Saturday Sampler: May 20 — May 26

Boston July 26 2010 005

Custom Tower & Old State House

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of Bishop Curry’s sermon? Garrett Kell, in All Things for Good, asks a more accurate question with What Would Jesus Say About Bishop Curry’s Royal Wedding Sermon? I heartily agree.

Unbelievers sure love discounting the veracity of the Bible, don’t they? SlimJim, who blogs at The Domain for Truth, writes Bible Contradiction? Did Jesus perform many signs and wonders? He has a running series responding to alleged contradictions in Scripture; this is the first installment I’ve read, and it’s an excellent example of why context matters.

The apostle Paul, says Jordan Standridge, was Obsessed with the Gospel. His piece, appearing in The Cripplegate, draws from Paul’s letter to the Philippians to challenge us in our response to persecution.

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Swan Boat at Boston’s Public Garden

The sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical  Beginnings takes on the popular false teaching associated with John 10:10 in her essay, Twisted Tuesday — The Abundant Life. I appreciate her encouragement to study God’s Word carefully and with discernment.

How could the doctrine of total depravity possibly encourage Christians?  In his post for Parking Space 23, Zach Putthoff answers that question. You might find yourself rejoicing as you read Total Depravity & the Christian Life.

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Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

I never expected to read The Master’s Seminary Blog, but The Wretched Art of Loveless Discernment by Reagan Rose caught my eye. His points convict me to continue discernment blogging, but to make sure I do so from right motives and with a godly attitude. Anyone interested in discernment ministry needs to take this article to heart.

Like Michelle Lesley, I belong to a church within the Southern Baptist Convention. And like her  church, the church I belong to has strong leanings toward Reformed Theology, for which I praise God! Yet, as I read about the denomination as a whole, I must agree with her that It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right.

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Massachusetts State House

Praise the Lord that Phil Johnson has revived Pyromaniacs, one of the blogs God used to bring me to Reformed Theology a decade ago. His post, The Root of the Matter, identifies the serious problems creeping into Reformed circles lately. Again, praise the Lord for Johnson’s faithfulness to stand against worldly compromise for the sake of the Gospel.

Photos of downtown Boston sites taken by John Kespert

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According To Scripture: Study #3 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Generally, I prefer presuppositional apologetics to evidential apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics start from the premise that, since the Bible is the ultimate authority for faith and practice, Christians can make the case for Christ solely from its pages. But in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 (which we’ll study today), Paul augments his Scriptural substantiation for Christ’s resurrection by listing eyewitnesses who could testify to having seen the resurrected Lord.

Looking at these verses in context within the larger passage, we trace Paul’s progression from Scripture to eyewitnesses to his personal testimony.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. ~~1 Corinthians 15:5-7 (ESV)

Before we go over the eyewitnesses that Paul identifies, let’s briefly mention the witnesses he omits: the women. Liberal scholars often point to this omission as evidence of Paul’s supposed misogyny. Please don’t fall for such nonsense! Instead, remember Paul’s former position as a Pharisee. He understood that Jewish Law at that time disqualified the testimony of women. Therefore he builds his case by citing witnesses that everyone in First Century Corinth would consider credible.

The first witness Paul brings to his readers’ attention is Cephas (verse 5), better known as Peter. None of the commentaries I read explained why Paul singles Peter out here, so (although I admit to having a theory about this matter) it’s probably prudent not to speculate. Let’s be satisfied that Paul begins with Peter, whom Christians knew and respected.

The verse continues by stating that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. Since Judas had already committed suicide, this designation troubles some people. It needn’t. Even after Judas died, people commonly referred to Christ’s immediate disciples as the Twelve.

Verse 6 can be perplexing because the gospel writers never directly record a post-resurrection appearance to 500 people at one time. Yet commentaries agree that this event happened when He met the disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:10, Matthew 28:16-17). Jesus had already appeared to the Twelve in Jerusalem, but His main ministry had taken place in Galilee. Consequently He would have to go to Galilee to show Himself to His followers there.

Paul points out that many of those 500 witnesses were still alive and able to verify having seen the risen Christ. The Corinthians could easily interview those who were still living. Paul includes them as evidence that the resurrection wasn’t simply an idea that the apostles concocted.

