Category Archives: Church Growth

Saturday Sampler: December 31 — January 6

Ball Sampler 01

Reading Last day of  2017: Thoughts on time’s passage by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time, both sobers and encourages me. Having turned 64 in September, I relate quite well to many of her comments. It floors me that my Personal Care Attendants studied the Vietnam War in high school — Nixon pulled us out of that war when I was in 12th grade! All that aside, Elizabeth uses her musings to help us think about where time is headed.

Leonardo De Chirico  writes Did Pope Francis Say Mission? in Vatican Files to demonstrate this pope’s apparent problem understanding the Biblical view of evangelism. We should be deeply concerned that many professing evangelicals embrace Francis.

I couldn’t agree more with Michelle Lesley’s Sanctification > Resolutions: 6 Ways God Could Sanctify You in the New Year in Discipleship for Christian Women. Ladies, please don’t miss this godly and practical article!

Whether your pastor feels frustrated about numerical growth in your church or you struggle with discouragement in personal evangelism, read Who builds the church? by Mark McIntyre on his blog, Attempts at Honesty. Ain’t nothing like a Scriptural perspective to provide a breath of fresh air, now is there?

In case you’re still debating the value of New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll find interesting insight by reading Jordan Standridge’s Rescued from Meaningless Resolutions in The Cripplegate. I think he hits the nail on the head.

Why Should I Read the Bible in 2018? asks Leslie A of Growing 4 Life. Her six reasons might encourage you to keep reading long after the New Year’s zeal wears off.

Many Christian moms experience the heartache of a child who doesn’t come to Christ. I can only guess at the devastating emotions they go through. But Kim Shay, one of the ladies who blogs for Out of the Ordinary, writes They are our children, after all to address the most common emotional reactions to having a prodigal child.

Like SharaC, I question all the talk about “authenticity,” “messiness” and “brokenness” that’s so popular among evangelicals. Her article, Smoking in the Trenches appears on her Into the Foolishness of God blog, and offers some good fodder for thoughtful pondering.

 

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Saturday Sampler: December 17 — December 23

christmas-sampler

In his OnePassion Ministries blog, Steve Lawson alternately brings us to tears and gives us belly laughs with his personal memories of R.C. Sproul. The R.C. I Knew portrays several sides of Dr. Sproul, all of which are endearing.

I’ve often emphasized, at this time of year, that Jesus was born for the purpose of dying for our sin. But Amy Mantravadi, in her essay entirely Christ Was Born for More Than Death, fills out the story by reflecting on the Lord’s righteous life. We need to remember the whole Gospel, not just the Readers Digest version.

The author of A Peculiar Pilgrim writes The Truth About Love as a challenge to the postmodern interpretation of what it means to love. As conservative as I believe myself to be, even I see remnants of worldly love in myself as a result of reading this article.

‘Tis the season for final exams, and Elizabeth Prata of The End Time seizes on the theme by writing about the respective Final Exams that believers and unbelievers will eventually face. In all the frivolity of the holidays, perhaps this sobering essay can keep us  grounded.

Jordan Standridge had planned for months to visit St. Andrews Church in Florida on December 17. In his moving and surprising article for The Cripplegate, he recounts The First Sunday Without R.C. Sproul in that church. Burk Parsons, now St. Andrews’ pastor, used the situation to demonstrate the benefit of church as usual.

There is no other name by which we must be saved insists Sharon Lareau of Chapter 3 Ministries. Sure, most Biblically literate Christians know that fact, but a little reinforcement never hurts.

Winter often brings discouragement and depression, even amid the joyous season of Christmas. In Clang! The Harsh Notes of Discipline, Sophie McDonald writes about God’s purposes in bringing us through difficult circumstances. See this encouraging blog post based on 1 Peter 1 on the Unlocking the Bible website.

Don’t miss Michelle Lesley’s beautiful Christmas essay, The Shepherds’ Gospel. Absolutely magnificent!

The author of Eternity Matters skillfully refutes liberal theologians with his article Leopard Theology: Not as fun as it sounds. Those of you who seriously care about Biblical discernment would do well to read this one to learn how a high view of Scripture helps us detect error.

