The Forgotten Moment We Remembered Three Years Ago

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Often, effective blogging depends on keeping up with current conversations in social media. Readers crave hot topics — the more controversial, the better! As a result, very few people right now have even the slightest interest in reading about the Protestant Reformation.

Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017, I devoted almost every Tuesday to blogging about the Protestant Reformation. Since October 31 of that year, I’ve said little about the matter, largely because the 500th anniversary had passed and everyone else has moved on to other topics. After all, the anniversary was over; other matters had begun to capture everyone’s  attention.

Including Continue reading

Ancient Hymns Exalt God

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading through Psalms. I started doing so in response to COVID-19, eager to find encouragement in these troubling times. Indeed, many of the psalms do offer wonderful comfort as they point to God’s protection of His people in all sorts of affliction.

Psalm 57 begins with David telling the Lord about some of his trials. The early verses depict his despair as circumstances close in on him. Yet almost immediately he intersperses his statements of fear with his confidence in the Lord. He knows that only God has the power to deliver him from his encroaching enemies.

David wants more than simply his own deliverance, however. He wants the world to see God’s power, and to exalt Him. Verses 9-11 close the psalm with a prayer that God would exalt Himself above the heavens and spread His glory over all the earth.

When I read this ancient hymn during my time with the Lord a few days ago, I fondly remembered singing a portion of it as a praise song in the early 1980s. How beautiful to sing such an ancient hymn that centers on the exaltation of God!

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Saturday Sampler: May 10 –May 16

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In Knowable Word, Ryan Higginbottom explains why We Need Humility to Study the Bible. He raises some points that I’ve never considered. Why don’t you see if he says anything that surprises you?

COVID-19 frustrates all of us, I think. Bryan Schneider provides helpful insight into our frustrations by writing Covid-19 and Biblical Balance for Gentle Reformation. No matter which side of the debate on the lockdown you’ve adopted, his article will challenge you to think Biblically.

What would Saturday Sampler be without a link to a post by Leslie A? This week in Growing 4 Life, she demonstrates that Attacking Messengers, Crucifying Dissenters, and Belittling Questioners has no place in Christian conversation on social media. I’ve been guilty of some of the behaviors  she discusses. Have you?

In TBT – A Second Opinion Tim Ferrera of Discerning Dad notes how eagerly we embrace what we want to hear, and yet how quickly we question anything that doesn’t appeal to us. I think his post deserves our attention and consideration. What’s your opinion?

Don’t miss Without Apology: 7 Reasons Not to Be Ashamed of the Hard Parts of the Gospel by Michelle Lesley. I love the way she encourages us to trust even the parts of Scripture that seem offensive to 21st Century sensibilities.

What Saturday Sampler would be complete without a post by Elizabeth Prata?  In  The End Time she writes Encouragement, Listen! Ladies, if ever we needed this message, it’s most definitely now!

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Useless Body, Useless Mind — All For God’s Purposes

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Our pastor livestreams the Wednesday evening Bible Study through our church website and our church Facebook page. At the concluding of each study, he takes questions submitted through emails or Facebook comments.

This week, someone asked how people with severe mental disabilities can be saved. With great compassion, our pastor equated such a situation with that of a child dying in infancy. He cited 2 Samuel 12:14-23 (particularly verse 23) and Deuteronomy 32:4 to substantiate the belief that God will take people with severe intellectual disabilities to heaven.

The brief discussion reminded me of a young man who lived in the nursing home where I spent two years. Cerebral Palsy had not only rendered him a quadriplegic, but it made him blind and non-verbal. As if that wasn’t enough, he Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Rightly Dividing And Wrong Division

Originally posted January 9, 2016:

Those of us who believe in adherence to sound Biblical doctrine frequently endure accusations of divisiveness. The majority of present day evangelicals believe that unity among Christians requires an abandonment of doctrine to the degree that salvation and discipleship revolve around a “Jesus” who conforms to individual preferences.

Empty PewThose of us who stand up for doctrinal purity quickly learn that doing so invites censure. We learn that we must keep our convictions to ourselves, lest we cause “division.” We dare not question women leading worship, church growth strategies, contemporary music that lacks theological content, contemplative prayer or replacing Bible Studies with small groups that focus on subjective impressions of how Scripture speaks to each member of the group. Standing for truth, in an increasing number of evangelical churches, means that we cause division.

Yet Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament epistles, saw division very differently than 21st Century evangelicals see it. Consider this quote:

Paul regards divisiveness as those who depart from sound doctrine. Doctrine is not the cause of disunity, departure is. ~Carl Trueman

Responsible reading (not to mention study) of Paul’s epistles bear out Trueman’s point. The apostle wrote several of his epistles (most of them, actually) with the purpose of clearing up doctrinal error and preserving correct teaching. As a matter of fact, right doctrine meant so much to Paul that he refused to tolerate those who would corrupt it with human philosophies. He furthermore warned church members to reject anyone who deliberately and persistently deviated from the truth.

