Saturday Sampler: November 24 — November 30

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Where do hymns come from? We all know the story of John Newton and Amazing Grace, but other hymns also have stories. Elizabeth Prata of The End Time narrates one Story Behind the Song: When the Roll is Called Up Yonder as an encouragement to us.

Don’t miss Ryan Higginbottom’s Keep the Whole Book in Mind in Knowable Word. I’ve been reading Romans with a greater awareness of its overall context, and I’m learning quite a lot. Higginbottom’s advice might revitalize your Bible reading too.

Each year during the holidays, Leslie A takes a break from writing about ways we can grow in Christ. During the weeks leading up to Christmas she devotes Growing 4 Life to five installments of an original short story. The Christmas Ornaments (Part 1) kicks off this year’s story, and I’m already eager for Part 2! If you’ve never read Leslie’s fiction, treat yourself this year.

J.T. Wynn, writing for Stand to Reason, asks Why Are Pro-Choicers Bothered by Images of Aborted Clumps of Cells? Although the answer is implicit in the title, I believe reading Wynn’s insights will strengthen your convictions on  behalf of unborn children.

HT to Erin Benziger for showing me R.C. Sproul’s essay on John Calvin’s Legacy on the Crossway blog. Having once believed the false caricatures of Calvin, I appreciate Sproul’s accurate representation of “The Theologian,” and I strongly encourage you to read about this man who did so much to restore Biblical thought to the Church. Calvin’s teaching is sorely needed in today’s evangelical church!

Meditating on the Lord’s Prayer, Jason Vaughn of Parking Space 23 reminds us that Go and Reconcile is a command, not a suggestion.With all the anger both in churches and online, we desperately need to obey the Lord by forgiving each other.

Yes, I know I’ve already featured one post by Leslie A, but Will You Join Me? demands attention. Not only does Leslie unveil her 2020 Bible Reading Challenge  (which I may or may not do, depending on how I decide to structure my teaching on Colossians), but it celebrates the Bible’s power. Whether we participate in her  challenge or use our own  reading plans, her article clarifies the necessity of immersing ourselves in God’s Word. Please, if you can read only one item from this week’s Sampler, pick this one!

I’ve read Amy Medina’s carefully documented criticisms of Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes before in her blog, everyone needs a little Grace in their lives. Amy and her husband serve as missionaries in Tanzania, giving her  a perspective on this charitable enterprise that most Americans don’t have. OCC Shoeboxes: Answering the Arguments highlights some of the main problems with this particular outreach of Samaritans Purse.

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Flashback Friday: Displaying The Pearl

Originally posted November 24, 2015:

All humans love the idea that we have something inherent in ourselves that pleases God. We firmly believe we bring something to the salvation table. In dealing with the presumption that we can contribute to our salvation, I’d like you to think of Jesus as a perfect Pearl. (I love pearls.) That image, of course, should remain limited to the analogy I present here–I don’t mean to start a new teaching about Jesus being a Pearl! But consider, for this moment, how your life would best show off His beauty. What about you best displays Him?

Perhaps you might immediately think of your good deeds. You’ve given to charitable causes, worked in Christian ministry, raised relatively well-behaved kids, driven elderly neighbors to doctor appointments, sent Christmas cards every year, all while maintaining good health habits to show everyone that you know your body is the temple of the Lord. Your organization and efficiency dazzles everybody. How much you do for Him.

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but you compete with Him for attention.

Or maybe He’s given you talents, such as a good singing voice or the ability to paint beautiful landscapes. Your blog has over 500 followers, most of whom gush endlessly over your knack for “turning a phrase.” Your signature cherry pie is always requested at church potlucks, or people flock to the women’s Bible Study you lead because your sense of humor is legendary. How creative you are for Him!

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but you compete with Him for attention.

Ah, but it’s possible that your piety impresses Him. You were a virgin until your wedding night, and would never flirt with anyone but your husband. You have filters on your computer, you refuse to be alone (even in an elevator) with a member of the opposite sex, and you don’t buy underwear at Victoria’s Secret. Furthermore, you avoid products that exploit workers in Third World sweat-shops, you never drink so much as a glass of wine, and you would  never dream of jay-walking…even in downtown Boston. How moral you are for Him!

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but He barely shows up against your image of purity. Consequently, His glory becomes almost indistinguishable from your own. Once again, you compete with Him for attention.

