Foreheads Full Of Ashes

Untitled-1Maybe observing Lent is a matter of conscience falling under the prescription of Romans 14:5-12. I wouldn’t  judge anyone’s salvation on their participation in it. I don’t have the means to evaluate their motives, which automatically disqualifies me from doing so.

Yet I have serious concerns regarding Lent. I’ve discussed some of those concerns here, here and here. So despite my desire to shrug Lent off as a matter of conscience, I believe it’s necessary to point out Continue reading

Saturday Sampler: November 25 — December 1

Pointilized Heart Sampler

Maybe Mike Ratliff doesn’t say anything remarkably novel in his blog post, Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? for Possessing the Treasure, but his point really can’t be overstated. Current trends in evangelicalism must never eclipse the authority of the Bible.

Be honest: reading the Bible every day can get tiring. Thankfully, Ryan Higginbottom of  Knowable Word thinks of several ways that Reading the Bible for the Ten Thousandth Time can regain its freshness.

In response to the latest ridiculous Twitter pronouncement by Rachel Held Evans, Nick Batzig posts Jesus and Racial Bias in Reformation 21. I like the way Nick appeals to normative hermeneutics in order to demonstrate proper understanding of a Scriptural text.

A friend whom I highly respect has raised legitimate questions about the methods John Chau used in his evangelistic efforts to minister to an unreached tribe off the coast of India. Although I don’t wish to dismiss her concerns, Jordan Standridge’s 10 Lessons From The Death of John Chau makes extremely important points that all Christians absolutely must consider. You’ll find his article in The Cripplegate.

Check out Parking Space 23 for John Chester’s Reprise: So You Think You Are a Red Letter Christian? Even those of us who claim to believe the entire Bible has uniform authority might find his article to be a little convicting.

I appreciate the thoughtfully written John Allen Chau’s death stuns, angers, and perplexes the world, which Elizabeth Prata posts on The End Time. She evaluates the situation honestly, doing her best to cover all angles of the story. I especially love the hope she expresses as she closes this essay.

Leslie A insists that There’s More to Christianity Than Doing Good Works in an article for Growing 4 Life. Beginning with her brother’s interesting observation on the inoffensive nature of social justice, she discusses the mission we have as Christians — including the ramifications of carrying out that mission.

Think Catholicism has more in common with Protestant denominations than differences? Pope Francis would have you think so! Leonardo De Chirico of The Vatican Files chronicles the pope’s life-long devotion to Mary in 156. She is My Mamá — Pope Francis and Mary to show that the pontiff refuses to separate Christ from Mary.

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Saturday Sampler: November 18 — November 24

Reflecting Balls Sampler

I’m not going to tell you why Clint Archer contributes Moths & Roaches: Responding to the Light to The Cripplegate this week. I want your curiosity to bug you until you read it.

Those of us who lean to the right politically should pay attention to Tim Bates’ Judge the Left Rightly in Things Above Us. He masterfully helps us subjugate our political affinities to the authority of Scripture.

Pyromaniacs features Hohn Cho’s insightful post, Voting and the 2018 Elections. Okay, it’s lengthy (even by Pyromaniacs standards). But he makes several important points that Christians need to contemplate. A few of his thoughts might even offer you some refreshment and encouragement.

As part of a series he’s writing for Abounding Grace Radio, R. Scott Clark discusses the Canons of Dort (5): God Ordains Means To Call His Elect. As a Reformed Baptist, I would add only that God’s means also includes personal  evangelism, a task that every believer should perform. Other than that amendment, I completely agree with Clark.

Writing from Australia (which legalized same sex marriage only last year), Stephen McAlpine shows us the rapid fallout Australian Christians now face. I’m the bad guy? How did that happen? chronicles the increasing persecution to people who dare to stand for a  Biblical view of human sexuality. I wonder, reading his words, if American Christians have become desensitized to the sexual revolution.

For a truly helpful explanation of baptism, see Tom’s post, RE-baptized??? What’s that all about? on excatholic4christ.

Please read Elizabeth Prata’s Movie Review – American Gospel: Christ Alone in The End Time. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but Elizabeth’s review gives me the extra nudge I need. See what you think.

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The Mess The Church Is In Now

Catholic to Protestant

Few Christians disagree that the visible church is corrupt. It’s pretty much impossible to ignore the moral compromises infecting all denominations, as well as independent churches as scandals proliferate. Social media only makes matters worse. Some “discernment blogs” (particularly Pulpit & Pen) absolutely delight in reporting every negative tidbit they can find. To be honest, scandal sells.

