiah 13:23). Can a lion become a vegetarian? No. Our essential nature is one of unholy acts in sin and evil intentions,a ll the time. We can adopt an external moralism but none of our actions will be pleasing to a holy God. (Romans 7:18,24; Ephesians 2:1,2). We must be made new. (John 3:7).

You were taught to put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 22-24)

and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:10).

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘Youd must be born again.’ (John 3:7).

Now this might not seem like such a huge deal. Big woop, some words are being redefined. But you see, the latest hot evangelism training trend is to use this concept of brokenness as the basis for needing Jesus. It's not true as the caption on the video below claims, that this world is characterized by brokenness.

The world is cursed, and the curse is because of sin. (Genesis 3:17, Romans 8:20-21).

that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)

The only thing we, the animals, and the creation itself can do is decay, because we are corrupt and enslaved to sin. That sounds more than 'broken' to me. Our very nature prevents us from righteousness. No fixing will do.

Be careful of the words you use. Know the important words of our faith, use them, and explain them. Be precise.

Easton's Bible Dictionary

Baker's Bible Dictionary

Emerging Church Glossary (satire)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Lift high the cross

Part of this essay appeared on The End Time in 2010.

The Wayside Cross is a huge tradition in Canada and Europe, where it has abounded for over a thousand years. "In Quebec, and Europe, a wayside cross marks a place where the members of a community gather to meet and pray, and often commemorates an important moment in their communal history." Charles Bourget reports that there are 3000 wayside shrines dotting the countryside in Quebec, however, many of them are falling into disrepair because the tradition is waning. I wrote at one time about the fate of one American Wayside Cross in East Greenwich RI.

Below, a wayside crucifix in Europe
In America, the tradition never really caught on. If one does stumble upon a wayside cross, they are usually a cricifix- which represents an entirely different religion. They are seen occasionally, especially in central rural Wisconsin. Wayside crosses dot the landscape there. In Bedford NY, one was erected in 1936 and it was hoped that the sight of it would invite the prayers of the passersby. In 1922 East Greenwich, it was hoped by "those who placed this beautiful memorial to an exemplary life feel that it will indeed be a light by the way and a guide post to Heaven." By and large wayside crosses are not seen much and those that do exist are under increasing challenge.

The point of the cross in public life is that it would point the way to Jesus. That upon seeing it, thoughts of Him and the Good News would ruminate in the mind, and through the strength of the Holy Spirit, those thoughts would germinate. For people seeing such displays, who have already heard the Good News, perhaps its sight would loosen the bonds around the heartstrings and their conviction would grow, as in the allegorical depiction of Christian at the Wayside Cross.

A wayside cross was a pivotal point in the very famous book Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, published in 1678 and has remained on the 'bestseller list' ever since, never having been out of print. The passage is below:
"He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more. Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart, 'He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.' Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks. Now, as he stood looking and weeping, behold three Shining Ones came to him and saluted him with Peace be unto thee. So the first said to him, Thy sins be forgiven thee;"
It is amazing that the sight of the cross should ease a person's burdens, but it does, for the person who is ready to receive grace. For every individual on the planet, there comes that critical moment, upon which the eye falls to the cross and a decision is made either aye or nay. The cross to the unsaved does make one's soul burn, satan would have it so. But in the process of that the soul-singe the cross is emblazoned on the mind and heart and soul, thereafter to linger as a brand. It stays there, to rankle. Opponents of Christ do not want that rankle, and therefore strive to remove the cross from all areas of life except homes and churches.

This article from 2011 by John Witte Jr., Director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., is interesting: Lift High the Cross? Religion In Public Spaces

It made 6 points about court challenges to religious symbols in public spaces:
While not entirely convergent in their religious symbolism cases, the American and European high courts now hold six teachings in common.

  • First, tradition counts in these cases
  • Second, religious symbols often have redeeming cultural value
  • Third, local values deserve some deference.
  • Fourth, religious freedom does not require the secularization of society.
  • Fifth, religious freedom does not give a minority a heckler’s veto over majoritarian policies
  • Finally, religious symbolism cases are serious business. 

Lift high the cross. Value it, present it, wear it, but above all, cherish it and obey it. We can and should beautify the Gospel that the cross stands for by our obedient and gentle adornment of obedient behavior because of it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Elyse Fitzpatrick and more on romancing Jesus (Updated)

It seems that the essay in question by Mrs Fitzpatrick has disappeared. At the bottom of my essay, I posted a link to the cached version. I also posted a screen shot of her essay.

