Saturday Sampler: May 13 — May 19

IMG_2187Andy Stanley continues to undermine the authority of Scripture, this time by teaching that Jesus and the apostles “unhitched” Christianity from the Old Testament. David Prince of Prince on Preaching refutes this ridiculous notion by writing A Response to Andy Stanley: Jesus and the Old Testament, What God has joined together, let man not separate.

For a more subtle response to Andy Stanley, wander over to The Cripplegate  to read Clint Archer’s post, Why Preach the Older Testament? Without mentioning Stanley directly, Archer clarifies why neither Testament should be “unhitched” from the other.

To demonstrate that Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice, Michelle Lesley draws from two instances in the life of King Saul to illustrate how churches in the 21st Century can disobey God even while thinking they worship Him. She makes a point worth considering.

Now I understand why the standard evangelical quip about God giving second chances rubs me the wrong way. Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another argues that God Doesn’t Give Second Chances by appealing to the Gospel and to God’s grace.

Refering to a Spurgeon quote that he saw on Twitter, Denny Burk has A word about criticism from anonymous sources that applies well in this age of social media. I’d been considering changing the name on my Twitter account from DebbieLynne Kespert to The Outspoken TULIP. Although The Outspoken TULIP is linked to my name, Burk’s article leads me to keep my real name, lest anyone think I’m leveling anonymous criticism when I confront worldly ideas.

I like Eric Davis’ post, Should I Stay Home from Church When Life Gets Hard? in The Cripplegate. It addresses the latest notion that emotional pain excuses people from corporate worship. It also admonishes pastors and elders to order church services around the Lord, explaining how doing so effectively ministers to all members of Christ’s body.

Leslie A admits it. It’s Not Just a Book! probably won’t be her most popular article on Growing 4 Life. But I agree with her that it’s probably one of the most important things she’s ever written. Therefore it saddens me that it won’t be popular.

Adding to my article on journaling (which I published Wednesday), Elizabeth Prata shares Thoughts on introspection and journaling in The End Time. She brings interesting insight into the discussion, causing me to wonder if more needs to be written about this topic.

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Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize

Little blonde angelBetween the autumn of 1977 and the spring of 1994, I kept a personal journal. I’d write about a wide variety of topics, ranging from Scriptures I’d read in my Quiet Time (frequently taken out of context and misapplied) to practical jokes I played on my friends. For the most part, however, I wrote about my disappointments, my frustrations and my fears. Toward the end of that 17-year period,  I realized that journaling served mainly to fuel my self-pity. For that reason, I abruptly quit writing it.

Perhaps some people can journal without focusing on themselves. Those people should certainly maintain journals! Their journals offer rich treasures to those who read them. But I suspect, especially in this culture that exalts feelings and believes in following psychological principles, that most people use their journals for the purpose of venting.

After 17 years of venting my feelings, I woke up to the fact that venting only keeps a person’s attention fixed on his or her problems. Venting through a journal is even worse, in my opinion, because the act of writing slows down the thought process, prolonging the focus on a subject. So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion?

Self-absorbtion, however,  is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” ~~Mark 8:34-38 (ESV)

Popular evangelical teachers promise us “our best life now” and romantic dates with Jesus, urging us to get in touch with our feelings. They advise hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day and write their feelings out “to the Lord.” What horrible advice!

Honestly confessing our feelings to the Lord is one thing. Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus all had times of pouring their hearts out to God. But in so doing, they invariably wound up acknowledging His sovereign right to order their circumstances according to His will. They ultimately turned their eyes away from themselves and back to Him.

If you keep a personal journal that revolves around your disappointments, frustrations and fears, please consider the possibility that it may be locking you into patterns of self-absorbtion. If possible, turn your journal into something your descendants can read to find Christ. Let them see that, no matter what your circumstances, He remains faithful and deserves the glory.

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Why I Don’t Skip Church On Mother’s Day

Rose PaintingMother’s Day is one of the most emotionally difficult days for a variety of women. Christian women in particular have a rough time sitting through sermons on the virtues of motherhood when they struggle with infertility, when they’ve lost a child, or when they have a strained relationship with their mother.

This past weekend, some well-known evangelical teachers encouraged hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day. I appreciate their sensitivity to women who have trouble with the holiday, but I question whether or not their counsel really reflects a Christlike attitude.

One friend of mine miscarried just a few days before Mother’s Day one year. Another friend lost her mom to a terminal illness the day before Mother’s Day a few years back. Although both ladies courageously attended church after their losses, other friends of mine simply found the thought of enduring a Mother’s Day service unbearable.

In one respect, I understand the desire to avoid church on Mother’s Day. Despite the wonderful fact that our current pastor doesn’t break from expositing Luke’s gospel to deliver a sermon extolling motherhood, I realize well-meaning people will wish me Happy Mother’s Day and tell me I’m a spiritual mother (to whom, they never quite say). With both my mom and my mother-in-law now dead, the whole day is just awkward.

I also identity with women who find Mother’s Day painful as I remember avoiding weddings early in my battle with singleness (I didn’t marry John until I was almost 49). For a couple years in my mid-twenties, I’d explain to my girlfriends that attending their weddings would just be too crushing for me.

