Category Archives: Context

Saturday Sampler: August 27 — September 2

Star Sampler


In The Mailbag: What’s your take on White-Howse/Charlottesville/Trump? Michelle Lesley shifts our attention back to the Bible. Her perspective on how Christians should evaluate such controversies humbles me, which is always a good thing for someone as opinionated as I am. Keep her outlook in mind when the next social media firestorm hits.

Along that same vein, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day asks us to consider The overlooked gift of kindness. Great advice!

Mark Ward, in his intriguing article for Logos Talk, brings out The Twist in the Sermon on the Mount That You Probably Missed. Because I struggle with the sin of anger, Ward’s insight into the Lord’s use of a small conjunction gives me a lot to think about. Maybe you’ll appreciate his exploration of Jesus’ reasoning as much as I do.

Look at Prince on Preaching to read Anca Martin’s marvelous essay, The Rest Of Titus and Why It Matters For Women. I  haven’t investigated this website enough to actually endorse it, and a couple minor remarks in this piece make me slightly uncomfortable. That said, I still recommend this piece because it supports my objective in the Perspectives In Titus Bible Study that I feature on this blog each Monday. I hope her thoughts will interest you enough that you’ll join me next Monday.

Erin Benziger, author of Do Not Be Surprised, inaugurates a new series (comprised of devotions she’s previously written) on one of my favorite topics. Unshakeable Joy will both challenge and encourage you to rejoice in your Savior. I look forward to the rest of her posts on this topic.

Have you followed the series Jessica Pickowicz has been doing on Beautiful Thing? If not, her concluding article, Portraits of Superstition: The Christian Neapolitan, supplies links to the previous six installments along with suggestions for using the series as a women’s Bible Study. Then she writes her final portrait, which is probably the most pervasive problem in evangelical circles today.

Kim Whitten, in a post for Biblical Woman that had me crying one minute and laughing the next, writes How I Learned About Rejoicing in the Sock Aisle at Target.

Rethinking “God Hates the Sin but Loves the Sinner” by Alan Shlemon on the Stand to Reason blog holds a popular cliche up to both practical and theological considerations. Maybe it isn’t something Bible-believing Christians should say in conversations with LBGTQ people after all.

And while we’re on the subject of Biblical responses to LBGTQ matters, here’s the link to the Nashville Statement that the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released this past week. Personally, I like its balance of firm commitment to Scripture’s standards for human sexuality and hope for those entrapped by sexual sin.

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Saturday Sampler: August 20 — August 26

Tulips01For those of you going back to school, Ryan Higginbottom’s post, Above All Earthly Textbooks in Knowable Word encourages you not to allow the pressures of school to crowd out your devotional life. Looking back on my own college years, I can attest to each of his points.

Scrolling though Twitter, I found Worldview Changes Everything, which Leslie A published in Growing 4 Life back in July 2014. I normally don’t like including throwback blog posts in Saturday Sampler, but this one deserves attention. The closing paragraphs especially call Christians to healthy self-examination.

Everybody has an opinion, or so the saying goes. Answering that maxim, Elizabeth Prata asserts that You (I) don’t have to say everything in The End Time. Her humility here sets a godly example, especially in this culture of social media.

Beautiful Thing writer Jessica Pickowicz resumes her probing series on superstitions with Portraits of Superstition: The Princess Charming. She writes with a balance that I wish I’d had back in high school when I destroyed a memento from a family vacation thinking it was an idol with demonic powers.

We can find the Gospel even in this earliest chapters of Genesis, as Narrow Minded Woman shows us in Eve: “Mother of All the Living”.

Leave it to Michelle Lesley, a mother of five, to come up with a title like Watch Your Language! 10 Christian Terms that Need to be Cleared Up. Her reasoning on each term grounds itself in God’s Word, forcing us to carefully consider how our words represent the Lord. Are you guilty of saying any of these things?

The Rise of Digital Technologies and the Decline of Reading by Tim Challies may surprise you. His perspectives don’t follow popular wisdom on this topic, but maybe popular wisdom could use a challenge once in a while.

If you doubt my repeated assertions that Christians depend way too much on feelings, go to  excatholic4christ and read Tom’s piece, Emotional feelings and religious rituals no substitute for genuine faith in Christ and His finished work. He presents a sad but fascinating story of a woman who obviously needs discernment  (not to mention true salvation).

