Why Should We Care About Something That Happened 505 Years Ago?

Here in the United States of America, our collective attention centers on the midterm elections. Inflation and abortion dominate as the two major issues, causing this election cycle to be a referendum on (respectively) the Biden administration and the Supreme Court. It’s quite appropriate that Christians, in our desire to be salt and light to a culture that thumbs its nose at God’s laws, would be deeply concerned about what happens on November 8.

As critical as the midterm elections are, it troubles me that very few Christians have any concern about what happened in Germany on October 31, 1517. Actually, most Christians think of October 31 as a reason to debate whether or not to participate in Halloween. When you mention the Protestant Reformation, they give you a quizzical look and hasten to change the subject.

I admit to once being indifferent to the topic, even as for a Christian. During my Freshman year of college, my Political Science professor covered it briefly, pretty much attributing it to Martin Luther’s chronic bouts of constipation. For decades, I knew little about Luther beyond his digestive problems. Furthermore, I didn’t really think the Protestant Reformation had much to do with me. I believe most Christians share that indifference.

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Having Jesus Fit Our Expectations

Once again, there’s another “evangelistic” campaign floating around which emphasizes God’s love at the expense of mentioning topics like sin, wrath and judgment. I choose not to name this latest movement primarily because it will most likely fade away quickly and be replaced by a repackaged version of the same basic error. Frankly, this emphasis is nothing new; in my over 50 years as a Christian, I’ve seen it crop up numberless times. (I also prefer not to give this campaign publicity.)

Scripture gives us good reason to trust that Jesus understands everything we experience as human beings, and therefore sympathizes with our struggles. A wonderful passage in Hebrews assures us of His ability to empathize with our suffering.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~~Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB95)

This passage fills us with comfort, as well it should! We all have times — often protracted times, actually — when troubles lead us into the temptations of anxiety, self-pity and despair. In such times, we crave assurance that Jesus stands beside us, giving us far more empathy than our friends and family ever could. So we rejoice that we have such a faithful and understanding Friend Who willingly goes through our trials with us. And if we don’t rejoice in His empathy, we should! Dear sisters in Christ, please never forget how deeply He cares, even when it seems as if nothing will ever be right again.

At the same time, focusing too much on the Lord’s compassion has a serious drawback that causes a skewed perception of Him. Speaking from both personal experience and observations of some of the ways my friends have dealt with struggles, I firmly believe that we often emphasize His compassion so much that we forget His holiness.

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That’s Good!

Have you ever eaten a exceptionally delicious meal and remarked on how good it was? How about reading a particularly satisfying novel or watching a movie with just the right ending? We call these things good because something about them gives us a deep sense of gratification. Strangely, superlatives like “awesome,” “wonderful” or “fabulous” seem less appropriate than the word “good.”

For Christians, the word “good” takes on a special meaning because is applies uniquely to the Lord. Consider this exchange between Jesus and a man who came to Him:

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Before Teaching Younger Women HOW, Let’s Teach Them WHY

We generally fall into one of two ditches in applying Titus 2:3-5 to how we conduct women’s ministry.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASB95)

The more common ditch (and the one I usually fall into) condenses the passage down to nothing more than women teaching other women. It’s certainly commendable that people recognize that Christian women can use their gifts of teaching without teaching men in violation of 1 Timothy 2:12, and I praise God that women want to obey the Lord. Yes, as godly women, we must be careful not to step outside the boundaries prescribed in God’s Word. In a time when far too many women have declared themselves to be pastors or have taken co-ed Bibles Studies and/or Sunday School classes, it’s refreshing to see women stewarding their teaching abilities appropriately.

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The Confusing Aspects Of Contending For The Faith

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (NASB95)

Have you noticed an increase in articles and podcasts lately discussing if, why and how Christians should address false teachers and doctrinal error? There seems to be a growing angst within Reformed circles regarding the topic, and not a great deal of consensus.

Regular readers of my blog know that I’ve struggled with this matter for years. I don’t know if that puts me ahead of the curve or what. And it doesn’t really matter if I was onto something before it was popular or not, does it? I guess I just find it reassuring that more and more people now question certain tactics and motives of some discernment ministries.

A recent episode of Apologetics Live from Striving For Eternity made an interesting point about how good discernment ministries can take a wrong turn. Host Andrew Rappaport explained that the vast majority of discernment bloggers start out with right intentions. They see false teachers or erroneous practices among professing Christians, and they write articles correctly addressing those problems. But when those articles get lots of clicks, likes and shares, many bloggers realize that calling out the bad guys enhances the popularity of their website. So they produce more articles, sometimes cutting corners on research and ignoring context in order to convince their followers of their position. In the end, they forfeit whatever discernment they have for the sake of notoriety.

