One Important Reason I Probably Won’t Blog About Butterflies On Subway Cars

Subway Butterfly

Because John and I met online,  we hold a special fondness for the movie, You’ve Got Mail. Meg Ryan plays a woman who carries on an email correspondence with Tom Hanks, not knowing that he’s the same man who put the children’s bookshop she owned out of business.

Throughout the movie, Ryan and Hanks do voice-overs of the emails they write to one another. Ryan’s early emails particularly interest me, as she reflects on an inconsequential thing (like a butterfly fluttering on and then off of a subway car) in a way that reveals so much of who she is. Her lines make me wish I could write as lyrically.

In another email, she comments on the strangeness of typing words into a computer, not knowing where they’ll go our who will read them. Since that movie was written long before blogs, Facebook and Twitter, I can’t help wondering if online communication has become even stranger now.

As a blogger, I sometimes wonder how my tenuous words have amassed the modest but growing following that The Outspoken TULIP  has developed in slightly less than three years. And would I have a larger or smaller following if I wrote about butterflies on subway cars and such?

Not that I can imagine anything as poetic as a butterfly fluttering on a Boston subway car. A dirty pigeon, perhaps. Though a pigeon would flap violently rather than delicately fluttering. Not the same.

Anyway, I once did operate a blog in which I wrote simply for the sake of writing. Yes, I enjoyed that freedom.  At times I regret giving it up in favor of this more focused blog. What harm could there be, I ask myself, if I occasionally departed from the main themes of this blog to have a little fun with writing? Although I seriously doubt I’d ever see a butterfly on a Boston subway car, I could easily find other interesting moments to develop into essays of little consequence.

A couple of verses I read in Ephesians yesterday stops me from allowing myself such liberties.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ~~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Indeed, the days are evil. Outside the church, abortion and homosexuality are celebrated as human rights, not decried as murder and perversion. Truck commercials on TV assume that dating couples will move in together before (or without) getting married. Christian bakers and florists lose their businesses for declining to cater gay weddings. Public schools offer yoga classes, denying yoga’s connection to Hinduism. Christians receive warnings not to pray in public, and sometimes get banned from social media for proclaiming the Gospel.

Many of us anticipate much more severe persecution in the near future.

Inside the visible church, professing Christians compromise in numerous respects, from so-called “Holy Yoga” to advocating for women pastors. For all our talk about believing God’s Word, our fondness for mysticism and psychology betray our confidence in human philosophies. False teachers infiltrate evangelical circles in droves.

The Outspoken TULIP exists precisely because the Church faces so many external and internal threats. Christian women need encouragement to study Scripture so we can withstand the overwhelming pressure to compromise with the world. While writing about butterflies on subway cars and such would certainly be a lot more fun, I don’t have time for that. Rather, it wouldn’t be the best use of my time.

Do I have a big enough following to make a significant difference?  Of course not. But the scope of my blog doesn’t matter. My faithfulness does. And faithfulness demands using my time for His glory, not for floating inconsequential musings across the Internet.

My blog may not be widely read, but I still have a responsibility to use my writing for the Lord. Although writing fun pieces every so often wouldn’t necessarily be bad, I have to ask myself if it would be the best use of my blogging time. When I consider how rapidly Western society is hurling itself into rebellion against God, and how greater numbers of professing Christians compromise with worldly values, I can’t help concluding that writing about the Lord and encouraging women in their walks with Him is the best use of my blogging time.

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Sufficient, But Needing Augmentation?

Spirit and Word

Most evangelicals would probably assert that they believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. They would nod vigorously if you quoted:

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 3:16-17 (ESV)

Even Charismatics would affirm the sufficiency of Scripture without batting an eye, as I did during the 18 years that I embraced Charismatic teaching. And throughout the years that I incorporated psychological principles into my correspondence counseling ministry, I would have insisted that the Bible was all my counselees needed to overcome their problems.

