Guest Posts

Guest Post: The Broken Definition of Brokenness

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.

The Broken Definition of Brokenness
by Teresa Lawrence

Brokenness is a popular buzzword in the professing Christian world today. It’s a word that evokes emotion and sympathy; it seems to appropriately describe our perception of ourselves as sinful people in a cursed world. We feel broken. We feel the effects of sin in the world and know this isn’t how it is supposed to be. We know this not only through our experience, but even more clearly through the revelation of scripture.

In some cases, the term is appropriate. It is true that we hurt and suffer, and that life is hard. However, words matter. If we want to communicate carefully and biblically, caution is called for. Brokenness, as a term, is being increasingly used by fuzzy writers and soft-tongued teachers to describe the problems of our lives and world, without regard to defining the term according to Scripture. “We are broken people living in a broken world,” is a mantra echoed by many in one form or another. And we tend to be quick to agree. The description seems to fit.

So, what’s wrong with it? Isn’t it true, even scriptural? What about Psalm 51:17, which says “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”? What about Jeremiah 6:14 and 8:11 and 21 where the Bible talks about “the brokenness of my people”?

It’s important when we are going to describe anything of a spiritual nature to study scriptural uses. The Bible uses this word in quite an interesting variety of ways. A search reveals 325 uses of variations of the word “broken” in the NASB, including 3 of “brokenness”. Here are some literal biblical ways it is used:

broken out, as in a disease on the skin

break forth, as in song

broken through, as in a wall or a barrier

broken down, as in old and worn out

literally broken, a thing that is no longer able to be functionally used, as in a pot or a ship or an arm

broken law or covenant

Then there are two other, metaphoric, uses. First, there is the broken heart (Ps. 69:20, Jer. 23:9), signifying great, uncomforted grief.  There are instances like Psalm 51 and Job 17:1 where a broken spirit is used to refer to a person at the end of his own resources, and in desperate need of God’s mercy and help. There are surprisingly few biblical references to this kind of brokenness (I found 12).

Secondly, and perhaps also surprisingly, a large percentage of the biblical uses of “broken” (I counted around 67) refer to a position to be feared rather than embraced. These refer to being under the judgment of God–the results of the justice of God against his enemies or the discipline of his own people. This is the “brokenness of my people” referred to in Jeremiah–the judgment of God on Israel because of their rebellion and hard hearts. It also refers to the act of God in regard to His enemies and the finality of their defeat, as in Proverbs 6:12,15:

“A worthless person, a wicked man,
his calamity will come suddenly;
Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.”

(See also Psalm 60:1; Proverbs 29:1; Isaiah 65:14; and Ezekiel 32:28, among many others.)

The problem with many modern uses of broken/brokenness” is that while the biblical word is used, it is defined generally as an accurate description of us and life in our fallen world—a definition the Bible never uses. This unbiblical usage serves to emphasize our own experiences and perspectives and soften some rather unattractive realities that need to be faced about ourselves rather than softened: Sin. Rebellion. Selfishness. Pride. Hatred toward God.

This cushioning of hard truths produces consequences in our thinking. Using “brokenness” to describe our cursed condition can be a subtle way of shifting responsibility from ourselves to some other, nebulous cause (Satan, maybe?) that got us into these troubles in which we find ourselves. It softens the responsibility we ourselves have for rebelling against God. We aren’t rebels, we’re broken. We aren’t sinners, we’re broken. We readily adopt a more forgiving opinion of our own hearts, and see ourselves as victims of circumstance. Even unbelievers are comfortable taking on the “broken” identity, a fact which ought to give thoughtful Christians pause.

The term “broken” is passive. It begs the question, “Who broke us?” It implies that the fact we are broken is someone else’s fault. Somehow, someone broke us and our world and we are living with and dealing with the consequences as best we can. We can tend to see ourselves as bravely facing our problems; responsible only for being as gentle with ourselves and others as possible, to prevent further breakage. We suspend all judgment, even biblical judgment, because who are we, who are just as broken as you are, to point fingers?

We do need to be gentle with the hurting around us. We ourselves do suffer. However, when these things dominate our thinking, and we begin to describe ourselves in these terms, we are in danger of minimizing or overlooking our own sin and responsibility altogether. The fact that other people sin against us, sometimes grossly, doesn’t negate the fact that we ourselves are guilty of hurting others, and more seriously, sinning against our holy and righteous Creator.

Dear Christian, this is the subtlety of the devil. If he can convince people that to be Christian means to admit that we are merely broken and need healing, we readily settle on a distorted picture of who we really are and what we truly need. That we are hurting is easy to see and admit. But a more serious diagnosis is necessary.

The Bible describes mankind in his natural, godless, sinful state in the most unsavory of terms. We are not only wicked, we are thoroughly wicked.

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth,
and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gen. 6:5

We are also called fools. And corrupt. 

“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good.
Psalm 14:1

How about deceitful? And desperately sick?

