Saturday Sampler: March 30 — April 6

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Reacting to the growing sentiment among evangelicals that same sex attraction, unless one physically acts on it, is morally neutral, R. Scott Clark writes It Was Not So From The Beginning: Nature And Grace Teach Us That SSA Is Sin in the Abounding Grace Radio blog. As our culture pressures us to compromise with its redefinition of sexual morality, articles like this one keep us grounded in Biblical truth.

Leonardo De Chirico, in his monthly article for The Vatican Files, presents a fascinating and vitally important discussion. 160. Is the Nicene Faith the Basis for Ecumenism? clarifies the importance of doctrine as we determine whether or not to pursue unity with someone.

Don’t miss How to Repent of Slander in a Digital Age by Dr. Jay Sklar of Covenant Theological Seminary. If you use any form of social media, this post is for you!

As our culture tries to redefine marriage, Christians must remember that Marriage Isn’t About Children, Because Marriage Isn’t About Us. John Ellis explains this truth in his post for adayinhiscourt.

Core Christianity features Cameron Cole’s concerning article, Four Things Youth Workers Would Tell Parents About Teenagers, Social Media, and Technology. It’s not the easiest piece to read, but those of you who have kids really need to understand what your sons and daughters do with their smart phones.

If you haven’t seen the movie Unplanned yet, take a moment to consider Pastor Gabriel Hughes’ thoughts in A Pastor’s Review of Unplanned: Uncertain of its Own Message, which he posts in The Midwestern Baptist. His review underscores the necessity of using discernment before jumping on the latest evangelical bandwagon.

Julie Ganschow of Biblical Counseling for Women finds that not all those billing themselves as Biblical counselors actually counsel Biblically. Wolves Among Sheep equips us to make distinctions between man-centered counseling and God-centered counseling. Ladies,  please don’t ignore these distinctions!

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Saturday Sampler: February 17 — February 23

Artistic Swirl SamplerStephen McAlpine invites us to Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow and Only You Had Ever Heard of Jesus. He presents an interesting challenge. Perhaps we ought to take him up on it.

Writing in Possessing the Treasure, Mike Ratliff reminds us that It is the ungodly whom God justifies. Well, of course, you say — that’s basic Christian doctrine! But don’t be so quick. Might some lingering vestiges of self-righteousness linger in your heart?

Sadly, more and more evangelicals insist that God speaks to them directly.  In response, Clint Archer of The Cripplegate writes God’s Book & God’s Voice to provide a Biblical perspective on this matter.

Now that Tabletalk Magazine is online, you’ll want to read Is Boasting on Social Media a Sin? by Nathan W. Bingham. Okay, it convicted me. But if I need to be convicted, praise the Lord for His faithfulness to convict me.

On her blog, Morning By Morning, Melissa N. Williams shares How My View of Scripture Changed. A Tribute to my local pastor. She offers wonderful encouragement about studying the Bible appropriately.

Haven’t we all complained about the growing viciousness in society lately? SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God asserts that such ugliness results from years of encouragement toward self-love. Narcissistic Meanies explains how she’s arrived at her conclusion.

What is The Writer’s Responsibility? Elizabeth Prata answers that question from a Christian perspective in The End Time. If you only post on Facebook and Twitter, her counsel still applies to you.

Hopefully, most of us see though the nonsense of “Gay Christians,” but now there’s a push for equally nonsensical “Christian Witchcraft.” In an article for Abounding Grace Radio, R. Scott Clark reminds us that Not Everything Called “Christian” Is. Charismatics, his closing paragraph might interest you.

Ask your church leadership to consider Preventative Measures: 6 Steps SBC Churches Can Take to Prevent Sexual Abuse by Michelle Lesley. Her common sense and dependence on God’s Word always astound me, but this time she’s outdone herself!

Let’s close with Colin Smothers’ insights on the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood blog: CBMW Mailbag: Should I pursue marriage at a young age? Although this article ostensibly addresses young men, we women can learn valuable priorities as we either contemplate marriage ourselves or counsel our younger sisters in Christ.

