Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Marks of the Ministry

As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,

"In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

Here are some practical ideas, I know they are random. I hope each of you will brainstorm and make more progress than I and I am sure you will because I am the least theologically educated amongst the bloggers (I admit it and I know it's true). Let me start with some.

1 -- Public prayer. I don't think public prayer is a sin, it's just a sin if that's the only praying going on for that person.... Prayer praises God, and that cleanses us. It includes God... one of the specifically neat things about prayer is that when we make requests we get to hope in God to answer them right here in the midst of discussions. He gets the glory.

2 -- Public worship. I realize some people hold convictions possibly that keeps them from fellowship with others. We don't want to harm their preferences according to their conviction. They are free to choose whether to join in on an individual basis, but it is good for them to see worship in the lives of those holding "wrong beliefs" just as they also offer up praise to God.

3 -- Dealing with anger immediately. Holding something against your brother affects the worship God finds acceptable. Forgiveness should be a regular practice.

4 -- Praising strengths. If we could spend a little more time praising strengths and correct intentions and theology, we would see how much there is to praise God and thank Him for. He commanded us to always pray with thanksgiving.

5 -- Freedom of conscience but bound to community. Practicing the truths brought to us in Romans 14 on disputable matters, we should be careful to both defend freedom yet not spoil the weaker brothers.

6 -- Human need is more important than advertising doctrine. I think that's pretty self-explanatory.

7 -- Practice faith. This is the only thing that pleases God. Theological discussion isn't "good" unless it appropriates trust in God to supply according to our needs.

8 -- Hope and love. Love is the greatest and most essential aspect to obeying God.

9 -- Be looking intently for your returning brother. The Father saw the prodigal son and met him on the road far down from the house. That's because he was always looking for him. Brainstorm creative ways to encourage your brother toward confession of his problem-spots.

10 -- We might be best to camp a few steps short of undertaking Paul's authority. Dr. Dave Anderson said during the FGA discussion panel in regards to heresy, that he wasn't sure when it was the right time to label "heresy" and stop discussion because he hadn't been given the authority which Paul had to declare gospel in scripture. Ever-being students of the Word we can make some good cases but I think at this time, has not everyone been proven a heretic -a schismatic- at minimum? I think so. I think everybody's been put on that list. If our neighbor is teaching "heresy" -- it'll be the last thing they admit as they are led through the scriptures. If we focus on scripture and focus on grace and the power of God, we might take them the right way, and all the way to repentance.

11 -- Fellowship is by faith. We know what walking in the Spirit looks like; the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. God purifies both "them" and "us" by faith. We are equally useful to Him in that sense so we can not condemn that which God has called clean.

12 -- Information ought to redeem, not condemn. Jesus used information not to exclude, but to creatively and personally redeem the wayward. This is the purpose for apologetics.

13 -- Exercising free will is good. It is good to surrender others in faith to the holy conviction that comes by the Spirit after we're done sharing our beliefs. The good news is God chastens legitimate sons.

14 -- Restoration. A Christian sitting on the sidelines is not God's will. He wants to have His children active in the ministry to which they've been called.

If we could encourage one another to more of these things... I think it will only bring us blessing from the LORD. Now I don't mean to appear self-righteous and jump the gun by making this list before others have (if they were planning it). I see that most everybody already practices these things at least in their own lives as well as on the internet, and have been for some time. I realize I haven't listed anything new to any of you. My interest has always been to humanize the internet for FGT. (True religion is man-focused & God-focused.)

I purposely left this post un-theologized, un-poetic and un-complicated. I want God's Spirit, His own "open heart" be the main focus....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

a testimony of "exit"

The following is an interview with a good friend and fellow congregant with me. After becoming a believer he joined an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church in Idaho. Both he and another member of this church left to come and attend Oregon Theological Seminary. I asked him to share his experiences with the leadership and belief system of this denomination.

Q: Are IFB congregants permitted to join another para-church organization with the intent to implement their own doctrinal distinctives?

IFBs believe in the cohesiveness of the church. To split a christian organization is contrary to their belief. I do not think it is likely that they would think to join some other organization just to split it apart.

Q: What opinion do IFBs have of other congregations and their teachings? Do they believe they are the only churches who have the truth?