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

The brokenness of the Bible comes when we realize these things are true about ourselves. We have nothing good in us and are in serious trouble with God, however uncomfortable we are in admitting this is true. This is when we arrive at the point of spiritual bankruptcy, where we are brought to understand that we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). This is the brokenness David referred to in Psalm 51, to which he had come as a result of his own terrible sin. This brokenness can be defined as humility before God. David recognizes that his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah (adultery and murder), while heinous, are nothing compared to the weight of sin he has committed against God:

Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge. (v. 4)

The Bible never uses the word broken to describe the world or the state of all mankind. The brokenness the Bible describes is not our problem, it is what we need. To be broken is to come to God with nothing in our hands, knowing all we have to offer Him is our sin, and asking only for His mercy.

The brokenness the Bible describes is not our problem, it is what we need.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God,
You will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

These are the brokenhearted that the Lord is near to and helps:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

This isn’t just someone who is sad or grieving. This is someone sad and grieving over their sin. We aren’t just “broken people living in a broken world”. We are proud sinners living in a rebellious and cursed world–in need of being broken. We need to be humbled, and brought to where we see our desperate need. Those who do not will face serious and lasting consequences.

A man who hardens his neck after much reproof
Will suddenly be broken beyond remedy. (Prov. 29:1)

Interestingly, both of these biblical uses of “broken” fit its passive voice. When God judges a person or a nation, they are broken by His decree and His might, and none can stop Him. Psalm 75:6-8 says,


But God is the Judge;
He puts down one and exalts another.
For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams;
It is well mixed, and He pours out of this;
Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain and drink down its dregs.”

And, just as much as the other, when a person comes to the place of a broken spirit, realizing their sin and utter lack of any resource, and their great need for mercy, this also is a work of God’s sovereignty and grace.


I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD…”  Jeremiah 24:7a

“…God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 2 Thessalonians 2:13b

Describing ourselves unbiblically as “broken” shifts our perspective just enough to cause God’s judgment to seem cruel (what kind of God sends broken people to hell?) and His salvation to be something He ought to rightfully give us (it would be unkind to do anything but help and rescue a broken person). But until we are saved, we aren’t broken—yet. We’re proud sinners who would rather work our way into God’s good graces than accept that there’s nothing we can do for ourselves.

One of two paths is available to us: either we will be broken before the Lord, and saved by His mercy, or we will be broken by the Lord, justly judged, and condemned. And while it is true that we hurt and suffer, this doesn’t reduce our responsibility. If we want to be called broken, humility or condemnation are the biblical choices.

As believers, we ought to be aware of the gradual drift away from these biblical meanings, and how this drift affects our thinking. Increasingly, brokenness has become a useful word for sidestepping the culpability that sinful people are already trying to avoid facing. We need to speak compassionately, with kindness, but without softening the hard edges of the message. It is true that we suffer. But our suffering doesn’t negate our sinfulness. The Israelites were abused horribly by the Egyptians. God had compassion on them, and brought them out of slavery, but he also judged them for their rebellion in the desert. The suffering didn’t nullify the sin. We need to be careful not to obscure the real need for salvation from our own sin and its consequences.

This world isn’t just broken. It’s lost. It’s condemned. All its wickedness and rebellion will someday be permanently broken under the mighty sword of God’s righteous judgment. Let us be humble enough to see ourselves not only as hurting people, but as sinful people who offend our gracious Creator. Let us be loving enough to tell people of their dangerous position before God–not of their “brokenness”, but of their sinfulness. Then let us tell them also of a holy, yet merciful Savior who desires that they turn to Him and be saved. Let us boldly hold out God’s powerful gospel to His enemies, extending to them the good news of peace with Him before it is too late.


Teresa has been married to her husband Adam for 23 years, and they have 8 children, ranging from ages 5 to 22. She lives in the Dallas/Ft Worth area, serves as a musician in her church orchestra, and mentors in their one on one discipleship ministry. She is passionate about knowing God and understanding the truths in His word, and loves nothing better than teaching, encouraging, and being encouraged by like-minded women. She blogs very occasionally at Your Word Is Truth.

Forgiveness, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Can unforgiveness cause you to you lose your salvation?

 

Can unforgiveness cause me to lose my salvation?

Forgiving (or refusing to forgive) others as it relates to our salvation is such an important issue. I’m so glad you asked!

Let’s break this question down a bit.

Can you lose your salvation?

The first thing we need to tackle is whether or not someone whom Christ has genuinely saved can lose her salvation – for unforgiveness or any other reason. And the answer to that question is no.

Why? The short answer is that if God saves someone, and that person can subsequently “unsave” herself, that makes her more powerful than God, which, as we know, can’t happen. You can’t save yourself, and you can’t unsave yourself. Salvation is all of God.

When God saves you, you are His new creation in Christ. You can’t “uncreate” your new spiritual life any more than you can “uncreate” your body, or a tree, or a planet. You can kill or do damage to those things, but you cannot reverse God’s creative process. To use another example, oh so relevant to today, God created you female. You can mutilate your body til kingdom come trying to appear male, but that will not change the fact that at your genetic level – the very essence of your being – you are female. And you can’t undo that because God created you that way, and you’re not more powerful than God. If you can’t even change God’s creation of your physical body, how in the world can you change God’s creation of your spiritual being?

