Friday, May 25, 2018

The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention

Dr. Albert Mohler provides a wise, timely commentary on the current crisis facing Southern Baptists . . .

"The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land.

America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment.

At one of our seminaries, controversy has centered on a president (now former president) whose sermon illustration from years ago included advice that a battered wife remain in the home and the marriage in hope of the conversion of her abusive husband. Other comments represented the objectification of a teenage girl. The issues only grew more urgent with the sense that the dated statements represented ongoing advice and counsel."

Monday, May 21, 2018

The War on Wisdom

Dennis Prager's wisdom and perspective needs to be heard and read by many people. I regularly appreciate his thoughts . . .

"There is more knowledge available today than ever before in history. But few would argue people are wiser than ever before.

On the contrary, many of us would argue that we are living in a particularly foolish time — a period that is largely wisdom-free, especially among those with the most knowledge: the best educated.

image used by permission from pixabay
The fact that one of our two major political parties is advocating lowering the voting age to 16 is a good example of the absence of wisdom among a large segment of the adult population. What adult deems 16-year-olds capable of making a wise voting decision? The answer is an adult with the wisdom of a 16-year-old — 'Hey, I’m no wiser than most 16-year-olds. Why should I have the vote and they not?' ”

Friday, May 18, 2018

No Rules Here

The wisdom and wit of Dan Miller regularly challenges and encourages me. 

His following post reminds us to challenge rules when they get in the way of progress. Jesus Christ modeled a marvelous practicality for us. Some of his worst criticism came from the religious rule-keepers when he did not follow their man-made rules.

Enjoy Dan's perspective . . .

Recently I attended an art show and reception at our local library in which my wife Joanne was one of the featured artists. During the course of the afternoon I also wandered over into the books and naturally found myself in the business section. Not seeing any copies of my books there I then did a quick search on the library computer and found that the 5 copies of 48 Days to the Work You Love they have in circulation were all checked out with an 18-person waiting list for those as they are returned.

So I walked up to the desk and talked to the two nice ladies who were overseeing the library on this lovely Sunday afternoon. They confirmed that their five copies of 48 Days to the Work You Love are indeed always checked out and always have a long hold list.

I then suggested that I walk out to my car and get three additional copies that I would give them immediately. But after a brief raised eyebrow they quickly agreed that they had no policy for that and there was no way to integrate those books into their system. No “thank you” or “that would be great” or “we’ll figure this out.” The only solution they could come up with was that I might call the library director on Monday, although they thought she was on vacation for a couple of weeks. I went back to the art show and drank another round of Joanne’s wonderful summer mint tea.

Don’t you love it when you walk into a place of business and immediately see signs that say:

So if a customer in your restaurant finishes their meal and then is embarrassed to realize your policy about no checks or credit cards, will you refuse their check because it’s “against policy?”

Would you stay in the 20 mph speed limit in a school zone at 3:00 AM in the morning if your child’s head was bleeding and you were on your way to the hospital – because it’s against the law?

Would you obey your boss’s command to serve the hamburger, even though you saw it being picked up from the floor after an accidental spill?

Do you send a check to the charitable organization on TV rather than help your out-of-work niece with her rent this month because giving to her is not tax-deductible?

Do you politely send your resume to the company you want to work for rather than call or show up because they say “No phone calls please”?

Here in my office I have a wooden plaque that says: “There are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.” Thomas Edison

What are the “rules” and policies in your life that are keeping you from receiving new abundance and success?

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Wisdom Justified by Time

Dick Cheney’s autobiography In My Time reviews the lives of political figures who have shaped America the past several decades. Cheney rubbed shoulders with many of Washington’s elites, gleaning wisdom from some of their lives.

Careful observers gleaned one valuable lesson from observing the leadership of Gerald Ford: some actions are only justified by time.

Cheney shares the surprise he and many Americans, experienced when President Ford announced on September 8, 1974, that he was issuing a full, free, and absolute pardon to Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal. Cheney writes, He described his actions as a way to ‘shut and seal’ the matter of Watergate and to mitigate the suffering of Richard Nixon and his family.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Dr. Rachel Stewart

Dr. Rachel Stewart stands out as the best professor of 
my entire academic experience. 
Through my undergraduate, Master's and doctoral work, she stood 
out as the most outstanding teacher and lecturer.

