Visions of Holiness

Few of us (perhaps none of us, actually) really comprehends God’s holiness. We read Isaiah 6 without really visualizing the ground shaking and the Temple filling with smoke as the Lord, attended by angels who declare His holiness, reveals Himself in such a way that Isaiah crumbles under the weight of his sinfulness. How many of us, however, honestly believe we would be so completely undone if we experienced a vision of how holy the Lord really is?

Yet in His compassion  and grace, the Lord has shown us that the same holiness that brings us to our knees in repentance also fills us with wonder. We worship this thrice holy God joyfully, admiring His splendor and relishing His glory. And so we sing today’s beautiful hymn with eager anticipation of enjoying His holiness throughout eternity.

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Saturday Sampler: August 6 — August 12

Vexel Rose TrioDo you need practical guidance in structuring your personal Bible Study time? If so, How Much of the Bible Should I Study? by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word will provide you with a good variety of suggestions.

I suppose that moms make up the vast majority of my readership. Since I couldn’t have children, however, I feel unqualified to counsel anyone on child rearing. Thankfully, One Degree To Another author Scott Slayton posts How Can I Help My Child Grow as a Christian? As a pastor and father of four, Scott can address this subject more authoritatively than I could.

Entering the Empty Nest season, Leslie A writes We know we will be fine in Growing 4 Life. Her post enables me to sympathize better with ladies in her position. Extending grace goes so much further than spouting off platitudes!

In her guest post for Berean Research, Grace Scott maintains that The felt-needs gospel is no Gospel at all. Ladies, this is well documented and extremely thought through in its engagement with an article defending a felt-needs approach to evangelism. Don’t pass over this superb presentation of how to Biblically proclaim the Gospel, even to millennials.

Sammy is a cute little dog. Why is Michelle Lesley blogging about a cute little dog? There’s only one way to find out — go ahead and click the link.

Sydney is a young woman, still in her teens, with astonishing insight which often shows up in her blog, Squid’s Cup of Tea. Her reflective essay, Jealous No More and Other Thoughts, bring me joy as I see the Lord maturing her. You may be encouraged (and possibly even challenged) by her godly attitudes.

Like all bloggers who stand against false teaching, Tom of excatholic4christ has his share of critics. “Stop saying Catholics believe they must obey the Ten Commandments PERFECTLY!” responds to a frequent complaint he receives by explaining how Catholics maintain a state of grace.

Dispelling yet another myth of liberal theologians, John Ellis writes God Is Not Everyone’s Father for PJ Media. I appreciate Ellis’ courage to hold to solid Biblical doctrine on this point.

If you struggle with your prayer life (and really, what Christian doesn’t), Prayer: some thoughts on the how-to’s by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day might be just what you need.  I love Jen’s focus on Scripture as the model for prayer.

Scott Stayton, in One Degree to Another, supplements Jen’s essay with Why We Struggle  to Pray in the Digital Age. What a challenging, thought-provoking article! I’d never really considered some of the points he raises, but they make a lot of sense. He also offers wonderful suggestions for restoring prayer to its proper priority.

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Giving Permission To The King

Cinderella's  ClosetThroughout the bulk of my Christian life, I’ve heard the following sentiments:

“God is a Gentleman; He won’t violate your will.”

“Give the Lord permission to work in your life.”

“You need to get out of the way in order for God to work.”

“Let go and let God.”

You’ve undoubtedly heard these same ideas, and maybe you’ve even said them. They sound very reasonable, and even a bit spiritual. Many celebrity evangelicals routinely teach them, urging us to partner with God as if He’s helplessly wringing His hands as He waits for us to participate in whatever He’s doing.

Now, I understand that the Lord chooses to work through human beings much of the time. He calls Christians to obedience, especially in regard to proclaiming the Gospel to all creation. The same letter of Paul that declares God’s sovereignty in determining who should be numbered in the elect (Romans 9:6-26) also pronounces His decree that the elect should come to faith by means of evangelism (Romans 10:13-17). In that sense, He indeed uses our obedience as the means of accomplishing His purposes.

But we make a grave mistake if we assume that a lack of cooperation on our part in any way hinders or prevents the Lord from carrying out His will. In truth, He has all power. Nothing any of us does, even at our highest points of rebellion, can possibly block Him from doing exactly what He wills.

From the time Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, men and women have tried to claim control over God. We cherish the notion that we somehow allow Him to have His way in saving us and then in working in our lives. Proudly, we believe He stands immobilized, waiting patiently until we grant Him permission to move.

Look again at Romans 9.

19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? ~~Romans 9:19:24 (ESV)

Who do we think we are? Do we seriously believe the sovereignty of God depends on our will or behavior? Does the King of kings and Lord of lords bow in subjection to us? Scripture certainly never portrays Him as such a dependent weakling, nor does it suggest that He gives us authority over His dealings in our lives.

We need to repent of our arrogant attitudes. Let’s stop flattering ourselves that anything God does hinges on our attitudes or actions. If sovereignty really belongs to Him (and it does), then He will do anything He wants to do with or without our permission.

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The Reformation Reflects Today’s Church

Modern ReformationAs this year leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation has progressed, I’ve grown disappointed (if not a little frustrated) with my lack of structuring my study time. So many men and women risked their lives standing against the Roman Catholic Church for the sake of the Gospel — some even becoming martyrs rather than compromise God’s Word. I’d anticipated telling their stories as a way of inspiring you (and myself) to stand firm against the erosion of sound doctrine in our own day.

The truth is, my almost 64-year-old body can’t accommodate my to-do list. Bible Study, blogging, social media and trying to be a wife collide with expanded Personal Care Attendant schedules and slowing typing speed, leaving less time and energy to research Knox, Lady Jane Grey, Zwingli and others who did so much to restore Biblical Christianity to Western civilization. Would Christ’s words about the spirit being willing and the flesh being weak apply here?

Maybe. But I digress.

With three months still to go until October 31st, I intend to continue using Tuesdays to keep the Reformation before you. Why? Because I believe Christianity in postmodern times has been corrupted as badly as it had been in the 16th Century, and consequently that Bible-believing Christians in our day need the fortitude and conviction that led those Reformers to praise God as their bodies were burned at the stake for the sake of the Gospel. Their willing spirits certainly conquered their weak flesh!

The assaults on Biblical Christianity came from Roman Catholicism during the Middle Ages as the church developed traditions that had more to do with supporting the opulent lifestyles of popes, cardinals and bishops than with the Gospel. Let’s briefly review the teachings that first prompted Martin Luther to openly question the church.

As we’ve seen throughout this series, teachings on the sacramental system, Purgatory and Indulgences taught people that, although their baptism as infants brought them the initial grace of salvation, they perfected that grace through the sacraments. But even then, they might need to spend time in Purgatory atoning for sins left unconfessed. Of course, purchasing Indulgences for themselves or loved ones could shorten that time, admitting the suffering soul to heaven.

Not surprisingly, medieval Catholicism suppressed access to the Bible. Obviously, reading the Bible without the church’s official annotations and apocryphal books would expose the errors propagated by church authorities.

Professing Christians in our day have different false teachings, in addition to having various vestiges of Roman Catholic mysticism, making it necessary to look again at the Reformers and the doctrines they recovered. As those Reformers directed people back to reading the Bible in its proper context, we must hold to solid Biblical doctrine and resist evangelical fads.

Neglecting the Protestant Reformation may be fashionable, but it increases our vulnerability to present-day false teaching. I’m clearly not the polished church historian that I’d like to be, and I may fail to tell the stories that need telling, but if I can keep the Protestant Reformation before you, perhaps you’ll start researching it for yourselves. You just may be surprised by what it reveals about the 21st Century church.

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From My Archives: In Eve’s Footsteps

3d383-ladies2bstudy2b03My schedule is a little different this week, therefore diminishing my time for blogging. Please enjoy this article  from May 2016:

Eve’s fatal encounter with the serpent and subsequent rebellion in eating the forbidden fruit is such a familiar narrative to me that sometimes I fail to comprehend all of its implications. But an article in the January/February 2016 issue of Modern Reformation sent me back to the text in Genesis 3. Simonetta Carr’s article, “East of Eden,” tells the story as if through Eve’s words, comfortably familiar (as I said) until I reached  this paragraph:

As wonderful as the Garden was, the serpent convinced me we could have much more, right then and there, without waiting for God’s timing. The serpent appeared to be our friend, but he was strange. He could speak our language and seemed to know more than we knew, but I didn’t give it much thought then. It was an enticing prospect of having our eyes opened, of being like God and knowing more than what God had revealed.

The story continues as she heartwrenchingly wrestles with the realization that Able died and Cain suffered banishment as a result of her rebellion in eating the fruit, and I don’t mean to misrepresent the point Mrs. Carr intended her article to convey. At the same time, the paragraph I just quoted sparked my thinking concerning women and our attraction to mystical adaptations of Christianity.

Specifically, the closing phrase of that paragraph captured my attention.”Knowing more than what God had revealed.” Was that Eve’s motivation? Had Satan promised her revelation beyond the words of God, insinuating that what God had spoken to her and Adam wasn’t sufficient? Fascinating questions! I went to my Bible to verify this interesting possibility. Genesis 3:6 had my answer.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (ESV)

That phrase, “the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” gave me confirmation Simonetta Carr had indeed offered a profound insight. Despite the intimate fellowship that she and Adam regularly enjoyed with God, Eve liked Satan’s suggestion that they could possess knowledge beyond what He had revealed to them.