In addition to the fact that you can’t uncreate the new creature God has created you to be, you need to remember that the moment God saves you, He forgives all your sins, past, present, and future, and robes you in the righteousness of Christ. That swear word you’re going to say next week? Already forgiven. That lie you’re going to tell five years from now? Already forgiven. And if you decide to commit the sin of refusing to forgive someone, that sin has already been forgiven too. (So since all our sins are already forgiven, we can just commit as much sin as we want and we don’t have to worry about it, right? Wrong.) We still need to confess those sins to God and be cleansed from them because they disrupt our fellowship with God, but in His accounting office, that sin debt has already been marked “paid in full”.

Furthermore, Jesus tells us plainly that if He’s got you, He’s got you:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

No one. That includes you and your sin. The power of your sin is not greater than God’s power to forgive that sin.

They will never perish. To say that a person about which Jesus Himself has said, “I give them eternal life,” can lose her salvation is to call Jesus a liar. He says that person “will never perish.” End of story.

Still not convinced that someone whom Christ has genuinely saved can’t lose her salvation? Try these passages on for size.

Now the reason it can look to us like someone can lose her salvation comes from two places: experience and misunderstanding the Bible.

Experience:
It’s happened plenty of times in the past, but in the last few weeks, we’ve seen two high profile evangelicals “walk away from the faith,”: Joshua Harris and Marty Sampson. Maybe you know someone personally – a friend, a loved one, even a pastor – who gave every appearance of being a Christian and then suddenly left Christianity, and the church, behind.

How does this compute when the Bible teaches that genuinely born again Christians cannot lose their salvation? Well, we need to remember something else the Bible teaches that’s very important:

Not everyone who claims to be a Christian actually is one.

Some people consciously know they’re not really saved and are just trying to pull the wool over the eyes of others. But many (my guess is “most” – these days there’s not a lot of social cachet in calling yourself a Christian) are deceived into believing they’re saved. Maybe they heard some sort of unbiblical gospel presentation and have put their faith in a decision they made in response. Maybe they just assume they’re saved because they’re good church-going people and their church doesn’t teach them otherwise. Who knows? It could be a lot of things. But we know for sure that there are many people who call themselves Christians and believe they are Christians who aren’t. Why? Because the Bible says so:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23

Many will say”…False converts are common, not few and far between. And it’s not just your average Joe or Jane in the pew, either. People who “prophesy…cast out demons…do mighty works” under the auspices of Christianity? They’re pastors, elders, deacons, Bible study teachers, seminary professors, “Christian” authors, evangelical celebrities. And Christ does not know them, because they don’t know Him. They talk the talk, and might even look like they walk the walk, but they’ve never truly believed the biblical gospel, repented of their sin, and trusted the Jesus of Scripture to save them. First John 2:18-19 puts it this way:

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.

People whom Jesus has genuinely saved may fall into sin for a season, but they do not fall away from the faith. Those who leave the faith were never part of it in the first place, despite appearances or their claims to the contrary. It might be difficult, but this is one of those occasions when we have to believe what Scripture says over what we can see.

Jesus also tells us in the parable of the sower that there will be be “rocky ground” folks who will appear to be Christians, but because they have no root, they “endure for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.” Jesus follows up this parable with the parable of the wheat and tares which further drives home His point that there will be impostors in the visible church.

So even though we observe people who appear to be Christians “falling away from the faith,” through unforgiveness or any other sin, we know that what’s really happening is that a lost person got tired of pretending to be saved and went back to being a lost person. Second Peter 2:22 puts it this way:

What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

If Christ has never fundamentally changed your spiritual nature from dog or pig into a new creature in Christ, you’re still a dog or a pig. And even if you manage to clean up on the outside you’ll eventually return to the vomit of being a dog and the mud of being a pig because that’s your nature.

Misunderstood Scripture
There are passages in the Bible that, when misunderstood, when taken out of their immediate context, or when taken out of the overall context of Scripture can seem to teach that a person can lose her salvation. But as we’ve seen, there are way too many rightly handledin context passages of Scripture that refute that idea.

You mentioned in your original question that you believe unforgiveness can cause someone to lose her salvation because, “It is so clear in so many ways in Scripture, even parables that Jesus told.” But, you did not mention any of the Scriptures you think teach this. My guess is that one of the Scriptures you’re thinking of is Matthew 6:14-15:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

In context, we can see that these two verses come at the end of the Lord’s Prayer. In verse 12, Jesus has just taught us to pray that God would “forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors,” and He’s giving us a little addendum on this in 14-15.

