The most damaging counseling mistakes

This could also be called, “Lessons from Ignaz Semmelweis.” He was a fascinating man. He was the first one to suggest that doctors wash their hands between patients. He was ridiculed and soundly mocked, put down, and outcast for it. Everyone knew that sickness came for spirits, bad air, bad joojoo, or God’s curse. What did handwashing have to do with it? He’s just being worldly. There’s got to be Bible verses about the evils of medicine. Isn’t it “trusting in man” or something like that?

I used to think the same way. I was taught that anything learned about counseling from a (hushed gasp) secular counselor, or, the most shocking of all, the psychologist (!) was just one step away from inviting the devil to dinner. I heard of a sermon where the pastor said that anyone who goes to a psychologist is denying Christ and the sufficiency of scripture. Stupid hand-washers!

I say this to my shame, for I used to believe and counsel the same way, and have since repented of my ungodly, unbiblical attitude.

If we will put aside our pride and listen to the voice of simplicity, and just “wash our hands” we will learn from our mistakes and quit killing the souls of those who come to us for help.

Here are the biggest mistakes we still make – soul killers – in no particular order. By the way, for you “nouthetic” people out there, each one of these mistakes is a mistake because it contradicts scripture, not because unbelievers say they are wrong. I agree with you that scripture alone is our only guide. So let’s hear what it says. So here is my list. I suspect there will be more to come.

  1. We say, “It takes two to ruin a marriage”. Or “It takes two to fight”. No. The Bible nowhere teaches this. Abel didn’t cause Cain to sin. David didn’t provoke Saul. Jesus didn’t provoke Judas. Joseph wasn’t to blame for his slavery. Stephen didn’t cause his stoning. And on and on. In fact, David said, “I am for peace, but when I speak they are for war.” (Ps. 120:7). There is a difference between David and those who sought to kill him. They wanted him dead because they “were for war”, not because “it takes two to fight.” Quit making this completely unbiblical statement. It simply isn’t true.
  2. When we hear of pornography use, we say, “Are you satisfying him in bed?” This one astounds me. Everyone listen up: Pornography and marital sexuality are as different as night and day, dark and light, good and evil. One is an expression of our one flesh intimacy, an act of love and mutual dignity and honor. The other is assault. A man who assaults doesn’t learn how to not assault by being taught to assault his wife instead. Just stop. Porn is death, murder, darkness. It isn’t “sex with the wrong person”. It is as far from the love of marriage as death is from life. Just stop. Now read Ephesians 5 again – from the beginning, not just the “submit” part. Fornicators need Christ and repentance, not a “porn-star wife”. Sheesh.
  3. (Similar to 3) We hear of a man committing adultery, and assume it is because the wife isn’t loving him enough. This comes from a horrible interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7. If you want to know what it really means, you can listen here. But, again, adultery is not simply sex with the wrong person. It is death, folly, madness – assault. The same applies, by the way, with the sexes reversed.
  4. When we hear the cry of the soul against injustices done, and we say, “You are just bitter.” Not only is this NOT the meaning of “bitter” in the scripture, the hatred of sin and the cry for justice is NOT sinful. It is what it means to be in God’s image. Jesus will not come in justice because he is bitter, but because he is just. We long for that day. We long to see our enemies destroyed, and justice reign. It is what Psalm 72 is all about. The promise of the kingdom is NOT that we should quit being “bitter” but that Christ will come with justice and righteousness in his hands. This is how we learn to put off anger, wrath and malice. Not by pretending that injustice is OK. You can learn more here.
  5. When someone is weeping, we assume that they are trying to manipulate us. Very common, but again, contrary to scripture. I am so glad that Jesus doesn’t treat us like that. Paul said to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Can someone show me the passage that says, “Beware of those who weepeth, for they are seeking to manipulate thee.”? Compassion with wisdom can only be taught by the Holy Spirit.
  6. We automatically assume that depression is a sin.  Depression is sometimes medical – an imbalance of chemicals.  Counselors, learn the signs of depression and get people to medical help if needed. But sometimes, our sighs and tears are just the proper response to living in a cursed world, far from the shores of the celestial city. We aren’t home yet, and sometimes that makes us sigh and weep.
  7. We make the same assumptions with every medical condition we don’t want to deal with. Chronic illness? Just laziness. Bipolar? Just rebellion. Adhd? Just a scam. Tourettes? Just looking for attention. They could stop if they wanted to. This one makes me want to scream at people.
  8. We assume that every problem that anyone can have can be fixed if we just find the right thing to rebuke them for.

And so we have turned into the most heartless bunch. Cruel, unkind, uncaring, fools. Heaping burdens of shame on those who come to us for help. It is no wonder that people won’t see pastors for guidance anymore. We forgot how to be compassionate. We look for the simple fix, when maybe we just need to listen, to stop and hear, to offer a kind word. Maybe point someone to Christ, who sweat great drops of blood, who was afraid,  who wept at the tomb of Lazarus – KNOWING that he was about to raise him from the dead.

