Is Your Soul Hidden?

In trials, we don’t always sense God’s protection. Feelings  of vulnerability overwhelm us until He seems distant and deliberately uncaring. I know. Far too often, I’ve endured difficult circumstances that made me wonder if I really mattered to Him.

Of course, He always brought me through those trials, abundantly proving both his faithfulness and how deeply He loves me. And of course I felt ashamed and embarrassed for doubting Him. I saw, in the hindsight that is so clear, how wonderfully the Lord protected me from turning away from Him in bitterness and anger.

Indeed, Jesus is a wonderful Savior, hiding the souls of His beloved to preserve us until He brings us Home. Today’s hymn challenges me to look, not at my trials, but to Him, trusting that He’ll cover me with His hand.

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Flashback Friday: Inconsequential Disability

 

This article originally appeared on October 20, 2016. Interestingly, I’ve been contemplating this topic lately, having forgotten that I wrote this post. Those of you who read it before might appreciate the reminder, while newer readers may benefit from my perspective.  If nothing else, you can enjoy my photo with Edge Allen Poe.img_0501Clearly, Cerebral Palsy affects every area of my life to one degree or another. I don’t really care for that fact, but there you have it. I’ve accepted the reality that my disability shapes and controls how I live in such a variety of ways that I could most likely write an interesting blog exclusively on that topic. If we throw John’s Polio into the mix, maybe we could get a good book deal going.

A lot of Christians with disabilities use their disabilities as platforms for ministry. Joni Eareckson Tada, of course, instantly comes to mind as the most notable example, although I’ve known others that also serve their fellow disabled people. Over the course of my life, I’ve made a few attempts at involvement in disability ministry…primarily because other people thought I should.

But, to be brutally honest, I’m simply not interested in disability. Not even my own disability, despite its pervasive nature. If I write about it now and then, I generally do so out of necessity, aware that I can’t totally avoid the subject. Even as a blogger, I need to help my readers understand why my posts are so short; typing with a headstick (especially in conjunction with the involuntary movements of Cerebral Palsy) means that I can’t produce 1,000 word essays every day. Yet, I only mention this fact because I need to.

Some people have suggested that I’ve always avoided disability ministry out of denial. I’ll admit that I want, in some ways, to distance myself from disability, but charging me with denial seems a bit ridiculous. C’mon folks, I married a man who also uses a wheelchair! I can hardly be accused of running away from disability when I deal with both his and mine. I married John, accepting his disability (just as he married me accepting mine), fully aware of the many implications involved.

Occasionally, yes, the Lord uses my disability (or John’s) to give me insight into a Scriptural principle, and I have no problem writing about those instances. If I can exploit my disability to bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, I won’t hesitate to take full advantage of the opportunity. But, for the most part, my blog rarely mentions wheelchairs, headsticks, Personal Care Attendants or any of the oddities that come with having a severe physical disability.

My true passion is teaching women the importance of good doctrine. Writing a blog about disability issues might get me a bigger audience (particularly if I hinted here and there about my sex life, I suppose). But I see a much greater need in the Body of Christ than telling people how to handle temporal suffering. Actually, I seldom consider myself as afflicted anyway, especially when I remember Christians in other countries who are being tortured, imprisoned and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. Those people suffer infinitely more than I ever have.

The disability I really want to blog about has nothing to do with Cerebral Palsy, and everything to do with spiritual health. With evangelicals increasingly minimizing the importance of the Bible in favor of emotional experiences and distorted ideas of Jesus, I desire to challenge the fads and false teaching that cripple God’s people. Believe me, ladies, these handicaps have far more eternal consequences than whether or not I can walk. Therefore, I reserve the right to focus on the clear teachings of Scripture, not on disability, praying that Christ will receive the glory.

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One Important Reason I Probably Won’t Blog About Butterflies On Subway Cars

Subway Butterfly

Because John and I met online,  we hold a special fondness for the movie, You’ve Got Mail. Meg Ryan plays a woman who carries on an email correspondence with Tom Hanks, not knowing that he’s the same man who put the children’s bookshop she owned out of business.

Throughout the movie, Ryan and Hanks do voice-overs of the emails they write to one another. Ryan’s early emails particularly interest me, as she reflects on an inconsequential thing (like a butterfly fluttering on and then off of a subway car) in a way that reveals so much of who she is. Her lines make me wish I could write as lyrically.

In another email, she comments on the strangeness of typing words into a computer, not knowing where they’ll go our who will read them. Since that movie was written long before blogs, Facebook and Twitter, I can’t help wondering if online communication has become even stranger now.

As a blogger, I sometimes wonder how my tenuous words have amassed the modest but growing following that The Outspoken TULIP  has developed in slightly less than three years. And would I have a larger or smaller following if I wrote about butterflies on subway cars and such?

Not that I can imagine anything as poetic as a butterfly fluttering on a Boston subway car. A dirty pigeon, perhaps. Though a pigeon would flap violently rather than delicately fluttering. Not the same.

Anyway, I once did operate a blog in which I wrote simply for the sake of writing. Yes, I enjoyed that freedom.  At times I regret giving it up in favor of this more focused blog. What harm could there be, I ask myself, if I occasionally departed from the main themes of this blog to have a little fun with writing? Although I seriously doubt I’d ever see a butterfly on a Boston subway car, I could easily find other interesting moments to develop into essays of little consequence.

A couple of verses I read in Ephesians yesterday stops me from allowing myself such liberties.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ~~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Indeed, the days are evil. Outside the church, abortion and homosexuality are celebrated as human rights, not decried as murder and perversion. Truck commercials on TV assume that dating couples will move in together before (or without) getting married. Christian bakers and florists lose their businesses for declining to cater gay weddings. Public schools offer yoga classes, denying yoga’s connection to Hinduism. Christians receive warnings not to pray in public, and sometimes get banned from social media for proclaiming the Gospel.

Many of us anticipate much more severe persecution in the near future.

Inside the visible church, professing Christians compromise in numerous respects, from so-called “Holy Yoga” to advocating for women pastors. For all our talk about believing God’s Word, our fondness for mysticism and psychology betray our confidence in human philosophies. False teachers infiltrate evangelical circles in droves.

The Outspoken TULIP exists precisely because the Church faces so many external and internal threats. Christian women need encouragement to study Scripture so we can withstand the overwhelming pressure to compromise with the world. While writing about butterflies on subway cars and such would certainly be a lot more fun, I don’t have time for that. Rather, it wouldn’t be the best use of my time.

Do I have a big enough following to make a significant difference?  Of course not. But the scope of my blog doesn’t matter. My faithfulness does. And faithfulness demands using my time for His glory, not for floating inconsequential musings across the Internet.

My blog may not be widely read, but I still have a responsibility to use my writing for the Lord. Although writing fun pieces every so often wouldn’t necessarily be bad, I have to ask myself if it would be the best use of my blogging time. When I consider how rapidly Western society is hurling itself into rebellion against God, and how greater numbers of professing Christians compromise with worldly values, I can’t help concluding that writing about the Lord and encouraging women in their walks with Him is the best use of my blogging time.

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Saturday Sampler: May 20 — May 26

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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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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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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: 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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