Blog Like A Lady

Ladies Study 04I have to say I’ve often believed that I knew more about Scripture than some of the male pastors and teachers I sat under. Sometimes, I actually did! I remember times I wished I could bump a guy out of the pulpit so that I could correct errors in his preaching. But of course, God’s Word clearly states that women have no business teaching mixed groups or holding positions of authority over men within the church.

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. ~~1 Timothy 2:11-15 (ESV)

The question of women writing Christian blogs naturally arises as we wrestle with this passage, as I’ve already mentioned in my post, “I Can, But That Doesn’t Mean I Should.” This past week, my fellow blogger and online friend Elizabeth Prata wrote “What about a woman who blogs? Is she violating scripture by teaching men?” I passed her essay on to my husband, who agrees with pretty much everything she wrote.

Elizabeth’s article both offered me freedom and helped me establish boundaries in terms of The Outspoken TULIP. Certainly, I know men who could learn a thing or two from many of my posts, but they could also learn those things (and more than likely learn them better) by reading blogs authored by men. Sure, it flatters my ego when men let me know that they’ve read my posts. But I do this blog in order to honor the Lord, not to puff myself up.

Tony Miano’s post, “Christian Women Bloggers: Maintaining God-Intended Femininity,” is perhaps the most helpful contribution to the conversation on Christian women  bloggers that I’ve read to date. His point about behaving in ways that become femininity struck a chord with me. I want to be lady-like as I encourage women toward discernment.

So yes, I direct this blog toward women. If men read it, I pray they’ll do so with the goal of screening my theology before passing it along to their wives. God’s Word limits women to teaching women and children, and I want to remain as faithful and obedient to Him while using my natural gift of writing and my spiritual gifts of teaching and exhortation. I desire this blog to exalt Christ by both proclaiming and obeying His Word.

Blessings Lesser And Greatest

Courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Yesterday, John and I took advantage of the one “good weather” day of this week by visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. As I often do when I take advantage of Boston’s myriad of historical attractions and cultural opportunities, I wondered why the Lord has given me so many earthly blessings. Living in the Greater Boston Area has definitely given me experiences that delight me, causing me to praise God for sovereignly bringing me here. Yet I know I don’t deserve His grace in bringing me to this magnificent part of the country.

In savoring the memories of yesterday’s excursion, I see an interesting juxtaposition between the rarefied privilege of seeing great art (including sketches by Michelangelo and Raphael) and the short passage of Scripture that John and I read earlier that morning.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. ~~Ephesians 1:3-6 (ESV)

“Every spiritual blessing,” Paul says. And yet, I so easily content myself with temporal blessings like visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. It seems, actually, that most people, when we think of blessings, almost always think of the good things in life here and  now. Sometimes we even attribute those good things to God, rightly acknowledging His worthiness of our praise and thanksgiving. I have every reason to praise and thank Him for all that He does for me.

But as I admired the splendid courtyard at the Museum’s hub and gazed on the rich paintings and enormous tapestries, I realized that it was all worthless junk in comparison to the treasure of belonging to Christ. And Boston, the city I love with a passion, could never fill me with the joy and wonder of heaven, where I’ll finally see the face of my glorious Savior. How I worship Him, even now, for graciously saving my from my sin and clothing me  in His righteousness!

All the truly  wonderful things the Lord has allowed me to enjoy now seem so superficial when I measure them against the spiritual blessings that the Father gives me in Christ. Yes, I praise Him for yesterday’s visit to the museum. I had a fabulous time! But I praise Him even more for those spiritual blessings that I’ll enjoy in His eternal kingdom.

I Will Ever Sing To Thee

My heart breaks as I watch young people (and sometimes not-so-young people) reject the guidance God gives us through His Word in favor of the world’s supposed wisdom. Several people I love have wandered from the precepts of Scripture and, as a result, have greatly damaged their lives.

I could have made the same mistake. But in His mercy, the Lord kept pulling me back to His Word, guiding me to live in repentance and obedience. As I learn His principles for living a holy life, I find myself following Him. Far from a mystical experience, I simply apply His Word in various situations and then see His providence as He orders my circumstances.

Today’s hymn reminds me of His faithfulness in directing my life. I pray that my prodigal loved ones will return to His leadership so that they can sing songs of praises to Him.

Why Blog About Cannoli Quests?

Cannoli quest 05This past week, I’ve been enjoying the DVD of Julie and Julia (courtesy of Netflix). I loved the story of  Julie Powell’s blog, and found myself identifying with many of her emotional responses to blogging. Of course, I found myself nurturing feelings of jealousy that her blog gained such notoriety, especially thinking that my last blog never exceeded 200 views in a single day…even after 9 years. This blog has gotten up to 63 hits on its best days, which tells me that most of my old readers have not followed me over here.

