Friday, December 2, 2011

Question: "Why Do You Follow Jesus?"

Liz over at asked me the following question: "Why do you follow Jesus?"

Hmm. Good question. Thanks for asking! Here are just a few of my thoughts, which I gathered quickly before getting the kids up for school today:

Answer: The question presupposes that I am, in fact, following Jesus - and all that entails....Jesus Himself said that "the one who loves [Him] will keep [His] commandments" (John 14:21). Since none of us do that perfectly, and I least of all, following Jesus demands and understanding of repentance and grace that does not come naturally to my prideful, self-sufficient nature.

And yet, I cannot live without Him, and would not want to.

So, what are my reasons for following Him?

1.) He is God. (Romans 9:5). The deity of Jesus Christ, an indisputable biblical truth, means that He is the highest authority in the universe - He is the absolute sovereign Ruler. His Kingdom is not a democracy.

2.) Axiomatically, I am His slave. (1 Cor. 4:1). I do not "make" Jesus Lord; He already IS Lord. My obligation is to submit to His loving, gracious, and absolute authority.

3.) His unbelievable kindness is what led me to repentance (Romans 2:4). Fear of God is indeed the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), but craven fear is not what turned my heart to Him.

4.) He is patient with me (Romans 2:4). Why would One so perfect and impeccably holy condescend to be patient with one as stubborn and corrupt as I? How can I not respond to Him?

5.) He predestined me in love to be His adopted child (Ephesians 1:5). I cannot fathom why God would choose me as His own, but I know that it had nothing to do with anything He saw in me (Eph. 2:8-9).

6.) He is gentle and humble in heart (Matthew 11:29). The King of the Universe is gentle and humble...and He chose me to belong to Him. Unbelievable.

7.) He loved me first (1 John 4:19). I will never understand why Jesus would love me, but I know this is true. Not responding to Him is inconceivable.

8.) He really did die for me personally (Galatians 2:20). This fact is unthinkable to the unregenerate mind, and when I stop to consider what the perfect and loving Son of God went through on my behalf, the unrepented sin I am carrying around causes me deep shame. Following Him demands that I see my sin for what it is, and what it actually cost Him.

9.) I know that Jesus loves me, even when I fail to follow Him, because He even loves those who turn away (Mark 10:21) and He restores our relationship each and every time I repent He forgives me (Luke 17:4; Jesus never commands us to do something He does not do Himself).

10.) Jesus loved children (Matt. 19:14), and they loved Him. Kids are not naturally drawn to someone unpleasant to be around.

11.) He is compassionate, even on the most disgraceful and shameful situations (John 8:11; Luke 8:40 ff.)

12.) He feels affection toward us (Philippians 1:3-4), which He enables us to have for one another. He is not cold nor indifferent.

13.) He wants us to be with Him in His Kingdom, eternally happy beyond what we could ask or imagine (John 14:3).

14.) He enables me to change, through the power of the Holy Spirit, in order to live a life truly pleasing to Him (Ephesians 4:21-25).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Interview with Ashlie Kyles of Bella Ministries

Link to Bellanomics here


In September, I had the opportunity to do a Q&A with Marie Notcheva, the author of "Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders". She has been studying Biblical Counseling since 2009, and is near the completion of the certification process with the NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors). She counsels Christian women in person, and occasionally by e-mail, who struggle with anorexia, bulimia, and food-related bondages. Please take a moment to learn more about her ministry...

Q: What was the inspiration for starting this organization?
A: I was anorexic and bulimic for 17 years. God graciously granted me repentance and freedom. I began writing about my journey, in the hopes it would help others with similar struggles.

Q: Who can benefit from you or the use of your organization?
A: Christian women struggling with eating disorders, as well as counselors and those close to them trying to help according to biblical principles. My book goes into what the Bible says about life-dominating sin in general, as well as what God expects us to do (and how to renew our mind) as He frees us. Many people do not think of eating disordered behavior as being sinful, but God wants us to walk in freedom and holiness!

Q: What programs, products or services do you offer to the community?

A: My book, which was forewarded by bestselling author and speaker Martha Peace, can be purchased at I also blog at: I counsel (free of charge) under the authority of my local church in Massachusetts.

Q: What advice would you offer to someone interested in starting or getting involved with your type of business/organization?
A: Biblical counselors are desperately needed in this age of man-centered thinking and Godless psychology (and "Christian" programs that are based on psychological counseling constructs). Study and do the training necessary to minister the Scriptures to hurting people! If your church does not offer a biblical counseling program, suggest starting one.

Q: Where are your services offered (local, national, international)?
A: My book is available for order online. I counsel in Massachusetts, but I have received e-mails from women all over the world. I respond to each one personally and refer her to a local biblical counselor in her area (where possible).

Q: What else would you like us to know about you or your organization?
A: My testimony and an interview with me about how I overcame eating disorders in God's strength will appear on The 700 Club within a few months. Through speaking and writing, I hope to be a blessing and a light to those struggling in the pit of anorexia and bulimia. You are not alone!

Bellanomics, LLC personally thanks Marie Notcheva for taking the time out to answer a few questions. You can read here for the publisher's description of Marie's book, including the foreword written by Martha Peace:

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In Defense of Facebook....

The last couple of years have seen several high-profile pastors, primarily from the FIC stream, decrying the evils of Facebook and its use. Frankly, some of their concerns are well-founded: the excessive time spent online by many Christians is poor stewardship; also, many marriages have hit the rocks because of the temptations offered by "social networking". (Looking up and connecting with old flames is a bad idea, folks, even in cyber-space). Additionally, Facebook seems to have changed the way the younger generation (and their parents) view friendship - we've become yet more isolated as we reduce social communication to comments in boxes. As with many things, social networking sites have their downside.

However, the fact remains that if used wisely, Facebook (in particular) is an ideal evangelism tool.

Ten years ago, if you had told me I could show an article on the Trinity - in Bulgarian - to 25 (or so) of my non-Christian friends in Sofia - simultaneously - I would have wondered what you were smoking. Sharing a link on Facebook affords one the opportunity to engage in (online) discussion - or not. It is a more subtle (and less threatening) way of sharing doctrinal truth than, say, initiating a discussion with your best friend's brother at the Fourth of July cookout (and seeing that he is visibly uncomfortable). There are those who will read an article in the privacy of their own home, and even months after the fact ask you about it. A shared link is low pressure; there's no awkwardness. Not interested? Don't click. But truth is there for the taking - and I'll be happy to make it available.

In fact, there are many ways of sharing biblical principles on Facebook, but it's invention offers something actually far better: a way to stay in touch with far-flung people after you have met and built relationships with them. This is exactly how I have seen two young women come to Christ in the last 8 weeks.

In late August, I served in Albania at an evangelical summer camp for teenagers. It was a lot of fun, quite frankly, and I became quite close to a number of the kids - who, predictably, "Friended" me on Facebook. Two weeks after returning home, one of the 17-year-old girls (who comes from a family openly hostile to religion in general and Christianity in particular) initiated chats with me. She had many questions about grace, belief in Christ, and the afterlife. In addition to sending her links from the site which dealt with Gospel fundamentals (in both Albanian and English), I explained to her how she could know Christ and what regeneration is. She turned to Him in her heart; went to church the next week, and is now a devout follower of Christ - despite the fact she has no discipleship and virtually no fellowship in her hometown.

Last week, another one of the teen girls - who had been discussing college applications and the upcoming TOEFL exam with me - suddenly switched gears mid-way through a Facebook chat. "Marie...can I ask you a favor?" she typed. "Can you teach me to pray?" Naturally, this led to an in-depth discussion about how we can be in relationship with God - through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Thanks to the British church-planting team (under whose auspices I served in Albania), she already knew a lot about the Person and work of Christ. She just needed help connecting the dots, and the assurance that she could be His child. She wrote, "i feel the necessity to believe on Him..." I have never witnessed such a sincere hunger and desire to know God as I did during that impassioned "chat", nor such spontaneous joy after she repented and prayed to know Him as Savior. Also from a non-Christian family, she had fears and we talked about counting the cost. Undetered, she began reading the Bible online and sought out the pastor two days later to tell him about her conversion.

