Shut-Ins Mustn’t Be Shut Out

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. ~~Romans 12:4-5 (NASB95)

Before I say anything else, let me be perfectly clear. If you are able to get in a car and go anywhere, you have no excuse for missing church. Attending a local church and actively serving as a member of that church is absolutely essential, and I’m by no means writing this article to suggest that you should stay home on Sunday mornings and “do” church by watching a live streamed service. For most Christians, physically being with the Body is a no-brainer.

That said, John and I have been unable to attend our wonderful church for almost three years because of various circumstances — most notably my back problems. I’m improving, and we hope the Sunday will come when we once again enter that building to worship the Lord with our cherished church family.

For now however, the Lord has graciously provided live streams of the Sunday morning service and the Wednesday night Bible Study. Additionally, one of the elders comes to our apartment on Friday mornings to teach Bible Study and occasionally give us the Lord’s Supper. The church administrator emails us the Sunday bulletin and the weekly Prayer Guide. In return, we stay faithful in our giving, praying daily for the church. As far as I can, I use this blog to represent our church, asking the elders to oversee it. Despite being shut-ins, therefore, John and I feel connected to our church.

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Saturday Sampler: August 7 — August 13

In her post for TheoThoughts, Lisa Spencer challenges certain tweets from the Woke crowd by writing Can we only imagine? on race and ethnicity in the eschaton. She introduces this piece with a disclaimer that some of her points are only speculation. I’m not sure about that. Practically everything she says lines up with Scripture as far as I can tell. And her emphasis on the main focus of God’s Kingdom is absolutely beautiful!

As a pastor’s wife, Melissa of Your Mom Has A Blog joins her husband when he counsels married couples. She draws on her counseling experience — as well as her own 23 years of marriage — to write Dishes and Divorce: Why Little Things Can Lead to a Breakup. Even if you’ve been married for a while, her insight can serve as encouragement to keep your marriage healthy.

In his G3 Ministries Blog, Josh Buice confronts the latest trend among evangelicals. Dear Christian, Stop Being Winsome challenges the idea that we must avoid offending people, even if that avoidance requires us to compromise truth. He lists several examples from Scripture of behavior that was decidedly not winsome.

Do you struggle with the sin of complaining? I sure do! So I appreciate Leslie A for writing It’s All in How You Look at It in Growing 4 Life. It’s amazing to see how this woman gets such profound spiritual lessons out of mundane things like clouds and reading glasses.

Gentle Reformation features An On-Going Battle by Kyle E Sims. He gives a hopeful and encouraging perspective on the seemingly endless struggle against sin. I read it soon after a discouraging time of confessing sins that I’d thought I’d made significant progress mortifying, finding a wonderful sense of relief and joy in God’s grace. Maybe this post will offer you similar reassurance.

Once again. Beth Moore has drawn attention to herself by justifying her rebellious action of preaching in a Sunday morning church service. In an essay for The End Time, Elizabeth Prata explains that The Bible is clear: Women cannot be pastors or teach men. This even includes Beth Moore. Elizabeth is, in my opinion, the leading authority on this particular false teacher, having researched her extensively for over a decade.

In his post for Knowable Word, Peter Krol writes Context Matters: The Whole Armor of God to show how that famous passage from Ephesians 6 fits into the epistle as a whole. I especially like his emphasis on the Lord’s strength as we battle against spiritual forces.

Leslie A has a second blog post this week, again drawing on her simple experience as a grandmother to make a spiritual application. A Lesson from the Candy Store warns us about the ways false teachers easily deceive us.

Throwback Thursday: “But My Experience Is CHRISTIAN!”

Originally published August 9, 2018:

Experience Bible

If you want attention on Facebook, simply post something to the effect that God no longer speaks directly to people. Even better, include a quote by Justin Peters. You’ll get impassioned (though occasionally nasty) diatribes in your comments feed for days!

Once in a while, someone will argue from Scripture. I respect such people, even if I disagree with their application of God’s Word. At least they want to remain Biblical in their stand for continualist teaching.

The vast majority of continualists, however, rely primarily on their personal experiences to refute the notion that God only speaks to us from His Word now that the Apostolic Age has ended. For them, personal experience is the final word, against which no one can argue. Indeed, anyone who dares to argue must be condemned as a hypocritical Pharisee who has been deceived by Calvinism. As such, claims that God speaks exclusively through Scripture must be dismissed.

I’ve written several articles demonstrating from God’s Word that the closed canon of Scripture necessitates that God has given us all the revelation we need until Christ returns, and I anticipate writing more such articles in the near future. As long as professing Christians attack the sufficiency of Scripture, we absolutely must stand firm on the ground that we need nothing more than what the Holy Spirit has provided through Sacred Writ.

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)

As a former Charismatic who remained a partial continualist for several years,  I well understand the difficulty of thinking that a cherished experience might not have been a personal revelation from the Lord. When I challenge my continualist friends to examine their experiences and consider the possibility that God didn’t directly speak to them, my stance hurts them. Believe me, I get that!