Admittedly, sometimes we need to name names. I have boldly written about Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Sarah Young, Matthew Vines and others who inject false teaching into evangelical circles and thereby distort the Gospel. Additionally I have addressed popular trends like Holy Yoga, direct revelation, seeker-sensitive churches and the Social Justice Movement many times on this blog. I will continue doing so when I believe situations warrant such articles.

The visible church is unquestionably a mess.

We often forget, however, that the visible church has always been a mess. Paul wrote most of his epistles for the express purpose of confronting false doctrines and sinful practices within the First Century churches. As Roman Catholicism developed its system of justification by works, few professing Christians understood the Gospel of salvation by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The Protestant Reformation restored the Bible to common people, although many Christians died as martyrs. Catholic authorities accused these men and women of heresy because they accepted Scripture’s authority over that of the pope.

All too soon after the Reformation, Enlightenment philosophers attracted the attention of the Puritans, enticing them to integrate rationalism into theology. From there, liberalism and psychology easily blended into churches, always at the expense of doctrinal purity.

A friend of mine once scoffed at my blog posts about church history, explaining that she cares more about the mess the church is in now. Actually, I share her concern. That’s precisely why I blog so frequently about people and trends that assault the authority, inerrancy and sufficiency of God’s Word.

But in combating the current mess in the visible church, it can help to go back in time. Certainly, our ultimate stop must be the First Century, as we stand unwaveringly  on the Word of God. We must study, interpret and apply it in context. That’s why Michelle Lesley and I write regular Bible Studies in our blogs that lead you through large portions of Scripture, showing you the progression of thought propelling each verse.

Church history can aid our application of Scripture by showing us how Christians before us dealt with messes in the visible church. We can learn from the things they did right, but also from the things they did wrong. They can teach us how to identify false teaching, and consequently how to correct it with Scripture.

The visible church most assuredly is in a mess now. Church history testifies that it’s pretty much always in a mess. If we really want to restore the church to purity, why not trust church history to teach us how to apply God’s Word?

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Saturday Sampler: July 29 — August 4

2006_0719DownTownCrossJuly060010Leslie A definitely hits the bullseye with her Growing 4 Life blog post, What Is Your Litmus Test? Oh boy, do I wish every pastor in the world would read her words from the pulpit!

In How God Speaks To Us Today, Tim Challies draws from the first four chapters of Hebrews to demonstrate God’s chosen method of communication. He doesn’t go with the popular teachings on this subject, but instead lets Scripture inform him. Maybe more of us should follow his example of discernment.

Since John and I are currently reading Revelation together, The Book of Revelation Is Not About the Rapture by Richard Gilbert in Core Christianity caught my attention. You might find this article encouraging if this Biblical book intimidates you.

Arthur Fedlier BustI’m not a fan of either Pope Francis or the World Council of Churches. Leonardo De Chirico’s August post in Vatican Files, 152. “Either Ecumenical or Proselytizer”? No. There is a Better Option exposes the joint attempt to keep Christians from proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’d hoped Albert Mohler would comment on last weekend’s Revoice Conference, so I was glad to see Torn Between Two Cultures? Revoice, LGBR Identity, and Biblical Christianity appear in my inbox. He certainly presents an insightful analysis of the conference and its ramifications.

My Charismatic friends won’t like Why There is No Such Thing as the Gift of Tongues in The Cripplegate, but I think they ought to consider the arguments that Eric Davis FAO Shwartz Bearmakes.

You’ve got to admire Michelle Lesley for courageously writing Women Preaching: It’s Not a Secondary Doctrinal Issue. She’ll undoubtedly get flack for her firm stand on this matter. The thing is, she’s absolutely right!

Thankfully, Denny Burk weighs in on last weekend’s infamous conference in St. Louis with Revoice is over. Now what? I have a few minor reservations about his article, but I include it here because of his extensive work on the topic of human sexuality.

Todd Pruitt, in his post for Mortification of Spin, adds to the analysis of the Revoice Sacred CodConference by writing Same Sex Attraction, Temptation, and Jesus. He’s watched more of the conference videos than I have, and therefore can address one disturbing aspect that I didn’t know about.

Elizabeth Prata leaves us with An Encouragement befitting her blog’s title, The End Time. With all the garbage going on within evangelicalism, essays like this offer sweet comfort.

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Saturday Sampler: July 8 — July 14

July 1 2010 025Have you ever thought of Bible Study in terms of summer reading? Interesting concept, don’t you think? Leave it to Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word to inspire our summer devotional times with Bible Study: Fast and Slow.

