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Posts Tagged ‘sin’

The problem I’m going to write about, I am intimately familiar with.  I have practiced it in many ways, in some cases undetected for years.  Additionally, I have noted it in the Church around me.  This is why I seek to warn you.  

 

There is a way that seems right to a man, 
But its end is the way of death.
~ Proverbs 14:12
 
Generally, the problem is to identify something wrong, then, instead of correcting it, to replace that thing with another wrong thing.  One reason this procedure can go undetected is because the new wrong might not be overtly sinful.  

On the surface, I’m a very good person.  Somewhat deeper, I’m urgent to maintain that appearance.  A bit below that, I’ve struggled for years with sins mostly invisible.  And deep down, at the core of who I am, I hate sin and want desperately to be free, to be honoring God on every level.  

Flee also youthful lusts; 
but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those 
who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
~ 2 Timothy 2:22
 
Therefore submit to God. 
Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
~ James 4:7
 
There is a biblical admonition to flee temptation.  Rather carelessly, I used that verse to justify my own plan of attack against my besetting sins.  If I could just avoid tempting situations (like an alcoholic staying out of bars), then I wouldn’t sin and on many levels, I would have victory.  
 
However, God’s goal is not just to keep us from committing sins.  He wants us to know Him, and in knowing Him to become like Him.  Romans has always thrown my perception of sin deeper by asserting, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.”  The proper response to sin is the same as the response to temptation, to grace, to glorious revelation, to instruction: submission to God.  I needed to come before my God and to give over to Him my desires, my thoughts, my problem with repeated sin.  But though I had begged God for deliverance, all was on my terms: “Please make my scheme successful in avoiding temptation.” 
 
Avoiding bars is one thing, though I’m not convinced it is always the right thing.  To make my point, what if the sin you were dealing with was gluttony, not drunkenness?  Would you avoid eating?  If you struggled with anger, would you avoid people?  If you did either of those things, you would be sinning by omission.  Again, God has more purpose for us than keeping us from sin (and His enemies have more purpose against us than getting us to sin).  What if, by our methods of avoiding sin, we’re abandoning God’s purposes for us?  
 
One common response, in me and in others, is legalism.  We note a problem, and make a list of rules to circumvent it.  This is not my essay on the errors of legalism, so let me restrict myself to saying that such rules keep us from seeking the heart, help, and purposes of God – and the rules can in themselves be harmful to their keepers, breakers and to those involved in their lives.  
 
So what does it mean to flee temptation?  Maybe there is some truth to avoiding bars, and a glutton might want to be wary of buffets even if he’s continuing to frequent grocery stores.  When temptation comes (not just potentially tempting situations), take it seriously.  Resist, rebuke, pray, flee, confess to a fellow believer and get them to help you.  I think it is also important whither we flee: that God wants us to seek His refuge, and trust Him to provide the help we need.  
 
But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord; 
In You I take refuge; 
Do not leave my soul destitute.
~ Psalm 141:8
 
God allows temptation for a reason.  I was choosing to miss out on what God wanted to teach me through these situations.  I needed to ask Him how to address my tendencies to sin, and follow that plan, trusting Him to be faithful and effective.  I was running, sheltering myself (and my ego) from difficulty and failure.  But instead I could have been learning self-control, dependence, and power over my spiritual enemies.  I could have been available for God’s work in the situations He didn’t want me to avoid.  
 
To God be all glory, 
Lisa of Longbourn

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Christians have hope.  We know that we are loved: created by God, died-for by Jesus Christ.  When we placed our trust in Jesus, our sins were forgiven.  In Christ we are a new creation, freed from guilt and condemnation.  God made our spirits alive so that we could now have fellowship with Him.  Our lives have purposes: to honor God and to walk in the good works He prepared for us.  After this life, we will spend eternity alive again with our Savior, delivered from sin and pain and death.

 

There are those who do not have this hope.  They feel the void from rejecting the love of God.  But God is still offering.  He offers forgiveness, fellowship, purpose, and eternal life.  Then God commissioned us to spread the good news of this offer.

 

People who lack this hope face serious consequences.  Every day they live in rebellion against God, multiplying their sins against Him.  This wickedness has consequences now and forever.  When life is hard, they want to give up.  Many do, and take their own lives.  And as they pass from this life, they enter an eternity of punishment for their sins.

 

Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” – James 5:19-20

 

Men, why are you doing these things?  We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them.” – Acts 14:15

 

It is unloving to do nothing as these people continue in sin and hopelessness.  To endorse or honor their sin is the least loving thing you could do.  It offers them no way out, and demonstrates your own lack of faith in the God whose character and glory are being betrayed.  But love must be our motive in speaking to the unsaved: love for them, and love for God.

