Through the Narrow: What About the IF Gathering Part 2 – By Gina Cook

In my last article I warned about the 2021 IF:Gathering that was soon coming up.  I went off of what I already knew about the speakers.  Here is the link: https://biblicalbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/2021/03/02/through-the-narrow-what-about-the-ifgathering-part-i-by-gina-cook/ 

After the IF:Gathering concluded and while they had most of their videos free to watch I sat and listened to as much as I could. I’m going to share what I heard from most of the speakers and briefly explain why it’s good, bad or ugly. 

The speakers I’ll be covering to some degree or another are Jackie Hill Perry, Christine Caine, Joni Eareckson Tada, Francis Chan, Lysa Terkeurst, Rebekah Lyons, Mike Todd, Anne Voskamp, Bianca Olthoff, Dr. Anita Phillips, Dr. Curt Thompson, Isabella Garza, Latasha Morrison, David Platt, Jennie Allen, and Eugene Cho.   

Some of these speakers are not as well-known as the others but after watching them I can imagine the lesser-knowns could become more known and followed, sadly.  I want to warn about them just as equally as the others for this reason.  I want to also clarify that I’m not necessarily going to cover the speakers in the order they spoke.  Also, I was not able to watch the entire conference because the breakout sessions were not free to watch.  I also didn’t watch every minute that was available because I simply ran out of time before it was offline. I tried to focus on what seemed the most concerning and in need of explaning. 

I’ll warn you now, this will be longer than my other articles

That is because there is so much to address and I honestly will still only be scratching the surface.  If you are short on time, feel free to scroll down and find a specific teacher/speaker that you are particularly interested in knowing more on as far as their message at IF:Gathering.  I hope you find the time to read the whole thing only to help you better understand the larger and more dangerous picture of IF:Gathering.   

I believe what was the most disturbing for me was the fact that there were some very good things said, especially the first day (No coincidence I’m sure.  That’s all a part of the design).  This may sound strange to some.  Why is “good” disturbing to me?  It’s because I’d rather the poison be more unveiled.  I’d rather it not be masked with goodness and beauty.   I don’t want the less discerning lured into the spiritual woods to get beat half to death with hellish lies before they may or may not escape.  As we already know from Scripture, Satan loves to portray himself as an angel of light, just as his workers do.  Satan rarely starts off looking like a monster. 

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 

The two speakers who seemed to display the most biblical accuracy, the best masks, were Jackie Hill Perry and Christine Caine. 

Jackie Hill Perry 

When most didn’t open their Bible and only flailed it around while expressing squishy opinions of the SJW types, Jackie opened it and read it.  Not only did she read it she went deeper than others with the Scripture.  She had some accurate things to say especially on God’s holiness, explaining it meant He is transcendent and separate from anything or anyone else.  She also accurately talks about how we are to be holy.  However, she focused on a few confusing ideas about God and how we come to know Him or want to know Him.  She states that when we see His beauty it’s “then we want to know Him, love Him, trust Him” and out of that comes the fruit.  It seems she has a different idea of what it means to know the Lord than what we are taught in Scripture. I can see where she could mean “knowing” as trusting Him more with everything in our walk yet there wasn’t enough clarity given. 

Even though she happened to mention repentance and taking up one’s cross earlier in her presentation, she landed the message on knowing Him because we first see His beauty and want to behold Him.   

To know God is to know Christ and to know Christ is to be saved.  “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”  John 17:3 

Only at salvation can we say we know the Lord and only with our new spiritual eyes and new birth can we behold Him and His beauty, His mercy, and loving-kindness towards us, knowing He has forgiven us through His atoning work on the cross and His resurrection.   

God doesn’t necessarily look beautiful to us at first or in our times of repentance. When a the repentant sinner is confronted with the Holy God there is not this mere observing of His beauty and all the more positive attributes but instead contriteness before the Great I AM. 

I was surprised she didn’t go more into the social justice talk being she is so vocal about it elsewhere.  From what I heard, she wasn’t entirely that bad.  Again, I wasn’t able to watch the entire conference.  There may have been other times she spoke that I couldn’t see.  If not, if she didn’t say anything way off in any other part of the conference then this is where it concerns me.  Again, that may sound strange but I say it’s a concern because people will listen to her message at IF and be convinced she’s safe enough to follow when in reality she is dancing with dangerous teachings/teachers often. 

Here is a video I found of her message at IF:Gathering 

Christine Caine 

Like Jackie, Christine gave some deep biblical truths.  She talked about the death and resurrection of Christ and repentance.  She talked on His return.  She gave a touching testimony of the time she was in another country where they were dying for their faith and she felt she had nothing to give to them as they already were living so devotedly for Christ, willing and expecting to die for His name’s sake.  She stressed how we also need to give our lives to Him.  I was sitting there thinking, wow this is going to sell to a lot of people, understandably so.  I can almost hear the masses of ladies saying, “Well there you go, she may have some differing views than us on some spiritual things but she loves Jesus so passionately, therefore she’s a Christian.”  The problem is, she mixed a whole lot of poison with that big healthy glass of Truth.  

For starters, she was sitting there with Jennie Allen talking about how she was the one who helped catapult the beginning of IF:Gathering.  When Jennie was having manifestations from “God” about “disciplining a nation”, apparently it was Christine that helped explain and encourage that message from “God” to Jennie and helped her understand that IF Gathering is “part of the preparation for an end-time harvest.”  Christine pointed to the audience and said, “You can thank me later.”  So very humble of her to say (insert sarcasm).   

Later there were comments about seeing signs, wonders, and miracles happening now.  The online conference, according to Caine, was a miracle.  She saw it as a miracle because it reached so many women for Jesus.  She said it’s a revival.  Sorry, but that is not the definition of a miracle or a picture of a revival.  Salvation in Christ is a miracle, yes, but the tool to supposedly bring the Gospel is not the miracle.  I’m not the miracle if I share the Gospel of Christ with someone and they become saved from that encounter with God’s Truth.   Also, these women have absolutely no idea of any revival that could come from this conference.  They are in the middle of it at the time this is said and do not know the majority of those watching and how they are responding.  It’s a classic trick from the old bag that holds no truth or fact yet makes many wondrous claims.   

Caine also says she believes healing/racial reconciliation will happen.  Being Jesus is coming back it makes her want to fight for racial reconciliation more than ever, as well as, human trafficking.  

There’s so much wrong to unpack there.  First off, there’s that expected dose of woke we thought would be there at IF:Gathering.  It’s the thing IF is best at- social justice rhetoric.  Instead of Christ’s return being fuel for reflecting on our own walk and for the furthering of the Gospel for all of the lost, somehow for Christine she mostly thinks of racial issues and human trafficking.  Those are not bad things to be concerned about yet it’s a very strange focus to have when talking about Christ’s return, especially when we consider the culture’s direction these days.  It’s interesting that she starts out sharing how those people in the other country were dying for Christ and wanting to know how to share the Gospel with their executioner, but then switches it to talking about racial issues.  She did later make a small reference to sharing the Gospel, but social issues were front and center. When the Gospel is heard and one repents and trusts in Christ, all sins are dealt with and forgiven.  We don’t pick out a few sins as the main focus in our preaching the Gospel or in our urgency before Christ’s return.  

More truth was sprinkled in, more focus on dying for Christ, His death, resurrection and ascension, and so forth, but the big ol’ plop of poison came at the end when she started talking about circles.  Yeah, that’s right, drawing a circle and getting in it to come before ‘Jesus”.  If you don’t already know, this is a pagan practice that has been practiced and taught by a few professing Christian teachers/authors.  Pricilla Shirer is one of them.  You can read more on the danger of this belief and practice here: Through the Narrow: People Honor Me with Their Lips – By Tami Dykes – Tulips & Honey (wordpress.com) 

There was such a lack of discernment and obvious contradictions with Caine and her message.  She was obviously trying to appease all ears but in the end revealed where her heart really is, which is more in herself than it is in the true Jesus. 

Joni Ereckson Tada 

Joni’s involvement with IF:Gathering was a surprise for many, including myself.  She has been an encouragement for many solid believers and preachers as she has shared her walk with Christ through severe disabilities.  She has expressed relatively solid doctrinal beliefs in prior years.  Yet, as with all the speakers at IF:Gathering, there was truth mixed with error, sadly. 

In a pre-recording Joni was talking with Katherine Wolf- another woman who is in a wheelchair and who has been disabled for a long time.   

They start off alright when speaking about the “wheelchairs” of life- the thorns in our sides.  They talk of stewarding our sufferings and not wasting them.  Joni talked about not kicking against the goads (Acts 26:14) which she explained as the sufferings and hardships (Not quite the context of that verse – it more so speaks on kicking against God and not wanting to submit to Him although I believe she was on the right track saying not to kick against what God wants to do in our lives).  She said to not grumble but rather give thanks (Philippians 2), and to “fake it till you make it.”  It wasn’t deep, exegetical teachings or too focused on Scripture, but it wasn’t necessarily false teaching or unhelpful.   

Then comes the part where Joni dropped the ball in my opinion.  Instead of focusing on the Lord’s written and more sure Word, we get instead a conversation Joni had with God while she was sick with COVID-19.  Joni said she kept hearing Jesus say, “Joni, would you trust me?  Whether it means calling you home or having you remain on earth to do my work would you believe that I am your ever-present help in this?  Would you believe I am not going to leave you or forsake you?  Would you please believe in even this – it is going to work for your good?  Would you trust me Joni?”   

She never clarified whether or not this was audible, a feeling, or just something she thought God was impressing on her heart as she pondered His Word.  It was made to sound like He was constantly telling her this.  We must be very careful assigning words to God.  When we put words in His mouth, even if it sounds biblical, we are in grave sin.  It’s best to say “God said” when we are reading God’s Word. 

She said her answer to God was “God I don’t think I can do this but You think I can.  Where else will I turn, you have the Words of Life so yes I’m going to believe you and I’m going to start mouthing that thankfulness and trust you’re going to give me courage and endurance and patience and perseverance,” 

She ended with, “And He did.”  She also quoted 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” 

Her answer to God troubled me.  “You think I can.”  Even though she later says she trusts God to give her courage, endurance, patience, and perseverance, which is good, she doesn’t correct her previous statement to clarify that it’s not actually God thinking we can do something as if He is cheering us on saying, “you can do it!”  He wants us to lean on Him in faith, to obey Him, and know He must increase while we decrease.  We are to exercise great humility.  Christ is everything, we are mere vessels. 

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 

People have asked where the proof is that Joni holds to a social justice mindset.  Being a speaker at IF:Gathering, something so bent on social justice, could be convincing enough but here is one of her quotes from another conversation she had: “God is truly on the side of those who work for social justice, especially when we accompany that work with the giving of the Gospel!” (Joni Eareckson Tada on Wilberforce Award, ‘Better Off Dead Than Disabled’ Mentality – The Christian Post

I believe she is focused on social justice regarding disabilities, such as the persecution, discrimination, and oppression of those disabled all over the world. The problem is we don’t define any justice as social justice and that’s because God doesn’t.  There is one justice in God’s eyes.  Although Joni will speak of it as simply “justice” she will at times call it “social justice.”  Her stand on social justice for the disabled, along with “hearing from God”, fits well in the narrative of IF:Gathering.  Although Joni has been used by God in giving attention to the horrors done to the weak and disabled and she has shared the truth of God, we must be careful not to possibly follow her into the deep bushes of social justice and personal revelation and therefore further away from the simplicity of the Gospel and biblical justice.  I pray for her discernment; to distance herself from those of IF:Gathering and the false justice they stand for. 

  

Francis Chan 

I didn’t need to see Francis speak at IF in order to know whether or not he was wading in the muck, but I was again reminded of his ill-directed focus as he talked with Jennie Allen at the conference.  He again discussed the so-called miracles he was a part of in Myanmar, in actual faith healer style.  He claims he had touched kids and they were healed.  You can check out his explanation of it here when it first came out: https://disrn.com/news/every-person-i-touched-was-healed-francis-chan-says-he-supernaturally-healed-numerous-people-in-myanmar 

In his discussion with Jennie, he again said that deaf kids were healed.  He also said that swollen eye pain was healed.  Interestingly enough, there was a sequence to this “healing” that we don’t see in Scripture.  He explained that the first time he prayed and touched those with swollen eyes the pain was healed but the eye was still swollen and red.  Then he decided to do it again.  After the second time, the swelling went down a little.  Third times the charm right?  Well, after the third time swelling went away further but still had red marks on the eye.  At that time he says, “I’m going to try and get rid of that too.”  Ahhh so HE is going to get rid of that?  The healing is from Francis?  He didn’t ever say the fourth time worked, instead, he became very vague, especially on all the other miracles that he supposedly did, saying “whatever they are.”  That is not what we read when reading about authentic miracles in Scripture.  They were complete and instant and definitely not clouded. There was no actual healing done with the sentiment, “ok, let me try again.” 

Chan said that he prayed to God He would authenticate His message (the Gospel that was supposedly shared during this time) with these miracles.   

God does not need these “miracles” to further authenticate the Word already authenticated, written, and canonized.  Being there is no longer anything to add to Scripture and there are no longer Apostles of Christ, authentication is not needed. It’s done.  Francis said the miracles caused these people to believe in the message.  That is not true.  First of all, if someone doesn’t believe the Word there is no other miracle that can convince him or her (Luke 16:28-31).  Secondly, Francis is not to be authenticated as a messenger of God when Francis believes that Catholicism is Christian and is simply a label for some believers (here are videos on Chan’s ecumenism and seeking false unity: Francis Chan: Keynote (pt1) // Catholic Ecumenical Track – Bing video Francis Chan: Foot washing (pt2) // Catholic Ecumenical Track – Bing video Is Francis Chan A Roman Catholic? – Bing video  ) and when he is partnering with and encouraging some of the most notorious false teachers there are (listen here: Too Wretched For Radio 08/19/2019 – Wretched ) 

I encourage you to read more on why modern faith healing and believing the need for modern miracles to authenticate Gospel preaching is wrong, here: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-60/does-god-still-heal  

Again, no open Bible in Chan and Allen’s discussion, just Bible flailing. 

Lysa Terkeurst 

The time I heard Lysa speak was when she was in a group discussion.  It was alongside Rebekah Lyons and Annie F. Downs.  She talked about forgiveness. But before you think it must have been a good thing, she made sure to turn forgiveness upside down and inside out.  She talked about how the heart is too beautiful of a place for bitterness, anger, rage, slander, brawling.  She talked about coping mechanisms for pain and knowing how to “care well” for the intense emotion we feel.  She said we shouldn’t deny our feelings.  Yes, she actually said that. 

Her point in all of it is was as victims our feelings are not to be denied.  A victim’s heart is beautiful so keep it that way by forgiving those who hurt us- don’t fill it with anger, rage etc.  Yes, forgiveness is good but biblical forgiveness was not ever the focus with Lysa.  No Bible was opened and nothing biblically solid was taught.  Obviously, it’s unbiblical to say our hearts are beautiful and that we shouldn’t deny our intense emotions/feelings.   

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”  Jeremiah 17:9 

“And He summoned the crowd together with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. “ Mark 8:34 

Does God care about our suffering?  Yes.  Does He want us to turn the other cheek and forgive seventy times seven?  Yes. 