Evangelicals rationalize that, although Scripture is enough, sometimes the Lord must augment it with a direct revelation or psychological therapy. Or a combination of the two. God, they reason, isn’t limited to His Word, and consequently has the ability to work through any means He chooses. When someone counters that He chooses to limit His revelation to the pages of Scripture, most evangelicals dismiss such an idea as legalistic and narrow-minded. Scripture is enough, the say, but sometimes we need more.

So which is it?

And why is Scripture sufficient and impotent at the same time?

Evangelicals who supplement God’s Word with spiritual experiences, psychological models or anything else need to give this matter serious consideration. Yes, such honest evaluation may be painfully humbling. It has been for me. But humility opens us up to God’s grace, does it not?

If Scripture is truly God’s Word, why would Christians require anything in addition? Because each word of Scripture comes through the breath of the Holy Spirit, it carries His power in ministry.

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)

Ladies, that’s quite a bit of power! How much more power could we possibly need? Anything that can make a division between soul and spirit has got to be incredibly powerful and precise, it seems to me!

Evangelicals have many serious problems in the 21st Century, largely as a result of compromise with worldly approaches to spirituality. All these problems need addressing, and I praise God for godly discernment ministries that faithfully deal with the people and issues that create these problems. In addressing these problems, however, we  must constantly bring the conversation back to the sufficiency of Scripture.

Please think hard and long about the ways you try to hear from the Lord. Ask yourselves if you depend on anything in addition to the Bible as a way of hearing His voice. If so, ask yourselves if you honestly believe that Scripture is sufficient. And if you discover that you’re looking to anything to augment Scripture, please humble yourselves and turn to God for His grace. Remember that He loves to show grace.

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According To Scripture: Study #4 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Okay, sisters in Christ, we lost last week in terms of this Bible Study series, so let’s not waste any more time in our study of 1 Corinthians 15. To refresh our memories and maintain a sense of context, I’ll once again quote the first eleven verses of the chapter in preparation of discussing verses 8-11.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (ESV)

Last time, we looked at Paul’s impressive catalogue of eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection, but now we turn to a final witness: Paul himself. Immediately in verse 8, the apostle shows his humility by emphasizing that he hadn’t walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry as all the other eyewitnesses had. For this reason, he compares himself to an aborted child.

I’m going to be really honest here and admit that I don’t understand why he uses a word that means an aborted child. Every commentary I read spent time highlighting the definition of the Greek word in this verse, but none of them adequately explained its significance beyond the concept that it demonstrates Paul’s humility. He acknowledges that he didn’t spend time with Jesus in the way the others had, and that fact makes him feel awkward about claiming to be an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ.

He maintains, however, that the risen Lord did in fact appear to him (Acts 9:3-18, 2 Corinthians 12:1-6).  As awkward as he feels in numbering himself among men who followed the Lord throughout His earthly ministry, Paul refuses to waver from his testimony that, just like the others, he qualifies as an eyewitness to Christ’s resurrection.

His awkward feelings become compounded in verse 9 as he confesses that, prior to his conversion, he actually persecuted Christians. He accepts God’s grace in calling him to be an apostle, but he readily admits that he doesn’t deserve such an honor. His humble attitude serves as a powerful example to those of us who might boast about our salvations. Paul remembers his past and therefore has an acute awareness of God’s grace toward him.

His past convinces him of his unworthiness to be called an apostle (one qualification of apostleship was being an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ). He resolutely remembers what he’d done against God’s church before receiving God’s gracious gift of salvation.

In fact, he points directly to the grace God has shown him in verse 10. Having just confessed his unworthiness, he firmly acknowledges that God’s grace has indeed made him an apostle (Ephesians 3:7). His unworthiness doesn’t negate God’s calling on his life. To the contrary, his untimely spiritual birth coupled with his history of persecuting Christians increase his appreciation of God’s grace.

Notice, in verse 10, that Paul has responded to the grace he’s been shown by working more extensively than the other apostles. His youth (relative to theirs) and the broader scope of his missionary journeys naturally resulted in a heftier resume. Therefore, God’s grace had enabled him to work harder. He presents this fact simply.

