By Beth, Aug 1 2018 01:53PM

(This post was originally a discussion board response I wrote in one of my graduate ministry classes. We were discussing Swiss theologian Karl Barth, who has been called "the greatest Protestant theologian of the twentieth century." Indeed, he had much influence on the Church and made a tremendously admirable theological stand against the Nazis.)

Karl Barth – what a puzzlement. Praise God that he faithfully and courageously withstood Hitler, even sacrificing his livelihood for his beliefs!

But here’s where I struggle. In our professor's lecture on Twentieth Century Theologies, he states that Barth believed:

No bridge could be built over the chasm that separated God from humankind. Reason, religion and morality all were signs of idolatry - the dependency upon self rather than God for salvation, which was all of God, and nothing of ourselves.

True, no bridge could be built by humankind that overcame the chasm between humanity and God. But God had already built a bridge long ago which we call “The Ten Commandments.” If the Hebrew people had actually followed them, and if their religious leaders had actually upheld their significance after Moses died, they would have formed the very bridge that humanity needed back to God and His standard of goodness:

Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons;

Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.

And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.

And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.

And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.

Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire…


There is NOTHING, no standard of righteousness that even comes close to the Ten Commandments. And it is the foundation of morality. Paul speaks of Gentiles who do right by nature even though they’ve not been taught by the Scriptures. Those people, somehow naturally in touch with God’s moral order and naturally following His commandments (despite their ignorance of His specific ordinances) are righteous in God’s eyes.

Jesus Christ was the embodiment of God’s commandments in human form. As God-in-the-flesh come down to earth, he taught us how to rightly teach and implement those commandments without getting caught up in fleshly legalism and haughtiness, tangled up in commandments of men.

Furthermore, God gave us reason, invites us to reason together with Him. There is nothing inherently idolatrous about reason. It is only when we believe that our human reason supersedes that of the living God that we commit sin.

Barth argues that salvation is “all of God, and nothing of ourselves.” Not so. Though He has the far greater part in our salvation, we partner with God in our salvation by surrendering to our deliverance and submitting ourselves to Him.

After all, we are to be the “Bride of Christ” – as a woman and a bride myself, it really rankles me when some theologians insist that the Bride has no partnership whatsoever with her Husband. Don’t they realize that human marriage is merely an expression of the marriage of Christ and His Bride? That Christ asks for our hand, but that we have to be willing to say yes? And that God values our insights and discussion with Him over the years of our earthly marriage with Him? Goodness sakes, Moses negotiated with God, Jacob wrestled with Him, and they were HEROES of the faith – why do we not think that God wants to hear and consider our thoughts??

The professor states:

Barth led the church back to the Bible. According to him, it was the only means by which human beings could grasp anything about God.

That human beings were not able to grasp God was very evident.

I am a Biblical inerrantist, as I’ve stated here before. I don’t think that there is anything of significance that is incorrect or mistranslated in the Bible. I believe that the authors that the Bible names actually wrote the books for which they are credited. I don’t think it’s been altered or needs any new translation or interpretation.

But I don’t think that humanity is completely unable to grasp truth about God apart from the Bible.

We’re in a pickle now, living in the wickedest generation that ever was (but every generation faces that same pickle as sin continues to degenerate humanity.)

It is so hard to even spot truth at all, that we’d do well to stay close to our Bibles and grab hold of the Word of God and never let go.

But God is all around us. There were/are people without the Word who knew Him when they saw Him. Their stories are sprinkled throughout our Scriptures in the tales of Pharaoh’s daughter, Rahab, the woman and her husband in Shunem who made a home for Elisha, the Good Samaritan, etc. And we learn from the Scriptures that Abraham believed God and followed his judgments and statutes before the Ten Commandments were ever written (by the very Finger of God.)

The Bible is more important the further we secede from truth. But the entirety of God cannot be contained in its pages. God is a Spirit, and His Spirit is wherever someone earnestly looks for Him.

By Beth, May 28 2018 10:50PM

Matthew 12:20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

Matthew 12:21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.

A dear friend of mine asked me to write a blog post on these verses after we chatted about their meaning.

You see, I was thinking about the things that are happening in the Church right now…have you read or heard about them?

