1 Corinthians 15 Bible Study Temporarily Postponed

He Is RisenIt’s Bible Study day, but I just can’t physically write one today. Friday evening my evening Personal Care Attendant gave her two week’s notice, so I’m having to interview people again. Between interviewing and responding to emails inquiring about the job, I simply don’t have time to do the necessary work involved in writing a Bible Study.

Added to the mix, John has an appointment in Boston tomorrow that we’ve already rescheduled once, so we really have to keep it.

Obviously I’m frazzled and overwhelmed, unable to invest the time and concentration required to write the quality of Bible Study I want to provide. I hope to write a little each day with the goal of publishing on Thursday. I apologize to any of you who are accustomed to my Studies appearing on Mondays, but this situation is unavoidable.

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Saturday Sampler: May 13 — May 19

IMG_2187Andy Stanley continues to undermine the authority of Scripture, this time by teaching that Jesus and the apostles “unhitched” Christianity from the Old Testament. David Prince of Prince on Preaching refutes this ridiculous notion by writing A Response to Andy Stanley: Jesus and the Old Testament, What God has joined together, let man not separate.

For a more subtle response to Andy Stanley, wander over to The Cripplegate  to read Clint Archer’s post, Why Preach the Older Testament? Without mentioning Stanley directly, Archer clarifies why neither Testament should be “unhitched” from the other.

To demonstrate that Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice, Michelle Lesley draws from two instances in the life of King Saul to illustrate how churches in the 21st Century can disobey God even while thinking they worship Him. She makes a point worth considering.

Now I understand why the standard evangelical quip about God giving second chances rubs me the wrong way. Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another argues that God Doesn’t Give Second Chances by appealing to the Gospel and to God’s grace.

Refering to a Spurgeon quote that he saw on Twitter, Denny Burk has A word about criticism from anonymous sources that applies well in this age of social media. I’d been considering changing the name on my Twitter account from DebbieLynne Kespert to The Outspoken TULIP. Although The Outspoken TULIP is linked to my name, Burk’s article leads me to keep my real name, lest anyone think I’m leveling anonymous criticism when I confront worldly ideas.

I like Eric Davis’ post, Should I Stay Home from Church When Life Gets Hard? in The Cripplegate. It addresses the latest notion that emotional pain excuses people from corporate worship. It also admonishes pastors and elders to order church services around the Lord, explaining how doing so effectively ministers to all members of Christ’s body.

Leslie A admits it. It’s Not Just a Book! probably won’t be her most popular article on Growing 4 Life. But I agree with her that it’s probably one of the most important things she’s ever written. Therefore it saddens me that it won’t be popular.

Adding to my article on journaling (which I published Wednesday), Elizabeth Prata shares Thoughts on introspection and journaling in The End Time. She brings interesting insight into the discussion, causing me to wonder if more needs to be written about this topic.

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This Happens When Amy Spreeman Does A Podcast

I first wrote this article over a year ago, but needed to temporarily suspend it for personal reasons.

 

OpenBible John 1I just listened to a thought-provoking podcast from Fighting for the Faith, in which Amy Spreeman, Steve Kozar, and Chris Rosebrough discuss Discerning Discernment. Ladies,  my head is spinning right now, as I continue struggling with whether or not I classify as a “discernment blogger.” And whether or not I want to classify as a “discernment blogger.” And, most importantly, whether or not the Lord wants me to classify as a “discernment blogger.”

Discernment blogging used to carry a certain prestige in Reformed circles, as we saw various trends and evangelical celebrities corrode the Gospel by handling Scripture incorrectly and/or adding to it with subjective experiences and worldly philosophies. My regular readers will recall from my Autobiography With Purpose series that many of these doctrinal aberrations hindered my spiritual development for roughly four decades, which explains my passion for exposing doctrinal error now.

Then earlier this year, bloggers whom I highly respect began pulling back from discernment ministry. They correctly pointed out that this type of blogging often degenerates into scandal mongering gossip which depends on sensationalism to attract readers.  Admittedly, I’ve sometimes put Beth Moore’s name in blog post titles knowing full well that doing so would boost my readership. Cheap trick, but it works like a charm.

