Saturday Sampler: January 22 — January 28

I’m getting to really like Aliens and Pilgrims by Jacob Crouch. His post, Just because I’m religious, doesn’t mean I’m superstitious, strikes a chord with me. Spending 30 years in Charismatic circles exposed me to quite a few ideas and practices that were more superstitious than Biblical. Sometimes it encourages me when other people see the same things I do.

Ever feel discouraged about your unsaved loved ones? Me too. Darryl Dash of Dashhouse addresses our discouragement by writing If We Do Not Give Up. I wish he had added a comment explaining that sometimes the Lord chooses not to bring our loved ones to salvation, but I still recommend this post for its emphasis on God’s sovereignty as we faithfully proclaim the Gospel.

With more poise than I would probably exhibit, Michelle Lesley responds to one of her readers in The Mailbag: Questions about the role of women in the church. Michelle handles the challenges beautifully, relying on Scripture as the authority for her position. I love her depth of thought as she tackles common objections to God’s design for Christian women.

Keith Evans, a contributing writer for Gentle Reformation, comments on The Many Odd Uses and Abuses of Matthew 18. Although I’ve written about some of those abuses in my own blog a few times, Keith brings out an example or two that I’d never thought of. Reading his article may help you see ways that people exploit Jesus’ teaching on interpersonal relationships within the body of Christ.

It seems fitting that the author of a blog called The End Time would write Doomsday clock moves 10 seconds closer to midnight, don’t you think? But Elizabeth Prata isn’t standing on a street corner wearing a sandwich board proclaiming “The end is near!” Rather, she distinguishes between the secular world’s understanding of the end and the anticipation Christians feel as we await Christ’s return.

Having come out of Charismatic teaching, I appreciate right teaching about the Holy Spirit. Josh Buice asks, in an article for Delivered By Grace, What Does the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit Produce in the Life of a Local Church? If you’re tempted to skip over this one (I admit that the title didn’t attract me at first), don’t. Josh gives a wonderful explanation of how the Holy Spirit operates in His church.

Should churches change their positions on things like homosexuality in order to appear more loving? Chris Honholtz addresses this question by writing Such Were Some of You in Slave to the King. He opens with a clear presentation of the Gospel, laying a foundation for understanding what Christianity really entails. Working from said foundation, he demonstrates why we must never accommodate sin (homosexual or otherwise) if we claim to be Christians. This post is well worth reading!

Knowable Word isn’t the most exciting blog, especially to readers who want nothing more than information on the latest false teachers and trends derailing evangelicals. But for readers who sincerely seek to cultivate discernment, its tips on Bible Study will go a long way in helping us understand sound teaching. Peter Krol’s Units of Thought in Discourse answers a question I’ve had about interpreting a certain passage — I can’t wait to read that passage again with Krol’s suggestions in mind. Can you sense my excitement?

While Robb Brunanski rightly celebrates the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, he recognizes that the battle against abortion is far from over. In The urgency of a post Roe world, he argues that Christians are must not be satisfied with that one victory. His piece appears in The Cripplrgate.

Do We Care What Andy Stanley Says?

When I saw Andy Stanley’s name trending on Twitter early last week, I resisted the urge to find out what his latest gaffe was. There were better ways to invest my time, I assured myself. In one sense, that was true. While Christians sometimes really do need to name those who propagate falsehood in the name of Christ, discernment ministries gone bad have shown us the danger of devolving into spiritual gossips. I’ve learned that naming names should be done sparingly, and always with the goal of building up believers rather than tearing down false teachers.

Alas, Andy Stanley’s recent blunder caught up to me through two podcasts I listened to this past weekend. Neither podcast brought him up for the purpose of gossip, but rather out of genuine concern that he is conditioning evangelicals to minimize the authority of the Bible. After listening to both podcasts, I determined that I have something to contribute to the conversation that is less about Andy Stanley himself (though I pray for his repentance), and more about upholding the Scripture as having authority even over people who refuse to believe it and have no intention of submitting to its teachings.

In the introduction to his new sermon series, Stanley declared that appealing to Scripture fails to reach people for Christ. In both evangelism and ministering to those who have become disenchanted with the church, he says, we should not use the Bible as ground zero in our attempts to bring them to the Lord. He explains that neither audience accepts God’s Word as being relevant or compelling, and for that reason we must avoid prefacing any statement with “the Bible says…”

I understand his intent in shying away from the Bible. I think he sincerely feels compassion towards people who question the Bible’s right to give direction to their lives, and consequently he wants a more palatable way to reconcile them to God. As understandable as his approach is, however, its ultimate result is to replace the Word of God with human reasoning.