 

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Saturday Sampler: November 12 — November 18

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In a short post (as in five paragraphs), Tim Challies uncovers The Problem with the “Want Ads” in Denominational Magazines. Sadly, the person he quotes was not exaggerating.

Leslie A. once again uses her Growing 4 Life blog to get us thinking about how we order our lives to honor the Lord. Balanced is Beautiful cautions us against narrowing our spiritual focus so tightly that we neglect other areas that also require our attention.

If you want to change things up in your personal Bible Study time, consider doing some topical studies.  Sharon Lareau of Chapter 3 Ministries walks us through some ideas on How to Study the Bible by Topic that could definitely help you approach God’s Word in a way you haven’t tried before.

Check out Unlocking the Bible to read Why Christians Should Not Get Angry with the Lost  by Pastor Colin Smith. This analogy is vivid enough to stick with you, and may be useful as you spend Thanksgiving with unsaved relatives.

Like Lara d’Entremont, I’m not a fan of having people point out my flaws.  So her article,  The Gracious Response to Criticism in Renewed In Truth Discipleship, challenges me to again confess my perfectionist tendencies and remember that having someone call me out on sin might help me better obey the Lord.

Don’t overlook Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Anger in Erin Benziger’s blog, Do Not Be Surprised. Maybe you’ll wince a little (okay, maybe more than a little) as you read it, but keep reading. Her conclusion alleviates all the discomfort.

Have I called someone you follow a false teacher? If so, you probably didn’t appreciate it. But Michelle Lesley’s post, Throwback Thursday ~ Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, And the Authority of God’s Word, could help you think through your reactions. Sometimes “discernment bloggers” do wrongfully accuse people of false teaching. Michelle’s article can help you determine whether or not that’s happening.

Whether you watch the short video or read the transcript,  be sure to give Tim Challies’ The Problem with Love Languages – Three Minute Thursdays #3 your attention. John and I heartily agree with all of the points Challies makes, and I particularly liked his conclusion.

Continuing her Bible Study on James, Lisa Morris of Conforming to the Truth writes Genuine Faith Understands the Importance of Taming the Tongue. Ladies,  all of us need this one.

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Saturday Sampler: November 5 — November 11

Autumn Leaves Sampler

The lovely sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical Beginnings showcases a splendid, though relatively unknown, hymn by John Newton with Sunday Hymns from the Past – The Trembling Gaoler by John Newton. She could post only the lyrics, but they’re quite powerful and well worth reading.

As usual, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day nails it when she posts Worldly influence and the Church’s fixation on youth. I’ve seen what she describes first-hand, so I can attest to her accuracy.

Denny Burk’s piece, Pastors, be ready for questions about homosexuality and abortion, isn’t really just for pastors. While pastors should certainly take the lead in standing for Biblical truth in these vitally important areas, the rest of us also have a responsibility to proclaim the truth regarding these matters.

Barry York of Gentle Reformation cautions us against using theology to avoid actually practicing Gospel principles in his piece, You Can’t Reform What You Won’t Touch. His words made me rather  uncomfortable — and that’s undoubtedly a good thing!

Writing from her passion for the prophecy of Scripture, Elizabeth Prata profiles The Man Who Will Change the World in her blog, The End Time. We need the wonderful reassurance that Elizabeth finds (and shares) as she faithfully studies God’s Word.

In this week’s installment of her series on the seemingly insignificant sins that we routinely commit without feeling convicted, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised both challenges and encourages us with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worry. If you’ve missed previous posts in this series, you can find links to them at the conclusion of her article.

Amy Mantravadi opens her month-long series on thankfulness with a beautiful essay that closely parallels my own experience. Please read Thankful Thursday: The Communion of Saints both to appreciate the privilege of regular church fellowship and to rejoice in God’s provision for those of us who, because of physical limitations, can’t be as active as we want in our local churches.

It’s been a while since the ladies at Out of the Ordinary have posted anything, but Persis more than made up for their long absence with Doctrine Matters: Imputation. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this is a dry theological article, consider the fact that the Lord encouraged me tremendously as I read it. Praise the Lord for using her words to deepen my assurance of His faithfulness!

