I Do It!

Tulips01Although many years have passed and she’s now a grown woman, the memory of the child frowning with insistent determination remains vivid. Nearing her second birthday, she was developing a sense of autonomy, causing her to react to her mother’s attempts to help her by screwing up her reddened face and shrieking, “I do it!” Typical of a toddler, she’d punctuate her personal declaration of independence by kicking and swatting, pretty much forcing her mother to back off and allow her to accomplish the task without adult intervention.

So many adults behave that way toward God, seeking salvation, spiritual well-being and purpose through human effort. Prayers, meditation, good deeds and/or spiritual exercises promise that they can achieve God’s presence, favor, karma or blessing through their own efforts. Human potential…isn’t that the article of faith? When all is said and done, God is really an extension of them, so their rituals release that which is divine in them.

They may couch their human potential faith in Biblical terminology, even acknowledging that (in a certain sense) God is outside them, but even then they believe that He somehow depends on their actions.They recount having “made a decision for Christ,” proudly displaying the date carefully written in their Bibles as iron-clad proof of their conversions. They talk about their spiritual gifts of “speaking in tongues” and “discerning demonic spirits,” pointing to subjective experiences of “words” from God.

Or they may draw more on Eastern Mysticism, employing yoga, breathing techniques, or Tai Chi to release whatever “spiritual entity” that dwells within them. Attempts at altruism may be their chosen vehicle, or religious practices like prayer beads. They “pray through” labyrinths (that chalk one on Boston Commons creeps me out), mediate while coloring intricate mandalas in “adult coloring books,” pray “breath prayers” or have erotic dates with Jesus.

And if they’re not Charismatic, they dazzle you with their firm grasp on eschatology or how many Bible verses they’ve memorized. They attend every church activity without fail, and  “serve” on several committees. Even daily Bible reading, done with the attitude that getting through a certain  amount of chapters per day, can be perverted into a way to merit God’s applause.

But God simply isn’t impressed with our attempts to reach Him. From His perspective, human potential is, frankly, putrid to Him.

We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. ~~Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

The phrase, “filthy rags” means menstrual cloths–eww! Not a very flattering image of human efforts to actuate God’s power, is it? This ugly verse, however, is only one of many to expose humanity’s helplessness to  redeem itself. I’ve chosen to use it here because its graphic imagery shocks me (and hopefully shocks you) into realizing that He despises our attempts to earn His regard.

God cannot accept human offerings (unless they come with humble acknowledgment that even those offerings originally come from Him) because He will not share His glory. He declares that we cannot do it. That we are intrinsically helpless…completely dependent on the Lord.Yet, wondrously, that very helplessness opens the way for Him to reach us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. ~~Romans 5:6 (ESV)

He calls us to lay aside our repugnant endeavors to attain His favor, blessing or power, realizing that He does it! His work on the Cross finished everything, and His Resurrection from the dead gives us power that comes only from Him. We can kick and scream like tyrannical babies all we want, and He may abandon us to our delusions of autonomy. But the true Christian finds peace in surrendering to the Lord’s soothing reassurance: “It is finished.”

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From Rancid To Wonderful

About a year and a half ago, John MacArthur’s Grace To You radio program highlighted various ways that Christians can, and should, bring glory to God. The Lord used those lessons back then to challenge the self-focused attitudes that I’ve incorporated into my supposed worship of Him. And since that time, His Spirit has faithfully reminded me of those challenges, especially lately as my pastor has been preaching through Luke 1. As much as I hate to admit it, far too often I have the same rancid attitude that Victoria Osteen famously touted:

I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God-I mean, that’s one way to look at it-we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy.

Ahem! Mrs. Osteen and I  miss the entire point of serving God when we turn obedience into a means to self-fulfillment. Certainly, serving Him does lead to joy, but not the narcissistic happiness that she implies. If we obey Him for our own benefit, we betray a lack of concern for His glory. And that lack of concern misses the entire point of worship. Worship centers completely around Jesus Christ.

In the book of Revelation, the apostle John gives us a few glimpses of the pure worship that will happen in heaven. Let me give you one example:
11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped. ~~Revelation 5:11-14 (ESV)
None of the worshipers makes any mention of self, but rather total attention gravitates to the Lamb (Jesus Christ). He is the entire reason they loudly praise Him. They don’t do it to whip up their emotions so that Christ can enjoy their happiness, although they undoubtedly feel tremendous joy. Instead, their personal joy is secondary to the glory that rightly belongs to Him.
Contrary to Victoria Osteen’s self-centered declaration (which exposed how truly unbiblical her husband’s ministry is), we worship the Lord Jesus Christ solely because He deserves our praises. I wish time today permitted me to show you some of the many Scriptures that point to Who He is and what He’s done, just to deepen your understanding of why worship must focus entirely on Him. (Our Thursday studies of Ephesians 2:1-10 should help in that regard.) But today, let me simply get you used to the idea of worship being about Him.
Colossians 1:15-20 has probably been the most influential passage in helping me understand why everything (and most particularly worship) absolutely has to revolve solely around the Lord Jesus Christ.

