Saturday Sampler: April 15 — April 21

Critter Sampler 02

Personally, I enjoy reading the Old Testament prophets, though I must admit that I didn’t really understand them until recent years. Ryan Higginbottom sees that many Christians often neglect these books of the Bible. Write for Knowable Word, he outlines What We Miss When We Skip the Prophets in an effort to keep us from a lopsided intake of Scripture. He even coaches us on ways to approach these books.

In The Chains of “Cool”, appearing in Growing 4 Life, Leslie A has no difficulty speaking the truth boldly! Toward the end, you’ll possibly feel a bit breathless, but only because you’ll know she’s right in standing against evangelical compromise.

Reflecting on a recent diagnosis, Doug Wilson muses on The Obedience of Cancer in Blog & Mablog by directs attention back to God’s sovereignty. He exhibits true faith in his trial — faith that convicts me of sin concerning my own reactions to adversity. Please do pray for Doug and his family as they walk through this time of trusting God’s wisdom.

Standing firm for the Lord means we must Buck the current. Elizabeth Prata draws from her personal experiences of living on a boat to demonstrate this spiritual principle in her blog, The End Time.

Responding to a comment he overheard in a restaurant, Scott Slayton of One Degree to Another informs us Why You Should Study Theology. Now, before you decide that this article is probably full of mothballs, why don’t you give it a try? It might surprise you!

Diana Severance, in her essay for Biblical Woman, asks us to seriously consider The Cost of Saying “I Am A Christian” in a culture that hates the Gospel. We might not think we’ll ever endure physical torture for the Lord. Perhaps we should think a little harder, and then remember His grace that carries believers through even the most extreme persecution.

Drawing from this week’s airline tragedy, Stephen McAlpine shares a powerful illustration of our urgent need to constantly keep the Gospel in view. Paying Attention Is On The Nose is important reading for those of us who feel so familiar with the Gospel that we fumble to apply it properly during times of crisis.

If women shouldn’t preach or teach in mixed company, what can we do to serve the Lord and our churches? Michelle Lesley offers great insight in Unforbidden Fruit: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach The Church on Discipleship for Christian Women.

I’m generally not a fan of The Christian Post (it’s hardly a bastion of discernment), but John MacArthur: Evangelical Christians Today ‘Tolerate False Gospel,’ Avoid Sanctification for ‘Relevance’ by Leah MarieAnn Klett epitomizes so much of why 21st Century evangelicals miss the boat that I believe you need to read it.

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Friday Flashback: Opened Eyes And Ageless Words

This post originally appeared in The Outspoken TULIP in February of 2016. Its message continues to be relevant, giving me a desire to repost it today.

Bible Mask framedPsalm 119 extols the Word of God by using pithy couplets to illustrate its various effects on individual believers. I love the psalmist’s way of presenting various facets of Scripture. He reminds me of an expert jeweler carefully appraising a rare and exquisite diamond. Whenever I read this psalm, I gain a deeper appreciation for Scripture, knowing that it’s God’s way of revealing Himself to His people.

Several verses in this psalm have been meaningful to me throughout the years, and I wish I could write about each of them. But one verse stands out as the key, first to the psalm, but also to Bible reading as a whole.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law. ~~Psalm 119:18 (ESV)


The psalmist relied on the Holy Spirit, rather than his own intellectual abilities, to give him a clear understanding of Scripture. Notice his prayer for God to open his eyes, expressing his human inability to fully understand what God says. This dependence on God’s Spirit finds support in Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ~~1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (ESV)


When a regenerate believer comes to the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps him understand the text. Notice, however, that the Spirit doesn’t speak apart from or outside of the Word, but rather that He enables us to understand it. The Spirit doesn’t bury truth in the way Gnostic religions (that reserve esoteric knowledge for an elite group) do, but He recognizes that those who reject His authority over them simply won’t “get it.” Submission to Him gives us a willingness to accept His precepts.

Additionally, our dependence on the Spirit doesn’t excuse us from reading God’s Word in context. He won’t isolate a fragment of Scripture to give it a “personal meaning.” His Word may be veiled to those who have no intention of obeying it anyway, yet in it the Lord speaks clearly and says the same thing to all believers from every generation. What He said to the First Century Christians continues into the 21st Century unaltered, applying to each of us equally. No secrets. No private whispers.

Yet without the Spirit’s assistance, we can read Scripture only as another piece of literature. We may find certain portions beautiful and inspiring, but we’ll fall short of letting its words transform our thoughts and lives.

So, as I approach Scripture, I pray for God to open my eyes to the wonders of His Word, so that He can teach me to better love and obey Him. Certainly, I have a responsibility to use my intellect as I study, and I do my best to engage my mind by reading in context, taking notes and consulting commentaries. But as I do these things, I also ask Him to teach me, as He has taught believers through the ages, by opening my spiritual eyes. I trust Him to honor my prayer.