Forgiveness in her eyes was all about healing hurts and ending our own suffering.  Even though those things can come from forgiveness, we also must understand we forgive because God forgave us of far greater debt.  We are undeserving of forgiveness yet we received it anyway.  To not forgive someone who has sinned against us angers God.  Our impossible debt was paid by Him but us not forgiving others of far less, that is sin. See Matthew 18:21-35  

Rebekah Lyons 

Ah, rhythmic living.  “Daily rhythms” is something I was introduced to a few years back when our old church was studying material from one of the leaders/pastors of the Soma family of churches. It was explained to mean routines.  It was unclear to us at the time why we just couldn’t say routine and move on.  Yet as my husband and I looked into it further we noticed it is meant to change meanings and teachings.  For example, Rebekah Lyons (in a conversation with Lysa and Annie) at this years IF:Gathering spoke much about rhythms (as well as others).  Different rhythms were mentioned, such as “confession rhythms”, “restore rhythms” and “connect rhythms”.  She said, “Rhythmic living is inviting God into those secret places.”   

First off, do we invite God?  He can’t come in when He wants and He isn’t already aware of our secret places?  She also said we should have sustainable daily rhythms that help us to “be more in tune with our own heart.  Then we can release something to God that He can speak to.”  So, we need to be more in tune with our heart…. a heart that is more deceitful than all else and desperately sick?  I don’t think so.  We release things to God so that He then can speak to it? Hasn’t He already spoken in His Word?   

Most phrases coming out of her mouth were new age, nonsensical fluff.   

“Rhythms” was said so.many.times.  Scripture was mentioned once and not in the proper context of course. 

How about we read our Bible, Rebekah, and let God speak to our heart and reveal our sin?  How about looking to His Word, not our heart for truth?  No?  Too biblical? Okey dokey. 

Mike Todd 

Mike is someone I hadn’t heard of before but after watching him at the conference it was apparent to me he is a charismatic, fun-loving, and intelligent.  He has great speaking skills and is very engaging.  He is an author and lead pastor of Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma man who has gone through tough things in life.  I wish I could like what he said because it seemed he had a passion for living for God in a more meaningful way and tried to bring in a lot of Scripture.  Sadly, his presentation was riddled with personal revelations from God/prophetic claims and false teachings. 

He had talked of what God told him, claiming God said, “This is the year that we’re not drifting.  This is the year we are going deep.  I want you to write this point down because it’s not safer in the shallow.”   

This is New Age mysticism and is dangerous, false, and actually done in the occult/pagan circles.  God isn’t giving any more revelation that needs to be written down.  Sarah Young found great success and wealth doing this with her book, “Jesus Calling.”  It was NOT the true Jesus who was talking to her and it’s not God talking to Mike Todd.  See more on why here: 

Blog Post – That’s Not Jesus Calling (gty.org) 

10 Serious Problems with Jesus Calling | Tim Challies 

Mike also stated that as he was talking he sensed “someone’s heart is crying out like David’s heart- as I am speaking someone’s heart is ready to leap.”  Such a vague and worthless statement but meant to give his message relevance and importance.  This is a common tactic in many false teacher’s messages.  They hear from God, they claim they are given a revelation about particular listeners yet it’s always vague, no specifics, and no real proof it’s God.  I saw Mike’s book sitting there at Hobby Lobby the other day.  Bypass his book and just go straight to the décor, please. 

Ann Voskamp 

She made sure to tell us she is done with simply believing in Jesus.  She said, “I’m done with that life.” 

She explained that life turned out to be “cuttingly hollow and empty and frankly, not enough.”  After the last year of trials (2020), she lands on this: “I live in Jesus.”  She points to the closed Bible and says, “All I’ve got is this.”  Her bible remained closed. 

She said we need to be followers, not believers.  She said Jesus isn’t a belief to her, He is breath to her.  He isn’t some theory, He is gravity.  He isn’t a lens for her life but is her life.  He is not some sphere of a multi-dimensional life- He’s atmosphere, terra (means land), lung, and the way to not suffocate in self.   

Ugh, where do I start!?   

First of all, I agree that we do not want to only believe in Jesus but rather we should want to live as if He is our all in all; our life.  However, we would never say that simply believing in Him is wrong or that He/the Word isn’t the belief we have.  Yes, he’s more than just Whom we believe in but He is still Whom we believe in.  

“That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”  Romans 10:9-10 

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 

Also, I agree that all we really have is His Word.  It’s the power of God for salvation.  It’s the lamp to our feet and light for our path.  Read Psalm 119 and it becomes clear real quick that The Word of God is all the Psalmist desires and holds to.  Instead of actually focusing on the Scripture, which Voskamp says is all she’s got, she goes into gobbledygook that does not sound like God’s Word at all.  

Christ said He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life, as well as, the bread of life and living water.  Voskamp says Jesus is atmosphere, gravity, land, lung/breath, and a way not to suffocate.   This type of mumbo jumbo is nothing new with Voskamp. She loves to use poetic and inappropriate language when talking about God, instead of using His own words about Himself.  Apparently, His Word is not “all” to her. 

She spoke of an apostate who lost his faith because he didn’t enjoy God.  She said a lack of joy or enthusiasm for God reveals a lack of belief in God.  At that point I’m like, wait, I thought we were trying to get away from the word “belief”?  Then instead of going on a good track with this train, she derailed and said, “There’s the hope only found in deeply inhaling the atmosphere of love Himself.  The overflowing reality of the Trinity.  And this is what it means to enjoy being alive.  Breathe Him in.”  No, that’s not it sister.  That’s closer to the language of mystics than the Word.  How in the world does a lady listen to this and know how to “deeply inhale the atmosphere of love” and then proceed to grow in Christ?  It’s not helpful and it’s not biblical. 

Our joy is found in the Lord of our salvation.  We were saved from His wrath and given new life and eternal hope.  I agree, if you have no joy in the Lord of your salvation you are probably not saved but joy isn’t going to come by breathing in some Atmospheric Gravity Terra God, whatever that means.  Repent and believe in Christ Jesus as Lord. 

David Platt 

How sad it is when someone seems to have a legit grasp and solid stand on the Gospel; to have a heart for Truth but then goes into the cultural clouds and loses their touch with reality.  That’s what David Platt did.   

Platt is another one of those who loves to talk about miracles and then drifts off into an awkward and vague place because there is really no proof or biblical alignment for the miraculous claims he loves to talk about. 

He starts off talking about village people praying over a dead man’s body shortly before the body coughed and sat up.  He says this “allowed” the whole Gospel- people came to faith then.  A little later on he admits the dead man may have not been really dead- no way to know for sure.  Ah, so an undocumented and uncertain miracle “allowed” the Gospel to be heard and only then could these people come to faith?  This is mysticism and worthless babble.  Give me the truth, give me the proven and written WORD of God, not this soppy wet mess. 

Don’t get me wrong, Platt mentions the Word but as others at IF had done, there was very little accurate explanation or application of Scripture.  Platt told his sisters in Christ that God put them where they are to bring light and save lives.  They are to share the great news because they are the light of the world.  Yet, he doesn’t explain the “great news.”  He says we are to rise up and be light and ask God’s light to come upon us, through His Word.  Any woman of any church background could listen to this type of message and say “amen.”  Sadly his message severely lacked what many really need to hear, solid and clear truth.   

Isabella Garza, Dr. Anita Phillips, and Dr. Curt Thompson 

All three were in a group discussion with Jennie Allen who was asking the questions.  They were at one point asked if they would sum up in one word the biggest problem we are facing now.  Curt said “shame”, Anita said “trauma” and Isabella said “identity.”   

Those are the biggest problems?  

To social justice warriors who are disconnected from Scripture or from the reality of what the world really needs, yeah I can see those being the biggest issues to them.  How about problems like the softening of sin, discernment, or lack of Gospel literacy?  Perhaps maybe the problem of preaching a different gospel such as the social gospel? 

Curt needs to remember verses like 2 Thessalonians 3:14 when talking against shame, “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person so as not to associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 

Or 1 Corinthians 15:44, “Sober up morally and stop sinning, for some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. 

Shame isn’t the enemy, sin is.  Shame isn’t always bad.  It’s a tool God uses to restore us to a right relationship with Him. 

Isabella further explained the problem of “identity” being we need to know identity in Christ.  That’s great because it’s true but there was no clarification from the Word on what our identity is exactly.  In fact, “community” was the emphasis of her statements on identity.  Again socially-focused instead of biblically focused. 

Anita picked “trauma” saying, “Anything that has changed your view of yourself or God for the worse is trauma.”  So if someone was to tell me I’m a sinner or wrong and therefore making me look more negatively towards myself than before, have I just been a victim of trauma?  Can I consider myself traumatized?  I remember reading the Old Testament as an unbeliever and seeing God being worse than I did before.  The one Christian in my life refused to try and remedy that for me, thankfully.  Aren’t we supposed to see ourselves and God as He says and change our viewpoint to be more like His, even if it stings or makes us feel worse or see ourselves in a worse light?  The problem with modern “Christianese” is we are too focused on feeling loved and reassured instead of being holy and loving others more than ourselves.  Jesus said this regarding His disciples who may expect special honor or rewards for doing what they should do: “So you too, when you do all the things which were commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” Luke 17:10.  We are unworthy. 

With her and the other speakers, things were kept so vague you could come up with literally anything you wanted out of what they said and rightfully not be challenged on it.   

In another segment, Anita really went deep in “Wokeville” when she talked of racial blindness and Christians persecuting other Christians (no examples given of this, just presented as being fact without facts).  She said white Christians can be blind to having the capacity to persecute.  She talked of “black woundedness.”  Sadly she doesn’t seem to understand that blacks are just as much a sinner as whites and just as capable of being a persecutor.   

Again, no facts were presented just an obscure and ever so popular narrative.    

Bianca Olthoff 

Oh this poor woman has so much energy and passion and so little discernment.  It was painful to watch. 

She starts off by saying, “I can only teach out of personal experiences.”  Yikes.  I don’t think that is the direction we want to go when we are at a “Christian” conference and supposedly trying to learn more about God and how to live for Him.  Yet in the charismatic/new age world of professing Christians, this makes perfect sense.  They must believe what someone said God said to them or what dream they had from God.  When speaking from a social justice perspective, they must believe personal injustices are happening without any facts to back it up.   It’s feelings before facts.  It’s a personal narrative before the Word of God. 

Bianca talked a lot on Scripture yet injected us into the biblical accounts.  Eisegesis was her distinctive talent.  For example, when talking about Daniel 3:18 she talked of “getting thrown into the fiery furnaces of life.”  She said we have all been in situations like this (fiery furnace).   

Really?  I’m pretty sure I haven’t experienced anything like that.  

She explained that when “fire” is mentioned in Scripture it means two things; lives are transformed radically and the presence of God is revealed.  Scripture verses were not mentioned in order to back these two ideas up.  If she knew Scripture and read about when “fire” is mentioned she would know that fire usually symbolizes judgment (Isaiah 66:15, Joel 2:30, Amos 1 & 2, Malachi 3, Luke 3:9, Luke 3:16, Luke 12:49)  It also symbolizes purging or purifying. Fire is purifying to believers and it’s consuming to unbelievers.  Those truths were never mentioned in her message on fire.  Instead, she focused on the furnace in Daniel and made it about “furnaces of life.” 

She asked, “Who are you listening to?”  Yeah, good question Bianca, who are you listening to?  She said that we shouldn’t let anyone rename us, especially the enemy.  She said, “I refuse to let the enemy call me, “Mrs. Doesn’t Have What It Takes” or “Mrs. Humiliation Awaits Her.”  She continued with, “I know who I am – I am a prophetic declarer over God’s people.”  No, Bianca.  You don’t have what it takes.  Christ is Who has what it takes. 

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

Bianca needs to be reminded that we all need to be humble, to have humility in our hearts.  It sounds like the thing she would like to await her is pride.  Humility is not the enemy and if Bianca thinks the enemy wants her to experience humility then perhaps God is her enemy?  

“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 

“Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”  Matthew 23:12 

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time,” 1 Peter 5:6 

Bianca is no more a prophetic declarer over God’s people than Satan himself.  I don’t mean that to say she is Satan but what she is teaching and claiming is not of God and yet she most definitely claims it is.  She mixes truth with error, just as the real enemy does so well and desires her to do. 

Jennie Allen 

She is the founder of IF:Gathering.  Throughout this conference she was asking the questions in several discussions.  She would say the prayers many times and give the topics to discuss.  A few things I heard from her to add to our concerns about Jennie: 

She would mention repentance but then go into a direction about social justice.   She talked about how her inbox is flooded with hate mail asking “why are you doing this (regarding social injustice narratives)?”  She just didn’t understand why others would not think this to be a good thing. 

She was very vague, of course, and although at times seemed to be going in a more biblical direction with her speech, she would soon veer off into mystical and fluffy language or into the social justice narrative.  Most times she would just throw a morsel out there for others to go further with. 

Latasha Morrison 

She is known for radical woke directives, such as having a whole group of white students at Campus Crusade (CRU) stand up and lament their white privilege. (See here: CRU Speaker Has Stadium of White People Get Up and Lament Their Skin Color (reformationcharlotte.org)

For a while now she has called for reconciliation- not in Christ’s Name but in the name of the social justice “god”. 

During IF:Gathering she says, “Pray for them (racist whites)”.  Although she says blacks shouldn’t have hard-hearts and should have a posture of humility, she doesn’t address the sins of all colors and the forgiveness of all sins.  The Gospel is the answer for sinful hearts and lifestyles yet God’s truth is not allowed by her to take center stage.   

Matt Chandler  

During a group discussion with Jennie Allen, Dr. Anita Phillips and Latasha Morrison, Matt went on a delusional woke tantrum, talking about those who don’t want to listen (those against the social justice agenda), who create these categories such as “Marxist” and “Critical Race Theory” and are infested by worldly thinking. He called them fools and explained “if calling sin sin is Marxism to you then I will walk away from you because you aren’t trying to understand; you aren’t submitting to the word of God.  If you want to go “Ahhh he’s woke” as if that’s a bad thing then I don’t know how to have a conversation with you – you certainly don’t love me.”  He had more to say that was just awful and needless. 

This is some of the most twisted and emotional talk I had heard during this conference.  Leave it to Mr. Chandler.  

First off Chandler is endorsing a movement that needs no facts, that elevates bitterness, fails to talk about forgiveness, ignores personal responsibility and has nothing to show for it but more bitterness, labels and division.  And those against this “conversation” are the ones who don’t love him?  He’s making this about love and about him?  And he is the one that is understanding and not about categories?  Secondly, Marxism and Critical Race Theory are exactly what he is pushing; he knows it and those in his camp even admit it.  He can at least have the decency to reject the lukewarm cesspool he is wading in and just openly admit he is not for the Gospel truth- for the love and forgiveness of Christ but only for the saving of his own face as cultural pressures progressively force him to publically choose a side. 

I recently read on Twitter a quote by Thomas Sowell:  

“The word ‘racism’ is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything – and demanding evidence makes you a ‘racist.’”  

Chandler is one of those slathering it on everything because the cool kids are too.  Mark and avoid them. 

  

Eugene Cho 

He starts of redefining what the whole Gospel is – it’s now evangelism AND justice.  He says we must pursue and embody both to be serious disciples of Christ.  It would seem evangelism to him is just focusing on the love of God and that evangelism hasn’t ever been about giving the whole truth of what God has done for sinners.   