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. (ESV)

My beloved sisters in Christ, can you see how these five verses clearly establish Christ’s preeminence over His creation? Don’t you notice that He holds every molecule together? Won’t you tremble with adoration at the thought that our Creator, the sovereign King over heaven and earth, shed His precious blood to restore everything to Himself? What a magnificent God!
The Lord has used MacArthur to rouse me out of my self-centered attitude to remind me that God created me to bring pleasure to Him. May I start living with that frame of mind, knowing that He deserves all the praise. And may the joy I take in serving Him glorify Him all the more by demonstrating His incredible love and generosity.

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How Many Reasons?

The Lord Jesus Christ has indeed given us more temporal blessings than we could ever begin  to count. Let me list just a few of mine:

  1. A mom who encouraged my independence
  2. Friends who included  me in activities
  3. Opportunities to travel
  4. Being mainstreamed into “regular” school
  5. College
  6. My writing abilities
  7. My digital art abilities
  8. Ministry opportunities
  9. Friends who listened and prayed with me
  10. A power wheelchair
  11. My headstick that enables me to type
  12. My Dell computer
  13. Personal Care Attendants
  14. All my wonderful adventures in Boston
  15. Belonging to First Baptist Church Weymouth
  16. Best of all temporal blessings, my wonderful husband John

As glorious as all those blessings are, however, I enjoy even greater blessings in knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord and Savior. He gives me:

  1. Forgiveness of sin
  2. The faith that leads to salvation
  3. A hunger for righteousness
  4. Scripture that reveals Who He is
  5. His righteousness in exchange for my depravity
  6. Assurance that I belong to Him
  7. The constant presence of His Holy Spirit
  8. The guidance of His Word
  9. A heavenly Father
  10. The knowledge that He understands my weaknesses
  11. The grace to resist sin
  12. The power to obey Him
  13. Increasing grace to reflect His nature
  14. Joy in knowing Him
  15. The sure hope of heaven
  16. Best of all, eternity with Him!

Today’s praise song reminds me of how much this amazing God offers each  of His children. I’ve only listed 32 of my reasons for praising Him, but I’m sure I can think of at least 10,000 more.

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Saturday Sampler–May 22 Through May 28

Rose SamplerWeekends have gotten more complicated for me in terms of blogging, through I can’t really figure out why. So I thought I’d try giving you a sampling of various articles that interest me throughout each week. I enjoy seeing what other people read, so maybe you’d like exploring articles that spark my interest. Perhaps the Lord will use one or two of these blog posts to encourage or challenge you.

Let’s start with But Please, Don’t Call Me A Discernment Blogger. Okay, I’m humbled by this one! I’m still wrestling with its implications for this blog.

The Backside Blessings of Blogging resonated with me. I’ve personally enjoyed each of these blessings.

I loved the balance and Biblical firmness in Global warming and climate change –recent developments and a call to discernment.

Don’t miss Why I Am Not A Roman Catholic by Tim Challies.

Elizabeth  Prata offers The Master’s Seminary’s Strange Fire Q/A on whether or not cessationists “pick and choose” which gifts of the Spirit still operate.

Pulpit & Pen raises concerns that American Christians may idolize the idea of religious liberty. Check out their article, Worshiping Religious Liberty: SBC joins mosque building effort. Wow…talk about compromise!

Theology for Girls gives us B.B. Warfield’s teaching, Paul on Women Speaking in the Church that challenges even me.It’s something to take us back into Scripture.

Pastor Jeremy Garber (who serves the church I belong to) preached this convicting sermon on Mary’s Worship, Part 1 last Sunday. I look forward to Part 2 tomorrow!

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The World Doesn’t Mean Everyone

cropped-cropped-img_4654.jpgI’ll admit it. I’ve felt overwhelmed by the prospect of examining all the verses that Arminians use to contest the doctrine of Limited Atonement. My reluctance has less to do with feelings of inadequacy than my critics might think, however. As a former Armimian, I well understand both ways of interpreting these verses, and therefore I feel confidant in my ability to explain the Calvinist perspective. My hesitancy comes, not from cowardice, but from the fact that I type with a headstick and consequently it takes about two or three hours to bang out an average length blog post.

But, since I’ve always been taught not to use my disability as a cop-out, I’ve decided to look at one of the proof-text verses to demonstrate how it actually affirms Limited Atonement. So let’s look at a familiar verse in its immediate context.

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” ~~John 3:16-21 (ESV)

Remember that in the 15 verses leading up to this passage, Jesus has been telling Nicodemus that, unless the Holy Spirit regenerates a person, that person cannot enter the kingdom of God. So already the Lord has made it blatantly clear that only those to whom the Spirit gives the new birth will be saved. Furthermore, John’s gospel account has previously told us that the new birth happens as a result of God’s will, not human endeavor (John 1:13). Following the context of John’s writing, we see that the apostle establishes the doctrine of election.