John pointed out that more people care about food than about Christianity. Well, yeah. He makes a good point. If I blogged, for example, about the joys and challenges of  navigating Boston in power wheelchairs, I’d probably attract more readers. But that sort of blog no longer interests me.

Whether Jesus returns during  my lifetime or 2000 years from now, I believe that Christians in the United States have  very little time to publicly proclaim the Gospel. Furthermore, I believe way too many people who call themselves evangelicals have abandoned clear Biblical teaching in favor of “Christian” fads that feed their fleshly appetites rather than drawing them to the meat of God’s Word.

In addition, I turn 62 this week. Consequently, I feel what few abilities I have slipping away. To put it bluntly, I enjoy typing less and less as it requires more and more time and effort. So far, I still take pleasure in blogging, but I realize my body won’t let me type this much forever. I don’t want to waste what little time I have  blogging about driving my wheelchair through Boston’s North End in search of cannolis when I can use that time to call people to the Lord.

Sure, I’d like higher numbers in my blog stats for selfish reasons (I’m not going to lie). But I also have more  noble reasons. I want more people to know the Lord, and I  want more professing Christians to make sure they follow the true Jesus. I earnestly believe Biblical Christianity is on the brink of having to go underground in my country, so I  sense an urgency to get the Gospel out to as many people as possible. Julie Powell only offered a narrative of cooking through Julia Child’s recipes. I proclaim the eternal Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis…I’m Not Fawning

The 498th anniversary of Martin Luther’s launch of the Protestant Reformation is 36 days from now, and I plan to blog more extensively about it at that time. The excitement over Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, however, causes me to wonder if 21 Century American Protestants remember why we left Roman Catholicism in the first place. I anticipate sharing more detailed posts about the Reformation and its doctrinal foundations later next month, but today I simply want to voice my frustration over the adoration that overflows for this man…especially from those who represent evangelical teaching.

For example, I found this little gem on my Twitter feed this morning:

Warren and JakesTo be fair, I have no way to verify the authenticity of this Tweet, but I do know that Warren minimizes the differences between Roman Catholic and Protestant theologies.  The following video shows his attempts to blur doctrinal lines:

Of course, Warren completely ignores that the Council of Trent, which convened between the years 1545 and 1563 in reaction to the Reformation, specifically repudiates the foundational teaching that salvation comes solely by faith in Christ’s work on the cross. Consider Session VI, Canon IX of that Council.

CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema. (Source)

The Council of Trent still stands, even after Vatican II. Therefore, official Catholic teaching directly contradicts Galatians 2:16. In its dogma that salvation requires human cooperation in addition to Christ’s work on the cross, they preach a very different gospel than the Gospel that the great Reformers saw in Scripture. God’s Word condemns those who preach false gospels.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. ~~Galatians 1:6-9 (ESV)

I have no quarrel with Roman Catholics and those who don’t claim to be Protestants swooning over Pope Francis. But Protestants (and especially evangelicals) need to remember the Biblical doctrine for which men and women of the Reformation suffered and died. Doctrinal purity mattered a great deal to them at that time. Shouldn’t it matter just as much to us?

Don’t Upstage Him

Spotlight on GodMany teachings and practices in  contemporary evangelical  culture trouble me so deeply that I feel compelled to comment on them. Each time we  attempt to blend Scripture and worldly wisdom,  we erode God’s  Word just a little bit more. We institute the same errors (repackaged so that we don’t recognize them) that the writers of the New Testament epistles sought to correct. While I grieve that 21st Century evangelicals have repeated the mistakes of the 1st Century, I welcome the opportunity to stand for Biblical Christianity.

Having said the above, I see a danger in focusing so tightly on the problems within evangelical circles that we lose sight of Christ Himself. I advocate for sound doctrine, yes. Absolutely! But I don’t regard sound doctrine as an end in itself. Rather, I cherish it as the  means the Holy Spirit has provided to reveal Christ to us.

As Biblical doctrine reveals both Christ’s nature and His perspective on a variety of matters, I gain intimate knowledge of Him. I know how He views various issues because Scripture addresses those issues. Therefore, I read the Bible out of my desire to know Him and adjust my life in accordance with His values. I study His Word as abundantly  more than an intellectual exercise (although I definitely engage my mind), but also as impetus to worship Him.

Let me show you one of my  very favorite passages of Scripture:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

I love this passage because it teaches Christ’s deity, His majesty and His humility in dying for us. I can’t read it without being drawn to worship Him as my Creator and my Redeemer, as well as the centerpoint of His creation! These rich words remind me that everything revolves around Him to bring Him the honor and glory that He alone deserves!

