Flashback Friday: What Can I Say About The Gospel That Hasn’t Already Been Said?

Originally Published June 21, 2019:

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Lately, evangelicals have been telling us that social justice is a “Gospel issue.” A recent comment on one of my blog posts suggested that the Gospel teaches us to have unity despite theological differences (a point worthy of its own article). These sentiments, as well as similar sentiments I’ve heard throughout the years,  prompt me to think that we need periodic reminders of what the Gospel actually is.

Most of you may decide not to read this article. Why waste time reading about something so basic? Do I have new insights into the Gospel? Perhaps a fresh take on it? Can I present it in a creative manner that makes it more interesting? More relevant?

No, I can’t. As a matter of fact, adding to the Gospel would lead me to damnation (Galatians 1:8). I have no interest in dressing it up for the purpose of making it more appealing and/or entertaining.

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Let’s Ask Why

Titus 2:3-5 gives pretty straightforward instructions on older women teaching younger women, doesn’t it? And like it or not, Paul emphasizes teaching younger women domestic duties in the context of marriage and motherhood. Look again with me at the passage:

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. (NASB95)

As I wrote last week, that phrase “what is good” does broaden the scope of what older women can legitimately teach our younger sisters. Soon after I wrote that post, I saw another blogger post a quote from a lesser known Bible commentator reasoning that, since the Titus 2:3-5 passage lists predominantly duties of wives and mothers, older women shouldn’t presume to teach anything outside that sphere. Obviously, I believe that his assertion too narrowly interprets this Scripture.

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Loving Christ Really IS Loving His Word

My pastor’s sermon this week worked through 2 Timothy 4:1-4.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (NASB95)

As someone who often writes about discernment, I have a particular investment in this passage. I firmly believe that discernment can come only as we study God’s Word and apply it. Although pulpit ministry isn’t permissible to women, each of us can find legitimate outlets for proclaiming the truth. Most of you, being mothers, have the beautiful privilege of preaching to your children, while others of us can teach women’s Bible Studies, write Christian blogs and/or witness to non-Christians. At some level, each believer has the responsibility to preach.

Sadly, many professing Christians (including pastors who care more about enlarging their congregations than about nurturing their flocks) preach anything but the Word of God. How often have you sat through sermons and women’s Bible Studies about improving your marriage, methods of contemplative prayer or positive thinking? I remember women’s Bible Studies about how to change the oil in a car. Sometimes a pastor’s funny stories stayed in my mind long after I’d forgotten the point of his message. The Word of God has become incidental to evangelicals nowadays.

Worse, it’s now popular to say that you love Jesus more than you love His Word. Apparently, the Bible is considered an idol to some people who simply want to “follow Christ” (whatever that means). In his sermon this week, my pastor countered that position by saying, “You can’t really love Christ and not love His Word.”

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Throwback Thursday: The Wonderful Message Of Christmas — And Why People Work So Hard To Obscure It

Originally published December 12, 2019

2015 Christmas

I personally know many non-Christians who just love Christmas. They’ll decorate their homes to the hilt, send out beautifully illustrated year-end newsletters wishing people peace and joy, and maybe even put up a cute nativity scene as an homage to the story of the first Christmas.

For them, Christmas is primarily about brightly wrapped presents, feasting on scrumptious food, and parties. Songs mentioning benign infants lying in mangers must be supplemented with other songs about jingling bells and an obese elf from the North Pole who sees us when we’re sleeping. And then there are the infamous office parties and their accompanying innuendos about who was nice and naughty.

Most of all, they’ll declare that Christmas is about children. Not so much about a specific Child, although some might give Him an obligatory nod, but children and their sense of wonder during this seemingly magical season. Visions of sugarplums dance in secular heads that watch children light up with joy at this most wonderful time of the year.

The secular traditions seem to increase every year, conveniently distracting culture from the powerful message that God became flesh and dwelt among us. Babes in mangers, after all, had better keep their place — especially that Baby!

Sometimes it’s difficult for Christians to understand why others work so hard to obscure Christ while celebrating Christmas. Let me suggest that acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ for Who He actually is threatens those who deny His authority over them.

Please run Colossians 1:15-20 through your brain for a few minutes.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

Think about this passage and its richness in portraying the Lord Jesus Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, from the vastness of outer space to the complexity of a single cell. Then remember that He became a Man in order to shed His blood on the cross to pay for our sins. Those of us who have experienced His love and grace rejoice that the Most High descended to earth to reconcile hopeless sinners like us to Himself.

For us, the wonder of Christmas comes as we contemplate Christ’s humble Incarnation against the backdrop of His majesty. The more we understand His deity and bow to His authority, the more we rejoice in His mercy to shed His blood for the remission of our sins. And therefore we celebrate Him as the glorious Christmas message!

That Baby in this manger was actually the Lord of all creation. Yes, even of created men and women who want to reject His claim on them. The world may try to obscure Him with magic reindeer and boughs of holly, but one day His light will obscure everything but Himself.

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Flashback Friday: Intimacy With God May Be Less Complicated Than You Think

Originally posted December 20, 2019;

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As my girlfriends and I approached our 30th birthdays, panic and despair set in. We watched other women in the church take wedding vows while we spent lonely Saturday nights without dates. We joked sardonically that we differed from trash because trash gets taken out once a week. (The men in the church failed to appreciate our humor.)

One friend met regularly with me for a while to talk and pray about coping with our singleness. She began encouraging me to develop intimacy with the Lord, explaining only that she sometimes fantasized about Him. I don’t know if those fantasies were romantic — and I don’t think I want to know. At the time, however, I desperately wanted Him to remove the pain and loneliness I felt.

