The Longings Of One Physically Disabled Woman

Commonwealth Mall Sept 2012 026Being a physically disabled Christian often requires responding graciously to assumptions that my able-bodied brothers and sisters in Christ make. One friend envied all the extra time I have to study God’s Word (never mind that everything takes longer and my Personal Care Attendant schedule limits the hours I have on my computer). Countless people think of me as a prayer warrior (never mind that I struggle more with prayer than any other spiritual discipline). And almost everyone assumes I wish I could walk (believe me, I’d much rather be rid of my speech defect).

But the assumption that most bothers me is that I can’t wait for my resurrection body.

Friends often talk about having foot races with me in heaven. They envision me pushing them around in wheelbarrows (as payback for all the times they pushed me around in my manual wheelchair), and they anticipate dancing with me or wearing me out on a celestial tennis court. And I appreciate their desire to see me free of my Cerebral Palsy, with all its muscle tension,  skeleton distortions and limitations. Of course my resurrection body will be a wonderful relief after my earthly lifetime as a quadriplegic.

I am looking forward to having a glorified body, but not so that I can run and leap and dance. As wonderful as those things may be, I believe they will take a very distant second to the real joy of heaven.

Revelation 5:6-14 is my favorite description of heaven. Please click this link and read it. You’ll find no mention of healed bodies or formerly disabled people playing tennis, but you most definitely will find multitudes praising the Lord Jesus Christ, centering all their attention completely on Him. You’ll find adoring declarations of His worthiness to receive honor and glory because of His work on the cross.

Our resurrection bodies certainly will be liberated from physical weaknesses, but that liberation has a purpose far beyond our physical comfort. Ultimately, our resurrected bodies will be free from the corruption of sin.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~~Romans 8:18-25 (ESV)

Recently, a friend of mine remarked to me that once we have our resurrected bodies we will be able to worship the Lord without mixed motives. No more wondering if others see how spiritual we look. No more trying to manipulate Him into giving us what we want. Our glorified bodies  will enable us to worship Him in total purity, with no sin polluting our praise.

I don’t really care about being set free from my disability in heaven,  though I know I’ll praise the Lord  for that blessing as well.  I eagerly await a resurrection body no longer infected by sin. A body free to praise the Lord Jesus Christ with pure motives. A body that can stand before His glory and holiness without flinching in shame.  I long to see His face.

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It’s Just A Small Little Sin

Coffee Stained Wedding Gown

The Gospel teaches that men and women are sinners by nature and by choice, unable to stand in the presence of a holy God. But that same God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, came to earth and lived a sinless life before voluntarily suffering a painful crucifixion during which He accepted His Father’s wrath, thus atoning for the sins of all who would believe in Him. Three days later He rose from the dead, signifying that the Father accepted His sacrifice as well as assuring believers of eternal life in His presence.

The Holy Spirit regenerates Christians by enabling us to believe in Jesus Christ as the only Savior. This faith is immediately demonstrated by an attitude of repentance as an acknowledgment of Christ’s  authority over us.

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.~~John 3:16-18 (ESV)

Believers know these things backwards and forwards…or at least they should. Sadly, most 21st Century evangelicals don’t readily articulate the Gospel when asked to do so. Even more tragic, many who claim to be Christians live as though Jesus exists to serve them when they ought to recognize themselves as His slaves.

As I see it, a major reason that evangelicals misunderstand and pervert the Gospel stems from difficulty accepting the fact that we actually need a Savior in the first place. Surely we aren’t that bad! And doesn’t  our good outweigh the mistakes we’ve made?

Think of it this way. It’s your wedding day, and you take your expensive white gown out of the closest. Laying it on your bed, you notice a few small spots. Coffee stains!  Your bridesmaids try to comfort you, pointing out that most of the  gown is still white. People probably won’t even notice those tiny brown stains,  they assure you with soothing voices.

But you know (and so do they) that the dress is ruined.

Even the smallest sin ruins us when we measure ourselves against God’s holy perfection. Everything else about us may be pristine, just like a wedding gown, but the yards of white linen and tulle can’t  atone for those tiny coffee spots.  And all our self-perceived goodness can’t make us acceptable to God.

That’s why Christ’s death on the cross is such good news. He paid the penalty for our sins, clothing is in His righteousness. He presents us to the Father in His purity, as though we’d never soiled ourselves.

If you haven’t yet placed your faith in Him,  I beg you to stop trusting the notion that your so-called good outweighs your sin. The stain may appear small to you, but it leaves you with damage that only Jesus can repair. Once you recognize your desperate need for the salvation that only He can accomplish, the rest of the Gospel falls easily into place.

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I Know Who Cleans My Dishes

Originally posted September 9, 2015:

The Outspoken TULIP

3D Cross Mother of PearlMy time in God’s Word this morning didn’t make me feel good. I read Matthew 23, in which Jesus blasted the scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. At first, I felt relatively comfortable with this chapter as I applied the Lord’s harsh words to present-day evangelicals who either fail to practice what they preach or deliberately tinker with Scripture so that they lead others into deception.

