Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ January 14, 2020

Here are a few of my favorite online finds…

“How can I know with certainty what the Bible is saying? How can I be certain what books really belong in the Bible? How can I be sure that my interpretation of any text is correct, and, still more, what its proper application is…?” Have you ever tried to explain a biblical principle to someone only to hear the retort, “But That’s Just Your Interpretation!“? D.A. Carson has some helpful words for us in the latest issue of Themelios.

 

“Pastors, I have a plea for you. Please, love your women enough to warn them against false teachers. It isn’t enough to simply teach the good stuff; if they don’t know what is out there that is not good and why it isn’t good? They will continue to fall for it.” Check out Amy Spreeman’s article, When Seemingly Solid Pastors Fail to Protect Women.

 

“Christianity is sexist!” “The Bible is patriarchal and just wants to keep women down!” We hear these tired arguments trotted out again and again, but are they really true? No, Eric Davis explains in his excellent article over at Cripplegate, 10 Reasons Why the Bible Regards Women Higher than All Other Systems, “The fact is…the Bible regards women higher than any other ideology, religion, philosophy, or system in history. Nothing teaches a higher view of women than biblical Christianity.”

 

Crossway has an interesting infographic for us on a study they conducted on prayer: “Over 14,000 people recently shared about various aspects of their prayer lives with us…we invite you to dig into the data, looking at established prayer habits, common pain points, and useful practices and tools for prayer.” Take a look at Infographic: How Is Your Prayer Life?.

 

Hermeneutics is the lens through which we view Scripture. Dr. Dane Ortlund helpfully explains some right and wrong lenses to use when studying Scripture in 6 Ways Not to Read the Bible (a brief excerpt from a longer seminar). Are you handling Scripture correctly?


The resources listed above are not to be understood as a blanket endorsement for the websites on which they appear, or of everything the author or subject of the resource says or does. I do not endorse any person, website, or resource that conflicts with Scripture or the theology outlined in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.
Holidays (Other), Top 10

Top 10 4th of July Twisted Scriptures

(If you’re participating in the 1&2 Timothy study,
lesson 11 is coming your way tomorrow.)

Originally published July 7, 2017

Independence day is my favorite of the non-major holidays. Fireworks, picnics, barbecues, and what other holiday has such grand music that nearly the whole country can enjoy and sing together? It’s the one day of the year when we, as Americans, can set aside our political differences and bickering and celebrate our God-given freedom to have political differences and bickering.

It is good to thank God for the blessing of liberty. It is right to be patriotic and celebrate our nation’s founding. It is evangelistic to use Independence Day as a springboard for explaining to people how they can find real freedom in Christ.

And with that freedom – our freedom in Christ and our freedom as American citizens – comes great responsibility. Namely, the responsibility not to throw all of those things into the Cuisinart at once and turn them into an Americhristian smoothie with red, white, and blue sprinkles.

There is a vast difference between American political freedom and the spiritual freedom found only in Christ. But when we lift Bible verses out of their context and stick a flag behind them in celebration of Independence Day, we conflate the two. Weaker brothers and sisters in the faith who already muddle American citizenship with heavenly citizenship are further confirmed in their confusion. We should be making these distinctions clearer, not encouraging their commingling.

Yet this is exactly what happens on Christian web sites, social media, and even in our churches as the 4th of July draws near. Sisters, this should not be so.

None of the verses in the Bible which contain words like “freedom” and “liberty” are referring to American political freedom. None. The verses containing these words are usually speaking of freedom from sin in Christ, freedom from Mosaic Covenant law, or freedom from literal slavery. We must use and understand them in context, or we are doing violence to the text and treating God’s holy Word with apathetic irreverence.

Here are the top 10 Scriptures I observed being twisted on the 4th of July.

1. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Most of the memes using this verse omit the first phrase, because even including those six extra words tends to give too much context to the verse for the person trying to make it about American freedom. If you read all of chapter three, or even just verses 12-18, you can see that this verse is about being set free in Christ from the demands of the Mosaic Covenant. Although 2 Corinthians 3:17 was misused by many, the first place I saw it was was from Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 Facebook page – emblematic of why Christian women should not receive Bible teaching from anyone associated with this organization.

2. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Most incorrect citations of this verse include only its first phrase. Indeed, Christ has set us free for freedom, but freedom from what? English tyranny? Political oppression? No, as the rest of the verse goes on to say, Christ has set us free from the yoke of slavery to the Law. In Christ, we are free to stop striving to be good enough to earn right standing with Him, and to rest in His finished work on the cross to clothe us in His righteousness. That’s way better than American constitutional freedoms because that kind of freedom is available to anyone, in any country, at any time in history who repents and places her faith in Christ for salvation.

3. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

This is a great verse that Christians can live out in service to our families, our church families, and even our fellow Americans. But we need to understand that when this verse says we were “called to freedom” it’s not talking about the rallying cry of the American Revolution. The freedom we were called to – as with Galatians 5:1 – is the freedom from striving to obey the Law to obtain righteousness. But just because we’re no longer under the constraints of the Law doesn’t mean we can go out and sin at will, or indulge the flesh by doing whatever we feel like doing. That’s antinomianism. Instead we’re to use our freedom from the Law as an opportunity to deny self and serve others.

4. if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

I’ve written at length on this verse in my article Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s Promise to American Christians Today? The short answer is “no,” it is not about America. Although there’s plenty that Christians can learn from this verse, it is a promise to Israel, as the surrounding context clearly indicates.

5. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Even adding just two verses (34-35) to this one give enough context to help us understand that Jesus is talking about being freed from slavery to sin through the salvation only He can provide – the salvation that is about to cost Him the agony of scourging and death on a cross. It is appalling that this verse – spoken by our Lord Himself, about the earth-shattering, awe-provoking amazingness that is the forgiveness of sins by the grace of God in Christ – should be so lowered and sullied as to try to make it refer to American freedom.

6. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16

The context of this verse is similar to Galatians 5:13 (#3 above), but it adds a couple of extra facets. If you read verses 9-17 of 1 Peter 2, you’ll notice the same instruction to live as people who have been set free in Christ and to use that freedom in Christ to serve others. Why? “…So that when [the Gentiles] speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God… For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (12,15) When we use our freedom in Christ to serve and do good, it is a testimony of the gospel to the lost. This passage also exhorts us to be subject to our government and our political leaders. And if you know anything about the first century Roman Empire, you know its Christian citizens (Peter’s audience) knew nothing of the political freedoms American Christians experience.

7. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lordthe people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12

In the immediate context and application of this verse, “nation” and “the people” is referring to Israel. Examining verses 10, 16, and 17 alongside verse 12, it’s a safe assumption that the psalmist had observed some part of Israel’s history that included war against neighboring nations. And, certainly, any Old Testament Scripture referring to the people God “has chosen as His heritage” could only be speaking of Israel. America didn’t even exist at that time, nor has God, at any point in Scripture, said that America is His chosen people or His heritage. If you want to think of a New Testament “nation” or “people” God has blessed and chosen as His “heritage,” that would be the church- the worldwide body of born again believers. While, ostensibly, any nation whose God is the Lord would be blessed, we have only to look back at Old Testament history to see how unlikely it would be for America’s God to be the Lord. Israel was God’s chosen people and heritage. They were “the nation whose God is the Lord”- literally. They were a theocracy – under the direct rule of God Himself – yet they rejected Him in favor of earthly kings and repeated cycles of idol worship. And we think America is capable of becoming “one nation under God”?

8. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. Leviticus 25:10

It’s pretty easy to see why only the phrase “proclaim liberty through the land to all its inhabitants” is lifted out of this verse. It is obviously talking about Israel’s Year of Jubilee which has never been practiced in America because we are not, and never have been, under the Mosaic Covenant. Even Israel doesn’t observe the Year of Jubilee any more. The use of this verse is simply a case of someone looking for a Scripture to attach to a patriotic meme, doing a concordance search for the word “liberty,” and whittling away everything in the verse that is obviously un-American.

9. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, Luke 4:18

Except for the fact that this verse includes the word “liberty” or “free,” depending on your translation, it’s incomprehensible to me that anyone would see this as a verse to use in the celebration of Independence Day. This verse doesn’t even make any sense when applied to America. It’s not about a country, it’s about a person: Jesus. Jesus spoke these words. He’s quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, which is a prophecy of the Messiah to come. If you read a mere three more verses of Luke 4, you’ll see in verse 21 that Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Meaning what? Jesus is saying, “You know that Messiah you’ve been waiting on for centuries, Israel? I’m it. I’m here.” And the liberty or freedom He’s talking about? Once again, it’s freedom from sin and freedom from the Law. Because that’s what Jesus came to give us.

10. Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:5 

Nope, this one isn’t about American political freedom either. A couple of things to notice: first, this is clearly set in the context of Israel’s Old Testament history, as verses 2-3, with their references to “Israel” and “Aaron”, indicate. Next, look at the personal pronouns, not only in verse 5, but also in verses 6-7: “I,” “me,” “my.” This verse is not about America being set free from England, or even about Israel being set free from one of its enemies. This is a descriptive passage about an individual – the psalmist – being in some sort of distressing situation, and God answering his prayer for deliverance. Have you ever prayed that God would deliver you from a difficult time in your life? If He did, do you think that unique situation is applicable to anyone else, much less an entire country? This passage is kind of the same thing. The psalmist is sharing something God did for him, not commenting on politics or even assuring other individuals that God will do the same for them.

