Saturday Sampler: December 31 — January 6

Ball Sampler 01

Reading Last day of  2017: Thoughts on time’s passage by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time, both sobers and encourages me. Having turned 64 in September, I relate quite well to many of her comments. It floors me that my Personal Care Attendants studied the Vietnam War in high school — Nixon pulled us out of that war when I was in 12th grade! All that aside, Elizabeth uses her musings to help us think about where time is headed.

Leonardo De Chirico  writes Did Pope Francis Say Mission? in Vatican Files to demonstrate this pope’s apparent problem understanding the Biblical view of evangelism. We should be deeply concerned that many professing evangelicals embrace Francis.

I couldn’t agree more with Michelle Lesley’s Sanctification > Resolutions: 6 Ways God Could Sanctify You in the New Year in Discipleship for Christian Women. Ladies, please don’t miss this godly and practical article!

Whether your pastor feels frustrated about numerical growth in your church or you struggle with discouragement in personal evangelism, read Who builds the church? by Mark McIntyre on his blog, Attempts at Honesty. Ain’t nothing like a Scriptural perspective to provide a breath of fresh air, now is there?

In case you’re still debating the value of New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll find interesting insight by reading Jordan Standridge’s Rescued from Meaningless Resolutions in The Cripplegate. I think he hits the nail on the head.

Why Should I Read the Bible in 2018? asks Leslie A of Growing 4 Life. Her six reasons might encourage you to keep reading long after the New Year’s zeal wears off.

Many Christian moms experience the heartache of a child who doesn’t come to Christ. I can only guess at the devastating emotions they go through. But Kim Shay, one of the ladies who blogs for Out of the Ordinary, writes They are our children, after all to address the most common emotional reactions to having a prodigal child.

Like SharaC, I question all the talk about “authenticity,” “messiness” and “brokenness” that’s so popular among evangelicals. Her article, Smoking in the Trenches appears on her Into the Foolishness of God blog, and offers some good fodder for thoughtful pondering.

 

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Because 2018 Will Happen One Day At A Time

The Lord ministers to us faithfully, but He never hurries us through life. Our impatience, especially in trials, often wishes He would push the Fast Forward button, but clearly He has lessons to teach us along the way.

Today’s hymn seems appropriate as we approach a new collection of 365 days. Like every year, the one that stretches ahead of us promises great joys and difficult troubles. But, like He’s done in all past years, the Lord will go with us through each situation, leading us to see His sovereignty.

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When Disabilities Keep Us Away From Church

IMG_4362New England winters mean that cold temperatures keep me and John pretty much housebound. Both of us have respiratory issues (he uses ventilators 24/7) and I have increased muscle tightness that makes it difficult to operate my power wheelchair . As a result,we miss a lot of church between the months of December and March.

Even in good weather, the unpredictability of the paratransit system combined with my evening Personal Care Attendant’s schedule prohibits us from active involvement in midweek Bible Studies and ministry opportunities in our church. We’d both dearly love to serve our wonderful church family, but our circumstances simply prohibit anything beyond Adult Sunday School and Sunday services (unless there’s something directly after the service).

Thankfully, our pastor and elders understand our physical limitations and treat us as valued members of the body. One elder visits during the winter months, often bringing hymnals and the Lord’s Supper while another elder and his wife allow us to be honorary grandparents to their four children. That attention helps us feel connected, as do the online audios of our Sunday School class and our pastor’s sermons.

But it’s not the same as being there.

Several of my fellow bloggers periodically write about the importance of regular church attendance and the necessity of actively serving in a local church. I agree with everything they say. Although reading their posts causes pain because of our particular circumstances, I cheer them on for admonishing Christians to be actively involved in their local churches. Scripture calls for such commitment.

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~~Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

When I hear able-bodied people say they skipped church to do something recreational, to sleep in, or because they just didn’t feel like going, it angers me. Do they have any idea how heartbreaking it is to cancel our paratransit reservations Sunday after Sunday because the thermometer won’t move above the mid-thirties? Do they know what I’d give to serve on the Missions Committee or as a deaconess? Despite my current reservations regarding AWANA, it crushes me to hear the leaders beg for workers because I can’t volunteer.

I write this article, not to make anybody feel sorry for me and John (throughout our decades of being single, the Lord blessed each of us with opportunities to serve our respective churches), but to encourage you to be active in your churches as much as you possibly can. Sunday services aren’t an obligation; they’re a joyous privilege!

This winter, as in the other 15 winters of our marriage, John and I will rejoice in God’s faithful provision of online teaching and visits from church friends. The Lord will take excellent care of us, as He always does. But we look forward to that first warm Sunday morning when we’ll drive our power wheelchairs into that Sunday School classroom and into that worship service. There’s nothing like being with our brothers and sisters in Christ!

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Saturday Sampler: November 26 — December 2

Flower mask sampler

Oh, praise the Lord for people like Elizabeth Prata who stand firmly on the Word of God! Her essay, Michael did not rebuke Satan in The End Time, needs to get into the hands of so many evangelicals and (especially) Charismatics who presume to command Satan and his demons! Once you read this superb post, I beg you to share it as widely as you possibly can.

