Lessons from Proverbs 1: Do Not Experiment with Their Addiction

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction

And do not forsake your mother’s teaching;

Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head

And ornaments about your neck.

My son, if sinners entice you,

Do not consent.

If they say, “Come with us,

Let us lie in wait for blood,

Let us ambush the innocent without cause;

Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,

Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;

We will find all kinds of precious wealth,

We will fill our houses with spoil;

Throw in your lot with us,

We shall all have one purse,”

My son, do not walk in the way with them.

Keep your feet from their path,

For their feet run to evil

And they hasten to shed blood.

Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net

In the sight of any bird;

But they lie in wait for their own blood;

They ambush their own lives.

So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;

It takes away the life of its possessors.

Proverbs 1:8-19


On the introductory blog to this series, we discussed the need to diligently study the book of Proverbs and how this book is particularly targeted towards young men and women. We now look at the first lesson of the book of Proverbs, which is an exhortation to reject the enticement of sinners.

The Reward of Wisdom

We begin with an exhortation to listen to instruction and to walk in the insight that has been passed down (v. 8). The implication is that there are ancient paths of wisdom that have been traversed by the godly and it is the responsibility of young men and women to walk in this path. Moreover, young men and women ought to build their lives on top of this instruction. In the hierarchy of authority, the parents themselves stand under Solomon’s God-inspired wisdom, and the children under the parents. This mode of instruction is repeat throughout the New Testament in which children are admonished to obey their parents in the LORD (cf. Ephesians 6:1).

Perseverance in this wisdom adorns the son with a wreath on his head and a chain around his neck, which are both symbols of honor and life (v. 9). It’s important to note that instruction and teaching are the adornments themselves; the adornments are not something future and extrinsic to them. The imagery of the wreath signifies victory and vindication over one’s enemies, as well as prestige. Similarly, all children who embrace the teaching of this book wear these teachings just as heroes wore the wreath. The fruit of their lives will be evidence of the reward for embracing these teachings. Furthermore, the imagery of necklace for the throat is not just symbolic of beauty, but it also symbolizes protection and guidance. Similarly, all who embrace the teaching of this book will be protected from the alluring enticement of sinners.

The Way of Greed vs. The Way of Wisdom

The reward of wisdom becomes particularly important when sinners do entice us. In this passage, it likely that the gang being described are the son’s peers who seek to draw him into their corruption. In particular, the gang is offering quick wealth through counterfeit means and a community based on a counterfeit worldview (i.e. they have no fear of the Lord). Although the young and naive tend to lack discernment, the father looks beyond the surface-level appeal of these sinners and exposes the true intent of their heart. In essence, the father is putting words into the sinners’ mouths that both condemn them and expose their enticement. In a similar way, the instruction of older godly saints and the instruction from the Scripture removes the rose-colored glasses of our society’s ethics and exposes the true wickedness of the world we live in. If we ignore this God-inspired wisdom, we will be the ones who will suffer the consequences.

The description of the gang from the father is rather ghastly. First, they seek to ambush the innocent (v.11), which means that they devise a coldly calculated plan against a victim and wait for the victim to fall into the trap. Second, they are in league with Sheol (v. 12). In other words, they love death and have a neurotic urge to plunder the innocent. In short, they are sinners who love their sin and are addicted to their sin. Third, their chief motivation (regardless of what they actually say) stems from covetousness and greed (v. 13-14).

In light of the true heart of this gang, the father exhorts his son: do not yield (v. 10). In other words, do not consider the plans and do not even ponder them in your heart. It is at this time in which God-inspired wisdom should be paraded about (illustrating one’s confidence and trust in God’s wisdom) and should be recited (as means of protection). Whatever enticements they use, the wicked are addicted to their sin. As the Apostle Paul writes, these sinners are walking according to the course of this world and are under the power and influence of Satan (cf. Ephesians 2:2). Because they are captivated by their sin, no one should experiment with their addiction.

Secondly, one must reject the company of these sinners because “bad company corrupts good morals” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33). Their company will result in calamity because God is the One who uphold justice and no one will ever escape His justice (whether it occurs in this life or in the life to come). It is well-known the way of transgressions is hard (cf. Proverbs 13:15), but the father also exposes the folly of sinners. The way of sinners is wrong, hard, AND stupid. In attempting the ambush the innocent, these sinners set an ambush for themselves because God will hold their lives into account.


