Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Reflections

Can you imagine that some Reformed Christians do not celebrate Christmas! It was a shock to me. Some thoughts have been posted HERE four years ago. One Christian man even celebrates Halloween, but not Christmas. 

One young Christian woman and I had a heated discussion on this topic last year. She and her husband have now left our church. Sad that we couldn't have agreed to disagree amicably, and I do forgive her, although I wish they would come back to our church and know we can disagree amicably and still fellowship together in Christ. 


What kind of Christmas should the Christian embrace? I think that we can say 
Merry Christmas
and not "Happy Holidays". Of course some folks think "Happy Holidays" is the best because it's politically correct. It's almost as if PC is the new religion for many. 

Of course we don't have to flaunt our tradition in the face of those who we know for certain celebrate Hanukkah and who have not embraced Jesus as the Messiah at this time. Why can't I wear the T-shirt that says "Jesus is the reason for the season"? Maybe this T-shirt is a little cheesy like the movie "Saving Christmas".


Kurt Cameron has gone to all lengths in the movie "Saving Christmas" to defend Christmas. His character compares the swaddling clothes of the manger to the grave clothes of Christ! He notes that there were trees in Genesis so why shouldn't we have a Christmas tree now! For me this exegesis is totally lacking. Somehow the character Kurt plays convinces his brother-in-law, Christian, that Christmas is about joy and that brother-in-law dances at the end of the movie. It totally misses the real joy of Christ's coming to dwell on earth.

THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS is not about gifts of course, but about the great event that happened in history. Of course we do not know that December 25th is the day the Messiah was actually born, but we do have this biblical history from the Old Testament of yearly celebrations. I am loving hearing Christmas carols and mailing greetings to friends and family. As a new widow, I appreciate all the family I do have left and plan to spend the holidays with some of them. I am writing this on some of my Christmas greetings:  


JESUS ENTERED OUR WORLD 
TO TEACH US HOW TO LIVE 
AND HOW TO DIE WITH CONFIDENCE. 

Hugs and Merry Christmas,
Carol

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ligonier Quotes, Part Two

A little over two years ago, while I was home taking care of my late husband, I listened to a Ligoier conference streamed on the computer HERE for 20 quotes.  

Now I live about an hour and a half away from St. Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Florida,  where the September 19 and 20, 2014 conference was held. I worked on the 19th, but I did go on Saturday the 20th. The announcement was made that all taped sessions would be streamed on Thursday September 25th, so look for the conference then.

On Friday R. C. Sproul presented the theme, "The Christological Crisis" in the first session, Michael Morales spoke on "Christ in the Shadows". Stephen Nichols spoke on "Christ and Him Crucified".  I look forward to hearing these Friday sessions streamed next week.

Saturday morning started with the singing of O Worship the King--loved this singing in the cross shaped chapel.

Welshman Dr. Derek Thomas spoke on The Life of Christ and Christ and Him Resurrected. Thomas is the senior pastor of First Presbyterian in Columbia, South Carolina, replacing Dr. Sinclair Ferguson who has returned to his native Scotland. Before he went back to Scotland, Derek asked Sinclair what memorable moment Sinclair has had.  Sinclair said reading John Murphy about the obedience of Christ and Derek went on to elaborate on some of that obedience. Thomas said:


  • God doesn't count our sins against us. We become the righteousness of God.
  • Christianity is based on facts: the early church believed in and saw the resurrection of Christ before He went back to heaven; Saul of Tarsus who became Paul had a dramatic conversion; the tomb was empty. 
  • There is moral order in the universe. Why did Jesus die? Why did God kill him? See John 3:16-18 (NLT):

 For God loved the world so much that he game his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.


