Saturday Sampler: April 22 — April 28

Spring Sampler

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood reports on the disturbing Assembly Bill certain to become California law. Colin Smothers’ article, Banning Christian Orthodoxy in California, serves as a sobering warning to those who stand for Biblical principles.

Even though Steven Lawson writes Is It Necessary to Preach Divine Wrath? with his fellow pastors in mind, his article on the Ligonier blog also applies to us in our evangelism efforts. In this era of trying to make the Gospel palatable, we need this reminder to present truth in its entirety.

I always look forward to Mondays and Thursdays because I know Leslie A will be posting on Growing 4 Life. No disappointment this week! Please read How Do I Respond to My Enemies? as another example of her Biblical wisdom.

Jordan Standridge of The Cripplegate takes the pope to task in Five Reasons Why Pope Francis’ Answer Was Demonic. Standridge doesn’t conceal his anger. And he shouldn’t! Assuring anyone that an atheist gained entrance to heaven will lead countess souls to hell, all for the sake of this man’s popularity. We should all be as outraged as Standridge!

Go over to excatholic4christ for Tom’s post, Roman Catholics and Astrology: “Am I a Taurus or an Aries?” To my dismay, I’ve also heard evangelicals talk about horoscopes as if they provide nothing more than harmless entertainment. Let me be clear: astrology is strictly pagan at best, and a possible gateway to demonic activity. Stay away from it!

Why Christian Blogs Aren’t What They Used To Be by Tim Challies examines the growing trend of vanishing Christian blogs. He offers a few intriguing suggestions to explain the movement away from blogging. But his closing paragraph, typed in italics, is worth the whole article for its encouragement to continue blogging.

In her own unique style (which I absolutely love), Michelle Lesley details Scriptural evidence that God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship. Michelle addresses some extremely important problems in contemporary church life with this article. For that reason I strongly recommend you read it.

In his most recent blog post for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson begins his series on Reasons to Study the Book of  Revelation by introducing us to the value of eschatology. I love his perspective that the book of Revelation is essentially about Jesus Christ.

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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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Blinking Cursors And Spiritual Urgency

Clock YellowMy  cursor blinks insistently on the blank page, scolding me for again waiting so late before beginning a blog post. I think back, with too much nostalgia, to the blog I used to write. It had  no real focus; I could write simply for the sake of writing, without bothering about staying on topic.

Ironically. I often blogged about not feeling like blogging.

With this blog, I supposedly have a focus. Within that focus, I can address a wide array of issues relating to Christian maturity as we face a growing probability of persecution for our faithfulness to the Lord and His Word. For that reason  I choose not to waste precious time and energy showcasing my writing abilities our playing with inconsequential thoughts just so I can check blogging off today’s list of chores.

A reader recently asked me to write more about myself. I’d love to! Being as narcissistic as everyone else online, I’d take great pleasure in rambling endlessly about my thoughts, my history and my hobbies. A few readers might even find such babble mildly interesting (though it puzzles me as to why they would).

Yet it seems to me that Christians waste far too much time using the tools of social media for frivolous pursuits and self-promotion when we have such a tiny window of time to use the Internet to share the Gospel and instruct each other in sound doctrine.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. ~~Romans 13:11-14 (ESV)

Christ is returning at any moment, and the present state of the world leads me to believe that He will come within the next few decades. Yes, I could be wrong. But if I’m right, we have serious work to do. Why fritter away my blog posts trying to impress you with my command of the English language when I could direct your attention to the Lord Jesus Christ?  C’mon, really!

To be honest, I think I write better when I write for my selfish pleasure. But I don’t think that possibility ought to lure me away from using this blog to exalt and honor Christ. In the short run, I may compose something enjoyable to read that reflects back to me, but such an essay would certainly have no eternal value. Why should I waste my time on that nonsense when we have so little time left before Jesus is banned from social media.

My blinking cursor, with all its urgent impatience, reminds me that time passes rapidly. I wasted too much time in youth and middle age using my writing to draw attention to myself. Let this blinking cursor encourage me to invest in the treasures of eternity.

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Saturday Sampler: March 25 — March 31

Starburst SamplerPremiere blogger Tim Challies explores the question, What Counts as a “Gospel Issue?” As much as I love animals, I thoroughly agree with his commonsense answer.

Funerals are difficult, but the Lord often uses them to teach us more about Himself. In Two Lessons from Two Radically Different Funerals, Jordan Standridge of The Cripplegate reflects on two funerals he recently attended.  He includes some sobering thoughts that, in my opinion, relate to the inadequacies of the social gospel.

Liam Goligher of Reformation 21 calls a spade a spade in his article, De-Conversion. Having watched a dear friend’s very public departure from the faith. I appreciate Goligher for his Biblical insights into this horrifying process. He adds advice for those who struggle with temptation to walk away from the truth.