Amy made a comment on that Fighting for the Faith podcast that gave me a sense of balance in this whole debate over the legitimacy of discernment ministry. She remarked that our goal isn’t so much to call out false teachers and unbiblical practices in the Church as is is to draw people back to the authority of Scripture. So many popular evangelical teachers and practices distract people from properly reading and understanding the Word of God that we need to call professing Christians (both false converts and legitimate believers) to examine everything against the standard of Scripture. Even more, we need to remind them that the Lord reveals Himself in His Word.

The debate over whether or not discernment blogging constitutes appropriate ministry will continue. It raises important questions too numerous to explore today, and my small blog certainly can’t cast any decisive verdicts.

But I do believe this 63-year-old housewife from Massachusetts can use her past experiences with doctrinal error to guide younger women to better study of God’s Word. I make no claim of infallibility (and in fact plead with you to hold my writing up against Scripture to make sure I present Biblical ideas), but I desire to encourage women toward properly understanding sound doctrine . I’ve learned that Biblical doctrine is the only way any of us can know the Lord as He has revealed Himself, and that worshiping Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) requires that we continually seek Him in the pages of Scripture.

Regardless of whether or not I can consider myself a “discernment blogger,” I pray that I can inspire women to open their Bibles and know the Lord Jesus Christ.  Discernment must have no other goal than to direct people to Him!

 

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Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize

Little blonde angelBetween the autumn of 1977 and the spring of 1994, I kept a personal journal. I’d write about a wide variety of topics, ranging from Scriptures I’d read in my Quiet Time (frequently taken out of context and misapplied) to practical jokes I played on my friends. For the most part, however, I wrote about my disappointments, my frustrations and my fears. Toward the end of that 17-year period,  I realized that journaling served mainly to fuel my self-pity. For that reason, I abruptly quit writing it.

Perhaps some people can journal without focusing on themselves. Those people should certainly maintain journals! Their journals offer rich treasures to those who read them. But I suspect, especially in this culture that exalts feelings and believes in following psychological principles, that most people use their journals for the purpose of venting.

After 17 years of venting my feelings, I woke up to the fact that venting only keeps a person’s attention fixed on his or her problems. Venting through a journal is even worse, in my opinion, because the act of writing slows down the thought process, prolonging the focus on a subject. So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion?

Self-absorbtion, however,  is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” ~~Mark 8:34-38 (ESV)

Popular evangelical teachers promise us “our best life now” and romantic dates with Jesus, urging us to get in touch with our feelings. They advise hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day and write their feelings out “to the Lord.” What horrible advice!

Honestly confessing our feelings to the Lord is one thing. Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus all had times of pouring their hearts out to God. But in so doing, they invariably wound up acknowledging His sovereign right to order their circumstances according to His will. They ultimately turned their eyes away from themselves and back to Him.

If you keep a personal journal that revolves around your disappointments, frustrations and fears, please consider the possibility that it may be locking you into patterns of self-absorbtion. If possible, turn your journal into something your descendants can read to find Christ. Let them see that, no matter what your circumstances, He remains faithful and deserves the glory.

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Why I Don’t Skip Church On Mother’s Day

Rose PaintingMother’s Day is one of the most emotionally difficult days for a variety of women. Christian women in particular have a rough time sitting through sermons on the virtues of motherhood when they struggle with infertility, when they’ve lost a child, or when they have a strained relationship with their mother.

This past weekend, some well-known evangelical teachers encouraged hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day. I appreciate their sensitivity to women who have trouble with the holiday, but I question whether or not their counsel really reflects a Christlike attitude.

One friend of mine miscarried just a few days before Mother’s Day one year. Another friend lost her mom to a terminal illness the day before Mother’s Day a few years back. Although both ladies courageously attended church after their losses, other friends of mine simply found the thought of enduring a Mother’s Day service unbearable.

In one respect, I understand the desire to avoid church on Mother’s Day. Despite the wonderful fact that our current pastor doesn’t break from expositing Luke’s gospel to deliver a sermon extolling motherhood, I realize well-meaning people will wish me Happy Mother’s Day and tell me I’m a spiritual mother (to whom, they never quite say). With both my mom and my mother-in-law now dead, the whole day is just awkward.