But it doesn’t work to refute cessationist teaching by appealing to personal experiences. As I demonstrated yesterday,  personal experience fails as an evangelism tool because Mormons, atheists and liberal “Christians” can come back at us with experiences supporting their beliefs. Experiences can always be challenged with conflicting experiences.

It’s ineffective, therefore, to use personal experience as a substantiation for either Charismatic or continualist teaching. Sure, such stories tug at the emotions, but they don’t often direct people back to the Bible. Please, continualists, use God’s Word to make your case.

Eat Some Of The Ice Cream, But Don’t Give Up

“That’s it — I’m done!”

John has lost count of the times I’ve declared those words out of frustration and hopelessness. Maybe you’ve also thrown up your hands and made similar pronouncements. Indeed, life can feel overwhelming, especially with all the horrible things happening lately. Sometimes we feel like crawling into a cave with a quart of chocolate double fudge ice cream while we pray for the Rapture. We get tired of trying to maintain godly attitudes when everything around us is falling apart. Believe me, ladies: I understand the desire to just give up!

As Christians, however, we know that the Lord calls us to persevere when life gets tough. Titus 2:2, as a matter of fact, instructs older men to set the example of being sound in doctrine, love and perseverance for the rest of the Church. As women, we have the responsibility to follow this example. We must keep most of that ice cream in the freezer and trust the Lord to take us through the difficulties and sufferings that surround us.

But what exactly is perseverance, and why should Christians persevere through trials? That cave with the ice cream seems a whole lot more comforting, and we really get sick of pushing through one trial after another. Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to urge Christians to persevere?

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Saturday Sampler: July 31 — August 6

You’ll probably wonder why I’d start this week’s Sampler with such a heady article as Leonardo De Chirico’s Nature and Grace in the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger — A Historical Sketch of the Nature-Grace Interdependence in this month’s edition of Vatican Files. Okay, reading it requires a little more effort than reading a typical blog post. But it goes a long way in clarifying how Roman Catholic thought (even in the 21st Century) departs from the Bible’s teachings on nature and grace.

False teachers are more harmful than a lot of us might think. In The End Time, Elizabeth Prata warns, Don’t let anyone disqualify you from the prize! Using Colossians 2:18, she shows us some of the subtle tactics these teachers use in their attempts to divide Christians from the true Gospel.

Clint Archer makes a compelling case for a Pre-trib Rapture in Rapture vs Second Coming: Back to the Future, Part 4. I’ve been learning a lot through his series, which The Cripplegate has been running, and I definitely appreciate understanding his position. I would have liked it better, however, if he had presented the common arguments for Mid-trib and Post-trib raptures. Thankfully, he did touch on the reasons to reject those possibilities, which helps me understood the Pre-trib position better.

Pastor Tedd Mathis shares a Letter to a good man about the Gospel in teddmathisdotcom. I regret that I didn’t write a similar letter to my mom before her death. If you have unsaved loved ones who stand at the doors of eternity, Tedd’s letter might serve as a helpful template for your own letter (of course, you’ll write in your own words, using some original thoughts, to avoid plagiarism).

I have a second offering from The Cripplegate, this time written by Jesse Johnson. How to become a Calvinist in 5 easy steps is entertaining and amusing. It may also encourage you to keep praying for your Arminian friends.

Michelle Lesley encourages women to focus on our legitimate opportunities in Throwback Thursday – Unforbidden Fruits: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach the Church. I read this blog post when Michelle first published it in 2018, and I believe I included it in Saturday Sampler at the time. But the debate over women pastors has only escalated since then, so I’m pleased to bring it to your attention a second time. She gives marvelous suggestions for ways women should serve our local churches.

As Long As It Doesn’t Contradict Scripture, Can’t These Thoughts Be God Speaking?

Modern evangelicals seem desperate to believe that God speaks to them personally. The moment anybody challenges that possibility, hackles rise, claws come out and defensive arguments commence. A mere 50 years ago, claiming to receive messages from God signaled mental illness, but today those of us who don’t believe God speaks outside of Scripture are considered unbalanced by our brothers and sisters in Christ.

How can we determine whom to marry, which job to take or what car to buy unless the Lord speaks to us? After all, He spoke to Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and Paul. We have the same Holy Spirit that they did, making it perfectly reasonable to assume that He can also speak directly to us. We can measure our thoughts, impressions, dreams and/or visions against Scripture. If they’re from God, His Word will confirm it. Right?

Before we discuss the problems with interpreting our experiences as messages from God, I’d like to relay an actual story. I personally knew the couple involved. but obviously need to hide their identities. The woman has given me permission to share their story.

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What’s The Big Deal About Hearing Personal Words From God?

Christians generally accept the premise that the book of Revelation was the final work of Scripture, and consequently that the Canon is closed. Therefore, Jesus’ warning in the last chapter applies to all of the Bible:

18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. ~~Revelation 22:18-19 (NASB95)

Most evangelicals today would verbally affirm this passage, but their claims that God speaks to them through thoughts, impressions, signs and/or visions calls their affirmations into question. We have to wonder why, if God revealed Himself in His Word and forbade any additions to it, professing Christians would entertain the notion that they need further communication from Him.