Yet he quickly adds that his work comes, not from himself, but as a  consequence of God’s grace. He insists that the Corinthians look to Christ rather than to him. Recall, if you please, that Paul opened this passage by emphasizing the primary importance of the Gospel. The last thing he wants is to shift attention back to himself! God’s grace, and only God’s grace, permitted Paul to see the resurrected Christ.

Verse 11 strengthens his resolve to direct attention away from himself and back to the Gospel that he outlines in verses 3 and 4. As helpful as eyewitnesses are, they mustn’t distract us from the Gospel itself. And because the Gospel requires center stage, Paul considers it immaterial to care about the pedigree of who preaches it. Whether the original disciples preach or he does, he wants people to hear the Gospel and believe it.

This point brings us to our next section: a detailed discussion on why the doctrine of resurrection matters. As I mentioned last week, we’ll take a two-week break before tackling that section, but I wouldn’t mind if you read the whole of Chapter 15 between now and then, paying particular heed to verses 12-19. Please use the Comments Section here or on The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook page to ask questions or raise issues in these eight verses that you’d like me to address.

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My Sin, Dwarfed By Grace

Lately, the Lord has allowed me to see the instances when I sin a bit more frequently. Not that I’ve been sinning more frequently. Rather, I’m less blinded to my sin than usual, so I can confess more often and more specifically.

Although I’ve been praying for a greater sensitivity to my sin, I can’t say I exactly enjoy being confronted with my wretchedness. I don’t like knowing that I’ve displeased the Lord or that I’ve acted unbecomingly. I like to maintain a high opinion of myself, and I like others (especially God) to share that high opinion.

But by seeing the ugliness of my sin, I also get to see the astounding beauty of God’s grace. As today’s hymn demonstrates, that grace is ever so much more powerful than any sin I commit. And it’s more powerful than any sin you commit. So, as the Lord faithfully allows us to look at our sins, let’s rejoice in the opportunity to experience His grace to forgive and cleanse us.

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Saturday Sampler: May 20 — May 26

Boston July 26 2010 005

Custom Tower & Old State House

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of Bishop Curry’s sermon? Garrett Kell, in All Things for Good, asks a more accurate question with What Would Jesus Say About Bishop Curry’s Royal Wedding Sermon? I heartily agree.

Unbelievers sure love discounting the veracity of the Bible, don’t they? SlimJim, who blogs at The Domain for Truth, writes Bible Contradiction? Did Jesus perform many signs and wonders? He has a running series responding to alleged contradictions in Scripture; this is the first installment I’ve read, and it’s an excellent example of why context matters.

The apostle Paul, says Jordan Standridge, was Obsessed with the Gospel. His piece, appearing in The Cripplegate, draws from Paul’s letter to the Philippians to challenge us in our response to persecution.

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Swan Boat at Boston’s Public Garden

The sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical  Beginnings takes on the popular false teaching associated with John 10:10 in her essay, Twisted Tuesday — The Abundant Life. I appreciate her encouragement to study God’s Word carefully and with discernment.

How could the doctrine of total depravity possibly encourage Christians?  In his post for Parking Space 23, Zach Putthoff answers that question. You might find yourself rejoicing as you read Total Depravity & the Christian Life.

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Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

I never expected to read The Master’s Seminary Blog, but The Wretched Art of Loveless Discernment by Reagan Rose caught my eye. His points convict me to continue discernment blogging, but to make sure I do so from right motives and with a godly attitude. Anyone interested in discernment ministry needs to take this article to heart.

Like Michelle Lesley, I belong to a church within the Southern Baptist Convention. And like her  church, the church I belong to has strong leanings toward Reformed Theology, for which I praise God! Yet, as I read about the denomination as a whole, I must agree with her that It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right.