Arminians point to verse 16 and say, “God so loved the world…” Yes, it definitely says that. But bear in mind the historical context of that word. John, as well as the other New Testament writers, had always viewed God’s salvation as being exclusive to the Jews. Therefore, John uses this phrase to indicate that Jesus died for both Jews and Gentiles.

But no sooner does John lift the restriction in respect to Jews and Gentiles than he limits the effect of atonement to those who would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ’s blood effectually atones for the sins of believers, while verse 18 of this passage quotes Jesus as saying that unbelievers are already condemned. When we discuss the doctrine of Irresistible Grace, we’ll go into greater detail about the fact that believers respond to the Gospel because God supplies the willingness to believe, but for now let’s stay   focused on the fact that the shed blood of Jesus Christ doesn’t extend to those who don’t believe.

Of course, we have yet to talk about whether the Atonement is actual (meaning effective for all its beneficiaries) or potential (meaning available to everyone but dependent on a person’s response). But that conversation warrants its own blog post. Hopefully I’ve at least helped you see that the context of John 3:16 supports Limited Atonement.

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Don’t Miss The Good Stuff: Ephesians 2:1-10 Bible Study

This post introduces an upcoming Bible Study series. I look forward to helping you experience the thrill of studying Scripture as we learn how God’s Word presents the glorious truths of the Gospel.

Some years ago, I attended an adult Sunday School class in which the teacher asked whether or not anyone could define the Gospel. At first, I thought he’d asked a trick question, so I sat in the same confused silence that hovered over the rest of the class. The silence visibly frustrated the teacher so that he began begging for someone–anyone–to say something.

So I  finally raised my hand and proffered, “Isn’t it that Jesus died for our sins and rose again?”

Yes. Such a basic  message.

Evangelicals, having little understanding of or appreciation for  the Reformation in the 16th Century, now complicate the Christian life with so many side issues (ranging from political agendas to self-improvement techniques) that we lose sight of the very Gospel that Luther, Calvin and the other Reformers sacrificed so much to recover. Even though postmodern evangelicals can dutifully recite that Jesus died and rose again, few grasp the implications of His death and resurrection. In attitude, many evangelicals say, “Yeah, okay…now let’s move on to the good stuff!”

But Christ’s death and resurrection is the good stuff! The very word, “gospel,” means “good news.” Because 21st Century evangelical sensibilities now eclipse this Gospel with humanistic teachings and aspirations, I want to spend a few posts reviewing the wondrous message of the Gospel and exploring its implications.

To study the Gospel and its practical implications, I’ve decided to do a verse-by-verse study on Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

As you can see, the passage overflows with rich theological ideas. These ideas, however, mustn’t be written off as mere academic theories that have little to do with actual Christian life. As a matter of fact, understanding these concepts enable us to have a firmer grasp on the Gospel’s application to our every day lives. Even better, it shows us how magnificent the Lord Jesus Christ is to give His life in order to secure our salvation.

I plan to post these studies every Thursday until we get through verse 10. Dear ladies, please join me as we dig into the “good stuff” of the Gospel. By the time I finish, I pray that all of us will gain a richer appreciation of the  Gospel. More than that, I pray that we’ll see more clearly what a generous and loving God we serve, so that our joy will draw us deeper into worship.

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Growing 4 Life– Danger Zone

Monday, Leslie at Growing 4 Life wrote an article entitled Danger Zone, in which she examines the caliber of books that Christian bookstores typically feature. Her blog post made several important observations about some of the popular evangelical writers that I’ve been warning my readers to avoid, so I wanted to share what she’s written. She has graciously given me permission to reblog it here.


Danger-600x450I had an idea of what I wanted to buy for a graduation gift but time got away from me and the other day I realized that it was too late to order it. I groaned within, as I realized this meant I would have to buy it at my local Christian bookstore.

I have generally tried to avoid any bookstore labeled “Christian” over the last five or so years because I find them most disheartening to walk through. But that day I had little choice.

And so I headed off to the store to once again be dismayed and disgusted by the heresy and false teaching that is promoted and sold in “Christian” bookstores.

The first display I saw–just like the last time I was there and the time before that– featured Jesus Calling. You can read here why this book goes against scripture and why Christians should not be reading it. How long will that book be in the stores? I cannot believe it is still actually selling. It has had an incredibly long shelf-life compared to most books.

Then I headed to the Bible section. There I found both the good and the bad. One has to use great wisdom in picking out a Bible these days. We should always do our research before purchasing one. All Bible versions are not equal.

I headed next to the Bible Study section. There I was dismayed to find a whole section by Beth Moore. She has made some seriously wrong doctrinal turns in the recent years and, yet, it doesn’t seem to have affected her sales in any way. You can find good biblical articles refuting Beth Moore here and here.

Read the rest here

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