To some level or another others are heretics. They don't believe that they are the only church in the city teaching the truth, but they do believe they are the only ones teaching the full truth. Other conservative Christian churches may have begun with biblical truths but through association with the world, their doctrines have become corrupted.

Southern Baptist churches are an example of churches who have compromised God's truth. They are set up so that their convention (SBC) runs the churches. Because they are not independent, therefore they are considered the "whore" described in Revelation 17:1. They listen to the spirit of the world instead of remaining loyal to Christ alone.

The IFB churches, when they think of approvable true New Testament churches, speak of "the church in this city."

There is one church for one city, although in some cases larger towns may break up in branches, being geographically-organized. This comes from the scriptures where the epistles were written "to the church at" Rome, Galatia, etc. The model in scripture is one singular church in one singular locale or region.

Q: What other beliefs make IFB churches distinct?

IFBs stick to the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible mostly. They consider it another breath of God, the only inspired version of the Bible. When they observe other Christians such as [our own CBA church] also teach from the New International Version, they would say that our church is lost and misguided.

There are some IFBs who do not believe in the KJV in this way. Some believe it is fine to use the NASB. Maybe there are a few who will use the NKJV, but according to them there are some errors in those.

Q: Have you ever heard of the "right-pastor" doctrine? Did the IFB churches you witnessed believe in one pastor for life?

The "one pastor for life" practice is extreme. Most IFB pastors don't have a problem with a pastor leaving to serve at another congregation. However, they are hesitant to search for a pastor for themselves. Typically what happens is a pastor will himself appoint someone before he leaves.

Q: Why did you leave this IFB church?

[He discussed the particular situation of his church at that time when he attended. Many of the details are not relevant and not edifying. What remains are a few details.]

We were aware of litigation against the church to provide that homosexuals may hold paid positions in the church. Legal counsel sent a recommendation that all churches rewrite their constitutions to protect them from lawsuits. At that time, our pastor decided that everything else in the constitution was up for rewriting, and made some changes. He researched other constitutions from other places and pulled out a few new features that he wanted to implement. All of these new ideas for church organization came from the constitutions of much larger IFB congregations. The pastor did not suggest these changes, but instead claimed these things would protect their church. It actually gave him sole authority over everything for the church. Singular, sole authority. Technically, the role of leading the church had been left to elders, plural. But larger IFB churches do not have a plural elders rule. Usually in IFB constitutions, one elder, is the rule. The only reason why examples of more elders can be found is because the head pastor wants help making decisions.

Q: What was the nature of your concerns for your church?

Mostly I had theological concerns, not church organizational concerns. As time went on, more and more I became concerned with the abuse of leadership and centralization of power. But in the beginning, the pastor would always say about his teachings, "If I preach from the pulpit, and from the scriptures, and what I say does not line up with scripture, you should talk to me about it." That was his method for checks and balances on teaching. Technically it's up to him with the burden of proof to show he is correct. I wanted to discuss the Greek with him, but I needed more education with the language, so I could never make a convincing case.

A couple of weeks after the pastor announced his changes, that new constitution was put into place. The deacons all wrote it up, assured it was biblically correct, but really it was more a pastor with personal aspirations for supreme control. Within a couple of weeks of its implementation, he let go a part-time associate pastor. The reasons didn't jive with what he was saying, and there were too many conflicting things going on there. While another deacon was on vacation a whole lot of other changes were made and when he returned, he was asked to leave quietly.

I had been teaching an adult Sunday school class. After one Sunday, he made an announcement: come for a teachers' meeting. He said to us, "From now on, scripture says you have to wear a three piece suit (as a man)." I told him I couldn't do that because of my occupation and time constraints. His response was, "Then you shouldn't be teaching."

We later had a discussion about deacons and the constitution. I essentially said to him that we're supposed to do these things in love. But instead you've done it in a way that is brash and nonchalant, with unrighteous authority. He got pretty belligerent about my opinions.

I left the church on my own, but afterward he told the church not to have fellowship with me and my family. He said about us to the entire church that we had "broken fellowship with the true faith."

The pastor said that not only of us, but everyone else who was concerned and had ended up leaving. The pastor told the congregation that "these people have broken fellowship with our chuches. Do not have fellowship with them anymore." Basically, we were shuned in a small town. If someone saw us, they were told "don't say hi but go the other direction, and do not have this list of people in your house." In a split second, we lost all our friends at the church.

