Beautiful Writing Should Be More Than Beautiful Writing

John and I, remembering that we met online 22 years ago, celebrated Valentine’s Day by watching You’ve Got Mail. Some time ago, I blogged about how I love the writing in this movie, and Friday night I again found myself wishing that The Outspoken TULIP afforded me the opportunity to write the sort of things that the characters in the story wrote to each other.

I couldn’t resist wondering how I might sneak in an occasional post that centered merely on writing for the sake of writing. Who knows? Some of my readers might enjoy it!

As I searched YouTube for a hymn yesterday, I decided on a contemporary one that I learned through our church. I chose it because of its clear picture of God’s grace in bringing sinners to salvation. But as I reviewed various versions of videos, I was mesmerized by the beautiful writing in this hymn. After watching You’ve Got Mail the night before, perhaps I felt particularly aware of how the hymn writer organized the words. At any rate, I couldn’t help marveling at  the power in the phrases.

The hymn writer did something that the characters in the movie could never have done — he used beautiful writing to honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. If I want to write beautifully, may I write beautiful words that draw attention to His grace.

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Saturday Sampler: February 9 — February 15

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, Mike Ratliff encourages us to maintain Sanctified Minds and Bodies in his blog, Possessing the Treasure.  It saddens me that some professing Christians buy into the lie that God doesn’t enforce His prohibition against sexual license.

According to Leslie A of Growing 4 Life, the tsunami of apostasy has hit. Her View from a Palm Tree is discouraging on the one hand. On the other hand, it gives wonderful encouragement to weary Christians. Please make her blog post a high priority on your reading list.

In a post for 9 Marks, Ed Moore lists 10 Flavors of Works-Based Salvation for us to ponder.  Some of these pitfalls ensnare evangelicals (who really ought to know better). Are you trusting in any of these subtle ways of ensuring that God will accept you? HT to Tim Challies for highlighting this piece.

I’m including a second item by Mike Ratliff because it reinforces some of the thoughts I’ve been having this week. The Throne in Heaven, the Scroll, and the Lamb accentuates God’s holiness in light of eschatology. You might want to take a look at this one.

You’ll enjoy Elizabeth Prata’s thoughts in The End Time on The Amazing Natural World that God created. Since giraffes are my favorite animals, I particularly love her section on how the construction of their necks defies evolution. The entire piece is absolutely magnificent — well worth your attention.

Bucking the pressure to  bad-mouth social media, Throwback Thursday ~ 9 Ways Social Media is a Blessing to Believers by Michelle Lesley discusses the upside of online activity. Having met my husband online, I firmly agree with Michelle that social media is merely a tool. Read her blog post to discover how we can use this tool to glorify God.

Writing for Knowable Word, Peter Krol always helps us understand how Scripture fits together. His article, Context Matters: Always Prepared to Make a Defense, examines a verse that discernment and apologetics bloggers often cite as a mission statement. Is that a legitimate application? You’ll only find out by reading Krol’s post.

Justin Bullington writes The Ugly Business Of Politics And The Trinitarian Hope of Romans 1:1-6 for Things Above Us as a reminder of where our focus needs to stay during this election season. His refreshing perspective shouldn’t escape your notice.

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Throwback Thursday: He Could Have Turned Away

Originally posted on February 6, 2016, and appropriate for Valentine’s Day.

Broken HeartEach morning, he’d be there promptly at 7:30 to feed his wife. I never really saw her, though I lived at that nursing home for two years, but I knew she was in a “vegetative” state. If she knew he was there, she had no way of showing recognition, so it obviously follows that she couldn’t express appreciation, let alone affection or companionship. He’d feed her, change her Depends, and leave carrying a bag with her soiled diaper. Then he’d return each evening, shortly after 5:00, to feed her supper. Again, he’d leave with a bag.

He was good-looking, probably in his mid-sixties. He could have had an active social life….if he’d chosen to divorce his wife. Instead he’d come to the nursing home seven days a week, always cheerfully, and sometimes with goodies for Continue reading

It’s An Election Year, And Candidates From Both Parties Promise To Save The World

Silent FireworksUntil I was 42, I was a registered Democrat. Interestingly, I usually crossed party lines when voting for presidents, but for the most part I believed that Democrats cared about the underprivileged. I saw no inconsistency between my Christian convictions and my political convictions other than an increasing support of abortion within my party.