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Starting Discernment Out Right

463ca-ladies2bstudy2b01Although I taught children’s Sunday School for several years,  I can’t recall once teaching the basic Bible lessons that I heard as a child (in a liberal denomination, at that). “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Evangelicals generally have an aversion to teaching children to fear the Lord. Frankly,  we don’t even teach it to ourselves. Yet the Bible explicitly states:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ~~Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

That standard Sunday School verse taught in the 1950s shouldn’t be downplayed, explained away or outright ignored the way it is in our postmodern evangelical culture. Perhaps a main reason that we now equate discernment strictly with polemics comes from our hesitancy to embrace the idea of fearing God.

Yet both the Old and New Testaments contain several verses urging people to fear God. Holy fear doesn’t require feeling terrorized by Him, nor does it negate His love for us. At the same time, His love for us doesn’t negate our proper response of approaching Him with an acute awareness of His holiness and our sinfulness. The apostle Paul told us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13).

I loved my mother. Until my late teens, I pretty much thought she could do no wrong. But when I misbehaved at school, the absolute worst punishment my teacher could inflict was telling Mom what I’d done. She never treated me harshly, but that initial look of anger and disappointment always shook me to my core. Loving her compelled me to fear her.

Loving God, then, should compel Christians to fear disappointing Him. The fear of the Lord actually encourages us to love Him by keeping His commandments (John 15:10). Rather than avoiding  talk of fearing God, we should cultivate holy fear and let it teach us to live in ways that please, honor and glorify Him.

The fear of the Lord leads us to the wisdom that helps us discern His will from the pages of Scripture. Fearing Him, as an aspect of loving Him, develops discernment in our day-to-day lives.

If we desire to be women of discernment, we must begin by developing a healthy fear of the Lord. Maybe our churches and Sunday Schools need to return to teaching this basic principle.

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Saturday Sampler: June 24 — June 30

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In The Domain for Truth, SlimJim writes a short, thought-provoking article entitled VBS and thought about Christian Unity. It’s such a simple concept. But I think its simplicity is precisely what makes it so brilliant!

How are you doing when it comes to reading your Bible daily? Allen Nelson IV, writing for Things Above Us, decided to read his Bible every day after being convicted to do so back in 2008. Now he encourages us to follow suit with 5 Reflections from 10 Years of Daily Bible Reading. If you struggle in this spiritual discipline, this post will definitely give you hope!

If you want some encouraging news regarding freedom of religion, you’ll want to read Supreme Court vacates lower court’s verdict again florist by Denny Burk. I certainly didn’t expect this ruling.

Responding to recent attempts to suppress literary works that contain elements of racism, SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God speaks up In Defense Of That Little House On The Prairie to demonstrate that we shouldn’t try to rewrite history simply for political correctness. Perhaps we get offended too easily these days.

Writing for Whole Magazine, Jessica Hageman explores How Our Incorrect View of Good Affects Our Daily Lives in a way that makes theology practical. It’s tempting, I know, to regard doctrine and Bible Study as irrelevant to our everyday lives, which is precisely why Jessica’s perspective is so necessary. I recommend her article with my whole heart.

Phil Newton’s piece in Founders Ministries examines the claim of personal revelation when people say God Told Me… with an incident from the Reformation. Okay, you don’t like history. I know that. But give it a chance by reading what Newton has to say. You just might discover that discernment ministry isn’t a new invention.

Usually, you can regard the links in Saturday Sampler as endorsements of the blogs I cite (which is why I no longer include links to The Gospel Coalition Blog). I have reservations about Kristen Wetherell as well, but some of her posts deserve recommendation. 14 Ideas to Make Your Bible Reading More Consistent is one such post because it encourages us to get into God’s Word regularly. So if you struggle in reading your Bible on a consistent basis, this one is definitely worth reading.

Leslie A of Growing 4 Life tells us precisely what we need Before We Can Learn to Discern. I know from experience that this isn’t a popular approach to discernment ministry, but ladies, Leslie speaks truth here! Please, if you desire to be discerning, take her words to heart.