But the Holy Spirit began getting a bit personal with me at verse 24: “You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (ESV). He reminded me of times I’ve displayed outward “obedience” all too fastidiously while I covered up secret sins. Like the Pharisees, I’ve leaned on my self-righteous legalism as I distracted  myself from the ways that I willfully rebelled against the Lord.

The next couple of verses intensified the indictment against me.

25 “Woe to you…

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An Uncomplicated Reason To Leave Charismatic Teaching

Out of Charismania

It may appear that I write so vigorously against the Charismatic movement with a vindictive attitude. Indeed,  one or two people have said to my face that they believe I reject Charismatic theology because of hurts I supposedly suffered during my years in Charismatic fellowships.

Fair enough, on one level. Several attempts at healing me from Cerebral Palsy probably did border on spiritual abuse, and it certainly would be understandable if I harbored bitterness over those experiences. Sure, such bitterness would be sinful, but most people would at least understand it. In a way, I suspect the friends I have in Charismatic circles might feel comforted by the thought that my current theological positions are just an overreaction to all I underwent.

But really, I turned away from Charismatic theology because, quite simply, it doesn’t line up with God’s Word.

Yes, I know all the verses Charismatics use to substantiate their teachings. I remember using those very verses in my disputes with non-Charismatics, actually. I believe that many Charismatics genuinely love God’s Word and honestly think the miracles of the four gospels and the book of Acts should be replicated today. I know why they hold such convictions. Their arguments carry a sense of plausibility that I have to respect.

But I have come to very different conclusions as I’ve studied Scripture and learned more about proper hermeneutics. Not that I’m smarter or better educated than they are. Rather, God graciously led me to more accurate teaching on the topic by His grace and for His glory.

Although I’m still far from being a Biblical scholar, the Lord has exposed me to good models of understanding His Word, consequently convincing me that the miracles of the New Testament weren’t meant as normative patterns for Christians after the First Century.

Hopefully I’ll write future articles detailing why we mustn’t apply First Century occurrences to present-day Christianity,  but that isn’t the purpose of this particular post. Today I merely want to communicate that I didn’t renounce Charismatic theology as a reaction to negative experiences, but instead because of my desire to remain faithful to the Word of God. Whatever spiritual abuse I may or may not have endured (and I’ll leave the Lord to make that determination), I only want my doctrine to line up with God’s Word.

My personal experiences are no more authoritative than the experiences of my Charismatic friends.

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Saturday Sampler: November 19 — November 25

bible-sampler

Thanksgiving has passed, but the holiday season is just ramping up! You might want to read Michelle Lesley’s 10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays for some practical evangelism ideas. I am planning on implementing #10 myself.

For an intriguing approach to Bible reading, consider Why You Should Live in the Psalms by Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another. I’m not sure yet whether or not I’ll try his suggestions, but it definitely captures my interest. See what you think.

Obviously, bloggers this week focus quite a bit on Thanksgiving. Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life writes about the topic from an interesting angle in her blog post, Freezing Out Fear. It’s shorter than most of her posts, but it’s no less powerful.

The holidays can certainly bring out the best and the worst in us, can’t they? In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Melissa Krueger illustrates how A Beautiful Table and a Bitter Heart can dishonor the Lord.

Continuing her very convicting series on “acceptable” sins, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised gives us Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Selfishness. She makes points about this particularly damaging sin that I’d never considered, and her perspective might challenge you a little as well. The entire series is definitely worth your time!

We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation nearly a month ago, but let’s not suppose that we can move on to other things and forget all about it. Equip, a blog out of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, features Stephen J. Wellum’s article entitled Are the Five Solas Biblical? We all need this refresher.

Pastor Gabe Hughes examines the recent #Churchtoo campaign on Twitter that intends to indict Christian churches for allowing (if not encouraging) sexual harassment and assault. His article, #Churchtoo: Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Church…And How Not To Do It, looks at the sin of sexual abuse from a Biblical perspective rather than as a reason to discredit Christianity.

Writing for Common Slaves, Joe Reed offers an extended quotation in Doctor’s Orders: Lloyd-Jones on obsession with polemics. If you can’t get enough of “discernment ministry,” you might do well to read this one.

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Not Your Typical Choice For A Thanksgiving Hymn

Thanksgiving reminds us to thank the Lord for His goodness in providing for us. In an increasingly secular culture, we certainly need that reminder. Yet the wonderful hymns usually sung at this time of year can sometimes emphasize the blessings God gives while minimizing the greatness of the Giver.

Let me be clear: the traditional Thanksgiving hymns are full of rich doctrine. We must in no way despise them, or even consider them inferior. But we can enhance them by also singing hymns that specifically exalt the Lord, especially when they use His blessings as a way of glorifying Him. Today’s hymn does just that.

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Saturday Sampler: November 12 — November 18

raggedy-ann-sampler

In a short post (as in five paragraphs), Tim Challies uncovers The Problem with the “Want Ads” in Denominational Magazines. Sadly, the person he quotes was not exaggerating.

Leslie A. once again uses her Growing 4 Life blog to get us thinking about how we order our lives to honor the Lord. Balanced is Beautiful cautions us against narrowing our spiritual focus so tightly that we neglect other areas that also require our attention.