Usually my girlfriends accepted my decision without complaint. Finally, however, one had the guts to confront me with my selfishness. She wept with me over my romantic disappointment, but now she very much wanted me to rejoice with her. The man who had broken my heart would also be there, she admitted, but having me there meant a lot to her.

I went. I saw the man who had broken my heart,  but then I actually enjoyed myself! More importantly, I showed my girlfriend love by putting her needs before my own. In subsequent years I asked other friends to forgive me for selfishly refusing to attend their weddings.

I don’t deny that attending church on Mother’s Day causes some women immense emotional pain. I sat with the girlfriend who miscarried only days earlier, and could physically feel her heartache. I’ve sympathized with infertile friends who chose to stay home rather than watch a baby dedication and hear a Mother’s Day sermon.

But as gently as possible, I encourage women who have difficulty with Mother’s Day to set aside their own sorrow in order to rejoice with their sisters in church. Yes, it means laying down your life for your friends. It means imitating Jesus.

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How To Tempt A Christian Blogger And Why You Shouldn’t Do So

liberal-religionThe ugly fact about social media (including blogging)  is that controversy generates hits. I regret to say that Christians follow the world in this regard. I have followed the world in this regard. A decade ago, the popularity of discernment blogs demonstrated the fascination with controversy as people flocked to blogs that called out false teachers but shied away from those that offered good Bible teaching.

There’s definitely a place for naming names and exposing false teachers that seriously threaten the purity of the church. Where would we be if the 16th Century Reformers hadn’t stood up to the perverted doctrines of Roman Catholicism? And many of today’s discernment blogs have helped people come out of a wide range of deceptions. As my readers saw this past Friday, occasionally I deem it necessary to write about controversial matters.

But we bloggers learn all too quickly that we attract many more readers when we  insert certain names into our titles. Sometimes we rationalize that, by addressing controversial issues, we attract readers who will then stick around for our more theological posts.

Only they rarely do.

Instead, they skip over doctrinal articles and wait (almost like vultures) for the next juicy essay exposing a false teacher. This craving for sensational blog posts puts bloggers in a tough position. Do we sacrifice our responsibility to direct readers to the Lord in order to retain readers? Or do we put blood, sweat and tears into writing Bible Studies that only a handful of people will bother to read?

Most of us pay WordPress to host our blogs. We don’t receive payment beyond occasional donations or (as in my case) Kindle books. And that’s okay. We blog because we love the Lord and want to help our readers know Him better. We feel deep concern about all the false teaching and evangelical trends that distract people from sound doctrine. We don’t blog for material gain.

At the same time, we invest so much time and energy (and yes, money) into our blogs that we feel discouraged when readers ignore the posts that offer the most spiritual nourishment in favor of those about whatever controversy happens to be in vogue on a given week. Can you see how your preference for more sensational pieces tempts bloggers to compromise what the Lord would have us write in favor of articles that garner more visitors?

Readers, I won’t compromise my blog, especially in this time when social media threatens to silence anyone who stands for Biblical truth. But I ask, ladies, that you might consider reading the theological posts I write as enthusiastically as you read the ones that call out false teachers. Really, the more you understand sound Biblical doctrine, the more easily you’ll discern false teachers for yourselves.

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Beth Moore Puts On High Heels To Act Like A Man

Trashed BibleWriting about Beth Moore is probably one of my least favorite things to do. Yet her popularity in evangelical circles carries so much influence that I can’t ignore her latest blog post decrying her perceived misogyny among evangelical leaders.

But before going forward, I must agree that the prominent theologian who commented on her physical appearance may have crossed a line into sexual harassment. Even there, however, I don’t know his side of the story. Was he indeed lusting after her, or did he merely wish to complement her? Should I judge his intentions based of her account of the incident, especially when she narrated the story as evidence of misogyny? If she did interpret his remark correctly, though, I must join her in her outrage.

Having reluctantly conceded that point, I must insist that Moore’s overall premise completely ignores Biblical teaching that God has drawn boundaries for women. 1 Timothy 2:12-14 says,  in no uncertain terms,  that women must not teach men. How Moore fails to comprehend such a straightforward passage boggles the mind.

Yet, emboldened by the Social Justice craze currently sweeping evangelicalism, Moore has evidently decided to put on her high heels and act like a man. Is that a contradiction?  Only to people like me who never have understood feminism in the first place.

Beth Moore has now openly adopted the world’s attitude that men and women don’t have distinct roles in the church. I find her newfound complementarian stance interesting in that it coincides with a general drift toward worldliness among younger evangelicals. I can’t judge her heart any more than she can judge the heart of the theologian who called her attractive, but I most certainly can observe a compromise with worldly standards in her blog post. Therefore I consider it reasonable to ask that she seriously examine her motives in this matter.

Ladies, there are many reasons to avoid Beth Moore. This latest diatribe of hers, openly rebelling against 1 Timothy 2:12-14, provides yet one more reason.  Women must teach other women to honor God’s Word, not to trample it in an effort to demand positions that God has reserved for out brothers in Christ. I fear Moore teaches, by example, to follow the fashions of the world.

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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 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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