He is a mighty Scripture twister.  He accuses the Church of extracting justice out of God’s character and called it an agenda (umm no, the true Church knows all about biblical justice and God’s hatred of all sin and destruction of sinners who don’t repent and trust in Christ alone.  Those speaking at IF:Gathering were the actual extractors who hold to an agenda).  He says he understands it to be “complex, messy and challenging” but Scripture is clear in Isaiah 61:8 and Micah 6:8.  Of course these passages are not saying what he and all the woke “church” want them to say. They aren’t about social justice, they are about what God loves and what are heart issues not social causes that divide.   

The twisting continued as he spoke on identity, racism, marginalizing, etc.  He had the audacity to say the Samaritan woman may have been a victim, regarding having too many relationships, due to the men’s sins.  

Seriously? Jesus didn’t think to blame the men in front of her, not even the woman said it was the men’s fault, so why is Cho blaming the men?  Jesus provided truth and salvation to HER.  He forgave HER sins.  She says in John 4:29, ““Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is He?”” 

Cho avoided real biblical accountability for the supposed marginalized.  It was a horrible message through and through. 

To Wrap It Up 

I don’t know how this version of “Christianity”, the kind IF:Gathering founder and speakers peddle, survives much longer with how the world is going.  They talked a lot in this conference about how to survive difficult things and trials and to follow Christ even if things get bad… yet I’m thinking they won’t survive their own emotional twisting of Scripture, the “conversations” they believe are heart and life transforming, the men pleasing, face saving or the focus they put on societal troubles and sad things rather than on real repentance and forgiveness of all sins and the salvation of souls.  They won’t find refuge in this form of “Christianity” when real persecution comes.  No “conversation” will save the day then. That imaginary fence will disappear.  They will have to confess Jesus as Lord, claim His Word and suffer for it or denounce Him entirely.  God will reveal their hearts. 

The world doesn’t need the social gospel, they need the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Whites don’t need to be labeled white racists who must repent of things they are not personally guilty of.   The world doesn’t need to focus on “racism”, Critical Race Theory, or the past evils this country was supposedly founded on.  The world needs the Gospel.  The world needs to know about repentance of all sins, forgiveness of all sins and the saving of any soul in the name of Christ.   


Above is an article written by Gina Cook, Gina and Tami write Through the Narrow here at Tulips & Honey Hub. They’ll be posting articles every other Tuesday. Both are published authors, you can find Tami’s book here, and Gina’s book here. We’re blessed to have them apart of our team, and pray their writing will be as edifying to you as it is to us. – Lauren Hereford

Through the Narrow: What About the IF:Gathering? Part I – by Gina Cook

In a few days, the IF:Gathering will be back at it again.  Sadly it seems terms such as “love”, “God”, “hope”, “messy”, “mission” and “gospel” will be made into a soppy salad served alongside a big ol’ meatless woke burger.  Nothing much good or true about it.  It saddens me that so many women are ingesting this mush without question.  What IF serves is not biblical, it’s not really beneficial and in many ways, it’s dangerously unhealthy.  I want to explain why.  

Last year I had written about the IF:Gathering and why we should avoid it.

(See here; https://biblicalbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/18/through-the-narrow-what-about-the-ifgathering-by-gina-cook/hering )I want to shine additional light on the IF:Gathering, the topics and some of the speakers for this year. I’m not going to be able to do a deep dive on them but I will provide many helpful links to aid those who want to know more of why there are concerns.  

Changing the world

 “Changing the world” is the theme of this years IF:Gathering.  Jennie Allen, the founder, talks in her monologue about the message of changing the world and how she sees us changing it. 

“This is what I still believe can change the world.  I still believe you, in your places, loving your people, doing simple things well can change the world.”

 She ends with,

“Do not miss this. Join us live.  Gather your people.  Tell everyone you know and let’s go and imagine a world that is unified again and on mission for the glory of God.”

In just this short statement there are several things that concern me.  For the most part, it was very ambiguous.  Nothing in her statements was biblically clear.

There was absolutely no mention of Christ or Scripture.  There’s no hint of the Gospel.  Isn’t she talking about changing the world?  How does a Christian really do that?  We can’t see any meaningful or lasting change without proclaiming Him and His Gospel.  Ultimately we don’t change anyone in this world for the better- He does.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”  2 Corinthians 5:17

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:26.

Also, she says it’s “you in your places, loving your people and doing simple things well”

To say we must do things well in order to change the world is putting too much focus on us.  It is Christ Who saves, changes, and sanctifies.  We are simply the messengers and examples of what God does with a stone-cold dead sinner.  We are made alive because of Him.  He is the reason for any good.  Our deeds reflect who resides in us, so may our thoughts, words, and deeds be God-glorifying (Matthew 5:16). 

Also, what “simple things” is she referring to?  All I know is carrying our cross (Luke 14:27), counting the cost (Luke 14:27-33), enduring various trials (1 Peter 1:6), and being hated (John 15:18) are probably not best described as “simple things”.  But then I’m thinking she isn’t talking about any of those things. 

Did she actually say “unified again?”  When was the world unified in the first place?  I suppose that brief time before Adam and Eve sinned, the world (two people) was perfectly unified.  Since then, world-wide unity hasn’t been possible or even wise.

God says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a person’s enemies will be the members of his household.”  Matthew 10:34.

“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” John 15:19

We are NOT going to usher in any world-wide unity, especially with our good deeds and PC talks.  We won’t and can’t see world-wide unity until the Millennial kingdom (Revelation 10:1-7) and even then, Christ is the reason for it.  Things get much worse before then (Matthew 24:7-9). 

As I explained in my previous article, the true Gospel, repentance, and faith in Christ alone, are not the focus of any of their messages at the IF:Gathering.  Those were never explained or presented biblically.  The social gospel and easy-believism are central to what most of the speakers teach. 

Jennie Allen uses the term “on mission”.  I have found in my own experiences in churches who use this term frequently it’s less about what God actually defines the mission to be for Christians and it’s more about friendship evangelism.  It’s ALL relationship building and zero fidelity to preaching the Gospel no matter the cost.  All zealous fluff and no sustenance.

After looking into the guest speakers this year and what topics they are going to be covering it’s clear, social justice is still going to be a major focus in their teachings once again and what else would we expect, especially in 2021.

The Speakers

Latasha Morrison and David Bailey – They are going to talk about the Church’s next steps for racial reconciliation.  On the IF:Gathering site, it says, “Join Be the Bridge founder, Latasha Morrison, and Arrabon Executive Director, David Bailey, for this conversation on racial justice and the Church.

Latasha Morrison, founder of “Be the Bridge”, who is a “diversity expert” and “unity champion” says on her website she is “committed to educating people on cultural intelligence and racial literacy” and is “Certified Trainer in Cultural Intelligence and Unconscious Bias.  No surprise she is strongly supportive of Black Lives Matter.  Critical Race Theory seems to be her passion.

And just a real quick note on CRT- it’s is an absolute evil.  It’s racism packaged in “justice” and “healing.”  It’s devoid of any godliness.   It has no room for forgiveness, impartiality, grace, or hope.  It’s a factory of bitterness, hate, and perpetual victimhood that can never really be remedied.  It’s a destructive religion.  Social justice is not biblical.  There is only one justice, biblical justice.  What Critical race theory actually does is demonize being white, eradicates the hope of redemption or forgiveness, keep victims as victims, and ironically resuscitates white supremacy from its near-death into a revised and strengthened form.  That’s because it is about poor blacks needing help and handouts from whites.  Blacks have no power until the whites, and all that is supposedly created by whites, are out of the picture in some way.  CRT ironically keeps blacks in perpetual need of the white man’s lowered hand and has whites viewed as all-powerful and superior in a way that most whites would never think of or want, especially true Christians. 

To hear an EXCELLENT and clear cut discussion on CRT, check this out, it is well worth your time:  EP # 108 | Critical Race Theory – Just Thinking Ministries)

Dr. Anita Phillips – the site states:

Trauma therapist and life coach, Dr. Anita Phillips is an expert at unraveling the human experience. Known for her paradigm-shifting insights at the intersection of mental health, spirituality, and culture, her work is guided by one simple idea: most things that seem complicated are actually just hard. From overthrowing anxiety to re-imagining the path to equity, Dr. Anita helps people, groups, and organizations accomplish hard things.

Ahh, “paradigm-shifting insights at the intersection of mental health, spirituality, and culture “ and “re-imagining the path to equity”.  Smells familiar, like a woke burger deluxe.  When someone starts using spirituality and culture in the same sentence, and on top of that, says they can bring insights on the subjects, run!Also, I noticed now we are talking about hard things.  Simple things, hard things.  Clear as mud.

Jackie Hill Perry – She is actually well known but perhaps some of the more recent and most concerning endorsements and associations are not as known to most. 

Sadly she was once a seemingly solid believer, being saved from a life of homosexuality and false religion but has now fully embraced dangerous teachings, especially in the social justice arena.  She has partnered with false teachers in various events for a few years now.  After being called out for her close ties to false teachers and false churches she vehemently defended it, not showing any concern for what they teach as being wrong, saying “I don’t define false teachers as others do.”

She also preaches to men.

You can find out more about her here:

https://michellelesley.com/2020/04/03/jackie-hill-perry/Too Wretched For Radio 09/16/2019 – Wretched (16:00)

Christine Caine  – Although she is likable and has done a lot for important causes, such as human trafficking, she should be avoided for several reasons.  She is known to preach to men, to have strong ties to the prosperity “gospel”, mishandle Scripture, and to closely associate with false teachers.  That’s enough to know she can’t be a trusted teacher of the Lord’s Word.

You can read more on her here:

Francis Chan – It’s heartbreaking to witness a man who had a strong start only to embrace a soft, ecumenical, and extra-biblical mystical belief system.  He supports Catholicism, prosperity gospel, and false prophets for starters.  Francis Chan has written and taught some good things, some very biblical things, but that’s why he’s so dangerous.  When you have truth mixed with poison, when you embrace and endorse wolves, people will be more easily stumbled and wounded. 

To learn more about the concerns regarding Francis, check out these links:

Too Wretched For Radio 08/19/2019 – Wretched

Francis Chan: Q&A (pt3) // Catholic Ecumenical Track – YouTube

A few further resources on Francis Chan – The End Time (the-end-time.org)

David Platt – Again, another man who seemingly started out solid, who was even warning against false teachings, and unbiblical practices such as  “asking Jesus into your heart”.  Sadly he is now taking off in dangerous directions.  David, like others, has taught biblically solid material.  However, he is now embracing Critical Race Theory/Social justice gospel.  He openly supports false teachers, such as Beth Moore and Louie Giglio.

David Platt Promotes False Teacher, Louie Giglio (reformationcharlotte.org)

David Platt Preaches Jesse Jackson-like Sermon on Racism, Turns Out to Be Racist and Unjust (reformationcharlotte.org)

Ann Voskamp and Lysa Terkeurst – I wrote about these two ladies in my first article.  Nothing has seemed to change. No repenting of extra-biblical, gross emotionalism and nonsensical teachings.  The concerns are very serious with these two ladies.  The partnering with false teachers and the embracing of false teachings should not be downplayed.  These two women are very good at making false teachings funny, heart-warming, and seemingly needed for your spiritual growth.

https://biblicalbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/31/through-the-narrow-ann-voskamp-seductive-romanticism-by-tami-dykes/

Leaving Lysa: Why You Shouldn’t Be Following Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries – Michelle Lesley

Bianca Olthoff – She preaches to men, dabbles with extra-biblical revelation, has close associations with false teachers such as Steven Furtick.

On her website, it states a few ways she wants to “transform lives through the saving power of Jesus Christ”.  Here is one of them:

“Social Justice.  We are made in the image of God to do good and act good. Our initiatives are created to catalyze others to be socially responsible and care for others.”

Again, social justice is not real justice/biblical justice and has nothing to do with Jesus, with caring or with being responsible. Yes, we are to “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor, Obtain justice for the orphan, Plead for the widow’s case.” (Isaiah 1:17)  Social justice in its true form is not any of that.

https://biblicalbeginningsblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/10/through-the-narrow-steven-furticks-heretical-views-on-satan-sovereignty-by-tami-gina/

Rebekah Lyons – She preaches to men, believes false religions can have unity with Christianity, seeks to be culturally relative, has close connections and praise for false teachers such as Rachel Held Evans.

Lauren Chandler – She is the wife of Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, another one of those whose discernment has seemingly bit the dust.  His endorsements of false teachers such as Anne Voskamp, his embrace of extra-biblical revelation, and very sloppy handling of Scripture is not good at all.  Does his wife embrace the same?  Although not sure how far she shares the exact same convictions, she has no doubt embraced some troubling teachers, practices, and beliefs.

Matt Chandler saw a pirate ship, cannons, and a shark. Oh my! – YouTube

The Mailbag: Do you recommend these teachers/authors? Volume 3 – Michelle LesleyI have not mentioned all the speakers for this year.  There are several more.  I wouldn’t put them all in one class.  There are a few that are respectable for the most part.  There are a few others who are questionable but not enough evidence yet to determine which side of the fence they are really on. Overall it’s not wise to try and “eat the meat and just spit out the bones” here.   I strongly suggest avoiding IF:Gathering, doing your homework, and warning your sisters in Christ.  The salvation of souls and the health of the church depend on it.

Remember, the only hope for anyone is the whole Gospel.  The only way to redemption and righteousness is THE Way, our Lord Jesus Christ – not the dumbed-down, fluffy soft version of “jesus” topped with all of our sugary “good” works.  He is the righteous King, Almighty Savior, and the great I AM. Let Him be heard by proclaiming what is God-breathed.  Only through Him will good and everlasting change come!

Additonal notes:  Michelle Lesly and Elizabeth Prada’s older articles on IF:Gathering are a great help in outlining some of the concerns that have seemingly not changed over the years. 

Michelle Lesley: Jennie Allen and IF:Gathering – Michelle Lesley

Elizabeth Prada: Search Results for “IF Gathering” – The End Time (the-end-time.org)

The official website of IF:Gathering:

IF:Gathering 2021 – IF:Gathering

Through the Narrow: Casting and Clutching your Pearls – By Gina Cook

Casting and Clutching your Pearls

Sharing the Gospel is the command of the Lord, the joy and duty of a Christian and often times where believers struggle most in their walk with Christ.  Either we labor too long in trying to reach the obstinate mockers and become gravely discouraged or we find ourselves around the rankest of sinners and immediately tuck and run for the nearest exit.  Mission abort.  

It’s the undiscerning pearl “casters” vs. the fainting pearl “clutchers”.  

We can be either one at any given time.  I know I have!  These are not identities I believe a Christian has continually.  There are moments, maybe many, where we tend to fall in one or the other category depending on the situation.  

Why am I talking about pearls?

Pearls are mentioned a few times in Scripture, usually used metaphorically in communicating the value of the Word and Kingdom of God (see Job 28:18, Matthew 7:6, 13:45-46.)  

Pearls were the most valuable gem obtainable at that time.  If you had pearls, you had a fortune. They were THE symbol of great wealth.  They were the rare diamonds of the time.  Their beauty and, most importantly, what it took to acquire them attributed to their high value.

A pearl diver in ancient times would risk a lot to get them.  Dr. John MacArthur explains, 

“Basically, what they did was tie rocks to their body and then jump off the side of the little boat and go to the bottom amidst all the monsters of the deep that they would know little about, and the sharks and whatever else, and they would scour the bottom in the mud trying to come up with those oysters, holding one long deep-drawn breath, and fearing lest they go too deep and burst and die.  And they would come up with these treasures. 