You might want to read The Blessing of a Good Example by David Qaoud in Gospel Relevance as an encouragement to live in accordance with your Christian profession.

Anticipating tomorrow’s celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Greg Norwine contributes The Resurrection Creates Immovable, Unstoppable Christians to Unlocking the Bible. He approaches the subject from an angle I’ve never considered, making his teaching absolutely fascinating to read.

The Essential Importance of the Cross also looks forward to Resurrection Sunday. Leslie A writes this essay for Growing 4 Life in order to show how correct teaching about the cross helps us discern the many false teachings that swirl around us today. I appreciate Leslie for reinforcing the truth that Biblical discernment depends on understanding doctrine.

I admit my inept study of eschatology, though I think I’m improving. So Elizabeth Prata’s Why eschatology matters (and hopefully making a comeback) in The End Time encourages me to keep at it. I may never be dogmatic on every point, but I trust God’s Word to give me the amount of clarity I need.

Although I haven’t fully vetted Lori  Alexander’s blog, The Transformed Wife, her post Should We Rebuke the Devil? definitely deals with spiritual warfare from a Biblical standpoint. Praise the Lord for her contribution to this important discussion.

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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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Anticipating The Resurrection: Future Posts, Future Study And Our Future Bodies

Resurrection Butterfly 02

A while ago, we discussed the possibility of doing a Bible Study series on 1 Corinthians 15, which goes into depth about Christ’s resurrection. Right now I’m still deciding exactly how I want to structure the study. The study I wrote on Titus last year demanded a lot of energy from me, and I question whether or not I have the physical stamina to do something on that scale again.

That said, let me reiterate my observation that the resurrection, although it’s the cornerstone of our faith, goes largely ignored by most Christians. We easily comprehend the significance of the crucifixion, knowing that through it Jesus atoned for the sin of those who believe in Him. But we have more difficulty figuring out what the resurrection means.

In part, our difficulty comes about because pastors don’t say much about the resurrection outside of Easter Sunday sermons. But before we place too much blame on pastors, perhaps we should think about our own awkwardness with the subject.

Death, we understand. We’ve all experienced the death of someone we’ve known. The older we get, the more of our relationships end in death. Therefore, the Lord’s death has an element of familiarity that we can latch on to.

Resurrection, in contrast, lies in our future. Except for Jesus, nobody has yet experienced resurrection.  So we understandably feel removed from the very concept. Even seasoned Christians have trouble grasping the truth that Christ has a physical body right now, and that one day we will have glorified physical bodies either in heaven or in hell. We’ve read this truth repeatedly in the New Testament, but somehow it doesn’t quite register.

So, although we verbally affirm the resurrection, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. I know I don’t!

Over these next two weeks leading up to Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, if you prefer that term), I hope to write a few posts about the resurrection. I’ll look at Scriptures other than 1 Corinthians 15, sharing insights that I’ve learned over the past couple years. Hopefully my posts will prepare us to celebrate His resurrection Sunday after next as well as building our excitement about going through 1 Corinthians 15.

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Who Our Departed Loved Ones In Heaven Watch

Spring in Boston May 9 2011 001The night John survived his cancer surgery, a family member attributed his survival to his sister, who had lost her own battle with cancer nine years earlier.

I had just been through one of the most emotional days of my life, and I was too exhausted for a theological conversation on the state of the dead, so I swallowed my annoyance and mumbled something about God’s faithfulness. But the remark troubled me then and it troubles me still.

It troubles me even more when evangelicals (who claim to know Scripture) talk about their departed loved ones looking down on them from heaven and perhaps even intervening in their circumstances. A nominal Catholic understandably makes such fanciful assumptions, as my family member did, but people who say they read and believe the Bible really should know better.

Before I go on, let me acknowledge that when someone close dies, it’s natural to want to continue the relationship. I occasionally catch myself trying to talk to my mom, almost four years after her death (and I have no evidence that she ever turned to Christ). So I really do understand why people want to believe that their loved ones still hear  and observe us. It’s painful to accept that our loved ones no longer participate in our lives.

But even leaving aside the issue of those who die without Christ, I see nothing in Scripture to indicate that those in heaven maintain any concern for us. Since they behold the Lord in all His glory, wouldn’t He be the singular focus of their attention? Consider this passage from Revelation.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~~Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV)

As much as we’d like to think that our loved ones gaze lovingly down on us from heaven, I believe we miss  the whole point. Our loved ones in heaven behold the face of the resurrected Savior, Who captivates all their attention simply by being Who He is! Would we even want to distract them from such a magnificent preoccupation?

John’s sister had nothing to do with him making it through a surgery that, because of his disability, should have ended his earthly life. But make no mistake: there was most definitely heavenly intervention. God the Father Himself watched over John, guiding the surgical team. Like our loved ones in heaven, I can glorify and praise God for mercifully granting me a few more years with my husband. The Lord deserves all the glory, as John’s sister surely would tell us.

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