I would choose to take a class by her before any other.
I vividly remember her dramatic presentations in her polyester skirts
in American Literature 
in the second floor corner room of Neville Hall.

She challenged me to excel in and to love reading good literature, 
writing, communicating, and thinking. I have often thought how I learned much from her about the basics of presenting a persuasive argument.  Raising her voice and beating the table with her hands, she challenged us to load our essays with "evidence, evidence, evidence!"  Those basics helped me repeatedly through the years in both sermon preparation and delivery and in freelance writing. 

Dr. Stewart died on Friday, March 11.  

The SBC in the MeToo Generation

Old remarks from Dr. Paige Patterson regarding domestic abuse and the role of women have brought the Southern Baptist Convention into the national news again just weeks before its annual meeting.

A quick google search reveals dozens of articles about the matter. I found the following two most helpful:

Paige Patterson and Doing the Right Thing for the SBC, Again by Ed Stetzer

Gaines Addresses Patterson, SBC at Baptist Press

The evangelical community has at times lacked clear answers to the issue of divorce and remarriage regarding issues like domestic abuse. In an attempt for doctrinal purity, sometimes we miss the mark of offering solid help to people in difficult situations.

Through the years I have found the following resources both biblically sound and practically helpful on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage:

Divorce and Remarriage (booklet) by Tony Evans

Divorce and Remarriage (sermon series) by Tony Evans

Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible by Jay Adams

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, and Spiritual Policemen

Before I went to seminary, I naively thought the Christian world would band together in praise of the people I admired. In the South Carolina Southern Baptist world of my youth, we cherished people like Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, Henry Blackaby, Kay Arthur, and the then up and coming Beth Moore.

What a shock to me in seminary when I began learning how much learned men and women criticize other people in the body of Christ who don't interpret the Bible or practice Christianity according to their particular brand, theological camp,  tribe, interpretation, or tradition.  

Through the years, I've heard numerous reasons why all of the five aforementioned Christians are bad representatives of Christianity and why I should not pay them any attention - and all of this from other Christians. Graham preached too simply and manipulated people emotionally. Stanley was divorced and not biblical enough. Blackaby shouldn't teach that God speaks today. Arthur and Moore should never teach men.  And Graham, Arthur, and Moore all dare to suggest that a Catholic could actually be a Christian! And that is just for starters!

Shocked and Grieved - Again

Though I probably should not be at this point in my life, my spirit grieved recently when I came across a few articles this year by a so-called "discernment ministry" called Pulpit and Pen severely criticizing and condemning Bible teachers Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer. The tone of the articles is arrogant, the stance of them is another Christian soapbox, and the conclusion of them is that Moore and Meyer are "false teachers" and are not really Christians. 

The posts included edited videos of Moore and Meyer's teachings, including many pithy, inserted remarks from the blog author. The remarks attempted to correct, rebuke, and put down the two women. The spirit of the article is not simply disagreeing over some theology. The spirit is a vicious attack, damning the women.

It both saddens and angers me to read blog articles like this one.  I disagree with about every point the author tries to make and see no need to be a policemen to other Christians and ministries.  One of the videos made the ridiculous assertion, “True Christians do not serve the same Jesus as Joyce Meyer and Beth Moore.”  

Good grief. I listened to the M&M video, and I would take their spirit any day over the one exemplified in that article.  

My godly mother has done almost every Beth Moore study for 20+ years – and taught many of them herself.  Moore has helped her and 1000’s like her to dig into God’s Word. I can't imagine Moore or Meyer stopping so low as to waste their time publicly ridiculing and and mocking another ministry that tried to point people to Christ and teach His Word.

Joyce Meyer has never been on my top 10 favorite list of Christian authors or speakers. My including her in this post is not a blanket endorsement on her teaching. For that matter, In almost 1400 blog posts, I think this is the first time I have ever mentioned her name. So it's not like I'm a Joyce groupee. It is a response to an article I read that groups Moore and Meyer together.