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Saturday Sampler: January 15 — January 21

In observing Bible passages, it helps to regard Repeated Words and Titles as a Clue to the Main Point of a Book. Ryan Higginbottom illustrates this principle by offering an overview of Paul’s epistle to Titus. He shows how locating repeated themes in that letter give clearer insight into the overall message that Paul meant to convey. You’ll find Ryan’s post in Knowable Word.

Tim Challies, perhaps the most well-known and prolific blogger in Reformed circles, says that It’s 2023 and We Need Blogs More Than Ever. His perspective greatly encourages me, particularly as I see dwindling readership. Sometimes I feel like I’m spending time needlessly when I could invest my energies elsewhere. So I praise the Lord for Tim’s words. Beyond the impact his post made in my circumstances, however, his encouragement to Christians who haven’t yet tried blogging is invaluable. If you have any interest in blogging, please read this one!

Sunday I listened to the Voice Of Reason Radio podcast, as I do every week after church (Chris, if you read this, notice I said, AFTER church, not INSTEAD OF church). I found myself wishing Chris Honholtz would augment the podcast by writing more articles on Slave to the King. Lo and behold, he writes All Things to All People? this week, almost as if he’d heard my thoughts. Even better, he answers a common misunderstanding of Paul’s phase, simply by looking at it in context. If you like his post, you can find his podcast on the same website.

False teachers invite us to share in deceptions all the time. In her Growing 4 Life article, Leslie A admonishes us to be careful when popular books, videos and trends in the evangelical world call us to Come On In! Praise God for her fresh and vivid reminder of why we constantly need to use discernment, as well as her explanation of how we can develop that discernment. Not all invitations should be accepted.

Since January 22 is Sanctity of Life Sunday, Michelle Lesley reprises Basic Training: Abortion, which she originally published in 2019. Some may think that she takes too much of a hard line on this subject, but I plead with you to hear her out. I appreciate her balance of law and grace as she examines the true nature of abortion in light of the forgiveness that Jesus provides to all repentant sinners.

God laid it on my heart? by Elizabeth Prata is one of many reasons why The End Time is a favorite blog of mine. This particular essay carefully examines the ministry of the Holy Spirit, concentrating on how He leads us. Elizabeth writes on this matter with absolute brilliance, slicing through the confusion that modern day mystics have created. After a Facebook squabble that I’ve had this week regarding a related issue, this post was definitely a healing balm.

Writing for Delivered By Grace, Josh Buice asks, Is It Possible to Preach the Gospel Without Words? You probably already know his basic answer to this admittedly ridiculous saying, but I’d like you to look at his reasoning behind rejecting it.

My Dirty Little Heart And Grace

Originally published November 27, 2015, but slightly revised for clarity.

Young Lady 01

Today, January 20, 2023, marks 52 years since the Lord graciously saved me. Let me share my testimony — not as the Gospel, but as a small demonstration of His wonderful grace.

He had thick golden hair that sunlight would dance in. 52 years later, I can’t recall anything else about him, but at the time the slightest bit of attention from him produced exciting (and frightening) sensations that my 17-year-old body had never experienced. Thankfully, the severity of my disability held me back from making myself sexually available to him in the weeks before his deployment to Vietnam.

I fantasized that he’d get me pregnant so that he’d have to marry me when he returned from the war. As you might guess, however, he made no advances toward me. But 17-year-olds rarely live in reality, and so I clung to hope that I could have the sexual encounter when he came back to San Rafael, California (where I lived at the time). Once he wrote that first letter, providing me with his address, I could surely write letters that would make me irresistible! Couldn’t I?

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The Wheelchair Square Dance And Listening To God’s Word

The church I attended in California often had square dances — mostly to give singles something to do on Valentine’s Day. Singles, married couples and children all joined the fun, and I enjoyed watching and chatting with other spectators. Over the years, I learned that square dancing isn’t really that difficult if dancers simply listen to the caller. Callers always explain the calls before each set so that everyone understands how to respond to each call. Thus, even though I didn’t dance myself, I knew that the trick to square dancing comes from paying attention to the caller.

About that time (I’m guessing over 30 years ago) a friend of mine from another church had started a ministry to disabled children using equestrian therapy (she was herself a wheelchair user who had benefited from horseback riding). She always invited me to her fundraising events. When she called to invite me to a wheelchair square dance, I couldn’t resist!

Like every other square dance I’d attended, this one began with the caller carefully teaching us how to respond to each call. Because we all used wheelchairs, he also taught us how to adapt the calls to dancing in chairs. It really wasn’t rocket science, even with the added condition of wheelchairs, and everyone caught on pretty quickly.

Everyone except the partner they gave me.

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Saturday Sampler: January 8 — January 14

I admit it: I have a fascination with the Royal Family. Before you watch Harry & Meghan by Murray Campbell therefore convicted me more than a bit. It isn’t comfortable to read, bit it helps us see gossip in a different light.