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When Discernment Blocks Devotion

Discernment Cross

The apostle John, in the book of Revelation, begins with letters from the Lord to seven churches in Asia Minor. He addressed the church in Ephesus first.  As someone interested in discernment ministry, I believe this particular letter especially challenges me, so I decided to blog about it in hopes of benefiting any of you who share my interest in this field.

I’ll quote the whole letter in order to provide proper context.

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:1-7 (ESV)

At first glance, this church sounds like a discernment blogger’s dream! They definitely didn’t tolerate false teachers, and bore persecution with an enviable steadfastness. They cared passionately about truth and devoted themselves to contending for the faith. Surely such zeal for God’s truth deserves abundant praise and admiration!

And the Lord indeed did praise them for their commitment to His truth. Yet He also called them to repentance, threatening to shutdown their church unless they did so.

In their zeal for truth, the Ephesians had forgotten to love Him.

Discernment ministry had become an idol, distracting them from Him. Oh sure, they worked tirelessly to uphold His name, but they focused so intently on defending truth and refuting false doctrine that they inadvertently lost their sense of awe and wonder over Christ Himself.  They forgot Him!

Of course, that pitfall could happen with any ministry. I’ve gotten so busy with various church activities that I’ve neglected to delight myself in the Lord for His own sake. Perhaps most Christians have. This sin isn’t unique to discernment ministry.

That said, John did write this letter to the Ephesians in the specific context of standing against false teachers, indicating that those of us who engage in discernment ministry need to exercise greater vigilance. We can assure ourselves that we contend for His faith precisely because we love Jesus, and in many cases that’s quite true. In many other cases, however, we’ve fallen in love with discernment ministry for its own sake, just as the Ephesians did.

Reading Revelation 2:1-7 has caused me to examine my heart on this matter. Frankly, I squirmed more than a little as I read it. I pray for God’s grace to keep my heart fixed exclusively on Him. That way, whatever discernment He graciously gives me will cause me to love Him all the more.

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Saturday Sampler: April 8 — April 14

rose-sampler-silkUsing 1 Corinthians 12, Kristen Wetherell of Unlocking the Bible demonstrates our responsibility to Trust God With the Spiritual Gifts He Gives. She brings us back to the reason He gives those gifts in the first place.

Evangelism intimidates most Christians. Because of this fact, Becoming More Faithful in Evangelism by Zach Putthoff in Parking Space 23 will encourage you through its practical counsel.

In Throwback Thursday ~ Don’t Get Your Theology from the Movies, Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women cautions us that a Movie Subscription Service doesn’t necessarily promote sound doctrine. We can’t hear this message enough!

Katie McCoy lists 5 Things A Woman Considering An Abortion Needs To Hear in a post for Biblical Woman. She raises a couple points that I never would have come up with.

The term “evangelical” has a complicated history, as Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate shows us in I’m old enough to remember when “evangelical” was a bad word. He provides interesting insight into the theological mess in Christian America today.

Few people understand how to pray Biblically. On her blog, Growing 4 Life, Leslie A asks Are You Treating God Like Your Personal Genie? She uses the Lord’s Prayer as a template for true prayer. Interestingly, my pastor is preaching through Luke’s treatment of that same topic.

Let me squeeze in a second post from Michelle Lesley. Safe Spaces and Wearing Our Hearts on Our Sleeves: 6 Ways to Follow Jesus’ Example of Handling Hurt addresses self-centered attitudes that far too many Christians (including myself, I admit with shame) nurture.

Michael Coughlan, in a contribution to Things Above Us, offers some Recent Racist Rhetoric Reflections that balance the discussion. I really like his delineation between the Gospel and its efforts.

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What Writer’s Block Teaches Me About Discipline And Joy

OpenBible John 1My writer’s block continues, tempting me to take a day off from blogging. I do realize that doing so wouldn’t be sinful. Maybe I’d even get some digital art done, which really wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Yet I fear that indulging these feelings of not wanting to blog could put me on a slippery slope.  I know my sinful, lazy self well enough to understand that I need the discipline of performing tasks regardless of how I feel about them. That same commitment to discipline helped me, 40 years ago, to develop the habit of daily Bible reading.

Admittedly, a Christian should approach God’s Word with eager anticipation, knowing that the Lord speaks to us through the pages of Scripture. It shames me that there are days — way too many of them — when I come to my Bible confessing that I’d rather play Solitaire or work on digital art. Interestingly, those are often the days that His Spirit most clearly illumines His Word to me.

Whether we feel the desire for Scripture or not, we need the daily nourishment it gives. Job certainly understood the value of God’s words.