We say it over and over, I know. Yet, as  Elizabeth Prata writes in The End Time, evangelical women (and some men) persist in declaring God Told Me! Once again, Elizabeth dismantles the error of direct revelation from God, hoping to convince more women to hear from God on His terms. As a bonus, she includes two 90-second videos; the Mike Abendroth video shouldn’t be missed!IMG_3852

Phil Johnson laments The Rise of Woker-Than-Thou Evangelicalism in Pyromaniacs. If he understands the “woke” phenomenon correctly (and I believe he does), we should be prayerfully concerned.

Who knew that attending a simple baseball game could result in a musing about the eternal ramifications of false teaching? John Chester of Parking Space 23 pulls off just such a feat with It’s Not Just Theology. If you’re someone who rolls her eyes at the mere thought of theology, Chester’s insights might offer you something worth considering.

As a former Charismatic, I well understand The Dangers of Emotionalism that Kelly Smith writes about in Whole Magazine.

Why Didn’t Paul Share His ‘Trip to Heaven’ Story? asks Mike Leake in Borrowed Light. This excellent examination of 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 refutes much of the mysticism that IMG_3889permeates evangelical churches.

Denny Burk writes Is temptation sinful? as an introduction to his new series examining homosexual desire. Can we really differentiate between the desire to sin and the actual sin itself. After reading this first article, I hope you’ll continue reading this series. The Scriptural principles apply to much more than homosexual sin.

I haven’t read Why Can’t We Be Friends by Aimee Byrd, but I’ve read enough of her blog posts on the topic to know that she’s basically objecting to the Pence Rule (Vice-President Pence won’t be alone with any woman other than his wife). In How Can We Be Friends? 4 Biblical and Practical Considerations for Co-Ed Christian Friendships, Michelle July 2012 Boston and Randolph 024Lesley offers an approach to the controversy that few people on either side have mentioned. Her thoughts show exceptional balance and understanding.

Three cheers for Tom Buck, whose guest post in Delivered By Grace encourages the Southern Baptist Convention in particular and Christian churches in general to Stop “Empowering” Woman and Start Equipping them to Biblically Lead. Pastor Buck really gets it right!

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How Can Christians Respond To 21st Century Controversies?

ancient-church-01Last year, despite a nearly universal aversion to history in 21st Century Western culture, many evangelicals tolerated talk about the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. After all, October 31, 2017 marked the 500th anniversary of  Martin Luther’s infamous act of posting his 95 Theses. Though the majority of Christians remained pretty much indifferent to this anniversary, they didn’t begrudge Reformed Christians our celebration. It was understandable, in a bewildering sort of way. And on November 1st, everything returned to normal.

But should we have closed our history books to once again gather dust and cobwebs? Can we now assure ourselves that the significance of the Reformation pales in comparison to the issues in our present time? The more progressive branch of evangelicals (including those who claim to be Reformed) now busy themselves with so-called social justice concerns like racism and misogyny, filing the Reformation away as irrelevant to today’s Christian culture. In turn, those of us who see dangers in the social justice movement push the Reformation aside in order to address more immediate matters.

Perhaps you feel that way. Perhaps you think last year’s celebration was all well and good, but that was then and this is now. You may be surprised to learn that I share the temptation to move on from the 16th Century and focus on 2018.

The Protestant Reformation, however, actually gives us the necessary tools for dealing with contemporary issues. I say this because the 16th Century Reformers all pointed back to Scripture. They correctly believed that Roman Catholicism had corrupted Christianity with unbiblical teachings and practices that took people away from pure devotion to God. They remedied that problem by making the Bible accessible to everyone and then by teaching it systematically through verse-by-verse exposition. Most importantly, they affirmed its authority as the Word of God.

Present-day believers face serious issues unknown to people 500 years ago. But Martin Luther and his contemporaries faced equally serious issues unknown to the First Century apostles. Yet beneath all the issues that seem so unique to each generation lie principles that the Lord addresses in His Word. For that reason, the Reformation teaches us the value of returning to Scripture.

Additionally, the Reformers model ways to handle persecution. I particularly think of William Tyndale, who was savagely executed for translating the Bible into English. The Reformers suffered greatly for their commitment to God’s Word. As our own times produce increasing hostility towards Christianity, we’d do well to study those Reformation martyrs instead of whining that we’re losing our religious liberties. Indeed, many Reformers like John Knox probably would be puzzled that Protestants would consider religious liberty to be an inalienable right.

Dear sisters, please don’t relegate the Reformation to mothballs. The grand celebrations may be long over as we exchange heated Tweets about white Christians perpetually repenting for how our ancestors offended black people or about the Southern Baptist Convention’s alleged misogyny. But we can best respond to such controversies by following the examples of the Reformers. Like them, we must go back to God’s Word and rightly divide it. Now, more than ever, we must remember the Reformation.

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