Memorial Day Bonus:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Memorial Day is a solemn and precious day to honor those who have laid down their lives for our freedom as Americans. Every male member of my immediate family has served or is serving in the military, and I know just how blessed I am that they have all returned safe and sound. It takes a special kind of person to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from that. But as meaningful as that is, it can’t – and shouldn’t – compare to Christ laying down His life to make sinners His friends. And that’s what this verse is about. For twelve verses, Jesus has talked to His disciples about abiding in Him because He loves them so much. In verse 13, He talks about the proof of His love for them: He’s about to give His life as the atoning sacrifice for their sin. He wants them to love each other the same way – that for Christ’s sake, in Christ’s name – they would be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. Eleven of the twelve of them would go on to do so. When we use this verse in reference to Memorial Day – as deeply consequential as that day is – it tarnishes the infinitely more important sacrifice of Christ by comparing a mere man’s offering of his life for temporal, earthly freedom, to God’s offering of His sinless Son to purchase for eternity the redemption of sinful rebels.

I’m proud and grateful to be an American. I’m thankful for this nation and the freedoms we have as citizens. But for everyone who’s a citizen of the Kingdom of God, our loyalty and reverence must lie with Him first and must surpass all other loyalties – to family, to friends, and even to country. That means we reverence God’s holy Word by being good students of it and handling it correctly, by preserving and standing up for its meaning and intentions, and by refusing to manipulate it for our own lesser purposes- even such a noble purpose as patriotism.


Photo Credits
The references below are for the purpose of photo credits only. I have not examined most of these sites and do not endorse any which contradict my beliefs as cited in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.

1. https://www.facebook.com/Prov31Ministries/photos/a.390955286960.162138.99550061960/10154692176801961/?type=1&theater
2. https://stjosephslanc.com/july-5-2015-the-fourteenth-sunday-in-ordinary-time/
3. https://www.facebook.com/ConcernedWomenforAmerica/photos/a.119423980992.123545.77903485992/10155305900670993/?type=3&theater
5. https://twitter.com/robertjeffress/status/746696996208074752
6. http://dailybiblememe.com/tag/1-peter-216/
7. http://simplylkj.blogspot.com/2016/07/happy-4th-of-july.html
8. https://thepatriotstrumpet.com/
9. http://www.klove.com/
10. http://heavy.com/news/2016/07/patriotic-bible-verses-quotes-scripture-independence-day-4th-fourth-of-july/
Memorial Day Bonus: http://unitetheusa.org/id165.html

Top 10

Top 10 4th of July Twisted Scriptures

I’m taking some time off this week, so there’s no new lesson in our Women of Genesis Bible study. But take some time to study these verses – often misused for the 4th of July – about our freedom in Christ.

Originally published July 7, 2017

Independence day is my favorite of the non-major holidays. Fireworks, picnics, barbecues, and what other holiday has such grand music that nearly the whole country can enjoy and sing together? It’s the one day of the year when we, as Americans, can set aside our political differences and bickering and celebrate our God-given freedom to have political differences and bickering.

It is good to thank God for the blessing of liberty. It is right to be patriotic and celebrate our nation’s founding. It is evangelistic to use Independence Day as a springboard for explaining to people how they can find real freedom in Christ.

And with that freedom – our freedom in Christ and our freedom as American citizens – comes great responsibility. Namely, the responsibility not to throw all of those things into the Cuisinart at once and turn them into an Americhristian smoothie with red, white, and blue sprinkles.

There is a vast difference between American political freedom and the spiritual freedom found only in Christ. But when we lift Bible verses out of their context and stick a flag behind them in celebration of Independence Day, we conflate the two. Weaker brothers and sisters in the faith who already muddle American citizenship with heavenly citizenship are further confirmed in their confusion. We should be making these distinctions clearer, not encouraging their commingling.

Yet this is exactly what happens on Christian web sites, social media, and even in our churches as the 4th of July draws near. Sisters, this should not be so.

None of the verses in the Bible which contain words like “freedom” and “liberty” are referring to American political freedom. None. The verses containing these words are usually speaking of freedom from sin in Christ, freedom from Mosaic Covenant law, or freedom from literal slavery. We must use and understand them in context, or we are doing violence to the text and treating God’s holy Word with apathetic irreverence.