I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
    I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. ~~Job 23:12 (ESV)

The fact is, Christians need daily Bible intake even more than we need three square meals a day. Sure, there are days when we can only spend five or ten minutes in the Word, and the Lord understands that. But the discipline of coming to His Word regularly, unless unusual circumstances make doing so impossible, establishes a rhythm that ensures daily communication with our Savior.

I disagree with imposing legalistic rules like “No Bible, no breakfast” or reading a specified amount of chapters a day. However, some sort of general routine helps. It’s only when you turn that general routine into rigid law that you pervert godly discipline into ungodly legalism.

And legalistic Bible reading shifts the focus from hearing the Lord to checking off a religious duty to entering into communion with the Living God. Discipline may bring our feelings under control, but it never blocks us from the joy of hearing God’s voice as He speaks through His Word. We may open our Bibles as an act of discipline, but we’ll close them rejoicing that the Lord has spoken to us.

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A Fun Little Song With Truth We Can Celebrate

It was a fun little song. It amuses me that, 47 years later, I still  remember both the lyrics and the upbeat tune. Especially since I really didn’t understand exactly what it meant.

Being good Charismatics, we predictably sang this ditty almost every time someone decided to lay hands on me for healing. After all, we assured ourselves,  we were merely claiming God’s promise in Romans 8:11. In our understanding, that fragment of Scripture taught that Christ’s resurrection guaranteed physical healing in this present life.

But looking at this verse in context, we see an entirely different meaning, and a meaning that gives us a correct way to apply Christ’s resurrection to ourselves. Let’s read this verse in its immediate context first, and then we’ll talk about how it fits into the apostle Paul’s overall argument.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ~~Romans 8:1-11 (ESV)

Even here, we can plainly see that Paul is talking about personal holiness rather than physical healing. He contends that the same Holy Spirit Who affected Christ’s resurrection gives us Christ’s very righteousness, thereby empowering us to live in obedience to God’s law instead of following the dictates of our sinful inclinations.

You might wonder why Paul refers to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead. To answer that question, we need to go back to Romans 6, where the apostle discusses our baptism as a way of identifying with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~~Romans 6:1-4 (ESV)

As the Spirit raised Christ literally, so He raises us figuratively in our present life to resist sin and to walk in righteousness. Going back to Romans 8:1-11, then, we understand that the same Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead gives us Christ’s life in order that we can live in Christ’s righteousness. Through the Lord’s resurrection, we have new lives, liberating us from the tyranny of sin.

Certainly His resurrection also carries the assurance of our physical resurrection at Christ’s return, as we’ll discuss in subsequent blog posts. Please don’t misunderstand me as saying that the benefits of Christ’s resurrection are limited to their implications in our present life. But also appreciate the wonderful truth that His resurrection allows us to enjoy a new life, even now, that permits us to experience His righteousness.

That little song based on Romans 8:11 is still fun to sing. Its proper context makes it even more fun as we celebrate the victory over sin that we enjoy because the same Spirit Who raised Christ from the dead dwells in us!

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Anticipating The Resurrection: Future Posts, Future Study And Our Future Bodies

Resurrection Butterfly 02

A while ago, we discussed the possibility of doing a Bible Study series on 1 Corinthians 15, which goes into depth about Christ’s resurrection. Right now I’m still deciding exactly how I want to structure the study. The study I wrote on Titus last year demanded a lot of energy from me, and I question whether or not I have the physical stamina to do something on that scale again.

That said, let me reiterate my observation that the resurrection, although it’s the cornerstone of our faith, goes largely ignored by most Christians. We easily comprehend the significance of the crucifixion, knowing that through it Jesus atoned for the sin of those who believe in Him. But we have more difficulty figuring out what the resurrection means.

In part, our difficulty comes about because pastors don’t say much about the resurrection outside of Easter Sunday sermons. But before we place too much blame on pastors, perhaps we should think about our own awkwardness with the subject.

Death, we understand. We’ve all experienced the death of someone we’ve known. The older we get, the more of our relationships end in death. Therefore, the Lord’s death has an element of familiarity that we can latch on to.

Resurrection, in contrast, lies in our future. Except for Jesus, nobody has yet experienced resurrection.  So we understandably feel removed from the very concept. Even seasoned Christians have trouble grasping the truth that Christ has a physical body right now, and that one day we will have glorified physical bodies either in heaven or in hell. We’ve read this truth repeatedly in the New Testament, but somehow it doesn’t quite register.

So, although we verbally affirm the resurrection, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I know I don’t!

Over these next two weeks leading up to Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, if you prefer that term), I hope to write a few posts about the resurrection. I’ll look at Scriptures other than 1 Corinthians 15, sharing insights that I’ve learned over the past couple years. Hopefully my posts will prepare us to celebrate His resurrection Sunday after next as well as building our excitement about going through 1 Corinthians 15.

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