Understanding doctrine and proper application of Biblical principles  can’t serve merely to stimulate our intellect.  As 1 Corinthians 8:1 says, knowledge for its own sake does little more than inflate the ego. I will examine false teachings and disturbing trends within evangelical circles, measuring them against the Word of God, but not for the purpose of impressing people with any theological skill I might have. Instead, I desire to draw you back to the Bible’s purity, which in turn will turn your attention to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love Requires Holy Hatred

Sin, although it’s now inherently embedded in human nature, grieves the Lord so deeply that He came to earth as a Man (while not ceasing to be God) and died as a substitute for us, thus atoning for our sin. He rose again, breaking the power sin has over us. If you tBlood of Christhink seriously about His action, you’ll realize that He doesn’t gloss over our disobedience.

God created us in His image. I’m not skilled enough in theology to fully understand all that being created in His image means, but much of it centers on reflecting His character. He created us to be holy, as He is Holy. When we sin, of course, our thoughts, attitudes and actions are anything but holy, and therefore we pervert His image. In other words, we become soiled…we obscure any resemblance to His character. And because His holiness can’t accommodate our unholiness, we separate ourselves from Him. Even when we accept Jesus, thus receiving His mercy and wonderful forgiveness, sin still distorts His image in us.

The good news is that the Holy Spirit gives us power to refrain from sin. We have the responsibility to appropriate that power, certainly, and I pray that my blog posts will encourage my readers to do so. I pray that they will encourage me to do so. We can obey Him, showing the world that He really does transform lives! We can live in holiness, reflecting Him to a world that desperately needs hope.

What we, in our self-absorption, call “responsibility” (heaving a weary sigh of martyrdom) is actually a glorious privilege, and we should rejoice that God allows us the honor of representing Him to a world that desperately needs Him. As 2 Corinthians 5:20 says, we are Christ’s ambassadors, showing others that, through Jesus, human beings can be reconciled to God.

When I give into anger, or when you give into whatever sin that seems to be part of “who you are,” God’s reputation is maligned by those who reject Him. Thus, we grossly distort His image. Frankly, I hate sin when I see it locking people away from the blessings of God. Often, I’m accused of being judgmental, bigoted, legalistic and (most recently, to my amusement) toxic. But I love people enough to hate the sin that imprisons them.

I hope you’ll love me enough to hate my sin.

Distinctively Loving

Rainbow HeartWhen, pray tell, did liberal culture determine that standing for Biblical values, particularly (but not exclusively) in relation to homosexuality, constitutes hate? The very people that demand love and tolerance from Christians show the least tolerance toward those who view their lifestyle as sinful.

And yes, I realize that people claim homosexuality as an identity rather than a behavior. I even sympathize with their conviction that homosexuality is “who” they are. In most cases, such people have genuinely felt different from their same sex peers early in childhood, and sometime during puberty they sexualize this feeling. Therefore, they understandably conclude that they were “born gay.”

Admittedly, I present an over-simplification of the situation, but not as much of an over-simplification as many might have us believe. I only mean to say that I reject the notion that anyone consciously decides to experience same sex attraction.

Yet I also make a distinction between a person and their behavior. For example, I struggle with the sins of anger, greed and, selfishness, all of which I’ve exhibited  since early childhood. Scripture condemns these behaviors, even though I have reason to say, “That’s just who I am.” In obedience to the Lord, I repent of those thoughts, attitudes and behaviors, separating them from my identity. Similarly, I believe homosexual thoughts, attitudes and behavior don’t obligate a person to declare homosexuality as intrinsic to his identity.

Postmodern  culture demands that I make no such distinction. When I say that the Bible uniformly condemns homosexuality just as it condemns my ingrained sins of anger, greed and selfishness, people accuse me of bigotry and hatred. I resign myself to the reality that they characterize Biblical Christians in such terms, but I believe they make a mistake in so doing. Furthermore, I believe they err by judging Christians as haters.

The prevailing sentiment of postmodern society insists that we love people only by agreeing with their behavior. Love, according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, never requires a capitulation to sin.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

Love requires Christians to extend kindness with an attitude of humility, but it also does not allow us to celebrate sin. My husband responds to my outbursts of anger with patience, for example, but he never condones them and he expects me to repent of anger. He wants me to repent precisely because he loves me enough to encourage me to obey Christ.

I don’t mind if liberal culture calls me to address people with kindness and patience. But I do have a hard time when they decide that I’m unloving simply because I believe that God’s Word prohibits homosexuality. Such an assessment shows an incomplete understanding of love.

Rock Solid Faith

So many spiritual theories, some even claiming to represent Christianity, swirl around us, all vying for our attention. And all, either openly or subtly, elevating humanity over Christ. Those who stand firmly on Scripture, convinced that it alone is God’s medium of communication with man, risk everything from occasional ridicule to outright persecution…sometimes even from those who profess to be believers.

As American culture grows increasingly intolerant of Biblical Christianity, we must cling to the Lord with even greater tenacity. He must be our only focus. All man-centered philosophies will shift beneath our feet, compromising our balance so that we fall. Therefore, like the writer of today’s hymn, I recognize that my only security comes from Christ.