In a nutshell, many corrupt Church leaders are being called on the carpet. Their failures and injustices range from telling women to stay with abusive husbands to covering for sexual offenders to being stealth abusers and offenders themselves. There is even a #churchtoo movement, echoing the #metoo movement in the secular community.

1 Peter 4:17 says: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God…”

Indeed, it has come. But why hasn’t it come earlier? Why has the abuse of power been allowed to continue for so long? Why have we “looked the other way” for such a long time and at the expense of so many victims of false teaching and injustices?

As Rachael Denhollander aptly put it: “As long as the culture is conducive to abuse there will be abusers.”

Sadly, the culture of the Church has been conducive to abuse.

But in its covering up of abuses within its ranks to preserve its reputation, was the Church actually demonstrating the character of God?

More succinctly: does God hold people – even Christians, and even leaders in the Church – accountable for their actions? Or does he sort of “grandfather” them into His good graces, and ultimately into Heaven “because of all the good they’ve done…”?

This is what Bill Hybels, former pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, thinks God will do for him…and, apparently, so does his congregation. They recently gave Hybels a standing ovation despite the fact that he is being accused by nine women (who have worked closely with him) of sexual harassment over the past 30 years. They seem to think that “all this talk of sex is merely a distraction from the many good things Bill has done and continues to do…”

And this happens so many times. And so many times, we are told to overlook people’s purposeful choices that reveal major character flaws “for the sake of their ministry,” or because we should be forgiving, we should let it go, “think of all the good they have done...”

Now here’s where those verses come in; let’s get God’s perspective on this:

“A bruised reed shall he not break…”

This is referring to the tenderness of God, his patience and gentleness. A reed becomes bruised by some outside source that has bumped it or injured it. It is not the fault of the reed, and God will not forsake it simply because it is bruised. He will protect it and patiently, tenderly, allow it to grow back to full strength and health. And it will! It may have some mark of its past damage upon it, but it can be a fully functional, effective, healthy plant with time and persistence.

In fact – this is pretty remarkable – but in 2012, researchers at the University of Illinois discovered that some plants, after they had been damaged or “nibbled” by critters, had the capability to grow back stronger than they were before!

The article at futurity.org reads, “Now, researchers may know the reason why, for they discovered what might be one mechanism behind these comeback plants. Remarkably, these plants increase their number of chromosomes after being damaged.” (https://www.futurity.org/nibbled-plants-grow-back-stronger/)

So the “bruised reed” could end up being the strongest reed of the bunch! And God knows that, so He will let time and perseverance have its work, and it may just yield an extraordinary harvest.

Now, to the second part of the verse:

“…and smoking flax shall he not quench…”

These are two contrasting thoughts within one line of Scripture.

It’s a literary technique in Hebrew poetry called “antithetic parallelism,” which simply means the second phrase contrasts with the first. The first part of the verse represents the mercy of God; the second part, His justice. (Mercy and Justice are just two sides of the same coin; Jesus Christ embodies them both.)

At the top of this post, I inserted a picture. It is a photo of flax that has been gathered for harvest and bundled up for use. Despite the fact that it’s been cut down, doesn’t it look nice and green and vibrant? Just imagine how it looks when it is still growing! It would be nearly impossible to light it and get it to burn while it still had roots and was that green, wouldn’t it?

But after that has been cut, detached from its roots for a bit…. well, I bet it would make some impressive smoke, wouldn’t it? And eventually, that smoldering flax would catch fire and burn impressively for quite a good bit, wouldn’t it?

Please understand -- green and growing flax would not be smoking. Dead flax would. The Bible is telling us an important truth here:

If you are dead at the roots and the stench and smoke of Hell is already rising to God’s nostrils from your body and soul, God is not going to put it out for you.

In this verse, each plant has a distinct quality; one is injured, but alive; one is so dead it is already smoking.

ABUSERS AND PREDATORS ARE SMOKING FLAX. They are dead inside, completely detached from the roots of their Godly image, incapable of bearing fruit, already halfway to Hell...and they put off a powerful spiritual stench. Their path is marked, their choices made (time and again)...and God's not going to bail them out.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: those who have willfully, purposefully, unrepentantly abused their positions of power, whether in the home or in the Church or in any other institution or situation will find that it is, indeed, a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

And that’s the reason for the next verse: “And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.”

