Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Wholly His

Monday afternoon I received the following e-mail from a young lady with whom I have just started corresponding. I am posting it with her permission, in order to show the amazing way the Holy Spirit works in a person's heart. Many times, I have said that conviction is nothing like condemnation - God is so gentle and encouraging in offering us repentance. When one of His children turns around and accepts His gracious gift, she can't help but be changed. I am so overjoyed that this girl is running straight into His arms and trusting His grace to be sufficient to help her overcome lingering sin. The longer we stay in the pit, the more time we waste - time that could be redeemed by living for Christ!

Subject: RE: i read your testimony and it touched my heart
To: [my email]
Date: Monday, April 27, 2009, 3:34 PM

Hey Marie,
I'm sorry I haven't been able to respond, I was [out of state]. I did get you're other email and it was very encouraging thank you! I hadn't had the time to read the piece of your book until now and a lot of what you are saying makes things a lot more clear for me. How we go to God only half beleiving He can heal us or how eating disorders are sins and not physical diseases. To be honest, after you're e-mail I started off really well, but then when I went away I just felt so bad about all the food I was eating and then it went downhill. I thought I just failed once again and that there wasn't really any hope. But after recieving you're email, it just encouraged me again.

I really desperatly want to follow God's will, and I know that He can help me overcome this sin. Tommorow, I am getting baptized. I have been wanting to get baptized for a while now, and I could never understand why because I had already done proffesion of faith. But then after I read the part about how you said "Tragically, many in the Church today have made a profession of faith, but with no inward heart-change toward sin", it made me realize that was me. I made proffession of faith with no care about sin, and my eating disorder. I realized that this longing in my heart to get baptized, was God. I feel as if by getting baptized it will re-affirm my commitment to God and my trust in Him. That I am willing to totally give up my life to him, including this sin. I am not defeated that I have fallen this past week, but I am willing to keep trying and you have reminded me of that:)
Thank you for you're support!
It really means a lot to me,
Also, How are you doing? I hope you're week went well!
(Name withheld)

This morning, I had another note from her in my inbox in which she wrote: " baptism went really well, and I fell as if I was born again in Christ and that I am so ready to do whatever His will is."

That's what it's all about right there. God is so awesome!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Analyze this Lyric

New category on my blog starting today: Analyze the Lyric. Why, you ask? I love Christian music, but I'm incapable of listening to it without screening the lyrics for theological soundness. Sorry. It's a common trait among theo-geeks.

A few years ago, I had a mixed worship CD with a whiny song called "You Said". At the time, I had never heard of Hillsong, the Aussie mega-church that produces Christian music (much of it whiny).There's something disturbing about the Hillsong franchise, but that's another blog entry. Well, last week this song reared it's doctrinally-questionable head at church for the first time (I think it had something to do with the evangelist with the story about the Muslim girl's honor killing that I'm finding hard to swallow.)

Now here's the song, and you tell me if it doesn't smack of post-millenialism:

Lyrics to You Said :
You said, Ask and you will receive
Whatever you need
You said, Pray and I'll hear from heaven
And I'll heal your land

You said Your glory will fill the earth
Oh, Like water the seas
You said, Lift up your eyes
The harvest is here, the kingdom is near

You said, Ask and I'll give the nations to you
O Lord, that's the cry of my heart
Distant shores and the islands will see
Your light, as it rises on us

O Lord, we ask for the nations
O Lord, we ask for the nations
O Lord, we are asking for the nations
[ You Said Lyrics on ]

Seems to have a little dominionism in there, too. WE'RE asking "for the nations"? Umm...isn't our job just to occupy until He comes, and spread the Gospel? This song seems to anticipate end-time revival, that's for sure. Or am I reading too much into this?

On the subject of dominionism/Manifest Sons of God doctrine, here's the chorus of "Hail Jesus, You're My King" (Victory Chant):

Hail Jesus! You're my King!
Your life frees me to sing
I will praise You all my days
You're perfect in all Your ways

Glory, glory to the Lamb!
You will take us into the land
We will conquer in Your name
And proclaim that "Jesus reigns!

(Emphasis mine - where's that in the Bible?) I see no biblical injunction to "conquer in [Jesus'] Name". None. Zip. Never noticed that when we were singing this in college.

Comments, please.

Monday, April 27, 2009

More on Nouthetic Counseling

The other day, I realized something.

Over 70 percent of the hits to my blog are queries with the words "nouthetic counseling". This tells me that people are looking for biblically-sound counsel, but I'm surprised that my blog is popping up so high in the search results.