And when once discovered, a pearl that was of perfection and beauty would be worth literally an unnamed price, incredibly valuable.  So valuable are they that the Talmud says, “Pearls are beyond price.””

 (taken from: Entering the Kingdom (gty.org) )

Once a fine pearl was found and brought to surface a sensible diver would never think of chucking it into the most obviously filthy and useless place.    No way.  How senseless that would be.  

Even more so for Christians to do so regarding the holy things of God.

Casting Your Pearls

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

This is talking about the precious Truth of God, the pearls beyond price. 

(To clarify, the Mormon’s “The Pearl of Great Price” is not to be viewed as biblically sound.  To know why you can check out this link: What is The Pearl of Great Price in Mormonism? | GotQuestions.org.)  
No one would think to give their most precious possession to a filthy, wild animal for it to trample underfoot. 

So who are the spiritual swine this verse is talking about exactly and why not share the Gospel with them?  Aren’t we to share Christ with all the world? (Mark 16:15, John 17:18)

“Swine” doesn’t refer to all unbelievers but only to unbelievers who are particularly disrespectful, resistant to and hostile towards the Gospel.  These are pig-headed people; existing proudly in their muck and having no concern over what is truly valuable.  They will treat it with contempt and attack.  

Remember the command for the disciples in Matthew 10:14 to “shake the dust off your feet”?  

“And whoever does not receive you nor listen to your words, as you leave that house or city, shake the dust off your feet.”

It was the swine-like unbelievers had to leave behind.  These people did not see any value in the truth nor would they pay any cost for it (Luke 14:28).  They were the spiritual “swine” that mock and reject the truth of God.

We even read about Jesus Himself refusing to “cast pearls to the swine”.  In Matthew 21:27 when the chief priests and elders questioned Christ’s authority it ended with Him saying, “Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things.”

Matthew 27:12-14 says, “And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not offer any answer. Then Pilate *said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they are testifying against You?” And still He did not answer him in regard to even a single charge, so the governor was greatly amazed.

“And the disciples came up and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” And Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.”  Matthew 13:10-11

Sadly for them, the conversation was over and the door was shut.  There was nothing more to say.  Their rejection of what was most precious brought upon His rejection of them.  

This doesn’t mean we know for sure one who seems to be a swine will never become a sheep.  We don’t have the ability to see as God sees.  Yet, if they are being swine at the time we must dust off and move on.  We must trust God to use any seeds already planted and prayerfully walk on as we leave them with His warning for their soul.  We take our pearls elsewhere and trust the Lord with it all.  Our hands are clean and He is glorified.  

We admire the passion of the pearl caster to share Truth.  The Gospel is paramount in our Christian life.  It is the power of God for salvation.  We are to go into the world and give the Good News.  After all, how can one know Jesus without hearing about Him?  As Romans 10:14 says, “How then are they to call on Him in whom they have not believed? How are they to believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?”  

This is true.  However, God wants us to know caution must be exercised regarding the pointless and exhausting chucking of what is most valuable to those who refuse to receive it.  The Kingdom is a priceless treasure, never to be treated with contempt.  The value of this “pearl” is incomprehensible.

God says in Matthew 13:45, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold everything that he had and bought it.”

The wise understand and appreciate the value of it.  They know it’s worth their livelihood, even their own life.  Some who look like possible swine from a glance may be the very ones who appreciate the Truth the most.Clutching Your Pearls

Jesus did not keep priceless pearls from the lepers, prostitutes, swindlers, and the like.  He was ridiculed for His compassion for the drudge of society.  He saw them, He called them out of their filth and they responded in faith.  He is the Healer of those who know they need healing.  When the Good News was cast to them they received it with great joy.  

Pearl “clutchers”, or perhaps one could refer to them as “Jonah-ites”, can have the tendency to cling tightly to their precious pearls as they look upon the sinfulness of this world in horror.  Perhaps a particular sinner, the most repulsive and intimidating kind, has the Christian clutching and running rather than sharing and trusting.  They quickly retreat in the opposite direction without allowing the Word of God to be cast at all.  

The “clutchers” do well to hang on to the Word of God.  They cling to it with love, especially during times of distress and difficulty.  To them it is precious but at times forget it’s not just for them.  Again we are to go into the world to reach the lost for Christ (John 17:18).  We can’t be picking and choosing who gets to hear it according to outward appearance, biases or fears.  

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

We don’t want to be like Jonah, running away from the people who need to hear it and are actually willing to receive it.  We don’t want to be more concerned about our earthly comfort than one’s eternal torment.  Don’t be Jonah in the sense of retreating to your shelter without a care for the souls of your least favorite sinners.  Jonah was more concerned about a withered shade plant for himself than the possible torment of a large group of people.  

“Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant, for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not also have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 people, who do not know the difference between their right hand and their left, as well as many animals?”  Jonah 4:10-11

As Christ has compassion, so should we.  And not only compassion but courage and confidence in the Word and work of God.

 “Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” John 6:68

The priceless pearl of the eternal kingdom of God is worth whatever cost we may need to pay here.  There is a sacrifice to having the finest of pearls and perhaps great cost in our attempts to share them with the world.  One thing is for sure, we have nothing without what is most precious.  No one does.

“More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them mere rubbish, so that I may gain Christ,” Philippians 3:8

Let us strive to not mishandle, dishonor, or hoard the Pearl of great value! 


Above is an article written by Gina Cook, Gina and Tami write Through the Narrow here at Tulips & Honey Hub. They’ll be posting articles every other Tuesday. Both are published authors, you can find Tami’s book here, and Gina’s book here. We’re blessed to have them apart of our team, and pray their writing will be as edifying to you as it is to us. – Lauren Hereford

Through the Narrow: Warren and Worship – By Gina Cook

Recently the well-known pastor and author, Rick Warren, had told Relevant Magazine that COVID-19 has “revealed a fundamental weakness in the Church.  Most churches only have one purpose: worship.  And if you take worship away, you’ve got nothing.  They’re in a hurry to get back to worship because that’s all they’ve got.”

He explains, “Saddleback is built not on one purpose, but on five. You take one circle out, we’ve still got four other circles. We’ve got ministry going on. We’ve got mission going on. We’ve got fellowship going on. We’ve got discipleship going on. Those all stand on their own.”

Desiring to gather to worship is to him “a fundamental weakness”.  Critically he says, “that’s all they’ve got”.

Is it true?  Are some in the Church too focused on worship?  Is that a “circle” that can be set aside?  Are there other things to rest on in the times we live in or is corporate worship really at the crux of Christian living?

Maybe we need to define worship first.  

Worship is gratitude and thanksgiving towards God for all that He has done.  Worship is a genuine spiritual service. Worship is prayer with the right heart attitude.  Worship is recognizing God as He reveals Himself to be in Scripture, understanding what all He has done, especially in the salvation of souls, and then responding with gratitude and praise.  Worship is believing, obeying, and sharing what He has said in His Word.  Worshipping the true and living God is the core of living as a Christian.  

“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”  Romans 12:1We worship in various ways, such as singing, praying, and preaching, but it’s not true worship unless it is in line with Scripture.  It’s also not true if it’s not from the heart.  We are commanded to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. 

“But a time is coming, and even now has arrived, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”” John 4:22-24

When knowing what worship means we can see that worship is not always about corporate worship, meaning the gathering with the local saints.  We most definitely can worship God alone in our closet, out in the middle of the woods, or on the moon.   

It’s corporate worship that Mr. Warren is calling worship.  With the COVID-19 outbreak, staying at home has been encouraged by many, including pastors like Rick Warren.  Many have done services via the internet.  At the beginning of the outbreak, pastors struggled to know what was the smart and obedient thing to do.  It’s understandable to stay at home for a time when serious sickness is an issue.  No one wants to spread diseases, especially potentially dangerous ones.  We are to care for others and be concerned for their well-being.  Also, we are also told to obey our governing authorities when it doesn’t go against God.  Does all of this mean we are to implement home worship as a new and necessary normal?  Are we to set aside church attendance indefinitely for the sake of public health?  Should we listen to governing authorities on this?  Who is the ultimate authority in this situation?

Really, how important is corporate worship? 

“speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father; and subject yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-21

“and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

God says, “do not abandon meeting together, as is the habit of some people.”    This is emphasized in the context of living in an increasingly turbulent world leading up to the coming of Christ.  We are to encourage one another as we gather and worship the One Who deserves all worship, honor, and praise.  As the body of Christ worships together they are there to encourage one another through trials, temptations, and turbulent times.  Continued isolation is disastrous and depleting, it leaves the soul vulnerable.  When pandemics and disasters strike, forsaking the gathering of the church body is the opposite of what should be done.

Church attendance isn’t something we do to be saved but it’s something saved people are to do.  

Some argue that “it’s just a building, I don’t have to go to the church service to worship.  I can watch and connect with others online.”

That is not enough in the long run.  Go ahead and assemble in a tent, tunnel, or cave instead of a building, that’s fine, but you have to assemble somewhere.  You need to gather in a physical place in order to obediently carry out all the Lord has instructed for His Church to do.  

In many letters written in the New Testament, you will see phrases such as “to the churches”, “in the churches;” to the rest of the churches, “as I directed the churches”, and “they are messengers of the churches, a glory toChrist” to name just a few of many verses that mention churches, little “c”.  We see in Scripture mentions of specific local churches: “To the churches of Galatia”, and “send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea” (Revelation 1).  We see the churches in Corinth and Thessalonica being addressed.  Apostle Paul says, in Romans 16, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.  Receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and help her in whatever matter she may have need of you, for she herself has also been a helper of many and of myself as well.” She was on her way to the church in Rome.

These churches were bodies of local believers gathering together for the purpose of worship- worship through singing, prayer, fellowship, proclamation, and teaching of the Word and the partaking of the Lord’s Table.  Believers were never encouraged to forsake this gathering.  In times of trial, pain, loss, and persecution especially, believers need one another.  Continuing to “do church” through a screen physically separate from one another is not a solution, it’s a problem.

Think about it.  Persecuted Christians for centuries have risked livelihood, their own lives, and families’ lives to worship with one another in underground churches.  Why?  Why risk your life for something that Warren suggests isn’t needed?  Why risk your life for corporate worship?

There is no way to measure the value of it.  During hardships, it’s even more important.  Being with fellow believers and encouraging one another in the Truth is nourishment to the soul and a great source of joy.  Most importantly it honors God and gives Him glory.  

“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.  But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you and are in leadership over you in the Lord, and give you instruction, and that you regard them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15  

It’s critical that we not only gather to support and encourage one another but we must gather under biblical and God-ordained leadership.  We are to be instructed in the Word by those with the gift of preaching the Word.  They are our shepherds.  How are the shepherds supposed to shepherd when the body isn’t gathered together?  How is exercising church discipline possible?

“Now if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”  Matthew 18:15-17

Leadership cannot lead, rule over, teach, and exercise church discipline if the church body is dispersed and not faithfully assembling.  The body can’t encourage the leadership either.  You can’t observe or pour into one another lives while remaining apart.  

GotQuestions.org says this about church attendance:

“We should want to attend church so we can fellowship with others who have also experienced the amazing grace of Jesus Christ. We should avoid missing church, whenever possible, because we recognize the importance of hearing God’s Word, applying it to our lives, and sharing it with others. We should attend church, not to collect spiritual bonus points, but because we love God, love His people, and love His Word. Every Christian should attempt to attend church regularly. At the same time, missing church for a good reason is in no sense a sin or something that should cause feelings of guilt.

When you miss (do not attend) church, do you miss (have a longing for) church? If so, that’s a sign you have a good connection with church. If not, that is a sign you need to re-evaluate your choice of church and/or participation in church. God knows our hearts. God is not impressed by a person simply because he attends every service. God’s desire is to build us up in Christ, and His method in this age involves the local church.”

(taken from https://www.gotquestions.org/missing-church.html )

Yes, there are good reasons to miss gathering with the rest of the local church body.  Every situation needs to be individually evaluated to see if it’s a good reason or not.  The real issue is whether or not we are desiring to regularly be a part of a church family.  If not, we need to examine our hearts.  Desiring fellowship is woven into the fabric of a Christian’s new heart; we want to fellowship with one another and praise God together.  Christians seek to worship God as a family to encourage, teach, strengthen, and pray for one another.  Assembling together is the visible expression of unity within Christ’s beloved Church.  If we don’t want to sit under the preaching of God’s Word, to serve and to worship together as a family, there’s a problem.

You certainly don’t want to be the professing Christian who fails to see this as crucial.  

Going back to Mr. Warren’s comments, where he says, “Saddleback is built not on one purpose, but on five. You take one circle out, we’ve still got four other circles. We’ve got ministry going on. We’ve got mission going on. We’ve got fellowship going on. We’ve got discipleship going on. Those all stand on their own”…. let’s dissect that a bit.

Ministry, mission, fellowship, and discipleship are all connected with the faithful gathering and leading of the local church body.  Neither one can successfully stand alone.  The teaching and preaching of God’s Word, the accountability believers have with one another, the shepherding and rule of the leadership, the monetary giving to the church and all that the church supports, etc. – it all supports and provides ministry, mission, fellowship, and discipleship.  When we look at Scripture we don’t see these things as isolated entities and disconnected from one another. 

I know I don’t want to be discipled by a person not attending and not caring to attend church who is not being fed and led regularly.  I don’t want to be a part of missions that is trying to function apart from local leadership and accountability.  Fellowship is not fully realized or glorifying if it’s kept separate from corporate worship.  When we become comfortable with not worshipping with the local church body, when we dismiss its importance, we are in trouble.

The worldly professors of faith don’t understand the vital importance of this biblical and physical fellowship.  Church gathering is an unnecessary risk to them.  To them, the gathering together to worship the Lord as the local Church body is expendable.  Perhaps they have always desired an excuse not to partake in it.  Perhaps they don’t want to be under any real leadership, they don’t want to serve weekly, they don’t want to extend themselves or they simply fear the wrong things.  Perhaps they aren’t even Christians.

“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be evident that they all are not of us.” 1 John 2:19

You are right Mr. Warren, without worship we believers have nothing.  Worship of the true God is core to the Christian faith.  He deserves our daily and devoted worship.  Assembling with other believers is so vital that God said not to forsake it.  It is so vital, that for millennia, believers have risked their own lives to have it.   

Mr. Warren, the fundamental weakness I believe COVID-19 has revealed within the church is the fact there are so many tares among the wheat.  There are far too many of those professing to be followers of Christ who truly do not desire to love God and His Church, who don’t fear God.  More of the tares are being exposed as the pressures and fear tactics of the world increase.  These sort of weaknesses will always be in the churches, most times hiding until trials come.  When trials come and Satan tests the devotion of the tares, asking them to compromise, they will most certainly compromise and not think twice.    

Through Him then, let’s continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips praising His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.  Obey your leaders and submit to them—for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account—so that they may do this with joy, not groaning; for this would be unhelpful for you.” Hebrews 13:15-17

Warren’s full interview:

https://www.relevantmagazine.com/faith/church/rick-warren-on-the-year-we-had/

Through the Narrow: When our Children Don’t Believe – By Gina Cook

Sadly, a child may be brought up properly in the Lord and still reject Him. The more light in one’s home; the more Jesus is glorified, the more His sword is evident.