While these two conversations (and subsequent changed lives) would not have happened in this way without direct, real-life, human connection and relationship, the fact of the matter is that I was only with these girls for 8 days...and following that, our friendship continued remotely. Facebook is the medium through which we were able to stay in touch...and ultimately, God used it as the tool through which I was able to lead them to Himself. (The "means" is always His Word. There are different ways of communicating His Truth, though: online versions of the Bible work just as well as leather-bound editions.) Bible study is easier to conduct via Skype, however, as multiple people can participate in real-time.

I praise God for the two young girls whose names are now written down in glory, and for the technology which can certainly be used for His glory.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Book Has Been Released!

...Hot off the press (so hot that even I have not yet seen the physical copy,) the book I have labored long and hard over went "live" last night on the publisher's website. Calvary Press is releasing "Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders" under their new imprint, Interior Publications (I'm not really sure what that's about or what the implications are, but as long as it doesn't affect marketability - which it shouldn't, with Martha Peace's name on the cover, and all the endorsements from biblical counselors inside - I'm happy.)

From the publisher's website, here is the description and Martha Peace's Foreword:

NEW! Check out our eBooks for download!


by Marie Notcheva

• Up to 3% of ALL adolescents in the United States have
symptoms of bulimia.
• 5-15% of ALL adult women show the same signs.

Are you one (or do you know someone) of the literally thousands who suffer from an eating disorder, most likely bulimia? Do you see yourself as fat and unattractive? Do you feel as though you don’t “fit in” and suffer from periods of deep depression? Has binging on food and then purging become a daily part of your routine?

Drawing from her own experiences with the disorder, author Marie Notcheva shows you how to overcome this life-destroying habit. No, not by some contrived “self help” system—but by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ! Notcheva believes that the person suffering from an eating disorder is not a victim of a “disease”; it is not something that has befallen them or has been thrust upon them. Rather, the bulimic became so by a series of choices. They chose to feel a certain way about themselves. They chose to start on a path of behavior that leads to a destructive habit.

Likewise, those suffering from bulimia can start making correct choices. They can make the choice to believe that their behavior is sin, not a disease. They can believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and that by trusting in the sacrifice of Christ for sinners, they can have new life—and that they can have victory, not only over bulimia, but over the greatest threat of all: eternal destruction.

This book may indeed prove to be a “life saver” to many. It will certainly give tremendous hope to all who read it.


Since Mother Eve fell into sin, almost all women, Christians or not, have desired to be beautiful. Different cultures, over time, have defined beautiful in different ways. Remember the bee-hive hairdos of the 1960's? Ancient Roman women thought that beautiful, too! Well, the bee-hive went out and thin came in.

Today, we are greatly influenced by the media to think that the only truly beautiful women are thin; very thin. We want to look like the movie stars, news anchors, and models that are almost always super-slim. I once heard about a movie star who on a very long air flight refused all the meals. On occasion, however, she would become so hungry she would insist on something to eat, eat two bites, and refuse the rest. She was thin and she was beautiful, but I wonder if her almost-starvation diet was worth it in the long run. She struggles with anorexia. Another may not starve herself; in fact, she may often be gluttonous, but maintains her weight by throwing up after the meal. Sometimes her compulsion is repeated several times per day. She struggles with bulimia.

It was forty-plus years ago in nursing school that I learned about eating disorders. As I recall, it was the first time I knew that eating disorders existed. Both were said to be psychiatric diseases and both, especially anorexia, were difficult to treat. What must have been rare back in the 1960's is now, for many, a common practice. The quest for beauty which likely began with Mother Eve has not gone away. It is still labeled a psychiatric disease and anyone struggling with an eating disorder knows what Marie Notcheva means about being in the "pit" and "in bondage."

Redeemed from the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders is a gift from God to those struggling and to those helping someone struggling with an eating disorder. This book maintains a high view of God and an accurate view of man. It is written in an engaging style and entwined within it is Notcheva's own personal struggle and how God granted her repentance and real freedom. As a biblical counselor to women, I am looking forward to using this book to help others. Read it prayerfully and thoughtfully. You, too, can, by God's grace, be truly redeemed from the pit!

Martha Peace Biblical Counselor and Author of The Excellent Wife

Price: $21.99
ISBN: 978-1-879737-78-5


Now....please everyone buy a copy, review it on your blogs, tell your friends about it and help me go on that Missions Trip back to Albania this summer. No pressure or anything. Thank You!!!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Redeemed from the Pit" About to Go Live....

This week, I received the cover of my book from the publisher:

The book will be "live" within the next couple weeks for purchase on Calvary Press' website:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cultivating Intimacy With Christ - "Does God Really Love Me?"

"Faith hangs on to Christ in the dark, it holds to a silent Christ, it holds to a refusing Christ, it holds to a rebuking Christ, and it will not let him go. Faith is the great holdfast that hooks a soul on to the Saviour.

Faith is thus powerful because of its effects. Faith enlightens, enlivens and strengthens. It is written of some of old that "They looked unto him, and were lightened." Faith shed a light upon many things, and lets us see that even if Christ has a frown on his face, he has love in his heart. Faith looks right into the heart of Christ, and helps us to perceive that he cannot mean anything but mercy to a seeking soul."
-- Charles Spurgeon

Have you ever asked God if He really loves you, or pleaded with Him for His affection? The following is an open letter to those of you who doubt, amended from a personal note I just sent to someone who is struggling:

"Dear Fellow Sojourner,

Believe it or not, I do understand what you mean and the doubts you are having about God's dealings with you and questioning whether He really cares or even if He loves you. Although I have not personally experienced what you are, I DO know the feelings and am all too familiar with the doubts. I want to be careful here not to sound like “Job’s friends” – although honestly, your situation reminds me of Job! – because that does no one any good.

I deliberately will not quote you the verses or pull out catch-all platitudes about Christ dying for the world (and of course I do NOT mean to diminish the Atonement one bit; but that is what people generally remind you of when you doubt God’s love.) I know EXACTLY what you mean when you write about knowing Christ loves the world; but what about you personally? One verse I would point out to you, however, is Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me," (emphasis mine), wherein Paul was making the point He loved [Paul] and gave Himself up for [Paul]. Who, of course, was a murduring Pharisee and all that; but you get the idea.

And of course, there ARE Scriptural statements to the effect that God’s love is infinite, faithful and PERSONAL to the believer (you) – Matt. 10:31; Luke 12:7; Hebrews 13:5 (the “you” is singular in the original), as well as the Psalms, which cover every range of human emotion. However, you are obviously intelligent and don’t need the references or a Bible lesson. Just thought I’d remind you anyway, though, because His Word IS Truth.

Regarding God’s nature, I know you wonder if He really cares because of all the pain and suffering you see all around you. I need not “defend” Him or say He always keeps His promises (in the way we expect, at least – I admit I also struggle with the exact meaning of Matthew 6, especially vs. 31-32: "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.") My guess is that is something like a Proverb – to be understood as a general rule, but NOT a guaranteed absolute. (I.E. “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” – it’s a general principle; not a guarantee. IF you do this – you may expect THAT.)

This promise doesn’t change the fact that there are millions of suffering, starving Christians whose daily bread is NOT provided….as a result of man’s sin. God knows/sees it; He COULD prevent it, but He does not. That’s where we get into the issue of His sovereignty, and we have to admit that we just don’t know. We DO know, if we believe the Scripture to be infallible, that A) He is good; and B)ultimately justice will be served and all wrongs will be righted. Beyond that, we can only speculate (and often that gets us in trouble when we do.) But we know that He is good, and does NOT enjoy torturing His slaves…even though it may feel that way sometimes. I’ve often wondered, for example, how miscarriages and stillbirth fits into His sovereign plan. Again, not that I’ve experienced that personally, but I’ve known many women who have and as a mom, I can only imagine the agony and grief.

What I keep coming back to as I turn this around in my mind (extreme suffering and God’s goodness)is this: we can’t say Jesus didn’t warn us. Count the cost; some of us will be persecuted; put to death. He offered NO promises about our comfort or emotional needs; He only said “in this life you will have many troubles; take heart; I have overcome the world.” We need to live with an eternal perspective, as hard as that can be sometimes. Jesus knew so well what it is to be rejected and despised (and still does…everything from people taking His Name in vain to Monty Python movies mocking Him, and worse). When you love someone, you make yourself vulnerable to them, and that is what God has done with us. We grieve Him when we are faithless - blowing off prayer time with Him; gossiping about one another; fighting with our spouses. Yet HE remains faithful.

