A Better Way Of Knowing That He Lives

It looks as if I will be typing blog posts for myself hopefully by the end of April. We hired a morning PCA, so I plan to start using my wheelchair more often. For now, however, John is graciously typing at my dictation, so I am unable to quote Scripture or provide links to Scripture.

“He lives! He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.”

Some of you may sing this anthem during your Resurrection Sunday worship, and the music may help you feel the excitement of knowing that Jesus rose from the dead. And it’s good to excited about His resurrection. The fact that He rose from the dead gives us hope that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life that He claimed to be. Believe me, nothing excites me more than to know that He is risen, just as He said.

But I’ve been thinking about the anthem, “He Lives.” If you read my blog regularly, you probably know that when I’ve been thinking about the lyrics to a song, it means I will critique it. And as I’ve thought about this particular song, I’ve found increasing reason to question its suitability as a Christian worship song.

The stanza I quoted at the beginning of this article bothers me the most when I think of this anthem because it bases belief in the resurrection on subjective experience. While other phrases in the song disturb me, this stanza sums up my problem with the writing. The song writer implies that emotions validate the truth that Christ lives.

But emotions change more than the weather in New England, and feelings that Christ lives within my heart can change to feelings that religion is just a concoction of the imagination. If Christ really rose from the dead, we need objective evidence that He did so. That objective evidence carries us through times of feeling doubt. So let’s talk about the evidence of Christ’s resurrection.

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I Can’t Get Away From Peter!

As before, John is typing at my dictation. We are still trying to get a morning Personal Care Attendant so that I can gradually work up to being in my chair all day, but so far our efforts aren’t yielding results. We would ask for your prayers as we continue looking. We also thank those of you who have sent gifts through Paypal — I had worried that you had given much more than we needed, but I have used some of your donations to pay for advertising. Please continue praying that the right person will answer our ads so that I can get up and start typing blog posts on a more regular basis.

Praise God that our DVD player accommodates Youtube! As I lie in bed I can watch sermons and teachings by such people as John MacArthur, Sinclair Ferguson, and the late R.C. Sproul. I appreciate the opportunity to listen to solid Bible teaching from great men. In addition, we can live stream Sunday services and Wednesday night Bible Study from our own church, keeping us connected with the fellowship there.

During these months, I’ve listened to teaching on a wide variety of topics ranging from eschatology to personal holiness to the assurance of salvation. Each teaching has been encouraging and convicting, increasing my understanding of the Bible and God’s calling on my life. But in all these teachings, one incident from the earthly life of Jesus pops up repeatedly: Peter’s great confession that Jesus is the Christ and Peter’s immediate attempt to dissuade Him from predicting His crucifixion.

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Why Paul Didn’t Go To Church — And Why He Thought We Should

Once again, John is typing this post at my dictation. I’m getting better, and even sat at the computer for 15 minutes last night. However, I am still looking for a morning PCA who can help me build up my back muscles. Consequently, I am not able to include Scripture verses or links to citations at this time. Thank you for your patience and prayer as I recover from my back injury.

First Baptist Church of Weymouth has been open since May, but various circumstances have prevented me and John from attending. Even between my illnesses and back injuries, mask mandate makes it impossible for me to drive my power wheelchair because I operate the joystick with my face. Essentially, John and I are now shut-ins.

Throughout recent months, I’ve been hearing podcasts explaining that church attendance is a command from God. This weekend, in fact, Chris Hohnholz and Rich Story did their Voice Of Reason Radio podcast examining Scriptures directing Christians to meet together. Since Rich has a disability that prevents him from attending his local church, they were careful to note that some Christians are legitimately unable to meet with their fellowships on Sunday mornings (I deeply appreciated their carefulness to mention that fact). But they spent the bulk of their program urging listeners not to depend on livestreams and podcasts rather than going to church physically.

I have often thought about asking Chris and Rich to do a program addressing the needs of shut-ins. Those of us who cannot physically attend church often feel frustrated to hear sermons and podcasts about the necessity of going to church. At least I do. Although I know that the Bible explicitly says that Christians must gather together, I also know that John and I have absolutely no way of obeying that command. Yet it always seemed as if the Bible overlooked Christians in our situation.