On one level, I sympathize with them. Spending my first 31 years as a Christian in Charismatic fellowships taught me that I needed to have at least a few experiences of hearing from God to gain credibility with my friends. I believed that hearing directly from the Lord established me as a mature believer. So I subconsciously conjured up a few experiences, which I embellished over the years. Sadly, I sincerely believed my own fabrications. Even after I began turning away from Charismatic theology, I retained some degree of openness to the idea of God speaking to my heart.

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Saturday Sampler: July 24 — July 30

False converts do exist, sadly. In TheoThoughts, Lisa Spencer warns us to Beware of the bootleg anointing of false salvation. I love her reminder of the Source of true conversion, as well as her balanced explanation of how we can examine ourselves.

I’ve never been strong on eschatology, I’m ashamed to say. So Clint Archer’s current series in The Cripplegate is really helping me! I particularly appreciate the presentation of various viewpoints, as we see in 1 Kingdom, 3 Views: Back to the Future, Pt 3. Although Clint doesn’t hide which view he favors, he acknowledges that solid Christians hold differing opinions. He also trusts his readers to reach our own conclusions. If, like me, you’ve shied away from studying eschatology, please don’t pass up this opportunity to learn.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time responds to some of her critics with Should we look at a teacher’s lifestyle? Or only his/her doctrine? She carefully takes us through Scripture concerning this very important aspect of Biblical discernment.

Technology hasn’t exactly created new sins, but it does provide new ways of sinning. In The Mailbag: She’s single and pregnant by IFV. How do I respond?, Michelle Lesley explores attitudes toward our fellow church members when they openly celebrate their disobedience. She reminds us not to make matters even worse.

Musing on the death of a dear friend, Melissa of Your Mom Has a Blog writes Heaven is True Love Realized. I loved this sweet tribute to her loved one, as well as her encouragement to those of us still waiting to go Home.

What Makes You Really Angry? asks Leslie A in a post for Growing 4 Life. Obviously, most of us (do you see me raising my guilty hand?) rage over the wrong things. We’re selfish. But Leslie directs our attention to something that infuriated the apostle Paul. It should infuriate us as well!

Can we ever have too many posts from Elizabeth Prata? In my opinion: no. And What happens when we go outside of God’s Word? is just too good to neglect in this curation. She starts by a behind the scenes look at the best-selling novel, The Shack, to explore some of the dangers in seeking personal revelations and comfortable understandings of God.

When I read Ryan Higginbottom’s title, Not Every Interesting Detail is Important, in Knowable Word, my initial reaction was shock. Isn’t every word in Scripture breathed out by God? Well yes. At the same time, we have the responsibility to practice proper rules of interpretation. Ryan demonstrates how to determine when details enhance a passage and when they distract us from the meaning.

Contending For The Faith Or Being A Contentious Woman?

As the Internet shrinks the world, exposure to false teachings grows more common than ever. Just Google “Women’s Bible Study” and you’ll immediately be hit with Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer and Anne Graham Lotz. There are also lesser known teachers whom I haven’t researched, many of whom more likely than not mishandle God’s Word at some level. I’m not saying that all women Bible Study teachers are false teachers (Susan Heck and Martha Peace are certainly trustworthy women), but by and large it’s much easier to find doctrinal error than to find solid teaching.

So it’s more crucial than ever to follow Jude’s example of contending for the faith (please see Jude 3). Offering correction when we see doctrinal error, although it usually seems harsh and unloving, is really one of the most compassionate acts a Christian can perform. Sometimes we’ll actually convince someone to turn away from heresy and embrace Scriptural truth.

In no way should we minimize the value of contending for the faith!

At the same time, we must recognize our potential to contend in an argumentative attitude. All too often, I’ve been guilty of feeling my oats to such a degree that I have sought out devotees of Beth Moore simply so that I could pick a fight. I stayed in those verbal battles, determined to show my opponents my superior debating skills. In short, I contended with impure motives.

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Why Me?

Years ago, a member of my family suffered a serious injury. Almost immediately, she asked the rhetorical question, “What did I do to deserve this?” Her question is a typical reaction to calamity.

Over the past few years, I’ve been asking the same question, but in a completely different context. As the Holy Spirit has (finally) convinced me that I played absolutely no part in my salvation, I’ve been asking, “Why me? Why would He choose someone as stubborn and prideful as me?” As I look at myself, I simply can’t find any logical reason that He would want me.

People have suggested that my disability gives God opportunity to display His glory, which is true on one level. They point to my writing abilities as their evidence that the Lord uses me, in my disability, to compose essays that direct others to Him. They mention my faith. How remarkable, they gush, that I trust in His goodness as I sit in this wheelchair! They really believe God brought me to salvation because my cheerful attitude in the face of adversity glorifies Him.

And maybe it does — on occasion.

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