The holiday crunch has officially begun, and Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word acknowledges that sometimes our time with God’s Word suffers as a result of the busy pace of the season. He writes How to Prevent a Spiritually Dry December to help ensure that we have sufficient Bible intake in the midst of our celebrating.

Doing a devotional study on Psalm 117, Josh Parsons assures us that God is Worthy of Your “Wow” in Unlocking the Bible. His piece will inspire you to worship throughout your day by reminding you how wonderful the Lord really is.

There are  certainly occasions when leaving a church becomes necessary. Yet  Eric Davis, in his post for The Cripplegate, provides suggestions for godly responses When Your Church Disappoints. And really,  every church will eventually disappoint us, no matter how faithful it is to  Scripture. Again,  however, sometimes the Lord does lead us to leave a church. Davis simply presents ideas to try before we call it quits.

Phil Newton, in an article for Founders Ministries, lists several ways that we can assist our pastors as they preach God’s Word each Sunday. The Congregation and the Pulpit encourages us to participate in this centerpiece of Christian worship.

Are you enjoying Erin Benziger’s series on acceptable sins in Do Not Be Surprised? Her latest installment, Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worldliness, strikes a good balance between “being in the world and not of it.” The entire series challenges us towards personal holiness in areas we frequently ignore. If you haven’t been reading it, set aside time to do so.

I couldn’t agree more! Prompted by yet another firing of a celebrity for sexual misconduct, Growing 4 Life author Leslie A. lists Four Ways to Love Our Men as they struggle to remain pure in a culture saturated by sex. Ladies, we have a responsibility in helping our brothers in Christ.

Another creative and insightful blog post rolls off Michelle Lesley’s keyboard. A Pox Upon Our House: Three Chronic Diseases Plaguing Women’s Ministry all too accurately diagnoses service ailments affecting the spiritual health of women. Ladies, this article underscores my reasons for constantly calling you back to God’s Word.

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An Uncomplicated Reason To Leave Charismatic Teaching

Out of Charismania

It may appear that I write so vigorously against the Charismatic movement with a vindictive attitude. Indeed,  one or two people have said to my face that they believe I reject Charismatic theology because of hurts I supposedly suffered during my years in Charismatic fellowships.

Fair enough, on one level. Several attempts at healing me from Cerebral Palsy probably did border on spiritual abuse, and it certainly would be understandable if I harbored bitterness over those experiences. Sure, such bitterness would be sinful, but most people would at least understand it. In a way, I suspect the friends I have in Charismatic circles might feel comforted by the thought that my current theological positions are just an overreaction to all I underwent.

But really, I turned away from Charismatic theology because, quite simply, it doesn’t line up with God’s Word.

Yes, I know all the verses Charismatics use to substantiate their teachings. I remember using those very verses in my disputes with non-Charismatics, actually. I believe that many Charismatics genuinely love God’s Word and honestly think the miracles of the four gospels and the book of Acts should be replicated today. I know why they hold such convictions. Their arguments carry a sense of plausibility that I have to respect.

But I have come to very different conclusions as I’ve studied Scripture and learned more about proper hermeneutics. Not that I’m smarter or better educated than they are. Rather, God graciously led me to more accurate teaching on the topic by His grace and for His glory.

Although I’m still far from being a Biblical scholar, the Lord has exposed me to good models of understanding His Word, consequently convincing me that the miracles of the New Testament weren’t meant as normative patterns for Christians after the First Century.

Hopefully I’ll write future articles detailing why we mustn’t apply First Century occurrences to present-day Christianity,  but that isn’t the purpose of this particular post. Today I merely want to communicate that I didn’t renounce Charismatic theology as a reaction to negative experiences, but instead because of my desire to remain faithful to the Word of God. Whatever spiritual abuse I may or may not have endured (and I’ll leave the Lord to make that determination), I only want my doctrine to line up with God’s Word.

My personal experiences are no more authoritative than the experiences of my Charismatic friends.

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Perspectives In Titus: It’s A Wrap!

Titus 3 12 thru 15

Believe it or not, ladies, today we’ll finish our Bible Study in Titus. Yup, we’ll wrap it up with a pretty pink bow by looking at Paul’s four concluding verses.  Normally, I’d quote the passage in context, but in this particular instance, the context has virtually no bearing on the meaning of these verses.

12 When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. 13 Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. 14 And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.

15 All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all. ~~Titus 3:12-15 (ESV)

Paul concludes his letter with short, almost staccato, instructions that seem jarring in comparison with the eloquent writing up to this point. Commentators say nothing about this abrupt change of tone, so I probably shouldn’t speculate on the reason behind it. It needs only to be said that he has reached the end of his formal discourse and now leaves Titus quick practical directions. Yet even this passage gives us examples of godliness.

The apostle, in verse 12, announces his intent to send either Artemas or Tychicus to Crete, thus enabling Titus to join him in Nicopolis for the winter. No other Scriptures mention Artemas, Believers Bible Commentary suggests that, since 2 Timothy 4:12 states that Paul sent Tychicus to Ephesus, Artemas most likely ended up in Crete.

