The Tenderness Of Our Shepherd

Who doesn’t love the tenderness of Psalm 23, in which King David pictures the Lord as his Shepherd? Having himself been a shepherd before Samuel anointed him King of Israel, David well understood how thoroughly a shepherd needed to care for his sheep. This understanding gave him beautiful insight into God’s love for His sheep.

Even in our largely metropolitan culture, something about the imagery of Psalm 23 resonates with us. David’s words evoke a sense of intimacy with the Shepherd that sets a believer’s heart at rest while it fills an unbeliever’s heart with yearning. Jesus guards us from our stubborn wandering, leads us to peaceful places, corrects our errors, nourishes us and promises us eternity with Him. How could we fail to see His love? Psalm 23 assures us of His intimate care.

Following the progression of thought in this beloved psalm, today’s hymn elaborates on the various ways our Lord expresses His love and care for us. Please enjoy this gentle hymn as you reflect on how your Shepherd lovingly attends to you.

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The First Thing Worth Seeing

Do you ever anticipate your first moments in heaven?  If so, what do you imagine?

Fanny Crosby, the prolific hymn writer who went blind in childhood, looked forward to seeing the face of her beloved Savior when  she first opened her eyes in heaven. Of course she knew about all the other wonderful blessings promised to believers in eternity, and she also felt an eagerness for them. But they took a very distant second place to Jesus as far as Fanny was concerned.

She wrote a delightful hymn detailing her anticipation of heaven. Maybe her lyrics will challenge you in how you think about your eternal home.

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According To Scripture: Study #2 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Ladies, today I want to start getting into our study of Christ’s resurrection by taking you through 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Those of you who have been through my Bible Studies on Ephesians 2:1-10, Jude and Titus know that I always emphasize context when studying Scripture, and therefore I insist on looking at the entire first section of 1 Corinthians 15 before we discuss today’s verses:

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 15:1-11 (ESV)

In verses 1-2, Paul brings attention back to the Gospel, which he had personally preached to the Corinthians when he first established their church. Notice that he tells them that they stand in the Gospel they have received as a result of his preaching. Only the Gospel enables us to stand before God. In verse 2 he elaborates that, by standing in the Gospel, they are being saved.

I don’t want to spend much time analyzing these two verses, but I believe it’s important to think just a little about standing in the Gospel. Salvation comes only through placing our trust completely in the Gospel message, so any failure to cling to that message would indicate a false conversion.

From there, Paul reiterates the basic Gospel, clarifying that it has primary importance over everything else. He has just written 14 chapters dealing with serious issues within the church in Corinth that caused injurious division, and now he seeks to unify them under the primary tenets of the Gospel.

The first point he makes (in verse 3) is that Christ died as a substitute for us, bearing the full penalty for our sins. Implicit in this statement is that we no longer bear responsibility to atone for our sins through sacraments, purgatory or good works. According to Scripture, specifically Isaiah 53:4-6, Jesus took the punishment for our rebellion against God.

Next (in verse 4), Paul recounts that Christ was buried (Isaiah 53:9), and that He rose again (Isaiah 53:11; Psalm 16:10). As in verse 3, he ties the events to Scripture. Although he proceeds, in the verses we’ll examine next week, to enumerate eyewitnesses who could verify the Lord’s resurrection, it’s important to note that he appeals to Scripture as his foremost authority. Certainly, he sets an example that we must follow.

Christ’s burial proves His resurrection because only the truly dead  require burial. Paul deliberately builds his case, even in reminding his readers of the the basic Gospel, for the resurrection. Verses 3-4 demonstrate that the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection is just as essential to the Gospel as His atoning death on the cross. As we progress through 1 Corinthians 15, we’ll learn why this doctrine is so vital to believe in order to stand firmly in the Gospel.

Please use the Comments Section below or The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook page to ask questions and/or share insights about the passage we’ve studied today. I’d appreciate hearing how this study has ministered to you, or how I might approach the text more effectively. Feel free to bring in other Scriptures that apply to this passage, and to interact with each other in the comments. Next week we’ll talk about Paul’s eyewitnesses.

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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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Why Shouldn’t My Faith Inform My Politics (And Every Other Area Of My Life)?

Faith Informs Politics

Participating in a political argument at Thanksgiving doesn’t exactly demonstrate wisdom, so I hate admitting my folly. But one comment my relative made during that heated exchange has stayed with me in a positive way, causing me to reflect on how deeply the Lord influences how I think.

Of course, when she said, “Your faith informs your politics,” she meant it in a negative manner. As she saw it, I vote the way I do, not because I think through the issues for myself, but because the white evangelical establishment dictates my political opinions. Had I been sharper at that moment, I would have countered that her world of academia informed her politics. Missed opportunity!

I’ve thought a lot about her remark over the years, and I’ve concluded that my faith indeed should inform my politics. In fact, it should inform every area of my life. I don’t mean, as my relative insinuated, that I should mindlessly obey my pastor and elders as if they have some Orwellian control over me. I do mean, however, that the Lord has authority to show me how to align every area of my life (including my politics) with His revealed will in Scripture.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~~Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

As God’s Word renews my mind, I start seeing things like abortion, homosexuality, military actions and economics from a Biblical perspective. Occasionally, I’ll question positions that my pastor and elders take, and I’ll vote my conscience (a fact that would quite probably shock my relative), but I do my best to base my decisions on clear Biblical principles.

My faith really should inform every decision I make. If it doesn’t, I betray a lack of trust in God’s wisdom, if not a deliberate rebellion against Him. Essentially, I follow Eve in declaring that I know more than He does.  That His Word has no bearing on how I conduct my affairs.

In truth, I don’t want anything I do to be divorced from the clear teachings of Scripture. Every area of my life, and maybe especially my politics, absolutely must reflect the Lord’s priorities and principles rather than those of the world. My relative may dismiss my politics as  mindless obedience to my church if she wishes. But if God’s Word informs my politics and all other areas of my life, I know I can rest easy.

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What I Don’t Know And Who I DO Know

Why me?

People usually ask that question when something bad happens to them, implying that they don’t deserve the calamity. But I’ve been asking that same question in reference to my salvation. Why would the Lord choose me, a stubborn sinner full of pride and self-love, to receive His wonderful gift of salvation? Oh, I suppose I could flatter myself that He knew I’d be faithful to serve Him (or something silly like that), but I kinda know better after 64 years of living with myself. In truth, I haven’t any idea why He saved me.

I don’t know a lot of things, actually. For all my study of God’s Word, I see more and more that the work of the Holy Spirit far exceeds my intellectual abilities. How does the Spirit speak through the pages of Scripture? I can’t explain it.

But I know the Lord Jesus Christ. And because I know Him, I know He’ll keep His promises to me. Again, I don’t know  why He promises me an eternity of worshiping Him in heaven, or why He will grant me His inheritance, but I know I can trust Him to fulfill those glorious promises. And today’s hymn encourages me to rely only in Who He is.

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Jesus Doeth All Things Well

This past week, I struggled with the sin of worry. Disability forces me to be dependent on government programs (never a good thing) and one of those programs didn’t seem to be operating properly. Thankfully everything got sorted out Friday, but until then I battled to trust God’s sovereignty.

In the midst of the struggle, I came across a lesser known Fanny Crosby hymn that the Lord used to both convict me of my sinful anxiety and assure me of the Father’s care for me. I share it here as a reminder to myself, but also as an encouragement to you. Whatever befalls us, we need to trust that Jesus really does all things well.

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