  •  If Jesus is impeccable, how did God do this? It was the right thing to do the morally just thing.  
  • It was the morally just thing for God to raise Christ from the dead. He quipped,  You can't keep a good man down! This was one of the few humor quips I heard in the conference.*
  • The term in Christ is in the New Testament 67 times





Question and Answers. Above from left to right is the moderator Lee Webb, and speakers Michael Morales, R. C. Sproul Jr., Steven Nichols, Gregory Beale, Derek Thomas, and R. C. Sproul. Here are some quotes from that session:

  • We have the same God as the Reformers and we do not need to just quote from them.
  • Sometimes revival is the quiet steady work of grace.
  • When Psalms are the center of worship revival comes. 
  • The universe is for God's glory and He can do what He wants.
The panel was asked about their favorite parts/books of the Bible:
  • Morales--He [God] who did not spare His own Son [Christ], but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:32
  • R. C., JR--Psalms and Proverbs
  • Nichols--2 Corinthians 2-5
  • Beale--Acts 7 and The Valley of Vision devotional book for Scripture
  • Thomas--Job
  • R. C. SR--Romans

Just a thought--I am always discovering new parts of Scripture I like as I go through the Bible each year with the Daily Audio Bible. I think it was interesting that they were asked about their favorites. 

Thanks so much to the Reformation Bible College and Ligonier ministries for this free event. Even the coffee was free. I stood in a long line to buy my lunch, but had fascinating conversations with those around me.  

Added Sept. 26th (the Sept. 19th sessions):

  • http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/we-would-see-jesus-2014-fall-conference/the-christological-crisis/


  • http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/we-would-see-jesus-2014-fall-conference/christ-in-the-shadows/


  • http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/we-would-see-jesus-2014-fall-conference/christ-and-him-crucified/



*My notebook computer was dead for Dr. Gregory Beake's talk on Why God Became Man and for R. C. Sproul Jr. 's talk on Christ and Him Ascended. I would charge it in the nursery so I could use it again. Now, folks, I wear hearing aides and missed some of the Saturday humor. I must visit my audiologist and get an adjustment, and pick up on some of the humor when I get time to listen to the streamed recordings. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Internet Theological Bullies

A sharp young man, Teddy Dee, wrote on Facebook: Growing by leaps and bounds in your theological knowledge , without striving to excel in your practicality will ultimately reduce you to nothing more than an intellectual jackass. God help us all. Teddy said I could quote him.

Not everyone on this blog concurs with an end-times view and other issues, and for the most part the discussions have been productive and civil. There has been freedom here to debate issues. The comments were not moderated as I have been trying to discover theology. Now however I have decided to moderate comments on my blogs.

You see, folks, recently I got bullied on another blog. It was awful. It was judgmental. It upset me so much and the bully would not back down or apologize. In fact I felt stocked as he followed me to a message site and kept at it there. Then his attacks were posted on his own blog. I questioned if his pastor or elders read his numerous attacks on others all posted on his blog and he defended himself that they were aware of his pursuits to attack people outside of his church. 

Some theological bullies seem to just have to impress their viewpoints on us. I think that some theological bullies are just plain bullies about a lot of issues and unfortunately their testimony is compromised with the points they try to make as they devalue others in person, on blogs, on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus. Some perhaps are pharisees and could benefit by reading that book, Accidental Pharisees, that I reviewed earlier on this blog. These individuals can cross the line to a personal attack and they do not acknowledge that they have crossed that line and have become theological bullies.


When I substitute teach, I rap at the end of classes. Several of my raps that will be going on YouTube as MC AC The Rap Lady will hopefully influence students. One of them is my "Bully Rap".  I start out with asking middle school students or high school students who is a bully in the class? The bullies come to the front of the class and in a good natured way I deliver this rap to them:

What he did?
Where you been?
I’m gonna spit it
And you’re gonna get it
Hitting agitating
Spitting aggravating
Take a stand—let’s attack
Rid us of bullies
Always fighting
Gossip behind the back
In person or Internet
Bullies  find excuses
To mess with our weaknesses
As if they have none
And they think this is fun
Just take courage
Report those bullies
Their end is near
Your conscience clear
Let’s get along
Join this song
Let’s be buddies
I’m gonna spit it
And you’re gonna get it
Skip the teasing
Skip the strife
No more hassles
All you bullies
Get a life!

Everyone laughs when I deliver the last line--get a life. The students get the point and I have had students tell me they no longer want to be a bully.  If I know it is a Christian student in the public school who has been bullied or been the bully, I have been able to pray with them after class at times. 