I think the subject deserves a nice new post with some useful links that may help you if you are indeed researching the ministry of biblical counseling. A couple of months ago, I posted excerpts of a book I am writing about repentance and healing from eating disorders, in which I discuss at some length the differences between secular psychology, mainstream "Christian" counseling, and the sola-scriptura approach of nouthetic counseling. I'll try and make this less wordy and more practical.

First of all, I am not a nouthetic counselor. I have not taken any courses or been accredited by NANC (the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors), although quite a few folks in my church are. (In fact, it was a nouthetic counselor from church who recommended Adams' and Macarthur's books on forgiveness to me, which I reviewed last month). I have read books by folks in the field, been studying theology and hermeneutics for a few years, and was restored completely by God from addictions. That's it. Now I encourage other women struggling in the same way, to apply the same biblical principles that helped me renew my mind. Many Christian women who have read my testimony online e-mail me for encouragement in battling eating disorders, which I am happy to provide. I also tell them to find a nouthetic counselor in their local area. NANC's website contains a Certified Counselor List by state. The Christian Counseling Education Foundation (CCEF) also has some great biblical counseling resources, as does the Institute for Nouthetic Studies.

"Nouthetic" comes from the Greek term "noutheos" employed by Paul, and it encompasses the idea of exhorting, admonishing, teaching, and rebuking with the Word of God as the ultimate standard. Unlike the more vague term Christian counseling, which may incorporate pop psychology and questionable therapy methods, nouthetic counseling confronts the counselee with the non-negotiable truth of Scripture. His or her problem is then held up to the light of the Word, which exposes sin and trains in holiness.

Nouthetic counseling is based on the premise of the sufficiency of Scripture - God has fully equipped us to deal with any and every situation through His revealed will. Nouthetic counselors help people deal with a wide range of spiritual problems, including depression, marital problems, sexual sin, addictions, and unforgiveness. As far as I know, it is generally free. You don't need insurance or $100 per hour to be fed with the bread of life, but you do need a desire to be changed inwardly by God.

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul assures us that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." A godly man or woman who will hold us accountable is often used by God to walk alongside the struggling sinner. Nouthetic counseling goes beyond talking about our feelings - we're taught to line our thoughts and actions up with God's standard. Homework is given. Bibles are read. Scripture passages are memorized and recited. A pastor I once knew used to say, "Many times, when people come to you for counsel, they don't really want help. They just want someone to feel sorry for them." While compassionate and empathetic, the role of the nouthetic counselor is not to feel sorry for the counselee, but rather to get him or her to take those ungodly thoughts captive to Christ and start living a life in obedience to Him. All believers, in a sense, are called to this ministry. We are to familiarize ourselves with the Word in order to be able to encourage, exhort and spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).

If you have reached this page because you are seeking biblical counsel or wish to know more about it, I encourage you to visit the ministry links above.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jay Adams - More Debunking Transubstantiation

Yesterday's blog post over at The Institute for Nouthetic Studies dealt with, ironically enough, the aberrant doctrine of transubstantiation. Recently, I posted a two-part series examining how the early Church saw the ordinance of the Lord's Supper - as a memorial to the crucified and risen Lord.

Dr. Jay Adams, in typical concise fashion, sums it up nicely in yesterday's post (I even fixed his spelling typos):

"What about transubstantiation? Were the bread and wine actually changed into the body and blood of Christ? Millions of people claim to believe they were. If it were true, it would be a continuous miracle—totally unlike any other in the Bible.

But consider the facts.

First, notice that Jesus said to eat and drink in remembrance of Him. What goes on at the supper has mnemonic value.

Secondly, He said that eating was a means of declaring (literally, “preaching”) His death until returns. There is not a whisper about the cannibalistic act of actually eating Him.

“Ah. But He said ‘this is My body’ and ‘this is My blood.’ How do you get around that fact?”

We don’t have to get around it, as you put it. We simply do regular exegesis. When Jesus said I am the Bread of life, the Water of life or the Door to the sheepfold, for instance, we don’t say He is a fluid, or a board hanging on hinges, or a loaf of bread. Thank God that there is a meaningful and important purpose of proclaiming the Lord’s death for sinners that comports with rather than contradicts, the way of salvation. The once-for-all death of Christ (Hebrews 9:28; 10:1,2; 11-14) must be maintained rather than the opposing doctrine of Jesus dying in un-bloody sacrifices again and again on Roman Catholic altars, as is presupposed in transubstantiation.

How foolish to think that the apostles understood something more than what Jesus said—that the supper was an act of remembrance and proclamation. After all, there He was sitting before them in His living flesh and blood. If I hold up a picture of myself and say, “See, this is me,” what do you suppose–that the picture is somehow morphed into me? Of course not! Friend, if you are caught up in this sophistry of the scholastics, think again."