This is what it means that He was “touched with our infirmaties” and “sympathetic to our weaknesses”. They’re not just words; He really understands (and cares.) Look at Paul (and the Apostles – close, intimate friends of Jesus during His earthy ministry). Paul got the stuffings beaten out of him on a regular basis; got run out of town more than once; was slandered and maligned (even by other “Christians”); was abandoned by friends; and was finally executed on trumped-up charges. He sure wasn’t getting his “emotional needs met” or his “love cup” filled! Jesus Himself was verbally tormented throughout most of His ministry, but He rested in the love of the Father (as did Paul).

Not preaching you a sermon, but just putting some thoughts out there. I’ve often thought of those first century Christians, and what a raw deal some of them got…like Perpetua, and the other martyrs under Nero and Dormitius (the ones who never actually had the pleasure of meeting and fellowshiping with Christ, yet they were still called to suffer and die for him.) Some of them lost everything – like Perpetua’s nursing infant; her marriage; her home and possessions. Even in recent history though, I think in some ways folks who’ve been called as martyrs or have been imprisoned in some ways find it easier to stand strong than some (like yourself, and many others who are just worn down by the day-to-day torment and disillusionment.)

I read Richard Wurmbrand’s “Tortured for Christ” a few years ago (founder of Voice of the Martyrs – he was in a Romanian prison for years) and I was gob-smacked. Honestly, I wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a Communist prison! But in his story and so many others like his, it’s just so “clear” to the ones suffering for their faith what they’re doing and why they’re there suffering (for Christ’s glory). Obviously, that has to be our goal and over-arching purpose, too, but it’s harder to “see” the purpose in what seems like needless, pointless suffering. And THAT is why it can become so much harder to believe that God really loves you personally. If you were in a Communist prison being beaten and starved because you were a Christian, you would no doubt have faith in His love (although technically your circumstances would be worse). That is why it is so important (even now) to continue to walk by faith and not sight, and to continue to put faith in what (intellectually) you know is true.

I truly believe that convincing people God doesn’t love them personally (or at least getting them to doubt it) is one of Satan’s biggest strategic weapons. How I wish sometimes that I could just see Jesus; have an audience with Him – even Skype Him – and all my doubts would be forever erased. But you know what He said to Thomas about those who have not seen being blessed…yet we have believed. Don’t stop seeking Him in the Scriptures, because God WILL use that to encourage you personally (often when you least expect it.) Have you ever been reading the Word, and something seems to “leap off the page”, and straight into your heart? His Spirit illuminates truth when and as we need it…personally.

The historical reality of the Cross should never leave us cold, but sometimes it does (if we are truthful). This is the dynamic of sin-stained human emotions. God gave them to us for a reason, and He designed us to feel deeply, yearn for Him, and want to be loved. He gave us that need to come to Him with that longing – even (and especially) when we don’t “feel” anything.

Be encouraged - He is still that friend who "sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). Don’t give up, please – and don’t abandon the Church, either. It’s especially important to be in fellowship and support during these “desert” times – a lone sheep, as you know, is more vulnerable prey.

In Him,


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Why Do You Call Me Lord, Lord and Not Do What I Say?"

We have already established here that the Bible is the infallible, inspired Word of God - His very speech. Let's now follow that truth to some logical conclusions.

If the Scriptures are infallible, what relevance does that have to our life?

It is the final authority. Non-negotiable, and not open to debate.

When we say that God is infallible, it literally means that He is incapable of erring or making mistakes. If we accept that all of the Scriptures are His inspired (“God-breathed-out”) Word, then by extension, the Bible is also “infallible” (from the Latin word “fallere”; to deceive). The infallibility of Scripture means that since it is the very Word of God, it cannot mislead or deceive us. Some passages of Scripture that attest to its own infallibility include Psalm 19:7-14 (speaks of the law of the Lord being “perfect” and the testimony of the Lord being “sure”); Hebrews 2:1-4; 2 Peter 1:16-21; 2 Tim. 3:15 and John 17:17.

Axiomatically, if we accept the infallibility of Scripture, it follows that it is the basis for authoritative counsel. Jay Adams writes, “The ministry of the Word in counseling…is totally unlike counseling in any other system because of its authoritative base. This authoritative character stems, of course, from the doctrine of inerrancy. If the Bible were shot through with human error, and were no more dependable than any other composition – if it were not a God-breathed revelation – this note of authority would give way to opinion. But, because the Bible is inerrant, there is authority.” (Jay Adams, “More Than Redemption”, p. 18.)

Where direct commands are given in Scripture, a Christian may give authoritative counsel in the form of a command or prohibition, appealing directly to what is stated in the Bible (i.e. pre-marital sex; insubordination to an employer; etc.) However, a believer will often have to deal with questions where the Bible does not give specific instruction (but does provide general, guiding principles.) In such cases, he must assess the situation and distinguish between his or her own opinion, based on knowledge of biblical principles, and the absolute authority of Scripture. In all cases, the counsel given both as absolute imperatives (“You may not commit adultery”) and advice given on the basis of Scriptural principles (“You might want to find a sport for your son to play that does not involve games on Sunday afternoons, since Exodus 20:8 tells God’s people to keep the Sabbath day holy”) must be rooted in the Bible, rather than any system of thought which does not claim divine authority.

Finally, Jesus’ example of absolute adherence to God’s Word in the wilderness should be used as an illustration of how, because Scripture is infallible, it is the final authority for how we are to make decisions and proceed. Luke 4:1-12 demonstrates how Jesus responded to every temptation and attempt at Scripture-twisting from the devil with “It is written…” His response and behavior, even at great personal cost, models the attitude we are to imitate when faced with temptation: what is “written?” Why does that matter? A biblical command or prohibition is metaphorically “written in stone” (is non-negotiable) because all Scripture proceeds from the mouth of God. As such, it is perfect (infallible) and is therefore the ultimate authority for issues both of orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Interview with Stefan about Kid Ministry

Lately, especially since seeing the Family Integrated Church movement's "Divided", I've been involved in an online discussion regarding the pros and cons of Youth and Children's ministry versus the more controversial elements of the FIC agenda. I would not use the word "debate", because I honestly don't have super-strong convictions on this issue one way or the other -- I've seen the ugliness in the extremes of both positions.

We all know about the Peanut Butter Gross-Out games at Youth Group (my church's Youth Group actually does a Bible study, but there's no denying Youth Ministry at large is largely...foolishness). Likewise, it's no secret VBS and children's ministry, with the possible exception of AWANA programs, is watered down and overly-entertainment driven. These facts notwithstanding, my husband and I do not fully embrace a mandatory FIC model - we prefer to use basic biblical wisdom and common sense (which tells us that we, as the parents, have the primary responsibility to teach our children about God and the Gospel).

Pilgrim at Defending Contending has a convincing and well-researched post about VBS and the marketing-tactics that go into them. Now, my four children have grown up on VBS. My youngest two, 8 and 5, still go and love VBS. My oldest (14) is a music assistant. Since my 8-year-old son was walking through the office while I happened to be reading Pilgrim's article, I decided to do a little un-scientific survey and get my son's feedback on what he gets out of it.

Now, two caveats: Stefan is a bright kid. Not rocket-scientist, homeschooled-and-going-to-college-at-12, find-a-cure-for-cancer-at-15 smart, but a pretty sharp monkey all-around. He's grown up in a Christian home; been in Sunday school since he had teeth and knows all the stories. He's gifted at Scripture memorization and enjoys practicing it. He also genuinely loves God and feels a deep sorrow when he sins. Without getting into much detail, I do have reason to believe he's a child of God. I asked:

Me: "Hey Stefan, let me ask you some questions. Do you love God? I mean, really?"

Him: "Yes."

Me: "Do you enjoy learning about Him, and getting to know Him better?"

Him: (nods enthusiastically...he's been asking us for a "real" Bible since he could read).