Weeping doesn’t mean I don’t believe the promise; fear doesn’t mean I’m not trusting God; sadness doesn’t mean I am unthankful. These things mean I am human, just like my Lord. And he came to redeem this flesh and this blood. He suffered with every infirmity, and was without sin, to redeem me, body and soul. The day will come when every tear will be dried, but that day is not today.

So excuse me if I weep now and then. Don’t mind me if I get afraid sometimes. Don’t sing “joy, joy, joy” at me when the infirmities of the flesh are sometimes too much to bear. Yes, I know that God is good. Yes, I know that he is coming again. Yes, I know that all things work together, and so on. But right now I’m sad. If all you can say is “All things work together for good!”, then just go away.

These are some of my thoughts today. What are yours? What is the worst thing you’ve heard? It seems like I am missing some. I expect that this blog will be continued…

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Filed under counseling, Grief, Pastoral ministry

Worrying about worry

Today I was reminded that worrying is a sin. So I started to worry about whether I worried too much.

And then I started thinking – it is true that worrying is a sin, but how do you overcome the sin of worrying. Do you worry about worrying? Do you work hard trying to overcome worry? But it seems that working to overcome worry simply involved more worry.

At least, I worry that it might.

And then I started thinking about the relationship of good works to the gospel. We know that our only righteousness before God is the righteousness of Jesus put on our account by faith. We know that we cannot ever do even one work that can stand before the judgment throne of God.

We also know that those who continue to live in sin have no inheritance in the kingdom of God. How these two concepts relate is sometimes difficult. The Reformed Creeds (such as the Heidelberg) put good works into the category of thankfulness to God for our redemption. The Bible teaches that good works flow from a thankful and renewed heart. But how does that work?

There are particularly yelly preachers that like to yell at people about everything that they are doing wrong. They like to make sure that you know that worry is a sin, and lusting is a sin, causing people to lust is a sin, They yell about gossip and slander and anger and covetousness. They usually then add a list of other things that aren’t sins  just in case someone is getting away with doing something fun. It’s as if they ran out of sins to yell about so they had to invent a few more. So they yell about alcohol and cigars and dancing and tattoos and movies and boycotting Disney and ABC and what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath. They yell about cakes and piercings and rock ‘n roll (or maybe not that one so much anymore) and haircuts. But there is always something. And when you confront them with the gospel of Jesus, they will say, “yes, but now that you are a Christian you are supposed to be thankful. BE THANKFUL. WORK HARDER AT IT. MORE GRATITUDE, YOU TOTALLY DEPRAVED SCUM!”
You know the type.

So I wonder about whether they have the relationship between the gospel and works right. Are good works those things that we do because we feel guilty about causing Jesus to go to the cross to begin with? Are they those things that we do so that we make sure that we really do make it in the end – proving that we are actually thankful enough to earn the free gift of grace? Is God the harsh slave driver just waiting for us to worry about something so that he can zap us and teach us a lesson for our own good?

Think about the Sabbath. The yelly preacher will be happy to give you a whole list of things that you are and are not allowed to do on the Sabbath. In fact, he will probably shout them at you. It’s a day of rest and thankfulness, you scum. Work harder at being thankful. Rest more now or God will get you, you filth of the earth…
Do you see the problem? How do you work hard at resting? Should we worry about whether or not we are resting enough? That doesn’t really seem like rest to me…

And as I think about worry, it occurs to me. Worry is a sin. Jesus made that clear. But that highlights my sinful nature, doesn’t it? The only thing I can do with a command to rest is to work harder at it, defeating the purpose. The only thing I can do with a command to not worry is to worry more about whether I worry too much and try harder to stop it…

And then I see what the writers of the catechism meant when they wrote, “I daily increase my guilt.”

That can’t be the gospel. So let’s think about the sin of worry.

Yes, I worry. And, yes, worry is a sin.

The gospel teaches me that the perfect righteousness of Jesus is put on my account, and that all of my sins – including the sin of worry – is nailed to his cross, put away forever. If I worry about that, that one is nailed there too.

And whether I worry or whether I don’t worry, Jesus has it all covered. He cannot love me more. I cannot be any more righteous that I am right now.

So I have nothing to worry about…

Do you see, now?

I can rest. I can stop worrying, because even my worrying is paid for by the blood of Christ, now and forever. I can give it to him and put it away and rest.

And I move a little closer to understanding what resting in the gospel means and what it means to put off worrying. I won’t get it perfectly in this life, but I don’t have to worry about that anymore, because Jesus already knows, already died, and lives forever making intercession for me, preserving me, guiding me.

His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.

The gospel is not a Bobby McFerrin song. The gospel is not a yelly preacher screaming at you to quit worrying, work harder, do more, stop being such a horrible sinner, you jerk!