If you want to change things up in your personal Bible Study time, consider doing some topical studies.  Sharon Lareau of Chapter 3 Ministries walks us through some ideas on How to Study the Bible by Topic that could definitely help you approach God’s Word in a way you haven’t tried before.

Check out Unlocking the Bible to read Why Christians Should Not Get Angry with the Lost  by Pastor Colin Smith. This analogy is vivid enough to stick with you, and may be useful as you spend Thanksgiving with unsaved relatives.

Like Lara d’Entremont, I’m not a fan of having people point out my flaws.  So her article,  The Gracious Response to Criticism in Renewed In Truth Discipleship, challenges me to again confess my perfectionist tendencies and remember that having someone call me out on sin might help me better obey the Lord.

Don’t overlook Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Anger in Erin Benziger’s blog, Do Not Be Surprised. Maybe you’ll wince a little (okay, maybe more than a little) as you read it, but keep reading. Her conclusion alleviates all the discomfort.

Have I called someone you follow a false teacher? If so, you probably didn’t appreciate it. But Michelle Lesley’s post, Throwback Thursday ~ Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, And the Authority of God’s Word, could help you think through your reactions. Sometimes “discernment bloggers” do wrongfully accuse people of false teaching. Michelle’s article can help you determine whether or not that’s happening.

Whether you watch the short video or read the transcript,  be sure to give Tim Challies’ The Problem with Love Languages – Three Minute Thursdays #3 your attention. John and I heartily agree with all of the points Challies makes, and I particularly liked his conclusion.

Continuing her Bible Study on James, Lisa Morris of Conforming to the Truth writes Genuine Faith Understands the Importance of Taming the Tongue. Ladies,  all of us need this one.

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The Christian Professor Marvel

Psychology AftermathOnce a year, a certain guest speaker came to our church in California.  By God’s providence, I missed his first visit (I can’t remember why, though I suspect I had a cold that I didn’t want to share).

In the days following,  my friends gushed over this man’s ministry,  recounting his “words of knowledge” as verification that he operated in the “power of the Holy Spirit.” Even a friend who had previously expressed skepticism regarding Charismatic phenomena tried to convince me by saying, “He told me things about myself that only the Lord and I knew.”

“Like Professor Marvel in The Wizard of Oz?” I asked, pretty much ending the conversation.

The biggest draw to the annual meetings with this man, however, was that people got “slain in the Spirit” when he prayed over them. My girlfriends anticipated his meetings, positively giddy over this prospect. Even in my Charismatic days, I saw no point in people falling backwards to the floor in spiritual ecstasy.  But this prophetic speaker started coming around after I’d turned from Charismatic theology. Thus the very prospect that made them giddy made me nauseous.

The last year he came, I told my pastor that I wouldn’t attend church that week because I couldn’t support the practice of slaying people in the Spirit.  My pastor, in an effort to persuade me that the practice was godly, blurted out, “But Deb, your best friend gets slain every year!”

No appeal to Scripture whatsoever.  Please notice that point.

In both conversations I’ve recounted today, people based this man’s credibility on the personal experiences of those who attended his meetings, not on whether or not he accurately preached God’s Word (which I doubt, given the Charismatic excesses that routinely accompanied his appearances). And that appeal to personal experience troubles me even more today than it did at the time. Although my friends didn’t realize it, they elevated personal experience over the authority of Scripture.

Yet the apostle Paul warned that not everyone who appears to preach the Gospel actually does.

12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. ~~2 Corinthians 11:12-15 (ESV)

Not once, in all the years that this man came, did anyone tell me he inspired them to study Scripture, that he exhorted them towards holiness or that he helped them see Christ more clearly. As I recall, they always came away focused on themselves instead of the Lord. And that disturbs me.

Ladies, the Lord didn’t institute His Church so that we could enjoy Christian equivalents to psychics or luxuriate in euphoric trances. His Church exists solely to glorify Christ Jesus and to equip His people to proclaim the Gospel. Spiritual goosebumps may offer momentary pleasure, but usually they distract us from Him. We must evaluate preachers, not by personal experiences they make available, but by how faithfully they handle the precious Word of God.

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Creator And Sustainer

Majestic Name

Colossians 1 may well be one of my favorite chapters in the Bible! This morning I read just one section of it, but I couldn’t stop taking notes and marveling at the depths of Who Jesus is and how absolute His power is. Look at the passage with me.

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. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

Every time I read this passage, it thrills me! Even beyond being a compelling testimony to Christ’s deity (which alone excites me quite a bit), the idea that He personally created the entire universe, and now holds it together boggles my mind. The more I think about His centrality in sustaining every molecule of creation, the more astounded I am.

I respond to this majestic description of the Lord by worshiping Him. Really, what other response possibly corresponds to His preeminence?

Please run Colossians 1:15-20 through your brain for a few minutes. Think about its richness in portraying the Lord Jesus Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, from the vastness of outer space to the complexity of a single cell. Then remember that He became a Man in order to shed His blood on the cross to pay for our sins. I believe those thoughts will propel you into worship too.

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