Bullying on the Internet is hard to handle, but I have no choice but to forgive those theological bullies. My pastor or elders handle the situation if it is in our local church, but there is no authority of appeal on the Internet. Instead I have to look to Christ's example. Think how Christ asked His Father, 

Father, forgive them, 
for they know not what they do.
Luke 23:34 



You theological bullies, come to the front of the class and repent of any pharisaic pride you may have. Meditate on this verse:

But this will all men know that you are My disciples, 
if you have love for one another. 
John 13:35


Hey, bullies, you do not need to win those theological Internet battles. Let the church councils and presbyteries do that. The Internet is not the place. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Behind Casting Crowns Music

Stories Behind Casting Crown Music

I have a playlist on my iPod that I put on in the car on our half-hour ride to church on Sunday--standard favorites such as "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and other hymns that draw us into a worship mode. It seems every generation has its music and as a senior citizen I have not kept up with Christian rock music to any great extent. It doesn't catch my attention on the radio.

Then there is  the Christian group
Casting Crowns
A year ago we enjoyed them at Plant City, Florida's Strawberry Festival as reported HERE. The Strawberry Queen herself told the audience to enjoy the worship, not the concert. People in the audience were indeed worshipping and singing their songs as they led the concert.  I do have two of their CDs and have downloaded other songs into my iTunes library. Why I also have a Casting Crowns playlist to listen to in the car. What lead singer/songwriter Mark Hall said in the concert has resonated with me and I was glad to read one of his four books,
Lifestories: Finding God's "Voice of Truth" 
Through Everyday Life. 
The book made my Casting Crowns playlist come alive.

The creative part of me enjoyed how Casting Crowns songs came to be as described in this book. The devotional side of me enjoyed the reflective questions called The Bottom Line at the end of each chapter. (This might be a good resource for a youth group study.)  The theological side of me recognized Mark Hall's Reformed thinking in the book. I do like that he both sees God's election and our responsibility to evangelize. On tour they take time for their behind-the-scenes people in sharing the gospel. Then they usually make it back home to minister at their own churches, although they are so successful they wouldn't have to ever make it back home to their churches.

Mark Hall tells how one of his songs,  Praise You in the Storm, took off after Hurricane Katrina. See it on YouTube HERE.

You're Already There is a song that touched me at the 2013 concert where I took this picture.

We had great seats and my husband really liked the concert. 
Last year's concert may be one of the last events of this sort that I am able to take my husband to because of his decline with dementia. As a caregiver this song lifts my spirits when I hear it on my playlist. The LORD is already there with the ending time for my husband's dementia.

Then there is the Casting Crowns song,  If We Are the Body. We are the body of Christ as Christians according to Scripture. Since reading about this song, I have been propelled to do several acts of kindness and bold witnessing beyond really what I would ordinarily think to do. Here are some lyrics from that song:
But if we are the body,
Why aren't His arms reaching?

Why aren't His hands healing? 

Why aren't His words teaching? 

And if we are the body, 

Why aren't His feet going? 

Why is His love not showing there is a way?

 (pp. 39-40)

Just a few more gems from Mark Hall's book:

  • "Authentic Christianity is nothing if not transparent." (p. 145)
  • "When I'm not living for Jesus daily and show up at church after squeezing out life on my own terms all week, I'm needy when I walk through the doors. . . . I am so needy because I'm not complete when I get there [to church], and when I'm not being completed by my walk with Jesus, I unwittingly demand completeness from people. I raise the bar of expectations, and people don't meet my needs because it is impossible for people to do so." (p. 99-100)
  • He quotes Colossians 3:17 and writes "That means all of life is worship. If we are so accustomed to thinking of worship as mere music, then we should realize the song starts when we awake in the morning." (p. 113)
Above all about this book and the popularity and success of the Casting Crowns Christian rock group, I love the band's name. The band members will one day cast their crowns at Jesus feet as we read in Revelations.

Looking forward 
to the day
when I can also
cast my crown
at His feet. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Accidental Pharisees: Part Seven GIFT PROJECTION


Most Bottles Recycled by a Dog
Guinness World Records
In the final part of Accidental Pharisees, the author, Larry Osborne, develops the concept of gift projection, a new term to me. Part seven is subtitled When My Calling Becomes Everyone Else's Calling. Osborne describes gift projection as "the chocolate-covered arrogance that assumes that everyone is just like me--or will be when they grow up . . . the more full-blown our gift projection becomes, the more likely we are to think that God is especially pleased with us and ticked off at everyone else, when nothing could be farther from the truth (pp. 152-153)."  We think if we are gifted in something, that everyone else should be like us. Everyone should recycle everything all the time as this dog does in the picture. But life has a way of humbling us and causing us to not think so highly of ourselves. The longer I live the more I am struck with my human failures and need for God's grace. After all, we read in Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in holiness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. All of us have different gifts. 