The gospel is the most liberating, freeing, comforting message you can imagine. Jesus is the propitiation of our sins, and not our alone, but the sins of the whole world.

This is the only way we can put off worrying. That’s the only way we can put off any of the other sins as well. By looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. We abide in him, for without him, we can do nothing.

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Filed under ethics, Gospel

The Opinions of men

Recently, I saw that someone posted the following quote from Dr. Jay Adams:

In my opinion, advocating, allowing and practicing psychiatric and psychoanalytical dogmas within the church is every bit as pagan and heretical, and therefore perilous as propagating the teachings of some of the most bizarre cults. The only vital difference is that the cults are less dangerous because their errors are more identifiable.

I am sharing my response to this here – not because I have any wish to be controversial, but because I really think that it is time we as conservative, Reformed Christians, started to compare the words of our heroes to the scriptures and to the creeds. It is supposed to be what we do.

So here is my response:

Statements like these from Dr. Adams have caused more harm to the body of Christ than anything I can think of in the last 30 years.

“In my opinion” – the opinion of Dr. Adams has been elevated to creedal status, woe be to anyone who may question it.

Those who have dedicated their lives to the study of the human soul and to the easing of the suffering of so many millions are dismissed if they use “heretical” words like trauma, narcissist, abuser, pedophile…
Victims are cast out of the church and wolves are given safety within because we look for quick proof-texts, and refuse to do any soul-searching.
Those who have suffered unspeakable trauma and suffering are given 8 sessions with their pastor, not allowed to speak their story, given a few proof-texts and then cast out of the church for “bitterness”.

All because Dr. Adams had an opinion. This opinion is not backed up with any scripture, which is odd (since it is purportedly based on Sola Scriptura) but simply declared so to be.

So I would ask here – what scripture is used to cast everything with the title “psychiatric and psychoanalytical dogmas” into the bowels of hell? By what authority does Dr. Adams’ opinion supersede the creeds of the church?

Why is it, that in the ancient Heidelberg Catechism, which we all revere, we learn that good works are “not such as rest on our own opinions or the commandments of men” but are based upon the law of God, which is further defined as the Ten Commandments, – why is it now that Dr. Adams’ self-declared opinion is the criterion by which thousands and thousands of sufferers are allowed no relief, no second opinion, no question, and no other answers?

Some serious things that we should perhaps think about…

To back up my whole point, I am well aware that I am now going to be branded a dangerous heretic and anything I might say will be suspect from henceforth – because I dared to question Dr. Adams opinion.

How many of those suffering from real mental illness are allowed no relief because of this man?

How many have been beaten and abused and raped by their husbands and sent back home because of this man?

Those who follow Adams would have rebuked Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus for bawling like a baby.

I’m sick of it.

Yes, he said some good things, and some of his critiques were valid.

But he was just a guy. His opinion isn’t a creed. Speaking of trauma and narcissism and abuse and PTSD and depression isn’t heresy. It is naming what most of the Psalms are all about. We are created in the image of God, and naming things is what we do.

I would add a few things here:

When God created the heavens and the earth, he gave names to some of the things that he created. When he created man, he gave man the task of naming the animals. Men and women exercise their dominion as image-bearers of God by naming. Any study, any discipline, and lessons, first begin with learning the names of things.

The scripture gives us the outlines, the framework, the first principles. But because we are image-bearers of God, we are called to use wisdom and give things names as we study them.

Classifying biblical concepts is not being “worldly”. It’s called wisdom, and it is what we are called to do. I thank God for those who have spent their lives studying and classifying human behavior. The bible says that Jesus knew the hearts of men, and answered accordingly. We don’t have that ability, because we are finite. So we are called to listen, to classify, to stop our mouths, to hear what others might have to say.

But that takes work. It is a lot easier to simply classify all opposition as heretical, cult-like and evil and be done with it. But this keeps us steadfastly bound to our ignorance and happily immune from loving our neighbor.

God would have us reach outside our little bubbles and see that there is a huge world out there that cannot be explained by Christianized behaviorialism. Skinner is not the gospel, no matter how you baptize him.

Think about it.

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On being a human

Jesus, the Eternal Word of God, who is God and who is with God, became flesh. He was the true Israel of God, the true Son of God, succeeding where Adam failed, “Like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted.”
He, then, is the true Image-bearer of God, who came to restore to us the fullness of our humanity that we lost after the fall.

This is a deep subject, that will take further study. Pick up Colossians, to start with…

If this is true, then that means that Christ came to make us fully human again, instead of the twisted caricature that sin turned us into (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:10)

And if that is true, then why is it that so many conversations with Christians sound like their bodies have been invaded by aliens and they are trying to learn what it means to be human?

Think about it. There is a quick pause, as if they are thinking to themselves, “How would a human respond?” and they almost get it right, but not quite.