Although Jacob Crouch directs Family Worship is Not Just For Your Kids! primarily to husbands, I’ve chosen to share this item from Aliens and Pilgrims here for you and your husbands to consider. But no — I’m not giving you permission to nag. Share this respectfully, and then quietly pray. I’m not sharing it with John because he already leads family worship twice a day. But he’ll probably end up reading it anyway, and he’ll be encouraged to see that he’s doing a great job!

Do you ever struggle with making decisions? Leslie A addresses that common problem in Finding True North, which appears in Growing 4 Life this week. She illustrates her point with a few real-life examples of God’s faithfulness in guiding His children as we seek Him in the pages of Scripture. Leslie’s definitely my kind of gal!

In his no-holds-bar article for The Cripplrgate, Jordan Standrige highlights The Only Thing Protestants Can Appreciate About Pope Benedict as he reflects on various reactions to this pope’s death. Is Jordan too harsh in his assessment of Benedict? I don’t think so, given that he bases it on the man’s own words and how they contradict Biblical doctrine. This article reminds us that we must never forget the hard work of the 16th Century Reformers.

I appreciate Tim Challies for writing What I Want From A Church. When churches try to adapt to perceived demands of “consumers,” they abandon the very thing that makes church relevant. Please make sure that you choose a church (or remain in a church) for the right reasons.

Are You Cherishing Sin? asks Robin Self of A Worthy Walk. She gives us several Scriptures warning against this dangerous, but terribly commonplace, problem.

Since I have reached old age, I think about death more seriously than I used to. So reading Vanessa Le’s When I Die Young (Or Old) resonated with me. It’s not a typical post for Gentle Reformation to run, but it’s a beautifully written reminder of our ultimate hope as Christians.

Rarely does Elizabeth Prata share much about her personal life in The End Time, and even more rarely does she disclose her past sin. Her essay, The sheets lasted longer than the marriage, doesn’t glorify her past behavior, however. Rather, it demonstrates the insidious nature of sin, warning us to avoid its lure. It takes courage to write with as much honesty as Elizabeth does here, but her love for younger women shines through every word. If you have teenage daughters. I beg you to have them read this one!

Purity Isn’t Only About Sexual Attitudes

The first thing we think about when we hear the word “purity” is sexual impurity. Maybe that results from our sex saturated culture. Or maybe it exposes the depth of our own preoccupation with sex. Either way, it is the first thing that comes to our minds, isn’t it?

Perhaps we do need to begin with that connection when the subject of purity comes up, precisely because sex permeates so much of our consciousness. Sexual purity has fallen out of favor even among evangelicals. For the first time in history, evangelicals openly live together outside of marriage and see nothing wrong with that practice. Obviously, fewer and fewer professing Christians believe that sexual behavior should be confined to marriage between one man and one woman until death. In this regard, I agree that purity in sexual conduct can’t be emphasized too often or too strongly.

Was the apostle Paul thinking about sexual purity when he told Titus how older women should mentor younger women?

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASB95)

Certainly, teaching women the importance of modesty and chastity would have been a key reason for women to teach other women. It would have caused incredible temptation for a man to counsel a woman on such intimate matters. Women can (and sadly do) fall into sexual sin just as easily as men do, making it necessary and crucial to address this type of impurity. Therefore, we cannot and must not neglect this area of instruction.

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Self-Love — Does Scripture Really Endorse It?


That’s right. I answered the question in my title immediately, and with only one word. By doing so, I probably killed any incentive you had to read a full blog post on this topic. But please stay with me. There’s a reason we need to look at this issue.

This question once again popped up on Twitter last week, making me heave a sigh of exasperation as people twist Scripture to accommodate the idea that Jesus advocated self-love as the prerequisite for loving others. (Mark 12:31 quotes Jesus as saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself”). The logic goes that we can’t properly love other people until we’ve learned to love ourselves. Therefore, we must first cultivate self-love. That cultivation, the logic continues, gives us the ability to love others. The argument concludes with the confident assertion that Jesus taught us to love ourselves.

There’s a modicum of truth to the premise that, to care for someone’s physical needs, you must first attend to your own. If my Personal Care Attendant neglects her health so that she can’t come to work due to illness, I’m stuck in bed until we can find an available backup. Obviously, I need her to take care of herself in order for her to take care of’ me.

But the concept of self-love goes well beyond the practicality of making sure you’re physically able to help others. Look at this opening paragraph from an article in Good Therapy:

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Saturday Sampler: January 1 — January 7

In his monthly article for The Vatican Files, Leonardo De Chirico reports on an Advent sermon that marks more theological decline in the Roman Catholic church. “God has many ways to save.” Cardinal Cantalamessa and Roman Catholic Universalisim doesn’t trouble me in terms of the Catholic church teaching error — it’s done that for many centuries. But I fear it will reinforce ecumenical compromises that have infected evangelicals in recent decades. For this reason, I hope you’ll make time to read it.