Q: Where did you go after you left?

We left and I became a part of the construction and leadership of a new church in Idaho for three years. All of the people who worked on creating this church came with baggage from other churches. They knew they needed to make some serious changes in the way we prioritize our Christian life. It's first and foremost about a relationship with Christ, not about religion. Christians should be forgiving one another, just as God does us. Relationship is key. At that time in that area, this was a novel concept. We believed that if we gave the people solid biblical teaching, combined with putting relationships with people, community, and God first, membership growth will come as a result. Sunday school was our main reason for growth. As of right now this church I helped seed has already grown so large they have needed to reconstruct it for more space.

During those three years I was still looking for a way to learn the Greek language. Every seminary school has a language program, but 99% of seminaries teach only two semester courses each for Greek and Hebrew. After taking these classes, it is still unlikely you can sit down and read the texts in their original language.

Oregon Theological Seminary was the exception. Instead of two semesters, they had an incredible two year course series for Greek, and two year course series on Hebrew. At the end of these two years, I would actually be able to read the words and have 90% comprehension of what I read.

Q: So you came to Oregon for the teaching. When you arrived at our church, did it feel any different from your former IFB church?

OH yeah, we felt the difference in grace. The first person we met was [our former friend from our IFB church]. He wanted to take us to lunch. The church body took us underneath their wing, instead of leaving us sitting out in the cold.

It didn't take long after I left my IFB church that I started to realize that the way I practiced my faith was unbalanced. Back then being a Christian was more about liturgies of the church itself, than the relationships. Our faith was rote, and we wore it like a mask and then acted differently when we were someplace outside of church.

Being an independent church is not in and of itself, bad. But the question then becomes, if you aren't dependent on outside contribution, you are still dependent on something to tell you what is right and what is wrong. They are fundamental in understanding scripture. Their point is that Christians should know the basics. Everything builds on those things, and so they want to make sure the fundamentals are right.

Being independent actually makes them unhealthy. They aren't really independent, but even more dependent! All the people willing to stand up and disagree on errors in relationship and in scripture, are slowly taken out. Their place in the church is slowly removed so that they cannot speak and cannot have power. It is akin to Russia in the Cold War era with their prisoners. Whoever spoke against leadership were shipped to a remote colony.

When we're only accountable to ourselves, we set up ourselves as god. Independence means they are not willing to let you hold them accountable, even if the church comes to them. If they just refuse to listen, then let it be between that person and God. You should let them go.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Acts 24:4-21

Paul was accused of creating dissension before Governor Felix. How did he answer for himself concerning those charges?

The high priest Ananias used his orator Tertullas to evidence the charges. Tertullas declares in verse 4:

"Nevertheless, not to be tedious to you any further, I beg you to hear, by your courtesy, a few words from us. For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, and we seized him, and wanted to judge him according to our law. But the commander Lysias came by and with great violence took him out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come to you. By examining him yourself you may ascertain all these things of which we accuse him.” And the Jews also assented, maintaining that these things were so.

Then Paul, after the governor had nodded to him to speak, answered: “Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

“Now after many years I came to bring alms and offerings to my nation, in the midst of which some Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with a mob nor with tumult. They ought to have been here before you to object if they had anything against me. Or else let those who are here themselves say if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the council, unless it is for this one statement which I cried out, standing among them, ‘Concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you this day.’”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

These are the Days

Eph 3:17-22
And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

"Spiritual Traps"

I quote a bit from this text to provide a diagnostic tool.

In a very real sense, the spiritually abusive system is a spiritual trap. ... As we've already seen, spiritually abusive systems are hard to leave. The leaders assume power and demand obedience. They foster loyalty to the organization with implied or overt scare tactics and threats. Leaving the system is equal to leaving God and His protection. Paranoia about the evils outside the system makes people afraid to leave. This begins the building of a trap. Then comes the bait.

There are many kinds of bait in the spiritually abusive church, family or organization. "Right standing with God" is probably the most common bait. In 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Paul says that false apostles "disguise themselves as servants of righteousness." The abusive system gives people an opportunity to earn God's approval with their own positive self-effort. In fact, this bait is so appealing that people fail to notice several things.