Finally, in verse 7, Paul says that the Lord appeared to His half-brother James, and again to the apostles. Really, there isn’t much to say about this verse, other than to point out that James held a high position in the Jerusalem church. That being the case, he understandably would have been influential in testifying to Christ’s resurrection.

Paul’s appeal to these eyewitnesses certainly strengthens my faith that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. I marvel at His faithfulness to provide so much objective evidence proving His resurrection. Studying this passage encourages me to worship Him for making the resurrection irrefutable.

Has this study strengthened your faith? Or has it raised questions? The Comments Section here, as well as on The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page, offers you the opportunity to intact with each other, as well as with me, about each week’s study. I would honestly love reading your responses, and learning how the Lord uses His Word to deepen your worship of Him.

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Saturday Sampler: May 6 — May 12

Flower Sampler

Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women responds Biblically to the latest Beth Moore stunt in her piece, The Mailbag: What did you think of Beth Moore’s “A Letter to My Brothers”? This thoughtful analysis covers a wide range of Moore’s remarks while pleading with Moore (and her followers) to repent.

The woman who writes at Biblical Beginnings examines a popular false teaching in Twisted Tuesday — First Born by showing us how context interprets a phrase in God’s Word. What a wonderful demonstration of correct Bible Study methods producing good discernment!

Doug Wilson of Blog & Mablog expresses his Gratitude & Update to those who prayed about his cancer surgery.

The Ligonier blog features Sinclair Ferguson’s wonderful ruminations on The Gracious Work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation process. I particularly love the way he connects the Holy Spirit with the Word of God.

Cale Fauver’s article, Christian, Don’t Follow Your Heart, appears in For The Church to address a very common problem in society at large and among evangelicals in particular. Of course, evangelicals should know better. Pastor Fauver’s reminder cannot be repeated too often!

My regular readers know how adamantly I advocate for reading the Bible in context. So they’ll understand why I appreciate Alan Shlemon of Stand To Reason for writing Double the Trouble if You Ignore the Context.

Why would Leslie A of Growing 4 Life open a blog post talking about how mice infiltrate houses? Read The Smallest Crack for her accurate and convicting spiritual application.

Inspired (in a strange way) by the frustration that many women feel in response to Proverbs 31, Steven Ingino of The Cripplegate offers perspective and encouragement with Studying Proverbs 31…the right way. Ladies, although our husbands will benefit from reading this piece, enjoy the refreshing words for yourselves.

How can a blog post about hell end on a positive note? Allen Nelson IV, blogging for Things Above Us, answers that question with The Overwhelming, Never-ending, Reckoning Wrath of God. The post, as an extra bonus, gives us a couple verses to use in witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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Saturday Sampler: April 29 — May 5

IMG_1982In the bizarre atmosphere of 21st Century culture, commonsense essays can refresh the spirit.  Garbage In… Garbage Out by SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God looks at a postmodern contradiction and its Biblical solution.

Offering encouragement though  How Do We Overcome the Fear of Evangelism in Unlocking the Bible, Denise (no surname given) directs our attention to Scriptural attitudes concerning witnessing. Her article challenges us, but it also reassures us of the Lord’s commitment to help us carry out the Great Commission.

An Unpleasant and Unpopular Truth appears in Leslie A’s blog, Growing 4 Life as a challenge to examine our lives. A mere profession of Christ, remember, doesn’t necessarily mean that genuine conversion has taken place.

IMG_2004As a lesson in discernment, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time writes a thought-provoking Book Review: America’s beloved novel, “Christy” to examine the theology inherent in the popular book. Kudos to Elizabeth for daring to review such a well-loved book with such candor and balance.

Clint Archer, in his contribution to The Cripplegate, reinforces what is Of First Importance: What will be on the test when we die? Those of you participating in my new Monday Bible Study series on 1 Corinthians 15 should especially appreciate this article.

As long as you’re reading The Cripplegate, check out What Pope Francis Should Have Said to Emanuele. I always enjoy Jordan Standridge’s writing; this piece may help you understand why I’m such a huge fan of his work.