Osborne's questions from pp. 191-192 and quotes from him are in red and my answers are in black or blue.

1. What are some of the gifts and callings in your life that you would be most likely to project onto others? I am not sure. Thinking hard here. When I diet and lose weight, I think that everyone should diet and lose weight. I forget that I am not always good at keeping weight off. Or, when I have a consistence prayer and devotional life, I think everyone else should also. Or, when I am generous, I think everyone else should be generous as well. Or when I blog, I think everyone should blog or at least comment on my blog. I have to laugh at hypocritical self. We are all unique and sinners saved by grace, called to be obedient. Obedience isn't determined by others. We all plug along at our sanctification and we do not grow by osmosis or by joining the "perfect" church or by whom we marry or whom we "friend" (new Facebook verb).

2. From your experience, what are some of the most common gifts and callings that tend to be "gift projected" in your church? Not sure how to answer this.  To help identify them, think about what typically gets promoted, highlighted, or walled in your church. Seminary and prison ministry. What gifts, ministries, and callings tend to get ignored? Visiting the sick in the hospital; men's and women's Bible studies; Sunday School for all ages. There are reasons they are ignored at this time. We are a small church and people lack time. However, I am pleased to say that we are a nurturing church.

3. Have you ever been guilty of "gift envy," wishing that you had gifts that others possess and failing to value the gifts God has given to you? Osborne says that this is the other side of gift projection. If so, where is that most likely to show up? Can't identify where this would show up in my life.  What do you see as the root of these feelings of inferiority or envy? Plain and simple--SIN! Osborne says We're all tempted to define spirituality and discipleship in ways that align perfectly with who we are and what we do (p. 173).

4. Consider the myth of "full-time ministry."
a. Do you tend to attribute more dignity and significance to those who serve in professional ministry.  Not really. Actually, I pray for them.  If so, why do you think this is so? Osborne writes on p. 177, If you are a Christian, you're in full-time ministry.
b. What could a church do to undercut the myth of full-time ministry and to foster a healthier view of Christian vocation?  Ministers maybe can admit their humanity so that we laypeople do not keep them up on a pedestal. I liked it when we consulted with my pastor about fixing up an old car vs. buying another car. He just didn't tell us what to do--he didn't want to be the end-all answer man for us. List as many specific things as you can. Really we need to cut our ministers slack and stop looking to them for our spirituality, when really we are responsible ourselves. We ALL need to be disciples and be disciples full-time.

5. Are you prone to be one of the "money police," or are you more likely to be criticized by one? Probably criticized by one.
a. After reading the chapters in part 7, are there any parts of Scripture that you realize you may have neglected, ignored, or glossed over? That God promised a lighter load, but the Pharisees demanded more.
b. What passages and insights in part 7 did you find to be most challenging or troubling, or that you simply didn't agree with? The section on evangelists. Why? We were all given the challenge of the Great Commission and should be diligent for opportunities. Osborne says it is not his gift!

Larry Osborne ends his book with these four paragraphs that I think are worth noting.
Make no mistake. My warnings about the dangers of an overzealous faith are not meant as a defense of soft and easy Christianity. They are simply a plea that we remain true to the heart of the gospel, offering rest, help, hope, and salvation to the weary and heavy laden. 
None of us live a truly righteous life. Even the best of us--even those at the front of the following-Jesus line--fall far short of the righteousness needed to stand before our God. That's what makes grace so amazing. That's what makes the arrogance of today's accidental Pharisees so sad. 
There is nothing praiseworthy in a feel-good, lukewarm, consumer Christianity that never asks us to change or do anything. It makes Jesus gag. But we must never forget that there is also nothing praiseworthy in a spiritual zeal that looks down on others or sublimates Jesus' grace and mercy in order to emphasize our radical obedience and sacrifice. That too makes Jesus gag.
Our hope is not in what we do for God. Our hope is in what God has done for us. That's the gospel. That's discipleship in a nutshell. And that's what keeps people like you and me from becoming accidental Pharisees. p. 196

Amen!