Maybe it’s just a Reformed thing…
I, for one, think that we should probably quit putting on some kind of a weird front, and just admit that we like Redbone, Dean Koontz, Stranger Things and let the chips fall where they may.

So today I’m coming out. I’m a human being. I like music and art and best-selling novels. I am currently binge-watching ER. I missed it when it first came out so Hulu is catching me up.

I love seeing God’s image in his creation. I love watching creatures create beauty, sound, lights, color, characters
I’m not afraid of catching sin through my eyes and ears. I have enough of it in my heart, but my savior is greater than my heart and has made me fully human again.
Praise his name forever!!

Now go be a human again.

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Filed under Anthropology, Men and women

More notes on a remarkable book

So I finally finished reading “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” As I said in a previous post, I would let you know if I found anything goofy. Good news! Nothing goofy here. Just solid theology and an outstanding exhortation to all of us. Aimee does an admirable work here with human nature, the nature of salvation and sanctification, the holy catholic church and the communion of the saints. As I have said before, I don’t write book reviews, since I have completely forgotten how since my college days, but please go get this book and read through it. You won’t regret it.

I do have a few thoughts on the reaction to the book – in the myriad of blogs, tweets and comments, which I found quite distressing.

First, I am distressed and how many professing Christians seem to be completely obsessed by sex. It makes me sad that we can’t discuss friendship between men and women without “sex getting in the way”. We are obsessed with it. It occupies all of our thoughts and every waking moment. Aimee’s warning is proven by the aftermath. The modern evangelical is totally obsessed with sex. It’s sad to me.

Second, I am distressed by how many pastors confess that they cannot be trusted alone with a woman. Oh, they don’t put it exactly like that. They say, “I never text a woman. That’s how adultery starts.”

Or “I will never be alone with a woman, that’s how adultery starts.”

Or “I would never pick up a woman to give her a ride. That’s how adultery starts.”

So I would like to translate this for the layman. “I, a minister of the gospel, am so out of control and untrustworthy, that you cannot leave your wife or your daughters alone in my vicinity. I couldn’t even give them a ride to the hospital, because it is possible that I would be overcome with lust and attack them in the car.”

Really?

Why, then, are these guys ministers? So, you in the congregation, do yourself a favor. Whenever you hear an ordained minister confess that he has no self-control, and that he is so obsessed with sex that he cannot be trusted giving your daughter a ride to the hospital, or sending a text to your sister or wife, then please remove him from office. Why is he a shepherd to begin with?

And third, we really need to understand love and hate.

I was thinking this through as I was reading Aimee’s book. The Heidelberg Catechism says that we are “prone by nature to hate God and our neighbor.” God created us to love him with our whole heart, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But when man fell, he became obsessed with himself. He became a fool, and said in his heart “There is no God. I am, and there is none like me. (Psalm 14:1; Isaiah 47:7-8).

When we are redeemed from our sin and misery by Christ, we are taken out of ourselves and our obsessing with ourselves, and our thoughts are directed outwards, first to God and then to our neighbor. This is love. When our affections are placed upon someone other than ourselves.

John wrote,

9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.
10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.
11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. (1 Jn. 2:9-11 KJV)

So here is what I am thinking. When we are born again, when we are walking in the light, we become far less obsessed about ourselves and our “purity” and far more interested in the duties we owe to God and the duties we owe to our neighbor.

This is really what concerns me about current evangelical ethics. We have become so self-absorbed and narcissistic that when we see a woman broken down on the side of the road, our first thought is “How will this affect my purity?”

Do you see the problem? It seems that this is hatred. It seems that this is the problem that Jesus had with the Pharisees. He said,

23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matt. 23:23 KJV)

The tithe, which is the duty we owe to God, was to be paid. But not as an excuse to act in hatred or indifference towards our neighbors in need. We might use as an excuse that we are very concerned with our purity, because it is the duty we owe to God, but we must remember what John wrote – this is a false dichotomy.

20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 Jn. 4:20 KJV)

As I see it, this is the problem with current evangelical ethics. We are so concerned with our own personal purity, that we turn our backs on those in need. So we have become exactly like the Priest or Levite who wouldn’t cross the road to help a man in need because of their obsession with purity.

We would empty our diaconal account to make sure someone is not cremated, while abused women and children starve for lack of resources. We pass by a woman in need because we fear that we might start the neighbors talking – or worse, that we might lose control and attack her, apparently….

I don’t get it. We obsess over whether Rahab sinned by telling a lie, even though the alternative would have been the death of the spies. We say to God,

‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed.
25 ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’ (Matt. 25:24-25 NAS)

But when you say that, be prepared for the answer from the Master:

‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no seed.
27 ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.
28 ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’
(Matt. 25:26-28 NAS)

Honestly, it is easier to obsess over your own personal “purity” than it is to reach out to a neighbor in love. It is easier to hide the talent in the earth. You can’t get hurt that way. You won’t catch adultery that way. You can keep everything the way that it is and not be bothered.

