Being Firm In Our Convictions Doesn’t Mean Looking For Fights

She laughed as she confessed, “I love a good fight!” Her admission encouraged me because something in me also enjoys being argumentative — especially when I believe I can win an argument. Hearing a pastor’s wife boldly declare that she delighted in intellectual combat emboldened me to take the offensive in conversations, almost as if she’d given me permission to pick theological fights. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the encouragement I needed.

Social media has taught me that many people love a good fight. Or at least, we love to fight. Some Christians even believe that fighting is essential in order to stand firmly in Biblical convictions.

In one respect, I agree. The world refuses to tolerate the claims and demands of the Lord Jesus Christ, so it will vigorously argue when we proclaim the truth. Saying anything from a Scriptural point of view can open us up to various levels of opposition, sometimes leading to full fledged persecution. And Jesus warned us to expect animosity from a world that wants nothing to do with Him.

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Saturday Sampler: May 21 — May 27

Just after seeing yet another blog post on a topic that the blogger discusses almost exclusively, I came across Ryan Higginbottom’s very welcome article, Emphasizing What the Bible Emphasizes in Knowable Word. His perspective brings much needed balance to our tendency to overly focus on one point of doctrine.

While we must stand firmly against the blight of feminism, we must avoid falling into the opposite extreme of thinking that women should do nothing but stay home and have babies. So I appreciate Elizabeth Prata for her diligent research in writing Patronesses Phoebe and Susanna: Two named women in the Bible for The End Time. This magnificent piece helps us see ways that God uses women for His kingdom.

In The Mailbag: Should I attend the “Bible” study to correct false doctrine?, Michelle Lesley answers wisely, but in a way I wouldn’t have expected. If your church offers questionable women’s Bible studies, you might want to read what Michelle shares here as you pray about your participation.

I look forward to Tuesdays because Leslie A usually posts in Growing 4 Life on Tuesdays. This week, she discusses the Only Two Places someone can go unless he or she trusts in Christ alone for salvation. Neither place is very appealing, actually — and both ultimately lead to hell. If you’ve never read Leslie’s blog before, this article will give you an example of her no-nonsense approach to declaring God’s truth. It’s precisely why I look forward to Tuesdays.

The Grace to You blog features an article by John MacArthur entitled Overwhelmed by Anxiety? It’s more of an introduction to his book on the topic, but it contains helpful ideas to get us thinking about the proper response to stress and pressure. I particularly appreciate his point on how to use the Scriptures about anxiety correctly.

Jeremy Howard of offers some brief but penetrating comments on why Stopping to Pray is so difficult for us, It doesn’t take long to read, but his insights are well worth your attention.

This is one of those weeks when Michelle Lesley has a lot worth sharing with you. Her Throwback Thursday ~ Amputating Discernment Ministry from the Body of Christ addresses common objections to discernment ministry by defending its Biblical importance and distinguishing properly done ministry from those ministries that abuse the term. Her article provides a necessary corrective to both ditches.

Blake Long of Theology & Life writes a short devotional about how God sees you on Your Best and Worst Days. Although we should never take God’s grace as an excuse for laziness in our walk with Him, it’s comforting to remember how completely He justifies us, If you’re discouraged in your obedience to Him, Blake’s words might offer much needed encouragement.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Robb Brunansky tackles the question, Why Did Jesus Die? Propitiation and the Wrath of God. His explanation goes against popular evangelical thought, yet it aligns with Scripture. It also helps us remember the extraordinary grace that we have in Christ Jesus.

When The Focus Is So Narrow That You Lose Sight

18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~~Galatians 5:18-24 (NASB95)

I don’t know why Twitter has been putting her posts in my feed for the past few months. She isn’t someone I have the slightest desire to follow. All my interactions with her have been fruitless attempts to show her why her position goes well beyond Scripture, and weeks ago I decided to stop trying to inject any reason into the conversation. But her Tweets keep littering my feed, all pounding out the same monotonous message that she’s been tweeting for goodness knows how long.

