Saturday Sampler: March 10 — March 16

Massachusetts Town Flags

Town and city flags of Massachusetts displayed in the State House

When I started this blog in 2015, I could see that the church in America was headed for persecution. A lot of Christians see the same reality, including Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure. His blog post, Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness you are blessed, underscores what I’ve been saying all along.

Are You Living with a Misconception of Grace? Writing for Biblical Woman,  Sarah Bubar explores the effect our culture of entitlement has on how we understand the grace of God. She also explains grace from the Biblical standpoint.

She’s done it again! In One major way Christian self-help books damage you, Elizabeth Prata pulls back the cover to reveal a harmful evangelical practice. Ladies, this essay in The End Time deserves your attention!

Candidly admitting her struggles, Debi Martin of Sojourner Between Two Worlds shows us The Importance of Being in God’s Word. I’m currently reading through the Bible in 90 days as Debi did in 2012. It’s my second time doing it, and I highly recommend it.

I appreciate Erin Benziger’s devotional on The Sufficiency of the Word in Do Not Be Surprised. The worldliness permeating evangelicalism pressures people to settle for much less than God has given us.

Scripture delineates specific roles for women that the world considers oppressive. Thankfully, in an article for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis lists 10 Reasons Why the Bible Regards Women Higher than all Other Systems. I wish every evangelical (female and male) would read this one.

Yup, I struggle with reading my Bible too. So Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: I love the Bible, but I have to force myself to read it by Michelle Lesley really reassures and  comforts me. She selects just the right Scriptures to make her case.

I’m not going to give away R. Scott Clark’s message in What Christians Can Learn From Drew Carey About Subverting Culture on the Abounding Grace Radio blog,  but I promise you that you won’t regret reading it. How do I know? I enjoyed reading it, and I’m far from being a Drew Carey fan.

Nick Batzig of Reformation 21 pleads for discernment ministries to strive for balance by writing A Horror of Theology. Bloggers especially need to consider the points he makes in order to avoid extremes that end up dishonoring the Lord.

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Forgive — People Do Stupid Stuff

FortressA brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. ~~Proverbs 18:19 (ESV)

We offend each other. Sometimes we even do it in pubic forums, telling ourselves that we merely want to get to the truth. And I’ll admit that some situations actually do  necessitate stepping on toes in order to reprove sin or confront false teaching.Even in those instances, however, we should do our best to be as gentle and winsome as possible.

Regardless of our motives or intentions, the fact remains that we will do stupid stuff to offend our brothers and sisters in Christ. When that happens (as it inevitability will), we shouldn’t be surprised if the person withdraws from us. Haven’t we withdrawn from people who have offended us? Of course we have!

Proverbs 18:19 brilliantly describes the defensive posture of someone who has suffered an offense. He understandably barricades his heart against further hurt, usually feeling betrayed and vulnerable. The thought of forgiveness seems far too overwhelming! So he fortifies himself against further perceived abuse.

Although we understand such self-protective instincts, the Bible Continue reading

The Sinking Sand Of Self

I have never outgrown my love for Shirley Temple movies. Several years ago, John gave me the complete collection of her movies on DVD as a birthday gift. Some of my favorites include The Little Princess, Captain January and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Her character in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm often assures people, “I’m very self-reliant!” In the story’s context, her self-reliance always rescues her from horrible dilemmas, therefore becoming a desirable quality.  In fact, when my sister and I were kids, our mother used this movie to encourage us toward self-reliance.

But in the context of salvation and spiritual life, nothing could more dangerous than depending on oneself. We may think our good works and religious devotion commend us to God, but those things simply can’t support us. Before His judgment throne, only the shed blood of Jesus Christ and the righteousness that He imputes to us can justify any of us.

Any ground other than Christ will prove itself to be nothing more than sinking sand. Little Rebecca, precisely because of her charming self-reliance, must never serve as a spiritual role model. Christ alone is our solid Rock. Let’s make sure to stand  on Him!

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Needing The Lord Isn’t Shameful

They intended to shame me by reciting the tired old line that I used Jesus as a crutch. Looking back 48 years later, I wish I’d pointed out the rather ironic (and actually humorous) detail that I physically depend on a wheelchair. I mean, a mere crutch doesn’t demand nearly as much reliance as a wheelchair!

