Saturday Sampler: September 24 — September 30

Cheesecake SamplerAddressing Christians in our digital age, Scott Stayton of One Degree to Another suggests strategies for Cultivating a Deep Walk with the Lord. His ideas could help us resist the distractions that our devices bring.

Jennifer saves me the trouble of commenting on the feud between President Trump and the NFL. Her marvelous essay, This is the Era of being offended, appears in her One Hired Late In The Day blog and makes the very same point that I would have made. Her perspective clearly echoes Biblical wisdom.

Here’s an interesting musing by Dan DeWitt at TheoLatte. Is Belief in the Bible Circular Reasoning? shows us how to turn a popular objection to Scripture’s authority into a way to make atheists think.

You won’t believe what Lisa Morris wrote on Conforming to the Truth until you read Learning but Never coming to the Knowledge of the Truth. If you’re signing up for lots of online Bible Studies this fall, you might take a step back to consider Lisa’s surprising perspective.

In The End Time, Elizabeth Prata defends The exclusively of Jesus as she reasons from the Scriptures. We face anger from non-Christians all the time by adhering to this doctrine, I know. And it hurts! But Elizabeth’s essay provides much needed encouragement to stay strong in this Biblical position.

Those of us who follow current events may be tempted toward anxiety. Melanie Lenow, in Watching the News Without Losing Your Mind (Or Your Faith!) for Biblical Woman, shows us how (and why) Christian women must respond differently than the world.

Check out The Death Penalty as our Only Hope by Doug Wilson on Blog & Mablog for a fascinating take on God’s mercy to people caught in the sin of homosexuality. I’ve never considered this angle of the question until reading this blog post, but I like the balance it presents.

Can I say it? Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate writes the best article on the National Anthem bruhaha that I’ve read so far. To stand or not to stand? That is not the question: asks us to think Biblically about this controversy from a couple sides, always applying Scripture as the bottom line. I encourage each of you to think carefully about Johnson’s argument  before determining how you’ll respond to this matter.

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The Negation Of Reason By Sensuous Minds

49575-before2bthe2bcrossThrough a variety of circumstances, I’ve recently been exposed to young women in the Millennial generation. With one notable exception, I don’t really like what I see. The irresponsibility and self-centeredness appalls and saddens me. This generation, from what I see, exchanges reason for experience and pragmatism, paying little attention to long-term ramifications of their decisions. They pay even less attention to how their behaviors affect others.

In short, they possess poor reasoning skills. As a result, they exercise poor judgment, and then cast themselves as innocent victims when they face the consequences of that poor judgment. Between the immediacy of social media and the indoctrination of liberal colleges and Hollywood, Millennials have never learned to think for themselves.

To be fair, those attitudes have definite roots in my generation: the Baby Boomers. We set the example of selfishness and exaltation of feelings over facts. We implicitly taught them to use their emotions and desires as standards, insisting that moral absolutes depend on what their personal experience tells them.

Interestingly, after dealing with some of these women over the past couple weeks, my personal study of Colossians today brought me to a passage that, in part, applies to the deterioration of reasoning skills that I see in these women.

18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. ~~Colossians 2:18-19 (ESV)

In context, these two verses warn against false teachers who claim special revelation from spiritual experiences they supposedly have. In future posts, maybe we can discuss these verses in that light. But today it occurred to me that a sensuous mind (whether or not it leads to a person becoming a false teacher) invariably leads someone away from clear reason.

A sensuous mind celebrates feelings over truth. It depends on personal experience and desires to direct its course, making truth dependent on the person’s subjective impressions rather than on God’s Word. It certainly rejects Christ as the Source of wisdom.

As I said earlier, Millennials don’t have a corner on living in response to sensuous minds; Boomers and Gen Xers taught them that life revolves around what they feel and want. They simply believe what we’ve modeled for them.

Naturally, those who don’t know Christ first need to hear the Gospel. They need to understand that truth exists apart from them instead of being determined by their feelings and desires. And even those who profess to know Him require guidance back to Scripture, learning to reason from its truths. We owe these young ladies nothing less.

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Avoiding Either Side Of The Mess

IMG_1656Did you miss me yesterday? A friend and I were in Boston taking a trolley tour. As you can probably guess, it wasn’t my first trolley tour. In addition to other trolley and Duck Boat tours, I’ve also taken multiple Freedom Trail walking tours and a literary walking tour.

The tour yesterday differed from most of the other tours I’ve taken in that the guide didn’t gleefully mention all the hypocritical actions of the Puritans who first settled Boston. Having been on so many tours, I knew exactly where the derogatory comments usually pop up, so I braced myself each time. I figured they world be worse than ever since Trump’s presidency seems to have emboldened anti-Christian sentiment.

I was relieved. And pleasantly surprised.

Obviously, the Puritans did some terrible things in the name of Christ. Denying historical fact, even when it would be advantageous to deny it, doesn’t really do much good. I do understand that principle. And possibly Christians need to say yes, some of what happened in 17th Century Boston dishonored the very  Lord those Puritans claimed to follow.

But if a tour guide decides to point out the sins of the Puritans, he or she should also point out their virtues. Not once have I heard, for example, a tour guide mention the January 15, 1697 Day of Fasting and Repentance for the Salem Witch Trials. Presumably, doing so would weaken their anti-Christian narrative.

However, doing so would also demonstrate an intellectual honesty that few people in our postmodern culture care to possess. Although one tour guide admitted to me that he purposefully included Puritan bashing in his walking tour for entertainment value (to which I replied that I find it less than entertaining), he forgot that most of his customers probably will never crack open a history book. If he gave them the only view of the Puritans they’d ever get, he needed to offer positive as well as negative comments.

American history is a messy business, no matter what political and religious beliefs you have. Intellectual integrity simply doesn’t allow me to ignore things like the Salem Witch Trials, but neither does it allow non-Christians to characterize all Puritans as hypocrites (or worse). Yesterday I enjoyed history that avoided both extremes.

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“The Word Did Everything”

Powerful WordReading an old issue of Tabletalk magazine yesterday, I spotted a fascinating quote Martin Luther made in regard to the Protestant Reformation. I have no idea of the context which occasioned this remark, and perhaps we don’t really need to know why he said it. At any rate, it gives us much to ponder.

I did nothing; the Word did everything.

At first, Luther’s humility might take us off guard. Looking back, we see that God used this little German monk, who otherwise probably would have been nothing more than a footnote in history at best, to change the course of Western civilization. Let me offer just one example of how the Reformation affected history.

Because of Martin Luther, millions of Christians have been liberated to hear and read the Word of God that lead them to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. A century later, a group of these Christians would sail to the New World, hoping to establish a land that honored the Lord and reflected His ways. Their descendants, while largely corrupted by 18th Century Enlightenment thought, built a nation based on Biblical principles and faith in a Creator Who endowed us with inalienable rights. Such a nation could never have existed if the Protestant Reformation hadn’t severed Christians from papal authority.

So Luther’s humble words could cause us to stammer incredulously a bit. He did nothing? Puh-leeze!

Yet Luther saw a vitally important point that I believe we must acknowledge. In and of himself, Martin Luther indeed was an insignificant man. But God’s Word opened His spiritual eyes, enabling him to see how the Roman Catholic Church had replaced the true Gospel with human traditions that exploited the common people and permitted popes,  cardinals and bishops to live opulent lifestyles.

More importantly, God’s Holy Spirit used Luther to bring the Bible to the people so that everyone had access to the truth. This access to Scripture in turn allowed men, women and children to come to the Lord directly, no longer dependent on the mediation of priests.

Once Luther and the other Reformers began preaching God’s Word and encouraging their hearers to read it for themselves, the Lord began a revival that swept across Europe like wildfire! Despite the many compromises and deviations that have since sullied the visible church, filling it with false teachers and false converts, the Word of God continues to bring people to saving faith.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

I agree with Martin Luther. Although the Lord used him powerfully to restore His Church to Biblical Christianity, He did so by opening Luther’s eyes to the Word. From that point onward, the Word indeed did everything.

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Perspectives In Titus: A Pastor’s Duty

Titus 2 v 15

Forgive me for skipping last Monday’s Bible Study. John and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts with dear friends from church as a homeschool field trip for their kids (the dad had the day off work). But I’m here today, so let’s remind any gentlemen (other than my husband and elders from First Baptist Church Weymouth MA) that these studies are for ladies only and dig right in to our text.

Titus 2:15 constitutes its own paragraph in English translations, so to establish its context (which is absolutely necessary in understanding this verse) I really need you to either open your copy of Scripture or click this link to read the chapter before we proceed. Once you’ve read the chapter, look at verse 15:

Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

You may be tempted, as I usually am, too skim over this verse. After all, as women, none of us will be pastors like Titus. Yet older women do have a responsibility to teach younger women, as we see in Titus 2:3-5. In that respect (though certainly to a lesser degree), we might apply this verse to our own ministries.

Paul instructs Titus to declare the things contained in this chapter, and perhaps especially verses 11-14. Matthew Henry remarks that, in contrast to the Jewish fables and traditions that the Judaizers tried to impose on the Cretan Christians, Titus is here (as in verse 1) charged to preach and teach sound doctrine and godly ways of living.

He commands Titus to exhort the Cretans. Exhortation demands impassioned speech that both encourages and urges hearers towards obedience to God’s Word. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries says that the Greek word denotes a “calling near” to comfort, beseech or entreat. While it doesn’t compromise, exhortation has an aspect of gentleness.

Along with exhortation, Titus has a duty to rebuke. According to Vines New Testament Dictionary, the Greek word here means to convict or reprove. Thus it lacks the gentleness of exhortation. Rebuke specifically confronts sin in a manner which then calls for repentance.

Paul tells Titus to exhort and rebuke “with all authority.” God gives pastors authority over those they shepherd because, in preaching God’s Word, they represent the Lord Himself. Earlier, in Titus 1:13, Paul alluded to Titus’ pastoral authority by directing him to rebuke the Cretans “sharply.” Such sharpness comes only when someone has authority.

Furthermore, the Greek word translated “authority” here carries the sense of commanding speech, free of ambiguity of compromise. According to Barnes, Paul’s point here is that Titus’ words shouldn’t come across as mere advice, “but as the requirement of God.”

Because God has given Titus pastoral authority, Paul counsels him not to permit anyone to disregard him. He gave Timothy similar counsel in 1 Timothy 4:12, where he elaborates by saying Timothy should set an example for believers. You’ll recall that Paul wants Titus to be a model of Christian living (Titus 2:7).

In addition to encouraging us in our ministries to other women, today’s verse can also remind us of the incredible responsibilities our pastors bear. Sisters, our pastors need us to pray for them regularly as they do difficult work, quite often behind the scenes, standing for righteousness in a culture much like the Cretan culture of Titus’ time. Use this study as motivation to pray for your pastors.

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Saturday Sampler: September 17 — September 23

Tulip Sampler 02I like reading Nick Batzig, even when he puts his finger on my sin. Servants Of Grace republishes his article, Nothing to Complain About, which certainly makes me think about my selfish attitudes. See what you think.

And in case Batzig’s blog post doesn’t humble you, Michelle Lesley writes You’re Not Awesome…and You Know It in response to those airbrushed memes all over social media that tell us how wonderful we are. Michelle has an inconvenient habit of holding things like this up to the Word of God, and then believing that God has the final say.

Julie Ganschow of Biblical Counseling for Women warns us about The Dangers of Drifting From the Spiritual Disciplines. We all need reminders like this from time time.

Do you think you’ve done pretty well at overcoming sin? Read Elizabeth Prata’s 17 minutes of continual sin in The End Time.

In his essay on the Ligonier blog, Derek Thomas explains the balance between God’s Sovereignty and Our Responsibility by showing us how Scripture synthesizes the two realities. People commonly criticize Reformed Theology for (as they see it) teaching that we’re mere robots, but this criticism ignores the fact that people in the Reformed camp believe all Scripture is God’s Word.

What lesson can we learn from the episode of Leslie A. forgetting to wear makeup to church  one Sunday? Beautifully and Naturally Changed, her article in Growing 4 Life, answers this question by challenging us to examine our motives.

Biblical Woman runs a thought-provoking piece by Candi Finch entitled How We Hear Mixed Messages From Christians and Feminists that encourages us to think consistently. A rather unexpected piece, this article reminds us to speak about others respectfully and in ways that honor God.

With astonishing candor, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day shares her reflections on Song of Solomon: my least favorite book. She explains her distaste for this book, but also helps us understand the Holy Spirit’s wisdom in putting it in His Word.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Mike Riccardi demonstrates How to Kill Your Neighbor with gossip and slander. Can you claim that you’ve never murdered anyone? Neither can I. But Mike’s article uses Scripture to guide us to repentance and help us honor God with our words. Please take time to read this one.

In her article for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Jen Oshman counsels American moms to Shatter Your Kid-Centered Kingdom. Her advice makes sense to me, but maybe it does because I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when life revolved around more than kids’ activities.

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Teachers Need To Tremble

Negative GirlAs Bible-believing Christians, we certainly have a responsibility to confront sin in our Christian brothers and sisters, as well as in our culture at large. In no way do I want my readers to infer by today’s essay that I’ve done a 180 regarding this matter. Biblical discernment often requires taking a visible stand against ideas and people that contradict sound doctrine.

Furthermore, discernment necessitates making judgments based on the Word of God. So yes, there’s an appropriate time and place for judging sin within the Body of Christ (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 5:9-13). In our exercise of discernment, however, that same Word of God commends us to confront sin in an attitude of humility and reverent fear.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. ~~Galatians 6:1-3 (ESV)

This passage encourages us to address sin in fellow believers. But I want you to particularly notice the emphasis on then admitting our own vulnerabilities to the very sins we call out in others.

Sometimes, we can think we’re pretty hot stuff. We see the ways that other professing Christians dishonor the Lord, and we know all the Scriptures to use in urging them to repent. But we forget that we also cave into temptation — many times the same temptation that we just corrected in that other person. When that happens, the person we corrected has every right to judge our hypocrisy.

Of course I’m not saying that we have to be perfect in order to confront sin in others. Actually, I’m saying something almost opposite. In correcting someone, we must be aware of our own propensity to sin. Therefore we must approach the issue knowing that we also need God’s grace as we aspire to live in obedience and holiness. The same Lord Who demands holiness in others also demands holiness in us.

This responsibility particularly weighs on those who teach. The Lord’s half-brother James points this principle out in his epistle:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. ~~James 3:1 (ESV)

As a blogger (and perhaps even a discernment blogger), I tremble a bit at passages like Galatians 6:1-3 and James 3:1. Bloggers, in essence, serve as role-models to our readers, even if we blog simply for the purpose of thinking out loud. The act of blogging automatically transforms us into teachers. So when I write posts instructing my readers towards holy living and obedience to God’s Word, the Lord holds me responsible to live consistently with my writing.

Please understand, therefore, that I write with a profound sense of responsibility to align my thoughts, attitudes and behaviors with the Biblical principles that I set before you each time I blog. If I address a sin in others or advocate personal holiness in a specific area, rest assured that my husband and the leadership of my church watch me carefully. More importantly, the Lord watches. I write with the understanding that I can be tempted.

May all of us cultivate that type of understanding and keep watch on ourselves.

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Authenticity As It Should Be

4693a-oval2bdoily2bframeThis current evangelical trend toward “authenticity” dismays me, but it really doesn’t surprise me. Once you strip away all the psycho-babble and distorted Scripture verses used to support it, you’ll find that people generally use the term to excuse sin. For example, someone I used to be close to divorced his wife, “married” his same sex partner and rejected basic Biblical doctrines all because he wants to be “authentic”  before God.

But such “authenticity” only  confirms that we are naturally rebellious toward Christ and His Word. We embrace our favorite sinful behaviors (grumbling, foul language, sexual impurity or whatever it is) as “who we are,” and expect other Christians to admire us for our “honest” lifestyle.

In fact, if they dare to confront us, especially by showing us Bible verses that counter our behavior, we indignantly accuse them of judging us. As we see it, God commends our authenticity, and therefore no one has any business calling our actions into question.

Sounds good on Facebook perhaps, but that attitude of refusing correction doesn’t really sit well with the Lord. Allow me to present just one of many Scriptures that address “authenticity” as a reason to refuse correction:

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice. ~~Proverbs 12:15 (ESV)

Okay, the Lord also has plenty to say about the attitudes of those who offer correction, and we’ll talk about His expectations in that regard tomorrow. Right now, however, we need to focus on the notion that self-proclaimed authenticity exempts us from repenting of things that seem intrinsic to our personality.

Yesterday I wrote that, although the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (past, present and future), He still desires us to live in holiness as a grateful response to His mercy and grace. Authenticity to our old nature fails to reflect His Spirit, Who gives us a new nature when He regenerates us.

Authenticity doesn’t have to mean that we remain enslaved to the sinful behaviors that Jesus died to release us from. As beneficiaries of His death on the cross, we have freedom to live lives that honor Him.  Because He makes us new creations when He brings us to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, He calls us to be authentic to our new, redeemed natures.

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The Obligation Freedom Brings

Not Your OwnCertainly, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin, and in His crucifixion the Lord exchanges His righteousness for our unrighteousness. Putting it another way, the Father now considers us righteous because Jesus paid the penalty of our sins (past, present and future) on our behalf. No sin we commit will undo His work of grace.

During my devotions this morning, the Lord brought me to an interesting passage in Colossians.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. ~~Colossians 1:21-23 (ESV)

The preceding verses highlight the wonderful truth that the Father qualifies us to share in the inheritance of the saints by reconciling all creation to Himself through His Son. Now in verses 21 and 22, Paul tells us that Christ has reconciled us to God, consequently presenting us to the Father as holy, blameless and above reproach. He proves that our reconciliation is genuine when we remain in the faith, not deviating from the Gospel.

The insistence on anchoring our righteousness solely in what the Lord did for us on the cross must remain in the forefront of our minds. So often, we try to take credit for His work of righteousness in us, mistakenly thinking that He requires us to maintain our salvation. We obey His commands with an attitude of self-righteousness, patting ourselves on the back for being such good little Christians.

So yes, we can rest in Christ’s finished work on the cross, assured that the Father sees us as righteous.

However.

I’ve seen evangelicals pervert God’s grace into license to sin. They reason that, since the Lord declares them righteous because Jesus died for their sins (past present and future), they can live in any way they please. Lately, they describe this approach to life as authenticity. In their estimation, they’re being true to themselves, convinced that the Lord is fine with it.

Yet the Bible teaches something entirely different, doesn’t it? Although Jesus has indeed borne the eternal consequences of our sins and therefore the Father sees us as righteous, the Lord now claims us as His property. Let me show you a passage written specifically about sexual sin that applies to sin in general.

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. ~~1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV)

Dear sisters, God’s grace frees us from sin, but it also places us under obligation to Him. Rather than being authentic to ourselves, we must now be true to Him. Not that we in any way earn or maintain our salvation. Christ has already taken care of that. But in gratitude for His sacrifice, we need to recognize our obligation to live in ways that honor Him. We must reflect, however imperfectly, His holiness. At least we ought to desire to reflect His holiness.

Authenticity shouldn’t give any Christian an excuse to indulge in shameful thoughts, attitudes or behaviors. Instead, the wonderful grace of God should fill us with grateful devotion that inspires our joyful obedience to Christ.

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