 

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” – 1 Peter 3:15

 

Let your gentleness be known to all men; the Lord is at hand.” – Philippians 4:5

 

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” – James 1:19-21

 

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” – 2 Timothy 2:24-26

 

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.  Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” – Colossians 4:5-6

 

Humility and grace go together.  Humility recognizes that we also would stand guilty before God, but for the merciful sacrifice of Jesus on the cross in our place.  We have received God’s grace, and know that for the lost to receive God’s grace as well is their only hope.

 

But I am writing today primarily to admonish you all to take a stand against the “unfruitful works of darkness” which are the causes for the “wrath of God [coming] on the sons of disobedience.”  We as followers of Jesus Christ need to take a stand in two ways: first, in our own lives, to strive for holiness even as He who called us is holy; second, in our witness to others.  Christians do not need to compromise with the enemies of God in order to offer hope.  There is no hope offered when we tolerate the sins separating men from their God.

 

And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.  For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.  But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.  Therefore He says: ‘Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.’  See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:11-17

 

Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” – Colossians 3:5-7

 

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.  Therefore do not be partakers with them.” – Ephesians 5:3-7

 

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

 

Finally, as you may have guessed by my title, I am addressing a specific situation in which many Christians are being tempted to honor sin or endorse lifestyles of rebellion against God.  The names we have for these lifestyles today are not found in the Bible.  But the Bible is clear in its reproach against what is today called Homosexuality, also “Gay”, “Lesbian,” “Bi-sexual,” and “Trans-gender.”

 

As you can read above, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, being “effeminate” is a sin against God for which exclusion from the Kingdom of God is just.  (Thank God for His grace, by which even such sins may be forgiven and overcome!)  Also in that list is fornication, which generally covers every sexual sin.  God intended sex for the context of marriage between man and woman.  Everything else rejects God’s design and inserts our pretentious wisdom.  (We should repudiate all sin, along with homosexuality, as shown by the various lists in the Bible.)

 

In the Old Testament political laws for the nation of Israel, homosexuality was a perverse sin punishable by death.  This political law is not in effect today.  The USA has no such law.  However, the Mosaic Law’s condemnation of that behavior represents God’s perfect moral righteousness.  To God, such conduct is an abomination.

 

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination… For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.” – Leviticus 18:22, 29

 

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” – Leviticus 20:13

 

Lest you be unconvinced that all forms of homosexuality are still abominations to God and sins against Him, read what Paul wrote to the Romans (in the New Testament, after Jesus had risen from the dead):

 

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Amen.

“For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.  For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” – Romans 1:24-32

 

Over the past decade or so, the world has been told that a person’s “sexual orientation” is something he or she was born with.  I agree that people may be “born that way,” but only in this sense: that all men were born with a sin nature, spiritually dead and enslaved to the Devil.  (See Ephesians 2.)  Romans 1:26 tells us that humans practicing homosexuality have rejected “nature.”  What they are doing is unnatural.  Think, as a Christian, what it means to claim that a person was born with a sexual orientation that is an abomination to God; it means God created them that way!  Would He do such a thing?  He teaches in the Bible that He did not!

 

This passage in Romans also warns that there are material and spiritual consequences, in the present life, for a lifestyle of homosexuality.  Other teachers have exposited the list of consequences in this section of Scripture, and speculated as to the manifest consequences we see today.  You can read God’s list for yourself, and follow up further if you desire.

 

Finally, the last phrase of Romans 1:24-32 rebukes those who “approve of those who practice them.”  Do not be one of those people.  Do not honor those who have so rebelled against God.  Mourn those who died without repenting.  Weep for the destructive toll this sin is taking on our country.  And preach hope to them, the hope that comes from submitting to God, who alone ordains salvation and righteousness.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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“Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

I’m a discernment person.  Heresies are a big deal to me.  I tend to notice when teachers or authors or pastors are preaching a different gospel.  But there are other issues, too.  Focusing on tolerance and friendliness with the world – the “seeker-sensitive” movement, for example – is dangerous.  Christians are a light set on a hill, not light camouflaged to look like darkness.  Or another popular… what should I call it?  Not a heresy in the traditional sense, but a dangerous and unchristian worldview or spiritual practice?  Anyway, another one is the borderline gnosticism.  This encompasses mysticism and individualism, focusing on poetic ideas of light versus darkness, denial (or even mistreatment) of the physical, and meditation.  I see connections between seeker-sensitivity and the postmodern mysticism.  Primary in these connections are the exaltation of human effort and experience.  They are ancient perversions of the Christian life, not new, but addressed in the New Testament.

Lately it has become popular to cite “church fathers” in theological debates.  This even if the quote or position contradicts the New Testament.  Though I’m not persuaded of the “sola scriptura” of the Reformation, it did rescue us from centuries of heretical tradition enforced as the authority of the fathers.  (Jesus rebuked the same sin in the Pharisees.)  Many of those historical theologians flirted with or embraced the para-Christian spirituality mentioned above, emphasizing either their personal wisdom or their own mystical experiences as sources of truth superior to the revelation of Scripture.  They practiced this outside of the protective peer-regulation of a Spirit-led Church.  Somehow the doctrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit got exchanged for a belief in inner divinity belonging to an individual.  All of which was much more compatible with the pagan religions encountered as the ancient “Christianity” spread.