With the true intention and folly of the gang exposed by the father, the wise son (with his father’s help) is now able to construct the trap of words set by the winners. Like every flying creature (v. 17-18), the wise son will take flight, for they spread their net in his full view. The father concludes his lesson by stating that the path of anyone greedy for unjust gain is analogous to these men. The unjust gain clings to the criminal and eventually destroys him. In commenting about this passage, Bruce Waltke states

The houses of these crooks, who think they are above all laws, are mansions in the best part of the city with high walls… The covetous see the world as a place of transferring wealth from the bank account of others into their own. Sinners love wealth and use people; saints love people and use wealth to help others.

In the New Testament, the same warning is given to Christians. Jesus clearly states that one cannot love God and wealth, for the one who loves wealth cannot love God (cf. Matthew 6:24). The apostle Paul repeats and expands upon this by stating that the love of wealth is the root of all kinds of evil, bringing destruction to many (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6-11). Just as the wise son will take flight from the enticement of sinners, Christians are admonished to flee the enticement associated with greed (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17-19). There are many in this world who are addicted to wealth and materialism and will use unjust methods to obtain it. The warning of this passage is clear: do not experiment with their addiction.

Lifting My Eyes


Right now, my house is a mess.

Legos have become my new flooring. Shrill cries from my 6-week old demand attention. The eldest, responsible for making breakfast, used too little flour in the scones. Not due to a lack of flour, but because he didn’t want to use bleached flour.  Now the morning meal is burnt and inedible. Racing through the house are other children, howling after the newly-fixed stray cat who was supposed to be contained in the guest room. Any instruction Mommy has given to make beds or brush teeth has evaporated from their minds. Quarrels and conflicts bubble up from the corners of the house. The day is escaping me.

Little whispers of doubt rise up and escalate: “What if your homeschooling isn’t good enough? If only you could spend money in joining x, y, and z – then the children could get interaction, education, and you could influence your community! With more stuff, then more people could know us and learn about our church. We could invest more in the church, and the church would grow. After all, all these other churches actually have programs and money to spend, and look how they are growing! Although they have super outgoing, super put together, super hip and with it pastors’ wives. These wives have great hair. I haven’t had a professional haircut in years. I don’t do enough. I am not friendly enough. I don’t rest in Christ enough. I can’t even be a good Christian. No one else thinks like this. Everything will fail.

I. I. I.

There is so much of me in these thoughts. What is the remedy?

Him. Him. Him.

…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…

-Hebrews 12:2

“Be thou my vision…”

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus…”

Cling tighter to Christ. His Word is sure. He changes not; His compassions they fail not. He is not fickle. He does not lie. He is not dependent upon me. I can do all things through him who strengthens me – a passage talking about contentment, not self-esteem or fulfilling your dreams. He is able to, and He will complete this good work in you, conforming you to the image of the Son. Cling to Christ!

.Learn much of your own heart; and when you have learned all you can, remember you have seen but a few yards into a pit that is unfathomable. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can understand it?’ Jer. xvii. 9  Learn much of Christ. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief!

-Robert Murray M’Cheyne


A Reformed Baptist Perspective on Public Theology: The Pauline Epistles, Part VII – 1 Corinthians 11

You can read earlier posts in this series by clicking on the links below:


As mentioned in the previous blog, Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church in order to address several issues within the Church. We now move into a section in which Paul address an issue that directly intersects with our society today: gender and sexuality. Within the Church, 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 has been discussed extensively and the text has been central to numerous debates (such as the egalitarian/complementarian debate and the debate regarding head coverings). However, this passage has much to teach us regarding the meaning of gender and the relationship between the sexes.

The Foundational Analogy

We begin with v. 2-3

Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:2-3, NASB)

We begin with the first statement that Christ is the head of every man. This affirms the truth that since Christ is the Creator and Preserver of all men, he must therefore be the head (or master and ruler) of mankind. Christ is the head of all men in that all gifts are derived from him and as the Lord of the nations, all are subject to Him. Moreover, He is the head of all believers since he is the head of the Church. As John Gill writes:

Yea, he is a natural head, or is that to his church, as an human head is to an human body: he is a true and proper head, is of the same nature with his body, is in union to it, communicates life to it, is superior to it, and more excellent than it.

