My life is a bit busy at the moment, so I need to pull back on blogging for a bit. I’ll still have Saturday Sampler and Sunday hymns, plus a few posts a week. Things will most likely return to normal sooner rather than later. Thanks for your patience and understanding.
Saturday, a friend of ours lost his battle with cancer. I suppose I could tell you about his love for the Lord, about his beautiful devotion to his wife and family, about his ministry as the Youth Group director at his church or about how he and his wife fostered children and young adults. Alternately, I could tell you how, early in my marriage to John, he taught us a few important points on marriage.
Some of you might enjoy reading such things, but face it — almost all of you never met him. A eulogy probably wouldn’t be very meaningful to you. It might not even be that interesting. For most of you, he was just an obscure guy in Massachusetts that had no direct impact on your lives. You’re sorry for my loss and all, but you didn’t come to my blog to read about him. And I definitely understand that position.
So rather than write about my memories of this man, I want to reflect on the joy he’s experiencing now. If people who knew him happen to read this article, please understand that I by no means want to minimize your grief; all of us who knew him are broken hearted by his passing. And yet, as Christians, we know he’s beholding the wonderful face of Jesus.
Obviously, none of us really knows what it’s like to stand before the Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face. I therefore want to avoid any extrabiblical speculation or conjecture, preferring to keep within the bounds of what God has revealed in His Word.
Scripture gives glimpses of that wondrous occurrence by recounting the experience of the apostle John.
9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. ~~Revelation 1:9-20 (ESV)
Okay, I realize that John still had his sinful body when he saw the Lord, making his experience arguably different from that of someone who has died. But I would submit to you that he described Christ’s glorified state. Those who die, because they finally have freedom from their sinful bodies, may not fall paralyzed at His feet, but we will see His same glory.
With that fearsome glory, however, John saw Christ’s compassion. Notice verse 17, where the Lord reassures John. The tenderness in that verse beautifully balances the overwhelming description of Christ’s magnificent and terrifying holiness in the preceding verses.
With compassion to temper the brilliance of Christ’s glory and holiness, John could joyfully serve the Lord by writing the Revelation. Fear subsided as he went on to narrate what will happen when Christ finally returns to claim His Bride and establish His kingdom. What joy fills those last two chapters of Revelation!
Although I have no way of knowing what my friend saw when he entered heaven Saturday, I rest assured that it brought him immeasurable joy. As a result, the sadness I feel for his wife and children gives way to rejoicing for him. And one day I will also see that same glorified Christ in all His splendor!
Lent began last Wednesday, summoning all Catholics to 40 days of abstinence leading up to Easter Sunday. In recent years, some evangelicals have also started observing the season, making me want to bang my head against the nearest wall.
In the present day, Catholic dogma teaches that Lenten sacrifice, which supposedly leads to repentance and deeper spiritual contemplation, is an act of obligation. Over the centuries, the particulars of the fast have changed, but the fact remains that during the 40 days (Sundays are excluded), one must abstain from some food or pleasure out of devotion to God.
In a blog post I wrote a year ago, I made the point that Christians should practice self-denial throughout the year rather than just during the six weeks preceding Easter. And the self-denial that Jesus requires of Christians is far more costly than giving up chocolate or Twitter for 40 days! I’ve already made my case in that post and this one, so its unnecessary to repeat my arguments today.
But in a conversation this morning, I realized that my objection to Lent boils down to the same problem I have with Roman Catholicism in general: it rejects the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work on the cross. For all the talk of Lent enhancing our devotion to Him and drawing us to deeper repentance, we can’t escape its emphasis on human good works. As usual, the attention shifts from what Christ did for us to what we credit ourselves as doing to earn His favor.
The whole mess reminds me of the Galatian church in the First Century. The apostle Paul had preached the Gospel to them, but as soon as he left their region, false teachers swooped in and taught them that they needed to observe Jewish rituals in order to truly be saved. This adoption of legalism enraged Paul.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? ~~Galatians 3:1-6 (ESV)
Lent promises to draw people closer to Christ, but in reality it distracts from Him. Evangelicals, of all people, should recognize Lent as an unbiblical practice that completely negates the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. It repeats the same basic error of the Galatian church.
Sisters, I beg you to think seriously about participating in Lenten observances. Does doing so really honor the Lord Jesus Christ? Or does it make you feel spiritually proud, as if you’re doing something to curry His favor? Above all, remember that you come to Him only because He shed His blood on the cross.
How often do we really think about Christ taking our sinfulness and giving us His righteousness? Until recently, I attended churches that barely mentioned that glorious doctrine. Somehow, I suspect my experience is more common than not. So I love today’s hymn for celebrating this marvelous exchange.
Psychology has no place in the church, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life shows us in What Should I Look for in a Biblical Counselor? It encourages me to see more Christians speaking up about the dangers of “Christian” psychology.
In addition to my own trials lately, I’ve watched a friend suffer through her husband’s terminal cancer. So Sarah Walton’s article, Why the Church Needs Suffering in Unlocking the Bible, refreshes my perspective by bringing me back to Scriptures and principles that I’d all but forgotten. See whether or not her words benefit you.
Reprising her March 3, 2017 blog post, Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women lists 40 Things to Give Up for Lent. Number 1 is my personal favorite. What’s yours? Use my Comments Section to tell me.