Me: "Ok. Now, would you say you learn a lot of new things about God at VBS? What do you learn?"

Him: "Well....the only time we really learn anything is in the songs."

Me: "The songs? You mean like "In Christ the Cross"?

Him: "Yeah. The songs are about God. So you learn things about God from the songs. And the stories.....well, they tell us stories, but actually we already knew the stories from before; so I guess we didn't really learn anything new. But I liked the jumpy thing."

Me: "Okay, so you didn't really learn anything at VBS, but it was fun. What about Junior Church - do you learn a lot about God there?"

Him: "Oh, yes. We learn stories and good lessons from the stories!"

Me: "But didn't you already know the stories from before?"

Him: "Some of them, yeah; but not all of them. Like the one about Elijah and Elisha. I'd forgotten about that one."

Me: "Okay, so in what order would you say you learn the most about God: from Junior Church, VBS, from me and Daddy at home - like when Daddy teaches you guys on Sunday afternoon from the Bible - or Pastor Eric when he preaches?"

Him: "I would say from you and Daddy at home, the most. After that...maybe Junior Church; then Pastor Eric - but I don't understand everything he's talking about - and then last, VBS."

No big surprises there....but given that an 8-year-old himself admits he learns more in the modest time we spend on spiritual matters at home than in the weekly, structured "children's church" etc, I think the FICers may have a point, after all. Which doesn't mean I'll be switching churches any time soon. It just means I feel convicted to spend more time and effort, under my husband's leadership, teaching the kids doctrinal truths and how to live these truths out in their lives (orthodoxy and orthopraxy). I had been toying with the idea of finding a Bible study to go through together, each morning before school next year, or maybe we'll just read from the Bible together and discuss it (as my husband does with us after church on Sunday). If anyone has any resources for family devotionals they'd like to share, I'd appreciate that!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Skinny White Bulgarians Performing "Lord, You Are Good"

I didn't really know what to name this post, but the images speak for themselves. You'll enjoy this.

I've recently discovered the Bulgarian praise team, "Ново Поколение" ("New Generation") and, at my request, my husband brought me back several of their CDs last week from Sofia. The kids and I like to get our praise on while tooling around, doing errands. This group really is terrific, and have done several live, sold-out concerts in Bulgaria. Many of their worship songs are original, rather than translations of English ones, but they also do a few well-known songs. One of those, apparently, is "Lord, You are Good" (by Israel Houghton and the New Breed).

My first impression, upon watching the clip below, was "That girl looks awfully white to be doing lead vocals on that song." (Nothing against my fellow melanin-challenged peeps...I'm just sayin.') In fact, I don't recall ever seeing so many skinny white people in one place...singing that song. See for yourself:

And now watch the original version:

It just isn't the same, is it?

Friday, July 15, 2011

An Amaryldian in Albania

Where I will be in 4 weeks:

Like the title of my post? "Amaryldian" is a word I just learned this morning - from Jay Adams, of course - which apparently means "Four-Point Calvinist". From Wiki: "Simply stated, Amyraldism holds that God has provided Christ's atonement for all alike, but seeing that none would believe on their own, he then elected those whom he will bring to faith in Christ, thereby preserving the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election."

Works for me. That describes my church's position on Limited Atonement pretty well, and while it's certainly not a hill I'd want to die on, that is where I stand, as well.

However, that's not the point of this post. I chose the word for it's alliterative properties, so I could share my REAL news: four weeks from today, I'll be headed to Albania on a short-term missions trip with the British ministry, Albania Evangelical Mission. Whilst my original plan was to go with my "alma mater" Campus Crusade for Christ, who was severely short of teachers for one of their seven camps in Albania, due to a sequence of events causing CCC to change their camp dates I was unable to join them. It all worked out for the best: this British group runs Christian camps all summer in the same location (near Saranda, in southern Albania) and I could join them much less expensively.

Most of the 17-18 year olds who will be attending this Christian camp the week I am serving there have not made a profession of faith in Christ. However, they are attending the camp with interest and in the full knowledge that we will be presenting the Gospel to them, teaching the basics of Christianity, and using the Bible as a medium to help them improve their English skills as well. Besides all that, I anticipate a lot of fun camp-type activities in the afternoons, worship, and fellowship as well! I have never been camping before, so this will be a new experience for me in that regard. I have taught English (in Bulgaria) before, as well as having led Bible studies for many years, both in the US and in Bulgaria....but I have never slept in a tent, so we shall see. (Cold water showers, on the other hand, are nothing new to me - that was par for the course in Leningrad and Sofia during the summer.)

I have read camp reports and seen photos from years prior, and many new young Christians have been baptized right in the Ionian Sea right there at the camp. I am hoping and praying to be able to develop lasting and fruitful relationships with some of the kids (and staff) I will be serving. (Given the rustic situation, it's unlikely that I'll be able to blog from there, but afterwards perhaps.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Just When You Thought it Couldn't Get Any Weirder...

Some things need no comment.

I want to share with you all an "Event Invite" I just received from a women's ministry group on Facebook:

I wanted to make sure you knew about a very important upcoming training for those called to emotional and physical healing and deliverance to the Body of Christ. There is a Convergence Spiritual Cleansing Method(TM) Ministers' Training on July 8th - 10th both nationally via live stream video and locally in Raleigh, NC.

The 4 Essential steps to true deliverance will be taught in detail. It will be great for ministry leaders to attend. It will elevate your entire ministry! You can see the four steps on a brief teaching video and get full info at

Ooohhh....the "Spiritual Cleansing Method (TM)". Sounds like something no biblical counselor worth her salt should be without, right? Right. Yeah, that's exactly what I said to myself. Then I clicked on the link.

Look at all that's promised - and what's more, PAYMENT PLANS ARE AVAILABLE TO WATCH THE VIDEO STREAM!!! Praise the Lord and Pass the Plate:

A special training for those men and women called to emotional and/or physical healing and deliverance for the Body of Christ.

Friday, July 8th - Sunday, July 10th, 2011
Marriott Courtyard North Raleigh/Triangle Town Center
Raleigh, NC

$397* - Live Training
$300 now through June 20th
You receive $97 off of your live registration before June 30th!

$197* - Live Video Stream
$140 now through June 20th
You receive $57 off of your video stream registration before June 30th!

*Payment Plans are available - see below.
Registration discounts do not apply to payment plans.

Jesus is raising up a new crop of ministers who truly believe and flow in His works upon the earth. Those who are willing to take off the masks of tradition and stand against the works of this world so the true believers of the Lord can usher the presence of the Kingdom of Heaven upon the earth to become the Kingdom of God.

The Lord is looking for those called to Truth and whose hands He can use to be His body and cast darkness away from his beloved children. He is equipping and training up those who are heeding His call to be vessels so others may know the liberty and freedom they can receive through the power, dominion and authority of Jesus.

Are you one of them?

Then, this training is just for YOU!

Three years ago the Lord revealed the process to fully being a vessel for a complete four-step process to fully deliver and heal His people to Ericka. He instructed her to put together trainings for those called to take the work into the Body of Christ. This is the first comprehensive training in which Ericka fully reveals the entire method the Holy Spirit laid out to her.

Do you have a heart for those in need of inner and physical healing?
Are you tired of seeing Christians live so far beneath all they are promised in the Word?
Do you long for the knowledge, wisdom and understanding to go along with your gifts of discernment and healing?
Then, this training is just for YOU!

If you have wondered why the people of God do not seem to be accessing and living the promises of scripture and are ready to learn why...

If you are ready to experience God in a whole new dimension…

If you are ready to be a vessel to guide others to truly be free from all emotional pain…

If you are ready to be a powerful vessel for physical healing in others…

If you are ready to finally access the full reward of overcoming...

Then you are ready for The Convergence Spiritual Cleansing MethodTM.

Who should attend?

Apostles, Pastors, Evangelists, Christian Leaders, Ministry Founders, Ministry Leaders, Teachers of the gospel, those with the gift of healing, those ready to better understand and appropriate the authority of Jesus upon the earth.
Based on the ground-breaking work of Ericka D. Jackson’s book, Beyond Fearless: How to Remove Every Hindrance From Your Life , this 100 % scriptural work guides you and all you work with into position to inherit the Kingdom of God. This work was breathed forth from the Holy Spirit through Ericka and she is bringing it to you at this training.