I do believe Mrs. Meyer is a Christian, loves the Lord Jesus and His Word, and tries in her own way to serve Him and fulfill the Great Commission. She shares practical, motivational speaking and writing with millions on a weekly basis. In my estimation, I would call her a Christian motivational speaker. And I say, "God, bless her!"

I learned years ago that if someone is not against you - they are for you! And who am I to sling mud on my brother or sister in Christ?

The Bible also says, in matters of disagreement, to not let what you think is good be spoken of as evil.  In every day there are some, who in zealous pursuit of “doctrinal purity” or in the name of “discernment” or “holiness,” become policemen of other Christians and ministries.  They “warn the brothers” of what preachers to listen to, what Bible translations to read, what music is acceptable, ad nauseam.  

Simply put, it is a form of “spiritual bullying.”  And it comes from what Richard Blackaby calls "self-appointed orthodoxy police."

That Awful False Teacher Billy Graham

Billy Graham received much of this in the 20th century from the ultra-fundamentalists, particularly from Dr. Bob Jones and Bob Jones University.  They severely criticized the evangelist because he “hung out” with people who were liberal and did not have correct theology.  He preached with and befriended liberals, Catholics, Pentecostals, etc.  His approach was much like Jesus’ and Paul’s: he would go wherever her had an opportunity so that he could preach Christ.  Some of them even said that Graham was Satan’s greatest tool of American Christianity – and more self-righteous nonsense.  

Here is one example.  Graham announced he would hold a crusade in Greenville, South Carolina, home of BJU, at the new Textile Hall.  In response, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., ordered the students to not attend the meeting (they were not allowed to attend my home church either in the 1980’s), and he wrote The Position of Bob Jones University in Regard to the Proposed Billy Graham Crusade in Greenville, A Chapel Talk by Dr. Bob Jones, Jr., on February 8, 1965. ” 

It proclaimed, “The Bible commands that false teachers and men who deny the fundamentals of the faith should be accursed; that is, they shall be criticized and condemned. Billy approves them, Billy condones them, Billy recommends them… I think that Dr. Graham is doing more harm in the cause of Jesus Christ than any living man; that he is leading foolish and untaught Christians, simple people that do not know the Word of God, into disobedience to the Word of God.”  

The fundamentalists “warned the brothers” about the deception of people like Graham, calling him everything from a tool of Satan, to a false prophet, to someone deceiving others – blah, blah, blah.  

When I was first in ministry, the fundamentalists were trying to tell Christians what music was “really of the Lord” – and which was of Satanic origin (like, according to them, Steve Green, Truth, Sandi Patti, Larnelle Harris, etc.).  One well meaning lady told me any music besides hymns should not be used in church. One of the reasons was that people can move their bottom and sway their hips to non-hymn music, and that can make people think sexual thoughts. (I kid you not.)

It is a symptom of what Charles Swindoll calls, in his excellent book The Grace Awakening, “grace killers” – the drive to criticize or control other Christians whose convictions, methods, preferences, or doctrines differ from mine or my camp’s – and to stand in judgment of them – instead of having the grace, as Swindoll says, to “let them be.”

Jesus encountered this attitude: “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not accompany us. Do not stop him, Jesus replied, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”   (Luke 9:49-50).

Henry Blackaby, an influential Christian well-accustomed to sharp criticism from certain parts of Christianity, writes, "Jesus' response to His disciples must have surprised Him as He said, 'Don't stop him" (Mark 9:39). He assured them that 'whoever is not against us is for us' (40). Have you learned this vital lesson? Are you able to genuinely rejoice in the spiritual victories of others? Are you encouraging those who serve the Lord in a different way or who belong to a different group than you do?" i 

Same Song, Third Verse

Today it is the same song, third verse.  This tendency can arise from any Christian camp. Today It seems spiritual policemen keep coming up in the ranks of some ultra-Reformed folks (what I call folks in the Reformed camp whose zeal over their Reformed theology seems to rank converting other Christians to Reformed theology right next to the Great Commission), or what some people call hyper-Calvinists.  I first encountered the mindset at seminary.  