Amy Byrd of Housewife Theologian examines the historical context that may help us understand why God honored Rahab’s Lie. Like Amy, I’m not completely sold on this explanation, but it certainly does make sense.


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Perspectives In Titus: When “All” Doesn’t Mean “Each And Every”

Titus 2 v 11

My summer break from writing Bible Studies has drawn to a close, and I’m happy to be getting back to work. Before I get started, through, let me briefly remind you that 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibits women from teaching men. Therefore, unless you’re my husband or an elder from First Baptist Church Weymouth providing spiritual oversight, I respectfully ask gentlemen not to read these studies.

Now ladies, I hope you’ve reviewed the studies we’ve done in Titus so far. You’ll recall that the apostle Paul had left Titus in Crete to organize the churches there. The Christians in Crete struggled against two forces: the self-indulgent culture and false teachers who tried to impose Jewish legalism on Gentile converts. To counteract these forces, Paul wanted Titus to appoint elders of high moral character who could effectively silence false teachers by both their behavior and their mastery of sound doctrine.

Paul then told Titus how to instruct various groups within the churches. Each group, while bearing similar responsibilities to each other and to elders, had a specific emphasis which helped them live in contrast to the Cretan culture. Thus their lifestyle would be consistent with the Gospel.

Today we transition into a passage that articulates the purpose of the Gospel and the impact of God’s grace. We’ll only make it through verse 11, but let’s look at the whole passage to get some context.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

Verse 11 equates the Gospel with God’s grace, so I want to say just a little bit about what grace is. Grace refers to God’s favor, particularly in terms of redemption. According to John MacArthur, Jesus Christ Himself embodies God’s grace (see John 1:14). We need this grace because of our corrupted human nature as a result of the Fall.

Paul’s phrase, “has appeared,” carries the idea of shining forth, according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. They use Isaiah 9:2 and Luke 1:79 as substantiation. The imagery of light shining in the darkness fits well here, since Paul’s main theme revolves around the importance of Titus training Christians to shine in contrast to the moral darkness of the Cretan culture.

Moreover, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say that this grace had been hidden before the advent of Christ (Colossians 1:26, 2 Timothy 1:10). Like MacArthur, they point out that Jesus Himself bears this grace as “he Word made flesh” (John 1:14). Commentator John Gill writes that Paul simply meant that God’s grace appeared through the Gospel.

Grace alone brings salvation. Notice that salvation doesn’t come from human obedience, as the Judaizers that had infiltrated the churches of Crete claimed, but from grace (Ephesians 2:8). Paul emphasizes that the “doctrine of God our Savior” (Titus 2:10) always directs us away from ourselves and to the Lord.

Many Christians use the phrase “bringing salvation to all people” as a proof-text refuting Limited Atonement. However, if we look back at verses 1-10, and forward to verse 14, we readily see a) that Paul has just been writing instructions to various people groups within the church and b) that God redeems a distinct people for Himself.

Both Thayer’s Greek Dictionary and The Complete Word Study Dictionary contend that, although the Greek word translated here as “men” can refer to individual men when used with certain modifiers, its primary definition denotes mankind in general. Again, then, we see the idea that God’s grace is not restricted to any one race or social class (Galatians 3:28).

Those who insist that the Lord’s death atones for every individual acknowledge that some people die without appropriating His grace. Of course, I can’t chase that rabbit today, but I hope I’ve demonstrated that Titus 2:11 doesn’t substantiate their belief. As we continue studying this passage next Monday, we’ll see that Paul’s thrust isn’t really about the scope of grace but about the practical impact of grace. Please join me then.

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Yes, I’m Giving You Homework!

Perspectives in TitusA migraine Saturday changed my plan to resume the Perspectives In Titus Bible Study today. Maybe that’s  the sovereignty of God giving us time to review the passages we’ve studied so far. You can find most of the studies (in reverse order, I’m sorry to say) by clicking this link. Perhaps spending this coming week going over the epistle will help us remember the context of the passage we’ll study next Monday.

Truthfully, I hadn’t considered the importance of maintaining context or continuity when I decided to take a summer break from the study, nor did it occur to me last week when I decided to start back up again today. Apparently I thought I could plunge right into Titus 2:11-14 without recalling what Paul had written to Titus up to that point. I’d forgotten that we’d need to review the situation Titus faced in ordering the churches of Crete, and how those churches would need to respond to the Cretan culture.