You will leave this training with:

A clear 4-step tested, proven and fail-proof process to walking people through full deliverance.

Standing in your authority over all sickness and able to cast out infirmities in yourself and others.

Being a pure vessel for the Lord to guide others into the freedom of the Lord.

Full knowledge of how to operate in your heavenly position upon the earth.

The clear step-by-step process of purifying the hearts of the people of God..

Understanding of how to recognize and demolish all 14 stronghold spirits and the thousands of unclean fruit they produce in Christians' lives.

Operating in the full power in the name of Jesus to cast out the unclean in others.

Activate the full ability to heal yourself and others that is contained within you.

Full understanding in how to walk into the fullness of your calling.

Be clear of all works of the flesh that have inhibited your ability to inherit the Kingdom of God and walk others through the same process.

Understanding and appropriating the 7 Spirits of God and how to catalyze their clean fruits to manifest and grow in your life and the lives of those the Lord sends to you to be a vessel for their wholeness.

The Lord told me that there were many of His flock that needed to take this training and that I needed to provide a way for everyone who desires to participate to receive the training. He instructed me to live video stream the training so there are no geographic barriers to being able to get the valuable information that you need to move forward in your calling as a healer and vessel for deliverance.

This will give you a choice as to what works best for your lifestyle. There are two ways that you can participate in this ground-breaking training.

You can either attend the event live in Raleigh, NC. If you attend the event live, it includes on-demand access to the live event recording through July 31st, 2011.

- or -

You can save the additional travel and lodging expenses and join us via live videostream. This means that you can join us from the privacy of your own home for the weekend or as much as you can attend during the actual event. Or you can access the event on-demand for the rest of the month of July. (I KNOW...this is exciting!!!)


If you would like to travel into Raleigh, NC or live in the Raleigh, NC area, this option is ideal.

Your live event registration includes all training materials, breakfast and lunch on Saturday and refreshments throughout the conference, and access to the on-demand recording through July 31st, 2011.

To Pay in Full - $397
You recieve $97 off of your live registration before June 30th!
(your discount will instantly appear as you check out)

Click Here to Submit Your Payment in Full

- or -

Live Event 2-Payment Plan

2 Payments of $198.50 due by June 5th and July 5th

Click Here for the Live Event 2-Payment Plan


If you live outside of the Raleigh, NC area and would like to be a part of the training, this option is perfect for you.

Your live video streaming event registration includes all training materials and access to the on demand recording through July 31st, 2011.

Single Payment of $197

You recieve $57 off of your video stream registration before June 30th!

Click Here to Submit Your Live Video Stream Payment in Full

(your discount will instantly appear as you check out)

- or -

2-Payment Plan

2 Payments of $98.50 due on June 5th and July 5th

Click Here for the LiveStream 2-Payment Plan

Brilliant! So, after more than 2,000 years of Church history, the Holy Spirit has just now seen fit to reveal God's Plan for Healing (TM) to Ericka! And she can teach it to others for the low, low price of $400! (Only $200 to watch via "live video stream"!)

Notice NO mention whatsoever of the Bible's clear teaching on sanctification; "putting off" the old nature and "putting on" holiness and a life pleasing to God. Notice no exposition of a SINGLE biblical text or ANY of the numerous passages that deal with counseling, ecclesiology, or the little fact that PRIVATE REVELATION CEASED WITH THE CLOSING OF THE CANON.

Perhaps most galling is this little sidebar on the page:

"You will become a fully certified Convergence Spiritual Cleansing MethodTM Minister as a result of attending this training and completing the final certification exam that will be available online following the training.

Once you are certified, you will be able to:

  • Have ongoing support as you minister this process to others.
  • Create an additional revenue stream for your ministry. *
  • Be a part of a network and team of trained ministers that Ericka can send out to train church and ministry leaders at retreats and conferences.
  • Have access to ongoing training and breakthroughs in The Convergence Spiritual Cleansing MethodTM.
* Real biblical counseling is NOT designed to create a "revenue stream". That is a serious ethical and moral violation right there.

Wowzers; a certification exam! Almost like real biblical counseling associations offer, huh?! Gee, I wonder how many years of exegetical study a prospective minister of the "Convergence Spiritual Cleansing Method" would need? Goodness, a seminary degree would seem like a minimal requirement for such an exclusive, only-given-to-one-person, God-breathed "cleansing" method! And then, when they HAVE their certificates, these sheeple can "play counselor" just like those of us who have actually studied and trained to minister the Word of God to counselees.

Perhaps because I do not have cable TV (and therefore cannot watch the heretical Word of Faith charlatans bilking money from naive people night and day) this sort of scam still annoys me - big time. These false prophets and greedy, lying charlatans who evidently find extra-biblical, sensationalistic speaking more attractive than opening their Bibles are a blight to the Name of Christ. May He break their deception and offer them repentance before it's too late. (Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 14:14, 23:16, 50:36; Ezekiel 13:9, 22:28; Matt. 7:15, 24:11,24; Mark 13:22; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1).

The Loving Friendship of Jesus Christ (J.C. Ryle Quote)

Every true Christian has a Friend in heaven, of almighty power and boundless love. They are thought of, cared for, provided for, defended by God’s eternal Son. They have an unfailing Protector, who never slumbers or sleeps, and watches continually over their interests. The world may despise them, but they have no cause to be ashamed. Father and mother even may cast them out, but Christ having once taken them up, will never let them go. They are the friend of Christ even after they are dead! The friendships of this world are often fair-weather friendships, and fail us like summer-dried fountains, when our need is the greatest; but the friendship of the Son of God is stronger than death, and goes beyond the grave. The Friend of sinners is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 2, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987], 275. {John 11:7-16}

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

100 Things We Love About Dad

This month, I decided to help our four kids make a "special" card for Daddy on Father's Day - telling him all the things they love about him. Last year, when looking through the Father's Day card selection at Walmart, I couldn't help but notice that most all of them were vaguely mocking or insulting in a "humorous" way. The cards from kids seemed to revolve, for the most part, around joking with Dad that he would be utterly lost and incompetent without Mom; most implied that she "wore the pants in the family". (I would be mortified if my children ever gave such a card to my husband, or for a second believed that to be the case!)

More important than cards or a particular day on the calendar, honoring Dads and telling them what we love about them is so important. Biblical fatherhood, obviously, isn't just about siring offspring and bringing home a paycheck. Children, by and large, know and appreciate when they are deeply loved and brought up in the knowledge of the Lord. Good fathers are a special gift from God!

I challenged the kids to come up with 100 things they love about Dad, and I helped them glue the sheets to a poster board with a colorful title. The two little ones (5 and 7) rattled off the first 65 entries while the older kids were still doing their homework. Here is their Litany to Dad:

1. Dad took me to the doctor when I was sick.

2. Dad gave me a nice present after my eye operation.

3. Dad hugs me all the time.

4. Dad’s coming to see my show at gymnastics.

5. Dad helps me understand my homework.

6. Dad gives me treats when I help him outside.

7. Dad works hard so we can have food.

8. Dad picks me up from preschool sometimes.

9. Dad gives me gum when I go in his car.

10. Dad tries to comfort us when we cry.

11. Dad hugs us when we’re scared.

12. Dad compliments our work.

13. Dad likes our pictures.

14. Dad’s very nice to us.

15. Dad kisses us and hugs us a lot of times.

16. Dad helps us read something when we don’t know what it says.

17. Dad reads me books.

18. Dad paid the people to do the addition.

19. Dad says prayers with us.

20. Dad gives us money to buy things.

21. Dad works outside and does things for us.

22. Dad gives us M&M’s.

23. Dad teaches us about God.

24. Dad brings us to birthday parties.

25. Dad brings us to his work sometimes!

26. Dad tells us what to do when someone’s mean to us or does something to us.

27. Dad gives us haircuts.

28. Dad gives us rides in his car sometimes.

29. Dad always gives us presents on our birthdays.

30. Dad sings “Happy Birthday” to us.

31. Dad gets me “Flat Stanley” books.

32. Dad helps us with ideas for things.

33. When we try to make something with Play-Doh, he makes it for us ‘cause he’s so good!

34. When Dad broke my pink pail, he still made a really good sandcastle out of the small one.

35. Dad gives us costumes.

36. Dad lets us eat donuts.

37. Dad has good ideas and gives them to us.

38. Dad bought the Wii for us.

39. Dad got my PSP.

40. Dad gets me games for my PSP.

41. Dad prays for us.

42. Dad loves God.

43. When Natalia broke my owl pencil, Dad gave her money to buy me new Expo markers.

44. Dad tries to tell people about God.

45. Dad takes pictures of us.

46. Dad plays Wii with us.

47. When Miro and Stefan wouldn’t play a board game with me, Dad took me to Home Depot with him.

48. Dad offers things to us like going to the store.

49. Dad goes in the pictures with us.

50. Dad makes bacon on Sunday.

51. Dad helps me do things on the Wii that I can’t do.

52. Dad reads the Bible with us on Sunday afternoons.

53. Dad lets us go to our friends’ house.

54. Dad helps us spell words.

55. Dad helps us learn Bulgarian.

56. Dad makes kebapcheta.

57. Dad takes care of us.

58. Dad sometimes shares Bulgarian secrets with us (like the food).

59. Dad tells us stories of when he was a kid.

60. Dad helps us cool off when we’re hot.

61. Dad lets us go to waterparks (and he pays).

62. If we’re confused, Dad helps us understand.

63. Dad sometimes says “Great job!” on things.

64. Dad helps us make things.

65. Dad tells us what’s right and what’s wrong.

66. Dad shares his chocolate with us.

67. Dad lets us play on his computer.

68. Dad’s laugh is contagious.

69. Dad’s a great cook and can make anything with any recipe.

70. Dad has such a good sense of direction, if we were lost in Antarctica, he would still be able to tell us where to go.

71. Dad teaches us the importance of morals and life values.

72. Dad brings us to Bulgaria.

73. Dad brings us to soccer games, like Levski-Milan vs. Inter-Milan.

74. Dad tucks me in for bed.

75. Dad makes banitsa.

76. Dad tells us about WW I and WW II.

77. Dad makes up brilliant words, like “idiotistic”.

78. Dad lets me watch Veggie Tales movies on his computer when Mom’s at work.

79. Dad knows how to ski, and taught us to ski.

80. Dad has a very good sense of humor and sarcasm.

81. Dad bought the TV.

82. Dad’s very generous.

83. Dad puts up with a lot of things.

84. Dad is wise.

85. Dad planted some of the plants I want and he let me have two strawberries.

86. Dad helps us with our Valentines.

87. Dad brings home gifts from work (like candies.)

88. Dad kisses us and says “goodnight” when he goes to work.

89. Dad says “thank you” when we help him.

90. Dad shares. If we want to use something and he has to use it, he lets us go first. That’s called “sharing”.

91. Dad makes us hot cocoa.

92. Dad gets me lunch.

93. Dad play-fights with us.

94. Dad teaches me letters.

95. Dad made a bathroom downstairs.

96. Dad tickles us.

97. Dad lets us go under the sprinkler.

98. Dad taught me to ride my bike.

99. Dad took me to the library and let me get a library card.

100. Dad loves all of us!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Movies of Christ vs. Reading the Gospel Account

A Facebook friend just posted the YouTube link to a beautiful worship song, "Amazing Love". ("Amazing can it be...that You my King would die for me?" You know the one.) The frame, as much of this particular clip, features "The Passion of the Christ". I have a confession to make: neither that film, nor the depictions in more biblically-precise films such as the excellent "The Gospel of John", inspire devotion in me.

The song is beautiful and heart-felt. And (in my opinion,) there is nothing wrong with making evangelistic films about Christ, so long as they are absolutely faithful to the biblical text. But, for me, they do not whomp up emotions, inspire devotion, or bring me to my knees in repentance the way reading the Scripture itself does. Why?

Well, I guess I have an overly-literal nature. Not once, not for a single nano-second, did I forget that the man hanging on the Cross is Jim Caviezel. He's a great actor. I'm sure he's a really good guy, too. But he is not my Lord and Savior, and watching scenes of him accompanied by "Amazing Love" makes me feel like I am watching....Jim Caviezel playing Jesus to the accompaniment of "Amazing Love" (or in a full-length rated R movie.)

I try to think abstractly. I try to forget it's an actor I'm watching, and let him inspire devotion to Christ. Peeps, I'm sorry; it doesn't work. All it makes me think is, "Man, that Jim is a good actor!"

I was in a Christian bookstore once (once? Maybe twice?) and noticed they had artwork - framed portraits of "Christ" - Jim Caviezel reaching down to the Italian actress playing Mary Magdalene. Jim Caviezel looking pensively past the camera and off into the distance. "Jim Caviezel is good looking," I thought. "But I certainly wouldn't want portraits of him hanging in the living room!" (Not to pick on Jim Caviezel - there have been lots of other fine actors to play Christ over the years, like that British-Peruvian guy Henry Ian Cusick in "The Gospel of John", but I have never seen anything approaching the number of devotional-style music videos and artwork that is based on POTC.) Movie-generated images and clips, no matter how bloodied the actor, don't make me feel as if I'm vicariously gazing upon Christ.

You know what does, though?

Reading the Bible - especially the Gospel of John. There are parts of Chapters 14-15 that I can barely read without getting a lump in my throat. You can hear the sadness in Jesus' voice as He predicts His betrayal; comforts His disciples; tells them to have joy. He's going to be crucified in a few hours, and He's talking about joy? That gets me every time.

Does anyone else feel this way? I am not saying it's wrong to be affected emotionally by a movie - as long as your heart is moved closer to the Christ of the Bible (which, of course, should be the whole point of the movie in the first place.) Perhaps the problem is mine for being utterly unsentimental (I did not even cry as a kid at "E.T.", and I couldn't understand why the other kids did, because it was just a story.) I watch Christian videos others call "amazing" and "powerful" and think, "Uh.....I don't get it."

While we certainly aren't to live our faith based on emotions, as the Holy Spirit convicts, teaches, grows and conforms us increasingly to the image of Christ, He will continually light that "spark" of devotion to Christ that is a hallmark of a true disciple. I do not believe, nor have I experienced, any means of kindling true love and devotion for our Lord outside of Scripture itself. He truly is sufficient for meeting all of our needs -- especially our need for more of Him.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Bible is "Inspired". Great. What Does That Mean?

Starting a series on bibliology this morning. Today's post: the nature of "inspired" Scripture.

NOTE: For those of you writing the NANC exam who are looking for info, please don't forget to use citations (you can hyperlink to this entry in your exam, rather than formal footnotes) when phrasing your answer. In other words, kindly remember to give me credit if quoting from this page. I will appreciate it, and so will the NANC Fellows who are grading your exam. Thanks! :)

When the Bible is spoken of as being “inspired”, it literally means “God-breathed”. In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul explains that “all Scripture is God-breathed” – meaning that it is the writings, not the writers which are “inspired”. The Greek term which translates to “given by inspiration of God”, theopneustos, appears elsewhere only once in Scripture – in Job 32:8, where it is translated “breath”: “But it is a spirit in man, And the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” This indicates that what is given as biblical revelation is straight from the mouth of God, and is not subject to the personal interpretation of those recording Scripture (as more liberal denominations may teach).

Jay Adams correctly notes that “inspired” would be more correctly translated “expired”, in keeping with the “breathing out” meaning of the Greek term. This verse tells us that the Scriptures are “every bit as much God’s Word as if you could hear them spoken audibly (by breath).” Therefore, to claim an extra-biblical writing as “inspired” (speaking for God) is actually heretical, since such a claim would put the text on par with Scripture. (Just this morning, a woman was gushing about "God speaking to her" through the devotional, "Jesus Calling". This is a book a woman wrote a few years ago claiming Jesus gave her messages as private revelation. Scary stuff...yet many Christians buy into these types of books unquestioningly.)

