Thursday, February 25, 2010

The World's Most Dangerous People

Plumbing supply line

I don't do many posts on current events.  But one has caught my eye and my heart this week, and I feel I cannot remain silent about it. 

If you read many Christian blogs, you've probably already heard about 7 year-old Lydia Schatz.  She was being raised by what were, by all accounts, a very sweet, loving set of Christian parents.  And she was horrifically, torturously murdered by those parents.

In an effort to save her soul.

Let me say it again.  The parents who systematically, coolly beat that little girl to death were quite normal, well-liked people in the Christian and homeschooling circles where they lived their lives.  And their decision to beat the child the way they did was based on the teachings of a couple named Michael and Debi Pearl, who are apparently very popular in conservative Christian circles. 

How can this be?  How does it happen?  Because from what I'm reading, the Schatzes were no different from a whole lot of Conservative Christians.  And I say that as a conservative Christian homeschooler myself.

What happened?  Did they "snap," as many are describing it?

I don't think they did. 

I think they beat that child because they had come to believe that that's what love does.  Worse, they believed that that's what God wanted them to do.

A blogger called "Water Lilly" says it best (emphasis added by me):

The plumbing-supply-line whippings went on for several hours. To me, this would indicate that it is more likely that the parents were calm rather than angry. I’ve been angry with my children…but that anger burns hot and FAST… Anger and rage are exhausting, and they don’t last long...I want to suggest that only two types of people will beat their children for hours. The first type are sadists who enjoy hurting others…  The second type are parents who desperately care for their children and their eternal salvation. They believe that this world is but fleeting, and that their children’s eternal salvation is the most important parenting goal.

I know from reading a few more of her entries that "Water Lilly" cares as deeply about the salvation of her children as any godly parent does.  Indeed, any truly godly parent longs with all their hearts to see their children saved.  It's one of the most powerful instincts in a Christian parent's being.

Nothing is more powerful than love, and that power has worked tremendous good in the world.  It was because of love that God sent Jesus!  But when love gets twisted, perverted, confused and distorted, its power makes it incredibly dangerous.

I am coming to believe that there are no more dangerous people on the face of the earth than those who believe that love and God are on their side while they pursue an evil which they've mistaken for goodness.  How can they repent, when they believe they're holy warriors?

How does it happen?  How does a loving parent get convinced that beating their child for hours over a minor infraction is an act of love?  (In the case of the Schatzes, the "infraction" was mispronouncing a word!)

I can think of several key ingredients for this horrific stew:

  • The parents are deeply religious in a legalistic way, not living as people saved by the grace of God.
  • They see how the concept of grace has been abused, and they conclude that grace is nothing more than permissiveness.  They do not know what grace does, and they fear it is only a get out of jail free card.  So they reject it, and will not even consider anything other than punitive measures.
  • They are terrified about their children's eternal destinies.
  • They know that sin is the problem, but they believe in manmade solutions.
  • They believe that they have the power to rescue their children from Hell, and that love requires them to use whatever force is necessary to save them from it.
  • They do not know that salvation is a miraculous work of the Spirit which only God can accomplish.  They believe it their duty to force their children to accept Christianity, rather than leading them toward a real relationship with the only true Savior (who saves by grace).

There was a time in my life when all of the above described me.  You know the proverbial road to Hell that is paved with good intentions?  I was firmly on it, and was paving it further under my children's feet.  I thank God that I never heard of the Pearls before I was truly saved, because I would quite possibly have fallen for their schemes.

Listen to how it works.  One mother asked on the Pearls' website, "How do I deal with an angry child? When he doesn't get his way, when I fix a breakfast he's not fond of, he acts angry and blames me.  He often tells me that spankings only makes him angrier. What am I missing?" 

Here are excerpts from the Pearls' response:

"He is manipulating you…He controls his weak mother, but the world is not made up of weak mothers…I regularly go to a prison that has over 1200 men in it. Many of them were just like your son when they were his age...  Mother, I am trying to make you angry—not hurt, not guilty, and certainly not timid. The Devil is running away with your child. You can stop it. You can break the spell." (emphasis added)

(Note the appeal to fear…that would have hit me hard.  If I don't follow the Pearls' methods, my kid will end up in prison!  The devil is running away with him, and it's my fault! Note also the idea that the parent is the messiah, the savior, the answer.  And see…the answer is found in the parents' anger!  To the Pearls, the wrath of man does produce the righteousness of God.  I used to believe that, too.  Note also the insults and accusations heaped on this presumably "weak" mother.  It gets worse.)