Here are the top 10 Scriptures I observed being twisted on the 4th of July.

1. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Most of the memes using this verse omit the first phrase, because even including those six extra words tends to give too much context to the verse for the person trying to make it about American freedom. If you read all of chapter three, or even just verses 12-18, you can see that this verse is about being set free in Christ from the demands of the Mosaic Covenant. Although 2 Corinthians 3:17 was misused by many, the first place I saw it was was from Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 Facebook page – emblematic of why Christian women should not receive Bible teaching from anyone associated with this organization.

2. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Most incorrect citations of this verse include only its first phrase. Indeed, Christ has set us free for freedom, but freedom from what? English tyranny? Political oppression? No, as the rest of the verse goes on to say, Christ has set us free from the yoke of slavery to the Law. In Christ, we are free to stop striving to be good enough to earn right standing with Him, and to rest in His finished work on the cross to clothe us in His righteousness. That’s way better than American constitutional freedoms because that kind of freedom is available to anyone, in any country, at any time in history who repents and places her faith in Christ for salvation.

3. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

This is a great verse that Christians can live out in service to our families, our church families, and even our fellow Americans. But we need to understand that when this verse says we were “called to freedom” it’s not talking about the rallying cry of the American Revolution. The freedom we were called to – as with Galatians 5:1 – is the freedom from striving to obey the Law to obtain righteousness. But just because we’re no longer under the constraints of the Law doesn’t mean we can go out and sin at will, or indulge the flesh by doing whatever we feel like doing. That’s antinomianism. Instead we’re to use our freedom from the Law as an opportunity to deny self and serve others.

4. if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

I’ve written at length on this verse in my article Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s Promise to American Christians Today? The short answer is “no,” it is not about America. Although there’s plenty that Christians can learn from this verse, it is a promise to Israel, as the surrounding context clearly indicates.

5. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Even adding just two verses (34-35) to this one give enough context to help us understand that Jesus is talking about being freed from slavery to sin through the salvation only He can provide – the salvation that is about to cost Him the agony of scourging and death on a cross. It is appalling that this verse – spoken by our Lord Himself, about the earth-shattering, awe-provoking amazingness that is the forgiveness of sins by the grace of God in Christ – should be so lowered and sullied as to try to make it refer to American freedom.

6. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16

The context of this verse is similar to Galatians 5:13 (#3 above), but it adds a couple of extra facets. If you read verses 9-17 of 1 Peter 2, you’ll notice the same instruction to live as people who have been set free in Christ and to use that freedom in Christ to serve others. Why? “…So that when [the Gentiles] speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God… For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (12,15) When we use our freedom in Christ to serve and do good, it is a testimony of the gospel to the lost. This passage also exhorts us to be subject to our government and our political leaders. And if you know anything about the first century Roman Empire, you know its Christian citizens (Peter’s audience) knew nothing of the political freedoms American Christians experience.

7. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lordthe people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12

In the immediate context and application of this verse, “nation” and “the people” is referring to Israel. Examining verses 10, 16, and 17 alongside verse 12, it’s a safe assumption that the psalmist had observed some part of Israel’s history that included war against neighboring nations. And, certainly, any Old Testament Scripture referring to the people God “has chosen as His heritage” could only be speaking of Israel. America didn’t even exist at that time, nor has God, at any point in Scripture, said that America is His chosen people or His heritage. If you want to think of a New Testament “nation” or “people” God has blessed and chosen as His “heritage,” that would be the church- the worldwide body of born again believers. While, ostensibly, any nation whose God is the Lord would be blessed, we have only to look back at Old Testament history to see how unlikely it would be for America’s God to be the Lord. Israel was God’s chosen people and heritage. They were “the nation whose God is the Lord”- literally. They were a theocracy – under the direct rule of God Himself – yet they rejected Him in favor of earthly kings and repeated cycles of idol worship. And we think America is capable of becoming “one nation under God”?

8. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. Leviticus 25:10

It’s pretty easy to see why only the phrase “proclaim liberty through the land to all its inhabitants” is lifted out of this verse. It is obviously talking about Israel’s Year of Jubilee which has never been practiced in America because we are not, and never have been, under the Mosaic Covenant. Even Israel doesn’t observe the Year of Jubilee any more. The use of this verse is simply a case of someone looking for a Scripture to attach to a patriotic meme, doing a concordance search for the word “liberty,” and whittling away everything in the verse that is obviously un-American.

9. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, Luke 4:18

Except for the fact that this verse includes the word “liberty” or “free,” depending on your translation, it’s incomprehensible to me that anyone would see this as a verse to use in the celebration of Independence Day. This verse doesn’t even make any sense when applied to America. It’s not about a country, it’s about a person: Jesus. Jesus spoke these words. He’s quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, which is a prophecy of the Messiah to come. If you read a mere three more verses of Luke 4, you’ll see in verse 21 that Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Meaning what? Jesus is saying, “You know that Messiah you’ve been waiting on for centuries, Israel? I’m it. I’m here.” And the liberty or freedom He’s talking about? Once again, it’s freedom from sin and freedom from the Law. Because that’s what Jesus came to give us.

10. Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:5 

Nope, this one isn’t about American political freedom either. A couple of things to notice: first, this is clearly set in the context of Israel’s Old Testament history, as verses 2-3, with their references to “Israel” and “Aaron”, indicate. Next, look at the personal pronouns, not only in verse 5, but also in verses 6-7: “I,” “me,” “my.” This verse is not about America being set free from England, or even about Israel being set free from one of its enemies. This is a descriptive passage about an individual – the psalmist – being in some sort of distressing situation, and God answering his prayer for deliverance. Have you ever prayed that God would deliver you from a difficult time in your life? If He did, do you think that unique situation is applicable to anyone else, much less an entire country? This passage is kind of the same thing. The psalmist is sharing something God did for him, not commenting on politics or even assuring other individuals that God will do the same for them.

Memorial Day Bonus:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Memorial Day is a solemn and precious day to honor those who have laid down their lives for our freedom as Americans. Every male member of my immediate family has served or is serving in the military, and I know just how blessed I am that they have all returned safe and sound. It takes a special kind of person to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from that. But as meaningful as that is, it can’t – and shouldn’t – compare to Christ laying down His life to make sinners His friends. And that’s what this verse is about. For twelve verses, Jesus has talked to His disciples about abiding in Him because He loves them so much. In verse 13, He talks about the proof of His love for them: He’s about to give His life as the atoning sacrifice for their sin. He wants them to love each other the same way – that for Christ’s sake, in Christ’s name – they would be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. Eleven of the twelve of them would go on to do so. When we use this verse in reference to Memorial Day – as deeply consequential as that day is – it tarnishes the infinitely more important sacrifice of Christ by comparing a mere man’s offering of his life for temporal, earthly freedom, to God’s offering of His sinless Son to purchase for eternity the redemption of sinful rebels.

I’m proud and grateful to be an American. I’m thankful for this nation and the freedoms we have as citizens. But for everyone who’s a citizen of the Kingdom of God, our loyalty and reverence must lie with Him first and must surpass all other loyalties – to family, to friends, and even to country. That means we reverence God’s holy Word by being good students of it and handling it correctly, by preserving and standing up for its meaning and intentions, and by refusing to manipulate it for our own lesser purposes- even such a noble purpose as patriotism.


Photo Credits
The references below are for the purpose of photo credits only. I have not examined most of these sites and do not endorse any which contradict my beliefs as cited in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.

1. https://www.facebook.com/Prov31Ministries/photos/a.390955286960.162138.99550061960/10154692176801961/?type=1&theater
2. https://stjosephslanc.com/july-5-2015-the-fourteenth-sunday-in-ordinary-time/
3. https://www.facebook.com/ConcernedWomenforAmerica/photos/a.119423980992.123545.77903485992/10155305900670993/?type=3&theater
5. https://twitter.com/robertjeffress/status/746696996208074752
6. http://dailybiblememe.com/tag/1-peter-216/
7. http://simplylkj.blogspot.com/2016/07/happy-4th-of-july.html
8. https://thepatriotstrumpet.com/
9. http://www.klove.com/
10. http://heavy.com/news/2016/07/patriotic-bible-verses-quotes-scripture-independence-day-4th-fourth-of-july/
Memorial Day Bonus: http://unitetheusa.org/id165.html

Entertainment, Movies, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Don’t Get Your Theology from the Movies

I recently received the kindest e-mail from a sweet lady at a movie subscription service – sort of a “family-friendly” version of Netflix – asking me to write an article pointing my readers to the movie subscription service (hereafter: “MSS”) as a resource for whatever issue I was addressing in the article:

I am hoping to hear your advice on some ways to relay valuable lessons to others in a post on your page. Maybe you have used a book or a movie to help someone better understand how to deal with bullying. Or maybe you have used parables from the Bible to demonstrate how to deal with a tough situation. We would love our movies to be a resource for your readers to utilize as a tool, since we have many relevant Christian movies and shows.”

This is a brilliant and creative marketing/publicity strategy, and I really admire whoever it was at the MSS who came up with and implemented this idea. It’s grassroots, it reaches their target audience, they get to harness the creativity and energy of the bloggers they contact, and it’s free. Very smart.