In an analogous way, the head of Christ is God. This is not a reference to the divine nature of Christ because they are one in nature and essence. However, as to the human nature of Christ and the office that He fulfills, Scripture is abundantly clear that Christ hoped in God, believed and trusted in Him, loved Him, and was obedient to Him, even to the point of death. Christ voluntarily performed these tasks as our Mediator and voluntarily submitted to the Father. Therefore, it is proper to say that God is the head of Christ, in His humanity as the Mediator.

The Interdependence of the Sexes

In an analogous way, Paul states that man is the head of woman. Just as God is the head of Christ and Christ is the head of mankind, so is man the head of the two sexes. Paul grounds this argument based not on the Fall, but based on the order of creation. Since the man was formed first (v. 7) and since the woman was made for the man (v. 8), this implies that man must be the head and chief of the mankind.

However, it’s important to note that this statement is an analogy, not an identity. In other words, although man is the head of the two sexes, his headship is not identical to the headship that Christ has over mankind or the headship that God has over Christ. This point should be emphasized in order to prevent the historical error of believing that women are essentially inferior to man in all matters (whether within the Church or within civil society). Man exercises his headship in ways that are analogous to Christ’s headship over mankind. As the head of the woman, man is to provide and care for her, to nourish and cherish her, and to protect and defend her against all insults and threats. Therefore, there is a sense of authority and rule within the context of headship, but the connotation of the term is properly attached to beneficent governance.

It’s also important to note that although man is the head of his own wife , both man and woman are dependent upon each other (v. 11-12). Consider the following commentary on this passage from 19th century pastor F.B. Meyer:

No soul is complete in itself. The man is not complete apart from Christ, as the woman is not complete apart from man… But it is very interesting to notice that while the Gospel so clearly insists on the divine order, it has elevated woman to be man’s true helpmeet, and has caused her to be honored and loved as the glory of man. Neither society, nor family life, nor woman herself, can be happy unless she attains her true position. On the one hand she finds her completion in man; on the other she is his queen and he ministers to her in all gentleness and tenderness and strength.

The Consequences

This statement is worth emphasizing because of the historical error of undervaluing women (within the Church and within civic society). Contrary to popular belief, it was the proclamation and spread of the gospel that liberated women and elevated their worth because it is God who defines and determines the purpose of His creation. Insofar as  we reject God’s intention for the creation both sexes as complements to each other, we diminish and devalue their value.

One of the evidences regarding the growing secularism of our society involves the confusion of God’s purpose for creation. In the 20th century, we saw the rise of early feminism with regards to the fight for woman’s suffrage; however, the influence of second wave and third wave feminism has brought the discussion of biblical sexuality to the steps of the American Church. It was the influence of the second wave feminism of the 1960s that began to associate the “subjugation of women” with broader critiques of patriarchy, normative heterosexuality, and the woman’s role as wife and mother. Furthermore, it was during the second wave of feminism in which sex and gender were differentiated from each other. In the 21st century, we are now in the position of observing the next evolution of third wave feminism. This current wave of feminism stepped onto the public stage as strong and empowered, eschewing victimization, and defining feminine beauty for themselves (not as object of male patriarchy). Whereas second wave feminism separated sex and gender, third-wave feminism has asserted that the very notion of gender discourages experimentation and creative thought. This has led to the commentary from many secular sources that we are creating a society of feminized men and masculine women.


Fortunately, the Word of God has not left us in the dark in addressing this issue. Throughout 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, Paul grounds his argument for headcoverings based on observable realities about the differences between man and woman. This means that Paul assumes that the Corinthian church understood that there are substantive differences between men and women (i.e. differences that extend beyond customs and cultures). Hence, in Paul’s mind, the audience of his letter already knew that sex and the modern concept of gender cannot be separated. Because God is the Creator, He alone has the prerogative to determine the purpose of His creation and this passage clearly teaches that woman was created for man (v. 9) and that woman is the crowning glory of man (v. 7). Hence, the modern idea of blurring the distinctions between men and women is a movement that is in rebellion against God’s original intention for woman to be the complementary pair of the human race.