I found on our bookshelf one of my husband's books--Hypocrisy: Moral Fraud and Other Vices, by James S. Spiegel. In a chapter called "At Least I'm Not a Hypocrite" the author describes the skeptic who says "Christians are not really better than anyone else, so don't listen to them."  To answer those critics he points out that 

1) it is indeed difficult to live the Christian life
2) Christians are sinners; and 
3Christianity's doctrine of salvation is based on 
divine grace rather than human merit. p. 142 

Amen! 

Lord, I do not want to make you gag.
I want to be a vessel that shows
your grace in my world. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Accidental Pharisees: Part Six THE QUEST FOR UNIFORMITY

Proverbs 6:16-19 has a list of seven things the LORD hates. The seventh is one who sows discord among brethren. 

Another Scripture I came to recently in my Daily Audio Bible trip through Scriptures is Matthew 22, the parable of the wedding feast. Jesus ends the parable in verse 14 with For many are called, but few are chosen. Then in the next chapter Christ warns woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men (23:13). It is not for us to decide or shut up or shut out by being exclusive and insisting on a certain type of uniformity.

This part of Larry Osborne's Accidental Pharisees looks at the difference between uniformity and unity. Unity is what we need, not uniformity. I refer back to pp. 100-102 where Osborne deals with the diet wars and the Sabbath wars of Romans 14 and 15. We do not need emphasis on these wars,  but we do need unity. 

Some Reformed folks I know insist on uniformity and it is so sad. Where might they go--home church, an Internet church or no church at all?!  We all need to accept the leadership in our church and be accountable to the pastors and elders who preside. Or we need to prayerfully transfer our membership to an active congregation and not run off in a huff over uniformity. We need unity not wars about uniformity.

Questions from pp. 157-158 are in red and my answers are in black and blue.

1. After reading part 6, how, in your own words, would you define the difference between uniformity and unity? Unity doesn't expect uniformity.

2. Have you ever seen firsthand a situation where the quest for uniformity destroyed the potential for biblical unity? Yes, I have.  If so, what happened? Church members took it upon themselves to run away from unity to uniformity to their "perfect church," rather than stay and be the body of Christ in the local congregation. As if THEY know best, they opt for nonessentials that they feel are essential!! What did you learn? Don't know yet. Still hurting over this. Hope there is repentance and restoration. We will move on from this with tears in our eyes.

3. If you had to name your tribe's boundary markers, code words, and "red-word" teachers, what would that list look like? Be as specific as possible. Maybe what has been called young, restless and reformed. However, I don't really like labels.
a. How would someone from outside your tribe learn about those things if he or she wanted to fit in? By being drawn to our church and attending it and then they would not even know about young, restless and reformed. 
b. Would the Jesus of the New Testament be inside or outside of those boundaries? Inside it, but He is inside other boundaries also. DO NOT SHUT UP THE KINGDOM, as Christ warned the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites in the Matthew 23:13 passage I quoted before these questions.

4. As we saw, there are some things that are worth fighting for. Which specific issues do you believe should be on that list? Authority of Scripture (Solo Scriptura). What filter do you use to decide when an issue is worth fighting for and when it's best to "agree to disagree"? The filter I use is Scripture, careful exegesis of that Scripture, and reflection on what is essential and what is nonessential. I also consult with my pastors. I can have fellowship with a believer who doesn't celebrate Christmas--we can joyfully agree to disagree as long as we can both maintain unity. This falls under the diet wars and Sabbath wars of Romans--both are right and both can have love for one another and unity. Christ prayed in John 17:21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 

5. On a scale from 0 (we are slopes) to 10 (we are shockingly different), how would you rate the diversity (not just racial diversity) of your congregation? How would you rate the Christian diversity of your personal relationships, circles of friends, and colleagues? Just going to skip this numerical analysis. It seems a judgmental question to me. Over my lifetime I have Christian friends and relatives in other congregations.

