Thanksgiving With Bing Crosby Is Nothing Like Thanksgiving With The Apostle Paul

One night last week, I had trouble sleeping. As the clock edged toward 1:30, I reluctantly woke John up and asked him for a pill — which took longer than it should have to do anything. As I lay there feeling exasperated, I thought of that Bing Crosby song about falling asleep counting your blessings. Those of you old enough to remember Bing Crosby will enjoy this clip from his movie, White Christmas, while you younger gals need it for a little context to this article.

All right, I decided to give it a try. Since my pastor has been preaching through Ephesians and I’ve been watching Susan Heck teach her series on Ephesians, however, I thought it would be cool if I counted my spiritual blessings that the Bible lists. Don’t get me wrong, I praise God for all the temporal blessings He’s lavished on me. But the sermons and teachings I’ve been hearing from Ephesians have given me an even broader perspective on His goodness towards me.

So I thought I’d take you through some verses in Ephesians 1 that reveal a few of the blessings that belong to every Christian.

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Saturday Sampler: November 13 — November 19

Does “only God know the heart”? Or are there cases when we do too? Elizabeth Prata tackles these questions in The End Time, showing us several instances in which the Bible refutes the popular notion that Christians can’t judge the hearts of false teachers. She makes a convincing case. See if she convinces you.

On the Building Jerusalem blog, Stephen Kneale calls us to Win them with the Word instead of using pragmatic strategies to attract people to Christ. Having been in a church which tried gimmick after gimmick in their feeble attempts to grow the size of their congregation, I greatly appreciated everything in this post. Even though it primarily targets pastors, this post can apply to our personal evangelism. Jesus told us to make disciples, not mere converts.

Writing for The Majesty’s Men, Gabriel Hughes shares My Top 10 Favorite Worship Songs on the CCLI Top 100 (Part I) to refresh our appreciation of doctrinally sound music. He goes through each song explaining its background and demonstrating why he considers it great. His then shows us his favorite part.

Stephen Spinnenweber, in his article for Reformation 21, leads us into the Thanksgiving holiday by musing on The Christian’s Double Satisfaction. I’d never really thought about the joy I derive, not just from the many blessings in my life, but in knowing Who gave me those blessings. If you want to enrich your thanksgiving to the Lord, this article is what you need!

Continuing his series on worship music as a key factor in introducing Pentecostal sentiment into the Church at large, David De Bruyan gives a brief (and eye opening) history of Christian music. Strange Lyre: Early Beginnings of Pentecostal Worship appears on the G3 Blog, providing background information to explain how we got to today’s praise music. Keep on the lookout for future installments — I have a feeling we’re all going to learn a lot from this series.

I’ve written a lot about impending persecution that will come as we are faithful to the Gospel. R. Scott Clark of The Heidleblog writes How Did Christians Speak In Public? to put my assertions into historical context and demonstrate how Christians in earlier centuries spoke boldly in the face of opposition. It’s a lengthy and intellectually challenging read, but if I did it while fighting a headache, I have every confidence that you can do it.

“But Jesus Hung Out With Sinners”

Very often these days, professing Christians will defend their affirmation of the LBGTQ community, cohabitation, casual use of recreational drugs or other sinful practices by arguing that many friends of Jesus lived in openly sinful lifestyles. They strengthen their case by adding that He reserved His harshest words for members of the religious establishment. Their hope is to shame us into affirming sinful behaviors, implying that Christlike love would never so much as suggest the idea of repentance from desires that feel so natural. Indeed, they demand that we can show Christ’s love only by condoning those desires and their consequent actions.

Their strategy usually works because we know that the Pharisees delighted in calling Jesus out for dining with sinners and tax collectors. We certainly don’t want anyone to equate us with the self-righteous Pharisees! So we hem and haw, trying to find ways to soften our stance (or, more accurately, protect our reputations). After all, our critics rightly say that Jesus hung out with sinners.

So we must agree with them to some degree. But then we must ask them whether or not Jesus actually gave His approval to the sin of the people in His company. If so, He compromised His Father’s righteous standards, giving us license to disregard everything He taught about holiness. If our critics maintain that He really did lend approval to the sin of those at table with Him, we should open our Bibles to Matthew 9 to provide a little context to Jesus’ actions.

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Saturday Sampler: November 6 — November 12

All of us teach the Bible in some capacity. Few of us officially lead Bible Study groups, perhaps, but we disciple other women and/or teach the Word to children. So Ryan Higgionbottom’s How to Make the Bible Come Alive in Knowable Word can encourage you. Actually, I think his post even applies to our expectations in reading the Bible for ourselves.

Leave it to Elizabeth Prata to blog Of Tweet-storms, cauldrons, and cesspools in The End Time. Standing firmly for truth has cost Elizabeth a lot, but she remains steadfast in her obedience to God. Her recent experience may inspire you to follow her example.

