Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

Read Matthew 7:15-23 and Acts 7:28-31

Lately there has been something laying heavily on my heart, and that's the issue of false teachers within our churches. Warnings against false teaching are all over the New Testament, so we really shouldn't be surprised when we encounter this. I want to focus specifically on the people whom Jesus calls wolves in sheep's clothing. I believe that the wolves' disguises will be a lot more convincing than the one shown in this picture! Let's look at 2 key texts, Matthew 7:15-23, and Acts 20:28-31, and find out how we can combat the false teachers whom we will inevitably encounter within Christianity.

In Matthew 7:15, Jesus says, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." The thing that is significant about these wolves (false teachers), is that they will look like sheep (Christians). This means that they will use the same kind of lingo as sheep, they will wear sheep t-shirts, they will listen to sheep music, they will have sheep bumper stickers on their cars, etc. Verses 21-22 tell us that they will even be doing sheep ministry work within the community. They will have everyone fooled, even themselves (notice their surprise when they get to heaven and are turned away at the pearly gates!).

While they will look just like faithful believers on the outside, they are inwardly ravenous. The Greek word for "ravenous" in verse 15 is "harpax," which means "ravenous, extortioners, robbers." They come with an all-consuming appetite to tear apart the flock and take the truth from the churches. Paul describes these wolves in more detail in Acts 20:29-30 when he says, "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." Wolves will emerge from among the church and distort the truth presented in the Scriptures in order to lead Christians astray. Oftentimes I've found that these false teachings will have some truth embedded in them, which will lead people to accept the whole teaching as true. They will use phrases that sound very good to the ear but have no scriptural worth (examples: "be your best you," "live your best life," "follow your heart," "love yourself," etc).

If you are thinking that I'm being a little extreme about this whole wolf thing, and that there couldn't possibly we any impostors within today's church, think again! This is not my own philosophy but teaching straight from the Word. Ignoring the real threat of false teaching within the church is foolish, and turning a blind eye to this issue will put you in the vulnerable position of becoming victim to this type of twisted teaching. Paul's warning is just as necessary and relevant to us today as it was 2000 years ago: "Therefore, be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears" (Acts 20:32). We must be on our guard.

I believe there are 3 ways to guard against wolves in sheep's clothing.
(1) Know the Word. You can only know it by reading it and studying it on a daily basis. If you don't know what the truth says, you will not be able to tell when the truth is being twisted. You are not going to be knowledgeable in the Scriptures by accident. It comes from hours and hours of copious study.
(2)Pray for wisdom and discernment. Pray daily that you will be able to clearly discern false teaching from the truth. James 1:5 says that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God for it, and He'll give it to us. We must be daily dependant on God for discretion and guidance if we are going to be able to detect wolves.
(3) When you are listening to anyone in the church teaching, be alert and on your guard. Make sure that the things the teacher is saying are backed up by Scripture. Don't just blindly accept whatever is being said without thinking. If something sounds odd to you, don't ignore it. Research the teaching that seems suspicious, and see if there is anything in Scripture that supports it. Ask people who are older and wiser than you in the church what they think about it, or read what well-educated and well-respected biblical scholars have to say on the subject.

Be on the alert! We are in the end times, and false teaching is rampant. I beg you not to ignore this warning~

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

False Teaching in Comic Strips??

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved to read the comics. However, reading the comics as an adult is a very different experience. I now notice that the comics are no longer a place to go for a few laughs...now they're often making some sort of political or philosophical statement. The danger in this is that kids can read these comics and be influenced without realizing it. As children, they don't have the maturity or discernment to distinguish truth from lies. Let me give you a classic example from one of the most popular comic strips, "Peanuts" by Shulz. This is how the comic reads:

Linus: "...And then on Halloween Night the 'Great Pumpkin' rises up out of the pumpkin patch...and he brings toys to all the good little children in the world!"

Charlie Brown: "You're crazy!"

Linus: "All right, so you believe in Santa Claus, and I'll believe in the 'Great Pumpkin,' the way I see it, it doesn't matter what you believe, just so you're sincere!"

Do you see the lie embedded in this comic strip? The statement, "the way I see it, it doesn't matter what you believe, just so you're sincere," stems from classic postmodern thinking. In this philosophy, there are no absolute truths. Truth is what you perceive it to be...it's what is right for you personally. What Shulz is saying in this comic strip is that it's not about a certain belief being right or wrong, it's about your sincerity. What is true for Linus is not true for Charlie Brown; truth is relative.

Scripture clearly combats this type of thinking. The Bible teaches that there is one God who rules the universe. He has set forth His law and has revealed the truth in His inspired Word. People can sincerely believe in the book of Mormon or the Koran, and as a result sincerely go straight to hell. I believe there will be a lot of sincere people in hell. The truth is that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and all other beliefs are dead wrong, no matter how sincerely you believe them. The trouble with the postmodern mindset is that it doesn't hold water. I could punch someone in the face, and I could respond that punching people in the face is my own sincere belief system. People would get mad at me for this, because they know that punching people in the face is just wrong, no matter what I believe. God has written His law on our hearts. We know the moral code, and we know the difference between right and wrong.

Postmodern thinking and moral relativism is fully indoctrinating our culture, and it's being done in subtle ways like comic strips. Know what the Scriptures say so that you can discern when something is untrue, and be on your guard against false teaching, because it is everywhere!

Afraid to speak up? What do you have to lose?