And isn’t that something to be concerned about?  Rather than being excited that the enemies of God, the spiritually dead men of planet earth, have portions of truth preserved in their religions, shouldn’t we be devastated at the subtlety of the deceits of the Evil One that has kept men captive to their sin?  (“What fellowship has light with darkness?”)  Instead of finding commonality in spiritual practices of meditation and monasticism and sacrificing to appease the gods – shouldn’t we question those practices?  If the pagans do those things, and if those things are not prescribed by our Lord in the early letters to the churches affirmed by the apostles, why not rather fear a resurgence of paganism within our faith – that the spiritual forces of wickedness have been also distracting us and leading us astray?

In our modern times we tend to disdain the primitive superstitions of pre-Christian peoples.  We think they should have been able to see through the cheap tricks of the medicine men, to rise up against the oppressive shaman and assert reason, the intelligence and ability of individuals.  But a Christian worldview suggests a different interpretation.  It teaches that the devil and demons are real, powerful, able to produce counterfeit signs and wonders to deceive men.  Demon possession is real.  And maybe those pitiable people, observing that reality, live with rituals and talismans approved by their devils – for a time – as a tax on the slaves of the Devil before they are consumed.

For us who have known only the relatively Christian Western world, it is difficult to remember the spiritual battle that is engaged even here.  We are not trained to recognize the spiritual activities of our enemy.  This may be because we have adopted it,  or excused and tolerated it…  False teaching, we believe, has been perpetrated by confused but well-meaning people.  Cultists are mostly nice people whose theology is just a little different from ours.  We wouldn’t want our children converting, but no big deal if our neighbors and coworkers believe in Jesus and good works for their salvation, God and their own divinity.  Many who identify themselves as evangelical Christians see no cause for concern when their church services begin to incorporate incense, or a ladies’ conference suggests repetitive chanting of a spiritual word or phrase as a means of getting closer to God.  Millions of us read and identify with a book that includes a manifestation of Sophia, the Gnostic “goddess” as the incarnation of wisdom.  These ideas and practices are more attractive to the unsaved world, after all (and to many inside the church).  And why shouldn’t they be; they’re familiar whispers, that we are like God, that we come to God on our own terms.

The word profanity is known as a synonym for cussing.  But who knows the word profane?  Who believes that there is a way God wants to be worshiped, a way He has set for people to come to Him – and any other way is so offensive to Him as to bring His righteous wrath?  What is fallen man to tell God why He should accept him?  Who is the liar and deceived to believe he has a hold of truth and wisdom apart from the deliverance and revelation of God?  How dare we think our filthy rags – our own righteousnesses – are acceptable sacrifices to pay for our trespasses against the ways of God?

But it is hard to reject these things, hard to point at those profanities and warn that they are part of the wide path to hell.  I don’t want to believe that my church leader is a false teacher.  I like to believe that my friends are going to heaven.  But how does that honor God?  Is my allegiance to Him or to men?  And how is that compassionate, to ignore the condition of my friends?  Making excuses is easy.  If a man says he believes in Jesus, is it such a big deal if he tolerates sin, if he keeps company with the world?  Also far too simple is reassuring myself that even though a person has not trusted in Jesus, he still seems to be a good influence, telling people to pray and read their Bibles and love their families and be wary of governments and religions out to destroy us.

Yet more and more I believe that those excuses and those subversive people are the biggest threats.  By them people are led from the power and truth of God, or worse – away from the gospel of the grace of God.  People are soothed into ignoring their spiritual neediness.  Those people, those false prophets, are the enemies of God.  And if they are enemies of God, they are enemies of His people.  They are not in your fellowship to encourage you or point you to God.  Though they may feign friendship, it is for diabolical purposes, and they can turn on you at any moment.

