When all is crooked, straight seems …

There is an old Mother Goose tale that describes today and the challenges for us who live for Jesus Christ and His Word. It’s a poem about a crooked man.

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile; in
He bought a crooked cat which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

 

The challenge is that when everything is crooked, straight seems odd, unnatural, and not right. We live in a world morally that has embraced crookedness in almost every moral form. No longer does crooked seem odd and not right; crookedness has become the standard.

I have been thinking of this as I have watched the Democratic candidates for President in debates and forums. While there are a multitude of candidates and opinions, on two issues there is universal agreement and even passion. One is the right of a woman to have her child aborted. The second is a wholesale embrace of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) agenda. It gives evidence of a society in full rebellion against God. It reflects a society upside down, ‘crooked’ morally, a place where wrong is boldly asserted to be right. As described in Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

When it comes to the right of a woman to abort her unborn child, there is great passion. They phrase it as if it is about a woman’s right to have control of her body. Her right to abort is called a civil right that no one has the right to challenge. They generate great fear of those in the other political party who would take away the right of a woman to her body. It is never acknowledged in the discussion that there is another person and life involved. The child developing is a person as well. We were created as a nation with the truth that each person has been endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The right of an unborn child to life is not controlled by a mother. The unborn child is a person with a soul made in the  image of God. The Bible says God actively knits us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139:15-16). Life belongs to God alone, and no one has the right to take the life of another.

We gain insight into God’s view on this in Exodus. Exodus 21:22-25 describes what happens if men are fighting and a pregnant woman is struck and prematurely delivers her baby. If the baby is unharmed, the man is fined, but if the baby is harmed, justice must be served. “Life for life…”. The baby is not regarded as an appendage to a woman’s body, but as a person made in the image of God. This is not about “men” telling a woman what she can do with her body; this is government being used as an instrument of God to protect the sacredness of life. It is life at its most innocent and vulnerable. The one place in the world a child should be safe is in her or his mother’s womb, yet in our world this can be a place of ultimate violence, with a woman giving the right to somebody to take the life of her baby.

The statistics on voluntary abortion are staggering.  This year already in the USA over 860,000  unborn babies have been put to death. People note the number of total children aborted is declining, but the reality is that this is just a result of less people becoming pregnant. 18% of children in a given year will be voluntarily aborted in the USA. Almost one in five children conceived are voluntarily put to death. So far in the world this year over 36 million children have been aborted. In Genesis 4, God noted to Cain that the blood of the brother he killed calls out to God for justice. As God’s rising judgment is increasingly being shown, surely a nation that allows its children to be aborted cannot know God’s blessings. To God and those who share His heart, every life is valuable, sacred, and to be protected.

However, the influence of this crooked world is evident even in the Christian community. According to a survey done in May, less than 50% of evangelical Christians consider themselves pro-life. Only 25% believe that abortion is always wrong (except in the case of saving a mother’s life).

God has given to women the unbelievable honor of bearing and nurturing life. It is not a curse from God or from men. Could there any other achievement in life that matches that of bearing life? But with the privilege comes the responsibility and accountability for that life. The most basic role of government is to protect life. To support mothers in their pregnancy and to support them as they nurture young life is a responsibility we all have. For politicians to state that the purpose of government is to protect the right of a woman to have her baby aborted is to disqualify themselves for consideration for support. A political party that passionately advocates for a woman’s right to have her baby’s life taken has turned justice absolutely upside down. It is a crooked party calling us to join them in their rebellion against God.

In a subsequent post I will address the issue of LGBTQ. For now, it is so important that we realize that each unborn child is a person that has the right to live. I had a personal experience of significance one summer. I was the evening speaker at a family camp at Forest Home Conference Center. At the same time there was also a camp for students. One morning as I was studying in a cabin, a small group of students met on the porch outside. They didn’t know I was there, and I didn’t want to interrupt them. The counselor shared her story. When her mother was pregnant with her in Chicago, she decided she didn’t want her. An abortion at a clinic was scheduled, but the night before, a massive snowstorm hit Chicago, and the city was shut down. Because of weather, the clinic was closed, and the appointment was canceled. Her mother never rescheduled. As she shared her story and God’s providential intervention to spare her life, I was so impressed that these issues of unborn children are not just statistics. These are lives in development who have given by God the right to life.

Now, alongside this call of God to protect life, there is also a path given from God for forgiveness, acceptance, and new life for those who have taken life. The Bible says that Jesus took upon Himself the wrath for the guilty judgment of our sin upon the cross. Jesus has paid in full, so that whoever repents and calls on Him for forgiveness and commits to follow Him in His paths of righteousness will be forgiven, accepted, and helped by God. The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Bible promises in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If you are guilty, turn to God’s Son Jesus in true humble repentance and trust, and He will bless you in the life He has for you from this point on.

In this crooked world we must speak for the unborn and their right to life. We must call those who stand for public office to uphold the inalienable rights of children to life. Those who do not stand for the innocent in the womb will not truly bring justice to the living. Repent, Presidential candidates, repent. America’s hope is God’s favor. He cannot and will not bless the crooked in their crooked ways.