Nice people, smart marketing, a variety of attractive products, the desire to help others, a company built on wholesome morality- what’s not to endorse, right? And if they were selling hand cream or light bulbs or waffle irons, I’d agree.

The thing is, when you sell something, that product is supposed to correctly fill a need your potential customers have. You sell hand cream to people with dry hands, light bulbs to people wondering why they’re sitting around in the dark, and waffle irons to people who want to enjoy breakfast in their jammies rather than driving across town to IHOP.

But this MSS is not selling you the right tool for your problem. Though I’m sure they have the noblest of intentions, they’re attempting to sell you a waffle iron to rake your yard with: movies as theology.

I like movies. I watch them all the time with my family (at home- have you seen the price of a movie ticket lately?!?!). But movies are for leisure time fun and entertainment, not for proper instruction on how to live a godly life or the way to solve personal problems, and certainly not for what to believe about God, as we’ve recently seen with The Shack debacle. When Christians have issues, questions, and problems, we don’t go to the movies, we go to the Bible.

God’s word is the primary source document for Christians. It is the authority that governs our thoughts, words, and deeds. It is the sufficient answer to any question we might have about life and godliness. Above any other advice, instruction, help, or input, we need the Bible, and we can rest assured that its counsel is always right and trustworthy since its words come straight from the lips of God.

But just for the sake of argument, let’s try it the MSS’s way. Let’s say you do have the problem of being bullied. And let’s say this MSS has a good movie about a character in similar life circumstances to yours who overcomes being bullied. So you watch it, hoping to get some advice on how to handle your own problem. You’re a Christian, so, by definition, you want to address the situation without sinning, in a way that pleases God, and, hopefully, in a way that is conducive to sharing the gospel with the bully.

How do you know whether or not the character in the movie overcame her bullying problem in a godly way? That’s right- you have to open your Bible, study it, and compare what she did in the movie with rightly handled, in context Scripture. So why not just go straight to the Source and spend the hour and a half you invested in the movie studying Scripture instead?

Another issue with watching movies to learn how to solve your problems or teach you how to live rightly is that doing so subtly trains you in poor hermeneutics. It trains you to follow the example of a character who is just as broken, sinful, and unwise as you are instead of looking directly to the perfect, holy, infallible instruction of God Himself. Which is often the way people incorrectly read the Bible.

As I’ve previously mentioned, there are two main types of Scripture: descriptive and prescriptive. Like a movie, descriptive passages describe something that happened: Noah built an ark. Esther became queen. Paul got shipwrecked. These passages simply tell us what happened to somebody. Prescriptive passages are commands or statements to obey. Don’t lie. Share the gospel. Forgive others.

If we wanted to know how to have a godly marriage, for example, we would look at passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7, and Exodus 20:14,17. These are all passages that clearly tell us what to do and what not to do in order to have a godly marriage.

What we would not do is look at David’s and Solomon’s lives and conclude that polygamy is God’s design for marriage. We would not read about Hosea and assume that God wants Christian men to marry prostitutes. We would not read the story of the woman at the well and think that being married five times and then shacking up with number six is OK with Jesus. All of which is the same reason we should not be watching movies – even “Christian” movies – as a resource for godly living.

“But,” the kind MSS lady would probably reassure me, “our MSS also has non-fiction videos of pastors and Bible teachers that could be helpful.” And indeed they do. There are a handful of documentaries on missionaries, some of the Reformers, current moral and societal issues, and Bible teaching that look like they could be solid. The problem is, they’re mixed in with the likes of Joyce Meyer, John Hagee, Henri Nouwen, Greg Laurie, a plethora of Catholic leaders, and even those who don’t claim to be Christians like Betty White, Frank Sinatra, and Liberace. The few videos with good teaching are combined with many that teach worldly ideas, signs and wonders, mysticism, Bible “codes” and “secrets,” false prophecy, faulty eschatology, and other false doctrine.

It’s a great example of why God tells Christians we’re not to receive false teachers nor to partner with them, as, sadly, this MSS has chosen to do. Mixing biblical truth with false teaching confuses people. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

When a little bit of truth is mixed in with the false, how are we to know which is which? We have to do exactly what the Bereans did with Paul- examine the teachings against Scripture, accept what matches up and reject what doesn’t. Again, why spend the time and confusion searching for, hoping you’ve found, and watching a video you’re not sure will teach you biblical truth when you could simply pick up your Bible, study it, and confidently believe what God says about the issue instead?

There are some good, clean movies on this MSS that would make for an enjoyable evening of family fun, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But for instruction in holy living and resolving the dilemmas of life in a godly way, we need to use the right tool for the job: the Bible.