Not only does God determine the original intention for woman and her relationship to her own husband , but He also determines feminine beauty. Consider Paul’s argument in v.13-15. Paul argues that special revelation is not needed to determine whether or not long hair is a woman’s glory. It is clear to all that long hair adorns a woman and is fitting for her sex. In modern terms, a woman’s biological features are consistent with her identity as a woman. This reiterates the point that it was never God’s intention to separate one’s sex (i.e. the biological construct) with one’s gender. Rather than seeing one’s biological makeup as a potential form of subjugation and oppression (which is becoming a common perspective among third wave feminists), God designed woman in such a way to fulfill her role as her husband’s  helpmeet and complement.

The Lord’s Supper

Paul concludes chapter 11 with a discussion of the Lord’s Supper. In this discussion, Paul gradually begins to return his readers to the discussion of love. He focuses the Corinthian church back on their attitudes toward one another, and he tells them yet again to stop being selfish. They were hosting love feasts but, ironically, they were not conducting them in a loving manner. As a result, Paul told them that they were partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Given that our present this section does not have any immediate implications for our study of Public Theology, we will not explore it further here.

He’s our Father

My husband and I welcomed a new baby girl into our family in February. And we have been experiencing the highs and lows of having a newborn since then. In addition, dealing with the inevitable sibling jealousy and regression in behavior from our oldest has led both of us to our knees many many times this year, and it has caused me to reflect a lot on our family, my own family, and the family of God.

Presently, I am reading through J. I. Packer’s wonderful book Knowing God. (I can’t begin to tell you how great this book is, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to read it if you have not.) Andabba-father he has a great chapter on the topic of adoption, or being sons of God. Without a doubt, we know that once we have been born again, we become members of the household of God, and we see this clearly expressed in church membership and our fellowship with other brothers and sisters in the faith. But what of God? How is calling Him, Father, changing us? How has it changed our lives, our perspective on things in this life? Is it changing anything? Are we thinking about long enough for it to make a difference?

Let me share one final thought from Packer’s book that’s worth thinking about:

One more thing must be added to show how great is the blessing of adoption – namely, this: it is a blessing that abides… The depressions, randomnesses, and immaturities that mark the children of broken homes are known to us all. But things are not like that in God’s family. There you have absolute stability and security; the parent is entirely wise and good, and the child’s position is permanently assured. The very concept of adoption is itself a proof and guarantee of the preservation of the saints, for only bad fathers throw their children out of the family, even under provocation; and God is not a bad father, but a good one. When one sees depression, randomness and immaturity in Christians one cannot but wonder whether they have learned the health-giving habit of dwelling on the abiding security of true children of God.

Trappings of Tradition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it?

The Facebook page “Boycott Shopping on Thanksgiving Day” has 10,000 likes.  Apparently, if you shop on Thanksgiving, you are forcing people to have to work and needlessly keeping them from their families. The right thing to do, according to the page, is to rest on that day, focus on giving thanks for what you have, and don’t frequent stores that offer unnecessary services. If I step into CVS for some of their ECB deals Thanksgiving night, am I a cruel, heartless being?

When Thanksgiving appears, Christmas isn’t too far behind. I have not watched “Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas“, but I did read the discussion guide here. Part of Question 7 states,

Our children need to taste and see and hear that we are children of this King. Our traditions are one of the primary ways that this amazing reality is communicated from generation to generation. Embrace all of the gift giving, the advent calendars, the Christmas Eve dinners, and everything else that communicates that ‘The Earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains’ in concrete and embodied ways.”

Blogs and discussion groups abound with ideas on what to do for Advent, claiming that by doing these things I will create meaningful memories for my children. If I don’t fill my kids with sugar and deck them halls with red, green, silver or blue, have I deprived my children forever?

Is there something wrong with you if you don’t follow tradition?