Jesus knew what she was doing and he welcomed it.
The above is from Elyse Fitzpatrick and I'll get to the problem in her essay further down. But first, context.

Nine years ago, Keith Burton wrote an article in Spectrum Magazine called Jesus Is Not My Boyfriend. Why?
It appears as if some talented writers of contemporary Christian songs need a little help from theologians and etymologists when penning odes of love to Divinity. This is especially true for the influential Praise and Worship movement ... My problem comes with the confusing lyrics that transform Jesus from a Brother into a boyfriend, a Lord into a lover or a Savior into a spouse.
Because unaddressed sin only ever gets worse, not only songs, but essays, blogs, and books have turned Jesus into a boyfriend, lover, or spouse. This is wrong.
(I love, I love, I love, I love the way You hold me)
(I love, I love, I love, I love the way You hold me)
(I love, I love, I love, I love the way You hold me)
(I love, I love, I love, I love the way You, the way Ya, the way Ya)
I've had a long day I just wanna relax
Don't have time for my friends, no time to chit-chat
Problems at my job, wonderin' what to do
I know I should be working, but I'm thinking of You and
Just when I feel this crazy world is gonna bring me down
That's when Your smile comes around
Hold Me song by Jamie Grace featuring tobyMac
The lyrics like Hold Me above are not infrequent. Books like Ann Voskamp's or Beth Moore's that contain sensual language to describe the Savior are also rampant. And there are countless blogs doing the same- turning divine knowledge of the revealed One True God into a prom date complete with giggles and what happens at the After-Prom. Most of these are written by women.
I fly to Paris and discover how to make love to God. ...God makes love with grace upon grace, every moment a making of His love for us. [C]ouldn’t I make love to God, making every moment love for Him? To know Him the way Adam knew Eve. Spirit skin to spirit skin? Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
I also love how I could tell by the sweet tone of His silent voice whispering to my spirit that He was smiling.... I laughed with God. He laughed with me.... I am so in love with Him. I am so in love with Him. Beth Moore- When Godly People do Ungodly Things
One night I found myself leaving the warmth of our cozy chalet to walk alone in the snowy mountains. I went into a deeply wooded area, feeling vulnerable and awed by cold, moonlit beauty. The air was crisp and dry, piercing to inhale. Suddenly I felt as if a warm mist enveloped me. I became aware of a lovely Presence, and my involuntary response was to whisper, ‘Sweet Jesus.’ This utterance was totally uncharacteristic of me, and I was shocked to hear myself speaking so tenderly to Jesus. As I pondered this brief communication, I realized it was the response of a converted heart; at that moment I knew I belonged to Him. This was far more than the intellectual answers for which I’d been searching. This was a relationship with the Creator of the universe. Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

Some book titles on Amazon along these lines are: (HT Sharon Lareau)

The Wild Romancer: Uncovering the Romance Jesus Longs to Lavish on You by Brenda Cobb Murphy 2008

Falling In Love With Jesus: Abandoning Yourself To The Greatest Romance Of Your Life by Dee Brestin and Kathy Troccoli 2002

What is a person to make of a trend where perfect agape love of our HOLY GOD has been switched for eros with our prom date Jesus? Keith Burton from Spectrum Magazine explains why it is wrong-
While it is true that the Bible utilizes images of marriage to parallel Christ’s relationship to the church, two things must be taken into account. 
Firstly, Christ relates to the church as a collective unit. He is married to the community as a whole and not to billions of individuals who claim to serve him–he is not a polygamist. 
Secondly, the love Christ shares with his church is not defined by the Greek term "eros" from which the English word "erotic" is derived, but is expressed with the noun "agape" (pronounced ah-gah-pay) which denotes love demonstrated in deeds. Those who view themselves as children of God are not called to exercise eros but agape; they are not invited to brief episodes of self gratifying sexual intimacy but to a lifetime of social and spiritual interaction. (Jesus is Not My Boyfriend, Spectrum Magazine)
Now to the quote I opened with by Elyse Fitzpatrick. She holds a certificate in biblical counseling from CCEF (San Diego) and an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Trinity Theological Seminary. She has authored 23 books on daily living and the Christian life. She also has a website where she blogs and is a conference speaker.