Remember, even though all our sins from birth to death were forgiven at the moment of our salvation, we still need to confess our sins in prayer and ask God to cleanse us from our wrongdoing to bring us back into right fellowship with Him. But if you’re willfully in the middle of committing the sin of unforgiveness against someone, you’re still actively sinning. You haven’t turned from that sin in order to be cleansed. You’re essentially rolling around in the mud and asking God to cleanse you while you have no intention of getting out of the mud. How is that supposed to work? It doesn’t make any sense. If you want to get cleaned up (“forgiven”), you have to get out of the mud (stop committing the sin of unforgiveness – “forgive”). Otherwise, you’re asking God to restore the fellowship you’re still actively damaging with your sin.

Another passage you might be thinking of is the parable of the unforgiving servant. The takeaway from this passage is not that God will rescind the salvation of Christians who commit the sin of unforgiveness. This passage doesn’t say that and we already know that idea conflicts with what Scripture teaches about the security of the Believer.

The takeaway from this passage is that God has forgiven us a sin debt that is incomprehensible. Knowing and having experienced that forgiveness, how could we not forgive some paltry little sin another human commits against us? First John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us,” and the way He loved us was to forgive us our sin. So we also forgive because He first forgave us. And if we can giddily and unrepentantly harbor unforgiveness in our hearts against someone else, we’d better start testing ourselves against Scripture to see if we’re really in the faith. Because that kind of unforgiveness is not the fruit of a redeemed life, it’s the fruit of someone who’s unsaved.

 

No, a genuinely regenerated Christian cannot lose her salvation by committing the sin of unforgiveness. But if she is genuinely regenerated, she will repent of that sin and forgive.

Additional Resources:

Walking Away from Faith? at A Word Fitly Spoken Podcast

Am I Really Saved? A 1 John Check Up


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Obedience, Prayer, Sanctification, Sin

Throwback Thursday ~ When God Answers the “Wrong” Prayer

Originally published July 27, 2018

“Lord, I’m just so frustrated!” I fussed, as I approached the time I had set aside for prayer this morning. Once again, the “I don’t want to” of my flesh was pulling against the “I know I need to” of my spirit like a heavy duty tow truck tugging on a kitten.

So I just ditched it. Well…sort of.

Prayer is pouring out your heart to God, right? Well, I turned on the water cannon. Reverently, of course…but with passion.

I told God how sick I was of this all-too-frequent stumbling block my flesh presented when it was time to pray, especially when I knew from experience that the feeling was fleeting and would go away after I had been praying for a few minutes. I told Him I was tired of a million other things I’d rather be doing, that I needed to do, coming to mind and further crowding out my desire to pray. I told Him I was sorry for all the times I had given in to the flesh and skipped my prayer time. I told Him I wanted Him to make this feeling go away and never come back.

As I poured out my complaint before Him, the Holy Spirit began leading me to examine the why of this whole situation. What was bringing about this pull of the flesh against prayer?

And that’s when it happened. God answered the “wrong¹” prayer.

You see, one of the things I pray every day is that God will reveal to me any sins I’m unaware I’m committing and lead me to repent of and forsake them.

And in that moment, that’s the prayer He chose to answer.

Not the prayer for the provision of an item my family needs. Not the prayer for healing of a loved one. Not the prayer that He would save all the lost people on my list.

Not the prayer I really wanted Him to answer.

God chose to reveal my sin to me.

You know why my flesh so often balks at prayer? Because in the dark, unsanctified recesses of my heart, I’m frustrated with God for not doing what I ask Him to do – now. I come to Him day after day, month after month, sometimes year after year, confessing the same sins, asking for the same provisions, and presenting the same requests, and I don’t see Him doing what I want Him to do when I want Him to do it.

Never mind that I could list hundreds of my prayers that He actually has answered, many of them in amazing ways. Never mind that I know what the Bible says about prayer well enough to teach on it and write articles about it. Never mind that I really do believe that God will answer my prayers for His glory and my good.

Uh uh. My flesh throws all of that right out the window and wants God to be my cosmic errand boy, delivering the goods on my timetable. I am selfish. I want everything to go my way immediately.

So that was pretty humiliating…but God didn’t stop there. No, there was more.

He opened my eyes to the fact that this sin problem I have relating to Him vertically is basically the same sin problem I have relating to people horizontally.

I yell at people in traffic to get out of my way. I get annoyed with my husband, irritated with my children, and impatient with fellow church members because I want them to do what I want, and I want them to do it now. I am selfish. I want everything to go my way immediately.

Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 

Paul was really onto something there. Fortunately, he answers his own question in his very next sentence:

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:25a

Jesus. Jesus can help me to mortify this sin. And I can obey Him as He does His good work in me. How?

assuming that you have heard about [Jesus] and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:21-24

I stop doing the sin (put off the old self). I remember what God’s Word says about that sin and about the righteousness I’m supposed to do instead (be renewed in mind). I do the righteous thing instead of the sin (put on the new self).

Ephesians 4 goes on to give some examples of what this looks like when dealing with real life sin:

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 4:25-32

See how that works?

Stop lying. Remember what God’s Word says about lying and truth. Speak truth instead of lying.