Even if her message didn’t transcend the boundaries of God’s Word, her fixation on one little area of theology troubles me. I have to wonder whether or not she’s made some sort of idol out of her pet doctrine. Her presentations show little grace toward those who question her perspective, and even less interest in the Lord she claims to represent. I could be wrong, but it certainly appears to me that this woman focuses so intensely on her crusade that she’s become blind to anything outside her small realm.

I’m deliberately not mentioning her favored topic in this post because I don’t want to distract from my main point. It really doesn’t matter what personal drum someone beats; if that drum is the only thing someone plays, we should have serious concerns about her spiritual health.

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Twenty Years, Eight Months And Eleven Days

People warned me during my engagement that marriage is hard work. So I tried to prepare myself for lots of relational conflict with John. We fought often throughout our engagement, leading me to expect a lifetime of conflict that God would use to humble me. Accordingly, I took my wedding vows in an attitude of fear and trembling, extremely conscious that living happily ever after only happens in fairy tales.

It’s been over two weeks since I sat beside my husband’s hospital bed watching his body release his soul to be with Jesus. As yet, I don’t think I quite believe he’s really gone. I look at the gold box on my couch that holds his ashes and I sleep alone in the bed that we shared, but something in me stubbornly thinks that this is just another long hospitalization and that he will come back soon.

Tears haven’t come easily, partly because I’ve been busy with ladies helping me and people visiting from California. And actually, I never did cry much when people close to me died — my daddy, my mom and my mother-in-law. But when I want to cry over John, the thought of him in heaven, rejoicing in the presence of his Lord and Savior gives me such joy that I don’t really feel like crying. Reflecting on our marriage, and how God blessed me with such a loving husband, dries my tears before they even start.

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With Grief And Joy

This is not the report I want to write today, especially knowing that some of you have been praying for a miracle. This afternoon, I’ll be going to the hospital to take my beloved husband off of life support. Yesterday he showed no signs of consciousness, and the doctor said it was futile to keep his body on machines. I agree. I believe it would be cruel, both to John and to those of us who love him, to maintain his body and cling to false hope. Both our pastor and the pastor who is John’s health care proxy agree with my decision. 

John came to faith in Jesus Christ somewhere around the age of 15. He acknowledged that, apart from the shed blood of Jesus as the acceptable sacrifice for his sin, he was a wretch. It was incredibly important to him that people know this fact about him when he died. He didn’t want anyone thinking that he had any goodness in and of himself. Don’t misunderstand me: John was a wonderful, godly man who taught me much about living the Christian life, and I admire his humble submission to Christ. He modeled what it means to be a godly man. But he didn’t want us to idolize him — he wanted us to know that the goodness we saw in him came only from Christ. 

He will be going to the Lord based on his trust that Jesus paid for his sins on the cross. We rightfully rejoice that John is going to be free from wheelchairs, ventilators and all the struggles of his disability. But John always looked forward to freedom from his struggles with sin and to seeing Jesus face-to-face. He would not want any of us imagining him as a guardian angel looking down on me, but instead would want us to know that he is enjoying His Lord without distraction. He will have perfect joy throughout eternity as he worships his wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

I am heartbroken for myself. Marriage to John was wonderfully easy, and the past 20+ years were the happiest of my life. God blessed me with the man I’d dreamed of since I was a little girl, and part of me wishes I didn’t have to let him go. But I praise the Lord that John will finally be with Jesus. Please join me in rejoicing for him. 

Saturday Sampler: April 23 — April 29

I don’t know how many of you teach women’s Bible studies or write Bible Study blogs, but Ryan Higginbottom’s post Against Springboard Studies in Knowable Word might help you figure out how you want to lead your study groups or write your studies. Actually, even those of us who don’t teach can learn a few things from his thoughts.

During my college days, a classmate whose dad was a minister told me that it’s okay to be angry with God. That advice may be standard psychology, but it’s rotten theology. Responding to last month’s shooting at Covenant Christian School in Nashville, Stephen Spinnenweber writes Please, Don’t Get Mad at God to argue against the notion that anger towards Him is acceptable. His article appears on the Reformation 21 blog, and very much deserves your attention.