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How Did The Church Get So Messed Up?

I’ve shared in this blog before that a friend of mine once dismissed my interest in church history by insisting that she cared more about the current mess in evangelical churches than about church history. The articles I wrote each Tuesday between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017 about the Protestant Reformation struck her as boring and irrelevant. She preferred, perhaps, to have me call out false teachers and erroneous trends.

Lately her remarks have come back to me in an unexpected way. Recently, John gave me a subscription to AGTV, an online streaming service that offers high quality Christian teaching and commentary. My favorite series so far is Steve and Paulette’s Place, hosted by Steve Kozar of The Messed Up Church and his wife Paulette. In this series, the Kozars examine eras of Church History as those eras influence present evangelical trends.

The Kozars encourage me to keep studying and writing about Church History, even though few people care for such articles. Many bloggers (including me) feel hesitant to write about Church History after the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. 2017 taught us the discouraging lesson that our readers don’t care about church history. About any type of history. Like my friend, they are more concerned about how to fix the problems in today’s messed up church.

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A TULIP Repost: Mary Knew Where To Sit

Originally published September 17, 2018:

Learning

I know you’ve heard this Bible story a million times. Every women’s ministry gets to it eventually — usually with warnings against becoming like Martha.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” ~~Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

But I’m not bringing the story up today to scold you if you’re an overly diligent housekeeper or pat you on the back if you neglect your house in favor of studying your Bible. Again, you’ve heard both those applications a million times, and you’re certainly not interested in hearing them from me. Furthermore, I’m equally not interested in writing about them!

But I thought about this passage in the context of our painfully evident preoccupation with secondary matters. Most of those matters desperately require attention, just as managing a household requires attention. Longtime readers undoubtedly know that I believe it’s absolutely crucial to examine trends within evangelicalism that seriously damage the Church and distort people’s understanding of Who Christ is.

All the issues we look at on this blog, from the problems with false teachers to the Social Justice Movement, are as important as cleaning the bathroom and serving nutritious meals. Neglecting them causes problems that usually harm us spiritually. Poor Martha only wanted to attend her legitimate responsibilities, just as Christians who address hot-button topics only want to attend to legitimate concerns.

But sometimes we get so caught up in dealing with secondary matters that we obscure the Lord from our conversation.  When that happens, we need the same rebuke that the Lord gave Martha.

If we’re too busy with whatever issue dominates our thinking to open our Bibles and enjoy God’s revelation of Himself, we’ve made a lesser choice. Martha was, after all, giving her all to serve Jesus because she genuinely loved Him, but Mary chose to sit at His feet and soak in His teaching.

I don’t want you to neglect the issues that cause trouble in the Church today. But neither do I want those matters to end up distracting you  from the Lord Himself. Mary knew where to sit. Do you?

Will I Have An Occasional Glass Of Wine?

If you want a lively debate with other Christians, just mention alcohol! You’ll get impassioned responses from people on all sides of the issue, and you may even damage one or two of your friendships in the process (I say that mostly in jest).

Alcohol consumption among Christians has always required a careful reading of Scripture and an understanding of Christian liberty in the light of exhortations towards temperance. It’s a sensitive topic, requiring extensive study coupled with prayer for wisdom to apply God’s Word accurately and lovingly. Therefore, this small blog post can’t thoroughly examine the matter.

Truth be told, I really don’t want to blog about alcohol. But we can’t work through Titus 2:3-5 unless we deal with Paul’s command to older women women regarding this topic.

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A TULIP Repost: Talking About The Gospel Ain’t Necessarily Explaining The Gospel

Originally published July 27, 2021:

Several years ago, John and I sat in an adult Sunday School class where the teacher asked if anyone could explain the Gospel. The church heavily emphasized evangelism, and sponsored a food pantry for the specific purpose of sharing the Gospel along with groceries. They also regularly visited a local nursing home as an evangelistic outreach. The wall of that Sunday School classroom sported a poster detailed the Romans Road. And those who had gone through the membership class had been required to share the Gospel with a friend or relative outside the church.

You would think people in that class would be stepping all over each other to answer the teacher’s question.

The silence was awkward, if not embarrassing. Finally someone answered, correctly using 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as the basis for her response. The teacher expressed his relief that somebody knew the answer, though later he confessed to me his discouragement and frustration over the obvious confusion people exhibited when he asked a question that he assumed each of us could readily answer.

