Will God send leanness to your soul?

Here’s something we taught our children from the time they were old enough to understand:

Sometimes the worst punishment a person can get is what he wants.

I remmeber how astonished our children were with that teaching. It took much discussion for them to even begin to grasp it.

And of course our Biblical example was the Israelites, who turned from God and got what they wanted—lots and lots of quail. So much that it came out of their noses, as Numbers 11 so colorfully describes. Continue reading “Will God send leanness to your soul?”

Three fingers pointing back at you

It’s common for preachers and Christian writers to tell us, “When you listen to this sin being described, don’t think about anybody else; just think about yourself and search your own soul.” 

Many Christians, well-meaning and good-hearted, very much take that admonition to heart and do their best never to apply any Scriptural finger-pointing to anyone around them. 

That’s because frankly it’s a little scary and perhaps condemning, to think, “When you point the finger at someone else, you have three fingers pointing back at you.” Continue reading “Three fingers pointing back at you”

Is your fear sinful . . . or actually pleasing to God?

When Helena Knowlton of Confusion to Clarity first began talking to me about fear in the cult she came out of, I knew I wanted to write about fear. But since I wanted to have a better grasp of the concept, I spent time studying fear in the Bible. (This study covers only the New Testament. I want to do the Old Testament eventually, to cover all the excellent Scriptures there.)

So, it may not come as a surprise, but there’s more than one kind of fear. Continue reading “Is your fear sinful . . . or actually pleasing to God?”

The good news about Biblical bitterness (a short talk)

In March I was privileged to speak at the Awaken Network’s conference on abuse. My topic was Biblical bitterness, showing how in the Bible “bitterness” refers to one who has been poisoned and is grieving, and “bitterness” also refers to one who is doing the poisoning. Both are called “bitter,” but only one is sinful.

Megan Cox of Give Her Wings (with whom I also did a recent interview on this subject) said, “This is such good news.” Finding out that the Scriptures teach something different from the heavy burden of guilt and shame that church people often lay on the backs of the oppressed—well, that really is good news.

You can view that talk here:

That forgiveness talk at Harvest Bible Chapel

Do you ever feel, when you watch a movie, that there was an underlying reason for it, maybe a bit of propaganda, so to speak, that it wanted to promote? It may be only a small part of the movie, but it makes a profound impact. (An example that come readily to mind is a 1944 drama about the life of Woodrow Wilson, the purpose of which seemed to me to focus on the death of Wilson’s dream, the League of Nations, in order to push American viewers to become more willing to enter the United Nations.)

I could be wrong, but that’s the way I felt when I listened to this sermon by Michael Vanlaningham from March 31stat Harvest Bible Chapel in the Chicago area. It seemed to me that the underlying reason, the bit of propaganda, began at about minute 25 when he began to focus on forgiveness.  Continue reading “That forgiveness talk at Harvest Bible Chapel”

Joseph wasn’t afraid of “rebellion, the sin like witchcraft”

This is the first post reflecting my ongoing study of fear in the New Testament.

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When I think of Mary’s husband Joseph being afraid, I think of this passage in Matthew 1:20-21:

Joseph had this in mind [the problem of Mary’s pregnancy and his decision to break the marriage agreement] when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said to him, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She is pregnant by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus [He Saves], because he will save his people from their sins.”

It sounds like the fear Joseph was apparently struggling with there was fear of disobeying the law of God. He just wanted to do the right thing.

But the fear I’ve been pondering more lately is shown when, after Joseph found out Herod was dead, he took Mary and little Jesus back to Israel. Continue reading “Joseph wasn’t afraid of “rebellion, the sin like witchcraft””

What place does “striving” have in sanctification? A response to Heath Lambert

This is Part 3 of 3. You can read Part 1 here. You can read Part 2 here.

Recap

In yesterday’s post, I quoted Heath Lambert as saying that sanctification involves striving and moral effort (trying to be good). My contention, and that of others, is that our sanctification, godliness, holiness, power over sin, and pleasing God are all taken care of in Jesus (His perfect life, death, resurrection, ascension, and seating), and we have no striving to do to accomplish it; we are only to look to Him in faith for all these things to be accomplished.

But Lambert uses several Bible verses to support his point (laid out in Part 2), so it’s important to look at them all. Here they are, with my commentary. Continue reading “What place does “striving” have in sanctification? A response to Heath Lambert”

Reconciling the “resting” and the “striving,” with some thoughts from Heath Lambert

This is Part 2 of 3. In Part 1, I expressed the consternation I had experienced over Scriptures about “resting” and “striving” that seemed like they didn’t fit with each other.

So what do those “resting” verses really mean?

The Lord used several means to help me in my understanding: my Bible studies—especially Galatians, Romans, and Colossians—a sermon, and some key books. Even though I didn’t understand at that time the importance of asking the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to the Scriptures, still He had mercy on me.

The resting (in case you had as much trouble getting it as I did) is NOT about becoming a couch potato, lol. Continue reading “Reconciling the “resting” and the “striving,” with some thoughts from Heath Lambert”