Monthly Archives: July 2016

Granted In What He Ordaineth

As bitter as I was during my years as a single woman, I found myself strangely able to sing “Hast thou not  seen/How all thy longings have been/Granted in what He ordaineth?” I remember singing those words with utter conviction, even while thinking about my loneliness and my desire for a husband.

I have, of  course, seen the Lord graciously grant that longing. I’ve also seen His loving providence in many other areas of my life. I’ve seen, furthermore, His faithfulness in guiding history according to His sovereign purposes. Although He most certainly reigns as the King of creation, He lovingly cares for the needs of His people.

Even in disappointment let us remember His kindness to us. Let us gladly praise Him with all that is in us, trusting that He ordains what we need to best honor Him.

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Saturday Sampler: July 24 — July 30

Bezier Flower SamplerIn a guest post for Entreating Favor, Deering Dyer encourages us in a particularly disheartening political season.  Deering, a former lobbyist, writes Pray for Those of Caesar’s Household to assure us that the Lord has  people even in high government positions.

When I started to read Self-Obsession by Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life, I didn’t expect the Holy Spirit to convict me. Leslie writes an essay that none of us wants to read…but each of us should. You may also want to read her follow-up post, The Birthday Party  (or Self-Obsession: Part 2), for clarification on some of her points.

Mercy over at Flourishing Faith, offers this Tuesday Teachable: “It Was Just a ‘White Lie”…I’m Sure God Won’t Mind” as a mini Bible Study for women.

Cody Barnhart, in an article appearing in For The Church, lists 3 Things Sin Can’t Do To the Christian as an encouragement to those who struggle with habitual sin. Using Scripture, he directs us to Christ, Who inspires us toward repentance.

Tim Challies writes Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit to demonstrate how deeply our sin affects the Third Person of the Trinity. Don’t miss this surprisingly encouraging article.

Peter Krol teaches Two Ways to Outline a Bible Passage in his latest article for Knowable Word. He demonstrates the differences between these two approaches, as well as how they work together to deepen our understanding of the text.

Michelle Lesley hasn’t felt up to composing new blog posts this week, so she repeats an essay she first posted in April of 2015. Weak Women and the Idolatry of Personal Experience zeros in on a problem that has troubled me for  quite some time. Please, ladies, make it a priority to take Michelle’s words to heart.

 
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I Had Plans

9af2c-deviationWaking up this morning, I had big plans to dive into a blog post explaining the doctrine of justification by faith, thereby settling the stage for discussing the Reformation. Indeed this doctrine brought Martin Luther to an understanding of Biblical salvation so powerful that he quickly recognized the corruption in the Church. From this basic teaching, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and the other 16th Century Reformers rediscovered the Bible’s teachings on fundamental matters of the Christian religion.

The doctrine of justification by faith alone stands in sharp contrast to Rome’s insistence that faith requires human works to augment it. Offering a detailed comparison of the two schools of thought is essential in understanding why 21st Century Protestants must not equivocate on this issue. Unity between Protestants and Catholics sounds noble and Biblical, but once you understand Rome’s official position on justification by faith alone, you can’t avoid the fact that Roman Catholicism preaches an entirely different gospel than the Bible presents.

And Scripture is painfully clear about how Christians should respond to different 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)

Well!–that’s pretty nasty of the apostle Paul to say, isn’t it? Yet he wrote those words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That being the case, we need to seriously examine what Scripture says about justification, what Rome says about it, and how Martin Luther and the other Reformers recovered the Biblical doctrine.  Make no mistake: this doctrine holds the key to understanding why Christians cannot, and must not acquiesce to Pope Francis’ claim that the Reformation has ended.

As I said,  I woke up this morning with plans to write about the doctrine of justification. But I got distracted by other blogs, a Twitter conversation that gave me a good belly laugh and a powerful Justin Peters sermon on YouTube. As a result, I didn’t begin blogging on time. The type of essay I need to write on this subject necessitates linking to several sources –a time-consuming task even for an able-bodied writer. (Hint: I type with a pointer on my head.)