They trust Him because they know God lovingly protects the innocent and squarely holds the guilty accountable. He will not let them escape their fate or ride the coattails of their worldly successes into Heaven.

Anyone who teaches differently is deceived or has an agenda to create a “culture conducive to abuse.”

"For it is written, Vengeance is mine; I WILL repay, saith the Lord." Romans 12:19

Be encouraged, bruised reeds. God sees you trying, He’s sending you comfort and cheering you on toward victory…and you can trust Him to set ALL THINGS in order in the end.

Be afraid, smoking flax. You are about to meet the Lion of Judah.

By Beth, May 18 2018 06:48PM

This post was actually a response I gave on a discussion board at my seminary. The other student (I call him "Jack" on this post) had written a summary of some of the writings he had read by Cotton Mather. Mather was a American preacher and theologian who was heavily implicated in the Salem Witch trials.

Jack writes:

There were a couple of other points that were very interesting to me. First was the heavy reliance on Scripture. It is unfortunate the lack of actual Scripture in many sermons today. The heavy reliance on scripture in this sermon was refreshing and inspiring. The second was the heavy leaning into holiness theology with statements like, “There is No Life in the Faith, which is not Productive to an Holy Life[7]” and “This is that Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord[8]”.


I went back and read some more about Cotton Mather's involvement in the Salem Witch Trials -- it seems it was extensive!

In hindsight, that period of time is a shameful blemish on American history. Mather seemed to be heavily involved in what we now know to be brutish and unjust condemnation and execution of many innocents.

Now, here's the tricky part -- and it raises the same question that the Church has struggled with since its inception and continues to struggle with today:

How can someone who preaches well, reasons well, knows Scripture well, seems to live a "holy" lifestyle, etc....be entrenched so squarely in evil doings?

How are we, as the Body of Christ, to accurately discern who truly is or isn't following God?

From where I stand, it seems that, though Mather wrote eloquently and defended Scripture and holy living adequately, the only accurate judgment of his faith can be his life and his works...his "fruits." And based on those, Jack, well...either he was grossly affected by that "little leaven" of self-righteousness and legalism that affects "the whole lump" -- or he was, himself, the source of the leaven. Either way, it's not looking good for him.

Here is a witness account I found repeatedly in my research:

Mather is haunted in history by the account given in Robert Calef's book More Wonders of the Invisible World (1700) of his conduct at the hanging of former Salem minister George Burroughs. Calef reported that Burroughs recited a perfect rendition of the Lord's Prayer while on the gallows, something Mather himself thought impossible for anyone guilty of an alliance with the devil. The crowd was so moved that some wanted to prevent the execution. Mather, mounted on his horse, proclaimed that Burroughs was no ordained minister, and that the "Devil has often been transformed into an Angel of Light." With those words, under the tearful gaze of an ambivalent crowd the George Burroughs was hanged.

The writer goes on to say:

Perry Miller describes Cotton's later years as a time of intense regret and remorse about the trials. He points out that Cotton's diary paints a picture of a man "panicky lest the Lord take revenge upon his family 'for [Mather's] not appearing with Vigor enough to stop the proceedings of the Judges'". Clearly Cotton could not see his outside of his own world of expectations, reputations, and contradictions.

http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/people/c_mather.html (Links to an external site.)

It seemed, even in the end, that it was all about Mather. His concern was for himself and his family...not for the persecuted victims and their families.

This is eerily reminiscent of what I see in American Christendom today -- Church leaders who keep sexual abuse allegations under wraps, for instance, to "preserve the reputation of the church" or its leaders. Pastors who emphasize how great their past preaching was or the tremendous impact their ministry made when they are faced with those who accuse them of immorality and abuses of power. It is always about them. When caught, they cry for themselves, they complain about the pain this is causing their families -- not the lives and families of their victims.

I wonder, if Christians would make a more dedicated practice of honestly evaluating the actual "fruits" of their leaders and fellow believers -- and genuinely holding themselves and others accountable for their actions -- if we wouldn't have a much more solidly grounded Church today.

Actually...is there any room to wonder?

Matthew 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

Matthew 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

Matthew 7:18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Matthew 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Matthew 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

By Beth, Feb 7 2018 04:51AM

I just sent this letter to Lifeway (who is sponsoring the Together 4 the Gospel event http://t4g.org/ in April at which CJ Mahaney is scheduled to speak.)