We can often times look at other faithful Christian families and the sweet faces of their obedient and well-versed children and assume those parents must have all of their spiritual ducks in a row.  We wonder where we went wrong as our children only grow further from the Lord.  We are tempted to compare ourselves to the other parents, sometimes causing great and unnecessary discouragement in our own walk.  Although parents are called to lead their families in the Lord, and should take that responsibility seriously, I believe it’s also important to remember no matter the Christian family and what they do, their children may not respond in faith. 

Charles-Spurgeon-Quote

The family with Jesus

Joseph and Mary were faithful and humble followers of the Lord who had been chosen by God to be a part in His miraculous earthly arrival and given the blessing and honor to care for the growing Jesus.  They were people who loved and trusted God and His Word, and undoubtedly demonstrated this devotion to their entire family.  Sadly they also had to witness the rest of their children doubt Jesus as Messiah.  Their children, even into their adult years, didn’t believe.  The Savior was right there among them and still, they refused to see Him any more than just an obedient brother.  Sadly, they later came to the desperate conclusion that Jesus was insane (Mark 3:21). How heartbreaking that must have been for their devoted parents.

We know Mary and Joseph had four sons and an unknown number of daughters after Jesus was born (Matthew 13 and Mark 6).  It seems none of the siblings believed in Christ as Lord until after HIs resurrection (1 Corinthians 15, Acts 1:14).  After Joseph’s death, Mary didn’t have the spiritual support from the others in her immediate family.  Mary sat weeping at the cross where Jesus had to appoint the Apostle John as her caretaker because her actual sons were not only absent but simply not spiritually fit to care for her.  

“Now beside the cross of Jesus stood His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. So when Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He *said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He *said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household.” John 19:25-27.  

It was obviously very difficult for the half-siblings to have a perfect older brother.  He wasn’t only perfect, He was the reason for your parent’s joy and salvation.  Joseph and Mary unquestionably had a special relationship with Jesus.  That probably caused resentment and the resentment only intensified as the years went on and as Jesus began to display His deity and preach His Word.   The level of rejection by those who were acquainted with Him the most is summed up in Mark 6:3-4: “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are His sisters not here with us?” And they took offense at Him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not dishonored except in his hometown and among his own relatives, and in his own household.”

As believing parents with unbelieving children, there is something we can really learn from that statement and from the unbelief of Jesus’ household.

The more righteousness and perfection is displayed in a home, the more the unbelievers may fight against it.  His perfect righteousness had only magnified the reality of the unbelievers’ desperate state; of their own wickedness.  

Jesus was loved and honored by his parents. Truth was personally present amongst the entire household.  The Light was living and breathing next to them.  Perfection resided with them and constantly showcased righteous living.  That exposed them all the more.

So we must remember, the more Christ is loved and honored in our own home, the more truth we hold fast to, the more righteousness we desire and exercise, the stronger our convictions and the deeper our knowledge of God’s Word, perhaps the greater hardening and quicker turning away for those in the house who are unrepentant.  

It’s the harsh reality that we read about in Matthew 10:34-36:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a person’s enemies will be the members of his household.”  

Sadly, a child may be brought up properly in the Lord and still reject Him.  The more light in one’s home; the more Jesus is glorified, the more His sword is evident.

As Charles Spurgeon said, “The same sun which melts wax hardens clay. And the same Gospel which melts some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins.”  In a Christian household, one child may be softened and saved and the other may be hardened and distant.  That shouldn’t cause us to hold back our love and devotion to the Lord and His Word.  We should strive harder to live for Him and share His Gospel.  We know the Gospel is the power of God for salvation.  

My own heartache

I’m going to give you a glimpse into the heartbreak of being a mother of unbelievers.  

I’m a mother of five wonderful kids and have been blessed with a stepson.  Their ages range from 6 to 23.  With a couple of adult children, a preteen, and two elementary-aged kids, we’re living in almost all phases of parenthood.  There was a time I thought I had a handle on this parenting-in-Christ thing.  It was when I only had two little ones to care for.  In our pretty little picture, we loved Jesus, talked about Jesus, prayed to Jesus, sang sweet songs to Jesus, and involved ourselves in the church activities with others like us.   As they grew, my kids were taught the serious things about God, not just the comfortable stuff.  We highly value gathering with the Church body and serving.  We pray together.  We test all things to Scripture and call out error when we see it.  We share the Gospel often.  

The point of saying all of this is to say the Truth is honored in our home- He is loved and desired- although very imperfectly. My husband and I know we are far from where we need to be as followers of Christ and parenting the way most honoring to Him, yet Christ is still central.

My kids have heard the whole Gospel countless times and each one has made a profession at one point.  Some of our kids have shown fruit.  Some have completely dropped their interest in Christ like a hot potato and have run in the opposite direction.  I have spent countless nights, tearfully praying for my children’s salvation.  I have had some very tough conversations with them.  I’ve pleaded and warned.  Seeing their resentment towards the Lord and hearing how the belief of Creation or in Christ Jesus is “not reasonable”, is devastating as a parent.  

It’s the bitter reality many of us face; no matter the upbringing, children will not always follow the way they are taught and shown. Sadly, this has been the reason for unnecessary shaming.  Parents of unbelievers may get the side-eye from others in the church.  They not only feel guilty but encouraged to feel guilty for something they can’t control. I’ve actually heard a church leader accuse a faithful family of being the cause of their children’s rebellion towards God.  They were unloving “legalists,” he said.  Looking closer, it was obvious they weren’t legalists, they were just unwavering on the Word of God and purely devoted to Him.  Their love for the Truth was solid; their love for Christ was unwavering and it caused divisions with their older children.    

Imagine going back in time and seeing Mary and Joseph’s other children as unbelievers.  Would that cause us to question Mary and Joseph’s heart with God?  Would we assume as parents they hadn’t taught God’s Word or enforced it appropriately with love?  Would we start to wonder if they were legalists?  We know Mary was a humble and submissive servant of God (Luke 1:28, 38, 48).  Joseph, called a righteous man (Matthew 1:19) was obedient to God and led his family in the instruction of God (Matthew 1:24, Matthew 2:14, 21).  They were obviously very faithful and humble people, who loved and obeyed Him.  

Would we accuse Mary and Joseph of being spiritual failures with their family?  No.  Yet these are the accusations we sometimes find ourselves spewing or receiving.  When we see faithful parents with unbelieving children who’ve gone off into the mire of the world we shouldn’t be too quick to assume the parents have failed their children.

First of all, Christ is the One Who saves.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9

Christ gets all the glory.  It wasn’t Mary or Joseph who eventually opened the eyes of the other children.  It’s in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 we read, “For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”  In verse 7 we see Christ revealing Himself post-resurrection to his half-brother James.  It is Christ Who reveals Himself to James. Then we read in Acts 1:14, “All these were continually devoting themselves with one mind to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”  Praise God!

John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.”

No one else can open eyes or soften hearts towards God but God Himself, through His Word.  

With that said, the Scripture is clear parents have a great responsibility to honor God and His Word.  We are given charge over our children’s spiritual nurturing.  All Christian parents are to teach the Word to their children and live as godly examples.  We want to be careful to not be a source of stumbling with any unnecessary provoking, discouragements, complacency, false teachings, or lack of compassion.  Perhaps we need to evaluate our parenting as we read the Word and be prepared to make some needed changes.  Perhaps we need to be more prayerful and intentional in our family devotions.  It’s true, we can always improve!  May God reveal any sin in us as we meditate on His Word.  

We do have a great responsibility but we are not the producer of our children’s faith.  Only God gets the glory and praise for that.

There is Always Hope

As we watch our children walk in the world, we should remember there is still hope.  We never want to say that there is no hope for our lost family.  We always pray for the prodigal’s homecoming.    

Even for a child not being raised by Christian parents there is hope.  No matter their childhood, a person can be saved.  I’m proof of that. With God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26).  I know there are single mothers out there who love the Lord and grieve over the fact of the father is nowhere in the lives of their children. They see this causes the children to harden their hearts towards God even more.  The mothers do all they can but the resentment only increases in the teen years and early adulthood.  Godly fathers are extremely important and influential, the Bible is clear on that.  These single moms wonder if having no father, or no Christian father, means there’s little hope.  Timothy’s father was not a believer in the Lord.  His mother and grandmother were, and they lovingly and unwaveringly taught him the word of God.  Paul said to him, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelled in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.”  (2 Timothy 1:5).  Paul also writes to Timothy “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  (2 Timothy 3:15).  Again, it’s the work of God through His Word that is the power of salvation.  

For any parent, keep shining the love and truth of Christ in your home, even if it makes clearer the division between you and your children.  

Keep teaching His Word (Deuteronomy 6:6-7) and most importantly don’t forsake your first Love (Revelation 2:1-7).  

In Luke 18:1 the parable of persistent prayer starts out with this:  “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not become discouraged,”

Keep praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and don’t let discouragement take root.  Rest in Christ and His loving-kindness, almighty power, and willingness to hear your prayers.  Most of all, rest in His will no matter what it may be.  Several times Mary and Joseph exhibited their faith in the Lord although they endured ridicule and heartache.  They didn’t always see the fruit they desired to see.  Joseph didn’t live long enough to see his sons come to faith.  When we are at peace with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son we know, no matter what, we can trust the Lord with everything.  It’s all in His hands.  We are only His vessels.

For you parents who love the Lord and His Word, who teach their children the way they should go and yet have painfully witnessed your children’s growing disdain for the truth of God and increasing desire to live for the world, I hope this helps encourage you to remember there’s still hope for your children, don’t stop praying, and don’t beat yourself up.  God can work through impossible circumstances.  There is still hope and joy in the Lord no matter what His will is and no matter if your prayers seem unanswered.

What an amazing ending for Jesus’ half-siblings, that after years of deep resentment and jealousy and of viewing Jesus as just an insane man, they came to not only believe in Jesus as Christ but to be mightily used in their faithful service to God. 

Those who heard Him said, “And so who can be saved?” But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Luke 18:26-27

All glory be to God!

Here are some links to check out:

https://www.gotquestions.org/godly-parenting.html

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/80-394/james-the-brother-of-our-lord

Through the Narrow: Is Nice Kind? – By Gina Cook

Almost every chapter of the Gospels makes some reference to His running battle with the chief hypocrites of His day, and He made no effort whatsoever to be winsome in His encounters with them. He did not invite them to dialogue or engage in a friendly exchange of ideas….. This approach would surely have earned Jesus a resounding outpouring of loud disapproval from today’s guardians of the evangelical protocol.

I know a guy who is pretty much John Wayne incarnate. Most who know him agree. His looks, his demeanor, his voice, his values… the inability to mince words or hold in his opinion for too long. Mr. Wayne has made a few people cry. Made others look for an exit door. He may very well tell you to get a better-looking hat but he’ll buy it for you and never ask for a dime. He’s a bit softer around his grandkids but never a push-over for anyone. It’s been known that in the stormy weather of life, some grew closer to him because he was the only one not tossed around by all the nonsense. He’s the one giving the shirt off his back when you least expect it. He won’t say a whole lot of warm and fuzzy, but no one doubts he cares somewhere deep under that leathery grit.  

I also know someone who is like the cunning witch, Gothel, from Tangled. She comes across as the protective “mother” who “knows best”, nicely brushing Rapunzel’s hair but in reality is a fraud, desperately trying to maintain the masquerade for her own survival. The Ms. Tangled I know is appealing, agreeable, great at kidding around and even giving hugs. She plays the Christian sister role with a smile. “You can trust me” is her favorite line. However, as soon as you turn your back you feel the sting of her betrayal. Oh, but on the surface she’s nice. She doesn’t initially make people squirm like Mr. Wayne. She’s got a softer touch, yet will slip poison into your canteen when you aren’t looking.   

How many people today would take their chances on Ms. Tangled? I’ve heard it so many times; “Yeah, they have flaws… but they’re nice! They dress and speak so nicely! I know they care because they say they do… and they’re nice!”  

People reading this may ask, “is being nice a bad trait?” “Aren’t we to be kind?” “Harsh truth is not good, right?”

It depends… yes….and it depends.

Being nice is defined by the world as being pleasing and agreeable. Those are not bad things in and of themselves, after all the Bible says, “Urge slaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be pleasing, not argumentative,” Titus 2:9. He also says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

There is a time for pleasing and agreeable words and attitudes.  

The problem lies within the interpretation, over-emphasis, and even the worship of what is deemed as nice today. I believe what we are seeing take over our society, and sadly our churches are the false doctrine of having to come across nice and pleasing at all times.  

Nice is the Gospel. Nice is everything. Jesus can’t do anything without it.  

Truth is, people just want to feel nice. They want a nice world. They want to look at nice things. They often time get onto social media and become the spokesperson for “nice”. They ask, “what would Jesus do” and then follow up with something nice.  

Being nice, of course, isn’t bad in the right context. We Christians just can’t always be agreeable or pleasing.  

Kindness, however, is what we are called to exhibit as Christians. Kindness is much more than just being nice. The Bible talks about kindness a lot. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” Galatians 5:22 (See also Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12, Acts 9:36-41). The Greek word for “kindness” is chrēstotēs, which means “benignity, tender concern, uprightness.” 

Kindness is not about surface agreeability or pleasing others, it’s about compassion, gracious and truthful speech, and acts of love. Kindness is not making sure to never rightfully offend. To show kindness is oftentimes to die to self, even risk being snarled at and getting your hand bit. The end means of kindness is for the kindness of Christ to be known.  

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”

Proverbs 27:6 

Kind and pleasant speech as the Bible talks about in Proverbs, for example, does not tickle ears. Kindness is deeds fueled by the love that seeks the best for others, even those that hate you. 

“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:20-21

Kindness doesn’t always feel good. What’s more kind and loving than pushing a man out of the way of a car? You may break his ribs but his life is spared. He may not feel good, but he’s alive. Who would object to saving a life?

At the time of writing this, we are a few weeks removed from celebrating Reformation Day. On this day we celebrate God’s work through imperfect reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, John Knox. We also appreciate the men who came later, such as Charles Spurgeon, who boldly preached the Truth in times so depleted of sound doctrine.  

God used them to bring people to their knees and repent. Countless people. The impact was so immense, the world was radically affected. It was apparent souls were desperately needing Truth. 

The Reformers boldly stood for the Word of God and even gave their life for it. Although imperfect, they loved the Lord, His people, and the Scripture. It showed. They faithfully preached on the kindness of God and they showed kindness themselves, yet… they were not necessarily the nicest of speakers or known for their appeasing speech. They didn’t care to make people feel nice. That doesn’t save souls.  

A few of their quotes:

“If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy who drives a plough to know more of the scriptures than you do.” ― William Tyndale (speaking to a priest)

“Your thoughts of God are too human.” – Martin Luther (speaking to Erasmus)

“The world doesn’t want to be punished. It wants to remain in darkness. It doesn’t want to be told that what it believes is false. If you also don’t want to be corrected, then you might as well leave the church and spend your time at the bar and brothel. But if you want to be saved-and remember that there’s another life after this one-you must accept correction.” Martin Luther

“The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.” John Calvin

 “A man that extols himself is a fool and an idiot” John Calvin

 “To search for wisdom apart from Christ means not simply foolhardiness but utter insanity.” John Calvin

 “Right is right though all condemn, and wrong is wrong though all approve.” Charles Spurgeon

 “You and I cannot be useful if we want to be sweet as honey in the mouths of men. God will never bless us if we wish to please men, that they may think well of us. Are you willing to tell them what will break your own heart in the telling and break theirs in the hearing? If not, you are not fit to serve the Lord. You must be willing to go and speak for God, though you will be rejected.” Charles Spurgeon

They had lived up close and personal to the cesspool of deceit. It carried the stench of death. People they knew and loved were perishing in false doctrine and being abused by false teachers. A massive amount of people were slumbering in their sins and dancing straight to Hell. Nice and easy wasn’t going to cut it.  

