Sunday, January 31, 2016

Never Despair

“But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of   righteousness arise with healing in his wings” Malachi 4:2 

Fulfilled once in the first advent of our glorious Lord, and yet to have a fuller accomplishment in His second advent, this gracious word is also for daily use. Is it dark with the reader?   Does the night deepen into a denser  blackness? Still let us not despair: the sun will yet rise. When the night is darkest, dawn is nearest.
The sun which will arise is of no common sort. It is THE sun — the Sun of Righteousness, whose every ray is holiness. He who comes to cheer us, comes in the way of justice as well as of mercy, comes to violate no law
even to save us. Jesus as much displays the holiness of God as His love.  Our deliverance, when it comes, will be safe because righteous.
Our one point of inquiry should be — “Do we fear the name of the Lord?  Do we reverence the living God, and walk in His ways?”  Then for us the  night must be short; and when the morning cometh, all the sickness and  sorrow of our soul will be over for ever.  Light, warmth, joy, and clearness
of vision will come, and healing of every disease and distress will follow after.
Has Jesus risen upon us? Let us sit in the sun. Has He hidden His face?  Let us wait for His rising. He will shine forth as surely as the sun.

Faith's Check Book by CH Spurgeon - February 1 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sexual Predators in the Church

“For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions”  2 Tim. 3:6

We have in our file cabinet  a manila folder containing testimonies written nearly forty years ago by several very courageous  women.    They chronical  detailed accounts of seduction by the senior pastor  of the church where my husband was the associate pastor.    Some spoke of how the  Bible was twisted to convince them that they were doing God’s will.   All of these women willingly submitted to and passed polygraph tests  because only a few people  believed their stories.   They had all come from difficult  backgrounds  that would render  their testimonies  questionable.   

My husband was  only thirty-years old,  fresh out of  Bible College,  and was left to deal with  serious issues in an era when the idea of church discipline was considered harsh and unloving by most Evangelicals.    Consequently,  he had little support from other leaders in the community.   As a young pastor’s wife I witnessed the devastating impact one man’s sin had on everyone  around him,  but I lacked the spiritual maturity to be of much help.   Oh, how I wish I could go back and try to be of better service to those dear people in our first ministry!    
I do not want to convey the idea that in situations where  two fully  consenting  adults are involved that the woman should take no responsibility  for her actions.   These women understood this completely.    However, when a man who has been appointed to shepherd the flock  takes advantage of  weak  parishioners by means of deception  to fulfill his own sexual lust,  the sin he commits  is exceedingly reprehensible.
I wish I could say this was an isolated incident but as the years  passed we encountered similar situations   in other Evangelical churches.    The types of sexual abuse committed  by  church leaders  which  we have personally  dealt with in one way or the other  have ranged from serial adultery to pedophilia.    
I want to make a clear distinction between  the true Christian who,  in a backslidden state,  temporarily succumbs  to temptation and  then genuinely repents.    Rather, I am speaking of a very different sort of person.    These are the false professors who  fit the descriptions  spoken of in Jude,  Matt. 7:15-23;   2 Tim. 3:5-9;  and 2 Peter 2:1-3. 
“For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.  They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.  Jude 1:4
We tend to think of false prophets in terms of those who are primarily teaching false doctrine,   but the men  described in the above passages  also have insatiable appetites for  sex and/or money.    When Jude says that they “deny Jesus Christ”   he is not  referring to a mere profession of words but rather that these are men who  inwardly  deny  Christ and His Lordship.    If they were not holding to some outward form of godliness,  how would they get their foot in the door?

We may not be able to stop these kinds of people from entering the church,   but with teaching and awareness  we can at least bring the problem out of the closet and put into place some safety measures. While we don’t want to lose the joy of fellowship with our church family  by becoming suspicious,  the Lord did give us these Scriptures to warn us.   What then are some practical ways we can protect  others and ourselves from sexual exploitation and temptation?  