Beware These Seven Counterfeit Gospels warns Kristen Wetherell in a contributing post for Unlocking The Bible. Her list, with each point backed up by Scripture, gives us an excellent framework for recognizing false teaching.

In a brief,  easily read, post on the Ligonier blog, R.C. Sproul helps us in the task of Understanding Free Will by letting us in on how Martin Luther resolved his struggles over this issue. It’s an interesting little insight into a hotly debated topic.

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Saturday Sampler: September 3 — September 9

Heart Sampler 01Let’s start out with a difficult, but incredibly basic, challenge: loving our enemies. In these days of robust polemics and doctrinal minutiae, we easily ignore Christ’s teaching on this matter. Thankfully The Cripplegate features Clint Archer’s bracing post, A higher standard of loving, to pull us back to the fundamentals of Christian behavior.

Also on The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us Three Reasons to be Unashamed of the Gospel as he reflects on the bravery of Martin Luther and other 16th Century Reformers. History, and especially church history, has tremendous application to our lives today!

Glenn Chatfield, in The Watchman’s Bagpipes, shares some helpful information on The Importance of Genesis Chapters 1 through 11. You might be surprised by how frequently the New Testament mentions incidents that occur in these chapters.

I love seeing ways that Biblical counseling gets to the heart of a matter and then applies Scriptural principles to set a person free. Lara d’Entremont demonstrates how the Bible addresses perfectionist tendencies in Hope for Perfectionist in Progressive Sanctification. Lara’s blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, contains many such essays. What a Christ-centered alternative to psychological counseling!

Lara’s essay inspired Lisa Morris of Conforming To The Truth to write The Unexpected Gift of Perfectionism. She lists several Scriptures to help us climb out of this particular sin.

Continuing her new series on Do Not Be Surprised, Erin Benziger writes Unshakeable Joy in Times of Trial in order to direct us to the sovereignty of God. Admittedly, I still struggle to rejoice in hardship or persecution. You most likely do as well. But that’s precisely why we need to read Erin’s article.

If you’re like me (and I suspect you are), you probably wonder what Scripture means when it tells us wives to respect our husbands. Answering from a male perspective, Tim Challies fills Let the Wife See She Respects Her Husband with practical tips on how to obey the Lord in marriage. What a valuable article for us to read! Please don’t ignore this one.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day evaluates Self-Care and the Christian by holding the idea of making time for oneself instead of serving others against the teachings of God’s Word. In this age of promoting self-love, Jennifer’s call to obey the Lord is badly needed.

Sadly, the obvious about gender and sexuality is no longer regarded as obvious. Even by professing Christians. Michelle Lesley responds to this moral disintegration in her blog post, Basic Training: Homosexuality, Gender Identity, and Other Sexual Immorality. Before you think she’s pointing fingers sanctimoniously, you might want to read her entire article. All of us have committed some form of sexual sin, and all of us can experience the Lord’s forgiveness.

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Saturday Sampler: July 23 — July 29

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For those who wonder why people object so strongly to The Message paraphrase of the Bible, I beg you to read Eugene Peterson by Justin Peters. He compares selected passages with more standard Bible translations to show why this paraphrase cannot be trusted.

One of the things I like best about Michelle Lesley is her unwillingness to compromise God’s Word. Her post, The Mailbag: Female Pastors – False Teachers or Just Sinning?, looks at the issue fairly while raising important questions based on both Scripture and Michelle’s observation. I do wish she would have also commented on women who, although they don’t hold the office of pastor, teach men.

Discernment ministry isn’t the path to popularity, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life tells us in Don’t Expect a Crowd.

The problem with hip humility by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day hits the nail on the head. Is it really cool to cuss a little if we profess to love Jesus? Jennifer causes us to think seriously about such casual attitudes.

What can I say about Erin Benziger’s essay, On the Dangers of Distorting God’s Grace, which you’ll find on Do Not Surprised? She gives a healthy balance on responding to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. I love her passion for His truth!