Growing up Roman Catholic, my family knew how to celebrate in the winter months. The advent wreath was brought out and the candles lit every evening at supper whilst we sang “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Stockings were hung on the stairway on December 5th, as St. Nicholas would come the next day bringing some toys, an ornament, tangerines and walnuts. The next week we trekked to the Christmas tree farm to pick out the tree and lug it home. While it was being decorated, other Christmas ornaments were hung on red velvet ribbons tacked to the top of the bow window, and a nativity (or two) would be arranged. A few presents would be placed under the tree at Christmas Eve, and all would be allowed to open one. The next morning, more presents would appear under the tree from Santa Claus. We would open some, pause and go to Mass, then come back to finish reveling in what we received. Twelve days later was the feast of the epiphany, or Three Kings’ Day.  Whoever bit into the walnut hidden in a cupcake was crowned that year’s king.

Later when I became a Christian, married, and had children of my own, the traditions of my youth hovered before me like the ghost of Christmas past. What traditions should I keep? How was I going to ensure my kids had a Christmas full of wonder and magic? When could I get everyone still enough for a photo for the cards? Wouldn’t I be Puritanical if I didn’t celebrate the season?

If this time of year brings an undue amount of pressure for you, here is a sanity-saving tip that I have come to know: if a holiday event brings you stress and pressure, then don’t do it.

Let me repeat: if a holiday event brings you stress and pressure, then don’t do it!

It is truly that simple. Breaking the trappings of tradition can be difficult, but once done, the freedom is thrilling. The doctrine of Christian liberty is such a precious doctrine to study. Usually we hear it summoned as a defense for various holiday celebrations. Yet let’s remember that it also offers freedom from holiday celebrations.

 God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his Word, or not contained in it. So that to believe such doctrines, or obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, and absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience and reason also. -LBCF 21.2

So if you want to exercise good stewardship on Thanksgiving by shopping, do so without guilt. Christmas presents do not have to be around a tree, it may be advantageous to avoid mentioning Advent, and children are able to wonder at the Incarnation without a nativity. (Besides how nativities violate the 2nd Commandment, but that’s a post for another day.) Most Puritan children probably grew up just fine without even celebrating Christmas.

In our family, we might decorate a tree this season; we haven’t done it every year. My children enjoy receiving presents, but they will be the first to tell you Santa Claus is not real. And if I get to it, we’ll send a newsletter to friends and family. It’s not a big deal. After all, traditions come and go, but the Word of the Lord lasts forever.



For a thorough treatment exploring Christian liberty and the Christmas issue, listen to Al Martin’s series on Christian Liberty and Christmas.


Visitors in the Potter’s House

In January 2012, I took a class taught by Justin Peters at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary entitled “Theology of the Word of Faith Movement.” One of the assignments we were given was to attend a Word of Faith church or conference in the area and write an essay detailing our experience.. I chose to attend T.D. Jakes’ church in Dallas: The Potter’s House. The article to follow is the substance of the essay I submitted.


I attend a church that rents space in another church’s building, so we alternate our service times with them. We usually meet at three o’clock in the afternoon on Sundays. On March 25, 2012, I woke up earlier than I’ve woken up on a Sunday in years. At 8:30am, I found myself having coffee with my friend John, a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and a fellow member at my church. He had agreed to go with me to visit The Potter’s House, the home church of Bishop T.D. Jakes, a well known prosperity preacher and Oneness Pentecostal. What we witnessed that day was baffling to put it lightly. At times, the “service” was theatrical. At times, it was compelling. At times, it was confusing. However, at no point would I classify what was transpiring before my eyes as true, godly worship from God’s people.

From the Car to the Pew

John and I rode together from the diner to The Potter’s House. Having attended predominantly black churches growing up, John had made a point to visit Jakes’ church early on in his seminary career. So, I decided early on to take all my cues from him. However, it had been a few years since he first visited the church so, as he would later tell me, there were many things that caught even him by surprise.

The parking lot was on the other side of the street and, as with many mega-churches today, they had quite a few men out in the parking lot directing traffic. Like sheep, we were directed through every turn until we found our parking spot. Emerging from the passenger side of John’s vehicle, the first thing I noticed was the amount of skin and tight dresses that marked the average female attendee. I had to keep my eyes on John and focus hard on our discussion the whole way to the church in order to remain pure in thought. In hushed tones, we discussed cultural and geographical standards of modesty until we got to the front door of the church building.