Then I started thinking about the apostle Paul.

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Flashback Friday: Promise From God Or Baptized Divination?

Originally published March 22, 2017:

Arriving at the conference, I enjoyed the anticipation. The year before, I’d met Shane (not his real name). Shane and I shared an interest in ex-gay ministry as well as ministry to people living with AIDS, but we also both enjoyed writing. During the year leading up to this conference, he initiated a lively correspondence, often sending me samples of the book he had started writing about how God prepared Christians for marriage. Of course, he’d won my heart. My attendant/roommate and I entered our dorm room to find a tiny scroll, artfully tied with a green ribbon, placed on each of our pillows. She unrolled mine for me, revealing “A Scripture Promise For The Week.”

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. ~~Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

I knew (intellectually) that I should resist the urge to interpret the “Scripture Promise” as assurance that my long history of romantic disappointment had ended, but Shane did things that week (and afterward) to further kindle my hopes. I’ll spare you the messy details of how my history with Shane played out, and  say only that the “new thing” in verse 19 had absolutely nothing to do with my romantic desires.

That memory comes to mind as I think about the narcissism in contemporary evangelical circles. Interestingly, when I read Isaiah 43 during my Quiet Time all these years later, I keep its historical context, as well as its prophetic intent in mind. Isaiah prophesied about two events: the Jews’ release from the Babylonian Captivity and (ultimately) the Messianic kingdom. Back in that dorm room during the conference, I turned that broad promise to Israel and the Church about God’s glorious plan for His collective people into a horoscope-like prediction tailored to my  selfish aspirations.

Most present-day evangelicals play similar games with God’s Word, I’m sorry to say. To a very large extent, pastors, teachers and   Christian books encourage us to privatize God’s Word into personal promises that spin far away from God’s main point. Yes, He guides us through Scripture’s principles–even in terms of selecting a spouse–but He most certainly doesn’t want us  wrenching fragments out of context as if the  Bible lends itself to some sort of baptized divination.

As I’ve been reading through the Old Testament these past few years, the Holy Spirit has shown me that I must read it at face  value rather than digging around for personal intimations. I may learn from His dealings with Israel, particularly as  I see my rebellion as a mirror image of theirs. I may see His call to holiness and apply it. But when  I make His promises to them for His kingdom into allegories about my personal fulfillment, I err. And I forget that Scripture revolves around Him!

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Flashback Friday: Intimacy With God May Be Less Complicated Than You Think

Originally posted December 20, 2019;

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As my girlfriends and I approached our 30th birthdays, panic and despair set in. We watched other women in the church take wedding vows while we spent lonely Saturday nights without dates. We joked sardonically that we differed from trash because trash gets taken out once a week. (The men in the church failed to appreciate our humor.)

One friend met regularly with me for a while to talk and pray about coping with our singleness. She began encouraging me to develop intimacy with the Lord, explaining only that she sometimes fantasized about Him. I don’t know if those fantasies were romantic — and I don’t think I want to know. At the time, however, I desperately wanted Him to remove the pain and loneliness I felt.

My friend’s exhortations to cultivate intimacy with God left me with the impression that such intimacy came through mystical experiences. I assumed that I would feel His presence in a way that would obliterate my desire for a husband. Obviously, my motives for wanting intimacy with Him were entirely selfish.

Yet the Lord does call Christians to a type of intimacy with Him that has nothing to do with our romantic desires. Even better,  we don’t have to search for spiritual experiences in order to enjoy this intimacy. All we have to do is open a Bible.

In His last discourse with His disciples before His arrest, Jesus talked to them about the intimacy He would have with those who love Him.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. ~~John 14:18-24 (ESV)

Notice the relationship between loving the Lord and knowing His Word. He establishes that relationship because knowing Scripture reveals Who He is.

As we read the Bible systematically and in context, we learn Who God is, how He acts and what He thinks. We see what He loves, what He hates and why he tolerates what He hates. We see His power in creation and His righteousness in judging. We see His wrath toward sin, His compassion toward the repentant and His unwavering commitment to His standards.