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)

Notice that the divisions Paul condemns thwart the doctrine that he and the other apostles taught. He never targeted Christians who stood for God’s Word in opposition to attempts to dilute or distort it to suit their own agendas. As he saw it, the Body of Christ could only experience true unity by teaching and obeying the doctrines given by the Lord Jesus Christ and His apostles. Those who watered down those doctrines caused disruption in the church.

And today, the very people who plead for “unity” seek to erode theological truths around which Bible-believing Christians should unite. Instead of  blindly accepting repetitious “praise” songs that focus on human feelings rather than the Lord’s character and work, for example, we should courageously point out how these songs deviate from Scripture. Similarly, instead of embracing pragmatic church growth strategies, we should encourage our pastors to preach expository, verse-by-verse sermons so that the Word will produce faith that results in genuine conversions.

Those of us who insist on doctrinal purity do so because we love the Lord. We want to see His church united around  His Word, forsaking subjective interpretations of it in favor of understanding it properly and obeying it faithfully. We grieve when people deviate from the clear teaching of Scripture to follow evangelical fads, agreeing with Carl Truman that true division comes though such people.

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Truth, Not Emotion, Must Guide Christians

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Because I still struggle with my sin nature (as Paul did in Romans 7:7-25), I have gone though times of wanting to walk away from Christ. In those times, I understood that He wouldn’t allow me to play with my sin in His holy presence.  And in those times, I had to admit that I preferred my sin to fellowship with Him.

And yet, even as I made that admission, I knew I would ultimately run back to Jesus in repentance. Even though I enjoyed my sin, I knew that truth can only come through Him. I always thought of the time during His earthly ministry when the demands of His preaching alienated most of His followers.

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” ~~John 6:66-69 (ESV)

Peter got a lot of things wrong during those three years before Christ’s resurrection, but this response was surprisingly on target. He stayed loyal to the Lord based on truth, not mere emotion.

Don’t misunderstand me: Peter loved Jesus with astounding passion. As Jesus prepared to go to the cross, Peter declared his willingness to die for Him (John 13:37). Clearly, emotion played a major role in Peter’s devotion to Jesus, just as it should play a major role in our devotion to Jesus. Jesus said that the first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord with our entire being (Matthew 22:37).

But passion alone can’t keep anyone from abandoning Christ. Our love for Him must be firmly grounded in the conviction that His Word is truth.

Love apart from truth wavers in the face of opposition. Those disciples who turned and walked away from Jesus in John 6 had experienced some degree of emotion, even if that emotion resulted from their selfish expectations that He would create more miraculous meals for them. When they realized that He would make demands on them, their love vanished with amazing speed.

The Twelve remained with Jesus because they knew the truth of His Word. Confidence in His truth held them to Him. They knew that they had nowhere else to go.

I know it too.

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When Life Rages At Us, What Do We Tell Our Souls?

Teardrop RoseWriting about suffering takes me out of my comfort zone. To be blunt, I don’t really think I’ve actually suffered.

It may strike you as strange that I would make such a statement.  Ironically, as I’ve tried to type this paragraph, my body locked itself in a muscle spasm, preventing me from repositioning my wheelchair so that I could reach my keyboard’s space bar without straining my back. People who have watched me go through migraines, endure folks who assume I’m intellectually disabled or know how frustrated I am with my speech defect would probably insist that I suffer quite a bit.

They forget that I Continue reading

That Nagging Awareness That Something Doesn’t Line Up With Scripture

c5fbb-psychologyIt wasn’t only in the Women’s Ministry. The church at large embraced psychological models to help us identify the root causes of our besetting sins. I just noticed the problem more during those women’s meetings.

One evening in particular stands out in my memory. The women leading the meeting instructed each of us to think of an instance when our parents wounded us. They explained that we couldn’t properly forgive them unless we first “worked through” the pain that we had suffered at the hands of our moms and dads.

One lady found the exercise to be perplexing. She honestly couldn’t think of anything she held against either of her parents. Instead of admiring her purity, however, the leaders accused her of failing to deal with her past. I could see their frustration as she continued to maintain that she had wonderful parents — that she couldn’t remember anything they had done to hurt her.

The leaders finally let her alone, concluding that her denial would Continue reading

They Taught Him To Love Jesus

In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, the apostle prepares his young disciple to assume the role of pastor to the church at Ephesus. In encouraging Timothy, he makes a tender appeal reminding the young man of his spiritual heritage handed down from his mother and grandmother.

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.~~2 Timothy 1:5 (ESV)

Further on in the letter, Paul specifies what Timothy learned from these women.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 3:14-17 (ESV)

Lois and Eunice, I believe, taught young Timothy more than a mere academic knowledge of the Old Testament. Their faith in Yahweh prepared him to receive the Gospel and to love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Whether or not you were raised by a godly mother, knowing Scripture will reveal Christ to you. The more you see Him in His Word, the more you will never love Him as Timothy’s grandmother and mother did. Truly, they taught him to love Jesus.

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