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The False Comfort Of Pope Francis

Thoughtful BoyIf you haven’t yet seen the video of Pope Francis assuring a grieving child that his atheist father went to heaven (because said dad allowed all four of his children to be baptized), I suggest that you Google it. Not because it should soften your stance on either the Roman Catholic Church or on Christ’s claim to be the only means of salvation (John 14:6), but because it puts forth a question that Bible-believing Christians absolutely must face as we console the bereaved.

Obviously, the pope failed to give the little boy either a Catholic answer or a Biblical one. I’d guess that many bloggers (both Christian and Catholic) are burning up their keyboards explaining why this pope erred in his response to the boy. As well they ought! But I want to explore an angle of this situation that probably hasn’t received the attention it requires.

As I watched the video, I cried. Since my dad died when I was 10 and my sister was 7, I understand some of that little boy’s heartache and confusion. He loved his daddy, and he desperately needs some way of coping with a loss that he can’t understand. Although I care passionately about sound theology, I also passionately believe that heartbroken children must be treated with compassion, and in age-appropriate ways. So despite my manifold disagreements with the Catholic Church in general and Pope Francis in particular, I appreciate the man’s tenderness toward a hurting child.

Alas, compassion never excuses perverting truth. And the truth is that good works don’t admit anyone into heaven. Pope Francis offered that poor little boy a false assurance about his father’s eternal state. Far worse, he reinforced the erroneous notion that salvation rewards human goodness. As a result, he inoculated the child (as well as everyone else in the audience) against the truth that salvation comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis should have allowed for the slight possibility of a deathbed conversion, but then he should have moved the focus to God’s perfect justice. As a just Judge, the Lord deals with each person justly, and according to His eternal purposes. Although we lack the prerogative to make a definitive declaration about anyone’s eternal destiny,  we can encourage those who grieve to trust God’s authority to make the right decision.

At that point, it would have been best to acknowledge the pain of the very real likelihood that the loved one won’t be in heaven. When my mom died, many people suggested a deathbed conversion, and I admit that possibility. But the most comforting comment I received came from a man at church who said, “I’m so sorry. That must be hard.” Rather than offering a comfort that may or may not be true, this man acknowledged that I faced Mom’s death Biblically, despite the sadness involved. His words affirmed that my pain over her probable rejection of the Gospel is legitimate. Pope Francis should have given the little boy that sort of validation.

From there, we should gently remind the grieving person of his or her own responsibility to repent of sin and believe that Jesus died to bear the punishment for the sins of all who believe in Him. We can’t do anything about our departed loved ones other that trust that God will glorify Himself in how He judges them, but we certainly can make our own election sure by believing in Him.

In situations such as the one with this sweet little boy, of course we must extend compassion. But true compassion never sugarcoats truth with a false gospel. That little boy deserved so much better.

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Saturday Sampler: April 1 — April 7

Spring 2018 SamplerWhat do you call home? Sometimes (too often, actually) I tell folks that God made me for Boston. John Ellis, in his blog A Day in His Court, writes Rooted: A Christian’s Place to challenge that temporal perspective. But his rejoinder isn’t exactly what you probably think it is.

Starting with an account of John Hooper’s martyrdom under Bloody Mary, Clint Archer discusses Exquisite Tenderness – Being Christlike in the Crucible of Suffering for The Cripplegate, The main body of his post draws from Christ’s attitude during His crucifixion. It’s an uncomfortable post to read, but we certainly need its message as we face the growing threat of persecution in our own century.

In How to Cheat Death, Leslie A of  Growing 4 Life questions the power of a healthy diet. She sees a much more effective way of cheating death.

I remember the frustration of being single, and thus I feel concern for my unmarried sisters in Christ. Lisa Robinson, who blogs at Thinking and Living Theological Thoughts Out Loud, writes On kingdom seeking and stuff: a personal reflection to encourage other single women through the wonderful blessing God is working in her life.