(There's an SAT word of the day for you - 'sophistry'. I'm going to figure out a way to use that in a sentence this weekend.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Reason for My Absence

Well, I realized last night that I haven't blogged since Good Friday. I've had several entry ideas swirling around in my so-called mind, but haven't had the time to devote to "fun" writing. But, I may as well tell you what I've been doing since polishing off the Easter basket malted milk eggs, in case you care or wonder if I'll ever return to online theo-geekiness.

- Lots of interpreting last week. Got to share a little bit with a late-stage cancer patient who reads his Bulgarian New Testament during chemo treatments. He's an Eastern Orthodox believer who is seeking to know God more during this trial. I've been praying for him.

- The kids are on school vacation this week. As I type this, Curious George is on in the background.

- I have finally quit procrastinating and am working steadily on revising my book. As some of you know, in February I completed the first draft of a book on biblical repentance and restoration from eating disorders. My pastor's wife, a nouthetic counselor, gave me some helpful suggestions. I am currently in the process of going back, line by line, and being sure my words are salt, light, and biblically accurate. Once I finish this revision, it's time to start looking for an agent and writing proposals. Getting published is hard; I expect it will be more so in this economy.

- Simultaneously, I've been trying to help my former pastor in Bulgaria get his book "Heralds of the Truth: the History of the Evangelical Church in Bulgaria" published in the United States. Since I copy-edited the English translation, I'm familiar enough with the content to do the querying of publishers, editors and historians, but seems no one's biting. Not much interest in Balkan Church history. Go figure the odds.

- My car's in the shop (remember that ice storm that hit New England in December? The auto repair shops are still digging their way out from all the damages). I'm intimidated by my husband's's a stick-shift. Why Europeans prefer those things, I'll never know. I can never seem to coordinate easing up with my left foot (clutch) with giving just the appropriate amount of gas (right foot) without making the engine race. My hands start to sweat just thinking about it. I'd rather walk to the store, or improvise.

- Did I mention the kids are all home from school?

- Two more bulimic women have contacted me via e-mail for counsel. I am a prolific writer and care deeply about helping them, but with all this "spiritual writing" I admit I've been finding it hard to balance prayer. This is an easy snare to fall into, as it leads to relying on myself to "acheive" results. Bad idea. Nothing good dwells in me; I'm reminded of that constantly. You'd think I'd be pretty humble by now, but noooo......

- My oldest daughter (12) is getting baptised Sunday, May 3rd!

- We listened to a guest evangelist's message this Sunday which strained credibility. Seems an American Muslim student converted to Christianity, was warned her brother was coming to check up on her from her country of origin, and he beat her up. She then allegedly got on a plane with him and returned to said country (earlier this month), where she became the victim of an honor killing (death by stoning). The really incrible part of the story was the gushing e-mail he read the congregation, supposedly from her "devoutly Muslim" sister, exclaiming in glowing terms about her faith and love. The sister claimed she was ordered to "choose between Muhammed and Issa" (the Muslim name for Jesus), which, as any Muslim would know, is a false dichotomy, since both are considered prophets. The "choice" (a suspiciously Western, evangelical term) would have been between "Issa" and "Allah", but there were several other details of that story that just didn't add up. I was considering an entire blog post to analyze the claims, but I don't really see the point. American university student who is known to have been the victim of an honor killing two weeks ago - and it never made it into ANY news media ANYWHERE in the world? Hmm. Sounded a little too scripted - like the movie "Behind the Sun". Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for evangelists to embellish or fabricate stories for emotional impact. My husband and I suspect that may have been the case here, although we certainly hope we are wrong. Have to suspend judgement on this one.

- I briefly considered writing a tongue-in-cheek entry on "The 10 Worst Praise and Worship Songs Ever Written", but I've been trying to cut down on the biting sarcasm and snark factor. Ephesians 4:29, 1 Peter 4:11, James, James, James, James, James, and all that. They say snarkiness isn't a Christian virtue.

- If you're looking for something true and edifying to peruse, go read this, posted at Puritan Fellowship. So true.

Time to load the dishwasher, fold the laundry, and get with God before attacking my book again (well, it's actually His book. He's just letting me be the agent, so I'd better get it right). Thanks for visiting, and hope to be back online soon.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Three Heart-rending Verses - a Good Friday Reflection

Today is Good Friday. To be honest, the meaning of the cross and all Christ accomplished for us there is never far from my mind, but since I had a chance this morning to once again ponder the humility of our Savior, it seems appropriate to share a few impressions. Or rather, to let the subtleties of the Gospel accounts speak for themselves.