6. Looking back over the chapters in part 6, what one thing most jumps out at you as a new insight or an important principle? There is more than one thing. Osborne quotes Luke 9:49-50 and Philippians 1:15-18--like those passages. Why? It is not biblical to have those boundary markers. How do you plan to respond to it? To answer these questions, in part, I will end with quotes from this part of the book.
Our biblical unity is rooted solely in our relationship with Jesus. It's not dependent on shared religious practices, patterns, or preferences. It's not contingent on agreeing on every point of theology. It existed even if we wish it didn't. p. 140 
When the quest for uniformity replaces the maintenance of biblical unity, the first thing we tend to do is to establish boundary markers. Boundary markers are the telling behaviors, symbols, and viewpoints that identify us with one group or another. p. 141-142 
Instead of our answers and theology flowing out of the Bible, we end up with answers and theological systems superimposed upon the Bible and read back into it. Eventually the Bible becomes nothing more than a proof text for what our tribe already believes. p. 146 
Osborne recounts a church debate and writes:
There was a long list of crystal-clear commands in my Bible telling me to live in harmony, to be diligent to maintain the unity of theSpirit, to be humble, long-suffering, loving, and forgiving, to bear with my brothers and sisters, and to submit to people in spiritual authority over me. It made no sense to me to disobey this long list of clear commands in order to wage a fierce battle over a handful of verses that were admittedly hard to decipher. p. 152 
By definition, bearing with one another is an act of selfless obedience. It means dying to self and overlooking things I'd rather not overlook. It means working out real and deep differences and disagreements. It means offering to others the same grace, mercy, and patience when they are dead wrong as Jesus offers to me when I'm dead wrong. p. 155 
Osborne quotes 1 John 2:9-11 and then ends this part with these words:
We can cause people to say, "My how they love one another," or we can cause them to say, "What kind of God has a family like that?" p. 156

Lord, help us unite about nonessentials
 and love one another. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Accidental Pharisees: Part Five IDOLIZING THE PAST

   Husaby Church in Sweden

My fascination for Sweden is almost an idolization of the past. I love reading about my Swedish ancestors. Unfortunately, it is my understanding (really hearsay) that the second and third cousins in Sweden do not exhibit much Christian faith. Maybe that is why my Scandinavian grandparents came to this country.

The subtitle for Part 5 on Idolizing the Past is WHEN IDEALISM DISTORTS REALITY. Here are some of my favorite quotes from part 5:
  • I'm not sure why this is true, but passionate faith is often coupled with a zealous idealism and a romanticized view of the past. p. 114
  • Their endless pursuit of the perfect marriage, the flawless family the ideal career, or the perfect church leaves them perpetually unsatisfied. . . . Cynicism is idealism on steroids  It has an eagle's eye for what is wrong and a bat's blindness for what's praiseworthy. The religious leaders of Jesus' day were classic cynics. . . . Today's spiritual elite are no different.  . . . they're masters at finding fault, especially with their three favorite whipping boys--the church, its leaders, and current culture. p. 115
  • The good old days weren't always so great. [In Chapter 14 Osborne has documented this with New Testament, Calvin, etc. ] The sins and failings of today's church and disciples, though significant, are nothing new. They won't keep Jesus from continuing to build his church just as he promised. p. 131
  • The longer I live, the more I recognize the importance of a proper attitude and motivation when confronting the sins and failings of others. p. 131 

The discussion questions from part 5 pages 135-136 in red and my answers are in black.

1. Do you ever find yourself guilty of idolizing the past? Yes.
a. If so, what are some of the "good old days" you find yourself longing for? The culture of the denomination I was in until 2000. And why? It was fun to be involved in the annual meetings, the decisions made and to know the leaders. Then I married my current husband and joined a wonderful RPCGA congregation that made me grow in faith in new ways.
b. What are some of the ways that looking at the past through "rose-colored glasses" might warp our perspective? Looking at a denomination keeps me from other growth in the faith.  Be as specific as possible. I try not to look back or to keep overly involved in the past. I have enough going on as a dementia caregiver and writing the seminary counseling dissertation on caregiving.

2. Part 5 discussed the three "whipping boys" that people love to disparage when comparing today to an idealized and idolized past--the church, church leaders, and culture. Which of these three are you most prone to criticize? The culture.  Why? I think that Ed Setzer said it best HERE when he discussed the Grammys. He made three points. 1. Culture has changed and is changing. 2. Christians will be increasingly uncomfortable in this world and will struggle to express that with grace. 3. There is great opportunity to show the difference Christ makes. 