Stop stealing. Remember what God’s Word says about stealing and the godly way to acquire and steward material things. Work an honest job and share with others instead of stealing.

Seems pretty simple and logical, right? It’s pretty clear cut when we’re talking about sinful actions. I can keep my mouth shut so lies and corrupting talk don’t come out and choose kind and truthful words to speak instead. I can keep my hands in my pockets or avoid that tempting store so I won’t steal, and get a job and share with others instead. But how in the world do I “put off” a sinful attitude like bitterness, wrath, anger and malice (and in my case, selfishness) when it’s just a feeling that pops up in my heart unbidden?

The world will tell you that you can’t control your feelings. And for the world, that’s true. It’s part of the sin nature of a lost person, the “old self”, to live your life by your feelings, even to be controlled by them. But that’s not the case for someone who has been genuinely born again and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Part of the Fruit of the Spirit (the evidence that the Spirit is indwelling you) is self-control. That doesn’t just mean saying no to that second piece of cake. It’s the idea that sin is not our master anymore. We do not have to listen to and be controlled by sin, we can say no to it because we want to say yes to our new Master – Christ – and be controlled by Him.

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:12-14

Notice the wording here. It’s not “do your best” or “try” not to let your old master control you. It’s an authoritative, weighty, no-nonsense command: “Let not sin reign…sin will have no dominion”. God would not command us to do something that we’re incapable of doing, or that the Holy Spirit will not empower us to do. We can control and put off sinful thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.

Martin Luther once helpfully said:

“You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

I think about that quote often when it comes to putting off ungodly thoughts that pop into my brain. Here’s how it works:

First, preemptively pray the “wrong” prayer – the one your flesh won’t want God to answer – that He will make you aware of and convict you of sinful thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.

Next, when one of those thoughts rears its ugly head, stop what you’re doing, repent, and kick that rotten vulture right out of your hair. Make a definitive, proactive, Holy Spirit empowered decision of the will that you are not going to think that way. It helps me to say it out loud: “No. That thought is wrong. The Bible says ____ about that. I am not going to think that.” You might get some weird looks if you’re in public, but, hey, mortifying sin is worth it, right?

I tend to combine the “put off” (stop it) and “renew your mind” (What does the Bible say?) steps because pulling the Sword out of its sheath is a good way to kill sin. It’s the way Jesus modeled for us.

But how can I “put on” a right thought, feeling, or attitude? I mean, you can’t just conjure up godly feelings, can you? No. But what you can do is gather up nest-building materials for that “sweet Heavenly dove²”, the Holy Spirit, so He can shape your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes in a godly way:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9

There are godly things we can think about and godly things we can do (“practice”) that cooperate with the work the Holy Spirit is doing in our hearts.

Instead of thinking about that prayer that God isn’t answering right now, I can think about the prayers He has answered. And I can do something too. I can thank Him for those answered prayers and all of His good attributes in answering prayer.

Instead of thinking about how and when I want God to do things, I can think about His sovereignty and how good that is for me and everyone else. I can also do something: I can recite Bible verses I’ve memorized about the situation and sing songs of praise to Him.

Instead of thinking about how someone else is frustrating me by not doing what I want her to do, I can think about how she is made in the image of God, valuable to Him, and precious in His sight. What can I do? I can stop and pray for her. I can speak a word of encouragement to her. I can bless her with a gift or by serving her.

Thinking and practicing ungodly things feeds and grows your ungodly thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. But thinking and practicing godly things feeds and develops your godly thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.

Back in the Stone Age when dinosaurs roamed the earth and computers were brand new, programmers used to have a saying: “Garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, if you fed faulty commands into the computer, the performance you got out of the computer was going to be faulty, too.

The Christian heart is very much the same. “Godly in, godly out.” If you feed godliness into your heart, godliness will start coming out in your thoughts, words, and actions.

We don’t have to be mastered by sinful thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and by putting off the old self, renewing our minds through God’s Word, and putting on the new self by thinking and practicing godly things, we can grow more and more obedient to our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, words, and actions.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to remember that the next time God answers the “wrong” prayer.


¹Please note that the word “wrong” as it refers to God answering prayer refers to my having the wrong attitude or perspective. God is perfect and has never, and will never, do anything wrong.
²From the hymn Sweet, Sweet Spirit by Doris Akers
Holidays (Other), Obedience, Sanctification

40 Things to Give Up for Lent

Originally published March 3, 2017

40-lent

Although, as a Louisiana girl, I’ve had a decades long love affair with king cake, and I totally support the increased availability of fish entrées at local restaurants and getting a few days off school or work, I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras and Lent.

The intrinsic philosophy behind Mardi Gras – a day of revelry, indulgence, and debauchery to get it all out of your system before you have to start “being good” for Lent – is patently unbiblical.

The practice of Lent often is, as well. Lent is the forty day period, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday, observed by Catholics and some Protestants. Originally, it was simply a time of fasting, prayer, and worship in anticipation of Easter, and for Christians who continue to observe it this way, it can be a valuable and meaningful time of respite and renewal with the Lord.