Writing for Gentle Reformation, Kyle E. Sims makes a comparison between going to the gym regularly and being faithful in our devotional time with the Lord. Stick To It isn’t a sanctimonious lecture scolding us for giving up on our Bible reading plans, however. Pastor Sims addresses us with compassion, helping us work through a few common struggles in maintaining a healthy devotional life. You might appreciate his encouragement.

Leading up to Thanksgiving, Michelle Lesley lists 25 Things I Forgot to Thank God For. Although this post is a repeat of one she wrote several years ago, its points haven’t aged one bit! Perhaps the Lord will use it to remind you of reasons to express your thanks to Him. (I especially like #22.)

David De Bruyan introduces his new series for the G3 Blog with Strange Lyre: The Pentecostalization of Christian Worship. I suspect his view won’t win him any popularity contests, but please take time to prayerfully consider what he has to say. You might be surprised (and even a little challenged) by his presentation, and maybe you can then think through the music in your own church.

Responding to the growing sympathy towards Christian Nationalism within some Reformed circles, Fivepointer of Hipandthigh writes Ecumenical Nationalism to question whether or not we should compromise pure devotion to the Lord for the sake of political gain. Please consider his argument.

Our God Reigns: The Foundation of Christian Conviction by Henry Anderson is both challenging and encouraging. This contribution to The Cripplegate depends on Scripture to make the connection between God’s sovereignty and our ability to be faithful to Him — even in the face of persecution.

The Unnecessary Complications Of Mystical “Christianity”

My church in California used to present two plays each year — one on the Sunday before Christmas and one on Good Friday. Often, I got to help with both writing and directing. After one Good Friday play, one of the actors I’d directed gave me a thank you gift: Andrew Murray’s book, Abide In Christ.

The book left me frustrated, convincing me yet again of my failure to achieve intimacy with Christ.

Being in a Charismatic church, I’d been taught that God wanted to satisfy me completely and only with Himself. In fact, my desire to be married (the woman who led the Women’s Ministry assured me) indicated a profound deficit in my relationship with Jesus. She gave me The Song Of Songs by Watchman Nee to help me understand Jesus as my Husband. A pastor’s wife gave me Hannah Hurnard’s Hinds Feet In High Places for the same reason. And each of those books left me feeling guilty over my apparent inability to abide in Christ.

Avoid those books and others like them. While promising joy and fulfillment, they actually place burdens on Christians to develop a type of intimacy with Christ that goes beyond what the Bible describes. Yes, Jesus does call us to abide in Him, and He promises to abide in us. But elevating those principles to the level of mystical experience deviates from the clear teaching of Scripture and sets people (especially single women) up for unnecessary frustration. Therefore, why don’t we take a few minutes to talk about abiding in Christ from the Lord’s perspective?

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“I Don’t Need To Be Taught To Love My Husband And Children!”

Like most 21st Century brides, I was totally in love when I wheeled down the aisle in that white gown and veil. Being almost 49, I didn’t cultivate as many romantic illusions as younger brides do, but I definitely enjoyed the euphoric anticipation of spending my life with such an incredible man. How could loving him be anything but easy? And actually, 20 years later, I still find it easy to love him most of the time. In fact, it often puzzles me when people say marriage takes a lot of hard work — it has been relatively effortless for me.

Although I couldn’t be a mother, I was pretty close to my two nieces while they were growing up. Occasionally I’d inwardly grumble about playing with Barbie dolls or teaching them to lose graciously at checkers, but mostly I savored my time with each of them. Loving these little girls came effortlessly. I treasure memories of tender conversations and funny remarks, and I’m proud of the beautiful young women they’ve become. Loving them is difficult now only because marriage took me 3000 miles away from them. If I have such strong feelings as a mere aunt, I can only imagine the incredible love mothers have for their own children!

Doesn’t a women’s love for her husband and children come naturally? In one sense, it does. But let’s go back to Titus 2:3-5, focusing on verse 4.

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. (NASB95)

Why would younger women need encouragement to love their husbands and children? Was Paul really that ignorant of female emotions? To answer that question, let me take you to the two Greek words translated as “love,” and then discuss how to apply them as we relate to our families.

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When Scripture Dismantles My Blog Post

I pretty much knew what I wanted to say, so I started writing the introduction to my latest post on Titus 2:3-5 Monday. My back hurt from having to spend the weekend in bed due to a lack of Personal Care Attendant coverage, so typing was slow and painful. I knew I needed to check the Greek for the word translated as “love” in verse 4, although I’ve always assumed it was “agape.” I promised myself I’d look it up Tuesday, when my back would feel better.