I remember some ultra-Reformed guys having a long talk with me, explaining how Billy Graham was the worst thing that happened to Christianity in the 20th century, how horrible was the practice of the altar call, and how parachurch ministries were not “biblical.”  These people and practices were not “doctrinally pure” and needed to be “resisted.”  They told me, “If James Dobson wanted to serve the Lord, he should have been a pastor.  God does not recognized ministries like Focus on the Family.” Thankfully, when I questioned one of my professors about such things the following week, he told me, "They do not represent the majority of our students."

These sincere, but very misguided opinions, are often self-serving.  

Today we have more people under the name of “discernment” serving as self-proclaimed policemen.  

No thank you.  I would rather have the spirit exemplified by Paul in Philippians: “It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice” (1:15-18). 

Paul recognized a false teacher by two characteristics:

(1) they did not teach salvation was by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and 

(2) they promoted sexual immorality.  

Apart from these qualities, if the Word was shared and the gospel preached in some way, even by someone with false motives, he rejoiced that the gospel went forth!  

Critical Thinking

For years, my wife and I have been proponents of classical education. And much of Christianity the past 200+ years has valued such an approach to education. One of the goals of classical education is to develop critical thinkers - ones who learn how to truly practice discernment as they wade through complex, and sometimes opposing, information.

I believe it much wiser to raise up people who learn to think for themselves with a biblical framework (Ro. 12:2) than it is to tell people in blanket statements who to listen to and who to not. Baby Christians need to be spoon-fed and guided closely. However, as Christians mature, we should be able to stand on our own feet and apply our critical thinking skills - for ourselves - to the wide range of material out there in our information age.

I learned years ago that I could learn positive things from people with whom I do not agree on everything. And having a solid, biblical foundation, I can read people who are not necessarily in my theological camp and still benefit.

And I don't think it wise to try and be the Holy Spirit for other believers.God is a whole lot bigger than me.

Reformation Adversaries

Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, two great Reformers, were adversaries who had a historic and bitter feud over theology.  One of their differences was what actually took place at the Lords’ Supper, the Eucharist. I read one account when Luther actually used profanity to describe Zwingli’s view.  To Luther, the doctrine, or idea, of sacramental union  was essential and critical.  He labeled Zwingli a fanatic, grouping him into a “camp” with other people with whom he disagreed.  I can imagine today these two great Reformers, setting up websites to warn the brothers of the false prophet.  “Use discernment, brothers.  Don’t be deceived by this false teacher Zwingli!  He denies the essentials of Christ.  What a fool!  Remember the words of Jesus!”  

No doubt they would have tried to be policemen, warning Christians of the other.  They placed each other in “camps” based on certain tributaries of their doctrine and practice.  And they warned people of the “other camp.”  That is called majoring on minors and missing the point.  It is an overzealous lack of perspective.  One church history professor writes, “How ironical that the service of communion, which most dramatically depicts Christ’s prayer for Christian unity, would be the one point on which Luther and Zwingli would bitterly divide. But, that was unfortunately not the first, nor the last time for such division among Christians.”  

Luther and Zwingli would have been perhaps wiser to take to heart Paul’s admonition, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?  It is before his master that he stands or falls.”

Zeal is a great thing.  But zeal misfires and wounds unless combined with wisdom, maturity and love.  

People who love God's Word are wise to remember that the apostle Paul shared that the goal of good Bible teaching is to produce the most mature quality of all within us - love.

[T]he goal of our instruction is love (1 Timothy 1:5).

Read my related articles, Room at the Table: Beth Moore and John MacArthur, and Grieved: Review of Pulpit and Pen.

i - Experiencing God Day by Day, February 25

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Thank You, Sister Beth

Before I went to seminary, I naively thought the Christian world would band together in praise of the people I admired.  In the South Carolina Southern Baptist world of my youth, we cherished people like Billy Graham, Charles Stanley, Henry Blackaby, Kay Arthur, and then up and coming Beth Moore. My mother did just about all of Moore's workbook Bible studies and taught many of them to other women.

What a shock to me in seminary when I began learning how much learned men and women love to criticize other people in the body of Christ who don't interpret the Bible or practice Christianity according to their "brand, interpretation, or tradition."  Through the years, I have heard numerous reasons why all of the five aforementioned are bad representatives of Christianity and why I should not pay them any attention - and all of this from other Christians. 