Your son needs to run smack dab into a big, high, unmoving fence of authority. You, mother, are a pushover, a sucker…To give over to his demands, even once, is like a mother giving drugs or alcohol to her addicted child…Display indifference with dignity… Like an army Sargent [sic], state your will and accept nothing less…If you think it is appropriate and you spank him make sure that it is not a token spanking.  A proper spanking leaves children without breath to complain. (Emphasis added.)

(The Pearls often make statements against child abuse, and many people use those statements to try to absolve them. But the ugly truth of what they advocate can't be buried under the nicer words they sometimes publish. Their advice is rife with counsel that is abusive, no matter what they may say in other places. Lydia was not the first child to be murdered by a parent under their approach.)

So here is a mother who wants what is best for her children, and who knows that her children need to be made right with God somehow.  Along comes an "expert" with:

  • a self-assured style,
  • proud boastful assertions of what he himself could do to miraculously transform her child in a mere 10 days (further on in the same article),
  • an arsenal of fear, guilt and insults which he sprays liberally at her, calling her a sucker and a drug pusher!
  • tantalyzing promises that, if she only had the backbone to beat her child until he "had no breath to respond," and to be "indifferent" to him, she too could be her child's savior. 

As I said, there was a time in my life when I might have fallen for it.  I had never experienced the transforming work of the Spirit in my own life, so what did I know of what my children really needed?  I knew that sin was the problem, but I knew nothing of grace, so why wouldn't I have believed the lovely promises of all the beautiful results that would come if only I loved my kids enough to…(fill in the blank with any atrocity you like.)

Do you see how it happens?  Love can be convinced to do even unspeakable horrors if it believes it's acting in a child's best interests and in obedience to God.  Praise God I have not been an abusive parent, but reading even a small amount of the Pearls' advice left me speechless with gratitude that God kept their influence out of my life back when I might have been deceived by it. 

It could have happened.  It could have.  That's why, as horrified as I am by what the Schatzes did, I can't think myself superior.  It is God's truth which is superior.  His love and wisdom are pure and peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy… (Jas 3:17).  And while the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (Jas 1:20), a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (Jas 3:18).

People of God, live grace!  Teach grace!  Love grace!  And just as importantly, understand what grace truly is.  If people knew its transforming power, they would realize that the hope for their child comes from Christ, not a lash.


Please do not use the "Comments" section to debate corporal punishment.  I'm not saying that it never has its place, within reason (though right now I'm not sure exactly what I believe about its place and its reason.)  But I do know that corporal punishment in and of itself never saved a soul, and trusting it to save is a deadly error and an idolatrous defection from the only One who saves.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quotables for 2/24/10

"Talking Bubbles" by iprole

"A sermon 'zinger' used to encourage church plants instead of resuscitating old churches goes like this: 'It is easier to have a baby than to raise the dead!' Jesus, however, did only the latter. Evangelism is a bit more complicated than the sound bite conveys, simply because people are. Whether or not they are consciously aware of it, many non-Christians are seeking a deeper, ecclesial reality in their life, not a gospel that caters to their present one."

~ Matthew Milliner, "Attack of the Ugly Babies," Evangel


“Never did the love of God reveal itself so clearly as when he laid down his life for his sheep, nor did the justice of God ever flame forth so conspicuously as when he would suffer in himself the curse for sin rather than sin should go unpunished, and the law should be dishonored. Every attribute of God was focused at the cross, and he that hath eyes to look through his tears, and see the wounds of Jesus, shall behold more of God there than a whole eternity of providence or an infinity of creation shall ever be able to reveal to him.”

~C.H. Spurgeon, quoted in Miscellanies.


"If I were an unbeliever and I attended these [seeker-driven /purpose-driven] churches and listened to all their sermons week after week, how would I define the term "Christ Follower"?

Here's the answer I came up with after reviewing the sermons preached at these seeker-driven / purpose-driven churches over the last 24 months:

Christ Follower: Someone who has made the decision to be an emotionally well adjusted self-actualized risk taking leader who knows his purpose, lives a 'no regrets' life of significance, has overcome his fears, enjoys a healthy marriage with better than average sex, is an attentive parent, is celebrating recovery from all his hurts, habits and hang ups, practices Biblical stress relief techniques, is financially free from consumer debt, fosters emotionally healthy relationships with his peers, attends a weekly life group, volunteers regularly at church, tithes off the gross and has taken at least one humanitarian aid trip to a third world nation.

Based upon this summarized definition, I've come to the conclusion that the world is full of people who can fit this definition but who've never repented of their sins and trusted in Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins."

