Thursday, February 26, 2009

Joyfully Biblical or Pridefully Legalistic?

It seems there's a bit of a circus infiltrating Christianity, and it's not the kind of circus that brings joy. It's militant, full of finger pointing, false conclusions, agendas and spiritual pride. And it's robbing God of His Joy.The problem, as I see it, is the tendency to honor legalisms over God's Word.

Legalisms are human constructs, and I challenge anyone to ever see genuine joy come out of them. On the one side are the traditional legalists, who go as far back as the Pharisees in Jesus' day. In today's world, these folks often put more weight on not shopping on Sunday and taking notice of who's skipping Good Friday services than on curbing their own penchant for gossip and spreading ill will. But does that justify the opposing response, equally legalistic, which believes that only church services that offer coffee, allow the wearing of jeans and use electric guitars in worship are truly "God-centered, relevant and seeker-friendly?"

The Bible says a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:25, Luke 11:17). Isn't this pitting of agendas against one another within the church exactly what Satan wants? Yes. Why? Because it not only saps our joy, it replaces a dedication to the Bible with a selfish dedication to ourselves. 

Traditional legalists as well as contemporary, emergent-church legalists have fallen for the lie that humans know better than God. They like to think they're better at doing Christianity than the last guy or the next guy. They disregard certain aspects of God's Word so they can finger point: "post-modern" contemporaries at the "fundamentalists;" and traditionalists at the contemporaries and "those who aren't Christian." And in the middle, where the majority lives or would most benefit from living, are those who ask, "What has any of this got to do with the Bible?"

But again, if God's Word isn't the authority in a person's or church's life, then agendas, legalisms and denominationalisms quickly demean and minimize it. Even some who call themselves Christians bristle at even the mere mention of the Bible. They see the bringing up of the Bible as being "fundamentalist" or a hostile invitation to debate. Naturally, if the Bible is what one wants to focus on and live out, and someone else doesn't, merely bringing it up will, unfortunately, be misinterpreted as wanting to argue or debate. 

Some traditional legalists fall on their sword over things like when to mow the lawn and their contention that Christians cannot be found in public schools. Wouldn't it be nice to focus on what God says, without all the legalistic fall-out and confusion? Wouldn't it be nice to just get back to Biblical Truth instead of human hearsay?

I need to be constantly on guard of my rebellious nature and thinking I have all the answers. I have to be very careful that, when the day is over and all is said and done, I don't find myself years down the road spiritually haughty instead of spiritually mature. That is why I cling to my Bible, without embarrassment. I guess I don't understand why President Obama's comment was seen as offensive. Of course I cling to my Bible--not just in bad times, but in good! Because my sinful nature can turn on me and others with a snap of the fingers, just like that! The fact that God knows my heart sobers me…greatly. But the fact that he knows my heart in all its range of sin, emotion and struggle, and loves me anyway and still wants to work with me--not against me--is pure joy!

Being joyful is not an invitation or call to be a doormat, tolerating "every kind of evil" and void of Biblical conviction.

To have joy in all circumstances, as the apostle Paul did, we must rely on God, His Son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and His Word. Joy is a call to stop looking so readily at and jumping to sweeping and often unfounded conclusions that only seek to find fault in order to justify a legalistically new or old way of doing things. Joy comes out of a humble and prayerful obedience to God (not legalisms) in living--as a church, a family, and an individual--in Christ.

Are we joyful, or just legalistic? To answer that, we must first ask, “Are we Biblical?”

"You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence..." Psalm 16:11

"The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart." Psalm 19:8

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me." Psalm 51:12

"Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart." Psalm 119:111

"You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence." Acts 2:28

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Grief that can't be Spoken

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Editorial Columnist Patrick McIlheran writes a thought-provoking, revealing and heart-wrenching piece in the Sunday, February 22, paper. McIleran interviews a woman who tells how a miscarriage at 10 weeks not only changed her mind about her abortion years earlier, but explained why, in the years since having had an abortion, she suffered from "depression, nightmares" and "suicidal thoughts."

Praise God that one of the ways she found help is in a Bible study for women who have had abortions, and that she is now willing to speak honestly on abortion, all politics aside. More and more women are coming forward to share the reality of their abortion experience. As McIlheran says, "this is controversial." But as we read the column, we find out that for this and many other women, it is also the truth.

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you..." Psalm 55:22

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Man from Cabrini-Green

I mentioned earlier that when I was in Chicago I talked to a man on a street corner that was from Cabrini-Green. My husband Brad, who joined me in Chicago for the last two days of the Founder's Week Conference, was with me, and we were walking to the Moody Bible campus for the morning sessions. As we walked we were reading street signs, and a man called over to us to ask if we needed directions. We stopped and talked with him, and when we told him where we were headed, his face lit up. He said, "We love the Moody people at Cabrini-Green, where I live." He said that the Moody students run a tutoring program for children there, and that he liked how, when the Moody people shared the Gospel, there was never any pressure to accept.