Tuesday my PCA didn’t feel well, and didn’t want to come in case she had COVID. (Thankfully, it’s just a very mild cold, so she came back Wednesday.) My backup PCA had car troubles, so I spent Tuesday in bed, mentally revising part of my introduction. Of course, Wednesday I had pain from spending another day in bed, and unexpected company ate an hour that I’d planned to use for blogging. When I finally got to my blog, I chose to rewrite my second paragraph before looking up the Greek. Again, the pain slowed my typing, and consequently I was simply too exhausted to do research.

Thursday, I actually did look up the Greek word rendered “love” in Titus 2:4. To my surprise, Paul used two Greek words — one for loving husbands and one for loving children. That’s very interesting, and I will restructure my article according to the correct definitions of those words. But of course I’ll need to first think through the proper application of the verse in light of those definitions.

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Throwback Thursday: One Little German Monk

I originally published this article on October 23, 2015 — two years before the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. A few minor points are therefore outdated, and would distract from the overall message unless I acknowledged their presence. That said, I pray this throwback will aid your understanding of why I celebrate Reformation Day.

The world may celebrate on October 31st for unholy reasons, but I see it as a day of rejoicing. On that day, 498 years ago, a little German monk changed world history simply because he believed the Bible.

As a young law student, Martin Luther abruptly changed course and entered a monastery, believing that St. Anne had protected him from a near-fatal lightening strike. Once he’d become an Augustinian priest, however, he  found  himself continually struggling to find assurance of  salvation.  He flung himself into fasting, penitence, and ritual, agonizing in his efforts to appease God. One of his mentors encouraged him to look to Christ alone. That,  Luther could not do. He’d been taught, by the Church of Rome, that God’s favor must be earned (just as he had earned St. Anne’s protection in the storm  by vowing to become a monk).

Seeing Luther’s bright intellect, his superiors sent him to Rome, where he began noticing that the vibrant faith of early Christians had been replaced by the dead rituals of Catholicism. Disturbed by this observation, he felt further alienation from God, though he continued his priestly duties.

Upon arriving at the monastery in Whittenberg, Germany, Luther earned his doctorate in theology. This degree brought him into a teaching position at the University of Whittenberg. His preparations for his course on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans revolutionized his relationship with the Lord by convincing him that faith was the only criterion for salvation. He wrote:

My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning…This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.

Once Luther experienced the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, he grew even more troubled by the Roman church’s practices–particularly the practice of selling indulgences.

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Why Should We Care About Something That Happened 505 Years Ago?

Here in the United States of America, our collective attention centers on the midterm elections. Inflation and abortion dominate as the two major issues, causing this election cycle to be a referendum on (respectively) the Biden administration and the Supreme Court. It’s quite appropriate that Christians, in our desire to be salt and light to a culture that thumbs its nose at God’s laws, would be deeply concerned about what happens on November 8.

As critical as the midterm elections are, it troubles me that very few Christians have any concern about what happened in Germany on October 31, 1517. Actually, most Christians think of October 31 as a reason to debate whether or not to participate in Halloween. When you mention the Protestant Reformation, they give you a quizzical look and hasten to change the subject.

I admit to once being indifferent to the topic, even as for a Christian. During my Freshman year of college, my Political Science professor covered it briefly, pretty much attributing it to Martin Luther’s chronic bouts of constipation. For decades, I knew little about Luther beyond his digestive problems. Furthermore, I didn’t really think the Protestant Reformation had much to do with me. I believe most Christians share that indifference.

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Having Jesus Fit Our Expectations

Once again, there’s another “evangelistic” campaign floating around which emphasizes God’s love at the expense of mentioning topics like sin, wrath and judgment. I choose not to name this latest movement primarily because it will most likely fade away quickly and be replaced by a repackaged version of the same basic error. Frankly, this emphasis is nothing new; in my over 50 years as a Christian, I’ve seen it crop up numberless times. (I also prefer not to give this campaign publicity.)

Scripture gives us good reason to trust that Jesus understands everything we experience as human beings, and therefore sympathizes with our struggles. A wonderful passage in Hebrews assures us of His ability to empathize with our suffering.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~~Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB95)

This passage fills us with comfort, as well it should! We all have times — often protracted times, actually — when troubles lead us into the temptations of anxiety, self-pity and despair. In such times, we crave assurance that Jesus stands beside us, giving us far more empathy than our friends and family ever could. So we rejoice that we have such a faithful and understanding Friend Who willingly goes through our trials with us. And if we don’t rejoice in His empathy, we should! Dear sisters in Christ, please never forget how deeply He cares, even when it seems as if nothing will ever be right again.

At the same time, focusing too much on the Lord’s compassion has a serious drawback that causes a skewed perception of Him. Speaking from both personal experience and observations of some of the ways my friends have dealt with struggles, I firmly believe that we often emphasize His compassion so much that we forget His holiness.

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