This isn’t an explanation of penal substitution. We’ve studied the atonement, heard sermons on it, read the heavyweights like Spurgeon, Sproul, Macarthur and Packer…perhaps so much that it's become rote. Stop and ponder again what Christ experienced in His humility and identification with us. This morning, I read once again Matthew’s account of the last night of Jesus’ earthly life while waiting for my patient in dermatology, who never showed up. Oh well; no biggie. It gave me an extra hour to spend with the Lord without being constantly interrupted by a three-year-old. Let me share with you what I find to be, possibly, the three most heartbreaking verses in the Bible:

Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" and kissed him. Jesus replied, "Friend, do what you came for." (Matt. 26:49-50)

“Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.” (Matt. 26:56)

“Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him…” (Matt. 26:67)

Can you honestly read that without cringing? The spitting continues in the next chapter, by the way. The first ones hawking it back were the Jewish “religious” leaders; this time it was the Gentile thugs in the Governor’s army: “They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.” (Matt. 27:30)

Betrayal by a “friend”. Abandonment by everybody. Does it get any worse than that? Actually, yes it does. Spitting. The idea of people spitting on someone – anyone – horrifies me. Makes my skin crawl. Knowing it was done to the Author and Creator of life by those He came to save is mind-boggling. What’s more – He knew exactly how it would happen (see Isaiah 50:6).

They SPAT on Him.

Let that sink in for a moment. Spitting can't inflict physical pain. It's about the lowest, basest, vilest, most derogatory means possible of heaping humiliation on an individual. But in a spiritual sense, we often "spit" on Christ without even realizing it - each time our words, thought or outward behavior dishonors Him.

It’s hard to articulate how much these details of what they we did to Christ bother me; there was simply no limit to the depths to which He would go to redeem us. He chose to identify with every human emotion and carry our shame.

None of the Gospels focuses on the physical sufferings of Christ, they just report the horror as factually as a coroner’s report. This is in keeping with the fact that the primary agony of the cross was the spiritual separation from the Father. However, a crucial aspect of the Incarnation is that, while never relinquishing His deity, Jesus was (and is) fully, 100% man. Read the Passion account again with that in mind; it’s just staggering. Back when I was a Catholic, we walked the Stations of the Cross and it really caused us to reflect on the fact that while grace is free, it certainly wasn’t cheap. It gave me pause, even as a middle-schooler. The biblical account and time to reflect, pray and just thank my Savior personally for what He did serves an even fuller purpose.

When I read some of these verses, like the ones listed above, my instinctive reaction is to whisper, “I’m sorry.” It just comes spontaneously; I’m not trying to be pious. “I’m so sorry…thank You.” That’s all there is to say, really. It's reflexive - like the foot shifting from the gas to the brake pedal when I see a cruiser in the rear-view mirror. Automatic.

I used to muse, ‘How do you thank someone for dying for you?’ It’s all there; so clearly spelled out. In light of who we are and what He’s done, is it any wonder He said “my load is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30)? As Spurgeon said, “If you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross--you have never seen it! If you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus--you do not know Him. You were so lost that nothing could save you--but the sacrifice of God's only begotten Son. Think of that, and as Jesus stooped for you--bow yourself in humility at His feet.”

Thank You, once again. From the bottom of my heart.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Forgiveness – What is it and Why is it Important?

This is a homework sheet used in nouthetic counseling sessions. Because many spiritual problems have unforgiveness at their root, it helps to consider what the whole of Scripture has to say on the subject of forgiveness. Used with permission of the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC).


Many interpersonal relationships are greatly affected by unbiblical, ungodly responses to offenses, hurts, resentments and accumulated grudges. An attitude of and a willingness to forgive is essential to maintaining proper relationships. Study the following verses carefully and list what they say about the meaning and importance of forgiveness; note also what certain verses indicate happens when you are not ready to forgive. Make this study personal by specifically stating how the truths in these verses apply to you in the way you deal with other people. Some of the passages may not include the word forgiveness, but they do deal with issues that are relevant to the subject.

Exodus 25:21, 22 Proverbs 16:32

Matthew 5:7 Matthew 5:23,24

Matthew 5:44, 45a, 48 Matthew 6:12

Matthew 6:14, 15 Matthew 18:21, 22

Matthew 18:34, 35 Mark 11:25, 26

Luke 6:37 John 13:34, 35

Romans 12:9, 10 Romans 13:10

Romans 14:10, 13 Galatians 5:15

Ephesians 4:1-3 Ephesians 4:32

Philippians 2:3 Colossians 3:12, 13

1 Thessalonians 5:15 Hebrews 12:14

James 4:11, 12 James 5:9

1 John 3:10, 11 1 John 3:14, 15

1 John 4:7, 8 1 John 4:20, 21