IMG_1992As Christians, we must make careful distinctions in our language, and we must hold our critics to those distinctions. In Dear Media: Please Distinguish Conversion from Conversion Therapy, Denny Burk demonstrates the importance of defining terms by  citing the conversion of a gentleman who survived the terror attack on the Pulse nightclub.

Religious OCD or Scrupulosity by Fred DeRuvo at Study – Grow – Know juxtaposes the troubling methods of psychology against Biblical counseling.  Please, if you still can’t see the dangers of psychology, read Fred’s piece and seriously consider the points he raises.

Would I recommend a blog post simply because the illustration favors the Boston Red Sox? No. Peter Krol’s Context Matters: the Faith Hall of Fame in Knowable Word merits recognition for its skilled handling of Hebrews 11 in and of itself. But I admit that the homage to the Boston Red Sox doesn’t bother me a bit!

All photos taken May 2, 2018 at Boston Public Garden by John Kespert

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Friday Flashback: Opened Eyes And Ageless Words

This post originally appeared in The Outspoken TULIP in February of 2016. Its message continues to be relevant, giving me a desire to repost it today.

Bible Mask framedPsalm 119 extols the Word of God by using pithy couplets to illustrate its various effects on individual believers. I love the psalmist’s way of presenting various facets of Scripture. He reminds me of an expert jeweler carefully appraising a rare and exquisite diamond. Whenever I read this psalm, I gain a deeper appreciation for Scripture, knowing that it’s God’s way of revealing Himself to His people.

Several verses in this psalm have been meaningful to me throughout the years, and I wish I could write about each of them. But one verse stands out as the key, first to the psalm, but also to Bible reading as a whole.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law. ~~Psalm 119:18 (ESV)


The psalmist relied on the Holy Spirit, rather than his own intellectual abilities, to give him a clear understanding of Scripture. Notice his prayer for God to open his eyes, expressing his human inability to fully understand what God says. This dependence on God’s Spirit finds support in Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ~~1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (ESV)


When a regenerate believer comes to the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps him understand the text. Notice, however, that the Spirit doesn’t speak apart from or outside of the Word, but rather that He enables us to understand it. The Spirit doesn’t bury truth in the way Gnostic religions (that reserve esoteric knowledge for an elite group) do, but He recognizes that those who reject His authority over them simply won’t “get it.” Submission to Him gives us a willingness to accept His precepts.

Additionally, our dependence on the Spirit doesn’t excuse us from reading God’s Word in context. He won’t isolate a fragment of Scripture to give it a “personal meaning.” His Word may be veiled to those who have no intention of obeying it anyway, yet in it the Lord speaks clearly and says the same thing to all believers from every generation. What He said to the First Century Christians continues into the 21st Century unaltered, applying to each of us equally. No secrets. No private whispers.

Yet without the Spirit’s assistance, we can read Scripture only as another piece of literature. We may find certain portions beautiful and inspiring, but we’ll fall short of letting its words transform our thoughts and lives.

So, as I approach Scripture, I pray for God to open my eyes to the wonders of His Word, so that He can teach me to better love and obey Him. Certainly, I have a responsibility to use my intellect as I study, and I do my best to engage my mind by reading in context, taking notes and consulting commentaries. But as I do these things, I also ask Him to teach me, as He has taught believers through the ages, by opening my spiritual eyes. I trust Him to honor my prayer.

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The Unsafe Space Of “Christian” Psychology

UnliberatedIn this past Saturday’s edition of Saturday Sampler, I linked to Michelle Lesley’s insightful blog post examining the hypersensitivity that permeates our culture and has seeped into evangelical churches. I agree with her that the root of the problem is plain old self-centerdness. The more we turn away from glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, worshiping Him as the centerpiece of His creation, the more we fixate on ourselves. And that fixation naturally encourages us to elevate the importance of our feelings.

The apostle Paul accurately predicted that, as history draws near to Christ’s return, people would manifest a variety of characteristics in opposition to the fruit of the Spirit.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ~~2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

Notice, if you please, that Paul listed “lovers of self” at the top of this description. In one sense, all the other characteristics flow out of self-love, but I believe Paul intended to name it as merely one of these characteristics. Consequently, I maintain that the sin of self-love has shown itself in the current hypersensitivity that we see in 21st Century Western society.