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Massachusetts State House

Praise the Lord that Phil Johnson has revived Pyromaniacs, one of the blogs God used to bring me to Reformed Theology a decade ago. His post, The Root of the Matter, identifies the serious problems creeping into Reformed circles lately. Again, praise the Lord for Johnson’s faithfulness to stand against worldly compromise for the sake of the Gospel.

Photos of downtown Boston sites taken by John Kespert

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Flashback Friday: The Logical Conclusions Weinstein And Spacey Exemplify

In light of Harvey Weinstein surrendering  himself to authorities this morning, I want to repost this article from November 9, 2017. I feel even more strongly about Hollywood’s hypocrisy now than I did when I originally wrote this piece.

Hollywood Door

For a few weeks now, America has been scandalized by allegations that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey sexually assaulted people. The entertainment elite didn’t mind such accusations against conservatives like Bill Cosby and Bill O’Reilly, mind you. Those allegations fit so wonderfully into their narrative of conservative hypocrisy.

The interesting aspect of the scandal generated by Weinstein and Spacey is that the hypocrisy lies in the moral outrage of a community (or industry) that openly and persistently promotes unbridled sex. For over a century, Hollywood has pushed an agenda of sexual freedom, openly mocking Biblical standards of morality. They’ve done so slowly and carefully, to be sure, but they’ve always led the way in desensitizing moviegoers to illicit affairs.

Who didn’t want Humphrey Bogart to get on that plane with Ingrid Bergman?

How many Christian women love The Notebook, undisturbed that Ryan Gosling a) has premarital sex  with Rachel McAdams and b) resumes the relationship when she’s about to marry someone else?

These films, along with many others too numerous to mention, lure us into softening our hatred of sexual sin. In fact, they portray adultery and fornication as almost innocent acts that we should applaud rather than condemn. In essence,  Hollywood sells the idea that we should feed our sexual appetites, even if we do so outside the marriage covenant.

Once we realize Hollywood’s agenda, we must admit that Weinstein and Spacey have merely taken that agenda to its logical conclusion. Given their rejection of Biblical morality,  why should it matter whether sex was consensual or not? Does Hollywood have a right to set any standard for sexual behavior? If so, why does it?

To be clear, I in no way condone sexual assault.  Kevin Spacey, to his credit,  has acknowledged at least some of his assaults against underaged boys (although he partially excuses himself because he was supposedly under the influence of alcohol). Nevertheless, both men have completely thumbed their privileged noses at God’s Law, and I cannot be sympathetic towards either of them.

But neither can I accept so-called righteous indignation from an entertainment industry that systematically and relentlessly celebrates sexual perversion while it simultaneously vilifies Christians for proclaiming that sexual expression belongs exclusively within monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Weinstein and Spacey have merely practiced what Hollywood has preached since Mae West delighted audiences with her suggestive lines. All of Hollywood should join Weinstein and Spacey in repentance.

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I’m Neither A Mouse Nor A Man, But…

Head Stick Pics 007“The best laid plans of mice and men.” Isn’t that a line from Steinbeck? Since I haven’t touched a Steinbeck novel since college, and didn’t much care for his writing even then, I wouldn’t know.

At any rate, my best laid plans to produce the next installment of our 1 Corinthians 15 Bible Study series got derailed  because I got either a stomach bug or food poisoning yesterday, and therefore had approximately 73 emails to wade through today. Because I’m still tired from all the emotional uproar of needing a new Personal Care Attendant, John’s doctor appointment and being sick as a dog, I figure I can publish the next Bible Study on Monday if I skip writing an original blog post tomorrow.

So, ladies, look forward to a Flashback Friday post tomorrow, a very interesting Saturday Sampler Saturday, and hopefully a Sunday Hymn for May 27 (I’m not promising the hymn, but I’ll try). I really want to finish 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 before taking a break to accommodate my June 11 doctor appointment.

I apologize for failing to write a study this week, but I guess if mice and men can lay faulty plans, then I can. Praise God that His plans never get thwarted!

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