T.D. JakesWalking through the glass double doors, the first thing that struck me was the likeness the building shared with a convention center or concert hall. The walls were carpeted and there were men in suits standing near the doors leading into the main sanctuary who looked as though they were there to check tickets. To the far right of the lobby area was the bookstore. John told me that the last time he was at The Potter’s House he visited the bookstore, and it was full of nothing but Jakes’ books and DVDs. He insisted that we go and see if it had changed at all since his last visit.

I will say that I was struck by the sheer amount of T.D. Jakes merchandise that lined the walls and filled the displays, especially his new book Let It Go. There were other authors represented in the store, though. Interestingly, there were quite a few copies of Voddie Baucham’s book What He Must Be …If He Wants to Marry My Daughter on one shelf. Voddie Baucham recently appeared on James White’s podcast The Dividing Line where he explained how he had backed out of his commitment to participate in James MacDonald’s The Elephant Room 2 conference, because he did not want to be seen as endorsing another panel member: T.D. Jakes. Although Voddie Baucham does not endorse Bishop Jakes’ teachings, it appears Jakes endorses his. Exiting the store, I felt the urge to check my pockets and make sure I had not accidently placed any merchandise in them as I passed through the scanner while being stared down by a foreboding security guard.

What Transpired Over the Next Two Hours

Upon entering the main sanctuary, John insisted we sit on the far back pew. As we slid in, he said, “I’m going to sit down,” with a look on his face that suggested, “You can do whatever you want to do, but I’m not participating in any of this mess.” As I had already been doing, I followed his cue and sat down. Little did I know, but what I was to witness over the next two hours was nothing short of chaos. There was no real structure to the service, at least not one of which anyone not in leadership could have been aware.

The service began with a woman, obviously worked up into a sweat, leading the people through a high-intensity, heavy-breathing, over-dramatic prayer thing. I say “thing” because it was not quite as apparent that she was praying to God as much as she was putting on a show for the people. The people seemed to love it though, as they were just as worked up as she was. She then commenced to lead the people through some announcements until she was suddenly interrupted by Bishop Jakes, at which point she grabbed her notes and out of an almost worshipful show of reverence toward Jakes shuffled off the stage not to be seen again for the rest of the service.

The Potter's House of Dallas, Inc.The announcement that prompted Jakes’ interestingly timed interruption was the announcement of his latest movie. He picked this particular service to announce that he would soon release a follow-up to his first movie Woman, Thou Art Loosed. He explained that it would not be a sequel, but the second in a long series of unrelated stories that showcase the trials and victories of “real” people. He lamented that no movies being released today show people struggling with the things with which the people he knows struggle. Suddenly, the lights went dim, and a trailer for the movie was shown. After the trailer, the people erupted in fanatical applause.

Next was the praise and worship time which was hard to follow because, again, the person of God was not the unmistakable focus of the praise and worship, except perhaps in word. There were dancers who looked more Hindu than Christian as they twirled and waved silken scarves in the air. Those leading the singing seemed more concerned with performing for the people than leading them in worship and admiration of God. Sadly, I cannot say that there was any element in this spectacle to which I had not already been exposed in Southern Baptist mega-churches. Nevertheless, I would argue that, wherever this type of performance exists, it is not God-honoring worship. By about the fifth song, John leaned over to me and said, “Have we really been here an hour already?” Later, he would explain that he was dismayed at the lack of emphasis on the word of God. We had been at “church” for an hour, and the word of God had not been referenced even once.

The real chaos did not begin to ensue, however, until Jakes took the pulpit. He preached from one of Jesus’ parables: the parable of the wicked servant from Matthew 18:21-35. He used this passage to argue that Christians must forgive if they hope to be forgiven. In essence, he argued that Christians ought to behave a certain way in order to incur the same from God. This type of theology is at the heart of the Word / Faith movement. At the heart of the movement is the desire to get God to do what one wants God to do. Thus, their sermons are more like a series of “how-tos” than an actual explanation of the word of God. Throughout the message, as Jakes weaved in and out of stories and emotional pleas, the organ played in the background, the people were in and out of their seats and, at times, men and women were seen running up and down the aisles with banners and blankets waving in the air over their heads.