Rake your yard with a rake, not a waffle iron.

 

Christian women, Church, Discernment, Guest Posts

Guest Post: Building a Biblically Healthy Women’s Ministry (by a pastor, for pastors)

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

 

Building a Biblically Healthy Women’s Ministry
(by a pastor, for pastors)

by Pastor John Chester

It is no secret that I am not a fan of discernment ministries, and that I think the concept of Biblical discernment is grossly misunderstood by many. But that in no way means that I don’t think telling truth from error and sound theology from errant (or even heretical) theology is unimportant.

And nowhere is it more important than in women’s ministry. The reason I say that is simple, more than 50% of the people in our churches are either women or they are growing into women. According to The Pew Research Center 55% of those attending Evangelical churches are women. 

Yet women’s ministry is often not thought of much by us pastors, I think because we view “women’s ministry” as a thing or program, rather than ministry to women who make up more than half of the congregation we are charged to shepherd. And so we spin it off to someone else or put it on our benign neglect list so that we can concentrate on “more important” things. But nothing is more important than the souls of the women of the church. And practically speaking, any error introduced in a women’s Bible study will work its way through whole families and infect the whole church.

With that in mind, let me offer some tips to guard against error in your church’s women’s ministry.

Preach The Bible

The pulpit sets the tone for the church and everything that the church does, or at least it should. The good news is that even the smallest church with the least talented preacher can have a strong pulpit, because the strength of the pulpit depends on what is preached, not the preacher. What the church needs is a healthy dose of Bible. And by a healthy dose, I mean all that should be preached is the Bible.

It is the Scripture that is inspired and the Word of God that is living and active, and it is the word of God that makes your pulpit strong, not your ability. No one needs your ten tips on having a more productive quiet time or your five steps toward a healthy marriage even if you sprinkle them with a few verses. The people the Lord has entrusted to you need to hear from Him, not you. Your job as a preacher is to decrease while the whole counsel of God is declared. By all means, illustrate, explain, introduce, conclude and apply the text, just stick to the text!

Why this is so important for women’s ministry and guarding the women of your church from error is that it will trickle down in to the church’s Bible studies. If on Sunday (and whenever else you preach) the women of the church get a strong dose of God’s truth, they are going to be better able to spot error and less susceptible to it. And when they see that you have a high view of Scripture, they will develop a high view of Scripture too. When they see you are a Berean who evaluates everything in light of what Scripture says, they will be more likely too as well.

And as a corollary, when you’re preaching the Bible, use it as an opportunity to teach the church, women included, how to think about and interpret the Bible. I’m not saying that the pulpit is a place for a discourse on the grammatico-historic hermeneutic, but it is a place to (often) say things like “this would have meant to the original readers” or “context determines meaning” or “Whenever you see a ‘therefore,’ ask yourself, ‘What is the ‘therefore’ there for?’.” These may be throwaway phrases to you, but they teach the congregation, including the women, how to approach Scripture.

Pay Attention

This seems very basic but it needs to be said, you need to know what is going on, what is being taught and what materials are being used. And you need to read any material being used in any class or study. Read, not skim, not look up on the internet, not ask your seminary alumni group on Facebook, but actually read. Need I remind you that you will give an account for how you cared for the souls the Lord entrusts to you? When you stand before God to give an account, “Well, I Googled it,” is not going to be good enough.

You need to pay attention to what is popular in the world of women’s ministry too. The women in your church buy and read more books than the men. Pay attention to what is out there, and don’t be afraid to address any errors that are gaining traction in churchianity”.

Be The Bad Guy

What I mean by that is be willing to be the one to take the heat. Be willing to veto a book, a curriculum, or even a topic that the women’s Bible study wants to use, and be willing to have the leader lay the blame for the veto on you. I would much rather have someone say to me, “We wanted to use ________ book. Why did you say to use ________ instead?” than have a bad book used, or quash the joy of the women’s Bible study leader if she became an object of scorn. And quite frankly (and this actually happened to me) I would rather have the women’s Bible study leader mad at me, than to have the women be taught something that is wrong.

Invest In Your Leaders

I am genuinely baffled by the lack of investment in women’s leaders. We pastors will often go out of our way to invest both time and treasure in a young man we think might one day have a significant ministry in our church (or dare we hope and pray) or even go into pastoral ministry themselves.. But we often fail to invest our time and treasure in women who have a significant ministry in our churches right now. Might I suggest that the bare minimum you should do for every Bible study leader (man or woman) is to provide basic instruction in hermeneutics. A great resource is Grasping God’s Word by Scott Duvall and Daniel Hays, and there is an excellent companion workbook that makes teaching basic hermeneutics a snap. I promise you that if you teach the teachers of the women in your church how to approach Scripture, it will rub off.