I also identity with women who find Mother’s Day painful as I remember avoiding weddings early in my battle with singleness (I didn’t marry John until I was almost 49). For a couple years in my mid-twenties, I’d explain to my girlfriends that attending their weddings would just be too crushing for me.

Usually my girlfriends accepted my decision without complaint. Finally, however, one had the guts to confront me with my selfishness. She wept with me over my romantic disappointment, but now she very much wanted me to rejoice with her. The man who had broken my heart would also be there, she admitted, but having me there meant a lot to her.

I went. I saw the man who had broken my heart,  but then I actually enjoyed myself! More importantly, I showed my girlfriend love by putting her needs before my own. In subsequent years I asked other friends to forgive me for selfishly refusing to attend their weddings.

I don’t deny that attending church on Mother’s Day causes some women immense emotional pain. I sat with the girlfriend who miscarried only days earlier, and could physically feel her heartache. I’ve sympathized with infertile friends who chose to stay home rather than watch a baby dedication and hear a Mother’s Day sermon.

But as gently as possible, I encourage women who have difficulty with Mother’s Day to set aside their own sorrow in order to rejoice with their sisters in church. Yes, it means laying down your life for your friends. It means imitating Jesus.

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According To Scripture: Study #3 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Generally, I prefer presuppositional apologetics to evidential apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics start from the premise that, since the Bible is the ultimate authority for faith and practice, Christians can make the case for Christ solely from its pages. But in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 (which we’ll study today), Paul augments his Scriptural substantiation for Christ’s resurrection by listing eyewitnesses who could testify to having seen the resurrected Lord.

Looking at these verses in context within the larger passage, we trace Paul’s progression from Scripture to eyewitnesses to his personal testimony.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. ~~1 Corinthians 15:5-7 (ESV)

Before we go over the eyewitnesses that Paul identifies, let’s briefly mention the witnesses he omits: the women. Liberal scholars often point to this omission as evidence of Paul’s supposed misogyny. Please don’t fall for such nonsense! Instead, remember Paul’s former position as a Pharisee. He understood that Jewish Law at that time disqualified the testimony of women. Therefore he builds his case by citing witnesses that everyone in First Century Corinth would consider credible.

The first witness Paul brings to his readers’ attention is Cephas (verse 5), better known as Peter. None of the commentaries I read explained why Paul singles Peter out here, so (although I admit to having a theory about this matter) it’s probably prudent not to speculate. Let’s be satisfied that Paul begins with Peter, whom Christians knew and respected.

The verse continues by stating that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. Since Judas had already committed suicide, this designation troubles some people. It needn’t. Even after Judas died, people commonly referred to Christ’s immediate disciples as the Twelve.

Verse 6 can be perplexing because the gospel writers never directly record a post-resurrection appearance to 500 people at one time. Yet commentaries agree that this event happened when He met the disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:10, Matthew 28:16-17). Jesus had already appeared to the Twelve in Jerusalem, but His main ministry had taken place in Galilee. Consequently He would have to go to Galilee to show Himself to His followers there.

Paul points out that many of those 500 witnesses were still alive and able to verify having seen the risen Christ. The Corinthians could easily interview those who were still living. Paul includes them as evidence that the resurrection wasn’t simply an idea that the apostles concocted.

Finally, in verse 7, Paul says that the Lord appeared to His half-brother James, and again to the apostles. Really, there isn’t much to say about this verse, other than to point out that James held a high position in the Jerusalem church. That being the case, he understandably would have been influential in testifying to Christ’s resurrection.

Paul’s appeal to these eyewitnesses certainly strengthens my faith that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. I marvel at His faithfulness to provide so much objective evidence proving His resurrection. Studying this passage encourages me to worship Him for making the resurrection irrefutable.

Has this study strengthened your faith? Or has it raised questions? The Comments Section here, as well as on The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page, offers you the opportunity to intact with each other, as well as with me, about each week’s study. I would honestly love reading your responses, and learning how the Lord uses His Word to deepen your worship of Him.

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