But you can’t love that way. The true motivation isn’t purity, it is laziness and wickedness. Jesus calls it what it is.

This is the real problem. I’m glad that Aimee wrote about it.

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Filed under Men and women, Pastoral ministry

Transformed somethin’…

My wife reads me certain things from a very popular blog-site. I won’t tell you what it is because I don’t want it to get any clicks. This blogger has tens of thousands of followers. I thought she was simply a fringe kook, but apparently she is being followed by quite a few people – many of whom call themselves “reformed”. The claws come out if you try to talk sense to any of them.

(Once again, to every unbeliever out there – this is not Christianity. This is simply paganism under Jesus name. If you want to know what Christianity is, pick up a Heidelberg Catechism, or PM me)

So anyway, yesterday this woman wrote that higher education for women is contrary to God’s will. Anything beyond high school. As is working in a career. I think she thinks you can have a job if absolutely necessary – like to put your man through seminary – just as long as it isn’t a “career”.

While I still wait for all of the prooftexts condemning women who educate themselves, I would like to remind you all that neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor any of the apostles thought the same thing. Very briefly, with little comment, here are some women who were educated beyond high school. It’s almost as if they are image bearers of God, and have brains and gifts and abilities all their own! (sarcasm alert)

Jesus doesn’t  want you to just turn your brain off and do what the men tell you. He expects all of us, men and women alike, to use our talents for the kingdom of God, whatever those talents might be (Matthew 25). Remember what he said to the one that was afraid and buried his talent in the earth?

The Christian life is to be a life of joy and gratitude for what God has done. Rejoice greatly, O virgin daughter of Zion!

Don’t let anyone turn it into slavery, the bondage of rules and regulations. That isn’t what Christianity is. It is love and joy and peace with God!

Anyway, here are a few scripture passages:

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
(Acts 16:13-15 KJV)

Astounding! They actually sought out the women’s Bible study down by the river and taught them! They didn’t use the pink bibles, and they didn’t tell them to go home. They taught them.

They followed the example of their Lord:

7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (Jn. 4:7-10 KJV)

According to the Pharisees (and the followers of the aforementioned blog) this woman had three strikes against her. She was a woman. She was a Samaritan (not a good Jew) and she was a sinner. She was living with a man who was not her husband!

But Jesus spoke to her. He gave her a master’s level education on cleanliness, worship, liturgy and calling. Scholars have studied his words to this woman for centuries. He certainly did not water it down for her “simple mind to understand”. He spoke to her as an image-bearer of God, expecting her to understand and act according.

She did, by the way, and witnessed to everyone in her village. I can’t wait to meet her in heaven.

Here’s another one:

38 Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
(Lk. 10:38-42 KJV)

 

This one astounds me. So many pastors, women’s ministry leaders, bloggers, and authors spend countless hours teaching our daughters to be good “Martha’s”.

But look at this. Jesus wants his daughters to imitate MARY. She was sitting at his feet.

As a side note, this was the traditional position for a rabbi and a disciple. Mary was a disciple! No self-respecting Rabbi would take a woman as a disciple. But Mary did not simply glean the leftovers of what he was teaching the men. She took the position of a disciple, sitting at his feet. And he was teaching HER!

Let those words sink into your ears.

Jesus expects all of his children to use every gift that was given to them. This is not at all to denigrate or despise mothers, homemakers, wives. This is a calling I greatly admire.

But the greatest calling of all is the calling to sit at Jesus feet as his disciple and receive the greatest seminary education from his school.

For your secondary calling, whatever you do, do it with your might to the glory of God. Educate yourself, get to a church that values you and your gifts. If the pastor won’t talk to you, find another church. Get some excellent books on theology and learn who our God is. Knowledge will free you from bondage.

I could write of many, many more. I could tell you of Deborah and Huldah, of Rebekah and Leah. I could tell you of Jael. I could tell you of Mary, and Mary Magdelene, and Joanna, and the other women that followed him from town to town as his disciples. Those who were in the upper room, and also spoke in tongues as the first Christian missionaries.

I could even mention that Sapphira was killed by the Holy Spirit for turning her brain off and listening to her husband. She should have cast a vote against him. It would have spared her life (Acts 5:1-11)

Our goal on this earth is to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Jesus came to transform us to His image, which is the fullness of the image of God. He came to restore us to full humanity – and this includes his daughters, as well as his sons.

So please, quit using the Bible to continue the Victorian view of women. You are so much better than that!

You are strong, capable, intelligent, wise and quite competent to learn from the school of Christ. You are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and given every gift to do the work that He has called you to do. You are a Christian – a partaker of Christ’s anointing. And as such, you also are a prophet, priest and king, with all of the rights and responsibilities of such.