Titus 2:11-14 overflows with wonderful doctrine on God’s grace and His purpose in electing us.  In my September 5 article, Our Teacher: Grace, I used this very passage to demonstrate the relationship between grace and holiness without paying much attention to the rest of the chapter, and I believe I did so without violating its meaning. I love this passage so much that I refer to it daily in my prayer time.

Although this passage can, in a sense,  stand alone, studying it within its larger context next Monday will increase its power. We will see how it connects to the groups Paul addresses in Titus 2:1-10, as well as to the challenges the Cretan Christians had in distinguishing themselves from the false teachers in their region. Finally, we’ll apply its principles to ourselves.

So, dear sisters, let’s use this week to read back over the lessons in this series before we move forward. My migraine Saturday may have prevented me from barging back into the study without proper attention to how Paul got to this marvelous exposition on grace, leaving us unprepared to fully appreciate it. Please take advantage of this opportunity to review our Perspectives In Titus Bible Studies.

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Bluebirds Don’t Speak As Clearly As The Bible Does

Thy Word is a LampI’ve written about the assaults on the sufficiency of Scripture more times than I can count. I’ve majored on this theme because most of the assaults come, not just from mainline liberal churches that reject the Bible’s authority anyway, but also from evangelical churches that claim to believe the Bible as the Word of God.

Increasingly, churches that would theoretically reject Charismatic teaching are embracing the idea of God speaking personally to individuals apart from the Bible. They argue that we need supplementation, especially in making decisions such as whom to marry or what job to take. One friend once reminded me that I never found a Bible verse saying “thou shalt marry John.”

Actually, the expectation that God should speak to me personally about marrying John very much complicated my decision. At one point, I asked for a sign of three bluebirds in one day. At sunset, having only seen two bluebirds outside my window, I felt very despondent. Then I noticed a painting of a third bluebird on my computer’s screensaver! Did that count? Most days, I assured myself it did; often, I struggled with nagging doubts.

Had I superimposed my great desire to marry John on the third bluebird? Should I ask for another sign? If another sign showed that God didn’t want me to marry John, which sign should I follow?

And why didn’t God simply speak to my heart, as I believed He had on other, less consequential, occasions?

Sure, I knew what the Bible said about the type of man I should seek to marry. And obviously, John met those qualifications! He exhibited Biblical attitudes in keeping with God’s commands to husbands, and I could see that he would lead me to obey the Lord in our marriage. Really, it was a no-brainer, with plenty of Scripture confirming that such a marriage would honor and glorify the Lord.

If I had trusted Scripture’s sufficiency as much as I claimed to trust it, I would have saved myself a lot less angst. I might have enjoyed the courtship even more than I did, and I certainly would have displayed a more godly character worthy of a man like John.

It troubles me to see people straining to hear God’s Voice or frantically searching for signs when a simple study of Scripture in context would enable them to make godly decisions without unnecessary struggle. No, you won’t find a verse telling you to take a certain job, marry a certain man or move to a certain town. But you most assuredly will find principles, based on Scripture as a whole, through which the Holy Spirit will guide you toward God’s will.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

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Saturday Sampler: July 16 — July 22

Critter Sampler 01Too bad Summer White’s Peterson and the Ghosts in the Machine (appearing in Sheologians) didn’t reach my in-box until after I published last week’s Saturday Sample, because Summer raises some extremely interesting angles to the controversy.

Examining one of the more prevalent false dichotomies among evangelicals, Mark McIntyre of Attempts at Honesty presents External versus Internal Focus to remind us that the Great Commission involves more than just evangelism and more than just discipleship.

Speaking of good reminders, Elizabeth Prata cautions us against Lucky Dipping by her post in The End Time. Her warning isn’t particularly novel, but it can’t be repeated too often.

Interestingly, Nikki Campbell of Unified in Truth also directs us toward proper Bible study techniques in the article Rightly Handling the Word of Truth (part 2). The principles laid out can help us in our own understanding of Scripture, and they can also assist us in discerning false teaching. Therefore this post deserves our careful attention.