Using Titus 2 as a  template, Amanda Walker shows us Six Habits Younger Women Need Older Women To Teach Them in Biblical Woman. Ladies, all of us can benefit from the reminders Amanda provides.

Although I don’t think I’ll close The Outspoken TULIP’s Facebook page quite yet, Stephen McAlpine’s When Facebook Falls Out of Like With Your Blog gives me something to ponder.  I understand that the growing censorship against Christians and conservatives in social media is minimal compared to the persecution Christians face in other parts of the world, but I believe we should be aware that we have limited time in which to proclaim the Gospel online. Let’s not waste it!

Also in this week’s The Cripplegate, Eric Davis writes Is the Bible Enough for Us? – Sufficiency as part of his series on God’s Word. My regular readers know how strongly I believe that the Bible provides absolutely everything we need to live in accordance with God’s will, so you’ll not be surprised by my recommendation of this post. Davis makes the case for the sufficiency of Scripture much better than I ever have.

Michael Coughlan’s thought-provoking piece, Sad Facts About Racism, adds needed perspective to the difficult conversation we’re having in our nation currently. He regularly contributes posts to Things Above Us.

If you struggle to distinguish between discernment ministry and “discernment ministry,” please read How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, Part 1 and How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, Part 2 by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time. Whether you aspire to write a discernment blog or you need help determining which blogs to trust, Elizabeth’s two essays can help you develop a good criteria for vetting discernment ministries.

At first, Stephen McAlpine’s title,  The Sex Pistols, The Bible and China, put me off. But as we think about the probability of persecution reaching American shores, this article offers encouragement and hope that the suppression of religious liberties might actually serve to further the Gospel!

I certainly have an abundance of links in this edition of Saturday Sampler, but I must include That’s Not How This Works by SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God. The practice she addresses reminds me of Thomas Jefferson, who reportedly took scissors to the parts of the Bible he didn’t like.

Finally, Jeff Robinson writes Jonathan Edwards and Why I am a Cessationist for Founders Ministries to help us evaluate the work of the Holy Spirit in revivals. He imports thoughts from Jonathan Edwards, who preached during the Great Awakening in the 18th Century.

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Saturday Sampler: February 18 — February 24

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Whether you’re a busy mom or a career woman with a demanding schedule, Bible study is probably difficult for you. Abbey Wedgeworth of Unlocking the Bible offers a workable solution with The 3-5 Method: Studying God’s Word When You’re Busy and Tired. I think you’ll like her approach.

Writing for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Cameron Cole explains Why Youth Ministry in 2018 Needs a Reformation by reminding us of the Five Solas. His insight encourages me to hope that other youth directors will latch on to his ideas and lead teenagers to solid understandings of the Gospel.

What Does it Mean to Abide in Christ? Writing on behalf of Ligonier, Sinclair Ferguson extricates the concept of abiding in Christ from the mysticism that so many evangelicals attach to it. Praise God for this simple, Biblical explanation of this frequently misunderstood idea.

SharaC has an interesting essay in Into the Foolishness of God for those of us who keep thinking life should be perfect. Picking The Weeds recalibrates our expectations gently, but firmly.

Over on Study – Grow – Know, Fred Deruvo writes an intriguing study on Colossians 1:16 called Behold Your God: The Only Creator. His study is the second installment of a series on Colossians 1:15-20, where is one of my very favorite passages in the Bible. See how Deruvo applies this verse to Christian living.

I just knew I could count on Leslie A to write something in Growing 4 Life worth sharing in Sampler. Her Learn to Discern: What is the Best Way to Share What I Am Learning? certainly doesn’t disappoint! I needed to read this piece five years ago. Thankfully, she’s written it now, and I can continue learning godly ways to communicate the truth.

Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women has a beautiful heart for pastors. Her post, A Word Fitly Spoken: 11 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor, supplies several easy ideas for letting our pastors know how deeply we appreciate their ministry. Why don’t you try one out tomorrow?

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