 

By the way, you can also have a career, wear pants, put on makeup and cut your hair as well. Away with every modern Pharisee of every stripe.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1 KJV)

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Filed under Men and women

When you honor your ministry more than you honor God…

12 Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD (1 Sam. 2:12 NAS)

Eli was the High Priest during the years of the Judges. Samuel was not yet born. The Temple had not yet been built, but the tabernacle that Bezalel built in the wilderness was erected in Shiloh. This was where God met with his people. The sacrifices were offered; families ate the peace offerings together in fellowship with the Lord. The word of the Lord was taught.

But something was rotten.

Eli is an old man, and his sons are preparing to take over the priesthood during his retirement. But they are “worthless men” (lit, sons of Belial). Instead of simply saying that they were worthless, the sacred text tells us exactly what the problem was. It is heartbreaking.

First, they abused the families coming to fellowship with God. The families would bring a peace offering as their feast before the Lord. By the law of Moses, part of that offering was to go to the priests. But the sons of Eli demanded more. They threatened violence on those who sought to correct them.

16 And if the man said to him, “They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,” then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.” (1 Sam. 2:16 NAS)

The second problem was similar to the first. There were women who gathered at the tabernacle who served God is some capacity. They were “warrior women of Shiloh

And the sons of Eli were raping them. The sacred text says, “They lay with them”, but the dynamic between the high priest and the women was such that rape is not too strong a word. What choice would they have had? Would these two wicked men, who threatened to take meat by force just stand back and ask politely when it came to the women there?

So that was the dynamic. These two men, who were in place to serve God in the highest position of honor – representing the mercy and love and justice and covenant faithfulness of God to the people of God – were worthless. They used their position for their own gratification. they enriched themselves and sated their own ruthless lusts with the bodies of God’s people.

They acted as if their ministry was their own personal playground, rather than the representation of Christ in Shiloh.

And God took pleasure in destroying them. That is what the sacred text says (1 Samuel 2:25). And it is a terrifying thought.

Why was Eli condemned? Eli did an investigation. He established the facts. He rebuked his sons. He rebuked his sons strongly.

But the law of Moses said that they were to be removed from office, taken outside the city, and stoned to death. They were to be reported to the proper authorities and were liable to civil penalties for the evil that they inflicted upon Israel. They were to be removed from office.

But Eli concluded his investigation. Rebuked his sons. Sealed the report. And they continued doing what they were doing.

And God told Eli

29 ‘Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?’ (1 Sam. 2:29).

Eli honored his ministry, his family, his tabernacle, more than he honored God. Think of the scandal! How could God’s name survive if it were publicly known what the sons are doing? No. They need to stop. My heart goes out to the victims. But we really have to keep this quiet – for the sake of the ministry.

And so God intervened, and it was hard. Hophni and Phinehas were both killed in battle. Eli hears the news and breaks his neck in a fall. The ark of the Lord is captured by the Philistines. God removed his presence from Israel because of the wickedness of the priests.

There are many similarities. Pastors continue to threaten and abuse. They make themselves fat through fraud, deceit and threats. Many who say, “Enough” are threatened with excommunication or driven out all-together.

Boys and girls continue to be abused by the thousands by leaders in every denomination. And the Elis of the world know about it.

The investigations are done. The leaders are rebuked. The reports are sealed. The abuse continues.

Because far too often we honor the ministry more than we honor God.

And God hates it.

Paul said that if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged (1 Cor. 11:31). If we do not cast out the sons of worthlessness from our midst, God does. And all who were complicit by their silence will also bear their judgment.

There are those whom God delights in destroying. That is a terrifying thought. It is also terrifying to think that far too often the people of God are standing with those whom God would delight in destroying.

Such a thing should not happen in the church.

For all of the families who have been threatened and cast out; for all of the women who have been molested in the “service of the Lord”, know this: God isn’t sealing and ignoring the report. He sees your tears and he hears your cry.

He has not yet acted because he is longsuffering and merciful. But he will act. He will come in judgment.

The Son of David, Jehovah himself, our Lord Jesus – both true and eternal God and the Son of David in one person – is the King we desire. He isn’t fooled. He doesn’t ignore the cries of the needy. He isn’t fooled by false words.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 72, describing his reign.

2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.
3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.
4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor.
5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.
7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. (Ps. 72:2-7 KJV)

Even now, although there is much that is not right, we see the Son at work exposing evil, bringing justice. And that work has just begun.

We will continue, as long as we have breath, to expose evil, reflecting God’s justice and righteousness as his image-bearers.

But ultimately, our hope is that the King is coming. He brings justice with his arm. He sees. He knows. He isn’t mocked. He isn’t fooled.

12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. (Ps. 2:12 KJV)

He is longsuffering. But the offer of peace does not last forever.