We need to destigmatize sexually abused women.  Women who have suffered sexual abuse need to  feel accepted and free to talk about it so they can  receive the council and encouragement they need.   Sexual crimes can happen to anyone, and when a woman is violated against her will  it is NOT, repeat, NOT  her fault!  Not only does her abuser make her feel that it is,  but sometimes Christians can even send that erroneous message.    One of the most outrageous things I've ever read about women who have been raped came from the heretical teachings of Bill Gothard,
 God has established some very strict guidelines of responsibility for a woman who is attacked. She is to cry out for help.  The victim who fails to do this is equally guilty with the attacker.”   Wisdom Booklet 36 - page 1839
                 And we wonder why some women are too  afraid to speak up!  
We need to disciple  new believers.    Taking new believers under our wing making sure they are getting sound doctrine  is probably the single most important thing we can do  to  help protect women from predators in the church who would try to lure them into relationships through deception.    

We need to avoid situations  that could pave the way for infidelity or even assault.   Developing too close of a  personal  relationship  with another man when either person  is married,   is where trouble can begin between consenting adults—and predators depend on this strategy.    Spending regular time alone with another man when either party is married is generally unwise.   In the workplace it's not always possible,  but in the church  discretion ought to be exercised.   And in counseling situations, there's always a way to work around being alone together  if a woman needs  counseling from a pastor or church leader. 

The same principles of avoiding spending time  alone   should also apply  to children 's and youth ministries.     Even though our church is small,  we require  two adults to be present in the classroom.   This protects the teachers from false accusations as well.    What is the church’s policy regarding small children using the rest room?   What kinds of precautions are in place for things like youth retreats?   

More churches are performing criminal background checks for children and youth workers which is a good step in the right direction.   Unfortunately,  in our experience every pedophile we have known had no  prior criminal history when they were found out,  and were exemplary citizens. 

If you are made aware  that a child has been  sexually abused  report it to the police!   Sexual crimes against children are felony offenses and need to be handled as such.   Seek support  from the church,  but these are legal matters and are  NOT something to be swept under the carpet and  handled “quietly” by the church elders.     FAQ’s regarding sex crimes against children and also false accusations made against innocent parties  can  be read  HERE (These are Texas laws). 

To the best of our ability we need to teach children about safety,  boundaries,  and the importance of communication when something is not right with them or their friends.   
There  will always will be false professors who are also sexual predators  but we don't  need to  live in fear of them.   We  should exercise wisdom and be as vigilant to practice safeguards in the church as we are in the world.  


 As  I was finishing this post I came across an excellent article by  Catherine Parks - Sex Abuse in the Church and Our Place in the Village.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Precarious World of Women's Bible Studies

This week Kim Shay has written a couple of really good blogposts on the importance of  learning how to interpret Scripture correctly and you can find them here:  We have to do the work,  Jesus is not my husband.    We at Out of the Ordinary are committed to encouraging women to  be diligent in studying  the Scriptures  and to  exercise discernment regarding what we read.    Since we're on the subject,  this is from the  archives here .