Of course, the Reformers were in no way the originators of such an approach.

The Old Testament writers, the Apostles such as Paul and Peter and ultimately Christ Himself said some pretty harsh truth.  

“Do not withhold discipline from a child;

 Though you strike him with the rod, he will not die.

 You shall strike him with the rod

 And rescue his soul from Sheol.” Proverbs 23:13-14

“One who loves discipline loves knowledge, But one who hates rebuke is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1

“But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you because you thought you could acquire the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore, repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart will be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of unrighteousness.” (Peter to Simon the magician) Acts 8:20-23.

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Paul talking about having to confront Peter) Galatians 2:11

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” Matthew 23:15

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23

In John MacArthur’s book, “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ, in the first chapter titled, When it’s Wrong to be “Nice” he writes, “The Great Shepherd Himself was never far from open controversy with the most conspicuously religious inhabitants in all of Israel. Almost every chapter of the Gospels makes some reference to His running battle with the chief hypocrites of His day, and He made no effort whatsoever to be winsome in His encounters with them. He did not invite them to dialogue or engage in a friendly exchange of ideas….. This approach would surely have earned Jesus a resounding outpouring of loud disapproval from today’s guardians of the evangelical protocol. In fact, His approach to the Pharisees utterly debunks the cardinal points of conventional wisdom among modern and postmodern evangelicals—the neo ….evangelical fondness for eternal collegiality, and the Emerging infatuation with engaging all points of view in endless conversation. By today’s standards, Jesus’ words about the Pharisees and His treatment of them are breathtakingly severe.” 

(taken from http://www.crossroadsbook.com/firstchapter.asp?mode=view&index=1054 )

Were Paul, Peter, and even Christ Himself unloving? Unkind? Is the severe approach wrong? 

On the contrary!  

Although we are not to make a habit of going around and rebuking brothers and sister harshly or publically or calling people hypocrites, we can gather from the Bible’s examples that the truth is profoundly important and we can’t compromise it or dance around it. We also see what true kindness looks like. It’s not as much about sparing feelings, as it is sparing souls the judgment or severe discipline of the Lord. Not only did the men in the Bible rebuke those they were speaking to, but they graciously shared with the many hearers who need to know what’s right and what’s wrong. That is loving-kindness.  

“For such people are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” Romans 16:18

Today people are making some very serious decisions based solely on the “niceness” of others. They are attracted by smooth and flattering speech. It is a dangerous thing to look to be led by what’s likable instead of what is right.  

After witnessing to a close family member with concern in my heart, tears in my eyes, and loving conviction in my voice, she walked out the door and said she never wanted anything more to do with me or my God. She didn’t see me as nice, that’s for sure. I looked every bit the part of evil in her eyes at that moment. Yet that was far from true. Praise God, He used the truth spoken to break her and bring her to repentance a while later. The truth sets us free (John 8:32)! God’s Word is a sword, not a fan (Hebrews 4:12). The Word is a hammer, not a feather (Jeremiah 23:29). Christ is a stumbling block for some (1 Corinthians 1:23), hated and rejected by many (John 15:18). He is not concerned about being nice. He is concerned about the providing of God’s truth in love.

“Peace if possible, truth at all costs.” Martin Luther

If I had to choose between hard truth and nice veneer, I’d take the truth in John Wayne’s style over nice and sweet nothings any day. Any person who has been devastated by “sweet little lies” should agree. Anyone who sees sin and false teaching ravaging souls, should be more concerned about the Truth and doing good than sparkly words and happy feelings.  

Yes, we are to be peaceable, gentle, gracious in our speech and always with a heart of compassion, and to know that doesn’t mean suppressing the truth of God. People may be in grave danger with the Lord! Let them know if you care, even if they don’t see you as nice for doing it. Ultimately, we are to please the Lord, not man.

“For am I now seeking the favor of people, or of God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Through the Narrow: Joy Worship – Gina Cook

Sadly though, Satan loves to encourage a biblical and beautiful truth to be put in a light it was never meant to be in, to give it weight it’s not supposed to have. What God wants to be a part of a whole is twisted to become the whole focus.

In these evil days, we can fall into despair, feeling desperate for pleasant distraction and joy-filled living.  Because of that, it’s easy to find ourselves soaking in whatever uplifting message we can.  Christian speakers who talk of joy with such enthusiasm and conviction, who speak assuredly of their daily joy in Jesus, can be very motivating.  It can cause us to ponder our own level of joy in the Lord and maybe even come to the conclusion that we are in sin, failing to show the level of joy for Him that a Christian should have.

We know the Bible speaks of joy.  It is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 1 Thessalonians 1:6).  We know we should have joy in the Lord (Psalm 32:11, 1 Peter 1:7-9), joy in our salvation (Psalm 95:1, Isaiah 25:9, Habakkuk 3:18) and to have joy in tribulation, trial, and suffering in the name of Christ (James 1:3, Romans 5:3).  Christians should exude joy, a joy that can’t be defined by the world or its products.  As a Christian, we should have joy because there is so much to be joyous about!  

Sadly though, Satan loves to encourage a biblical and beautiful truth to be put in a light it was never meant to be in, to give it weight it’s not supposed to have. What God wants to be a part of a whole is twisted to become the whole focus.

I didn’t understand the particulars of it at the time, as I wasn’t even aware of this “joy worship”, but it was taking place right under my nose within a certain group I had been a part of for a few years.  Perhaps I didn’t see it because there were much bigger fish to fry.  Charismatic teachings started infecting this beloved group and discussions among us became more and more somber and serious as false teachings trickled in and I was forced to address them.  In my attempts to help them question these teachings, surprisingly I only caused them to question my joy in Jesus.  At one point someone literally yelled in my face “you have no joy!”

I sat there stunned, wondering what they thought I was supposed to look like when false teachings were being discussed and rebuked.  Was I supposed to look like a kid at Christmas?  Was I supposed to be outwardly rejoicing right now?  I found it absurd to bring up my “joy problem”, and even my salvation in the Lord as they addressed my “legalism” when discussing these matters.  

It wasn’t until recently that I pieced it all together.  I had done some reading and listening to podcasts of “Christian” hedonism, something John Piper coined and has taught for years.  It struck me that this could have been the reason “joy” was such a focus to these people, being many in this group were faithful followers of Piper’s teachings and often quoted him.  

Hedonism can be summed up in one word, pleasure.  A hedonist lives to fulfill self; seeks after self-love and satisfaction.  It’s all about feelings.

John MacArthur explains, “The word “lust” here, hēdone, from which we get hedonism, have to do with desire for pleasure, the yearnings of self-love that demand fulfillment, the yearning for pleasure that cannot be assuaged until it is fulfilled.” (Taken from: https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/59-23/the-danger-in-being-a-friend-of-the-world-part-2 )

Piper had taken this term and slapped “Christian” in front of it, creating the idea that God has given us the innate desire to pursue happiness and that satisfaction is the central focus we are to have as a Christian.  I must say, putting “Christian” in front of something sinful is where the issue starts, but I digress.  

This is some of what Piper says about “Christian hedonism”:

“And the shortest description of Christian Hedonism is God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” (Taken from:https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-christian-hedonism ) 

In Piper’s book Desiring God, page 55, we read “Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not “Believe in the Lord,” but, “Delight yourself in the Lord”? And might not many slumbering hearts be stabbed broad awake by the words “Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God”? (Also found here: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/conversion-to-christ ).

He says, “Christian Hedonism says more; namely, that we should pursuehappiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy, you cannot love man or please God — that’s what makes Christian Hedonism controversial.” (Taken from: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/christian-hedonism )

I don’t want to get into details of Piper’s ministry or what my personal beliefs are on him as a person or preacher.  I am not trying to communicate that I believe he is a false teacher here, not yet anyway.  I know the Lord has used Piper to teach wonderful, biblical truths.  We can praise God for the good done in his ministry!  However, we still must not overlook the troubling teachings from those we respect and have spiritually benefited from.  There are some things to be concerned about when we look closely at just Piper’s comments on Christian hedonism.   

Again, he says “Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God”.  I don’t recall seeing that in Scripture, however, I do remember reading, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  John 3:3.  

This, in my opinion, is playing fast and loose with Scripture.  We don’t have the right to swap out words or plop in new ones and call it the Gospel.  We can’t drop “Christian Hedonist” right there in the middle of John 3:3.  That’s a dangerous habit to have. We are to accurately handle the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15).

For him to say “we should pursue happiness, and pursue it with all our might” is ignoring or downplaying verses that say otherwise:

“Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

“The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, But He loves one who pursues righteousness.” Proverbs 15:9 

“But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.” 1 Timothy 6:11.  

Is even true joy the most important emotion to experience, especially at salvation?  Is that to always take precedence over fear/reverence, sorrow, godly grief, etc.?

“Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.” Ecclesiastes 7:3

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance

without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

What are some of the implications of this hedonist viewpoint when put into practice? 

I came upon Jon Harris’ video on John Piper and hedonism.  He was actually greatly influenced by Piper and had lightly fallen into Christian hedonism himself at one time.  He described how this became such a burden in his personal life, having to make sure to feel this “joy” in the Lord, in every single aspect of life.  “Joy was always eluding him” it seemed, “hard to maintain”.  Disappointment and impossibility ensued.  He heard the same sentiments from others he knew who also fell into it.

He further explains that, instead of the joy of the Spirit being just one of the fruits, it ends up being the “end all be all”.  Harris explains that “the hierarchy is rearranged in Christian hedonism.” 

(See his YouTube link here to hear more: https://youtu.be/0nuZQSzjrr0 , as well as this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neq8Wlu36XQ)
This mishandling and misinterpreting of the fruit of joy can cause it to be put in a spotlight it was never supposed to be in and it can produce a manufactured and shallow “joy” that brings you nowhere.  

We don’t want false, manufactured, and shallow joy to be our “joy in the Lord”.  That sort of joy is deadly.

“Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.”  Luke 8:13

Yes, we need to be more joyful and should want more joy.  Yet, we want biblical joy.  We don’t want self-centered emotionalism wrapped in “the joy of the Lord” veneer. 

This hedonistic “joy” becomes the focus and reason for all that is done in the “name of Christ”.  To these people the worst possible thing to be, and the most telling reason you are a stale Pharisee in their eyes is when you don’t wear and proclaim this joyful exuberance they’ve found; when you’d rather seek truth in and desire to obey Scripture instead of contemplating your daily joy-o-meter and announce it, and when sorrow over your own sin and the sin of others suck all of their “joy” out of the room.  I believe this is why I was met with just rebuke about my joylessness – I was threatening their feeling and confidence of “joy” by sharing the reproving truth of God’s Word.  

The fact is, true joy comes in knowing God, through His Word and the working of the Holy Spirit and not only knowing His Word but loving it and obeying it.  True joy comes when you know the Lord through His Word and work of the Holy Spirit and when you see God’s loving kindness in the most difficult times or when you aren’t necessarily dancing in the streets but with tears in your eyes, you recount the ways God mercifully got you through and isn’t even obligated to. 

To these “joy worshippers”, or “Christian hedonists”, not having this experiential joy is one of the greatest sins.  Some come to the conclusion they must seek out and experience a joy in everything in order to be able to rest in their salvation.  What a burden that has to be.  If we can’t rest in our salvation because we aren’t up-keeping the level of joy we believe we have to have, then there can’t be any real joy in our salvation.  This becomes another way legalism sneaks into churches and keeps people bound to something the Lord never required.

Remember, when the Lord emphasizes something, we are to emphasize it and when He doesn’t, we shouldn’t.  We are to define things as He defines it, not add or take away from those definitions.  The Lord never makes “pursuing our own joy” the crux of our Christian life.  

We could all use more joy in our lives.  Pray to the Lord to increase your joy in Him, HIS joy.  May we grow in the knowledge and love of Christ and rejoice in Him!
“and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9


Above is an article written by Gina Cook, Gina and Tami write Through the Narrow here at Tulips & Honey Hub. They’ll be posting articles every other Tuesday. Both are published authors, you can find Tami’s book here, and Gina’s book here. We’re blessed to have them apart of our team, and pray their writing will be as edifying to you as it is to us. – Lauren Hereford

Through the Narrow: Paul David Tripp’n – By Gina Cook

Sadly, it seems, Paul David Tripp has gone full woke.

Tripp has been a well-respected evangelical teacher and author for decades. He is lauded as a trusted Christian voice on topics such as marriage and parenting. He has written many books, including “Age of Opportunity” and “Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family”. Many Christians appreciate his work and teachings, saying that Tripp has truly helped them in their Christian walk. He has definitely taught some solid biblical material. Any real gospel good he may have done, we can praise the Lord for. God can use anyone and every one for His glory. We can be thankful for any true proclamation of Christ one does. 

In Philippians 1:15-18 we read, “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,”

We may not know the intentions of Tripp’s heart but when the truth of Christ is proclaimed we rejoice. Just as much when error is taught, we warn.

Before Paul David Tripp went full woke, there were warning signs, although ever so slight. I want to briefly touch up on some of those, for the main reason of showing how smaller warning signs can possibly mean big problems later down the road. 

My introduction to Paul David Tripp was watching the video of him talking about how funny it was that his kids kept saying the “s” word (yes, the one that rhymes with “fit”). This happened right after he explained to his family it was not one of those words that really meant anything to God, it was just culturally impolite. His intention was to teach that “wholesome communication is all about the intention of the speaker” as well as the context. As long as the intentions and context are right, it won’t really matter what “culturally impolite” words you say. He goes on to say there could be a context where saying “s***” can give someone grace and then there are contexts where it may not be edifying so therefore he wouldn’t say it.” 

Yes, I agree the issue lies in the heart. God is clear that sin originates in the heart, and God’s focus is on our heart’s intentions. I also understand, whatever sin lies within the heart, will eventually come to fruition in word and deed.

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good: and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” Luke 6:45

“But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Matthew 15:18-19 (See also Acts 8:22and Hebrews 4:12).

I also agree there are words and phrases that are just wrong culturally and there are words and phrases that are wrong biblically. Where I have a big problem, is the idea that “s***” can be used in an edifying way, that it “gives someone grace” and can be for “redemptive good”- his own words. I used to cuss, cuss a lot, before my salvation 16 years ago. After my salvation, I knew talking like I did was not of Christ. I’ve never needed to go back to cussing for someone else’s redemptive good, even though I’ve been around people who cuss. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16) – not any worldly speech. 

After hearing him on that video (Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcuj0nK7beM) I took his words as saying we are to look at our intentions and as long as they are good and as long as we believe it’s used in a proper context, use the “culturally impolite” words. The problem with this is the fact these words are…. “culturally impolite” words. Yes, Mr. Tripp, to the culture it’s seen as ill-mannered and that is why the world uses it. That’s why I used to cuss. Its very use is to communicate a crudeness, insensitivity, and a perceived rebellion against “good”. To say there is a place for a Christian to use this, is a small step in a direction towards doing whatever we believe will be for “redemptive good”. This is a direction he has seemed to follow right into dark and dangerous waters. It seems “culture” is a slope he has continued to slip on more and more as time goes on. 

In a video recorded in 2015, Tripp talks about homosexuality and how we must be careful not to label people as homosexuals because it’s not biblical to do so. Problem is, the Bible actually does label people by the name of the sin they live by. For example: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. 