Regular readers of Saturday Sampler know that One Hired Late In The Day is a blog I love to feature. This week’s article, The narrow gate, looks at the Lord’s claim that salvation excludes many people — including professing Christians who show no fruit of genuine conversion. Jennifer substantiates her points with a good variety of Scripture, making this an essay well  worth your time and attention.

Those of you following the Eugene Peterson fiasco might appreciate Amy Spreeman’s  Eugene Peterson’s error isn’t about gay weddings in Berean Research. I think she gets to the heart of the matter quite effectively.

Michelle Lesley weighs in with The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies. She raises excellent questions that this Southern Baptist Convention publishing company should have answered years ago.

As women, none of us should serve as the pastors that John Chester directly addresses in his Parking Space 23 article, Church 101. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the principles he puts forth, however. I especially appreciate his thoughts on the purpose of the church.

Am I including Elizabeth Prata’s The Approachableness of Jesus (Reprise) because she mentions John Adams? Maybe a little (I live near Quincy, MA). But seriously, she uses Adams’ struggle with royal protocol to highlight the graciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to receive us into His presence without  condition. Her post fills me with adoration for the King of kings!

Yes friends, it’s true. I’m really giving you two posts by Michelle Lesley on top of two by Elizabeth Prata this week. Michelle’s Throwback Thursday ~ Persecution in the Pew brings back an article Michelle wrote nearly two years ago about a sad form of persecution that I’ve personally experienced. As we stand for Biblical truth, we should expect pushback — even from professing Christians.

I’m new to Lara d’Entremont’s blog, Renewed in Truth Discipleship, so I can’t yet fully endorse it (I have a sneaking suspicion that I eventually will). Her post, 7 Mistakes You Might Be Making When Studying the Bible, certainly indicates that  she’s worth reading. See if you agree.

Tom at excatholic4christ writes Papal allies accuse American right-wing Catholics and evangelicals of joining together in “ecumenism of hate” to remind us that the Gospel is not about American politics. It’s an interesting read for many reasons.

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Knowing The Real Thing

Counterfeit BibleThe elder, teaching an adult Sunday School class, gave the popular analogy of bank tellers handling real money so often that they can easily spot a counterfeit bill. Similarly, the analogy goes, Christians who spend a lot of time and effort studying Scripture will consequently detect theological error quite readily.

Having heard leaders in the Charismatic church use that same analogy, I wanted to voice my objection. But I wanted to trust this elder. I wanted to trust this new church. Perhaps, I assured myself, the leadership of this church really did know God’s Word better than the leadership of the Charismatic church had. Maybe they couldn’t be deceived so easily. So, despite nagging reservations, I decided to trust that this man had ample discernment because he spent time reading and teaching the Bible.

A few years later, largely due to the influence of that very elder, the church drifted into weak, seeker-sensitive theology. Lately it has also embraced the Social Gospel, and it allows women to hold positions of authority over men. Clearly, all that elder’s Bible knowledge has failed to inoculate him (or that church) against faulty doctrine.

The problem wasn’t a lack of knowing the Word of God, however. Rather, it was that this man, along with other leaders in the church, didn’t apply proper hermeneutics in their study of Sacred Text.

This article isn’t a diatribe against my former church, however. I use it only as an example of why Christians must not suppose that mere familiarity with the Bible protects us against deception. Along with reading it, we need to understand how it fits together.

For instance, we need to see Jeremiah 29:11, not as a promise to give 21st Century Christians a rosy future on earth, but as a word to the Jewish exiles during the Babylonian Captivity. Even in its its immediate context, Jeremiah 29:11 obviously doesn’t speak to present-day Christians, as you can see from this excerpt:

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. ~~Jeremiah 29:10-14 (ESV)

If you read the whole chapter, the prophecy is even less appealing. It’s not something I want to claim as a promise!

Scripture can’t be broken into fragments that we then interpret according to our personal circumstances and preferences. We may read it daily, but if we latch on to isolated verses instead of understanding those verses as they relate to the rest of the Bible, we end up with a distorted theology that can eventually lead to doctrinal error. Conversely, if we use good hermeneutics we can understand what the Holy Spirit intended when He inspired the prophets and apostles to record His Word.

Amassing a collection of go-to Bible verses that you can apply with just a little cutting and stretching may give us the illusion of Bible literacy, but it sure won’t prevent us from accepting counterfeit theology.

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