Does all that mean today’s blog post was a complete waste of time? I don’t think so. In fact, I believe the Lord sovereignly used my inability to plunge into a full-blown discussion of justification in order to get me to explain why the doctrine of justification is so critical to Biblical Christianity. Who would care whether or not God justifies people by faith alone or by a cooperation between faith and works unless we first established that the Holy Spirit won’t tolerate a counterfeit gospel? But now that we’ve seen how sharply He condemns those who adhere to deviations from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can begin to examine this issue that ignited the Reformation.

I had plans.  Apparently, so did the Lord.
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The Reformation Happened, And It Matters

When did I stop blogging about the Reformation?  More to the point, why did I stop blogging about the Reformation? Over the past few weeks,  I’ve had passing thoughts that I really should start addressing the topic again, especially since the 500th anniversary of its inauguration is a little more than a year away. To be honest, however, I’ve felt pretty overwhelmed by all the church history I’ve been learning this year, and I didn’t want to do the heavy lifting required to write on its various aspects.

But the Lord has a way of using different things to nudge me in my blogging, and I believe He gave me a little push this afternoon towards reviving my posts on this topic. Today’s episode of Entreating Favor’s Fire Away podcast, featuring Grant Castleberry talking about Luther and the Reformation, reminded me that the Reformation restored Christianity to its biblical foundation: the Bible.  Equally important, it brought the Church back to the Gospel message of justification by faith alone.

Evangelicals in the 20th and 21st Centuries have minimized these two pivotal doctrines, often teaching that Catholicism is a valid form of Christianity. I well remember that summer evening in 1973 when some friends and I attended a mass at a local Carmelite  convent, certain that God had saved those nuns because, after all, they spoke in tongues. Although I understood that their veneration of Mary and the saints had no Scriptural basis, I believed Roman Catholicism taught the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Most of my evangelical friends agreed.

In the 90s, several prominent evangelicals and Catholics drew up a document called Evangelicals and Catholics Together. They forged this alliance for the purpose of minimizing doctrinal discrepancies with the claim that both sides hold the same fundamental beliefs. And just last year, evangelical pastor Rick Warren insisted that the two camps “are far more united than divided.”

On January 26, 2016, Pope Francis announced plans to join in celebrations of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary this coming October in Lund, Sweden. In so doing, he implicitly has declared an end to the Reformation. In other words, he now believes that Protestants and Catholics have reached an agreement concerning the doctrine of justification by faith.

Most evangelicals, as well as most Catholics, see nothing wrong with putting the Reformation behind us and  embracing unity. This eagerness to bury our theological differences sounds wonderful, but it betrays an ignorance of church history as well as an indifference to doctrinal purity.These lapses must be addressed and corrected by the clear teachings of Scripture rather than swept under the rug.

Bible-believing Christians must not forget the causes of the Reformation. nor must we take its benefits for granted. Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other 16th Century Reformers risked their lives to stand against teachings that the Roman Catholic Church has never renounced. Understanding both the history and the doctrinal positions of the Reformation is essential to maintaining Biblical Christianity.

Therefore,  I will once again start blogging about the Reformation, bearing in mind that I’m more interested in history than accomplished in it. Despite my deficits, I pray that my posts will inspire you to study  church history and consequently understand why we can’t unite with Rome unless she repents and embraces the Bible as her only authority. Yes, I feel completely overwhelmed, but I’m completely certain that I must blog on this immensely important topic.

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Follow Yourself To Nowhere

I used to follow two “deconversion” blogs, and still read one of them occasionally (the author once was a  close friend of mine). The author of one blog still considers himself a Christian, but he rejects conservative doctrine in favor of a theology that embraces homosexuality and permits him to interpret Scripture through the grid of personal experience. The other believes she’s on the road to atheism, certain that her reasoning abilities demonstrate the Bible’s fallacies.

Both depend on themselves to determine truth.

Truth, however, relies on objective facts, not personal intuition. For that reason, I cling to the accounts of Christ’s resurrection,  which people in the First Century could easily verify. If the disciples had merely fabricated the resurrection, their gospels wouldn’t have mentioned the sealed tomb and the Roman guard. Paul wouldn’t have mentioned the 500 men who saw Jesus after His resurrection. And, as cowardly as these guys were around the time of the crucifixion, it makes no sense to suppose that they would allow themselves to be martyred if they knew they were lying. The evidence for the resurrection quiets all doubt.

From the point of accepting the historical  fact of the resurrection, I can then reason that Jesus obviously has to be Who He claimed to be–God Incarnate. Subsequently, all the other points of doctrine fall into place. Thus, my faith is partially founded on historical evidence, not on my self-contrived ideas, my experience or fluttery feelings I get when I think spiritual thoughts.Christianity has verifiable history behind it, and therefore is not dependent on subjectively.

That said, even the historical evidence for Christianity must take second place to the Word of God. Scripture provides the ultimate authority for our faith, as the apostle Peter makes clear even as he writes about having personally experienced the Transfiguration.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~~1 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV)

Notice,  please,  that verse 19 introduces the idea of the prophetic word of Scripture as having more authority than Peter’s own experience with the Lord. Although he walked in Christ’s “inner circle” for three years, he insisted that the recipients of his letter base their faith in Scripture.

If even Peter subordinates his personal experience to the testimony of God’s Word, who are we to presume that our human reasoning can sufficiently enable us to determine spiritual truth. Isn’t that actually quite arrogant? In reality, we absolutely must regard truth as something objective, unyielding to any manipulations that we might wish to impose on it. In humility, we can trust the Lord to reveal Himself to us through the Bible.

The “journeys” of the two bloggers I used to read (interesting that they both used the term “journey”) sadden me because they’ve both chosen to measure truth by themselves. Thankfully, God has grounded His truth, not in subjective human feelings, but in historical fact that lends itself to investigation. And even better, He has given us the certain testimony of Scripture, which is His very Word! I pray that these bloggers would set aside their self-worship long enough to examine the evidence and accept the truth.

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Autobiography With Purpose: The Breaking Point

Twisting ScriptureOur gratitude to Brookville Baptist Church for supporting us through John’s two-and-a-half month hospitalization encouraged us to overlook our disagreements with the many changes that we’d noticed since the 40 Days of Purpose campaign six years earlier.  But by the summer of 2013 (just a year  after John returned home), the tension had again grown, and I felt ready to leave.

John, on the other hand, believed that he could be a good influence on the church once his breathing improved enough for him to teach Adult Sunday School again. In submission to him and because of all the church had done for us, I continued going to services with him, though I couldn’t share his optimism.

In writing this post, I am praying for the ability to write with sensitivity and grace, remembering that several people there are genuine Christians. Hopefully this autobiographical series has demonstrated that God has been merciful to me though times when I lacked discernment, and yet my involvement in poor teaching didn’t negate my salvation. In recording the problems that John and I had with Brookville, therefore, I want to be as careful as possible. In keeping with my desire to honor the Lord as I write this very difficult chapter,  I want to avoid as many specific details as I can, while still explaining the way things affected me and John.

For instance, the removal of Pastor Larry must be mentioned because of the disunity in the church that resulted. John and I were unable to attend the meetings regarding his removal, so I don’t really understand what led up to it other than financial considerations. My opinion of Larry is best left unspoken except to say that I miss his friendship (he was exceptionally good to me and John). Yet his departure must be noted, as I already remarked, for its impact on Brookville.

That summer, Brookville changed its name from Brookville Baptist Church to Brookville Bible Church. They believed that the word “Baptist” carried negative connotations, particularly in New England, where most professing Christians identify as lapsed Catholics. Dropping “Baptist” from the name, reasoned the elders,  would attract more people (with their tithes) to the church.

I never understood why others objected to the name change, and I believe it’s probably just as well. John and I, in contrast to others who opposed it, simply considered it disingenuous because both the sermons and the Adult Sunday School classes grew less and less reliant on Scripture each week. Both venues used Bible verses to advance an agenda of structural change, meant to attract young families to the church.

By October of 2013, Pastor Dennis had retired,  leaving us with an “intentional interim pastor,” whose job it was to restructure the church. By his own admission, preaching was neither his primary gift nor his primary purpose in  becoming our interim pastor (even though  he preached every Sunday) . Instead, he would help us work through our factions, caused by Larry’s removal and the name change) so that we could be “healthy enough” for a permanent pastor.