Actually, I see my own attention-grabbing attitudes in all three of these pictures. Hopefully, you see yourself as well. If we choose these backdrops of self-righteousness, we may convince ourselves that we best display the Pearl, but the reality demonstrates otherwise. As long as we claim anything good about ourselves, we minimize the Lord’s role as Savior.

Jesus is a Pearl, not because our “goodness” displays Him, but because He turns our wickedness into a backdrop for His mercy, grace and love.

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Never Underestimate Michelle Lesley — A Thanksgiving Testimony

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It’s Thanksgiving Day and I definitely feel thankful! When I posted my need for Personal Care Attendant help during Christmas week on Facebook, I hoped it might help. Usually it generates prayers, but seldom practical offers. Still, I always appreciate prayer.

The Facebook post, to my surprise, bore a little fruit right away. A friend immediately offered Monday and Friday if needed. Someone else might also be available that Friday, which would be great. Okay, two days down. Thank You Lord!

Yesterday afternoon we received a call from Continue reading

Drinking From A Fire Hydrant Is Difficult, And It Could Drown People

Fire HydrantPopular false teachers give bloggers plenty of material to keep us busy. And when a false teacher has a Twitter account, he or she becomes the gift that keeps on giving.

I do understand the sense of urgency that compels people to call out these false teachers. Over the years, I’ve used this very blog for that purpose, and I certainly don’t rule out doing so again. As evangelicals grow more and more Biblically illiterate, false teachers gain greater power to spread their deception.

But in our urgency to warn our brothers and sisters against false teachers, we can stumble into a variety of pitfalls that could potentially undermine our message. For example, we could overload Continue reading

I’m Not Fond Of Seasonal Blog Posts

Thanksgiving is Thursday, and Advent is quickly following. As a Christian blogger, I feel a certain pressure (a gentle pressure, but a pressure nonetheless) to write about these celebrations. Yesterday, Thanksgiving came in handy, I’ll admit.  I didn’t have to spend hours Saturday afternoon scouring through YouTube for a hymn that interested me. A seasonal hymn really bailed me out!

But for the most part, I don’t get terribly excited about either reading or writing Thanksgiving and Advent articles. That’s particularly strange to me because I love the doctrine of the Incarnation.

People have given up trying to figure me out.

Seriously, I think there are two reasons this year that I feel a heightened aversion to Thanksgiving and Christmas articles. The first is Continue reading

Thy Name Be Ever Praised

It’s inconvenient, I suppose, to remember that most of the people who settled in Massachusetts in the early 1600s were Puritans. Dare I say, Calvinists? Their first Thanksgiving included food, family and fun, to be sure, but they primarily called the feast to thank the Lord for bringing them through that first harsh New England winter.

In other words, they focused on the Lord.

Thanksgiving Day now offers little attention to God, apparently forgetting the true purpose of the holiday. So I love this traditional Thanksgiving hymn that reminds me of the Puritans and their desire to praise God.

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Saturday Sampler: November 17 — November 23

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For a poignant picture of God’s sovereignty in the midst of tragedy, read Bennett’s Final Race and the God of all Comfort by Leslie Schmucker. Sometimes children are wiser than adults.

Nathan Bingham of Ligonier posts a short video of Burk Parsons answering the question, How Do Creeds and Confessions Help Us? This thought-provoking reply may surprise those of us who don’t attend confessional churches, hopefully encouraging us to study the historic creeds and confessions that have shaped church history.

Surely one little sin doesn’t matter. Leslie A refutes that faulty attitude with The Domino Effect in Growing 4 Life this week. Accept her challenge to examine yourself.

Short and sweet: Peter Krol posts 5 Ways to Read More of the Bible in Knowable Word. You’ll find this article to be wonderfully refreshing, and I believe you’ll be encouraged to read God’s Word in the midst of all types of circumstances.

The Jealousy & Envy Refresher that Eric Davis writes for The Cripplegate is, if I may be so blunt, convicting. But then, conviction leads to repentance, and that’s always a good thing.

Elizabeth Prata reaches back to July 2013 to make an encore presentation of What the Bible says about Dreamers in The End Time. If you find yourself considering the idea than God speaks to believers in visions and dreams routinely, I beg you to read this carefully documented blog post. Elizabeth faithfully draws from Scripture to make her case against trusting in mystical experiences.

Complimenting Elizabeth’s essay, Parking Space 23 runs The Holy Spirit & the ‘Ordinary’ Christian Life by Zach Putthoff. He emphasizes what the Holy Spirit actually does in the lives of believers.

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