I will let you know what/if I hear back.


APRIL 10, 2018

Hi all, I did hear back from LifeWay, and they said they would forward my email to higher ups.

In any case, CJ Mahaney will no longer be speaking at the Together 4 the Gospel conference, as he has stepped down (thanks to the hard work of Rachael Denhollander and the Wartburg Watch website.)

This is a significant statement that Ms. Denhollander made last week at a speaking engagement at Harvard University:

When asked, "How can people trust the church and Christianity?" in the wake of sexual abuse, Denhollander simply said, "Don't."

"The church is made up of fallen people," she said. "I trust my Savior."

Denhollander said that while she is a "very conservative evangelical," she believes the Church has a long way to go when it comes to dealing with victims of sexual abuse.

"That's a hard thing to say, because I am a very conservative evangelical, but that is the truth," she said. "There are very, very few who have ever found true help in the Church."


Trust Jesus Christ, and ask for the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit in reporting abuse in the church.

Report it to the police immediately and do NOT trust the church to simply handle an abusive situation and protect the victims. Tell the authorities. Stand up for justice and righteousness, as did our Lord. Be a voice for those who have been oppressed and offended by evil doings. Shine a light for truth!

******UPDATE #2 -- APRIL 14, 2018******

In the past 30 days:

1) Pastor CJ Mahaney, (co-founder and keynote speaker of the "T4G" (Together 4 the Gospel) conference in St. Louis, MO) withdrew from his speaking/hosting role in the wake of Rachel Denhollander's claim that his churches have been involved in a years-long major sexual abuse cover-up. http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2018/march/cj-mahaney-withdraws-t4g-conference-sgm-rachael-denhollande.html

2) Pastor Andy Savage of Highpoint Church in Memphis resigned after it was brought to light that, as a Youth Pastor, he had sexually abused a 17-yr old student in his youth group. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/03/20/memphis-megachurch-pastor-resigns-sex-abuse.

3) President Frank Page of the Southern Baptist Convention resigned from his office over what is being called a "morally inappropriate relationship" came to light. So far, further details have been withheld. https://baptistnews.com/article/southern-baptist-leader-steps-down-over-moral-indiscretion/

4) Mega church leader Bill Hybels has stepped down from Willow Creek Church in Chicago after allegations from multiple women alleging sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-hybels-willow-creek-resigns

5) Pope Francis issued a statement yesterday admitting that he had wrongly ignored the pleas of multiple Catholic church members who alleged sexual abuse by a powerful bishop in Chile. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/world/americas/pope-francis-sex-abuse-apology.html

It seems like a profoundly poor time for those of us who are leaders in the Church to attempt to bury our heads in the sand.

Ephesians 5:13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.

Ephesians 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

Ephesians 5:15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.


Feb. 6, 2018

Hello, Lifeway.

I am a practicing Christian and currently a candidate for a Master’s degree in Ministry.

I would like to know if, after US Gymnast Rachael Denhollander’s public challenge to Sovereign Grace Ministries to hire GRACE to do a comprehensive investigation of allegations of a large-scale cover up of sexual abuse, you are planning on removing CJ Mahaney from your “Together 4 the Gospel” event if SGM does not support sexual abuse victims by allowing this investigation.

In case you are not aware of these public events, here are some websites to bring you up to date:






Please advise.

By Beth, Jan 29 2018 09:17PM

(This is a homily (mini-sermon) I wrote for my ministry degree.)

In 1999, Christian author Chuck Colson published a book that asked Christians the ultimate profound and enduring question: “How now shall we live?” And indeed, that remains the fundamental question here on earth after our conversion. Today we are going to look at some verses in Exodus wherein God prepares Moses and the Hebrew people for how they should live and conduct themselves upon entering the Promise Land -- the land of their deliverance and redemption. This was the place where they were to begin a new life with a new outlook and leave a new legacy…and God had specific guidelines for how they could make that happen.

Exodus 19:3 & 4 says: And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself.