For instance, they learn to ignore others around them who point out that they are being neglected or mistreated. They overlook it when they grow more tired as time goes on. They ignore the fact that people close to them are leaving and urging them to leave. They are oblivious to how it is becoming easier to justify the things that not too long ago they abhorred.

Other baits might include: the approval of people; religious status or position; a paycheck; the promise that things will improve; or an opportunity to be shamed or mistreated in a way that is consistent with their sense of deserving to be punished for being so "bad."

In addition to everything else these people ignore, they overlook the fact that their goal keeps moving out of reach. ... If they want to stop struggling, a voice within "warns" them: "What if you give up now, just when you were about to have a spiritual 'breakthrough'?"

{1} "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing & Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church," by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen. Bethany House Publishers, 1991; pp. 184-185

Friday, January 16, 2009

Something that haunts me

1. Free speech gives you the right

2. The Word of God makes what you say, true; therefore....

I suppose it's even possible to be fundamentalist about being anti-fundamentalist...

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Debate Underneath What is "Crossless"

I must make it known I have not read this book. I am humbled to be careful in speaking about it. Instead I'd like to use the weakness of it all to encourage visitors here to read and investigate this alongside me.*

What I would like to share with you is the concern and awareness that has been building on my part for several months. This book serves as a powerfully illustrative tool. The free grace "crossless gospel" debate is nothing really new. From what I have learned it is a reincarnation of a more primal and longstanding dispute. I considered the reviews and summaries of the book, available online, which threads I link here:

good reads

The title of this book is: The Grace Awakening: Believing in Grace Is One Thing. Living it Is Another by Chuck R. Swindoll.

This reviewer[1] describes the content of the book:

Exhibiting candor and conviction, Swindoll contrasts liberty with legalism and warns readers to be wary of the three tools of legalism, or grace-killers, as he calls them: doctrinal heresy, ecclesiastical harassment and personal hypocrisy. As he explains it, legalists disturb and distort by twisting truth, spying and enslaving, and lying and deceiving others.

In the chapter titled "The Grace to Let Others Be," Swindoll compares the two different dimensions of grace. "Vertical grace centers on our relationship to God. It is amazing. It frees us from the demands and condemnation of the Mosaic Law," he writes. "Horizontal grace centers on our human relationships. It is charming. It frees us from the tyranny of pleasing people and adjusting our lives to the demands and expectations of human opinion."

To encourage readers as they awaken to grace, Swindoll reminds them that at least three things are involved in the process: it takes time, it requires pain and it means change. He also includes a helpful chart listing qualities of shame-based spirituality versus qualities of healthy spirituality, highlighting for readers the distinct differences between the two.

Swindoll is associated with free grace theology, and was the editor of the book titled "Salvation," by Dr. Earl Radmacher. Read his biography, here.

On page 563 of the Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, by Randall Herbert Balmer, it says that Swindoll was heavily influenced by R. B. Thieme before attending seminary at DTS. In one of the reviews rated mediocre in the thread at Amazon.com, someone makes a claim which I do not have means to verify that in his book "The Grace Awakening" Swindoll has Thieme's orthopraxy in mind as he describes those forces that hinder the practical living out of grace amongst fellow Christians. Pastor Stegall and Pastor Rokser's congregations are theological descendants of Thieme teaching. Though, at this time there are no professional publications measuring the preservation of Thieme distinctives by these pastors.

On November 6, 2008 Rev. Lou Martuneac wrote a post titled, "Continuation of Discussion over the Closing of Pillsbury Baptist Bible College." In this post readers may notice that the "Grace Awakening" so-called mindset is said by Martuneac to be influential. Beginning in 1987, the college's president began to shift in approach. Swindoll's book is the representative reason why this fundamentalist college shut its doors, Martuneac alleges to his fellow Independent Fundamentalist Baptist brethren.

Readers might also notice in his post, that Dr. Earnest Pickering has written a critical response to Swindoll's "Grace Awakening." According to his biography Pickering is associated with Independent Fundamental Churches of America and also the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.

At the time serving as a board member of the Grace Evangelical Society, Ed Underwood wrote a review of "Grace Awakening." In it, he writes:

One of the primary frustrations of the Free Grace Movement has been the popularization of Lordship Salvation over the past decade. Though many high-profile evangelical leaders have voiced their personal concerns privately, none has been willing to risk alienating his audience by standing up for the pure Gospel of Grace. Until now.