Fitzpatrick wrote a blog essay the other week titled Mary's Wedding Vows where a biblical scene of humbly offering an anointing to the Sovereign God preceding His death, is twisted to an impetuous moment of a love-struck girl hurling herself with abandon at her lover. In order to make the verses she quoted fit her unbiblical scene, Fitzpatrick had to twist the scripture. (2 Peter 3:16). It was a theological train wreck full of doctrinal error and crass sensuality.

Sadly, a few years ago Fitzpatrick became involved in the hypergrace movement. Her 2012 book Give Them Grace seemed to reveal more antinomian stances. She was spoken of negatively in this 2015 article at Grace to You and this one in 2015. Her theological trajectory has been noted and warned against.

The invasion of such sensual imagery by these influential writers is a sad event. One would hope and pray that Christian women would have more sense and more spiritual maturity and discernment than to chase after things that are not much different than Tantric Buddhism. Anything that connects the divine through the body should be a no-go zone. The faith comes by hearing, not by sensuous feeling. It is an intellectual faith that comes in through the mind. What we know is most important.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary explains the word know
Know, Knowledge
The Old Testament. The Hebrew root yada [[;d"y],translated "know"/"knowledge, " appears almost 950 times in the HebrewBible. It has a wider sweep than our English word "know, " including perceiving, learning, understanding, willing, performing, and experiencing. To know is not to be intellectually informed about some abstract principle, but to apprehend and experience reality. Knowledge is not the possession of information, but rather its exercise or actualization. 
Thus, biblically to know God is not to know about him in an abstract and impersonal manner, but rather to enter into his saving actions (Micah 6:5). To know God is not to struggle philosophically with his eternal essence, but rather to recognize and accept his claims. It is not some mystical contemplation, but dutiful obedience.
I sadly cannot recommend Elyse Fitzpatrick to you and must sadly issue a warning against using her materials. This is doubly sad because of her long experience with Biblical Counseling. But anyone who sees Jesus in such a light is seeing a Jesus that does not exist, except perhaps in her own mind.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:6).


Below is a screen shot of the essay. Click to enlarge.

Link to the cached version.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Buck the current

For a while in my free-wheeling days, I lived on a sailboat with my husband. We sailed from Maine down to Florida, over to the Bahamas down as far as the Tropic of Cancer. Then we turned around and sailed back. We made this mini-circumnavigation twice, putting about 12,000 nautical miles under our keel. Our yacht was a 37' Tayana with a full keel and 12 feet of beam. She was a study boat, and a pretty one, with a wooden mast and lapstrake style fiberglass and a wooden bowsprit.

Needless to say, we encountered all types of weather and all kinds of marine conditions. Storms, believe it or not, are not as hard to deal with as one might think. Boats are made to bob and yaw and pitch and really are in their element when it's storming and you are underway.

The one that gets hard to deal with is current. But more on that in a moment.

One of our elders who delivered the confession time devotional in the worship service on Sunday mentioned his above ground pool. He said it is a small pool, and that you must circulate the water because it's better for the water and better for the pool. What he does to circulate it, he said, is walk rapidly around the perimeter of the pool while in it. That gets the water going. Around and around he goes, the water as a force swirling. If you turn around, he said, you suddenly feel the force of the water against you. When you're going with the current you don't feel it, but turning around suddenly this wall of water pushes against you.

This got me thinking about ocean and river currents.

When I lived on the sailboat, we traveled down some of America's mighty rivers, like the East River, Potomac, the Cape Fear River, or the Savannah River. The currents on these rivers are very strong. When traveling against the current, the current wants to push you off course, and can do so very easily unless you maintain constant extreme vigilance. The engine works hard, you have to hang onto the steering wheel pretty tightly to maintain course. If you lose the engine, you end up on the rocks. You anxiously keep looking at the time, waiting for the tide to turn so the current will ease up.

It's so much easier sailing with the current. You cruise along, carried by the current in its course, enjoying the lack of turbulence.

The two years of sailing as a live-aboard cruiser are still reaping benefits in spiritual insights and life metaphors. I'd often wondered why the Lord would send me on such an amazing journey (now that I know the Lord). His providence is amazing. Because He ordains everything in a person's life down to the last dust mote, there had to have been a reason He sent me down America's coast in a boat. I didn't know Him then, but I do now. And I know there is a reason. There may be many more I'm too dense to comprehend, but the spiritual lessons keep coming.

I'm not an agricultural person, so the sheep and the wheat and chaff and such don't resonate with me. But the marine symbols do.