Invest time and invest treasure too. Provide at your (or the church’s) expense good reliable resources for deeper study to leaders of your church’s women’s Bible study. If the women are going through a book of the Bible (with an approved curriculum as the guide) provide reliable (and accessible) commentaries on that book. If the women’s Bible study is topical or using a topical book as a guide, provide some other good books for deeper study and reading. 

Be Approachable

The women of your church need to feel comfortable sending you an email, shooting you a text or even Facebook messaging you with a question. They should even feel OK picking up the phone and calling you if need be. I get the wisdom in erecting hedges and being careful how you interact with women. But you can’t shepherd effectively if you treat over half of your congregation as walking third rails. Rest assured the women of the church will pick up on your reluctance to interact with them and they will be reluctant to approach you with any questions, doctrinal or otherwise.

If you are married, this is one area where your wife can really help you. Her saying “you should ask my husband” will go a long way. And as a corollary one of the worst things that can come out of your mouth when a woman from your church asks you a theological question is “you should ask my wife.”

If you are like me you will have to work at this. The one thing I can say that always gets a laugh from my wife is, “I’m a people person.” It’s not that I don’t love people, it’s that I tend toward shyness, and I’m not super outgoing. So I work at being an accessible resource for the women of the church, and you can too. And who knows, you may one day be rewarded with a call where a newer believer asks “Is it true that the Israelites ate the scapegoat?”. (That is a real question I got from a real woman in the church and why it is so important that women feel like they can pick up the phone and call you.)

Write

Your pulpit ministry and other teaching at the church is not enough. You need need to be regularly writing. As Al Mohler observed, “Leadership is about communication, and much of that communication is necessarily written…leaders must learn to write and to set time aside for writing.

But you say you don’t have time. Mohler, one of the busiest men on the planet offers this helpful bit of advice, “You do what you have to do.” I contribute to a group blog with other pastors and a couple of former seminary professors. We all write with an audience in mind – our own church. Why? For two reasons, it builds a resource library that they can access, and it allows us to address issues that we may not get to address in a systematic fashion from the pulpit. I’ve covered topics like the various approaches to apologetics, what goes into a worldview, basic pneumatology, basic anthropology, how to bring Scripture to bear on anxiety, the sanctifying power of suffering, and much more. And yes I have written some things that would fall into the broad category of discernment, like why our church isn’t charismatic, the danger of letting a prolife social gospel supplant the biblical gospel and the respect for life that flows from it, why assisted suicide is unbiblical and even why events like Together 2016 (which for the record took place in our proverbial back yard) should be avoided. I write because I want to educate the church, especially the women of the church, who as a rule read more, about these issues.

Be willing to Sacrifice

Whatever cherished activity or ministry is keeping you from being all in on your church’s ministry to the women of the church, give it up! Let me give you an example. I love our men’s Bible study, so much so that I had the next three topics for the study preplanned. But currently there is no overlap in our church between the women qualified to lead a women’s Bible study and the women with the desire and time to do so. So the Wednesday night Men’s Bible study I have taught since the church opened has been tabled and replaced with a coed midweek Bible study. Sure, I had planned on going through the topics covered in Men Counseling Men edited by John Street, but instead I am teaching an Old Testament survey course geared to Christians of both genders. Truth be told I’d rather be with the guys, but that is not the best thing for the church, and as pastors we should lead in counting others (including the women of the church) as more significant than ourselves.

I could go on and on, but I’ll close with this; it breaks my heart that Michelle asked me to write this guest post. When she asked me to write this post she said that multiple women had contacted her and asked if there was anything about how important it is to help church ladies tell truth from error that they could print out and give to their pastors. For shame! No one should be more concerned with the spiritual well being and growth of the women in the church than their pastors. That in some places and in some cases that is not true is a blight on our brotherhood. This is a profound failure to fulfill the charge of 1 Peter 5:1-4, and there is no excuse for it. As the Apostle said:

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.


John Chester is the pastor of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket, Virginia. Prior to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. He hails from The City of Champions: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and is blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra. Read John’s blog articles at ParkingSpace23.


Note from Michelle: I first had the pleasure of “meeting” John when I read and responded to this excellent article of his on ParkingSpace23. While he and I have a couple of differences on discernment ministry, I think the world of him as a brother in Christ, pastor, and fellow blogger. I literally teared up when I first read this guest post, because I wish every church could have a pastor like John.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THE BLOGGERS WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANY BLOGGER YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.