Few matters disturbed me through the years as much as how often Christians jump onto their own soapboxes and shoot darts at their own.

The well known evangelical Bible teacher recently shared A Letter to My Brothers on her blog. In it, according to The Washington Post, "she recounts decades of being demeaned, dismissed, ignored and patronized by colleagues."

I stand with Beth Moore and other sisters in Christ on this one . . .

"Dear Brothers in Christ,

A few years ago I told my friend, Ed Stetzer, that, whenever he hears the news that I’m on my deathbed, he’s to elbow his way through my family members to interview me about what it’s been like to be a female leader in the conservative Evangelical world. He responded, 'Why can’t we do it before then?'

'Because you know good and well what will happen,' I answered. 'I’ll get fried like a chicken.' After recent events following on the heels of a harrowing eighteen months, I’ve decided fried chicken doesn’t sound so bad.

I have been a professing Evangelical for decades and, at least in my sliver of that world, a conservative one. I was a cradle role Southern Baptist by denomination with an interdenominational ministry. I walked the aisle to receive Christ as my Savior at 9 years old in an SBC church and exactly nine years later walked the aisle in another SBC church to surrender to a vocational calling. Being a woman called to leadership within and simultaneously beyond those walls was complicated to say the least but I worked within the system. After all, I had no personal aspirations to preach nor was it my aim to teach men. If men showed up in my class, I did not throw them out. I taught. But my unwavering passion was to teach and to serve women."


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Blessing or Curse?

"Like most everyone today, I have been hearing a lot of examples of hardships this week.  No jobs, no retirement funds, worthless stock, cancelled vacations, new violence and political unrest, and general uncertainty.  Rather than trying to create something profound I’d like to share this old story.

Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all, because he owned a beautiful white horse. People offered fabulous prices for the horse, but the old man always refused. 'This horse is a friend, not a possession,' he would respond.

One morning the horse was not in the stable. All the villagers said, 'You old fool. We told you someone would steal that beautiful horse. You could at least have gotten the money. Now the horse is gone, and you’ve been cursed with misfortune.' ”

Friday, May 4, 2018

Should Children Be Sitting Through Worship in "Big Church?"

Deep Roots at Home blog shares an excellent word about what she believes is one of the failures of the American church model. Instead of training children to worship with adults, we often segregate them away from the rest of the congregation. Check out her good words . . .

"I believe that years of segregating children from worship in the greater worshiping community has failed. I think it’s time we were more passionate about having children in church.

  • Children need to feel like they are a part of the church community
  • Children who don’t feel like a part of the church community will leave church when they’re older
  • Children should not be removed from the main body for convenience sake
  • Children are a part of the Body of Christ
  • Children need godly examples of how to worship


Child or adult, young or older, the sermon is only one small part of the greater experience. Singing the songs. Praying corporately as a whole church. Hearing the words of God read and watching other’s interest in them. Serving. Giving of our tithes and offerings. Celebrating. Fellowshiping. Communing with God and with each other. Not understanding the sermon in no way negates the rest of the experience."

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Rite of Passage

The Just 18 Summers blog picked up my article called "Act Like Men." It describes how I used our son's thirteenth birthday to teach him lessons about manhood . . . 

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.” So Paul exhorts the Corinthians in his first letter (16:13-14).

We live in a day that often lacks a clear understanding of biblical masculinity. Society does not offer a strong definition to boys of what it means to be a man. The examples in pop culture, sports, and politics often show weak and pitiful models of sensuality, selfishness, and foolishness. However, the church, and more specifically, Christian fathers, can carry the torch of challenging the next generation to be godly men.

So if the Bible challenges us to “act like men,” we should be able to answer definitively, “What is a man?” Robert Lewis’ excellent work challenging fathers to raise their sons to be godly men influenced me a great deal several years ago. Focus on the Family airs Lewis at least once a year, and I commend his resources to you: Raising a Modern Day Knight and Raising Sons to Be Honorable Men. I crafted the following definition of manhood for my sons (modifying Lewis’ definition and making it my own):

Read the entire article here at Just 18 Summers.

Image used by permission from Pixabay.