The first  Bible study I taught  in 1978   had a handful of ladies.   We studied the book of Ruth and I did my own preparation using the basic principles of hermeneutics  from  Bernard Ramm’s  “Protestant Biblical Interpretation”  we were taught in Bible college.      I had several commentaries,  a concordance,  a word study, and a Bible atlas.    Nearly 40 years later my study methods haven’t  changed much, except that the computer and Internet have made  it easier.   
But things have changed dramatically in the world of Bible interpretation  and study guides reflecting  this  problem have become  popular.  There are many issues with this new “hermeneutic”—one for example has to do with  application.
Brian A. Shealy explains:
  “Bernard Ramm foresaw the hermeneutical problem among evangelicals that would arise through the advent of the new hermeneutic.   Hermeneutical  theorists have departed from grammatical-historical- principles and embraced the subjectivism of the new hermeneutic.   They are recommending a system that incorporates the step of application into the hermeneutical process, thereby confusing definitions of hermeneutics, exegesis, meaning and interpretation.   Dangers that the confusion brings include those of encouraging a human-centered interpretation,  allowing cultural application to change meaning, and advocating  a reader-response type of interpretation as well as others.  To overcome those dangers, interpreters must be sure of their goal, determine what is normative, develop doctrine, and put into practice the lessons dictated by the meaning of a passage.   The only way to achieve this is to redraw the line between hermeneutics and application.”  2 
  I’ve never been much of a  fan of  women's  Bible study guides per se.   For sure,  I've read some good ones,  but too often  they  can be off base to varying degrees.   One example was given last week in  Rachel Miller's critique of a popular women's study.  
But many  women want to hear from other women,  as staggering book sales and  packed out conferences  have proven.   We could stand to hear from more theologically robust women  who exercise sound hermeneutical principles.    Without  this  even those  who advocate  "inductive" study methods can  mislead  people when they convey doctrinal prejudices.  
 “Inductive Bible study leaders may give the impression that they are setting aside their prejudices and simply reading Scripture, but this is not really the case.  …we never see Scripture through completely fresh, unprejudiced eyes.
... We are not free to impose a system on Scripture (which would be a purely deductive approach), but we are at no greater liberty to assume, rather arrogantly, that we are the first to read the Bible just as it is at face value (which would be a purely inductive approach).  Imposing a system on Scripture makes the Bible a slave of tradition, while assuming that we are the first to read it just as it is at face value renders Scripture a slave to unacknowledged personal prejudices.” 1. Michael Horton
I'm no scholar by any means,  but I  do know the average woman  is perfectly capable of understanding  how serious this problem is. 
For a really good  talk about the problem going on in our seminaries  with Scripture interpretation you can listen to Dr. David Farnell’s message at the National Apologetics Conference. 

 2. Evangelical Hermeneutics,  The New Versus the Old;  by Robert L. Thomas;  Chapter Seven: Redrawing the Line Between Hermeneutics and Application by Brian A. Shealy;  pgs165.  Kregal Academics; 2002

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Lost Art of the Handwritten Letter

"Then letters came in but three times a week: indeed, in some places in Scotland where I have stayed when I was a girl, the post came in but once a month;—but letters were letters then; and we made great prizes of them, and read them and studied them like books. Now the post comes rattling in twice a day, bringing short jerky notes, some without beginning or end, but just a little sharp sentence, which well-bred folks would think too abrupt to be spoken.”  ~ Elizabeth Gaskell - Lady Ludlow
I'm at  Out of the Ordinary discussing

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why Women Should Study Church History

How shall we labor with any effect to build up the church, if we have no thorough knowledge of her history,  or fail to apprehend it from the proper point of observation?   History is, and must ever continue to be, next to God’s Word, the richest foundation of wisdom, and the surest guide to all successful practical activity.” —Philip Schaff
I’m at Out of the Ordinary today discussing 
Please come by and join us!


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Thoughts for the New Year

By Matthew Henry

                        "My times are in Your hand!" Psalm 31:15

Firmly believing that my times are in God's hand, I here submit myself and all my affairs for the ensuing year, to the wise and gracious disposal of God's divine providence. 
Whether God appoints for me . . . .
  health or sickness,
  peace or trouble,
  comforts or crosses,
  life or death--
may His holy will be done!
All my time, strength, and service, I devote to the honor of the Lord Jesus--and even my common actions. It is my earnest expectation, hope, and desire, my constant aim and endeavor--that Jesus Christ may be magnified in me.

In everything I have to do--my entire dependence is upon Jesus Christ for strength. And whatever I do in word or deed, I desire to do all in His name, to make Him my Alpha and Omega. I have all from Him--and I would use all for Him.

If this should prove a year of affliction, a sorrowful year to me--I will fetch all my supports and comforts from the Lord Jesus and stay myself upon Him, His everlasting consolations, and the good hope I have in Him through grace.

And if it should be my dying year--then my times are in the hand of the Lord Jesus. And with a humble reliance upon His mediation, I would venture into the eternal world looking for the blessed hope. Dying as well as living--Jesus Christ will, I trust, be gain and advantage to me.

Oh, that the grace of God may be sufficient for me, to keep me always a humble sense of my own unworthiness, weakness, folly, and infirmity--together with a humble dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ for both righteousness and strength.