My friend’s exhortations to cultivate intimacy with God left me with the impression that such intimacy came through mystical experiences. I assumed that I would feel His presence in a way that would obliterate my desire for a husband. Obviously, my motives for wanting intimacy with Him were entirely selfish.

Yet the Lord does call Christians to a type of intimacy with Him that has nothing to do with our romantic desires. Even better,  we don’t have to search for spiritual experiences in order to enjoy this intimacy. All we have to do is open a Bible.

In His last discourse with His disciples before His arrest, Jesus talked to them about the intimacy He would have with those who love Him.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. ~~John 14:18-24 (ESV)

Notice the relationship between loving the Lord and knowing His Word. He establishes that relationship because knowing Scripture reveals Who He is.

As we read the Bible systematically and in context, we learn Who God is, how He acts and what He thinks. We see what He loves, what He hates and why he tolerates what He hates. We see His power in creation and His righteousness in judging. We see His wrath toward sin, His compassion toward the repentant and His unwavering commitment to His standards.

We see His humility in becoming a Man Who would die a criminal’s death in order to save those who believe in Him. And we see the powerful promise of His resurrection. We see His plan to return to earth, and then His ultimate plan to create new heavens and a new earth where His Bride will worship Him eternally.

He discloses all those things and more through His Word because He loves us enough to reveal Himself to us. The Bible allows us to have incredible intimacy with God — an intimacy so much more powerful than my friend’s fantasies.

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A Necessary Eclipse Of Thought

John is graciously typing this blog post as I dictate to him from bed. Because I cannot type this entry myself, I will not include Scripture quotes or references — doing so would be difficult to teach John. Please don’t interpret this absence of Scripture as an abandonment of God’s Word.

January 20th, 2021 should have been a joyous day for me to blog. It marks 50 years since Christ brought me to salvation, and I had looked forward to writing a post celebrating all He has done in my life. Sadly, events in Washington, D.C. and around the country have eclipsed personal celebration, as Christians around the United States mourn the violence of January 6th and the inauguration of an administration that will surely result in persecution for us.

But haven’t I been warning about persecution over the last 5 years of this blog? Should we be surprised at actions of social media that seek to silence conservative voices (and specifically Christian voices)?

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The Person Christmas Celebrates — Hymn 4

Silent Night

O Come, All Ye Faithful

What Child Is This

Angels We Have Heard On High

All these beloved Christmas hymns exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, boldly proclaiming Who He is and why He came. Since my childhood, I’ve cherished each of them, growing more fond of them once I became a Christian. I love these hymns because they celebrate God’s incarnation. All Christians probably love them for the same reason.

Another beloved Christmas hymn stands out to me as perhaps the one that most magnifies Who Jesus Christ is. Its lyrics beautifully portray His glory and His humility. Maybe the other hymns I’ve mentioned do the same, but this hymn strikes a chord with me far more deeply. Over the years, it seems to grow more profound and wonderous in its depiction of the mighty God as the offspring of a virgin’s womb.

Enjoy these powerful lyrics that exalt our precious Lord Who was born to give us second birth. May your Christmas be filled with glory to the newborn King!

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The Person Christmas Celebrates — Hymn 3

At this time of year, we generally think of a helpless Infant wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Now, there’s definitely wonder in the truth that God Incarnate came to earth as a Baby, dependent on His mother and her husband for His basic physical care. If that concept hasn’t filled you with awe and amazement at least once in your life, it should!

But Jesus is much more than a Baby in a Bethlehem manger. The shepherds and wise men, while they didn’t understand that this Child was the God Who rules all nature, knew that He was Israel’s promised Messiah. “Christ the Lord,” the angels had told the shepherds.

Our sentimental images of Christ’s birth often cause us to forget His power and majesty as the sovereign Lord Who governs all creation. I therefore encourage you to step back from thoughts about a Baby for a moment, and to meditate on Who this fairest of all Babies truly is. As you think about this Son of God and Son of man, you’ll remember that glory, honor praise and adoration belong — now and evermore — to Him.

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A Song To Make Us Think

As a teenager, I liked the music of B.J. Thomas — especially “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” So I praised the Lord when, somewhere around 1979, he made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. I bought both of his Christian albums and wore out my cassette player by playing them.

Monday John put “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” on YouTube in honor of the weather. I then asked him to search for Thomas’ Christian songs (he had no idea that B.J. Thomas had recorded Christian songs), and we were pleasantly surprised that YouTube had quite a number of them.

Of course they were simplistic and a tad smaltzy. Most popular Christian music during that time period was. But John and I listened to several songs, hoping B.J. Thomas had a genuine conversion.

One song captured my attention.

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It’s A Good Time To Dwell On His Love With Sweetest Song

In 2020, it’s harder than ever to remember that Jesus actually reigns over the earth. More and more people crumble under the discouragement that continues to spread over our globe. Even strong Christians struggle against fear and despair, grieving as our liberties get taken away from us.

At this difficult time, we must train ourselves to focus on the truth that Jesus still reigns over all the earth. From our perspective, He seems to have lost control, but in reality He is working everything out exactly as Scripture predicated He would. That means that we can rejoice in His sovereignty, secure in the knowledge that He hasn’t lost control of His creation.

Hymn writer Isaac Watts once wrote a hymn assuring God’s people of the Lord’s steady rulership over the world. One of the verses encourages Christians to dwell on His love with sweetest song. Perhaps 2020, precisely because of the negativity it imposes on everyone, provides believers with an opportune time to do just that.

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