Perhaps the most heretical moment in the entire service was the taking of the collection. At this point, the prosperity gospel was put on full display. Jakes assured his people that their sufferings and hardships were directly linked with their lack of giving. Also of note was the fact that it was perhaps the most ordered part of the service encouraging the people to participate in blatant, open, emotional shows of penitence and worship.


Jakes is perhaps one of the most dangerous of all the Word / Faith teachers, because he has mastered packaging his product in a somewhat evangelical package. His preaching is nothing you will not hear in some of the least discerning of Baptist churches. His style of worship is nothing that one should not expect when attending African-American churches of all stripes: Pentecostal, Baptist, non-denominational, etc. However, he has still neither repented of his Modalistic teachings nor denied the orthodoxy of those who teach the same. Similarly, he has not forsaken the damnable prosperity gospel, but rather teaches it openly. This was truly an eye-opening experience.

Veneration of the Saints?

Nearly 500 years ago on October 31, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door at Castle Church in Wittenberg. In so doing, he stamped out Halloween and paved the way for Reformation Day! Well, hardly, but in evangelical and reformed circles that sometimes seems to be how the story goes. No longer do Christians have to miss out on the fun aspects of All Hallows Eve. Now you and your little ones can dress up like your favorite Reformation character, party like it’s 1517 and eat sanctified sugary sweets. Hurrah!

Now I am not saying that a celebration of the Reformation is wrong. Costumes are fun, parties are enjoyable times of fellowship, and candy is a delicious treat. The decision to refrain from or partake in the festivities of Halloween is also one that should be made thoughtfully (some thoughts are here.) Yet in our celebrations, let’s not forget why October 31 was such a crucial day for Luther to post his theses. For what comes after Halloween should concerned us greatly.

Abuse of indulgences were what prompted Luther to pen his theses. What is an indulgence?

An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.  An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin. The faithful can gain indulgences for themselves or apply them to the dead. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

The idea that those who have not done enough in this life to merit heaven, but haven’t been too bad to be tormented in hell, may have their waiting period in purgatory shortened or absolved by the aid of the living here on earth, is the reasoning behind indulgences. What is purgatory, you say?

All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (Catholic Catechism, #1030)

Luther was upset with the abuses he saw in the selling of indulgences, especially in plenary indulgences.

Contrast these ideas of indulgences and purgatory with the Second London Baptist Confession:

Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are justified; and did, by the sacrifice of himself in the blood of his cross, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them, make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in their behalf; yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for anything in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners. (11.3)

Those in Roman Catholicism who have lived “exemplary fidelity to the Lord” receive the title of saint. As such, no one currently living would be called a saint, but a pilgrim. Castle Church (also known as All Saints Church) in Wittenberg was the church to which Luther nailed his theses. It contained a large number of relics that would be exhibited on November 1, or All Saints’ Day. These relics were bits of bone and rope purported to be connected to the life of Christ, the apostles, or the saints. Through viewing these relics indulgences would be granted to the viewer. Many would come out to see these relics, and Luther’s theses would surely be spotted.

Again, compare this idea of special “saints” with the Baptist Confession:

All persons throughout the world, professing the faith of the gospel, and obedience unto God by Christ according unto it, not destroying their own profession by any errors everting the foundation, or unholiness of conversation, are and may be called visible saints; and of such ought all particular congregations to be constituted.(26.2)

If viewing relics were not enough to grant entrance into heaven for deceased loved ones, then the Sunday after gives another chance. That is All Souls’ Day, where prayers are especially offered for those who have died but are not quite in heaven yet. While Luther did not seem to have an issue with praying for the dead, it is important to note that the dead have no need to be prayed for, as they are glorified or in torment.

These practices of the Catholic Church in Luther’s day seem to be a vestige of the past. We delight in the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as well we should. Yet let us remember that those practices of the Roman Catholic Church are still in effect today. All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are back-to-back this year. Many believe in this system of works righteousness. As history has shown, though, the Lord has brought his elect out from Rome before, and will do it again. May we be faithful witnesses of His truth.