For many, however, Lent – particularly the aspect of giving something up for Lent in an act of self-denial – is nothing more than an empty religious ritual, or worse, works righteousness. Giving something up for Lent because, “I’m Catholic and that’s what good Catholics do,” or to atone for your sins, or to curry favor with God, or to flaunt your self-righteousness flies in the face of grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone biblical Christianity.

If you give something up for Lent, why do you do so? If it’s for one of the aforementioned unbiblical reasons (or others), or even if you don’t observe Lent at all, I’d like to challenge us all to give up the things below for Lent:

1. Give up Lent for Lent.

2. Give up attending any church that requires the observance of Lent in a sacramental way and find a doctrinally sound one.

3. Give up thinking your good behavior earns you right standing with God.

4. Give up the idea that there’s any such thing as truly good behavior.

5. Give up thinking your good deeds could ever outweigh your sins.

6. Give up willfully indulging in sin as long as you “make up for it” later.

7. Give up the notion that penance or self-denial can pay for your sins.

8. Give up thinking that penance or self-denial curries favor with God.

9. Give up the idea that repentance and obedience belong to a certain season on the calendar. We are to walk in repentance every day.

10. Give up the concept that Christmas and Easter are Christian “high holy days.” We celebrate Christ’s incarnation and resurrection every Sunday, and should prepare ourselves all during the week. Every Sunday is a high holy day for the Christian.

11. Give up rote participation in church rituals. Search the Scriptures and see if they’re biblical first.

12. Give up thinking God concerns Himself strictly with your external behavior rather than the condition of your heart.

13. Give up “sounding a trumpet before you” with humblebrags on social media and in real life about giving things up for Lent, fasting, giving offerings, or any other good works you might do. You just lost your reward, baby.

14. Give up approaching church attendance as punching the time clock for God. The Christian’s entire life, our very beings, belong to Christ, not just a couple of hours on Sunday.

15. Give up the delusion that you’re basically a good person. You’re not.

16. Give up biblical ignorance and become a good student of God’s word.

17. Give up forsaking the assembly and become a faithful, serving member of your local church.

18. Give up thinking that everyone and everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is.

19. Give up the desire to have your itching ears scratched and long for the truth of God’s word. Even when it’s hard to hear.

20. Give up neglecting the daily study of God’s word.

21. Give up rejecting parts of the Bible you don’t agree with. We don’t sit in judgment over Scripture. Scripture sits in judgment over us.

22. Give up neglecting your prayer life.

23. Give up making excuses for failing to memorize Scripture. You can do it!

24. Give up being a non-serving member of your church.

25. Give up being a non-giving member of your church.

26. Give up thinking you’re hearing God speak to you. If you want to hear God speak to you, open your Bible and study it. God has spoken in His word and many are largely ignoring what He has already said.

27. Give up following false teachers and be a good Berean.

28. Give up being afraid to share the gospel and just do it.

29. Give up thinking you can please God apart from faith in Christ.

30. Give up basing your doctrine and beliefs on your own (or anyone else’s) opinions, experiences, and feelings, and base them on correctly handled Scripture instead.

31. Give up following your wicked and deceitful heart, take up your cross daily, and follow Christ.

32. Give up thinking you have to do big things for God in order for Him to be pleased with you and “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”

33. Give up worrying and trust God.

34. Give up neglecting to fear God’s wrath if you don’t know Christ.

35. Give up fearing God’s wrath if you do know Christ.

36. Give up the idea that “God is love” means God is a pushover who won’t judge you.

37. Give up thinking you’ve been so bad that God could never forgive you.

38. Give up thinking you’re so good that you don’t need God to forgive you.

39. Give up refusing to forgive others when Christ has forgiven you so much.

40. Give up everything and be saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and walk in His ways, all the days of your life, to the glory of God alone.

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Random Ramblings Ruminations Resources

Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

A couple of months ago, I “beta tested” a new feature here at the blog, which I alliteratively titled Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources. People seemed to like it … or … at least the majority of readers didn’t seem to hate it too much. So I decided to bring it back every once in a while when I’m feelin’ it.

I’m feelin’ it today. Buckle up, Buttercup. 

I’m Sorry…

I need to kick things off with an apology. God has graciously seen fit to convict me that my tone has been too harsh in some of my articles recently, particularly in the first part of this article. If you’ve ever been offended or hurt by the tone of that or any of my other articles or remarks I’ve made on social media, I wanted to say I’m sorry and to humbly ask your forgiveness.

And even if you weren’t offended or hurt, I know where my heart was as I was writing that article and the tweet it was based on, and I know it wasn’t right. I failed to exercise self-control and selfishly spewed my emotions in a way that was designed only to vent my own frustration and get it out of my system (which was pretty hypocritical since I was writing that we shouldn’t be slaves to our feelings!). I wasn’t even thinking about how a new Christian, someone going through a difficult time, or someone weak in the faith might have taken the tone in which I was saying those things. Romans 15:1 says:

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Well, I don’t consider myself all that strong, but I guess each of us is stronger in the faith or in a stronger position of life circumstances than somebody. And for those who are weaker in the faith than I am, or walking through a time of pain or discouragement, I did the exact opposite of what this verse says to do. I pleased myself at your expense, and that’s not what someone who serves you in the name of Christ is supposed to do. So, again, my deepest apologies and I hope you’ll be able to forgive me.