I’m not the only blogger to reprise her article about the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy. Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised also resurrects the article she wrote three years ago. Erasing the Grey definitely deserves your attention!
Those of you who are moms will appreciate Scott Slayton’s When You Lose Your Temper With Your Children on One Degree to Another. Even aunts and people in ministries to children can benefit from Slayton’s godly counsel. As a matter of fact, anyone with anger issues should apply the principles to all their interactions with children and adults.
In a second post written for Unlocking the Bible, Judy Allen suggests Five Questions to Ask About Entertainment. Each question has a corresponding Scripture to help us evaluate the media we consume in ways that honor the Lord. I love the way she challenges us to think of what we read, watch and do in terms of spiritual merit.
Assisted suicide is not a pretty topic, but it’s something Christians will need to address. Jen Oshman discusses Five Reasons for Assisted Suicide (And Crucial Responses to Each One) to help us navigate conversations with those who honestly think this practice is a humane way to deal with human suffering.
The aggressive movement of the LBGTQ community has serious ramifications for Christians, as Is it okay for the state to take your child away because you won’t affirm his transgender feelings? by Denny Burk demonstrates. I struggled over whether or not to include such a dark article in Saturday Sampler, but decided that I created The Outspoken TULIP to prepare women for the persecution that knocks at the door of the Western church. Therefore I believe it necessary to draw your attention to this matter. Scenarios like the one Burk narrates will only increase. We must prepare for them.
Of course I’d read the book of Job many times throughout my 47 years of being a Christian, so its story hardly surprised me as I read it this week. Yet this time I noticed Job’s attitude. During the course of his trial, it degenerates from trusting God to questioning Him to flat-out anger against Him.
Job knew that He’d initially done nothing to warrant the severe suffering that God allowed Satan to heap on him. When his three “comforters” asserted that God was punishing him for sin, he vehemently denied their analysis. Sadly, as they persisted in their accusations, Job slid into the sin of self-righteousness, eventually demanding that God answer to him!
As we know, God finally puts a halt to Job’s temper tantrum by reminding Job that He created heaven and earth. Therefore He has authority to act however He pleases, and His creatures really don’t have any right to call Him into account. Thankfully, Job then repents of his self-righteousness and receives a restoration of God’s blessings.
Let’s talk about Job’s self-righteous anger against the Lord for a bit. I’d never really noticed it until this week, but I believe it holds a key to understanding the whole message of the book.
In college, a classmate who categorized herself as an agnostic summarized the book of Job as an exploration of the question, “Why does a good man suffer?” I thought of her assessment this week as I read Job’s self-righteous protests of his innocence, and I realized the glaring fallacy of her statement.
God used Job’s suffering to reveal Job’s heart. For all his attempts at piety and obedience, deep down Job ultimately trusted in himself rather than God for his justification. God used the trial to confront Job with his arrogance. Although he’d done nothing to provoke God’s judgment when the trials began, his reaction to the unfair remarks of his “comforters” led him to express his deep-seated self-righteousness. And it was ugly.
God, in His grace, allowed Job to recognize his need for a Savior. He graciously brought Job to repentance, and then rewarded Job for that repentance. The book isn’t about a good man who suffered as much as it’s about a good God Who uses suffering to show us both our sin and His wonderful grace.
As I researched Ann Voskamp, I read several quotes in which she described her erotic encounters with God. I’ve decided to neither record those quotes here nor link to documentation containing them because they’re just too graphic (I know at least one of my regular readers is only 17, and shouldn’t be exposed to such imagery). Those who seriously doubt the veracity of my claims can easily do some Google searches — though I recommend it only if you really require evidence.
Frankly, I wish the critiques I read on her hadn’t used direct quotes. A few of them literally nauseated me. I hated her portrayal of the Lord Almighty, the Most Holy ruler of all creation, as if He was a character in a pornographic novel.
Tuesday I wrote about the dangers of regarding Jesus as a Boyfriend or Husband. Typically those fantasies (as perverted as they are) don’t entail a great deal of sexual content. Sadly, Ann Voskamp worsens the perversion with ideas about the Lord that no professing Christian should even consider. As Christians, we must always live in awareness that the Lord, above all else, is holy.
My greatest problem with Ann Voskamp lies in her apparent inability to understand God’s absolute holiness. Yes, there’s a sense in which He demands that we imitate His holiness, but in a more basic respect His holiness differentiates Him from His creation. Thus it differentiates Him from us. Because of His innate distinction from us, the very thought of viewing Him as a sexual partner borders on blasphemy.
The Lord deserves our worship as a holy God rather than our sexual fantasies about Him. We indeed enjoy the intimacy of knowing Him through His Word, but that wonderful intimacy has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality.
Ann Voskamp exemplifies the sensuality that, according to the apostle Peter, characterizes false teachers.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. ~~2 Peter 2:1-2 (ESV)
Women are excited by the idea of a love affair with Jesus, Who of course would be a perfect Lover. Women, however, need the true Lord Jesus Christ, Who reigns in holiness and calls us to worship Him in purity. Let’s reject any teacher who would reduce our holy God to the filthy status of a sex object and instead worship Him in spirit and in truth.