When the writer of Hebrews says cling to your salvation lest you drift away, I know.
When Jude says there are hidden reefs at your love feasts, I know.
When Paul says do not make a shipwreck of your faith, I know.

I hope you caught the life-lesson I'm about to reveal. The current is the world, it sweeps you along and you do not notice any turbulence...until you turn 180 degrees. When you turn (repent), suddenly the force of the current is quite noticeable. It pushes against you. The world wants to direct your course, and if you don't have an engine, you're headed for the rocks. The engine is the Spirit. You have to grip the wheel tightly so as to stay on course. The wheel is the Bible. You have to maintain constant vigilance or you will be pushed to where you don't want to go.

Here's the difference. As opposed to a mariner's life, in Christian life- the tide never turns.

There is never, every a season of ease. There is never a time when you can safely coast along. There's never a time when you don't need to constantly be vigilant and check your course. As long as we're in this body, we have to remain at the binnacle steering this ship of faith against the current of the world that always pushes against us.

When the time comes in each of our lives to let go and swim the River Jordan, we will emerge on the other side climbing up the bank victorious. Of course, it is not our victory. Jesus swam against the current of the world all His life and was never shunted off course, never drifted an iota into dark waters, not even when He was tempted by the devil. He kept His eye firmly on the lighthouse and the glory of God. He gained the victory because of His righteousness, and imputed it to us.

Buck the current. Stay vigilant. Have a firm grip (hold fast) to the steering wheel. We will eventually make it to safe shores and we will never have to slog through an angry tide again. All will be peace, calm waters and safe harbor.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Matt Chandler as a Charismatic prophet

What offering strange fire leads to

In October 2013, as part of the Truth Matters series, John MacArthur and a host of men such as Steve Lawson, Tom Pennington, RC Sproul, Justin Peters, and others participated in the Strange Fire conference. It was named Strange Fire from the verse in Leviticus 10:1.
The first tabernacle had been erected, and Aaron was doing a lot of sacrificing per God’s instructions (Leviticus 8—9). One day, two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, came along and offered incense with 'strange fire'. The Hebrew word translated "strange" means "unauthorized, foreign, or profane." God not only rejected their sacrifice; He found it so offensive that He consumed the two men with fire. (Source)
It's obvious from the verse that God abhors unauthorized worship. The issue in 2013 was that the Pentecostal and Charismatic tendency in worship of the Triune God included some aberrant behaviors. So, the Strange Fire conference was announced with a goal of evaluating the doctrines, claims, and practices of the modern charismatic movement, and affirming the true Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Some of the sessions and sermons included topics such as-

A Word from the Lord? Evaluating the Modern Gift of Prophecy

Charismatic Counterfeits: Do the Modern Gifts Meet the Biblical Standard?

A Case for Cessationism

What are the Spiritual Gifts? What are the Sign Gifts?

Matt Chandler, Photo from
The Village Church
The Holy Spirit gives gifts to the people in the Body of Christ. Some of these gifts are known as sign gifts. These gifts are tongues, interpretation of tongues, miracles and prophecy. Sign gifts were given by the spirit for a sign to authenticate the Apostles' message as truly from Jesus. Also, the gift of tongues was intended as a message to Israelites that because of their unbelief and that they had come under judgment. Its purpose at Pentecost and shortly beyond was a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy of God's judgment to unbelieving Jews. (1 Corinthians 14:21, Isaiah 28:11-12).

The sign gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues, miracles and prophecy have ceased. They are no longer needed for a sign. No new prophecies are needed because the canon is concluded and closed. The remaining gifts are still and always in force. Folks who take this stance are known as cessationists (I am cessationist).

The problem was and is that the Charismatic movement with its insistence on the continuation of these gifts had widened to include not just Pentecostals and Charismatics, but encroached into the more conservative segments of the faith such as Reformed churches. The movement had also become extreme with behaviors not only not from the Spirit but were outright demonic, such as holy barking, holy laughter, and false signs and wonders. It was Charismatic Chaos.

Reformed and Charismatic?

Several self-identified Reformed pastors declared themselves continuationists. Reformed believing men such as John Piper, Tim Keller, David Platt, and Matt Chandler stand on the side of the sign gifts' continuation, leaving that door open instead of firmly shut as it should be. Their stance led and still lends credibility to the errant continuationist position.

The other men such as Keller and Platt (see left or click) and Piper (see this or this or this)
also state they believe the sign gifts continue, however carefully they say so and cautiously and primly.