If you’re so inclined, I would like to ask you to pray for me about this. Tone is an extremely difficult and confusing sea to navigate, at least for me (that’s one of the many areas in which I’m weak). It is important to speak biblical truth firmly, unequivocally, and unapologetically, but some Christians see that, in and of itself, as being harsh. It’s also important to demonstrate gentleness, kindness, and compassion, but other Christians see that as being wishy-washy or not standing firm on Scripture. I have written articles to which some have responded that I was too harsh and others have responded that I wasn’t harsh enough – to the same article! Add to that the fact that Jesus, Paul, and others in Scripture sometimes used phraseology that we would consider very harsh today…..but yet Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” And, add to that that there are different expectations in the evangelical mind of how women are to address things versus how men are to address things, and you can see what a fine and perplexing line it can be to walk. But I really, really want to get it right in God’s eyes, because I want to please Him.

I can’t promise my tone will never offend you again. That would be foolish. I have over 11,000 blog subscribers and over 10,000 social media followers. Everything I write is going to offend somebody, even if I don’t mean it to. Also, I know my heart, so I know I’m going to sin again by being selfish and uncontrolled. Furthermore, I can’t attempt to please everyone. That’s not only an exercise in futility, it’s unbiblical. What I can tell you is that I will do my best to think more about how I’m coming across, edit more to keep my own words, approach, and personality from becoming a stumbling block, and pray more as I write, asking God to grow me in wisdom and self-control, in order to honor, and be pleasing to, Him.

About five years ago, I wrote an article called Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Tone. While it’s incumbent on us as readers and listeners to be able to put tone aside in order to discern whether or not what the speaker or writer is saying is true, it is also incumbent upon those of us who speak and write not to burden our hearers and readers with the necessity of doing so.

Thanks so much for your prayers as I pursue obedience to Christ in this area of my life. You are such a blessing to me, and I love and appreciate each of you.

Fill it Filled to the Rim

Didja hear? I’m doing a women’s conference with the ever-awesome Amy Spreeman at the end of March. It’s free, including a couple of meals, and it’s in Princeton, Illinois.

(In case you were wondering, that’s not where Princeton University, former home of Jonathan Edwards, is located. That’s in Princeton, New Jersey. I know this because I was wondering about it, too, and had to look it up.)

If you’re still trying to make up your mind about whether or not to come, lemme help you: come. And you need to hurry up and register too. Last week the event planners said they were already at 83% capacity (one of them must have been a math major!).

Here’s all the info. Be sure to check out the app and other links for resources on accommodations.

Illinois is too far away? Being from Louisiana, I get that. Look, plan your own conference, and I’ll come to you. “Impossible!” you say, “I go to a tiny church with an even tinier budget!”. Get together with a couple of sister churches to share expenses. Do a bake sale or a garage sale or crowdfunding. Take up a love offering and/or sell tickets at a modest fee. If you’re at all able, offer a doctrinally sound conference option to the women of your church and community. Christ’s ewe lambs are hungry for truth.

UPDATE: As I go to press, this conference is at capacity (“sold out”). If the organizers are able to open up any more spots, I’ll let you know. Also, if you’ve already registered and end up not being able to attend, please contact Princeton Bible Church and let them know so they can give your spot to someone else.

Scandal in the SBC

By now you’ve probably read the Houston Chronicle article that came out last weekend: Abuse of Faith: 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms. If you haven’t, you should, regardless of whether or not you’re Southern Baptist. But, maybe especially if you are. It’s horrifying. And the way some have responded to victims over the years is downright disgusting.

Unless God leads me differently, it’s currently my plan to write an article about this, but I wanted to take the time to give it plenty of thought and prayer. In the meantime, I commend to you this stellar article by Tom AscolSouthern Baptists, Sexual Abuse, and a Far More Serious Problem. It covers a couple of points that I had already rough drafted into my own article before I read his. (So, when you read mine later, just know – it’s not plagiarism, it’s two like-minded Christians drawing the same conclusions.)

This also seems an appropriate time to share this vlog with you explaining how I decide which kinds of evangelical current events to write about, and when, and which I don’t, and why:

And Speaking of Scandals…

This has been in the hopper waiting for me to write about it since the last high profile pastor “fell from grace” (I actually can’t stand that expression. If you’re saved, you’re “in grace” and you can’t fall from it, and if you’re not saved, you’re not “in grace” so you can’t fall from it. It makes no biblical sense. But, I digress…). And, with the recent news of Harvest Bible Chapel firing James MacDonald after years and years of spiritual and financial abuses, I was reminded of it again.