So what can we do?  Monasticism and individualism belong to the false religions.  We cannot run away from these dangerous people.  Tolerance and acceptance also correspond to the faith that exalts man over God.  So we cannot be silent or friendly.  Truth and God’s glory invite us to discern the lies and cast them down.  Holiness insists that we take our cues from God, supported by those men and women who exhibit the fruits of being His.  Love demands that we warn people of destruction.  Faith in God teaches us to hope for revival and redemption.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Biblically, married couples should not use birth control. The Bible does say that children are a blessing, and commands us to be fruitful and multiply.  Barrenness is in a list of curses that will come on a people or a country that disobeys God.  God controls the womb.  Do we also forbid attempts to get pregnant (in vitro fertilization, for example)?  What about Natural Family Planning – no chemicals, surgeries, or other medical devices?  Is the issue taking control?  Avoiding blessings?  Or not valuing children?  Do we make exceptions for certain couples, for those with dangerous health  problems associated with pregnancy?  Yes, children are a blessing, but God describes many things as blessings, and we do not pursue them all.  Singleness is a blessing.  That blessing excludes parenthood in most cases.  Can you really choose and the blessing still be a blessing?  Who gives blessings?  Wasn’t the command to be fruitful only given to Adam and Eve and repeated to Noah?  It may be our right to pursue blessings, but as Christians, aren’t we supposed to lay down our rights in deference to God?  The Bible describes children as arrows in the hand of a warrior; if Christian couples are declining to have kids, are they shirking their responsibility to further the kingdom of God as best they can?  Our worldview has shifted, even in the last century, to see large families as abnormal or even undesirable.  Before this century it was the common teaching of Catholics and Protestants that birth control was wrong, that God wanted them to accept as many children as He granted.  We have biblical examples, if not mandates, of people regarding blessings.  Did anyone good ever refuse something that was a blessing?  What about the story of Onan where he acted the kinsman-redeemer but specifically avoided the possibility of conception in the union?  He was condemned.  But maybe he was condemned for the motives and implications of the act?

Christians become more like the world as they withdraw from the world. In what way would you describe those prime examples of religious seclusion: Amish and monks in a monastery, as being more like the world?  Worldly is defined as self-centered, reluctant to share our faith.  Though that is not particularly world-like, as they are eager to share their beliefs.  Perhaps it could be argued that Christians withdrawing from interaction with the world are growing less godly or less obedient (are we not called to be salt and light?) rather than more worldly.  There are many monasteries that, while pursuing a life apart, still engage in ministry to the community, to the “world.”  They do teaching ministries and nursing, for example.  Has not the US church become a club, withdrawing from the world in their exclusivity, because we are neglecting the command to reach out?  What made it become a club?  Maybe that itself was a consequence of becoming like the world, and inviting the world in on its terms.  If the world wants to come to church, shouldn’t they want to come for the truth?  Christians are commanded to be somewhat separate: more hospitable to other Christians than to nonbelievers; also to know who is “in” and who is “out” in order that outreach might be a definite, stand-out activity.  We as Christians are known by our love to one another.  Being so separate that the difference is obvious is a witness.  The Bible teaches Christians to engage in BOTH discipleship AND evangelism.  1 John instructs us NOT to love the world or anything in the world.  Those Christian leaders most recognized for being engaged in the world and having a large impact or effect on the world – are they having an impact for the Kingdom of God?  Billy [Graham], Joel [Osteen], and Rick [Warren] are “ruining the kingdom of God.”  Our interaction with the world should be one of confrontation.  And perhaps “Christians” in the US aren’t real Christians, so withdrawing from responsibilities to love their neighbors is a natural reaction.

(First Ever 2 Minute Debate!)  The Sun will go out before Jesus comes back, so we should colonize other solar systems. Jesus said He was coming back soon.  At that point the world had only existed for 4,000 or so years, so the absolute maximum that could have meant would be A.D. 4,000.  There is no way the Sun is burning out in 2,000 years.  If we’re still around then, though, and He hasn’t come back, maybe then we’ll look into colonizing other solar systems.  Plus we have better things to do than worrying about the survival of humanity after the earth.

Confessing sins to fellow disciples is essential for healthy community. Don’t we already confess sins to each other?  It just starts out with, “It was SO cool…”  Seriously, isn’t there a danger of confession turning into bragging?  If I tell you my sins, doesn’t that encourage you to gossip about me?  Disciple is defined as one who is pursuing godliness, trying to grow spiritually.  So the discretion used in confessing to disciples can guard against some dangers.  Another danger is the power of suggestion introducing a type of temptation to others.  But confession could – and should – be made without details.  The benefit of hearing sins confessed is to realize that other Christians are struggling with sin – maybe even the same sin – too.  That gives assurance that the temptation and failure is not a sign of being unregenerate.  Should confession be private (accountability partner) or communal?  History has recorded many times where revival followed public confession.  Pastors often set the example of public confession, apologizing for faults during sermons.  It is probably more important for leaders to confess publicly.  So what?  Now everyone knows that everyone else is a mess just like them.  How does that build healthy community?  Congregations can pray for each other when they know the need, support each other, and rejoice in the victories.  But people don’t have to wait until they’ve conquered sins to start confessing.  And a meeting could involve some confession and some victory reports.  Confession invites intimacy.  Public confession facilitates repentance, whereas not having to tell anyone about it lets a person “get over it” without being truly sorry.  Isn’t God sufficient pressure to invite true repentance?  Being one with God is tied to being one with others.  The Christian response to confession is forgiveness, especially if you were wronged by the sin.  But the Bible does record times when men confessed their sins and received judgment.  Take Achan, whose whole family was stoned with him even after he confessed.  Still, a case can be made that the stoning of Achan’s household was good for the community, which is the wording of the resolution.  Reality has Christians experiencing consequences even though we’re forgiven.