Chris Rosebrough (read the rest here.)


I have decided to limit postings of "Quotables" to one day per week, to avoid the risk of becoming simply a compiler of other people's work to the exclusion of my own.  I deeply appreciate my readers, and ask for your prayer as I continue to try to find and follow God's direction in how I spend the time He gives me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Quotables for 2/19/10

"Talking Bubbles" by iprole

"You may have stopped following Jesus, but now you want to follow again. When you stopped following Jesus, you did so on your terms. But the returning to Jesus is strictly under His conditions. He is God, and you are not. Are you willing to follow Jesus anywhere, at any time, under any condition? That is the only way you can follow Him."

~Blackaby, "Experiencing God Day by Day."


(Regarding 1 John 3:22-23)

"Prayer has a specific purpose. God designed it in wisdom to fit his perfect way of working in the world. If you misuse it, it malfunctions. What then is the design of prayer? I think these verses show that prayer is designed by God to be the effect of faith and the cause of love.

Therefore if we try to pray when we really do not believe in the name of God’s Son, or if we try to pray when our aim is not love, prayer malfunctions.

'We receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments.'  This does not mean that keeping his commandments earns answers to prayer; it means prayer is designed to give power in the path of obedience. That is what it is for. Prayer is God’s way of making himself available for us when we are pouring ourselves out in love for others. Prayer is the power to love. Therefore if we do not aim to love, we pray in vain. Prayer is not designed to compound hoarded pleasures."

~John Piper in "A Godward Life" 


"Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. Drudgery is work that is far removed from anything we think of as ideal work. It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome, and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine. "

~Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest."


Thank you for letting me share with you a few of the things that touched my heart in this morning's devotions.  May the Lord bless you!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Quotables for 2/18/10

"Talking Bubbles" by Iprole

I am often blessed by what others say, and I frequently copy snippets into my Bible notes or Evernote for future enjoyment.  But I'm beginning to wonder if I ought to do more to share them.  So here is an eclectic mix of "quotables" that have caught my eye this week.  In each case where a link is provided, you'll find much more than what you read here.


(The problem with the whole idea of "Love Languages.")

"You and I need to learn a new language if we are to become fit to live with each other and with God. The greatest love ever shown does not speak the instinctively self-centered language of the recipients of such love. In fundamental ways, the love of Christ speaks contrary to your 'love language' and 'felt needs.' Does anyone naturally say, 'I need You to rule me so I’m no longer ruled by what I want'? Does anyone naturally say, 'For Your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my iniquity for it is great' (Psalm 25:11)? Does anyone naturally say, 'My greatest need is for mercy, and then for the wisdom to give mercy. I long for redemption. May Your kingdom come. Deliver us from evil'?"

~David Powlison, "Love Speaks Many Languages Fluently."  Quoted by Justin Taylor in the blog, "First Things."  Brought to my attention by Tim Challies.  (Isn't it wonderful how the internet brings together so many people who will probably never meet this side of Heaven?)


(Regarding John 3:5)

"[Jesus] employed the words Spirit and water to mean the same thing, and this ought not to be regarded as a harsh or forced interpretation; for it is a frequent and common way of speaking in Scripture, when the Spirit is mentioned, to add the word Water or Fire, expressing his power. We sometimes meet with the statement, that it is Christ who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost and with fire, (Mat 3:11; Luke 3:16,) where fire means nothing different from the Spirit, but only shows what is his efficacy in us."

~John Calvin, quoted by David at The Thirsty Theologian.


(Regarding the men who let their friend down through the roof to be healed in Mark 2:4):

"There is no hint that they ever asked permission before they began digging through that roof. There are people who would not smash a roof, though by doing it they might save a thousand souls. To them property is sacred. But to these comrades the sacred thing was life, and they were willing to destroy a hundred roofs if so doing they could save a brother. That is the spirit we want within the Church, the spirit that sees the worth of personality; the spirit ready, for the Master's sake, to break through everything that keeps us snug and comfortable. After all, it is only a matter of values, and whenever we see the value of one soul, then many an old roof will have to go, no matter what Peter's wife may think about it."

~G.H. Morrison, in the electronic collection of devotionals made available with the eSword Electronic Bible.


I hope you enjoyed these "quotables."  If people benefit by them, I'll probably do more of this kind of thing in the future, when I am still awaiting the time or inspiration to write something myself…


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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wearied by Sacrifice

High priest offering a sacrifice of a goat, as...

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My Bible reading schedule has me in Leviticus right now.  If you know the Bible, you know what that means.  I'm reading regulation after regulation regarding the various types of sacrifices for the various types of sins.