It bothers me that evangelicals teach people to expect God to speak to them apart from Scripture. So Elizabeth Prata’s pointed essay, How did they ever hear God without a how-to manual? in The End Time, both amuses and encourages me. She stands firm on the Word of God, as we all should.

Sunny Shell of Abandoned to Christ writes a heartfelt blog entry called Content in Christ Alone that, to be honest, addresses a malaise common to all women. Although she doesn’t say anything particularly novel, she certainly reminds us of basic Biblical truth. Sometimes we need such reminders.

Are you in that heartwrenching season of praying earnestly for someone, only to see them harden themselves against the Gospel? If so, Even If He Doesn’t by Staci Eastin of Out of the Ordinary will most assuredly minister to you.

On her blog, Unified in Truth, Nikki Campbell educates us on The Downgrade Controversy that dogged the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon and relates it to the downgrade in evangelical churches today. She features a short, but compelling video with John MacArthur explaining how history is sadly repeating itself, as well as how pastors and congregations can resist this unbiblical trend.

Let’s add a second article by Leslie A., if only to validate my pet peeve regarding smart phones. Every Three Seconds looks at our addiction to these devices as well as suggesting ways to use them more responsibly and in ways that honor God.

Visiting an Embassy by Jesse Johnson is a slight departure from the sort of writing that usually appears in The Cripplegate. It also makes a powerful point about seeker-sensitive churches.

Please don’t miss Amy Spreeman’s article, When women’s ministries abandon the Bible, on the Naomi’s Table website. It perplexes me that any Bible Study group would choose to study a book when they can study the very Word of God.

If you feel left out because you don’t hear God speak personally to you, check out God Doesn’t Talk to Me on Rachel’s danielthree 18 blog. She guides us on making right decisions. I’ll offer no hints on how she advises us to seek God’s will; I want you to read her counsel for yourselves.

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Saturday Sampler: June 18 — June 24

Rose SamplerMark McIntyre writes Did he really say that? on his Attempts at Honesty blog primarily as an exhortation to men in pulpit ministry. But his words apply to all Christians as we proclaim the Gospel in face-to-face conversations and/or on social media. The truth, no matter how lovingly we present it, will always offend unbelievers.

How seriously do you take sin? According to R.C. Sproul of Ligonier, Sin is Cosmic Treason. Sproul gives a thorough explanation of sin’s nature and why God can’t tolerate it.

I completely agree with The Gospel Coalition Blog‘s Michael A G Haykin that Every Christian ought to be a good historian. Having enjoyed two years of a church history class in Adult Sunday School, I join Haykin in believing that church history displays God’s power and faithfulness to His people.

It’s wonderful to see Jessica Pickowicz blogging on Beautiful Thing after a long hiatus! Her blog post, The Not So Simple Life, evaluates the current trend of simple living by holding it up against practicality and ultimately against God’s Word. If you’re a busy mom, Jessica’s essay may be just the encouragement you need.

Denny Burk’s article, Mainstreaming fornication (a.k.a. “ethical non-monogamy”) saddens me.

In light of recent internet fights among well-known Christian apologists, I found Leslie A’s blog post, Engaging The Enemy on her Growing 4 Life blog, wonderfully balanced and refreshing. Biblical discernment doesn’t require us to win arguments; it simply enables us to stand on God’s Word.

Evangelism often means encountering people who, quite frankly, have no interest in the Lord. In his essay for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson writes Excuses… Excuses… to counter some of the better-known objections to the Gospel. In addition to citing pertinent Scriptures for each argument, Peterson also provides links to helpful articles.

Mike Riccardi’s post, Ecumenical vs. Evangelical in The Cripplegate traces the fascinating history of the Ecumenical Movement. It’s a good caution against blurring the lines of doctrine for the sake of unity.

Although Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was by far my least favorite assigned reading in   college, I respect Elizabeth Prata’s delight in reading it. And I absolutely love the way she uses a passage from the novel to remind wives to use prudence in Exposing or ignoring the ignominious blemish in our husbands for The End Time. Interestingly, I gave similar counsel just this morning to a young friend who will be getting married a few months from now.

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