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Filed under Abuse, assault, justice

Chantry, Hezekiah and Chloe

When thoughts collide…

Last week I was preparing for my Sunday School teaching on Hezekiah and the siege of Jerusalem. As I was preparing, I was struck by this message from Isaiah to Hezekiah:

Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard (2 Kings 19:20)

Hezekiah was in bad trouble. Sennacherib had conquered the whole world, and he was unstoppable. He had now surrounded Jerusalem and gave Hezekiah the terms of absolute surrender. There was no strength left in Hezekiah.

And Hezekiah took the letter demanding his surrender and laid it on the altar of God, crying out to the Creator of Heaven and Earth and telling God the problem. He spoke honestly and directly.

God delights when we call upon him. God takes pleasure in our prayers, when we speak to him honestly and directly. When we are in trouble, and when we are weak and helpless, fearful and doubting, in pain and in distress – God would have us tell him about it. He is our God, and we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

14 Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:
15 And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. (Ps. 50:14-15 KJV)

But this goes against the culture of most churches. If you have been following the Tom Chantry trial, you see what so many people have suffered. People aren’t believed, they are silenced, when they complain about mistreatment or abuse, they are told to be quiet. To be thankful and put off their “bitterness” and their “complaining spirit”.

And so people are being groomed to take abuse and mistreatment, and put on the happy face. Let’s all play happy families. Only sinners are in trouble. Only sinners complain. Only unthankful people are unhappy.

But Isaiah didn’t rebuke Hezekiah for being bitter or for complaining. Hezekiah was in trouble, and God heard him because he spoke the truth to God.

And while I was thinking about that, I was also thinking about the household of Chloe.

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house  of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. (1 Cor. 1:11 KJV)

If Paul had been a modern church planter, 1 Corinthians would never have been written. Instead, Paul would have rebuked Chloe’s household for gossip and bitterness.

How many of you have heard these?

“Now, Chloe. Have you gone through the steps of Matthew 18? I don’t want to hear about this.”

“This is just gossip. You need to repent of your bitterness.”

“We are right in the middle of a fund-raising campaign for the saints in Jerusalem. We can’t have this negative talk and gossip going on. It will hurt the Jerusalem Famine Ministry.”

“Chloe, have you spoken to a man about these things? In fact, it isn’t even your household. You need to go submit to your husband and let the men handle it. When women usurp authority, all sorts of gossip and complaining start happening.”

“I know the man who you say was sleeping with his step-mother. He’s a good man. Remember that he is innocent until proven guilty. I know everyone is talking about it, but we really need to get a handle on the undisciplined talk before it destroys a good man’s name.”

“Chloe, I can’t hear this unless you have two or three witnesses. No, the children don’t count. No, the women don’t count. No, those men don’t count. They’re just bitter.”

And on and on it goes.

Aren’t you glad that Paul wasn’t a modern Big Eva guy?

“I hear that Paul is coming to Corinth! Did you get your tickets yet? I hear he will have another epistle to the Thessalonians on sale in the foyer. His conferences sell out every year!”

I thank God for the pastors that are far more concerned about truth than their reputations or their bank accounts!

Hezekiah spoke the truth and was heard, even though he was surrounded by Assyrians. Chloe’s household spoke the truth.

It was when David finally spoke the truth to God that God heard him (Psalm 51).

In fact, all of the Psalms are about speaking the truth to God. Tell God what is going on. Tell God the truth.

And find a church that is more interested in the truth than in the cover-up. That is more interested in the health of the sheep than the hurt feelings of the wolf. That is more interested in being faithful to God than in their reputations and bank accounts.

We need more pastors that want to know the truth about your marriage, your families, your fears and your doubts and your struggles. This is what the church is for. God is not interested in the happy façade. He wants the truth.

Listen to Chloe. You just might learn something.

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Filed under Pastoral ministry

Reading notes and a remarkable book…

I am doing something quite rare for me. I am reading slowly! I am reading through Why Can’t We Be Friends (Aimee Byrd) and I am actually taking my time through it. It is really quite remarkable. Normally, it takes me a few hours to read through a book, but I find myself reading one or two sections at a time and thinking deeply about it.

Here are some things I would like to say. If you do not understand the relationship between faith and works, read this book.

If you do not understand what purity is, read this book.

If you are unclear about the gospel, read this book.

Aimee has done something very rare here. She has written a book about the relationships between men and women and has applied the Reformed Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and our sanctification to the relationship of the sexes. I have never seen anyone do that before.

Every other book I’ve read is EITHER about sanctification, OR it is about the rules on how to keep yourself pure through the law – but to connect purity with the GOSPEL?? and the work of the HOLY SPIRIT??

It is almost like she knows something about theology and the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit!

You can tell she is on the right track because modern Pharisees are apparently ready to string her up for it. When the gospel is taught, the Judaizers always light the torches and sharpen the pitchforks.