Moses was to remind the Hebrew children of the LORD’s great deeds on their behalf. God’s wrath toward the Egyptians was a reminder of His justice for the oppressed. Later, in Judges 6:9, He again reminds them: “And I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all that oppressed you, and drave them out from before you, and gave you their land…” Psalms 146:7 describes the character of God as one “Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners…” And truly, He did all of those things for His children in the Exodus story. And, according to the Scripture, He “bare them on eagles’ wings…” This is a metaphor; metaphors communicate concepts that cannot be expressed in literal terms. The enormity of God’s intervention on behalf of His children defies literal description, and so God uses a metaphor to indicate His sweeping deliverance of the Hebrew people from their bondage.

He established His love for them, His willingness to go to extraordinary lengths to protect and preserve them. And isn’t this the picture of a parent’s authentic love for their children?

Then, He set forth what He would (reasonably) ask of them in verse 5: (Exodus 19:5) Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine…

God wanted them to obey His voice and keep His covenant – then they should be for Him a peculiar treasure above all others. Seems simple enough, right? But what bearing does it have on us?

First, let’s begin with this: are we expected to obey His voice today? John 10:27 says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…” Okay, are we supposed to keep His covenant today? Well, let’s begin with the question: what is His covenant? What is He referring to here? We can find the answer later in the Scripture (keeping in mind the importance of the framework of the whole counsel of God. )

Referring to Moses, Exodus 34:28 says: And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Leviticus 26:15 says: And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant…

Deuteronomy 4:13 states: And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

And Deuteronomy 9:11 reiterates: And it came to pass at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant.

We now have clearly defined the covenant. God was preparing His children that, when they entered the Promise Land, they needed to keep the basic commandments which He was about to give to them (they come, literally, in the very next chapter.)

They are basic because they are the foundation of human decency. They are, indeed, what makes us human rather than merely a higher form of mammal. Made in the image of the Divine. Loving the Divine, and loving our neighbor in such a way that we never do them intentional harm in our daily living, nor try to gain in such a way that facilitates their demise. Jesus Christ, being at the center of our Biblical understanding, reminded us of our obligation, saying: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

But did Christ really mean the covenant, the Ten Commandments that were given to Israel? Considering that they were written by the very “finger of God,” and that Christ declared “I and my Father are one” in John 10:30, I would say resoundingly yes! He did mean –those-- commandments!

And if Israel would have truly established her civilization on those laws governing morality, governing basic truth and goodness, in Exodus 19:6, God proclaimed: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. Israel had the potential to be religious leaders for the entire planet, and if she would only follow God’s commandments – to be “a kingdom of priests.” She could demonstrate to all other cultures the abundance of blessings bestowed upon a people who treat others as they themselves want to be treated and who show gratitude and honor to their Just, Merciful, Compassionate, Powerful, Holy Creator. A holy nation. A nation lifted high above all others to be a shining light. A “treasured possession” which God has “set His heart on.” These are the words that Moses was to speak to Israel. And these are the very words that we are to speak to the Body of Christ today.

If only the Israelites had obeyed! If only they had not insisted on making an idol of continual sacrifice, but rather had set their focus on overcoming sin! If only they had truly valued and regarded these words above their flesh – what a radiant, luminescent light they could have been!

We live in a culture that values acquisition over generosity; fame over humility; brutality over gentleness; lust over sacrificial love; and violence over peace. But how now shall we live after our deliverance, forgiveness and redemption from our past in bondage to sin? We should lead our own homes to be a shining light, a rare precious gem in the midst of an ever-darkening landscape; we should heed the words of the LORD in Exodus 19:“If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.” (“Peculiar” here means a people expressly possessed by God and particularly prized by Him.)

Jesus said it most succinctly:

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Matthew 22:39 And Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

All of the Bible hangs on these simple commandments. This is the central message of Christ. This is the message repeated over and over throughout Scripture, both Old Testament and New. Live by these commandments…and experience life as a shining star in God’s kingdom: holy, peculiar, a kingdom of priests who shed God’s light in all that they do.

Thank you, God, for your Holy Commandments as guidance for our lives. Let us live to honor you in all we do. Help us to set an example by our humility and our obedience to your voice. Help those around us to truly know we are Christians by our Godly and neighborly love. Help us to shine the light of your goodness to all who encounter us, that they may see our good works and glorify you…and eventually, truly come to know you. Amen.

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