There’s a dynamic that happens on social media that you see nearly every time something like this happens. A Christian celebrity falls and other Christians re-post the news story and/or comment about it. In the circles I run in, the comments are usually

biblically appropriate (“This is so sad,” “We need to pray for his family,” etc.). But there will always be someone who will comment to the effect of: “Why is everybody commenting and re-posting about this event? How can it possibly be fruitful or necessary to share this information?” It’s not that people are commenting unkindly, but that people are sharing this information at all that bothers this person.

There’s probably an extent to which this person is right, and you can share or not share as your conscience dictates, and I’ll admit that there have been times when an event has been so over-shared that I grew weary of the dead horse being beaten. But God has very good purposes in sinful events coming to light. And He demonstrates this Himself in Scripture.

God could have omitted from Scripture every sin, failure, and foible committed by every Bible character, and we would never have heard about them. But He graciously pulls back the veil and lets us see some of them. Why? For His glory and our good. And the same could be said about the public availability of information about the sins of today’s high-profile Christians:

💡 These stories, both in the Bible and in yesterday’s newspaper, allow us to learn, and develop a holy fear of the consequences of sin without having to go through it ourselves. “Stay home from the war and seduce my neighbor’s wife? Um, no thanks. Look how that turned out for David. I’ll just avoid that altogether.”

💡 These stories emphasize to those in leadership that they must walk circumspectly because the world, and the church, are watching them. There is a heavy price to pay for setting a bad example.

💡 These stories are a reminder that we cannot hide our sin.

💡 These stories are a call to pray for everyone involved in the situation. You cannot pray about what you do not know about.

💡 When churches and other Christian organizations properly handle a sinful situation, it is a testimony to the world that the church is not “full of hypocrites” – that there are Christians who strive for holiness and obedience to God. It sets us apart from the world, and from “CINOs” (Christians In Name Only).

💡 When the high-profile Christian repents and submits to church discipline, it paints a picture for the watching world of the way sin is supposed to be dealt with by the individual, and the way God and the church deal with sin in grace, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration. It can be a testimony of the gospel.

On “Dating” your Daughter…

There are a lot of great, godly dads out there. I love hearing them talk about leading their families in worship, talking about their love, hopes and dreams for their kids, and seeing them spend time with their children doing special activities. All of those things are absolutely awesome, and more dads should be doing them.

So maybe it’s just me (it wouldn’t be the first time), but it’s a bit disquieting when I hear men label spending time with their little girls as “daddy-daughter date night” and doing things like bringing them flowers and candy, ringing the doorbell to “pick them up” for the date, dressing up as if for the prom, etc.

Listen, it’s not a sin, and the guys I know and love who do these things are doing them for all the right reasons. And, if they want to keep on using the “dating” terminology and motif, more power to them – they won’t hear a peep from me and I will still have the utmost respect for them as godly men and godly fathers.

But if I could just throw out some food for thought…

♥ There is a difference between a father’s role and fatherly love and a (potential) husband’s role and romantic love. Are we blurring the lines and confusing our daughters when Dad mimics boyfriend? Could we, instead, make sure those lines are clearly defined and teach our daughters (and sons) the beauty and goodness of the two different roles and types of love?

♥ We want our children to be safe from predators. If we introduce and normalize the idea that it’s good and godly for an adult man to engage in behaviors with a child that are usually associated with romantic love, is it possible that we could unwittingly be making it harder for our daughters to recognize when a predator is attempting to groom them?

♥ If we have both sons and daughters, how is this affecting our sons? Are they getting the impression that their sisters are more special and loved by Dad than they are?

♥ How is this affecting the relationship between mother and daughter? Is Dad showing as much attention to Mom as he is to daughter? Is there potential for any undercurrent of rivalry or jealousy for Dad’s attention to develop between Mom and daughter? Could the daughter come to see herself as being on equal footing with Mom instead of submissive to her authority?

♥ Why is the “dating” terminology and motif necessary? Is there a biblical or practical reason why simply spending time with your daughter – whether it’s at home or even on a special outing to a restaurant, movie, etc. – without calling it a “date” or acting like it’s a “date” isn’t good enough?

♥ If the purpose of “dating” your daughter is to demonstrate how her future husband should treat her, what happens when she grows up, gets married, and her good and godly husband is just kind of inept when it comes to “date night”? Have we not created an opportunity for her to unfairly compare him to Dad, find him lacking, and resent him?

♥ If the purpose of “dating” your daughter is to demonstrate how a husband should treat his wife, couldn’t we be confusing our children by putting Dad in the role of the daughter’s “husband”? “I’m not his wife, I’m his daughter,” she could think, “so why is he acting like my ‘husband’?” Would it not make more sense to model for our children how a husband is to treat his wife by Dad treating his actual wife in a godly way?

Children are very impressionable and – if you remember back to your own childhood – highly susceptible to misunderstanding things and believing things that aren’t accurate. I’m just wondering if maybe we need to think through this whole “daddy-daughter date night” thing a bit more deeply.