The way Protestants teach salvation by grace alone/faith alone/Christ alone leads people to faith in intellectual assent, not to faith in the Spirit of Christ (true salvation). So we shouldn’t teach that gospel?  Or we need to be very careful how it’s explained?  Christians tend to use terms with people who don’t know what we mean, like faith; in our culture it is understood as intellectual assent.  So if that isn’t what we mean, we need to define our terms or use words that anyone can understand.  Sometimes there aren’t words for concepts (some tribes have been discovered with no word for mercy or forgiveness): in such cases, longer explanations and even demonstrations may be necessary.  Part of the cause of false conversions in America today is that salvation is sold as a ticket out of hell…  But if it is true that we are saved by faith alone, why does it matter how an evangelist explains the gospel?  The gospel of intellectual assent is a Holy Spirit-less gospel; it doesn’t lead them to God.  Isn’t the Holy Spirit capable of using weak words to nonetheless convert hearts?  It is the Christian’s responsibility to be as clear as he can.  When we talk about salvation, we rarely mention that the choice brings a cost: lordship of Christ, sacrificing, how much easier it is to live without morals.  We say “God has a wonderful plan for your life” but look at Paul’s life.  Are we being dishonest?  What about using a word like “mistake” instead of sin?  Doesn’t that give the impression that your rebellion against God was an accident?  But that could be an attempt at using an understandable word when no one knows what sin is anymore.  Are there better words, though, like “wrong”?  Originally it was understood that converting to a certain religion, with its doctrines, had consequences.  It meant a conversion to that lifestyle as well.  How do we know when people are understanding us?  If our lives back up our message, we become our own visual aid.  Even the word saved can be misleading.  Most people don’t experience a feeling of danger because they were born spiritually dead.  They are not presently in Hell, so they don’t realize the importance of being saved from it.  But if you use the word “changed,” that implies that something happens to you but also that you are different.  And you are not only changed, but also changing.  Some people do get saved out of fear of Hell.  But the Great Commission was to make disciples.  To make changed people.  Aren’t Justification and Regeneration equal and indivisible parts of salvation?  Hearing the message of salvation from Hell gives people an appreciation for God’s grace, because they have a concept of His wrath.

Are you tired of being buffeted by your fan?  (Did you even know you were being buffeted?)  Try the new and fantastic Dyson* Air Foil Fan.  It works like a jet engine.  Some people have noted that wind is naturally, uh, well, buffeting, so that style of air propellant might be preferred by some people.  But when is the last time someone invented a new fan?  Start saving now!  *Dyson, the inventor, is now “Sir Dyson.”  He was knighted by the Queen.  That’s how cool his fan is.  (The preceding paragraph should not be taken as an endorsement of Dyson or any of its products or ideas.)

Christians, for efficiency, should focus on saving kids dying of natural causes than the much more difficult task of keeping other people (parents) from killing them, as in pro-life work. Both victims want to be saved.  There is less resistance from authorities and parents to saving people who are starving or without clean drinking water.  Aren’t both causes of death the result of hardened hearts and sinful people?  Maybe even the result of our sin?  So the task involves overcoming hard hearts either way.  But the resolution was about saving lives, not changing hearts.  It is easier to save people – physically – from natural threats.  But the reason to save either children is to give them a chance to hear the spiritual message of salvation by grace in the future.  Don’t pit two good things against each other.  Doing something here in your spare time is easier than packing up the family and moving to Africa to dig wells for drinking water, and corresponds better to a lot of peoples’ callings.  The Bible talks about blood guilt for a nation that commits the shedding of innocent blood; doesn’t that put some priority on us addressing the deaths in our OWN nation?  But our influence isn’t just national anymore; it is global.  And blood guilt is a global phenomenon.  Shouldn’t we start at home?  Don’t do something just because it is easier.  But we weren’t talking about easy; we were talking about efficient.  And efficiency implies limited resources; our God who is sending us to care for the weak and needy is not limited.  Unless you consider that He is limited by human willingness (our willingness to obey or others’ willingness to receive).  Are we going for results?  The biggest number of people helped?  Shouldn’t we just be trying to glorify God in whatever we do?  Is it wrong to use wisdom, taking efficiency into consideration, to make that choice?  Jesus said that thousands were starving but Elijah was sent to only one widow.  So one needs to take into account personal conviction and direction from God.  Have God’s values.  Whatever you do, do it heartily.  Efficiency is a worthy consideration, but not the sole motivator.  We need God’s direction.  And what if those we save by using our energies efficiently end up transforming the world and saving people from other kinds of death as well?  Are we not furthering the kingdom of God by saving multitudes from starvation and disease – thus ingratiating the world to us and our message?