But she is absolutely right. Our purity is in our relationship with God, not in outward, extra biblical rules. In fact, the extra biblical rules, like the Billy Graham rule, simply give the appearance of purity without dealing with the more difficult problem of the heart. The gospel goes to the heart.

At any rate, I haven’t finished yet. I am still thinking through her brilliant chapter on purity, and thinking about what Jesus said,

“Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.” (Matt. 23:26 NAB)

Go buy this book. Read it slowly, and then read it again.

By the way, this isn’t a book review. I haven’t written one of those since college and don’t even remember how. I said that I would never write one again, and I have kept my promise to myself. This is simply a note of my thoughts so far and my recommendation to you.

Fabulous book, so far. (If she gets goofy towards the end, I’ll let you know – but I’m not expecting her to).

Thank you, Aimee, for writing it.

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Filed under Book Notes

God in three persons

Since the false teaching known as Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) was promulgated by Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology, it has been used to wrongly subjugate women and keep them enslaved. “Equal in being, but subordinate in role.” You can say it over and over, and you can enforce it with threats and intimidation but it still does not make it orthodox or true.

False doctrine always leads to bondage. It is the truth that sets one free. So we need a primer on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

There is one eternal being, which we call God. There is only one. He is eternal, simple, infinite in power and majesty. He is everywhere present, beyond all space and time. He is sovereign and does all his good pleasure. He has attributes that belong to him alone. Immutable, infinite, incomprehensible, simple, independent. There is only one being with those attributes. He is not divided, he is not composed of parts, he is not physical, but spiritual.

When we are describing the nature of God, we use the term “essence” or “being”. There is only one being, only one essence, only one will, only one power, only one authority – it is the authority of God. Scripture nowhere speaks of the wills of God. It is only the will of God. Scripture does not speak of the authorities of God, but the authority and power of God. There are not three almighty beings. There is only one.

Hear, O Israel. The Lord, our God, the Lord is One.

And from the very beginning, this one, true eternal God has revealed himself in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. There are not three gods, or three parts of God. But three “subsistences” if you will. Three separate, distinct persons. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God. And yet there are not three gods; but one God.

When it comes to defining exactly what a person is, we come away a bit stumped, since there really is nothing in creation quite like it. We say “persons” so we are not silent. We know that there is an “I” a “you” and a “he” in the Holy Trinity. We know that the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit. They are distinct and in a relationship of love with one another, for God is love.

It is quite beyond our comprehension.

But it is God’s will to reveal himself to mankind. So the second person of the trinity, of the same essence as the Father, took upon himself the very nature of man in the womb of the virgin Mary. There are not two Christs, but one. Jesus of Nazareth. He remains true and eternal God, even while in the womb of Mary, and even in the sepulchre in Jerusalem. How the living and true God shed his blood is contained in the mystery of the incarnation. He who is life was truly dead for three days.

In the one person of Jesus Christ, there are two distinct natures: true man and true God. Everything you can say about man, you can say about Jesus, except for sin. He was weak, hungry, thirsty, poor, ignorant, liable to death and suffering, submissive, obedient. And at the same time, he was also true and eternal God. Everything you can say about God you can say about Jesus of Nazareth: Eternal, sovereign, omnipotent, creator and sustainer of the universe, simple, uncreated, everywhere present.

And these two natures exist in one person, without confusion, without division, without separation, without change.

This is a great mystery that is more fit to be wondered at than explained any further. The all-wise, all knowing God had to learn his alphabet. The God who is life died and shed his blood. He who knew no sin became sin for us. It staggers the mind.

The person, Jesus of Nazareth, was submissive to the Father with all obedience. He kept the covenant of works perfectly in our place. He obeyed perfectly. Our salvation depends upon it.

The problem with ESS is that it takes that submission, that belongs to the incarnate Christ, and moves it into his divine nature, into eternity, apart from the incarnation. This makes the divine nature submissive. That is, not divine at all.

The orthodox speak of a covenant of Redemption in the eternal counsels of the Trinity, but we must understand that without doing injustice to the sovereignty of the Person of Christ. The covenant of Redemption is this. The Father, representing the Triune God, enters into covenant with the Son, representing his people. The Son will take upon himself human nature and suffer and die for the sins of his people. The Father will exalt him and give him a name which is above every name.

This also is a great mystery, and cannot be pried into any more that what is revealed. We know a little about the divine counsels, when the curtain is drawn back at creation and we hear, “Let us make man in our image.”

There was no authority and submission, no melding of diverse wills, no submitting personalities. A simple statement of divine intention.

Any submission in Jesus Christ is attributed to his office as our mediator, the god/man by virtue of the holy conception and birth of Christ in the womb of Mary the virgin.

For further information, please contact me. The creeds of the church are very helpful and clear.

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Filed under Christology, Eternal Subordination, Eternal Subordination, Gospel, Trinity