At the outset Swindol refuses to treat grace as simply another "theological football kicked from one end of the field to the other" (p. 4). "Enough of this," he cries. "It’s time for grace to be awakened and released, not denied … to be enjoyed and freely given, not debated" (p. 4).

The purpose of this volume, to infect believers with the liberating grace of God, makes it one of the most effective weapons available to combat the bondage of legalism that the Grace Evangelical Society was founded to arrest.

I find it curious that Swindoll's experience with free grace (dispensationalist) fundamentalism (i.e. Thieme), inspired him to publish this book. His personal exit from the "grace-killing" qualities of our churches took place some forty years ago. This teacher of free grace has written the book on the matter. Here we are today, standing at the brink, considering taking the same step... for the same origination of conflict in the "crossless gospel debate?"

On the other hand, I recall Martuneac asking me not to accuse fundamentalism of legalism, and I think there is an avenue in which this is wise. (After all, if we had a well-saturated environment of grace, perhaps we could handle a staunch brother here or there who had an eye for the drift of compromise and error. Especially as new doctrines are written free of Calvinism and bad hermeneutics, I imagine men with discernment will be indispensable.) I am curious whether Pickering discusses this in his response (which is available through the links provided at Martuneac's post).

There are so many which need Spiritual liberation as taught by scripture. In online reviews of Swindoll's book, Christians of a variety of denominations acknowledge that grace is missing in discussion and practice while confessing Christ.

How can we be men and women of a free grace gospel, without demonstrable grace? It's base hypocrisy if we do not find it.

* Several anonymous readers of this blog have emailed me, encouraging me that I am roughly on the right track regarding fundamentalism. I apologize because just within free grace issues there are many interests I have and I am only one person. I know I just don't know all the issues which some readers would. I appreciate your grace. I also encourage you to fact-check my posts on any items in discussion here. This is material meant by me to encourage readers in awareness and to deeper investigation.

[1] Review written by Sean Fowlds, "FaithfulReader.com," NY, NY.

My First Day Without FG

Today marks the very first day where our church has been absent of teaching in free grace theology in some six or seven years.

Today was also my appointment with two women leading the women's bible study. I wrote a post about it (lacking peace), but the LORD has humbled me between then and now. They were gracious. I was gracious. We had a wonderful time of discussion and prayer.

They had never heard of Lordship Salvation, but, because of what I delivered to them, they researched and realized that it was error. They were grateful. The new meaning to the saying "the sovereignty of God" was something they desired to steer clear of.

We also talked about the nature of Christ considering how his mission while on earth was to do the Father's will. She read 1 cor 15:24-28:

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

I replied that this happens to be a favorite JW passage to "prove" the diminutive nature of Jesus Christ, but the only word I have found which speaks to Jesus Christ's diminutive place in relation to the Father God, is the term "greater" which is used maybe some fifteen times in the gospels. As far as I am aware, however, the term "greater" speaks to rank or class, not to nature or especially deity. I believe that while a man Jesus was still the sovereign God, but submitted to Another in free will and by love.

Then we moved into the topic of obedience, and they affirmed me that faith is the only way to please Him once we have become children of God. I stressed how important freedom is and quoted Romans 4:15, which says:

...for where there is no law there is no transgression.

Believers are without commandment because commandments were nailed to the cross in Colossians 2:13-14:

He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

In Christ we are free from any requirement. These ladies automatically shared their concern for licentiousness or false profession, and I said, "can we just say that eternal rewards (or loss) are due for those who think they can conduct themselves as they please? For that which is done in the dark will be made plain on that Day, and each one will receive what they have sown. Therefore walk in the Spirit and you will not obey the desires of the flesh." Both ladies appreciated this approach.

I found out that their heart was just like mine; they too were concerned over stirring faith by the Word of God and avoiding the mistake of pharisaical "churchianity." I was greatly pleased and satisfied. One of these ladies has taken my materials to another bible study and used them for starting discussion.

(A little earlier in the morning, my husband went to the men's bible study and they had a short discussion over whether or not they thought that the "doctrine of eternal rewards" was biblical. They went around the room and each man spoke, and all but one said that eternal rewards is not scriptural. Then, later this evening my husband came home and we had another discussion about it.)