A Step Too Far

The spiritual madness of our times can be seen in current events. In a week when a Bible translator in Cameroon was murdered and his wife’s hand cut off, the talk in the USA is of a pastor sitting in the seat of scorn demeaning, denigrating, and dismissing a teacher of the Bible who happens to be a woman.

John MacArthur this week made a pithy statement about Beth Moore to “go home” before an room echoing with loud guffaws from those who understood the meaning of the remark. In fact, many who heard this understood its meaning to be that a woman’s role is to stay home, have babies, and run the kitchen. He then added unchallenged accusations of narcissism and equated her skills to those of a woman hawking products on a shopping channel.

I find statements like this to be deeply discouraging and an embarrassment to those of us who hold complementarian views. His tone evidences male bias and colors all of us with stains that make it hard for people to see the Spirit and the truth of what God has said. In a seeming effort to uphold the truth of God’s Word, his statement in fact undermines it. It is a step too far. It is not worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

One way to recognize whether a person is speaking by the Spirit of God, by the flesh, or by the spirit of this world is that the Holy Spirit never goes a step too far. The Spirit of God never upholds truth at the expense of grace. It also never, as so many do today, upholds grace at the expense of truth. The church has always had the problem of people who step too far with God’s Word. John MacArthur is not unique in this. I have heard other Bible teachers who I respect go a step too far. They do it in ways that are not worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Again, I affirm the teaching that the role of teaching/ruling elder in the church is reserved for men. I don’t apologize for that, as it is God’s Word and not mine. However, the application of this truth is exclusive to weekly worship services and teaching/ruling elders. When the Apostle Paul instructs women who pray or prophesy in worship services to do so with their heads covered (1 Corinthians 11:4-6), it seems obvious to Paul that women in worship services were praying and prophesying. He addressed who was to oversee that the preaching of the Word was in accordance with truth, but did not exclude women from roles in public worship services.

The arguments given to support this by John MacArthur and others seem rooted in the idea that the ability to rightly handle, understand, or teach the Word of God is exclusive to males. As if woman have no insights to give the rest of us in understanding and applying the Word of God, because this is exclusive to male genes. This is a shocking step too far. It is not worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know from the Bible that every believer has an anointing of the Holy Spirit and thus is able to understand the Bible (1 John 2:20). We know that the one who illuminates our minds to understand the Word of God is the Holy Spirit, and that we all, male and female, have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). We know that in this age, the Holy Spirit is given to all disciples of the Lord Jesus. Peter preached in Acts 2:17-18, “… I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” As we understand from Scripture, another word for prophesying is preaching. Preaching is to declare the Word of God with authority. Clearly this gift of preaching is not exclusive to men but given to females and males. It is a step too far to declare that this is only for men. It is not worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ. The question is not whether women have been given this spiritual gift and calling, but where it is best to be used. I personally have benefited greatly from insights into Scripture by many women, including Beth Moore.

Another aspect of this which is a step too far is the spirit in which it is given. To demean, denigrate, and dismiss because you don’t agree with someone is such a violation of Scripture, it is shocking to hear it from a man who claims to know and stand for the Word of God. Ephesians 4:29-32 and 5:1-2 says, “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. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”

Whatever may be said of words like “go home”, they do not build up. They tear down. The words do not give grace to those who hear, but give a kind of mocking and dismissive contempt. To compare a woman of God teaching the Word of God to a woman hawking things on a shopping network is not kind, it is not tenderhearted, it is not loving, and it is not true. It is not worthy of a man who offers himself as a teacher to pastors. It is a step too far that grieves the Holy Spirit. It is not worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even if we aim to correct an error in some aspect of teaching and application, it is always to be done in a spirit of humbleness, kindness, with an evident desire to correct and restore. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy this way in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” I am not saying Beth Moore needs correction. However, if a fellow believer does, it should still be done in a spirit that is kind and gentle. It is hard not to see in these comments those who are quarrelsome and frankly joined in the Devil’s work in dividing, destroying and driving away. It is a step too far. It is not worthy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Another step too far is to presume to be able to accurately judge the heart and motivations of another. To accuse someone of being narcissistic is to judge and condemn a heart and to take a place no one should have in evaluating another (1 Corinthians 4:5). We should at times point out behaviors that contrast with Scripture (which I am trying to do in this post), but to judge the heart and motivation of another is a step too far. No one has the right to take this place but the Lord Jesus. All of this criticism of a narcissistic spirit comes from someone sitting in seat of judgment, making scornful comments to the guffaws of the audience, in clips that have gone viral and stand uncorrected. This raises the same questions of the one who gave them as those that he and his partners on stage raised about Beth Moore. It is embarrassing and not worthy of a man known for his teaching of the Word of God. It diminishes and demeans the Word of God that he aims to uphold.