3. After reading the chapters in this part, can you think of any great spiritual leaders from the past that you might be putting on a pedestal? Yes.  If so, who and how so? The Divines of the Westminster Assembly, the Puritans, Billy Graham who has had such a fine reputation in our country, and Francis Schaeffer, who has started warning the church fifty years ago with such books and films as How Then Shall We live.  Schaeffer's thoughts have been in my mind for a long time as I had the privilege of hearing Schaeffer in chapel when I was a student at Westmont College in Santa Barbara.

4. Why do we tend to remember only the good in our heroes? Maybe we think we can be like them by idolizing them.
a. How might this be dangerous to our spiritual walk? We need to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16).  Be as specific as possible. We need to let Scripture transform us, not just memorizing a secondary source about Scripture such as the Westminster Confession or studying the lives of the saints.
b. If someone asked you, "How can we learn from the past without idolizing the past?" what would you tell them? Hmm, have to work on an answer to that. Maybe I would be judging inappropriately.

5. Part 5 ends by summarizing the three great dangers that flow out of an inaccurate and unrealistic idolizing of the past.
  • Thinking that the sins and failing of today are unique and rare.
  • Lashing out in anger and disgust as if the sins of today are worse than the sins of yesterday.
  • Attempting to help Jesus by yanking out the weeds we see growing up among the wheat in the church.
Which, if any, of these three are you most susceptible to? The first one. Why? I have been thinking about a prisoner who is getting a sex change operation. Albert Mohler featured this on his podcast on Jan. 24, 2014 and on his blog I found the link to the case HERE.  This individual originally a man is in jail for life for killing the wife. But this individual has rights, you know, so this transgender individual is in the process of becoming a "she" in a male jail. It just seems that we keep getting away from being sensible as a society and moving towards our "rights" that the tax payers have to pay for!!  It really all goes back to original sin that came into our world as recorded in Genesis 3.

I need joy in the present. Instead of the past, I want to look to the future. Randy Alcorn writes HERE:
When you live with eternity in mind, it infuses you

with a joy that sustains you in your daily life.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Accidental Pharisees: Part Four LEGALISM

Hear, my children, the instruction of a father,
And give attention to know understanding;
For I give you good doctrine . . . 
Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.

Proverbs 4:1, 6
We need Scripture and we need Scriptural doctrine. Legalism is going beyond Scripture, or maybe just concentrating on one issue to the exclusion of other Scripture.   Yet all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for corrections, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Tim. 3:16)

I get accused of legalism.  I think that some others are practicing legalism. Yet it is Pharisaical of me to accuse anyone of legalism!  Mature Christians I have told about my blogging answers to this book tend to say that there is Pharisaicalism in all of us. So how is that different than devotion to our LORD? The answer to this question will be in part seven. Can't wait for you to read the last post in this series.

Meanwhile, I have been a Christian for over 60 years and I remember some practices that were legalistic in my background, what author Larry Osborne calls "litmus test Christianity" and he says it is never a good thing. I grew up with some of this old school legalism.
  • I was not allowed by my parents to dance. It took my late husband, a Presbyterian minister, to teach me to dance at age 40, although I surely had the rhythm before then! 
  • Alcohol. My parents did not drink and I still cringe when I read about Reformed folk drinking. I am very cautious about Alcohol especially because on a part-time basis I teach classes for decent folk who have gotten their first DUI. I like the legalism of watching alcohol consumption and Pharisaically tell my classes that the main alcohol I drink all year is in the weekly small communion cup at church. I wonder what they think, but such decent folk get DUIs. You have to be careful. Knowing how the DUI has hurt the drivers and their victims over the years really makes me cautious. 
  • Movies. And they were so gentle then. Ben Hur was my first movie and I went to it with the youth pastor! Now Osborne says in the "new legalism" movies are "a source of culturally relevant sermons illustrations" (p. 91).
  • Not dating a divorced Christian (as if divorce is an unforgivable sin). I used to believe this and then married two wonderful divorced Christians, the first of which died. 
I guess I would have to say that legalism is anything that is added to Scripture, supposedly implied by Scripture.  Perhaps when you have an intellectual and theological basis for your faith and and that is all you emphasize,  you are a legalist.  You are not balancing the doctrine in your Christian faith with  love, justice, mercy and grace. You care about being right only and that is the problem.  "Be dogmatically true, obstinately holy, immovably honest, desperately kind and fixed upright," writes Charles H. Spurgeon. Got this quote from a young social media friend. 