It's hard to be a single voice. Day one was tough. But so far I am not discouraged. :D

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Praise the LORD!

I have three stories to tell for which I praise the LORD!

The first story is continued out from a blog post titled, "The Hearer's Destruction?" In that post I shared a bit about my best friend -- a confessing atheist -- and her son.

You won't believe this...!

Nothing has changed in this many years, till last Friday morning. She called me and began saying, "I never thought I'd be telling you this." She explained that her (now ten year old son) has been persistent lately in asking his atheist mother questions about Jesus Christ and salvation. He said to her (from my recollection): "Jesus Christ is the Son of God and he died on the cross for my sins. That's how I know I am going to heaven. Mom, are you going to heaven?"

So, being a former AWANA clubber in her childhood herself, my friend, his mother, began to answer some of his questions. There's only so much she can tell him. He wants to know more. He keeps making inquiries about Noah's Ark and what it means to be God's Son. My friend chose me (and not an alternate Christian friend in her life), to begin to take her son to church, to AWANA, starting next week. I can't even believe that she wants her son to go to church, at all! I am floored!


A few months ago, Kevin (the administrator of the blog titled "On My Walk") and I had a lengthy and interesting discussion. We discussed how we keep a manner of grace while encouraging obedience.

In the beginning of our conversation I shared with Kevin another personal story from my experiences - a neighbor who might have been offended by the political sign sticking in my lawn. I want to share an amazing update. As I write this she has repented of her alternative lifestyle of several years, she told me mid-December. This woman could have chosen from four Christian families on my street, to begin finding encouragement in her newly devoted walk with Christ, including the pastor of a local baptist church; but, she chose me. Now I take her to church all the time and have her in my home.

At times it is humbling, to commune with a child of God who has seen tough days in battle with Satan. A couple of nights ago I dropped off some groceries for her in an unexpected visit. I felt tension on her part perhaps because she knows I might judge her for other things she still does wrong? But I refuse to throw the book at her. It's not that I put off saying the truth, or her obedience to it. It's simply that I know she must be encouraged to remain in His love and there, in His presence, His correction is loving and gentle. He will lead her toward a greater faith. Obedience often follows with it. I play a small part; a compliment to her discovery and conformity to the truth.

It doesn't really matter what her sins were or are because any sin poses a threat in some way or another, to the human eye. Am I afraid to have her in my home? No, but I'm always cautious (there is a difference). Why am I not afraid? Because I know that God is with me. Paradoxically, I am on lookout for God to minister to me through the newly repentant. Isn't that the way it should be? Matt. 18:3

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

She is the one who calls me on the phone every day, to read a daily devotional.

We both were ministered for an identical need. She read this [1]:

Then Asa... said, "LORD, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty." (2 Chronicles 14:11)

Remind God of his exclusive responsibility: "There is no one like you to help." It may be that your difficulties have come to such an alarming level that you may be compelled to refuse all human help. In lesser trials, you may have had that recourse, but now you must cast yourself on your almighty Friend. Put God between yourself and the enemy.

Asa, realizing his lack of strength, saw Jehovah as standing between the might of Zerah and himself. And he was not mistaken. We are told that the Cushites "were crushed before the LORD and his forces" (vs 13).

Readers, this is the kind of faith I desire to place in Christ when I deal with the unlovelies, even the dangerous ones.


On December 26th my family was by tradition, late to appear for the celebration. My brother-in-law, whom people have been praying for in the last seven years, saw me reading my bible when I finally sat down from dinner prep. He began by mocking the good book, but then confessed that he has found faith in God recently. Me? I have been released from ministering to him or even interacting to him by and large since he came on to me twice, last Spring. The last spiritual thing I said to him was, "What you need is to put your faith in Christ, brother." He replied, "I don't think so. Me and God, we have a special arrangement."

It so turns out that a long time friend of his has reconnected into his life. My brother-in-law's current marriage difficulties has caused him to want to pray, and this old friend of his is a youth pastor. During our conversation with my bible before me, my brother-in-law took out his cell phone and pulled up an old voice mail message of the youth pastor's prayer for him and his failing marriage. It was an amazing prayer, for things I hadn't even been asking God for anymore. Why did I stop??