Hey girls, check out this article that was in today's Houston Chronicle. It describes a Christian woman in Pakistan who has been put in jail for speaking the truth and has been sentenced to death. It is a weighty reminder to us believers in America who are so afraid to stand up for Christ, even though we have the freedom to do so. The only real suffering we experience here is being made fun of or looked down upon. This woman faced death for preaching Christ's name, yet she boldly spoke up anyway. May we all have this same courage and boldness to share the gospel in our own country~

Pakistani accused of blasphemy may avoid execution

Christian has spent 18months in jail for insult about Muhammad



KARACHI, Pakistan
— Hopes were raised Monday that a Pakistani Christian woman, convicted of blaspheming the Prophet Muhammad this month and sentenced to death, will be pardoned soon, after government officials said they expected her to be freed.

The case raised an international outcry, including a plea formercy from Pope Benedict XVI. However, even if Asia Bibi, who’s spent a year and a half in jail on the charge, is granted a presidential pardon, the blasphemy law remains in place in Pakistan, a majority of whose population is Muslim.

Critics charge that the law is an instrument for terrorizing minorities, leading to dozens of people being jailed each year on trumped-up charges. The targets are mostly Christians and an Islamic minority sect known as Ahmedis.

Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minority affairs, said he was convinced that Bibi was innocent, and the president’s top representative in Punjab province, where the conviction occurred, predicted an imminent award of clemency. President Asif Ali Zardari has the power to overturn punishment the courts hand down to anyone.

Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, said in an interview: “The president has made it clear that she will not be punished. He will grant her a pardon.”

The furor over the case has given the government an opportunity
to abolish or amend the law.

“This is a disgraceful case; it is a disgraceful law. It has to be repealed,” Taseer said.

Bibi, a poor 45-year-old mother of five, was jailed after a row with some Muslim women in Sheikhupura, a district near the city of Lahore in the eastern province of Punjab. She and the women argued while laboring in a field, after they refused to drink water that Bibi had fetched because she was a Christian.

They accused her of saying something insulting about Muhammad, leading to her incarceration and then to her sentencing to hang by a lowlevel local court on Nov. 8.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What Does a Strong Woman Look Like?

So last weekend I went with the Jr. high girls to see "Secretariat." I'm not a big fan of animal movies or sports movies, and since this movie is about horse racing, it already had 2 strikes against it. However, while watching it, I couldn't help but notice a huge strike 3, which bothered me much more than the other 2. My problem with this movie was that it celebrated an unbiblical picture of womanhood. I know you're probably wondering why I was theologically analyzing the underlying messages of this movie, but I just can't ever seem to turn that theological filter in my head off for one second (which is a blessing and a curse!) even when I'm watching a movie!

In the movie, the main character, Penny, returns to her family farm in another part of the country after the death of her mother. She finds her parents' farm in shambles, and she decides to take it over. Her main objective is to train a promising horse in order to enter him into competitions. Penny doesn't settle for mediocrity, and she perseveres to reach her goals despite many obstacles along the way. Her strong resolve is admirable, and she does eventually lead her horse to make history. This is all very well and good, but my problem is with the way she goes about reaching these goals.

In order to train her horse and keep managing the stables, she is constantly flying to her parent's farm in a different state. Penny is a mother of 4, all of which are still living at home, and 2 of which are still in grade school. Not only does she leave her children and put her own dreams ahead of her duties to care for them, but she does so against her husband's will. Her husband does not agree with what she is doing in leaving her home so frequently and spending all of her time devoted to this horse. In response to this opposition from her husband, she flat-out refuses to back down from her horse racing dreams. Throughout the movie, we see some of the fall-out from her decision to leave her home. She misses her daughter's big play, is unaware of things going on in her kids' lives, and a wedge is driven between her and her husband. However, despite these problems, she emerges at the end of the movie as a heroine. Her husband and kids celebrate her for winning the big horse race, and her husband tells her, "you have shown them what a true woman looks like." Apparently all of the neglect and conflict has been justified because she has won a trophy.

Is Penny's character an example of a "true woman," as the movie teaches? I would vehemently disagree. Here's the thing. We're all stubborn, we all have dreams and desires, we all want to go our own way, and we all want to put ourselves first. Penny had a dream to win a horse race. Because of this, she put herself first, and put her own dreams and wishes above her family's. Am I crazy, or is this selfishness, plain and simple? The Scriptures teach us to do the opposite...they tell us to deny ourselves, and they call selfish ambition sin (James 3:14, 3:16; Philippians 1:17; Galatians 5:20; 2 Corinthians 12:20). Philippians 2:3 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." Does this sound like something Penny was doing?

In addition to the selfish ambition she exhibited, Penny also disrespected her husband blatantly. As much as people dislike the notion of the wife submitting to the husband in marriage, this is a crystal-clear biblical mandate. Ephesians 5:22-24 says, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything." Penny was disrespectful to her husband's wishes and stubbornly went her own way, completely disregarding his leadership. This is clearly not the only movie in which a "strong woman" is portrayed as one who refuses to let her husband lead her. One movie that comes to mind is "The Blind Side." The main character, LeAnn, was the clear head of that marriage and completely controlled her husband and what went on in her home. Her husband passively looked on and let her dominate.

Girls, the reason I bring this up, is because I want you to understand biblical womanhood, which is extremely different from our society's view of a strong woman. There is nothing weak about staying home and serving your husband and kids full-time. This is actually a lot harder than going out and fulfilling your own career plans and dreams, because it entails sacrifice. However, God honors the humble, the selfless, and the servants...they will inherit the kingdom. Putting your family's needs above your own is very difficult, but it is a mark of a godly woman. I do not admire women who leave their families to achieve worldly success. Rather, I want to emulate the women who spend their days changing diapers, cleaning the toilets, and cooking supper. These are the strongest women in my opinion~