In my defense, back then the Democrats made room for pro-life voters. Currently, I might note, the Republican party still has room for pro-choice voters and politicians such as Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker. So please understand that, back then, I sincerity believed my faith informed my politics.

In 1995, the abortion issue caused me to switch my party affiliation. When John and I began chatting online three years later, he helped me understand why the Republican view of the economy better addresses poverty. Now I believe I’m affiliated with a party that better reflects Biblical values.

Having said all that, I’m troubled Continue reading

John And I Need Your Prayers

IMG_3173A couple of weeks ago, I took a vacation from blogging. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable decision — I work hard at blogging, and wanted some time for myself.

Looking back, I question whether such a self-indulgent course of action genuinely honored Christ. That point could probably be debated at some other time, and I tend to doubt that Scripture would exonerate me. Nevertheless, I took a the break, and I can’t undo the past.

But now I have another reason for wishing I hadn’t taken the break. For the next week and a half, my time will (hopefully) be taken up with Continue reading

Keys To Discernment: Why Paul Prays For Their Wisdom

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Although we’re getting into the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians today, our text will demand that we look at some background information on the false teachings that he addresses. I aim to demonstrate how he uses sound doctrine, rather than direct discussion of the errors at hand, to steer the Colossians away from faulty theology and practices.

We’ll most likely only get through two verses in this installment of our study, but (as usual) I’ll quote the whole passage for the sake of context.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~~Colossians 1:9-14 (ESV)

If you take verses 9 and 10 at face value, you could get a fairly accurate interpretation of them. Definitely, Christians should pray for each other along these lines, getting beyond the superficial prayers for health, finances, marriages and other temporal matters.  But how much better would it be if we prayed for each other’s spiritual development?

At the risk of sounding like a late night info-mercial, I’m going to say, “But wait — there’s more!” Paul’s not only modeling an important way we should pray for each other. He’s also attacking the pre-gnostic mysticism that threatened the First Century churches in that region.

That mysticism had too many facets to explain in this article; I’ll talk about specific aspects as they come up in the course of our study. Today, therefore, we’ll look at verses 9 and 10 in light of Paul’s introductory reference to the pre-gnostic ideologies that floated around Colossae.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (ESV)

You can’t help but notice the emphasis on knowledge, wisdom and understanding, can you? Paul beats that drum quite forcefully. As we’ve seen earlier, this apostle has a habit of choosing his words with great deliberation, and these two verses are calculated to counter the claims of secret knowledge that the pre-gnostics purported to possess.

Those false teachers insisted that they offered insights into spiritual mysteries that required initiation into their group (sort of like our present-day Freemasons). Paul counterbalances this error by emphasizing that the Lord is the true source of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Furthermore, rather than seeking the knowledge that would enhance their pride, Paul prays that they would be filled  with the knowledge of God’s will. He prays that they would be filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding.

The knowledge of God’s will, as well as spiritual wisdom and understanding, comes through the teaching of the apostles — which the Holy Spirit preserved for succeeding generations in the Bible. Thus Paul prays for the Colossians to be filled with sound teaching, not with the mysticism of the pre-gnostics.

Verse 10 elaborates on the knowledge that Paul prays for the Colossians to possess by mentioning its purpose. Whereas the knowledge of the pre-gnostics served only to inflate egos, the knowledge of God’s will enables Christians to walk “in a manner worthy of the Lord.” This phrase targets the pre-gnostic separation of the material and the spiritual that allowed people to claim spirituality while indulging fleshy appetites. Paul prays that his readers will be given a knowledge and wisdom that has implications on their behavior.

The spiritual wisdom Paul desires for his readers will cause them to please the Lord instead of pleasing themselves. Clearly, the apostle makes a distinction between the imitation knowledge of the false teachers in Colossae and the true wisdom that comes exclusively through the knowledge of God.

Interestingly, as Christians please the Lord and bear fruit for Him, we actually increase in our knowledge of Him. The pre-gnostics would never have thought that obedience could lead to even more knowledge. Paul cleverly strikes at their false teaching by simply informing the Colossians as to the nature of his prayers for them.

As I suspected, I can’t go past verse 10 today. Next Monday, Lord willing, we’ll continue with this passage, which is packed with some of the most glorious teaching I’ve ever read! Be sure to join me then.

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