Many continuationists such as the below statement from The Village Church teach that cessationism means that ALL gifts have ceased. This is not the view of cessationists. Only the sign gifts as listed above have ceased, because their purpose for existing has ceased.

Matt Chandler's Village Church believes that cessationism is non-biblical. They state that to believe the sign gifts have caused a restriction of the gifts. He, and his church, teach that,
"The position that best avoids these dangers is continuationism as it teaches that the gifts continue. This is the view held by The Village Church."
Chandler had preached in 2017 that he identifies as both Reformed AND Charismatic. The Reformers' Westminster Confession of Faith holds that the sign gifts have ceased. So, to be Reformed and contuationist would seem to me to be a denial of one or the other.

Uh-oh, a new prophecy

Matt Chandler said he is a Charismatic, and in true Charismatic form, he prophesied Friday night. I saw his statement come up on Twitter:

There were no other tweets that day, this tweet was not part of a longer thread explaining anything or offering any other context or scripture or even joyful examples. It stood alone. It was a pronouncement of what the Spirit is doing, based on some vague observations, and an exhortation to not just his own flock but to the global body, based on his personal experience.

It's sad to see the amount of likes and replies. Out of 70 comments, only 4 were negative and 65 were positive, most searching scripture for "sails" and "wind" verses to match Chandler's pronouncement and eisegete back into his prophecy. Here are several of the sadly few naysaying response tweets.

This was my reply-

So...Chandler prophesied, no doubt about it, and it's a modern one, too, with none of the specificity. It follows the Charismatic template exactly: be convinced and convincing, offer no detail, no scripture, and be as vague as possible so that it can't be confirmed or it can easily be confirmed.

But was it really a prophecy?

"But, but, but," you say, "Chandler was just making a personal observation! It's just saying what he noticed!" No. It's a prophecy that points to himself and not to Christ, because it's all about what Chandler saw and what Chandler noticed and what Chandler pronounced from his own observation (and not the word of God). Here is what a statement like that should say if it was an observation:

"I've been traveling for two weeks teaching, and in Such and Such church I saw many people convicted over sin. In another church I saw many people come to Christ in repentance."

"In another location I saw acts of charity and kindness done in Jesus' name such as... I praise the Lord for these works as the Bible says here and here".

How would you test prophecy such as Mr Chandler issued, that 'the Spirit is stirring something significant?' (1 John 4:1). And as the tweeter replied and as I did also, the Spirit in only now doing something significant, but not before?

What can one see that would convince one the Holy Spirit had been there? A revival like after Jonathan Edwards' sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God? Even then, Edwards was suspicious of false repentance based on a heightened emotionalism.

Would an observation of something false like fake raising from the dead or glitter gold dust falling or holy laughter? That would be a problem. But Chandler never says what. Only the vague, "The Holy Spirit is doing something significant and he is stirring, be ready..." No, most of the work the Spirit does is internal and not immediately observable.

Continuationism v. Cessationism isn't that important, is it? It's not like it's a primary doctrine...

Does being a continuationist or a cessationist matter? Yes. In 2013 a month after Strange Fire concluded, Lyndon Unger at The Cripplegate added up the number of followers of these mainline or famous 'theologically cautious' continuationists, several of them who identified as Reformed, with a hefty social media following. The sum total of followers of these people, who in Unger's list included Piper, Chandler, Platt, and also Beth Moore and Prisiclla Shirer among others, is -
So, if we total all the "theologically cautious" charismatics with 100k+ followers we get 5.438 million followers.
For the record, that number is 2.092 million followers when it’s composed of only the people I’ve ever heard to be cited as charismatic defenders (John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Beth Moore, Matt Chandler, David Platt, Desiring God, Priscilla Shirer.)
And that was five years ago. So yes, it matters. Error propagates, grows, and infects.

It is very sad to watch. But my hope and glory is in Jesus, who always does right and who always does good. He is building His church and the good that I can't see when people stray from edifying doctrine doesn't mean it won't be there eventually in His plan. Please be "cautious" about following people who are continuationists. I'm sorry, I have not seen that believing that the sign gifts continue leads to anything good.

Further Reading

John MacArthur 4-min video defending cessationism 

Why I Left the Village Church

Do You Recommend these Teachers? (Lauren Chandler not recommended)

Prata's Place / Graceful Garlands: Gradual Growth

My title comes from Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland ...