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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A Reason To Sing Of My Redeemer

Why do so many hymns center on the cross? If the Lord has allowed you to understand the horrifying depths of your sin, and then allowed you to experience the exhilarating relief of His grace, you know that we can sing about nothing more wonderful! Today’s hymn underscores the joy of singing about our Redeemer.

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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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