In his charming essay, Darryl Dash of Dashhouse reminds us to Think Little instead of dreaming about the “great things” we think we should do for God. He doesn’t really say anything novel here, but sometimes it’s good to hear basic truths repeated.

Leslie A answers the rhetorical question, Should We “Eat the Meat and Spit Out the Bones?” in Growing 4 Life this week. As more and more bad teaching fills evangelical media, Christians need the humility to admit that we don’t always have the discernment necessary to recognize error. She shares one near mistake she made in reading a book that purported to be Christian, and then she offered guidelines for dealing with questionable material. I especially like her observation that discernment calls for complete purity, not for “balance.”

Jacob Crouch’s devotional, The Stream and the Spring, brings us to humility as we compare ourselves to God. Jacob blogs at Aliens and Pilgrims.

Maybe I’m drawn to Elaine Crandell’s Called By Name because it’s a fun slice of her life and I desperately need a little fun right now. Her experience as a contestant on The Price Is Right makes delightful reading. That’s not to say that her post in Treasure In Jars Of Clay is a fluff piece. But you’ll have to read it for yourselves to find out why a Christian blogger would write about a television game show.

Evidently, Blake Long knows where I’m living spiritually these days, because he writes Keep Fighting in Theology & Life as an encouragement in the battle against sin. As with most of his devotionals, this one is short and easy to read, but full of rich truth. You can chew on it for quite a while.

What if I decide something that’s not in God’s will? asks one of Elizabeth Prata’s readers. Elizabeth responds in The End Time with Biblical wisdom. She doesn’t appeal to mystical models of guidance, but rather directs us back to Christian maturity. And isn’t maturity what we really need?

Blog Break

Without going into detail, John’s been hospitalized since last Wednesday. He’s improving, and may be home soon, but meanwhile I have little time (and even less interest) in blogging. My archives are always there for your perusal. And Saturday Sampler will appear as usual.

The Lord is being merciful through this trial. People are praying and providing practical help. God is faithful.

Saturday Sampler: April 16 — April 22

Christian, be a Student of God’s Word says Blake Long in a post for Theology & Life. He explains the importance of knowing the Bible, even if we start out reading it just a few minutes each day. I especially appreciated his sensitivity towards people who feel discouraged or overwhelmed by Scripture; if you struggle in this area, perhaps Blake’s words will give you the encouragement you need.

Why would Clint Archer write about a deceased spelunker to comment on The First Easter Sermon that Peter gave at Pentecost? His fascinating blog post, which appears in The Cripplegate, answers this burning question.

Taking us through the book of Esther, Cindy Matson demonstrates God’s Providence Despite Bad Leadership. This article in Bible Study Nerd brings out aspects of the account that I’d never noticed, particularly in her analysis of Mordecai. As you read Cindy’s piece, please be sure to carefully read her footnote regarding abuse, lest you misunderstand her point.

In my younger years (though I feel embarrassed to admit it), I’d sometimes make the error of interpreting portions of the Bible through the grid of my experience. So I applaud Leslie A of Growing 4 Life for combating this attitude with What Determines What You Believe About God? She pinpoints common ways in which evangelicals substitute worldly assumptions for spiritual insight that actually draw us away from the Lord. Boy, do we need the wisdom that she puts forth in this excellent piece!

The author of Walk Wisely on Gentle Reformation remains anonymous, but she or he makes some fascinating points regarding the relationship between internet usage and time management. The post challenges Christians to use our time wisely, knowing that the world is getting darker.

Michelle Lesley shares some valuable thoughts in Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do With It? She deals with the common misunderstanding that speaking the truth in love equals never offending anyone, even if we know she’s harming herself.

John’s been in the hospital since Wednesday, which is rough on both of us (he’s my primary caregiver). So Jacob Crouch’s poem, All the Way to Heaven’s Shore, encourages me, You can find it on Aliens and Pilgrims. Maybe some of you will need its refreshment as much as I did.

Flashback Friday: Who Determines What We Need?