Institutional Church is fundamentally neither worse nor less biblical than any other form of church. Institutional Church is defined as that typical of the United States, including an order of worship, a building, pastors and elders.  Though theoretically the models may have equal ground, consistent tendencies suggest a flaw in the institutional model.  Are home churches any better?  Institutional Churches have the record for longevity.  House churches don’t usually last hundreds of years.  But maybe that isn’t the goal of a house church.  Where size is concerned, Institutional Churches tend to be larger, which guards against false doctrine and gives greater accountability.  Is that true?  Doesn’t the larger congregation provide anonymity, and so hinder accountability?  In denominations, a characteristic of Institutional Church, individual congregations are accountable to the denomination, particularly for their doctrine.  Jim Elliot said the Church is God’s, and it is important to Him, so if He has a way He wants the Church to meet and worship Him, we should do it that way.  [and this is my blog, so I can edit history and give the quote for real: “The pivot point hangs on whether or not God has revealed a universal pattern for the church in the New Testament. If He has not, then anything will do so long as it works. But I am convinced that nothing so dear to the heart of Christ as His Bride should be left without explicit instructions as to her corporate conduct. I am further convinced that the 20th century has in no way simulated this pattern in its method of ‘churching’ a community . . . it is incumbent upon me, if God has a pattern for the church, to find and establish that pattern, at all costs” (Shadow of The Almighty: Life and Testimony of Jim Elliot)  See also my website: www.ChurchMoot.wordpress.com]  The Bible describes a model of church that the Institutional Church does not match.  That is what makes it inferior.  For example, 1 Corinthians 14 says that when the Church gathers, every one has a teaching, psalm, prophecy, tongue – not just a pre-scheduled pastor.  But the Bible also teaches that there should be order, that everyone should not be talking over each other.  Isn’t that an “order of worship”?  The Bible does talk about pastors, though!  What is the role of a pastor?  When the New Testament talks about pastors and apostles and evangelists giving attention to teaching and preaching, doesn’t that suggest the sermon?  Preaching is primarily for evangelism.  Christians are to honor those elders especially who minister in the Word.  Shouldn’t a Christian convicted about these matters try to reform the Institutional Church?  How can he, when the means at his disposal are the very thing he wants to change?  You could keep the same people, the same congregation, but you would have to tear the whole structure down and start over.  The issue isn’t problems in individual congregations or even necessarily those “tendencies” to which Institutional Church is prone; it is the description of the Church meetings given in the New Testament.  Where did the New Testament Church meet?  How did they facilitate the Church in Jerusalem at thousands of members if it met in houses?  They didn’t all have to meet at once in one place.  Is it wrong to meet in buildings?  Buildings cost money to maintain.  The Early Church and House Churches can use that money for other things, not needing to budget for light-bulbs and parking lots.  And the money was administered not by a church fund, but entrusted to the apostles.  Would it be best to return to an Apostolic Model, then, or even recognize Apostolic Succession as in the Catholic Church?

What Americans call consumerism isn’t consumerism; it’s collecting and hoarding, so we should stop maligning consumerism. Why do we think of consuming as bad?  Everyone consumes.  But isn’t that the threat behind “carbon footprints” of every organism?  Hoarding is entrapping; it’s worse than cigarettes.  We store all this stuff in our houses and then we lose it by the time we “need” it.  But people find security in having backups for things they use a lot.  And the reason we need a backup is because our society has manufactured (or demanded the manufacture of) consumable products, things that break or wear out.  When something breaks, we have easy access to stores, which store replacements for you.  We don’t just throw out broken things, though; we get rid of things to make way for the “new” thing, the upgrade.  What should you do with things you’re not using?  You shouldn’t keep it unless you are highly efficient at your storage and make your supplies work for you, your neighbors, and friends (hospitality: see Pigfest February 2010).  Isn’t this hoarding just the “building bigger barns” as in Jesus’ parable?  Then again, maybe it is the responsible thing to do, to work hard now and save up (not just money) for later, like the fabled ants in The Ant and the Grasshopper.  But is consuming really bad?  If you’re really using something up, and people are able to keep producing it, go ahead and consume.  Stores aren’t always as accessible as efficiency would require.  Consumption doesn’t just cost money; it costs lives and freedom.  There are some economies purposefully enslaved, where the people are kept dependent and forced to manufacture that which we consume.  Consumption is not acceptable, then, at every cost.  Isn’t the hoarding we’re talking about a sign of a lack of trust that God will take care of us in the future?

The End.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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A lot of Christians talk about the will of God.  Whether they are talking about a “call” for their lives, or direction for day to day choices, a lot of people are curious how they can know God’s will.  Part of the mystery is that whatever process we use for determining the will of God doesn’t seem to work.