Additionally, 2 Peter 1:19-21 affirms that while men prophesied and wrote Scripture, the origin was never with them – they were “moved” or “carried along” by the Spirit, the Divine Author. The Apocrypha, the additional texts written in the inter-testamental period, are thus not considered "inspired" since they contain geographical, historical, and even theological errors. (These books were never quoted by Christ or the Apostles, nor were they ever a part of the Jewish Torah.) Only the 66 books of the Canon may accurately be described as "God-breathed".

The importance of the divine origin of Scripture is important to understand in relation to counseling, because after building his case for Scripture’s source of authority – God Himself – Paul goes on to state why biblical truth is therefore reliable: it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (vs. 16-17; emphasis mine). Because it is divine in origin, Scriptural injunction is trustworthy and therefore efficacious for training in holiness. Paul affirms that the Bible is a useful book, for teaching (revealing what God requires); for convicting (showing us where we fail to measure up to these); for correction (helping us get out of the problems we get into); and disciplined training in righteousness (helping us stay out of them in the future while obeying God).

Having established the “God-breathed” nature of Scripture, it follows that acceptance and adherence to its principles are non-negotiable. Our sin nature will cause all of us to attempt to rationalize, justify and otherwise excuse behavior that is contrary to the commands of God given in the Bible, but if we believe Scripture is “God breathed” – coming verbatim from Him – we are not free to add to, ignore, or subjectively interpret what has been dictated by God (Rev. 22:18-19; Matt. 7:26; 2 Pet. 1:20).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Interesting Way to Get Your Name on the Cover of a Magazine...

I was contacted by the Editor of "Christeenianity Magazine" a few weeks ago, asking permission to use my testimony and experience in an issue devoted to addressing eating disorders. Although I don't agree with the "self-esteem" talk in the issue (I'm only responsible for what I write) I agreed. Also featured is an essay from Stephanie, a young woman who has been counseled at a doctrinally-sound biblical counseling residential facility.

They included a nice plug from Olympic gold medalist Laura Wilkinson for my upcoming book, too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"He Jogged Right Into Heaven"

This past Saturday, God called a well-known and much loved man from our church family home at the age of 52. A member has been severed, and the whole Body is feeling it deeply.

Dave was (it seems so strange writing about him in the past tense, knowing he is in heaven) a humble, unassuming servant of God who loved Christ deeply, and by extention, his family and church. Although I had only known him for a few years, he struck me as an unusually committed believer. The congregation's outpouring of grief over his unexpected departure indicates that all who knew him saw his humility and compassion.

Dave's life revolved around Christ. He wasn't the type of guy to bicker about dispensationalism or get involved in church politics. He preferred to go to Mississippi with the Youth Group to re-build after Hurricaine Katrina; serve on a mercy mission in Pakistan; and carry logs and mulch on "Church Clean-up Day". With a passionate desire to reach the lost, Dave served as the Chairman of the Missions Committee for several years, which is how I met him.

When saints die, there is a human tendency to canonize them. We don't need to do that. Each of us has a story; a memory; a touching moment that we each remember about the person who has passed on. The first time our paths crossed was during Sunday service, about three years ago, when Dave and I were both outside in the foyer instead of in the sanctuary like normal church-goers. I was emptying the nursery Diaper Genie. I have no idea what he was doing, but his exact words to me were, "Hey, can I talk to you for a sec after the service?" (I thought I was in trouble for something, but I couldn't remember doing anything particularly incriminating. Turned out he wanted to ask me to apply to join the Missions Committee, which I happily did.)

Now, "Missions Committee" may conjure up images of old men in suits, dryly analyzing the budget. We may have done that, (although none of us wear suits; nor are we old, or even necessarily men), but we generally had fun with the task at hand. That wasn't too hard, given Dave's laid-back sense of humor. He laughed at my jokes. A one-liner from a Monty Python movie would have him stifling guffaws, which was actually funnier than whatever was said, given that we were meeting in a tiny nursing mothers' room less than 30 feet away from the pastor's D-6 men's Bible study. "We're having way too much fun in here," Dave would say. "They're gonna wonder what we do at these meetings!"

Rabbit trails? We spent 15 minutes once on the spiritual implications of wearing shorts to church, and whether proper reverence demands getting spiffed up on Sunday. (I emphatically said yes.) My challenger asked for biblical support. Dave, ever the diplomat, offered: "I came to church dressed up once...and everybody laughed at me. So I never tried that again!"

Dave could see the humor in things, and was lighthearted. That levity, however, stopped at the threshold of his prayer life. As a small and closely-knit group, we had the priviledge of praying together quite a few times, and Dave approached God with the reverential awe and intimate adoration of a true disciple. He was, to use the cliche, a "prayer warrior". Interceding for others was as natural as breathing for Dave. More than anything else, this is what moved people and will be remembered about him. We simply have no way of knowing, at least in this life, the extent of Dave's impact for eternity.

My most vivid memory of Dave was from February 2009, at the memorial service of a high school boy who had succumbed to brain cancer. Dave had been particularly close to him and his family, and was there with him at the end. He shared with the grieving congregation how much he would miss him, but added (with a sheepish smile), "....At the same time, though, I'm so psyched for Steven right now!" That simple and true sentiment - rejoicing that his young friend was in the presence of the Lord they both loved so deeply, made a profound impact on all of us. Several times over this past weekend, the irony of that sincere statement has struck me. If it is not irreverent to think in terms of the Lord Jesus being "psyched", I imagine He is quite psyched to have His friend Dave home now, too. (Psalm 116:15)

Dave had previously led the congregation to kneel in intercession for this young man one Sunday, and later kept a 2-day prayer vigil by himself at the church for a woman battling cancer. Those aren't the sorts of things one does to attract the praise of man, or to climb the "church hierarchy". They are the sorts of spontaneous loving acts that spring forth, unbidden, from a heart overflowing with love and joy in one's Savior. Dave never seemed to get over his awe that Christ would redeem him. He never wanted to.

Yesterday, as we mourned his loss and prayed for the precious family he left behind, our pastor pointed out that Dave had passed from this life in much the same way he had lived - running. "Dave jogged right into heaven," he noted, which was an apt metaphor for someone who strove to live each day to glorify Christ. Granted, I'm one of those pesky sola-scriptura types not given to imaginative interpretations, but yesterday it was just so easy to imagine Dave on that beach, no doubt conversing with the Lord in his heart, as he so freely did. "You know what, Dave?" the Lord might have said to His treasured friend. "We're a lot closer to My house right now than yours. Let's go home, Dave."

And he did.

He jogged right into heaven.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

For the Last Time, Jay Adams is NOT a 'Behaviorist'!

Since beginning my formal course of training in biblical counseling about a year and a half ago, I have come to understand much better the process of what counselors call "total restructuring", the practice of "putting off" sinful behavior and thought processes (Eph. 4:22), and being enabled by the Holy Spirit to "put on" the new self - thoughts and practices which are pleasing to God (Eph. 4:24). It should go without saying that walking in obedience is not a one-time event as salvation is, but the way of life Christ expects and demands from His followers. (John Piper wrote an excellent book, "What Jesus Demands from the World", exegeting each one of His imperatives to believers.) Of course, there are those who would distinguish between what they term a "Pauline Christianity" and the Gospel, but this is a false dichotomy. Paul consistently preached Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

Jay Adams, the founder of the modern biblical counseling movement, does the same thing.

During my course of study with INS, the subject of so-called "Keswick sanctification" was covered and Dr. Adams explained what was wrong with it (he also terms it "quietism"). This philosophy is similar to the "let go and let God" bumper-sticker mentality that if we are simply "empty vessels" fully "yielded" to God, the Holy Spirit will achieve progressive sanctification on our behalf. In this pseudo-pietist formula, it is NOT considered spiritual, or even correct, to strive for our own holiness and sanctification. We are to remain completely passive. This erroneous view of Scripture struck a chord with me, as I had been exposed to it years earlier in a charismatic church. In fact, when reviewing my book manuscript, Martha Peace urged me to remove the words "yield" and "surrender" from the chapters on repentance - NOT because the terms don't occur in the Bible (they do;) but because of how they have become mis-used in the modern Church to promote a passive, almost mystical view of sanctification.