 Courtesy of Grace Gems

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

When God was Silent

There may be times in our lives when it seems like God has forgotten us,  but of course He never has.     Throughout history He has always  been actively working out His eternal plan for the world and for His people.    There was a time between the Old and New Testament whe He was silent among His people  so please join me today at Out of the Ordinary today.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Carpenter’s Son

"Is not this the carpenter's son?"
Matthew 13:55

How truly did the Son of God identify Himself with the humanity and the curse He came to ransom and remove.  And when we see those hands which built the universe building earthly dwellings for man--squaring the beam, plying the saw, thrusting the plane, driving the nail, constructing and raising the framework--we behold personally Him tasting the bitterness of that part of the curse which enjoined, "In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread."
We learn from this that, obscurity of birth and lowliness of craft are no dishonor to him whose condition it may be.…
Our Divine Savior might be termed, in modern parlance,  a 'working man.'  He was, in early life, a carpenter.   Labor was concurrent with man's creation.    Before the fall, God sent him into the garden to keep it.   And although the ground brought forth spontaneously, yet it was beneath his culturing hand that the earth was to bloom and blossom as the rose. Idleness was no part of our original constitution; God never intended that man's powers should be stunted, and that his life should evaporate in useless and ignoble repose. Be up, then, and doing. Be ready for any labor, prepared for any duty, willing for any sacrifice, active, honest, and earnest in any and every sphere in which God may place you.

Consider Jesus! He knows your walk. He will sympathize with, and give you grace for, the difficulties and discouragements, the temptations and trials, peculiar to your position in life. And however obscure your birth, or lowly your calling, or cramped your powers, strive to imitate, please, and glorify Him.” 1 ~ Octavius Winslow


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hiding Behind the Camera

Well, it’s that time of year again when the cameras  come  out at parties and family gatherings.   Even though we’re living in an age where self expression is at an all time high,   some of us would prefer  to stay of out the picture—or at least try to hide in the back row.   I know because I've been  one of them.
It would be nice to think the reason is due to genuine humility… you know, not wanting to vainly draw attention to ourselves.   But I’m guessing the motivation is not always so noble.   We just don’t like the way we look and worry about what other’s might think.    I’m also guessing  this is probably more of a chick thing.  Seriously—how  many guys out there would give it a second thought?  
 You’d think  that when women get  older they would automatically become  mature and  accept  the way their bodies look.   Not necessarily so.   Truth be known,  there’s still a competitive natured  junior high  girl lurking beneath the surface in most of us.  
My mom was a funny person.   Not long before she went to be with the Lord at 86,  I was with her as she passed by the mirror.   She stopped and stuck her tongue at herself in disgust and we both laughed.   She was a real stunner when she was young and was one who  did her make-up and nails till the end.    Some things are universal, no?   
I don’t mind my  graying hair, wrinkles, and sagging skin, it’s the  excess junk in the trunk  that’s my biggest nemesis.    I had never dealt with weight issues much until  after 40 and when I did,  boy,  did that change my  perspective of myself!     It has been very, uh….should I say sanctifying?     The battle of the bulge  has taken up more of my thought life and effort than I care to admit.    And now that I’m well beyond 50…ahem…60,   I’ve noticed that there’s  a definite divide among women my age.    We all got old  for sure, but some of us just struggle more to keep the weight off.    But so what?  
One thing I have learned over the years is that true beauty truly is NOT about outward appearance.    We know that in theory, but do women really get it?     Women whose confidence lies in other places and who count it a privilege to  stand without hesitation  alongside their  family and friends in a group photo could potentially  be  the “most beautiful”  person  in the picture, if you know what I mean.   I’ve known  women like this and I'm sure you have too.    These are the women who are all done with the vanity of beauty pageantry and  whose lives have been adorned by the fruit of righteousness that is displayed through their acts of  kindness and charity towards others.   This kind of beauty never fades and is beauty in the truest sense of the word.  
"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.”  ~ Proverbs 31:30

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Thanksgiving Street" by Susannah Spurgeon

"The praise we render is dearer to Him than that of angels—for they cannot bless Him for redeeming love, for pardoned sin, and the blessed hope of resurrection glory." ~ Susannah Spurgeon  

I’m at Out of the Ordinary  today sharing one of my favorites. 

Wishing you all a very wonderful Thanksgiving!