This shaming of those who use these terms is done, first of all, label Bible-obeying Christians as haters because they refuse to embrace the “new and improved” ways of looking at sin, love and being gracious. In the video, he says, “This is the grief of my heart. We need to stop being haters. I think that it is biblically wrong, immoral to treat any human being as a sin on two legs. To use it as a title, he’s a homosexual. We don’t say he’s a pride. He’s a greed. We just don’t do that and yet we’ve given ourselves the liberty of treating this area like we treat no other area. So we’ve led with condemnation rather than leading with grace.”

(Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20fVkkCyfcA&t=15s ) 

Tripp is wrong on so many levels here. First, he is saying that the very thing God does is not leading with grace. He also implies that true Christians have the bad habit of condemning homosexuals. In truth, many have shown grace to homosexuals, even if they call them an actual homosexual. I mean, many homosexuals call themselves homosexuals. I have a gay family member and this is a term I’ve heard her say. When examining the bad fruit of others, as we are called to do in Scripture such as John 7:24, we carefully deem perpetual liars as liars, thieves as thieves, murderers as murderers, and so forth. The woke crowd works tirelessly to downplay the sin, such as homosexuality, in order to appease the culture and save face. They desire to both serve Christ and serve culture. That doesn’t work. They work tirelessly to redefine terms and create new labels, not for the sake of truth but for the sake of self-preservation. 

That leads me to mention the most recent and what I believe to be the most disturbing comments from Paul Tripp. It comes from this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CIZ1Omllk8

In the video Paul starts out wanting to address his white brothers and sisters.

Whoa, stop right there!

That is a good sign that what comes next is going to be some serious woke talk. When a Christian teacher wants to address believers of certain skin colors in order to help them with a particular spiritual truth, that is when you know the teacher is taking a big step out of the bounds of the Scripture to scrape around to find spiritual guidance in cultural deserts. Instead of the true and unadulterated Gospel, we get schooled on how we are to view ourselves in the light of today’s definitions of social injustices. It’s a sign they like to lump people of the same skin color or gender into one big group of ideas and experiences and of a particular guilt and sin, which is at the heart of being woke, of social justice, and of Critical Race Theory ideology.

Tripp then goes ahead to talk about his experiences, while sprinkling in mentions of the Gospel. So again, this is only for white people to hear he says. All colors need to hear spiritual truth, wouldn’t one agree? 

He then talks about his experience in attending a predominately black church, with a black pastor. He says that “it (attending this church) has been a transforming experience for us because we have listened to the experiences of brothers and sisters that we’ve come to love dearly as our family….. we’ve heard of experiences of injustice that have made us weep; weep in a way that doesn’t allow us to be silent any longer…..we have been exposed and we have been convicted.” He then says how much this church of his preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “up one side and down the other”. 

He continues with how amazing his pastor, Dr. Eric Mason, is on preaching such profound messages on Scripture. They changed his life, he says. I’ll mention more on his pastor in a moment, but these comments seem to be an attempt to give shelter to his pastor and his known woke ideologies.

Tripp then uses Scripture to try and “ground this thinking in Scripture”. The first passage he wants to take his white brothers and sisters to is Amos 6:4-6. 

“Those who recline on beds of ivory
And sprawl on their couches,
And eat lambs from the flock
And calves from the midst of the stall,
Who improvise to the sound of the harp,
And like David have composed songs for themselves,
Who drink wine from sacrificial bowls
While they anoint themselves with the finest of oils,
Yet they have not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.” 

He explains his reason for pointing this passage out by saying to white brothers and sisters, “you have so much time on your hands that you invent musical instruments to entertain yourselves, now I don’t know if you are catching on to what is going on here but if you’re lying on an ivory bed and you’re drinking wine out of big bowls and you’re inventing musical instruments because you have the time to do that then you are an affluent privileged person…..It’s a reminder that we do not have the ability to not be concerned about what doesn’t touch us. You see, love your neighbor as yourself means I will give myself to concerns about things that are distant from my experiences because I want that person to be loved as I would love myself.”

Wow. Apparently, according to Tripp, whites are the only ones who have to be reminded of this, even though the context of this passage has nothing to do with light skin-tones or likely being guilty of something because of skin color. Also, I know I’m not lying around on ivory beds, drinking wine out of bowls, and inventing musical instruments. What does he mean by this because it doesn’t seem he’s meaning the actual context of the passage? Just rich and creative whites who have nothing much to do during the day are needing to hear his message? Who is he really talking about? So all whites, some whites? Nothing is really explained here by him, and that is probably by design. We know, by listening to woke language these days, all whites are privileged. 

Second passage he takes his white brothers and sisters to is Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

He goes into explaining his reason for quoting this passage by saying, “Jesus calls justice mercy and faithfulness- this is our Savior, this is the hero of the story, this is the epicenter, this is One into Whom we are being formed to His likeness, this is the One that says the weightier matters of the law are justice, mercy and faithfulness – you see, here’s God’s plan- until we are on the other side, in the new heavens and new earth where perfect justice with reign in righteousness forever, here’s the plan: we are called to be God’s ambassadors- and that means that God makes His invisible justice visible by sending people of justice to stand for, to defend people who are experiencing injustice. Life between the already and the not yet is ambassadorial. I’m always and in every way called to represent the method, the message, and the character of the King. And justice is close to the heart of our Savior King….Change in this area of racial injustice, which has so marked our culture, so marked the unique experience of blacks in America from1619 to 2020. If change is going to take place, change takes action. Action requires compassion and compassion requires information.”

First of all, what justice are we really talking about here? The “justice’ of social justice/ wokeness and biblical justice doesn’t mean the same thing. There is only one kind of justice.

God’s justice is on His terms, to His standard and for all people of color and nations. It’s the same standard for everyone. What is justice to these social justice warriors? Social justice is focused solely on black oppression and white guilt. What I find most troubling about his use of this passage is that it actually addresses the sin of looking only at the externals, focusing on insignificant details and neglecting the matter of weightier spiritual things; matters of the heart. That is incredibly duplicitous of him.

Tripp continues on to correct his white brothers and sisters on how to handle other’s experiences:

“I say all the time that human beings made in the image of God do not live life based on the facts of their experience but on their interpretation of the facts. So if you are hearing about the experience of another person from a distance and you hear words that are similar to the words you use and you don’t unpack that person’s experience so you really understand what they are saying/what they are experiencing you will interpret those things out of your own experience.” Ok, experience alone means diddly squat when it comes to understanding spiritual, God-honoring truth, what does God’s Word say? Experiences can fool us. God’s Word must define our experiences, not other’s experiences. He goes on, “and you will hear the words but it’s sort of like this, you will add 2 and 2 together and get 5 because you will put your experience on that person’s experience and what always happens when we do that is we end up minimizing the reality of that other person’s experience because we just haven’t come to understand it.”

Experiences can lie to us. People of the same color can share opposite experiences that contradict one another. 

Another thing, how does one know how to rightfully unpack and really understand someone’s personal experience, as Tripp instructs us to do? Well, I’ll tell you how. According to social justice warriors, they will just let you know what you are to understand. We can’t know what we can’t know about anyone, including ourselves, until they tell us. We can’t go just to Scripture to get spiritual insight or help with true injustice -we must be woke to their experiences, to zip it and listen.

He continues, “But what I want to say to you this is what motivates me to say please care enough about this issue of racial injustice to become informed. I want to ask you to do four things. First, just get out your phone or your iPad or your computer and Google “the Bible” and “justice” and read the volume of passages on this issue. This is one of your bible’s dominant themes.”

Ok, stop right there. I have one word. Hermeneutics. 

He doesn’t try to clarify how important it is to know what justice really means in the Bible. He sets up the narrative of social injustices before instructing us to go into the Scripture to seek out verses on justice, so that they will interpret those verses through cultural/social justice lenses.

He continues by saying, “Second thing I want to do is recommend three resources that have been produced by people who are committed to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s why I’m recommending these resources. I think they’re each helpful in different ways. The first is a 17-minute video done by Phil Vischer who is the creator of Veggie Tales, called Race in America. It is a brilliant video…there’s no opinion whatsoever, this video is fact, after fact, after fact that is a bit mind-blowing characterizing the black experience of America.”

So here’s the video he is referring to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGUwcs9qJXY

This is NOT a helpful source, by the way, and it most definitely sews in opinion and twists facts for a particular narrative. Vischer goes into black and white household wealth percentages, bad laws back in plantation times, segregation, real estate/mortgages that discriminated against blacks, criminalizing drug use, militarizing police force which gave them needless weapons for use, and because of all this, more blacks are in prison and now have less hope to escape prison time for their drug use, because of whites. He talks of a black man who kept getting pulled over, for minor infractions, and then the 49th time he was pulled over he got shot. Nothing was said about the details or him being shot by a Latino cop, by the way. I knew that only because I looked it up for myself. 

A biblically solid overview of Vischer’s video can be listened to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8qEcVqBRFY&t=1509s

Tripp says, “The second resource is by my pastor Eric Mason. It’s called “Woke Church”. Now I’m aware that woke language has become very controversial and some of you will react against that just because of the title. It’s an extremely helpful book actually and you may not agree with everything you read in the book but even if you can’t find your way to read the whole book at least read the brilliant forwards by John Perkins and Ligon Duncan. Those together are incredible. I would plead with you to read the whole book. The third resource is by Jemar Tisby. He’s an historian and it’s called “The Color of Compromise” and it just traces the history of the complicity of the Church of Jesus Christ and this issue.”

Let’s talk about his pastor for a bit. Not only did he write a book called “Woke Church” where he simply tries to slip in anti-Christian teachings and call them Christian, making clear he is contradicting himself at every turn, but he also stoke the racial flames with comments such as, “I fear that with all of the multiethnic congregations being former, we will lose the focus on engaging the systemic needs of blacks.” And “I fear that if we partner with whites that they will find a way to subjugate blacks and make us dependent on them in a way that kills our freedom of a truly black led institution.” (Page 100). 
I’ll point out, Paul Tripp is white and is attending Mason’s church. Awkward. 

Some great links that dive deep into the issues with Mason’s book and some of his false teachings:

https://founders.org/reviews/you-dont-need-to-be-woke-to-be-biblical-a-review-of-eric-masons-woke-church/

https://youtu.be/YCeaO7Nz3uk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImCKtrW2U1c&t=1152s

And if you think you can stomach hearing more garbage from Mason’s own lips, things like, “Whiteness has caused blindness of heart” and “”What about the black people that aren’t saved? Are they under a curse?’ No. They’re under white foolishness” check out this link:

https://twitter.com/WokePreacherTV/status/1300412953624219650?s=20

Regarding the book by Jemar Tisby, “The Color of Compromise”, Tripp’s third recommendation, this is a troubling recommendation that encourages more of the same. You can learn more about why it shouldn’t be recommended at these following links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adVBz9vl9mkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEjV_Msc8Fw

https://slowtowrite.com/the-color-of-compromise/

Tripp ends his video with this, “The white church does not have the liberty of being silent in the face of any cultural inequity no matter what it is. And we shouldn’t be silent in this one too. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the reason my heart is exercised at this moment is because of that Genesis to Revelation message. I think we can do better. I think it’s time to speak and to act, to live as ambassadors of the One Who is perfectly holy in justice. God help us, may we do that.” 

Again, this is addressed to the WHITE church. I thought Christ said, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3:27-29. 
There is no white church in God’s eyes. It’s THE Church. The woke narrative is designed to divide. It’s designed to lay guilt where there is none and ignore the actual sins that are needing to be addressed. It doesn’t address hearts, only groups. It twists Scripture and puts words in God’s mouth.

Tripp says it’s time to act and speak now. Apparently, to him, white Christians haven’t been ambassadors of Christ, sharing the Gospel that is the power of God for salvation like they should. It would seem, he believes white Christians haven’t been doing a good job loving people of all colors and cultures, living for Christ, and serving their brothers and sisters. 

I recommend watching these commentaries on Paul David Tripp’s video. They are sound and thorough:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWxp2ELVhbg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLYdH5TtifU&t=29s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEnoH7-TBSs&t=4955s

Sadly Paul David Tripp has bought into the woke narrative. He has believed the lie that there is something more we can add to the Gospel

His progression to full woke-ness seems to have had beginnings in believing that we can divorce intentions from actual words and believing we can help bring redemptive good by utilizing worldly means and terms. When lines keep being blurred, the ways of culture is increasingly embraced and new labels and redefined terms are part of teachings; when guilt is placed where Christ never laid it and focus is put where Christ never put it, we must beware. 

Pray for Paul David Tripp to stand up on the Gospel truth alone and to stop buying into the woke culture. Pray for all of those following in his footsteps and supporting this dangerous movement, those in his own church. It’s a delusion, deceptive and divisive. We are to stand on the Rock, on the Word of God and not build upon the shifting sands of culture. 

“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:14-16

Above is an article written by Gina Cook, Gina and Tami write Through the Narrow here at Tulips & Honey Hub. They’ll be posting articles every other Tuesday. Both are published authors, you can find Tami’s book here, and Gina’s book here. We’re blessed to have them apart of our team, and pray their writing will be as edifying to you as it is to us. – Lauren Hereford

Through the Narrow: Salvation Party – By Gina Cook

Years ago I was invited to attend a “salvation party” for a young lady who had just made a profession of faith in Christ. I’ll call her “Anne”.  It was the first time I had heard of such a party.  Out of profound curiosity and my heart for Anne, I went.  We gathered at a local restaurant, with cake and gifts in tow.

I noticed the people most excited were the ones throwing the party, the ones who had witnessed to her.  Anne sat appearing unsure and distant.  

One could think she was just an introvert who didn’t like the fuss of a party, or that it was a bit too silly for her taste- I would have agreed with her.  Perhaps she was thinking what I was thinking….is she…. saved?  I silently prayed for her and tossed around in my head the question, “how did anyone really know she was saved when she was saved a few days ago?”  I mean, salvation is worthy of celebration, don’t get me wrong, yet she had just come to faith and from what I was hearing and seeing from her there was no fruit, no evidence, and most noticeably, no joy. 

Sadly, a brief amount of time later, she fully returned to her old lifestyle with limited interest of anything Christian.  I would gather with the ladies who had been ministering to Anne and would hear concerns of how she was hard to get a hold of, not desiring to go to church, any church, and no longer interested to meet with them for Bible study.  It all seemed to be too much for Anne.

I may not have been entirely surprised but my heart hurt. After the gentle urging from those who had been discipling her and celebrating her salvation, she withdrew further and pushed every single Christian out of her life.  It was growing apparent that her salvation wasn’t true.  I can imagine the embarrassment she might have felt- leading these people to believe she was saved, having a party and investing so much time in her, being told she shouldn’t question her salvation, being embraced and encouraged as a Christian, not having those convictions herself and not being able to honestly walk the walk– I would imagine she just wanted to run and hide. 

I decided to bring it up with the few that encouraged her salvation party and asked why they were so sure Anne was saved.  They quickly responded with, “she said she believed in Jesus!”  “She asked for forgiveness!” “She was remorseful and sincere!”

But did she really WANT Jesus?  Was it true repentance?  Did they convince her or was she convicted? 