We pray, sometimes using a specific method or for a scheduled amount of time.  We submit ourselves, “Thy will be done.”  We seek counsel.  We study.  And then a choice comes, and we listen closely.  Nothing.

We throw out a fleece, like Gideon, and still get nothing.  We put God in a box, making deals with Him, and however it works out we take it as confirmation that we should do whatever we want.  “God, if you want us to build that new sanctuary, supply the 1.2 million dollars for the down payment.”  Only $750,000 comes in, and we decide that God wants us to step out on faith. “I mean, it’s a big thing for God to bring in so much money for the project.”  Or we say, “God, if you don’t want me to do this, close the doors; stop me.”  And months later, we look back thinking, “The devil sure was resisting me in my service to God.  Look at all the persecution I went through!”  Which is the correct view?  Should we make deals with God?  Which voice is limiting Him?

Some people claim to know the will of God.  They get a sign.  They have dreams.  A quiet voice whispers to them.  How can we trust these mystical revelations, when the Bible has so many examples of people being influenced by other powers in the spiritual realm?

Why did the life of a prophet seem so much simpler?  How did he hear God’s voice?  When the early church gathered to pray, what did it look and sound like for the Spirit to say, “Set apart Paul and Barnabas”?  Men in the early church could not be stopped by chains or prisons or even stonings.  We see in these instances the disciples pressing forward, confident that God desires them out on the streets and in the courtyard, preaching the gospel.  What does it mean when Paul said that He tried to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7) but the Spirit prevented Him?  If Paul wanted to bring the gospel somewhere, but God wouldn’t let him, he was obviously not just trusting that his desires were from God.  So how did Paul know?

But keep reading, because in 2 easy paragraphs, I’m going to solve the problem of the will of God!…  No, I’m not making that claim.  I think part of our problem is that we don’t want to walk by faith.  We want to know every step way in advance.  We want a list of do’s and don’t’s.  When we wait to hear from God, we get impatient and conclude that we won’t hear from Him.  God gave us brains.  Maybe we should work it out.  Or maybe God doesn’t care what we decide.

Some people really do take finding the will of God that far.  Should you give $50 to feed the poor, or $50 to send a missionary, or invest the $50?  None of those uses are sinful.  All can be good and God-honoring.  So it doesn’t matter which you choose.  God will bless you anyway.  God has a will for the big things, but the little things are up to us.  (People have to decide where to draw the line between big things and little things:  Prophecy must be a big thing.  Jesus coming to die for us had to happen.  Sometimes big things are whom we marry or where we go to school.  For other people, they consider those life-changing decisions to be some of the little ones where God leaves us to decide on our own.)  In any case, it takes a lot of study and extreme moral clarity to make sure that one of the options we’re considering is not sinful.  We’re left to make a score sheet for each choice.  And how do you add in factors like selfishness or vanity, good stewardship or discernment?  What is wisdom anyway?

Or maybe we should stop worrying about the will of God.  God’s in control, so everything that happens is what is meant to happen.  We’re not going to change that, so why stress?  Que sera, sera.  There’s an easy way to figure out God’s will: hindsight.

Here’s what I believe.  God is in control, and no one will change His plan.  His plan covers the details, even the details of how we decide and that we sought to please Him in our decisions.  His plan includes His guidance and revelation.  Wisdom is not knowing the tally sheet for all the different options.  It is a dependence on God’s perspective, even when His way doesn’t seem to be practical or likely to work out.  Part of having a relationship with God is waiting on Him.  He is faithful to provide the guidance we need, and merciful enough that, if we are seeking Him and asking for His help, our feet will not stumble; our lives won’t be ruined by our God-submitted choice.

Some things are clearly revealed as the will of God.  He desires our sanctification.  He desires us to be thankful and to pray to Him.  He tells husbands to love their wives, and disciples to preach the word.  To trespass those instructions would be sinful.  So the possibilities are narrowed down.

Duty is another way to make our decisions easier, by limiting our options.  We make a commitment (according to the will of God), and follow through.  A father may wonder whether to take a job in New Jersey or Texas, but he knows he must provide for his family.  A conference speaker may get to choose his topic or his wording, but he’s obligated to speak.  A mom must change a diaper.  My friend volunteered at an orphanage.  Once she was there, she had to do what she was told.  Her duty made the will of God for her simpler.  When Paul decided to heed his vision and go to Macedonia, he didn’t have to ask God:  “Should I move my left foot?  Now right?  What about my right foot?”

Of course God is helping us just as much to accomplish what we know He wants us to do as He helps us find out what He wants us to do.  It is easy to be relieved at knowing we are where God wants us, and forget to excel, forget to walk in the Spirit as we obey.  We think God sent us on an errand and now our own intelligence and strength will get it done.  There’s danger in duty, the danger of empty legalism.  But there is peace, too, in knowing what one ought to do: what must be done.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Coming to Grips with Genesis, edited by Terry Mortenson, Ph. D. and Thane H. Ury, Ph. D. 