This also points out the danger that Paul warns about in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “This knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” When knowledge becomes a club that we feel free to use to demean, denigrate, and dismiss others, we have left the truth of Jesus. It is a step too far. It evidences a male mindset of superiority, not from the seat of a teacher, but from the seat of scorn. It joins the spirit of the accuser of the brethren, which already has too many voices.

I pray this blog is not given — or perceived to be given — in the same spirit that I have said falls far short of a mature person of faith. I hope it brings reflection, correction and repentance. I pray that those who see this for what it is — the evidence of male bias and discrimination against women — will realize that this is not the truth of Scripture or the way it should be used. It is a step too far.

There is only one Lord in the church, and that is Jesus. There is only one who renews the minds by the Word of God, and that is the Holy Spirit. Every part of service and teaching in the church is important. In a week where a brother was murdered for his service of Christ and his wife’s hand cut off, let’s understand who the true enemy is. The church is to be a safe place. Teaching, correction is to be done in love, with a spirit of building up. Let us teach the Word of God as Jesus did in the perfect balance of grace and truth (John 1:17).

When Everything Is Conspiracy

We live in a time when everything is called conspiracy. In the political world of the USA we are deeply divided. What makes this so awful is that we don’t trust there are any reliable sources for truth, for fact. Each side accuses the other of conspiracy. President Trump and his allies have expressed there is the conspiracy of a ‘Deep State’ within government, supported by the media, with the purpose to defeat his own agenda and remove him from office. They have developed the concept of ‘Fake News’ and make it seem that everything mainstream media presents to us is biased, distorted, or false. To them Congress has no legitimate right to oversight and investigation because they are biased, only seeking to destroy Trump. To them Federal agencies like the FBI, CIA, and State Department are full of people engaged in this conspiracy against Trump, and thus, are not to be believed.

Those among the Democrats also express views of conspiracy. They promote the belief that it was Russian efforts to elect Trump that tipped the election to him. They question the source of Trump’s wealth and its influence in his decisions. They bring accusations of abuse of power and of incompetence.

The purpose of conspiracy theories is to create mistrust and fear. It is to cause us to fear a future if the other side is in control. It causes us not to listen to others because we do not believe they are telling us the truth. It leads to an almost blind loyalty because there is such mistrust of the bias of the information given to us.

Closely aligned to this conspiracy theory approach is a second argument that what my side has done wrong does not compare to what the other side has done. Everyone is doing things that aren’t right, but that is just the way it is in politics. The wrong my side has done doesn’t compare to the wrongs the other side has done. So again, we have no standards of truth or right practices to live by. Everyone is doing wrong, but I’m okay because my wrong isn’t as bad as the wrongs of the other side.

If this rampant spread of belief in conspiracy and justification of my side’s wrongs compared to the wrongs of the other side stayed exclusively within politics that would be one thing. However, this same strategy is being used in how to view the Bible and its teachings. We see today those that say the Bible is not reliable because it was written by flawed people with cultural bias. They say the clear teaching of the Bible on issues like marriage, sexuality, or holiness are not what we are to live by today. New interpretations state that teachings on sexuality, marriage, and creation by God came from people who have read that into the Bible. One leading theologian changes the very meaning of the atonement. Another writes off the whole Old Testament as not reliable and not for the church today. Others accept that sexual behaviors can be sinful, but that everybody sins, and we should not draw so much attention to sexual sins compared to others like pride, gluttony, gossip. Others write off hell as not being compatible with the truth that God is love. Thus, Christians lose confidence in the Bible and how it has been taught for centuries. We lose accountability for sin because we say everyone sins and mine isn’t as bad as others. Many believe sin doesn’t matter because God loves us no matter what we do. We are left with a church that lives as the generations in the time of Judges, with every person doing what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).

The Bible clearly and prophetically speaks to those who view that everything is conspiracy or who say that everyone sins, so we shouldn’t identify some over others. God says through the prophet Isaiah, “For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him shall you honor as holy. Let him be your fear, let him be your dread.’” (Isaiah 8:11-13)

We don’t need to fear a conspiracy of others. We need to fear God. We need to honor His Word, the Bible, knowing that Jesus endorsed the Old Testament down to its smallest letter and the smallest parts of a letter (Matthew 5:17-20). Let us remember that the Bible defines sins that, if people continue to practice them, they will not be saved (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Let us remember that God has called us to holiness in conduct because He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Let us remember that the grace of Jesus has not come to enable us to continue in sin, but to find freedom from its power and freedom to walk in His grace and truth.

In our politics let us remember God is working His will among the nations as history rapidly moves to the crowning of the Lord Jesus Christ as King and Lord of all. Let us stop advancing the conspiracy theories so freely offered and believed. Let us use common sense and wisdom from the Spirit of God to sort it through and not overreact. Let us hold leaders accountable to standards of right conduct regardless of what others have done. Let us relax politically and focus on what we are to do, which is to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to all who will hear. Let us live with bold confidence because God is working His will and because our hope for the future is certain. Let us hear the voice of God through another passage in Isaiah, “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God and there’s no other; I am God, and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.” (Isaiah 46:8-11).