The book questions from 109-110 are in red and my answers are in black.

1. "Litnus test Christianity" is a dangerous type of legalism that can cause us to write off other genuine Christians as bogus Christians. It's an easy trap to fall into.

a. Do you find yourself naturally drawn toward the clarifying lines of "litmus test Christianity" or repelled by them? Both. If so, why do you think that is? I think it is important to contend (Jude 3) for the faith, but then I do not want to be contentious (Gal. 5:20). Gulp! The Galatians passage lists being contentious as a work of the flesh that includes adultery, outbursts of wrath, dissensions, heresies, murders "and the like".  In contrast, the fruit of the spirit includes gentleness and self-control. I like articulate Christians, but am equally repelled by those hot heads who are contentious, as if the whole of Christianity depends upon their defense of it.

b. Which, if any, of the tribes listed in chapter 10 would you fit best in? Here are the tribes: radical Christians who are almost generous to a fault; crazy Christians who suffer; missional Christians who are doing something to fulfill the mission of Christ;  gospel-centered Christians; and finally revolutionary or organic Christians. Are there any other litmus tests that you or you tribe might be prone to use? Yes. If so, list them. Reformed Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist; but I keep learning from evangelical Christians who do not necessarily consider themselves in the Reformed camp. This book is an example of that.

2. In part 4 we looked at both "old-school legalism" and "new-school legalism." Which of the two do you think you or your church are most tempted to fall into? New school legalism. Why? Because doctrine is emphasized quite a bit.  What are some of the dangers that come with it? Excluding others, and not showing grace and mercy. However with my pastors I see a wonderful mix of precise doctrine and generous mercy for those of us who are still learning.

3. The Pharisees of old added to the Scriptures in an attempt to help God out. Looking back over your Christian journey, have you come across examples of people:

a. Adding to Scripture? Probably have.  And if so, how so? Dispensationalists have added to Scripture, but you know, folks, I can have fellowship with them in so many ways, but we just better not discuss eschatology.

b. Turning implications into commands (making the personal application of a passage a universal rule for everyone)? Perhaps. Again, what are some examples? Extreme prideful discipline.  Legalists never see themselves as legalists. They see themselves as obedient. (p. 97) See 1 Tim. 4:7-8 which says exercise yourself toward godliness, for bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things.

4. What lessons can we take away from the "diet wars" and the "Sabbath wars" of the New Testament days?  "It's always hard to argue with a legalist" (p. 97).

a. What are some present-day equivalents of the New Testament diet wars and Sabbath wars? Some of those wars might be on this blog, but I am not naming them.

b. How might Paul's instructions to the Romans apply to these modern-day issues? Paul told them that God was good with all of their answers. . . . But there was one thing God wasn't pleased with. It was the disrespect each side showed the other (p. 100-101). I do think that hot headedness can get you in a lot of trouble and show disrespect to other Christians. The hot headed person thinks perhaps that they are the Holy Spirit, responsible for convincing others of the correctness of their view point.

5. Accidental Pharisees often are driven by the fear that showing too much mercy will lead to compromise and half-hearted obedience. But the fact is that we all tend to treat some sins as less deserving of mercy than others. Why do you think that is? We have our pet ideas and habits. Osborne, however, writes, At the end of the day, my own application of the text is just that--my own application. To turn it into anything else undercuts freedom in Christ (p. 102). And which ones do you have the hardest time offering mercy to? Sexual sins such as adultery that hurt the family so intensely. When it is a Christian leader as in HERE and HERE it can be very difficult to extend mercy. Anyone can and needs to repent and because Christ has forgive us I need to forgive those others.  God will judge their sincerity and we can look for the fruits worthy of repentance resulting in restored unity and fellowship.
Mercy is what is called for. 
Osborne writes: To people who fail, 
turn away, 
or sit on the fence 
because they are too afraid to jump in 
or are not yet fully convinced, 
Jesus continues to offer his extravagant mercy, 
a helping hand, 
and another chance (p. 107). 


What is your list of things Jesus never said 
or that are added to the Bible?
Where is the grace and balance in your life?!