That idea made me think of the mysticism that pervades many evangelical churches today. Although many men get sucked into this terrible trend, it appears to be the most pronounced in women’s ministry. Immediately I think of Beth Moore’s claims of revelations from God and Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling. I also remember countless women’s retreats and Bible Study meetings where leaders encouraged us to “allow” the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself, not in the pages of Scripture, but “personally” during times of “listening prayer.”

All too often, evangelical “Bible” teachers send the message that the Bible only goes so far in showing us what we need. Typically (and I speak from both personal experience  and first-hand observation), evangelical women receive subtle pressure to understand their psychological wounds and/or to  experience God emotionally. They may certainly start with a Bible verse that “ministers” to them (i.e., that gives them goosebumps), but they must then seek “more.”

One example of the mysticism evangelical teachers push on women comes in the form of “intimacy with God.” Jesus must be their “Lover,” especially if they’re single. Beth Moore and Ann Voskamp both urge women to enjoy “romance” with Him…with Voskamp  boldly advocating erotic expressions of such romance. Sometimes single women are actually shamed for wanting a flesh-and-blood husband when Jesus “offers” them emotional and even sexual satisfaction.

That spiritual rush, of course, exceeds the limitations of mere Bible study. As with other forms of evangelical mysticism, this intimacy with God suggests that we need more than what He has given us in His Word. But didn’t Eve plunge all of creation into decay and death precisely because Satan convinced her that she needed to digest the knowledge of good and evil? Didn’t he persuade her that God’s Word didn’t give her everything she needed?

Evangelical women fall for the same stale lie that Satan first told Eve. Thankfully, we can trust that God’s Word really does supply everything necessary for us to live on this side of heaven.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

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Saturday Sampler: July 30 — August 5

Extruded FunsiesVisit Growing 4 Life to see how Leslie A has revived her series on discernment with Learn to Discern: How Do You Determine What is True, Right, and Good? All of us need to think seriously about the way we make these determinations.

In her article for 9Marks, Carrie Russell writes about Ministry to Women When There’s No “Women’s Ministry”. Her thoughts on the topic go against popular ideas, but she successfully substantiates them with Scripture.

Speaking from her personal experience, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day offers Turnstile Salvation as evidence that nobody can claim a relationship with the Lord simply because Christian parents raised her. Maybe Jennifer states the obvious. Then again, maybe not.

In his mid-teens, my Catholic-turned-agnostic husband decided to see what the Bible said about the origins of life, so he picked up a Catholic New Testament. The Holy Spirit used it to bring him to salvation. Tom’s article, Sketchy Catholic versions of the Bible were stepping stones to salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone in excatholic4christ, reminds me of John’s testimony. Even better, it reminds me of the power off God’s Word!

Denny Burk outlines Four stages of “evangelical” affirmation of gay marriage as a warning to us all.

In her blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, Lara d’Entremont uncovers The Real Reason to Remain Sexually Pure. She directs her teaching to women waiting to be married, single women and women who teach younger women.

Guiding us through Psalm 19, Lisa Morris of Conforming To The Truth lists 6 Reasons  to Glory in the Sufficiency of Scripture. Honestly, professing Christians often forget (or at least ignore) the marvelous provision God has made for us by His Word. Lisa’s blog post serves as a helpful refresher on this essential point of faith.

How about a double dose of Leslie A this week? Her candor in Grace That Changes convicts me of my own self-righteousness, which I appreciate. So often, we lose sight of God’s gentleness with us, and consequently get impatient with less mature believers. Leslie’s article encourages us as we endeavor to overcome that sin. Yet she offers an important balance.

Coming to Christ as an adult, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day has experienced both the world’s view of womanhood and the Lord’s. From this rare vantage point, she unveils the contrast between  Biblical vs. Secular Womanhood. Ladies, we can’t hear these things too often.

As I’ve been saying for two years, Obergefell vs Hodges opened a door for a full assault on traditional values. John Ellis’ article in PJ Media, Transgender Student Sues Private School in California, sadly confirms my warnings, but it also encourages us to stand firm.

Those who see no harm in the ordination of women will want to read The Slippery Slope and the Jesus Box by Richard D. Philips on the Reformation 21 blog. Philips’ assertion doesn’t at all surprise me, but it may help you to understand the dangers of compromising Scripture in this seemingly minor area. Obedience to Scripture matters!

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