Obviously, the sin of self-love has always plagued humanity. Think of Haman in the book of Esther and Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel as glaring examples. But I believe the advent of modern psychology has greatly exacerbated the problem — both in secular society and in the visible church.

Psychology tells us that we can’t love others properly unless we first love ourselves.  In Christian circles, we superimpose that premise onto Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves (see Mark 12:28-31). Even as an unregenerate child in Sunday School, I understood that Jesus meant we should love others the way we already love ourselves, but “Christian” psychology confuses this straightforward command, transforming it into evidence that God calls us to self-love.

“Christian” psychology invites us to demand that people validate our feelings. Never mind the many Scriptures that command us to lay aside our own wants and needs to esteem others above ourselves, and ignore Scriptures that rightly portray us as vile wretches dependent wholly on God’s grace and mercy. Forget that, without Christ’s righteousness imputed to us, we deserve only eternity in hell. “Christian” psychology would have us nurture the same sense of entitlement that dominates today’s world.

Think about all the personality tests that circulate among churches. Utilizing psychological models, they encourage us to focus on ourselves. I’ve participated in a six-week “discipleship” program that employed psychological principles to help me analyze myself. And don’t get me started on all those women’s retreats urging me to expose my dysfunctional childhood so that Jesus could heal my brokenness.

Yes, Western society enjoys a preoccupation with self, enhanced by a nearly universal embrace of modern psychology. Regrettably, professing Christians (some of whom may be legitimate converts) have fallen for this drivel and, as a result, compromised sound theology in order to inflate their self-love. In so doing, they exhibit the same hypersensitivity that characterizes their non-Christian counterparts.

Ladies, the Lord wants His people to be markedly different from the world. Where they insist that we not offend them, we must forgive those who offend us. We must stop promoting ourselves in order to promote the Lord and seek the best for those around us, even when doing so requires self-sacrifice.

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Saturday Sampler: March 18 — March 24

Three BunniesIf I comment on Even more than the watchmen of the night! by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time, I’d surely spoil it for you. But if you take time to read it, I promise that you’ll be glad you did.

Writing for Ligonier, W. Robert Godfrey examines The Word-less “Church” that permeates the evangelical landscape these days. Ignoring God’s Word has grave consequences that churches must recognize in order to responsibly honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Unlocking the Bible features Pastor Tim’s Bible Q&A: What Should I Do If I Am Doubting the Goodness of God? Sometimes my sin causes me to question my salvation, and so Pastor Tim’s points offer the assurance I need.

Even though John Chester writes When Preaching Wears a Mask for pastors, I believe his thoughts can help all of us be discerning about the preaching we sit under. You’ll find this post on the Parking Space 23 blog.

“The issue of inerrancy is an issue of the integrity of God” according to Eric Davis of The Cripplegate. His article, How True is the Bible? — Inerrancy examines the trustworthiness of Scripture as the expression of God’s character. Yes, it’s a lengthy piece, but its length underscores the critical importance of the topic.

Yes! Emphatically YES! Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women hits the nail on the head with Throwback Thursday ~ The Daily Wonder of Easter. We need committed pastors, not creative ones. Thank you, Michelle, for reprising this essential essay.

Writing for Southern Equip (a blog produced by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Thomas Schreiner discusses Faith that moves mountains: What Jesus didn’t mean. He provides an excellent example of understanding Scripture in its correct context, as well as extricating familiar verses from popular misinterpretations.

Don’t miss Your Testimony Is Not The Gospel by the late R.C. Sproul on the Ligonier blog. His observations in this matter clarify what we should emphasize in our evangelistic efforts.

Normally I don’t link to anything posted prior to the dates listed in a Sampler title bar, and I can’t remember ever linking to a podcast. Andy Olson’s February 17 episode of Echo Zoe Radio, Costi Hinn: Defining Deception, causes me to make exceptions on both counts. Costi once ministered with his uncle, Benny Hinn, but has since become a cessationist. His testimony will absolutely fascinate you.

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