To our disappointment,  Pastor Dave turned Adult Sunday School into the study of a book about resolving church conflicts. The  book was peppered with Bible verses, which the author used merely to substantiate psychological principles. After a while, John decided that we’d sit out Sunday School because the facilitators scarcely used the Bible.

In late February of 2014, Pastor Dave forced the passage of Scripture to conform to his agenda for change so violently that even a teenager in the congregation later agreed with us that Dave had abused God’s Word. Angry from the sermon, I sat in the coffee area afterwards,  where I overheard the head elder mention a New Age technique he used to alleviate some joint pain. At that point I exploded.

I spent the next hour with the women’s ministry leader, venting about years of frustration with Brookville.  Some of her responses revealed her lack of discernment, increasing my rage. I wanted out of Brookville, keenly aware that it no longer faithfully preached the Word of God. As John listened, he knew that we needed to leave the church. I drove my wheelchair down the ramp, shaking the dust off my feet.

Our meeting with Pastor Dave,Pastor Dennis and the elders a month later confirmed that our doctrinal differences with Brookville couldn’t be resolved.  The letter of dismissal they sent cited my “unwillingness to negotiate” as their reason to terminate our membership.  But sound doctrine is never up for negotiation. With that letter, the Lord assured us that we’d made the right decision.

 
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The Spearheaded Of Same Sex Marriage

Distorted ChurchI have to spend tomorrow undergoing some medical tests (probably nothing serious, but I’ll humor my Primary Care Physician), so I’ve decided to publish this essay a day early. 

Please don’t misunderstand me as condoning same-sex  marriage. Scripture teaches that marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:25-33), which necessitates a male-female union. Quite obviously, same-sex marriages cannot have the complementary roles of husband and wife. As a result, they lack the ability to model Christ and His Church. For that reason, as well as others, I cannot support any marriage that deviates from the covenant between one man and one woman.

That said, I fully expected the Supreme Court to once again increase ungodliness in America last summer by ruling that the Constitution guarantees the right of homosexual and lesbian couples to redefine marriage. To my disappointment, they did exactly that. And why would a nation that openly rejects Biblical Christianity do any different? After all, heterosexual  couples also find plenty of ways to pervert the Biblical standard for marriage, especially as wives refuse to submit to their husbands. We can’t expect non-Christians to embrace Christian values.

Sadly, more and more people who call themselves Bible-believing Christians see no reason to oppose same-sex marriage. And as we witnessed Thursday night, the Republican Party ignores its official platform, openly cheering those who proudly proclaim their homosexuality.

Gay activists, however, aren’t satisfied. They already pressure Christian businesses to cater same-sex weddings by bringing ruinous lawsuits. California stands ready to penalize Christian colleges and universities that refuse to accommodate LGBTQ behavior. I’ve reason to believe pastors who refuse to officiate such weddings can expect serious persecution as well. And will bloggers pay for daring to voice objections? Let’s just say that I’ve taken measures to protect this blog from censorship as long as I possibly can.

Persecution won’t be pleasant, but it will separate true Christians from false converts. Same-sex marriage, of course, won’t be the only litmus test; many false converts base their “Christianity” on moral values and conservative politics. But the battle for gay rights, I believe, will spearhead persecution against those who choose worldly values over Christ and His Word.

The world’s antagonism toward those who stand on the authority of Scripture doesn’t surprise me. Jesus said pointedly that the world would not tolerate His people.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~~John 15:18-19 (ESV)

Same-sex marriage begins a process that I believe will purify Christ’s Church. Days are coming when people will find it dangerous to follow the Bible’s teaching–when a refusal to compromise God’s Word will have severe consequences. No matter who wins in November, America has made a choice that won’t  be reversed.

As much as I dread the personal suffering those days will bring, however, I look forward to a clearer delineation between true Christians and mere professors. Evangelicals have already begun to monkey around with Scripture, claiming that its prohibitions against homosexual acts have nothing to do with the loving, committed same sex relationships we see in our generation. Such evangelicals prove themselves to be more aligned with worldly values than with the clear teachings of Scripture. Thus, as they embrace same sex marriage, transsexual rights and other sinful activities, they expose their true allegiance. Meanwhile, Bible-believing Christians will also be revealed as true Christians by their unwillingness to compromise the Word of God. I long to see Christ’s Bride purified for Him.

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