Furthermore, I feel no shame for needing a wheelchair, nor should I. Instead, I feel gratitude that I live in a time and place that allows me to have a power wheelchair. My wheelchair helps me get around the apartment, travel between Adult Sunday School and church services, and roam around downtown Boston. Crutches and wheelchairs provide marvelous freedom to people who would otherwise be bedridden.

My high school friends didn’t understand that I need Jesus even more than I need my wheelchair. Sin  cripples every aspect of my life, preventing me from honoring the Lord as fully as He deserves. So I gladly depend on Him, ashamed of my sin but eternally grateful that He stands close to hold me up.

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The Joy Of A Redeemed Sinner

Understanding the depths of our personal sins can fill us with despair.

On the other hand, understanding the depths of our personal sins can lead us to a Savior Who willingly and lovingly shed His blood to pay for those very sins. Once we receive His cleansing, we can’t help but love Him. Neither can we help joyfully singing of His redeeming love. There’s nothing as irrepressible, you see, as the joy of a redeemed sinner!

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Flashback Friday: A Right Proclamation Of The Gospel

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Originally posted on February 17, 2017.

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video featuring people I personally know from my Charismatic days. I managed to get past their “God told me” claims by remembering how often I used to phrase my own experiences in those words. In listening to Charismatics, I want to keep in mind that many of them, though deceived, are genuinely my brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, I walked in those same deceptions for most of my Christian life.

Toward the end of the video, however, they invited unsaved members of their audience to begin their “adventure” with Christ. They assured people that Jesus Christ offers freedom from sin (which He does) and personal fulfillment. According to them, Jesus waited, hoping people would reach out to Him and receive all that He had for them. They read a prayer that made vague reference to being a sinner and committing their lives to Christ. Those who said that prayer were instructed to sign a copy, write the date and keep it in their Bibles in case Satan questioned their salvation.

They never mentioned Christ’s death on the cross.

Not once.

Hopefully they’ve given more complete Gospel presentations at other times. Certainly, I must guard against judging the entirety of their ministry based on one isolated video. But it made me think that perhaps I should periodically present the Gospel in this blog, making sure that any new readers (particularly those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior) really understand it Biblically.

Paul proclaimed the Gospel in its most basic form in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (ESV)

To Paul, nothing was more important to preach than Christ’s death as a substitute for our sin, His burial and His bodily resurrection. The Gospel revolves around His atoning work to pay for our sin, and His resurrection that proves the Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. Paul elaborates in Ephesians 2:1-10.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Our sins violated God’s holy standards, making us deserving only of His wrath. But in His mercy, Christ expressed His love by dying for our sin (Romans 5:6-9 and 1 John 2:1-2). Then He raised us from our spiritual death, graciously allowing us to believe in Him and providing us with opportunities to serve Him.

The Gospel focuses on Christ’s glory first. Indeed, He gives us tremendous joy in serving Him, as well as in knowing that we will spend eternity with Him. In those ways, the Gospel most definitely offers fulfillment. But we must never proclaim a gospel that focuses on self and neglects Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

I do not question the salvation of my friends in that video. But it broke my heart to watch them mishandle an opportunity to present the Gospel in a Biblical manner. Rather than criticize their techniques, however, let me learn to faithfully declare it when God gives me opportunities to do so. The Gospel is too precious, and too important to handle in any other way.

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Looking At The Cross Costs Something

When you first heard that Jesus died for your sins, how did you respond? Did you shrug it off as a somewhat perplexing idea? Maybe you felt a measure of relief, but didn’t really think the knowledge of His sacrifice required more than a thank you and a smile from you. Perhaps you thought you needed to augment His work on the cross, making yourself worthy of salvation.

Or maybe you had comprehended the true weight of your sins against a holy God, and therefore received the message of the cross with an attitude of grateful amazement. You wondered why the Lord would bestow such grace on you. And, although you realized your total inability to pay Him back for His grace and mercy, you wanted to show your  gratitude by acknowledging His claim on your whole life.

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