I believe it’s important to clarify that we don’t have to doubt a profession of faith from someone and tell them we cant believe it until they start showing consistent fruit.  That’s not supported in Scripture.  The problem is the premature celebrations and confident declarations of what has happened in someone else’s heart, especially when not looking at the glaring inconsistencies in their behavior.  We prayerfully hope for the genuineness of their faith while discipling them, loving them and reminding them to examine themselves.  

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5

In Scripture, we read about people being saved, and with fervor for the Lord and His Word, they follow Him.  They desire to know His Word, to know Him, and obey Him.  We also read false followers can look the part at first but then drop the half-hearted desire to follow Christ as soon as the road gets a little bumpy or when the world lures them back into the cesspool of empty pleasures and promises.  

john-newton-quote-zeal-without-knowledge-is-like-expedition-to-a-man

“These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.  In a similar way, these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy;  and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.  And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:15-19

I remember telling those who loudly proclaimed of Anne’s salvation, no one should have to be convinced this hard to follow Christ and to read his Word if they are truly saved. No true Christian will bolt and hide from anything truly Christian.  No true Christian will have to be taken by the hand and pulled into church.

Even though the lady lacked good fruit, they still refused for a while to believe that they may have been presumptuous.  “Perhaps”, they said, “she needs to just be encouraged more in her salvation.”  Sadly, they already did that to her when they shouldn’t have.  Now she was running harder away from Christ.

A few years later, I saw “Anne” standing up in front of a church to give her testimony and to be baptized.  It seemed those ladies had been able to reach her again and “encourage” her.  I hoped perhaps she had finally come to faith and repentance.  Yet as soon as she opened her mouth, my heart sank.  I noticed in her testimony she seemed to be looking for Jesus and a feeling of salvation in her baptism.  Not sure how this passed the test of the leadership when they met with her prior, that’s another story for another day.  And just like before, she vanished shortly after.  The ladies tried again to encourage her in her salvation.  She was being pulled by Christians, without being led by the Holy Spirit.  

Sadly this lady wasn’t the first person I saw being prematurely lauded as a Christian.  In a Bible study I had been a part of for years, a new lady came in and listened to the Gospel.  She cried as it was presented to her.  The study leader decided to lead her in the sinners prayer, doing the “repeat after me” thing. 

The lady repeated the prayer with such emotion that it moved me, I must admit but after the prayer, the leader declared she was now saved.  The way it was said was off-putting.  “Welcome to the family!” He exclaimed. 

She was overjoyed.  After a few times of coming back to the study, we noticed the joy soon faded and she quickly darted fast and far away from anything truly Christian.  My heart sank as the months/years went by and she seemingly sprinted harder from the Lord.  

I wish those two women were the only false conversions I’ve witnessed over the years. It’s heartbreaking to see one profess then slip away, yet it’s even more heartbreaking to see it being encouraged by Christians who should know better.  They seem so eager to see these precious souls saved and to share with the world all about it that they fail to realize they may have encouraged a false convert to believe something that wasn’t true. 

You’ll find in most evangelical churches every single child in a particular family are baptized.  Like clockwork, each of their children around the age of five wanted Jesus.  First off, what small child in church doesn’t say that?  You are likely not to find one.  The parents continually remind them that they are Christian and to take communion despite very little, if any, fruit.  Then in their teen years they are given emotional highs in youth programs and camps and being told those highs, those tears, are the work of God in their hearts.  Christ is this super amazing cool Lord.  Three weeks later or so, no more highs and no more interest in Christ.  It saddens me to see the leadership getting in front of the church shortly after these kids make an emotionally driven profession and proclaiming they are in Christ, HAULLELUIA!  

Such exuberant and immediate declarations without a stitch of real fruit.  

One church leader used passages such as Acts 2:40-42 to explain why they believe we are to immediately celebrate professions and declare them saved:  

“And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.  They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” 

Actually, that passage makes my point exactly.  Notice the phrase, “Continually devoting”.  

A Christian will drop the world and follow Christ.  The will devote themselves to Him.  They will not have to be forced to worship the Lord, to care about His Word, to gather with other believers or to desire to live for Him.  They will be devoted to the truth.  They will desire to be baptized out of obedience.  They will devote to the Gospel.  Sure, they will need from other Christians direction, clarity, and encouragement to know better how to live for Christ, but they will be willing and ready. 

It’s also important to note what was going on at the beginning of the Church age, with Apostles uniquely moved by the Holy Spirit, isn’t exactly how it’s going to look, or necessarily should look, in the Church today.  

If a person knows the Gospel, seems to really desire to follow and obey Him and wants to baptized, that’s wonderful.  They should be baptized under the leadership of a sound church and be spurred on to good works.

There is no way we can read the heart of any person, we are not God (1 Kings 8:39 and Acts 15:8) but there is fruit that should show, especially in time.  There needs to be fruit of a changed life, changed perspective on sin, changed relationship goals, changed motives…etc.  When the people in Scripture came to true faith, they devoted themselves to the ways of Christ.  They didn’t need to be continually convinced and coerced to follow Him. The fervor to serve Him was evident.  They picked up their cross.  They grew in love and good works.  They had hope and joy.

So why do some church leaders feel compelled to decree and declare a professor’s salvation?  Why, when some of these professing Christians show no real fruit or when giving warning signs, christians around them sweep it under the rug and dismiss them, excusing it without question or discussion?  

Some pastors seem to hear the supposed salvation successes and frequent baptisms in other churches, as well as, reading passages such as the one above and believe that is what they are supposed to be experiencing in their own ministry.  Perhaps it stems from not seeing people saved and transformed so instead of trusting God and just being faithful with the preaching of the Word, they want to force the round peg in the square hole. They want Acts 2:41-42 to be their experience so bad that they neglect to remember the obvious – salvation comes when the Lord chooses it to.  It’s all to be done in His timing and in His way.  

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;”  Ephesians 2:8.

“for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5.

Some leaders are weak in their own faith and begin to wonder where God is when the land seems barren.  They are desperate to see movement, to see life.  Many times they fabricate conversions without even knowing it.

With that all said, we have to remember we can’t always know if someone is a false convert.  Judas Iscariot fooled the other eleven (John 13:21-22),  Simon fooled Philip for a time with his deep interest and desiring to be baptized (Acts 8:9-24).  

Matthew 13:28-30 explains that it can be impossible to tell the difference.  Tares look almost identical to the wheat until the head matures.  That’s the devil’s scheme – to plant tares in the Church and grow discord.

The most sufficient way to protect against tares is Truth.  The whole, hard, sufficient, and unwavering Truth.  Be diligent, discerning, and dogmatic.  Truth reveals hearts.

“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him.  And He was saying, “For this reason, I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father. As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. John 6:60-68

The tares will not count the cost, will not stick around to follow Christ into the difficult places.  

“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” 1 John 2:19. 

We don’t get to declare the hearts of those who make a profession.  We aren’t to be their conviction.  Their salvation is between them and the Lord.  We encourage what the Scripture says about salvation, we urge them to go to Lord in repentance and faith and we trust the Lord to save whomever He saves.  And fruit matters.  Simply professing means nothing, especially when there is no cost. 

If we play the role of persuader and declarer we may very well encourage tares to ignore the constant nagging in their conscience that there is a problem with their relationship with the Lord.  The embarrassment of admitting the truth to all those who celebrated their salvation in a “rebirthday party” could prove to be their biggest stumbling block.

Have joy in someone’s profession of faith but know only the Lord can see the heart. Everyone must work out their salvation.  

Copy of It is only by retiring from the public view and getting alone with God that we can learn our own nothingness. A.W. Pink-3

Above is an article written by Gina Cook, Gina and Tami write Through the Narrow here at Tulips & Honey Hub. They’ll be posting articles every other Tuesday. Both are published authors, you can find Tami’s book here, and Gina’s book here. We’re blessed to have them apart of our team, and pray their writing will be as edifying to you as it is to us. – Lauren Hereford

 

Through the Narrow: Is a Nap in Order? – By Gina Cook

These past few months I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned some things about myself through quarantine, recovery from COVID-19, and watching what little news I could tolerate about all societal chaos. I realized more and more that resting is necessary. Spiritually resting in the Lord’s power and Word, of course, mentally resting from the onslaught of opinions and “news”, emotionally resting from the concerns and burdens we just love to bear and physically resting before we sicken ourselves unnecessarily.

As much as I have learned about my own issues with resting, especially spiritually, there is something else I’ve learned, something alarming I’ve noticed.  It’s the unrestrained, restless behavior of many of my professing sisters (brothers too).  Triggered and tossed about publicly, professing sisters are showcasing one of the reasons why we need to listen to God on verses such as these: 

“Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools.  Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.” Ecclesiastes 7:9-10

I get it, things are troubling.  We long for former days.  The stakes seem high now, the question marks are bigger and the lies are more abundant.  Pandemics are scary.  The world is increasingly hostile towards the ways of God and His people, more hostile towards any solid and wholesome way of life- more hostile towards anything decent.  It can make us restless and distracted.

These days, as a Christian, I tend to look at my social media feed with one eye open.  It’s tough to read.  As I feel my blood boil or angst start to set in, I’m often reminded of this:

“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:5-7

I also think of these verses:

Philippians 2:14-16: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.” 

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8.

Before having the “rona” I admit I felt the anxiety of a deadly virus and also the confusion and doubt about whether or not it’s really that deadly. As everyone knows, the news is more confusing than it is clarifying. Although unsure of what to think, we sanitized, wore masks, and prayed they worked. Being we live with my in-laws my teenage daughter took leave from her public job so that she wouldn’t get the virus and bring it home to them. My husband and I stayed home. Our church shut its doors and did sermons online. We were dedicated to trying to keep the virus out of our home.

Then we got it.  

How?  Who really knows for sure?  The important thing is-God is in control, we are ok now, and we are grateful.  We did what we could, sensibly, and trusted the Lord through it all.  Trusting and resting in the Lord and His will is everything.  It’s the calm in the middle of the storm and the sure footing on solid rock.  

It’s easy to tell when one is fixated on the world and all that it broadcasts, when the world is influencing them to lose their peace.  Emotional rants, desperate pleas, frantic responses, fear-filled warnings, angry emoji’s on repeat, bowing to the world, name-calling, expressing with cuss words, guilt-tripping, focusing on temporary freedoms and comforts, making non-Christian people be either your enemy or a savior depending on their political position or beliefs on wearing masks and isolating.. and then the frequent ALL CAPS.  

There is a healthy amount of rest and ease we should seek.  We need to chill without becoming complacent or unconcerned.  We should call out sin and warn others of false teachings and dangerous movements but we can’t do any good being anxious or fearful, belligerent or insulting in the process.  There is far too much emotional manipulation from the world, we don’t need to join that party.

I understand the temptation.  For us Christians, there may be times ….

When our comforts are yanked from us or threatened, we cry for their return and preservation.

When the rebellious hearts of this world mock blessings, we get angry.  

When the lost of this world step on our flowers, we grumble and point.

When the foolish spew unrelenting mendacities around us, we drown them in truth until they plead for mercy. 

When the haters of this world want to revile and slander us, we are offended and we return the favor fiercely. 

We may ask, “Why is this happening? Where’s justice? What about our rights?  How can we continue on?”

What we should be asking is…what rights or comforts do we need now in order to live for eternity? Is my main focus supposed to be on health and national/personal freedom? Praying for those things is good and acceptable, focusing onand getting our hope from them – that’s a major problem.

My late grandfather used to say, “I only have the right to be thankful.”  I’m not sure he was even a believer but I do know his little phrase packs a biblical punch.  Do we really have the right to anything else? Think about it.  Do we understand who we actually are and what we really deserve?  Have you taken a close look at your own sinfulness?

Paul got it.  “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

Jesus instructed the disciples, “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” (Luke 17:10)

Who has convinced you of anything otherwise?

Remember what the Lord said in Matthew 5:38-44? ““You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Is that only after you ridicule and slander them first?  NO

I’m seeing Christian leaders stoke the fire of emotion, slowly turning the focus away from the Gospel and putting it on political wars, societal and cultural restructuring, making the church more sensitive to the world’s cries, or the rights we “just can’t afford to lose”.  

The disciples of Jesus yearned for Him to put an end to the corruption and persecution in their society.  They believed He would set things right at that time, politically.  Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  He didn’t overturn the governments.  He focused rather on saving and bringing souls home to His heavenly kingdom.  That’s what He came for.

People surrounded Him constantly to be healed.  He in His grace healed several.  Yet He didn’t take away all sicknesses or even most of them.  It was never really about those things.  He kept the focus where the focus must be.  

“Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18:36-37.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” Matthew 28: 19-20.

The more people hear the Gospel, the more people will be saved.  When people are saved their hearts are changed and they proclaim the Gospel to others.  Hope and joy are found.  Peace with God is given.  Lifestyles and families are impacted.  Love and respect is practiced and seen.  Most importantly, the Lord is glorified.

We read the Word and we are reminded we are to be unlike the world, to show the love of Christ, to die to self, to focus on Him and His promises and commands and that we are owed nothing from the Lord.  We have been given such blessing beyond measure, all undeserved. 

So why are many of my professing sisters having toddler fits all over social media as if they deserve blessing; as if they have rights to have what they want?  Why are they making many lost people look more held-together then they are?  Is it because, maybe, this world is where their hope really lies?  Is it because church leaders are leading them on to think such nonsense is the work of the Lord?  Do they understand what the Lord really wants?

If the Lord chooses not to answer our prayers or give us worldly comforts and freedoms, are we good with that?  Can you rest in His wisdom?  Can you look at the bigger eternal picture?

Sisters, let’s move on with the Gospel.  This world has no hope without the Gospel.  The work and the Word of the Lord change the hearts of people, not us, and definitely not our fits or anxiety.  

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2.

“If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? Romans 8:31b-33a

No one wants or should desire persecution or for freedom to end, yet to focus on those things as if Christ can’t be glorified or served in persecuted and oppressive situations is foolishness. Look at the world in Biblical times, when persecution, disease and death were daily sorrows. The Church still grew. God was glorified more and the people still found something to rejoice about. Can we still have joy in serving the Lord today?

And what do we do differently if every comfort in this world goes away?  Nothing.  

Love God.  Share the Word. Pray. Love others more than yourself, even your enemies.

As a mother of five, when my little children threw fits, became hysterical, refused to listen, screamed to have something, or became grumpy and snarky….discipline or a nap were in order.  They needed to think about what they were actually doing.  They needed to rest and collect themselves before they found themselves in more trouble.  

My Christian sisters, be an adult, a mature adult.  Grow in Christ and realize when you need to rest in His ways more and concern yourself with what concerns Him, not what you think concerns Him.  Study the Word to know.  Be thankful and have joy in your salvation.  Don’t grumble over the sins of others, share the Gospel instead.  Remember, the lost can’t have rest as we can.  They need salvation.  That should be more than enough to motivate us with the Gospel. 

““THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION

AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, 

AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS’; 

AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, 

‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST.’” (Hebrews 3:10-11)

If you can’t rest in the sovereignty of God, get a grip, be salt and light in a dark world and pick your battles wisely, then get off of social media, stop watching the world, surround yourself with more sound fellowship and teaching, and please get on your knees and in the Word.  

And maybe take a nap? Just not too long. There is much work to be done for the Lord.

Above is an article written by Gina Cook, Gina and Tami write Through the Narrow here at Tulips & Honey Hub. They’ll be posting articles every other Tuesday. Both are published authors, you can find Tami’s book here, and Gina’s book here. We’re blessed to have them apart of our team, and pray their writing will be as edifying to you as it is to us. – Lauren Hereford