This man, whose name is Tony, summed it all up by saying "nobody touches the Moody people in Cabrini Green. We watch their backs."

I was so heartened to hear what he said, because it was a testimony that faith plus works is what is taking place, to the point that the Moody students are loved and protected while in the midst of Cabrini-Green. The students not only tutor, putting faith into action, but they also witness and share the Gospel--without, as the man made sure to point out, pressure.

The Gospel and works both are happening in Cabrini-Green by Christians who don't have to pressure anyone because they realize that WE DON'T SAVE ANYONE, GOD DOES. When we bring the Gospel in Word and Deed, God is quite capable of doing the rest. Romans 1:16 says "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." When Christians use pressure "to get" people to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are taking a limited view of God, as if God needs us to cajole and arm twist. God simply calls us to prayerfully go out and He will be the Lord of the Harvest, not us (Matthew 9:38).

As we said goodbye to Tony, our newfound brother in Christ, I marveled at yet another example of Christians--"the Moody people"--quietly and without fanfare or elaborate write-ups in Christianity Today--doing the work of Christ by simply going out in Word and Deed, just as Jesus calls us to. Thank God for Moody Bible Institute and for Tony and those in Cabrini-Green who watch the student's backs.

"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord..." 2 Timothy 1:8

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Continuing Coverage of Censorship Case

Here is a link to the Alliance Defense Fund, the legal alliance that is defending Jonathan Lopez, the California college student mentioned in yesterday's blog post. You can go to

and click on the red square where it says "ADF Case Featured on Fox News The O'Reilly Factor." That will take you to a video where Bill O'Reilly interviews ADF Senior Counsel David French about the case. One disclaimer: Bill O'Reilly does repeat the vulgarities that were spoken to student Jonathan Lopez by professor John Matteson. You can read more about the case at the above link as well.

"Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" Mark 8:34

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." John 15:18-19

"If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." John 15:20

Monday, February 16, 2009

Even the Stones Will Cry Out

So much for free speech and the welcoming of diverse viewpoints in post-secondary education. For some professors, open-mindedness goes only as far as their own opinion. Read the story here:

"Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples!'
'I tell you,' he replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.'" Luke 19:39-40

Friday, February 13, 2009

Allowing God to Love through Us

Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). However, we can do all God-ordained things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). This is especially true when it comes to loving others.

We mustn't let Valentine's Day fool us. As Christians, love isn't chocolate, stuffed animals, candy hearts, going out to eat, Hallmark cards that play Captain and Tennille songs, or perfume (although those things are romantic and God is okay with romance!) But for believers, love is obedience to God through a relationship with His son and the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we can't love, God can--through us. When we want to see love only in romantic terms, God shows us His agape love for all mankind. When we expect love from others but don't give it, God convicts us. When we don't know how to love strangers, acquaintances, family members or friends, God calls us to prayer and His Word. God teaches us how to love. His love for us when we were yet sinners, and His love for us as we are yet sinners, is the model. Pastor and radio teacher Charles Stanley recently said that our motivation to love comes from God's love for us.

Where is God calling us to love? Is it to the un-saved person in the office? The neighbor whose house is in foreclosure? A distant land of physical and spiritual hunger and thirst? To daily time in His Word? Is God calling us to repentance, apology and forgiveness? To reconciliation or re-connection with our teen? To patience with our toddler? To our marriage? To intercessory prayer? To accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior? Where is God calling each one of us to bring alive His abiding love?

"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:15-21

"Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me." John 14:23-24

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." John 15:9-12

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" Isaiah 6:8

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Moody Bible Institute Founder's Week

I just got back from a week in Chicago where I attended Moody Bible Institute Founder's Week, a week that, since 1901, has annually commemorated the birthday of Dwight L. Moody, the Institute's founder. This year's conference was titled "Rooted in Truth, Abounding in Love" and was free and open to the public.

The week was filled with daily presentations by the teaching staff of Moody Bible, as well as breakout sessions where students currently enrolled at Moody could ask questions. I was blessed to hear evening headliners such as Alistair Begg, Chuck Colson and Franklin Graham in the breathtakingly beautiful Moody Church, where we also worshipped and enjoyed the music of the Moody choirs and symphonic band and singer Christy Nockels.

Outside of the conference, the week was filled with daily God moments: praying with a stranger on Rush St., talking to a man from the Cabrini-Green public housing development on another street corner, and riding in a Korean Christian's Scion cab. These moments brought solemn, yet joyous personal prayer time with God, and the entire week was one of heart, mind and soul renewal. I will be sharing some of what took place in the days to come. Until then, please go to where, until February 16, 2009, you can hear online--for free--all of the speaker sessions that took place this past week.

"On His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season." Psalm 1:2-3

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fireproof for Valentine's Day

Thought I'd put a pre-Valentine blurb in for this great movie. Whether you are married, dating, thinking of dating, or just in the mood for a movie with integrity, this is it! It's available now on DVD.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7