As we remember Reformation Day, we remember the heroes of the Reformation. We may admire the brave men, women, and children who professed faith in ages past. Learning about those who endured persecution yet remained stalwart in their belief is an encouragement when battling our own trials. Hebrews 11 gives us examples of the many great deeds of those faithful who have gone before us. Yet it does so to point us to something greater: Jesus.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Soli Deo Gloria!


The Reality of Vanity Fair

…they presently saw a town before them, and the name of the town is Vanity; and at the town there is a fair kept, called Vanity Fair. It is kept all the year long, it beareth the name of Vanity Fair because the town where ’tis kept is lighter than vanity; and also because all that is there sold, or that cometh thither, is vanity. As is the saying of wise, ‘All that cometh is vanity.'” -John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

In the classic book Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan describes a town named Vanity and the fair that occurs there. Created long ago by Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, the fair in Vanity runs year-round, selling nearly anything imaginable. A cacophony of crowds, noise, sights and smells. There is no way around it: those who wish to travel to the Celestial City must journey through this town and its fair.

Today there is a popular magazine with the name Vanity Fair. Known for its cover photographs of celebrities, the magazine demonstrates that vanity is attractive. The vanities glitter and sparkle; surely, one would think, they contain some substance. Yet look further and see that, like tinsel, a slight puff of wind and such vanities are airborne. One such example is a recent interview in said magazine with actress Jennifer Lawrence. Miss Lawrence, whilst a rising star in Hollywood, had private inappropriate photos hacked and leaked online. When asked about the incident, Lawrence shared her outrage over the theft and offered her justification for having taken such photos:

I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years. It was long distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.” -Jennifer Lawrence

This is the world’s definition of healthy love. It glitters and sparkles; it is “great”. Yet here comes the puff of wind: the boyfriend will not (or can not) exhibit self-control, so the girlfriend chooses to be a cheapened substitute. All is vanity.

Compare the world’s example of love with how Christ loves his bride:

…Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her; that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless. -Ephesians 5:25-27

The things of this world are fleeting; the Lord is eternal. People and their allegiances constantly change; the Lord’s steadfast love endures forever. Christ, fully God and fully man, gave Himself up for such sinners as those bedazzled by the sights at Vanity Fair. Run from your sins and cling to the One who will never leave you nor forsake you. And for those of us pilgrims just passing through, may we not envy sinners, but live in the fear of the LORD always (Proverbs 23:17).

Your Thoughts on Halloween

On yesterday, I was asked a question that I knew would eventually come up: What do you guys do for Halloween?

Now, I always have a slight smile when I hear this question for two reasons. First, the question amuses me because I’ve only been asked this question around White Christians. This actually wasn’t really a discussion in the Black church. So the fact that this has only been a discussion in predominantly White churches is always amusing to me. Secondly, I’m never sure of the kind of reaction that I’ll receive from the person who is asking me. Some people will thoughtfully consider what I say. Others will be a little dismissive of what I say and talk about how harmless it is. So I always find a mixed bag of responses when it comes to celebrating or acknowledging Halloween.

Last year, my husband and I were exhorted not to be one of those “weird Christians” who ignored the holiday and disengaged ourselves from the rest of the world, but rather we should use the holiday to get to know our neighbors, invite them to church, and possibly present them the gospel. We had never considered ourselves to be “weird” for not participating in the holiday, but we also didn’t think that it was the best venue for presenting the gospel to someone.

In the Reformed crowd, I have heard of people hosting a Reformation party instead of a Halloween in honor of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses against the practice of indulgences in the Catholic Church. People are asked to dress up as famous reformers (or just wear regular costumes), and they have a party under this reformed banner. In addition, it was at our church home in Louisiana that I first learned about All Hallows Eve (or All Saints Eve and Day) being recognized among Reformed Christians. To my recollection, we didn’t do anything on November 1st, but the day was mentioned.

So, I have heard of many perspectives by now for participation and for transforming the holiday into something that is more God-honoring through the recognition of Church history, but I’m hoping to hear some more thoughtful reasons for participating or against participating in Halloween.

So I wanted to pose a few questions for all of you: What is your stance on Halloween? How did you arrive at that position? Or do you celebrate Reformation history this time of year?