I have spent hours on the phone with Martha, scrutinizing the precision of my terminology when discussing heart change and love of God, the believer's responsibility to repent, and how to walk in obedience. I have spent many MORE hours viewing lectures of Dr. Adams and studying the requisite texts for a certificate in nouthetic counseling (from noutheteo,translated "admonish, correct or instruct;" see Romans 15:14). If I have learned nothing else from Dr. Adams, it is that we are to (and help our counselees learn to) honor and glorify God, whether we feel like it or not. Our motivation is NOT to please ourselves, but to please God. This is the only appropriate response to the One Who first condescended to love us sinners, and gave Himself up for us (Gal. 2:20).

True, inner heart change (conversion) is a work of God. We can do nothing to save ourselves (Eph. 3:23); it is entirely His doing - hence the term "monergism". However, the Bible is clear from Genesis to Revelation that God expects His people to obey Him. This is a synergistic effort (the Holy Spirit enables blood-bought disciples, and we are to "will and to work for His good pleasure"; Phil. 2:13). Justification (being declared righteous before God because of faith in His Son) will always result in increasing holiness and sanctification. Unfortunately, even within the biblical counseling movement, there is a school of thought which considers sanctification entirely a work of God (as if the believer need not practice discipline or "work" towards taking his or her own thoughts captive; put on self-control; etc.)

It is from this misunderstanding of the Scriptural teaching on sanctification that Dr. Adams has wrongly been called a "behaviorist". The term may more accurately be applied to secular psychiatrists who follow the Skinner theories of behavior modification - known more simply as "conditioning". Nowhere, in any of his more than 50 books, has Adams ever promoted the view that by changing one's outward behavior, one becomes acceptable to God. Nor is it accurate to say that a more disciplined lifestyle results in true holiness. In fact, Adams cautions against counseling non-Christians for this very reason: an unregenerate person may only move from one lifestyle that is displeasing to God to another, equally displeasing lifestyle (Heb. 11:6).

Part of the tendency on the part of his critics to misrepresent Adams' teaching comes, I believe, from taking citations out of context. Jay Adams is a man who has been teaching, preaching and writing for quite a few decades on more subjects than I could mention in a blog post. Three of the required texts for students of biblical counseling are "Competent to Counsel", "The Christian Counselor's Manual", and "More than Redemption" (the last one is a systematic theology text). These three books are around 400 pages EACH. In addition to these, there are many of his shorter, "summary" type books on specific subjects (forgiveness; hermaneutics; divorce and re-marriage) we are to read. It is both inaccurate and unfair to take (for example) a paragraph on what specific behaviors a counselee might take to overcome lust from page 402 of one of his books and treat it as if it were the only and final word Adams has written on the subject. By the time the reader arrives at Chapter 35 of CCM, Adams presumably takes it for granted the reader has read the first 34 chapters, AND perhaps CTC (which is a precursor to CCM). It should not be necessary for him to re-lay the groundwork of God's great love, conviction, confession of sin, heart-felt repentance and what may be going on in the counselee's heart that causes him to rebel against God each time he gives a counseling scenario.

Yesterday, in an entry by Dr. Adams called "Gospel Sanctification" on the Institutes's blog, a conversation ensued in which the usual arguments about "behaviorism" were dragged out. I had been planning to write about this issue anyway, since learning that some in the biblical counseling movement have been leaning towards a passive, "resting and feeding" faith* while omitting our responsibility to be co-laborers in our own spiritual growth. One nay-sayer wrote:

"Marie, from what I have read of Dr. Adams, he is a behaviorist/moralist. He teaches that changing the behavior is the way to change the heart. At least that’s what I read on the pages of Competent to Counsel. I was so shocked at what I read that I withdrew my application to a seminary that uses Dr Adams as its text. Check it for yourself."
Of course, I HAVE read CTC for myself, as well as the books mentioned above and a great many more. What this straw-man argument fails to acknowledge is that Adams himself has written specifically and succinctly on the subject of progressive sanctification in a small, highly readable book, "Growing by Grace". At less than 100 pages, (I read it at McDonalds' PlayPlace last summer), it is a useful overview of what the Christian life should look like for anyone desiring to follow God. He discusses the New Birth and why it is necessary for any true, inner change; then goes on to describe how God enables His children to live lives "worthy of the calling" they have received (Eph. 4:1). This is a basic, fundamental calling of every believer throughout his/her entire life; it is not limited to those in the counseling room. Adams writes,

"When counselors help counselees to develop new biblical habits to replace old ones, for instance, they encourage them to ask God to change not only externals but also to change their hearts. Peter speaks of "hearts trained in greed" (II Peter 2:14). The heart is where the habit is.....The heart must be changed as the habit is; the habit will be changed as the heart is. The one cannot be divorced from the other. Holiness is first and foremost an inside job! To encourage counselees merely to change their outer behavior is to create hypocritical counselees and to make God out to be nothing more than a decorative God who superficially paints over the rotten wood beneath! The biblical counselor must stress prayer, the work of the Spirit, and the Word in enabling him to obey. God is an Interior Decorator."
Big, fat 'Amen'! The insight that working on changing the behavior right alongside the heart is one that rings especially true for former addicts. More than once, I have received the question from young women with eating disorders, "When will God change my heart? Did you stop [bulimic behavior] after God changed your heart, or did it all happen at the same time?"

Teaching that deep reflection on the Cross and meditating on the sufferings of Christ is all that is needed to 'change our hearts' confuses and frustrates people stuck in life-dominating sin. YES, it is necessary. It is, after all, God's kindness which leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Without being broken over one's sin and staying in fellowship with the compassionate, gracious Savior Who loves us, no real change can occur in our hearts - nor, consequently, in our behavior. BUT, and this is the key difference, "preaching the Gospel to ourselves" doesn't stop with recognizing Christ's great love and our redemption. It continues - by recalling His command to "follow Me" (die to self-centered desires) and "go and sin no more".

A simple, common-sense application of this heart+disciplined action = change is as follows: I used to smoke cigarettes. Somewhere around 2002, as God was pricking my conscience over several long-standing sins, I began to feel convicted that God wanted me to stop smoking. I realized that when under stress or angry, I would "stuff" my angry thoughts and feelings by using this habit; that it was unhealthy and therefore in violation of 1 Cor. 6:19; and that since cigarettes had now hit $5.00/pack in Massachusetts, it was poor stewardship. I decided to quit.

I prayed about it. I "shared my feelings" with the Lord. I re-affirmed His love for me from the pages of Scripture. I recognized that Christ had died on the Cross for me. But you know what else? I stopped going to the mini-market for Marlboros. I quit hanging around the designated smoke area out back at work, with my homegirls from the temp agency. I threw away my ashtray and lighter, and then....most significantly of all, I told my husband I wasn't going to smoke anymore. Ah...the accountability factor. Once you tell your husband or wife, it's written in stone.

I never lit another cigarette again.

Now, smoking may be a fairly benign example of this principle, but anyone can see how making changes in one's habitual behavior concurrently with the heart change God brings about will lead to victory over a particular sin (or bad habit). So, is this 'behaviorism'? Let's let Dr. Adams himself answer that charge:

"Not if what he does is done out of love for God! One must have the inner desire to please God when out of duty he obeys a commandment that is not pleasant to obey. A housewife cleans the toilets not because she enjoys the chore but because she loves her family. A counselee may be called on to obey a command out of love for God and his neighbor, even when he does not look forward to the task itself. That is what must be stressed. The counselee must understand that in his inner person, he must not do anything God commands for brownie points; he must obey out of love."
(Emphasis mine)

I truly hope that these illustrations and Dr. Adams' own words help any would-be critics understand progressive sanctification. This critically-important doctrine is one which biblical counselors strive to present from the pages of Scripture; not from feel-good, needs-based psychology. Insisting on obedience (as Christ Himself did repeatedly) by means of the Spirit is neither legalism nor 'behaviorism'. As one grows in his/her relationship with Christ, he/she naturally becomes increasingly conformed to His likeness (Romans 8:29). This is true "Gospel Sanctification", and is what Dr. Adams has preached from day one.

* See "The Journal of Modern Ministry", Vol. 8, Issue I.
Excerpts taken from "Growing by Grace", Dr. Jay Adams, published by Timeless Texts, 2003. Pgs. 92-93,