Philippians is known for Paul’s emphasis on joy. Using this epistle as a template, Pastor Tedd Mathis gives us 23 Reasons to Rejoice in 2023. If you feel depressed by the darkness of winter — not to mention the spiritual darkness that increases exponentially in our world — this blog post in teddmathisdotcom will lift your spirits and fill you with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible is Not About You explains Ryan Higginbottom in his piece for Knowable Word this week. He demonstrates the problem with applying a verse personally before understanding its proper interpretation. If I had learned this lesson 52 years ago, I might have avoided a lot of doctrinal error.

Michelle Lesley shares If you’d like to help… Update & Thanks for those who responded to her needs. I posted that article in Saturday Sampler at the time, asking you — my readers — to consider helping her family. I’m thrilled to share Michelle’s report, and I want to thank any of my readers who took part in ministering to them.

There’s a lot of talk lately about the Charismatic movement and the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a necessary conversation, especially as more and more churches have embraced Continualist theology. Leslie A of Growing 4 Life devotes a blog post to a series of sermons her brother recently preached entitled How Does the Holy Spirit Work? I didn’t think I had time to listen to Pastor Dean’s sermons. Boy am I glad I made time! These sermons really take a deep dive into this topic. Please don’t cheat yourself out of some truly excellent teaching.

What Should You Do With Your Diagnosis? Responding Biblically to Mental Disorder Labels appears in The Cripplrgate. Written by Dan Crabtree, this article fairly assesses psychological conditions, acknowledging that sometimes physical factors actually do play a role in our psychological health. Yet he emphasizes that secular doctors and psychologists routinely ignore the spiritual component influencing our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. His outlook provides much needed encouragement to anyone who struggles with a diagnosis of mental disorder.

I could recommend Elizabeth Prata’s Someday the fog will be lifted in The End Time for its exquisite writing alone, and none of you would blame me! But even beyond her vivid descriptions, she reminds us of our ultimate hope as Christians. Don’t miss this one!

Elizabeth also writes an essay on a subject I care deeply about — single women. The Proverbs 31 woman is held as an example of married woman, but what if you’re not married? looks at Anna, the prophetess in Luke 2. Because Elizabeth herself is single, she can write on this matter with both authority and sensitivity. But she adds bonus material for those of us who are aging. I needed that encouragement since I’m only nine months away from turning [gulp!] 70.

Scott Slayton of One Dergree to Another shows us how Building a “Non-Brittle” Identity depends on preaching the Gospel to ourselves regularly. You won’t need much time to read his article, but its contents will certainly shift your attention to eternity.

As we enter 2023, let’s join Robb Brunanski in his Prayer for a new year: Love, which he writes for The Cripplrgate. Not only does he show the necessity of love in the context fthe local church (a point often overlooked in evangelical writing), but he draws a clear distinction between Biblical love and the world’s misunderstanding of love.

It’s A Good Time To Remember The Gospel

We’ve changed our calendars, put away the Christmas presents and started trying to keep our resolutions. Our brand spanking new Bible reading plans invigorate us. As with every January, we find pleasure as we anticipate making a fresh start. And that pleasure can motivate us toward positive changes that actually do honor the Lord. So Happy New Year, ladies! Let’s pray that 2023 will be a year of wonderful growth in Christ for each of us.

If January is a turning point moving us into the future, perhaps it’s equally a time to reflect on our relationship with God. Most of us are genuine Christians who may have gotten so caught up in doctrine that we’ve kind of lost sight of the miracle of our salvation. Others reading this blog may believe you’re Christians, but are really false converts depending on your own efforts to either achieve or maintain salvation. And a few of you don’t claim to be Christians, and read this blog for your own reasons. No matter which group you fall into, this is an excellent time to think about the Gospel and our response to it.

Let’s begin this discussion by simply going over the basic Gospel message. I’m drawing my main points from my page, What Is The Gospel Anyway?, which shares the Gospel briefly and succinctly. I want to expand on that page a little, perhaps helping you gain a deeper appreciation of salvation. Note: I posted that page before I switched from the English Standard Version, so all linked references in this post will be from that translation, whereas quotes will be from the New American Standard Bible 1995.

The English word “gospel” means “good news.” With Christmas being just over a week ago, we easily remember that the angels announced the birth of Christ as good news to all people (Luke 2:10-14). And Mark begins his gospel narrative by saying that Jesus entered Galilee preaching the Gospel of God (Mark 1:14-15). Clearly, the arrival of Christ and the kingdom of God is good news that deserves proclamation. That being the case, we should understand what the Gospel is and how we should respond to it.

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