Where was I? I had given up on him. I was blinded in my offense at what he had done against me, so, I wasn't praying for him and I wasn't burdened for him anymore. And that was the very moment when he confessed (and I certainly pressed for him to explain what he knew), "Yes, I know what Jesus did for me. He died on the cross for my sins, so that I could go to heaven."

Again, I am floored. Is not the most amazing God-thing happening inside the one who we think will never come around? Who seems impossible to reach for repentance? Who has just done too horrible of a thing? I think so.

I'm not the most fervent prayer. I have a feeling that my readers are probably quite devoted to prayer -- thank you so very much. I don't always share my faith, I'm not always gracious. Sometimes I give up on people when I shouldn't. I just want to praise God for what he is doing in the lives around me. My passion is stirred, my vision is refocusing. I love Him and I believe in Him to do that which feels impossible, things which has gone unanswered for even years at a go.

Jesus Christ's compassions fail not (lam 3:22)!

[1] Cowman, L. B. "Streams in the Desert," edited by Jim Reimann, 1997. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. pp. 18-19.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Public Statement on Heresy

Dr. Charlie Bing, former President of the Free Grace Alliance, writes and gives me permission today to publish the following regarding "heresy":

I do believe and would say that "heresy" is a relative term [used] so often, that is, everybody is a heretic to someone who does not agree with them. There certainly is "heresy," but it all boils down to what the Bible says anyway, so let's just discuss the Bible and leave out the charge of heresy, unless of course it is a very clear fundamental issue.

I would also like to quote a paraphrase of Dr. Bing's statements from an earlier post dated October 2008:

If freedom is really freedom, it makes enough room for deliverance from sin and deception for sure but also it will permit the exercise of error. Who wants to give freedom? Who wants to take freedom away? ... Our purpose is to advance the grace message around the world, not argue about it.

You may read the entire post from the portion above, here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Name's Sake

It is a lie to think that God prefers the outward more than the inward. I used to think that to be obedient in my own walk was much more difficult, than the task of speaking truth into someone's life. Now I find the reverse is true. I find it a relief to be free to meditate and grow up my own personal affairs in Christ.

My husband and I met while on a college group mission trip from Corvallis, Oregon, to Provo, Utah, in the spring of 2000. Yes: we were going to go and evangelize to Mormons. He and I got to know each other just a little bit on that trip, but he was a godly and quiet man and I wanted to be a part of his life. The trip was highly conflicting to me. Not only did I not know any single person on the trip (except my older woman mentor), but Provo was my childhood home. My mom was a retired Mormon and I was just barely aware that I was a Christian. I realized while on the bus somewhere in Idaho, that we were going there to tell them that their religion was false, and I thought, "Could this really be true?"

I walked away thinking I knew something about what the bible had to say regarding salvation. Ha! In the summer of 2002 I began talking online in two main areas: LDS, and those exiting a damaging cult I had accidentally also got caught up in. I chose a screen nickname: "Sanctification." I had been hunting around for a good one, not any fad. This was back in the days when anonymity online was crucial, do you remember that? It wasn't that long ago I suppose. I still prefer to be called "Sanc." I'm not quite arrived in comfort with being called "Michele" when online, which free grace has done to me, but I suppose that the world keeps getting smaller and smaller. The online reputation and real life's reputation best be one.

I could barely understand the definition when I picked it! There is a magnitude there in my nickname that keeps cutting me to the heart the farther I walk with God. I didn't want to be arrogant. To me, when I chose that name, all I was thinking is, "In the end, none of this will matter unless Christ is here with me." A couple years later I began a fascination with the doctrine of sanctification by faith alone, so I can't say I planned that either.

Time to get serious. Satan wants to take me down. It certainly is a tall order: sanctification. I didn't always, but now I am committed to make no resting place for the flesh. Psalm 15:

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
Who may live on your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart

and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman,

who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the LORD,
who keeps his oath
even when it hurts,

who lends his money without usury
and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
will never be shaken.

"May the LORD have his way in me, that I would please Him, that I would have the guts to draw lines I need to draw, that I would keep a Spiritual reign on my tongue, that there would be no hypocrisy in me, that I would not be deceived into establishing disordered loves."