I often find it to be rather tiresome going.

Haven't you ever thought about it…how quickly you would have gotten sick of hauling animals to be slaughtered, toting flour cakes and drink offerings and you-name-it to the Temple, every time you sinned?  I never would have gotten anything else done!

As those sorts of thoughts flitted through my head this morning, the Spirit whispered a bit of perspective.

Are you saying you're glad that it's easier to get away with sinning as a Christian?

Oof.  That hit like a punch in the gut.  It's amazing how a still, small Voice, speaking gently, can pack such a wallop.

I had to step back and examine my whole perspective.  And the first thing that came to mind was just exactly how God felt about those who were wearied by sacrifice:

Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand… You say, 'What a weariness this is,' and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts…Shall I accept that from your hand? (Excerpted from Mal 1:10-13)

Every other time I've ever read that passage over the years, I've felt sympathy with those who complained about the 'nuisance' of the sacrifices.  But subconsciously I was saying that, if I had lived in those days, I would have wished I could just sin freely and get away with it!  I mean, come on, God!  Get over it!  Why do You have to make such a big deal about it? I might not have had the guts to put it in those words, but that's what I was feeling.  The sacrifices were a total drag.

But that attitude toward the Old Testament sacrifices supports one of the heresies I most despise in modern Christendom…the idea that Jesus' sacrificial death on our behalves accomplished "carefree sinning" for us. 

It's true that Jesus was the Final, Perfect Sacrifice, and that we no longer bring offerings to any Temple for the forgiveness of our sins.  And praise God for that!  But the way we look at that fact reveals a lot about our hearts.

Are we "sin-centered" or "God-centered?"

A sin-centered person in Old Testament times would have resented the sacrifices.  A sin-centered person in the age of Grace is thankful for Christ's sacrifice…but not for the right reasons.  Such a person is thankful because they believe they've gotten a "Get out of jail free" card. 

The sin-centered person in the Old Testament may have brought sacrifices, but God did not receive them from his hand.  They did him no good.  And a sin-centered person in the age of Grace cannot hope to invoke the holy name of Jesus as an excuse to freely wallow in the very slime that Jesus died to save them from.

Think about this…the "blood money" that Judas got for betraying Jesus was so unholy that the Chief Priests wouldn't accept it into the Temple Treasury (Matt 27:6-7), even though they were the ones who had originally paid Judas that money in the first place (Matt 26:14-15).  They recognized that the money was dirty because it had paid for a grievous sin to be committed.

Those who view Jesus' blood as their "ticket to sin" are in essence calling His blood "dirty money" which pays for sin…not for salvation from it, but for the free continuation of it!  They are calling His blood an unholy thing, unfit for use in any sacred context.  Surely it is for such people that Heb 10:29 was written!

A God-centered person in the Old Testament would have loved coming to the Temple with their sacrifices.  Why?  Because they loved the fact that they could be restored to fellowship with their God, the source of their joy (Ps 43:4)!  For them, their own sinfulness was the "nuisance," and the sacrifices were a blessed way to be renewed in their fellowship with the God they loved. 

For the God-centered person of the New Testament, Jesus' sacrifice is a never-ending wonder.  They cannot fully comprehend why God would have given them the forgiveness and cleansing they need to freely return to fellowship with Himself, to righteousness, and to godliness (not to sinning)!

The lover of God, who comes to Him through Christ alone, has nothing to fear from Heb 10:29 when he sins.  Such a person hates that he has broken fellowship, and can rejoice that the precious blood of Christ has bought his forgiveness and cleansing and restoration to fellowship.  He does not profane that blood, or insult the Spirit of Grace.  He sinned, and it was horrible of him, and he does not take it lightly.  But he sees Christ as his Savior from sin, not as his sin-enabler.  And that makes all the difference.

The lover of sin, who comes to Satan's altar with the blood of Christ on his hands as his "escape clause," is the one who needs to tremble at this verse.  Oh adulterer, what is His blood to you, that you should think to pour it out on the filthy shrines of His sworn enemy; that you should raise your chalice of sin along with all the fiends of Hell to toast His grace with mocking lips?  Do you sing "Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound" at your orgies of wicked indulgence?

What is His blood to you?  What is the Holy Sacrifice?  Is it really there just to remove the "nuisance" of Temple sacrifices and make sinning easier for you?  If you had lived under the Law, would you have scorned the way of atonement that God made, or would you have rejoiced that He should have made any way back into His sweet presence at all?

Are you sin-centered, or God-centered?

Which am I?

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Co 13:5)


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