Is the question of the age of the earth too divisive for Christians?  Is your interpretation of Genesis, particularly the first eleven chapters, important?  Are young-earth creationists good Bible scholars or good scientists?  Does Genesis allow for millions or billions of years?  Does the rest of the Bible? 

Comprised of nearly 450 pages written by 16 men dedicated to the literalism, inerrancy, and theological relevance of Genesis 1-11, this book is a resource for scholars and theologians.  Amateur as I am, reading the entire book cover to cover was a challenge.  I learned several new words, my favorite of which is phenomenological – just because it is fun to say!  Most Creationist books are about science.  Some are about the cultural impact of accepting Darwinism.  This book is almost unique in that it addresses the theological reasons for believing in a recent 6-day creation of the Heavens and Earth and life in them, as well as, significantly, a global flood. 

Christians today cannot even be said to be tempted to doubt the authority of Scripture compared to science; it is almost a cultural given that reasonable Christians will submit their interpretations of the Word of God to the supreme truth of scientific evidence as interpreted by a majority of secular and religious scientists.  Coming to Grips with Genesis seeks to show that no compromise on the literal narrative of Genesis 1-11 is based in hermeneutics.  Theologians who promote the day-age, framework, poetic, or gap theories for interpreting Genesis are inspired only by their conviction that “science” has proven an age of the earth billions of years beyond that recorded by the only witness, the God of the Bible. 

Topics include:
– historic interpretations of Genesis and beliefs about the age of the earth from Jesus, the apostles, early church fathers, reformation theologians, and modern commentators
– possibility of gaps in the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies
– theological implications of death and pain and decay before Adam’s sin
– and discussions of the words, phrases, and style of language in the Creation account of Genesis 1-3, and the Flood narrative in Genesis 6-8. 

Dedicated to Dr. John C. Whitcomb, Jr., a short biography and bibliography is included at the end of the book along with a personal tribute describing his impact on each contributor opening almost every chapter.  John MacArthur and Henry Morris both endorsed this book with their forewords.  Every essay is covered in footnotes, and there is an extensive resource list in the back of the book for more information.  There is also an index.  Several contributors referred the reader to the Institute for Creation Research’s RATE Project conclusions.  As usual, Master Books has maintained a close relationship with Answers in Genesis, and that ministry is frequently cited in the resource list. 

Chapter 8, “A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Week” by Robert V. McCabe is 38 pages of introduction, discussion, summary, discussion, summary (etc.), conclusion – all about, in my words, the Hebrew word for “and then.”  If you take my advice, you will read the first two pages and skip the rest.  Trust me that this man looked at every possible detail of this “waw consecutive.”  Much more interesting was the work of Stephen W. Boyd in chapter 6, “The Genre of Genesis 1:1-2:3: What Means This Text?”  He included the results of his own statistical analysis of waw consecutives as a sign of historical narrative, with other considerations for determining genre. 

The chapters that included direct quotes (translated) of church fathers were a helpful and interesting survey of early church theology with the different schools of thought (for example, the way in which most theologians related the age of the earth to their eschatology).  One chapter introduced me to Ancient Near Eastern literature.  Another emphasized the importance of context in (especially Hebrew) interpreting a passage.  A phrase often has a meaning more than the sum of its parts.  Page 120 and 121 are a biblical refutation of human empiricism superceding a faith acceptance of the “special revelation” word of God.  Chapter 9’s play by play description of the Flood with a timeline and occasional phrase exposition is one of the highlights (and I learned about inclusios and chiasms!).  My favorite part (more a reflection on my taste for philosophy than the writing or substance of the rest of the book) was the Epilogue, in which the editors contrast young earth biblical creationism with the Intelligent Design Movement (which tends to compromise the statements of the Bible). 

Ultimately, this book is a plea for faithful exegesis of the Bible and a defense of the methods employed and conclusions reached through traditional hermeneutic approach to Genesis consistent with that used on the rest of the Bible.  Coming to Grips with Genesis is an intense work, scholarly and detailed.  Theologians, seminarians, pastors, and Bible teachers – especially those whose view of Genesis is not firmly opposed to all forms of compromise – are the appropriate audience for this book. 

Coming to Grips with Genesis

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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In the few years I’ve been studying Calvinism, I’ve come across four major questions that are the hard ones for Calvinism to answer:

1. Did God create sin?

2. Does God choose some men to be damned? (or the reverse: Is unconditional election for salvation true?)

3. Does God ordain each moment, thought, and action (not just “big” things, “sacred” things, or salvation)?

4. Am I responsible to seek God’s one will for my life, instead of just seeking and choosing ‘good’ options?

Here are some of my response questions:

1. What is goodness, and where does it come from?

2. What is life, and where does it come from?

3. What is love, and where does it come from?
To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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