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Matt 18 and Disfellowship

When I have read Matt 18 I fail to be convinced that "treating the brother as if they were a publican or heathen" means we therefore "ostracize" (banish, exile). How does the church intersect with, yet also separate from, the publicans and heathens (unbelievers)?

In our brother's case, being likened to the treatment of unbelievers is an illustration not only of sin, but also of unresolved disagreement.

Fellowship has to do with commonality. 2 cor 6:14-16 says:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.

We cannot serve two masters, and being tied to men who are without understanding from God is not profitable. Therefore we no longer do activities "in commonality," with one mind.

Yet the scriptures speak to the placement of light in regard to the darkness. Matt 5:14-16 says that the light is raised up for all to see:

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

In fact, Luke 8:16-18 (below) says that the light is placed in such a way so to hold other men responsible to listen, as if to the instructions of God. The sinning brother would have greater understanding if they would permit their offended brother to hold his hearing.

"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."

So I would conclude that in the case that "your brother sins against you," and the brother refuses to hear one, refuses to hear three and then refuses to receive even the entire church, they ought to be treated as if they were an unbeliever. We are not yoked to their resolvedly ignorant points of view. However we are there in the midst of their existence, showing them the way to reconciliation by faith again in Christ and to the church and to us as individuals. We woo them with our good deeds, so they might praise the Father and choose to be intimate.

I believe... that when Jesus was commanding us in Matt 18 to regard our non-listening brother as we would the heathens, Jesus was essentially saying that we would be empowered to be as light from God to that brother.

Do you find this disagreeable or uneducated?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Suffering with Doubt

Sometimes people ask me what I believe. Or they ask me what I'm up to. I just shake my head and frown. When I am going through a difficult time, I just can't seem to be able to give an explanation. No ideas come to mind, no words come out of my mouth. It's almost like I suffer amnesia -- where did that go, again?

When my pastor announced his leaving recently, it was like this; I went through a few days of involuntary recalibration. Doubt, over my place and my own beliefs. It isn't persecution, but it is a kind of suffering that happens when I realize I am the only one who believes and serves in the fashion I am. I go back to the Word of God. It eventually rescues me.

The doctrine that rescues me over and over again is sanctification by faith alone. I read Galatians and I realize that the truths in chapter three are the truths that not only affect my own personal peace in Christ but also the peace I might extend to others around me, as well as the difference in my theology in comparison to most every person I have ever known.

This latest period of doubt unusually found me thumbing through a book I purchased on the topic. I rarely pick up books on the topic of law vs. grace because they often disappoint, telling me things I already am enduring in the people I live amongst. This one was different; I bought it at the local free grace seminary because it was ordered as the text for the class titled, "Romans and Galatians."

In it [1], the material from chapter fifteen which is titled "Sanctification: The Wrong Way by Works of the Law," says of Romans 7:6 (one of my most favorite verses in the bible),

[Paul] could not say that the law dies. The law of God never dies. The Jews would have had Paul in a moment, had he said the law died. He says that we were made dead through the death of Christ. We died with Him, and that broke the relationship. That is the application.

But that is not the end. To paraphrase Paul, "You died to the law in order that you should be joined to another, that is, Him who was raised from the dead, so that you might be fruitful to God." And so, while some say this is a dangerous doctrine, that of being dead to the law, do not forget that there are two things that go together: first, freedom from the law; second, union with Christ. And that combination makes it safe!

There it is. I don't need an army of others who can say this. I just need one, maybe two or a handful of comrades, and I think I might remain fulfilled. I had forgotten I had skimmed to this chapter when I first bought the book in February of 2008. I remember that I'd read it, and then I knew that this group of people known as "free grace" could and would defend the truth found in the Word of God. Our victory in enduring obedience in Christ, is caught up in this teaching, I am convinced. The battle, is real. The goal, is worth fighting for.

WIth my methods, too, sometimes I can't seem to explain what I am up to, what my values are and how they are God-honoring. Yesterday though, out they poured. I got it out in words, again, thank the LORD!

A short conversation with JP at his blog.

Yes... I sometimes suffer with doubt.

[1] McClain, Alva J. Romans: The Gospel of God's Grace. Winona Lake, Indiana: BMH Books; 1973, pg. 153

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