Hi ladies, John went to the emergency room Wednesday, and was transferred to a hospital in Boston that evening. He’s improving, but of course the separation is hard on both of us since he’s my primary caregiver. The Lord’s grace has been phenomenal, and I praise Him for His care. But I came across this post that I wrote April 20, 2020 and thought it fit our present situation perfectly. I pray that He will use it to minister to some of you.

Spring Tree

Yesterday our pastor preached the second sermon in a three-part series on the Lord’s Prayer. As he expounded on the clause, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he made the distinction between needs and wants that most preachers make when preaching on this clause.  I expected no less from him.

I got more than I expected, however.

He commented that God, because He is sovereign, gets to determine what our actual needs are.

Did you catch that?

We might think we know our needs, but the Lord knows what we really need in order to better conform to His image. Health might enable someone to go on the mission field, for instance, but sickness might enable someone else to proclaim the Gospel to medical personnel and caregivers. A new car might enable someone to give people rides to church, while an old car with problems might teach someone else patience and dependence on the Lord. Only God knows what each person truly needs to glorify Him.

Such thinking goes against the entitlement mentality that permeates Western society so deeply that even Christians fall into it. So often, we convince ourselves that we deserve certain blessings. And when the Lord denies us those blessings, we convince ourselves that we He is cheating us. We usually don’t admit to feeling cheated, of course, but we do feel that way.

And we allow those feelings to fester until we’re angry.

We’ve all seen angry rants on Facebook by people who deem their circumstances unfair and think their lives should be easier. Sadly, some of these rants come from professing Christians. Perhaps they’ve even come from you! And we allow ourselves to think that God tolerates our rants because our adverse circumstances offend Him as much as they offend us.

The truth is, dear ladies, those circumstances that we fancy as offending Him are probably circumstances that He designed to glorify Himself in our lives.

65 You have dealt well with your servant,
    O Lord, according to your word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
    for I believe in your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
    but now I keep your word.
68 You are good and do good;
    teach me your statutes.
69 The insolent smear me with lies,
    but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
70 their heart is unfeeling like fat,
    but I delight in your law.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
    that I might learn your statutes.
72 The law of your mouth is better to me
    than thousands of gold and silver pieces. ~~Psalm 119:65-72 (ESV)

That’s decidedly not a “best life now” passage, but it demonstrates a deep faith in God’s good purposes as He brings us through trials that we want to avoid. The psalmist doesn’t shake an angry fist at His adversity. On the contrary, he praises God for bringing him to repentance through them and affirms that affliction has brought him closer to God.

Our needs, you see, go far deeper than our temporal well-being. More than anything else. we need those things that draw us closer to the Lord and enable us to glorify Him. He alone knows what those needs really are.

When We See Samson And Lose Sight Of The Lord

Hebrews 11:32 includes Samson in the “Hall of Faith,” implying that we can look to him as an example worth following. If you’ve read the history of Samson in Judges 13-16, you may feel somewhat puzzled by this apparent tribute to him. Throughout his adult life, this man repeatedly ignored the Lord’s claim on him (Judges 13:7, 13-14), by defiling himself with heathen women (Judges 14:1-3, 16:1, 4) and engaging in ceremonially unclean practices, (Judges 14:6-9, 15:15). The Lord used Samson’s rebellious behavior to accomplish His purpose of conquering the Philistines, certainly, but it remains that Samson was a disgusting man.

If you’re like me, you probably dislike Samson and scratch your head at his commendation in Hebrews 11:32. Furthermore, you wish you could just skip Judges 13-16 altogether. Many of the people in the book of Judges are distasteful, to be sure, but there’s something particularly annoying about Samson. As we read about his actions, our stomach turns in revulsion, Why did the Holy Spirit devote four chapters of His Holy Word to someone so despicable, and then centuries later inspire a New Testament writer to list him among the heroes of the faith?

As I came to this portion of God’s Word this past Saturday, I prayed that God would help me see Him in the passage. Maybe that sounds like a strange prayer, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it’s a necessary one.

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