We see His humility in becoming a Man Who would die a criminal’s death in order to save those who believe in Him. And we see the powerful promise of His resurrection. We see His plan to return to earth, and then His ultimate plan to create new heavens and a new earth where His Bride will worship Him eternally.

He discloses all those things and more through His Word because He loves us enough to reveal Himself to us. The Bible allows us to have incredible intimacy with God — an intimacy so much more powerful than my friend’s fantasies.

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Thank You, But I’d Rather Not

Once again, John is typing this post at my dictation. I’m getting better, and even sat at the computer for 15 minutes last night. However, I am still looking for a morning PCA who can help me build up my back muscles. Consequently, I am not able to include Scripture verses or links to citations at this time. Thank you for your patience and prayer as I recover from my back injury.

By now, many of you know about Jory Micah’s tweet declaring that she follows her heart over and above following Scripture. Although her honesty is a bit shocking, the idea of following one’s heart is hardly novel. I guess people in all generations have trusted their own feelings and intuitions over and above trusting God’s Word.

That’s a shame.

Proverbs 3:5-6 warns us against leaning on our own understanding instead of trusting the Lord with all our heart. The prophet Jeremiah said that the human heart is deceitful and sick. Jesus said that all manner of evil comes from the human heart. How terrifying to think that a supposed Christian leader like Jory Micah would choose to trust her own emotions and insights as having greater authority than the Bible!

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Flashback Friday: Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

Originally published May 19, 2017.

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Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

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Discernment In A Time Of Persecution

John is graciously typing this blog post as I dictate to him from bed. Because I cannot type this entry myself, I will not include Scripture quotes or links to verses — doing so would be difficult to teach John. Please don’t interpret this absence of Scripture as an abandonment of God’s Word.

Regardless of your eschatology, you must admit that evil is escalating. The political situation in the United States indicates that Bible believing Christians will face varying degrees of persecution in the next few months. Regular readers of this blog know that I have been warning about this probability for the last five and a half years, yet I’m not sure any of us (including me) have really let the truth sink in.

It’s not a truth we want to face.

As Elizabeth Prata shows us in her recent post about James Coates, Canadian Christians have begun to experience real persecution. In our prayers for this pastor and his family, American Christians must keep in mind that our pastors may soon experience the same suffering that James Coates and his family are going through.

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That’s The Kind Of Boldness We Need

John is graciously typing this blog post as I dictate to him from bed. Because I cannot type this entry myself, I will not include Scripture quotes or links to verses — doing so would be difficult to teach John. Please don’t interpret this absence of Scripture as an abandonment of God’s Word.

He was only at Terra Linda High during my Junior Year (if I recall correctly). During that year, the Lord saved him, and he was part of the Christian group that I was in. None of us noticed him very much since he was quiet and unassuming — unlike the rest of us. Due to his withered arm and slight limp, he didn’t impress us as being particularly strong or assertive.

We did notice him that day that we went to witness to the tough kids at school. As he presented the Gospel, one of the kids threatened to burn him with a cigarette stub. To our surprise, he puffed up his chest, took a step toward the kid and quietly said, “God ahead. I’ll take it for Jesus.”

Of course the kid with the cigarette backed down, but my girlfriends and I stared at each other in amazement. Where did he get that boldness? Did he know the kid wouldn’t really burn him? Was he really willing to suffer physical harm for the sake of the Gospel? My girlfriends and I could only gasp at his courage and wonder if we would have the same boldness.

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A Living Illustration

John is grIaciously typing this blog post as I dictate to him from bed. Because I cannot type this entry myself, I will not include Scripture quotes or references — doing so would be difficult to teach John. Please don’t interpret this absence of Scripture as an abandonment of God’s Word.

Many nights I lay in bed half praying and half thinking. As someone who struggles with insomnia, I spend many hours in this lovely state of vacillation — and usually it pleases me. Throughout the years, my thoughts have covered a wide variety of topics ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, and often the ridiculous wins out.,

In recent weeks, my nighttime meditations have been a little sublime as I pray for the man sleeping next to me. Usually I begin by thanking the Lord that I am married at all. That gratitude morphs into a time of reflecting on the kind of husband that John is, provoking even greater gratitude.

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