Sometimes I wonder whether or not most evangelicals could explain the Gospel. Frankly, I seriously doubt they could. Popular teachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore have mangled it so badly with false teaching and worldly additives that few professing Christians remember what the Bible says.

I’ve included pages entitled Statement Of Faith and What Is The Gospel, Anyway on this little website, and I pray you’ll look at them once in a while. Before ladies can develop discernment, or even grow in doctrine, we need to understand the Gospel basics.

In What Is The Gospel, Anyway I wrote:

In order to understand the Good News of the Gospel, we must first understand the bad news that all human beings (except Jesus) are sinners by nature and by choice (Romans 3:10-20, Ephesians 2:1-3). As such, every person rightfully deserves to spend eternity in hell (Revelation 20:15).

God, to rescue us from His own wrath, came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ and shed His innocent blood on the cross to atone for the sins of all who trust in Him (1 John 4:9-10, John 3:16). But He rose again, displaying His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).

The Lord calls us to respond to His death, burial and resurrection by turning from sin (Acts 2:38) and by placing our faith in Him (Romans 10:9). Jesus bore all of God’s wrath on the cross so that we could be considered righteous (Romans 5:6-11).

Once someone becomes a Christian, we can expand on the Gospel by teaching the doctrines of election, the Incarnation and so forth, helping her grow in her application of the Gospel. We can join her in studying the variety of implications involved in receiving the Gospel, sharing our wonder at God’s incredible grace. Truly, the Gospel launches innumerable topics to explore and apply!

Sadly, we can often get so caught up in the glorious ramifications of the Gospel that we lose sight of the Gospel itself. We mention it on social media and in conversations rather casually, without considering whether or not our readers and hearers understand what we mean. I know that I refer to it in nearly every article on this blog, but I seldom take time to make sure my readers know what I’m talking about.

Of course I can’t explain the Gospel in every post I write. Especially if I link to every Scripture that teaches it. Most of the time, I need to operate on the assumption that my readers know the Gospel themselves and can pull up their big girl panties. And that’s usually true.

But I get emails notifying me of new readers all the time. Occasionally, these new readers are clearly not believers, and I suspect some might be false converts. These women may have never heard a solid presentation of the Gospel, particularly if they follow people like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore. They may need help understanding their need for salvation, and what the Lord has done in order to provide that salvation. Consequently, it doesn’t hurt to go back and reiterate the Gospel from time to time.

Romans 1:16, the theme verse for this blog, calls the Gospel “the power of God to salvation.” With that being the case, Christians had better know what the Gospel really is and how to articulate it accurately. All sorts of people make reference to it — including false teachers. Good discernment, as well as good evangelism, therefore depends on understanding it well enough to explain it to other people. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to bring sinful souls to new life in Him.

Talking about the Gospel is wonderful. All of us should do it more often. But in so doing, all of us must explain it now and then.

Scattering Blog Posts And Trusting God’s Sovereignty

Things hadn’t gotten back to where they had been before my back injury, but I’d gotten into a nice routine of publishing two articles a week plus a weekly Saturday Sampler. It bothered me a little (okay, maybe more than a little) that I recycled graphics so often, but I’d decided that the content of my writing outweighs the importance of a new picture.

So I contended myself with a scaled back blogging schedule, reminding myself that I’ll turn 69 at the end of this month. How many old ladies even have blogs? I accepted a reduction in my productivity, albeit reluctantly.

Then a little over a week ago, my primary Personal Care Attendant called out, suffering from extreme stomach pain. She called again as she was being admitted to the hospital for gallbladder issues. Yesterday she called to tell us that she can’t work (except to do laundry and cooking) until after she has surgery.

Because I’ve been without a consistent weekend PCA for over a year, the ladies who do backup for me are getting understandably tired. With my weekday PCA out of commission, their frustration is rising. Tomorrow, we’ll start advertising for a temporary weekday person in addition to ads we’ve been running for the weekend position. We’d appreciate prayer for that endeavor.

Between advertising, interviewing, (hopefully) training and accommodating the schedules of my backups, I don’t anticipate much blogging time for a while. Oh, never fear — I’ll blog as often as I can! It’s just that Saturday Sampler will be entirely off the table for a while, and I may post old articles more than I’d like. I hope to write some original blog posts whenever possible.

So far, the Lord is helping me resist temptation to feed feelings of anxiety. I know He has sent this trial to deepen my trust in Him and to mold my character.

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. ~~Romans 8:28-30 (NASB95)

Please pray that God will continue strengthening me against the sin of anxiety. I know I have a particular weakness in that area, but I also know that God is faithful. I want an attitude that glorifies Him. The closing hymn of our church service today encouraged me to cultivate that attitude.