We do know more about Tychicus, who served with Paul and showed himself to be faithful. In Ephesians 6:21, Paul describes him as a “beloved brother and faithful minister,” and he repeated that description in Colossians 4:7 with the addition of calling him a “fellow servant in the Lord.” From these verses, we see that Tychicus was very qualified to oversee the Cretan churches in Titus’ absence.

Barnes tells us that Nicopolis was in Epirus, in Greece, lying northwest of Corinth and Athens. He believes that Paul wrote this letter to Titus from Nicopolis sometime in autumn, and had decided to stay on throughout the winter. He suggests that, although there’s no record of Paul establishing a church there, the apostle may have wanted Titus to assist him in preaching the Gospel there.

Moving to verse 13, Titus was also asked to either bring Zenas and Apollos with him to Nicopolis or to dispatch them in advance. Zenas was most likely a Jewish scribe, commonly called a lawyer (see Matthew 22:34-35 to understand this point), who converted to Christianity. His associations with Apollos strongly indicates that he devoted himself to preaching the Gospel.

Scripture first introduces Apollos in Acts 18:24-26 as someone who knew how to teach the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Corinthians 3:5-6 and 1 Corinthians 4:6 show that he had an influential ministry with Paul in Corinth. Barnes believes that, when Paul writes this letter to Titus, Zenas and Apollos have already been traveling together preaching the Gospel.

Paul wants Titus to ensure that the Cretan churches provide well for these two men, therefore allowing those churches to practice good works. This thought brings us to verse 14. Following the specific instructions to provide for Zenas and Apollos, Paul again urges Titus to teach the Christians under his care to devote themselves to good works, such as caring for these two men. Beyond serving in this particular instance, however, the believers must be prepared to serve anyone in need. Serving others gives Christians opportunity to bear fruit.

Finally, we reach verse 15!

As a conclusion to his letter, Paul departs from his usual custom of naming his companions who send greetings (as he does, for example, in Romans 16:21-23 and Colossians 4:10-14). Barnes suggests that Titus probably already knew who was with the apostle, particularly since he had traveled with them before Paul left him on Crete.

Quite simply, Paul sends greetings to “those who love us in the faith.” In other words, fellow Christians. There’s really no need to elaborate on this point.

Similarly, his closing sentence, “Grace be with you all,” needn’t be scrutinized. Many of us end emails with phrases like “God bless you,” expressing a desire for the Lord to bestow His favor on the recipients. Paul obviously cared for the well-being of the Cretan churches, and thus conveys that care with this final sentiment.

And so, my dear sisters in Christ, I pray that this study of Titus has blessed you. I’m debating what type of Bible Study (if any) we’ll do next, but that wouldn’t happen until January. In the meantime, let’s remember what we’ve learned from Titus so we can live as a people for God’s glory.

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Saturday Sampler: November 5 — November 11

Autumn Leaves Sampler

The lovely sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical Beginnings showcases a splendid, though relatively unknown, hymn by John Newton with Sunday Hymns from the Past – The Trembling Gaoler by John Newton. She could post only the lyrics, but they’re quite powerful and well worth reading.

As usual, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day nails it when she posts Worldly influence and the Church’s fixation on youth. I’ve seen what she describes first-hand, so I can attest to her accuracy.

Denny Burk’s piece, Pastors, be ready for questions about homosexuality and abortion, isn’t really just for pastors. While pastors should certainly take the lead in standing for Biblical truth in these vitally important areas, the rest of us also have a responsibility to proclaim the truth regarding these matters.

Barry York of Gentle Reformation cautions us against using theology to avoid actually practicing Gospel principles in his piece, You Can’t Reform What You Won’t Touch. His words made me rather  uncomfortable — and that’s undoubtedly a good thing!

Writing from her passion for the prophecy of Scripture, Elizabeth Prata profiles The Man Who Will Change the World in her blog, The End Time. We need the wonderful reassurance that Elizabeth finds (and shares) as she faithfully studies God’s Word.

In this week’s installment of her series on the seemingly insignificant sins that we routinely commit without feeling convicted, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised both challenges and encourages us with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worry. If you’ve missed previous posts in this series, you can find links to them at the conclusion of her article.

Amy Mantravadi opens her month-long series on thankfulness with a beautiful essay that closely parallels my own experience. Please read Thankful Thursday: The Communion of Saints both to appreciate the privilege of regular church fellowship and to rejoice in God’s provision for those of us who, because of physical limitations, can’t be as active as we want in our local churches.

It’s been a while since the ladies at Out of the Ordinary have posted anything, but Persis more than made up for their long absence with Doctrine Matters: Imputation. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this is a dry theological article, consider the fact that the Lord encouraged me tremendously as I read it. Praise the Lord for using her words to deepen my assurance of His faithfulness!

Beware These Seven Counterfeit Gospels warns Kristen Wetherell in a contributing post for Unlocking The Bible. Her list, with each point backed up by Scripture, gives us an excellent framework for recognizing false teaching.

In a brief,  easily read, post on the Ligonier blog, R.C. Sproul helps us in the task of Understanding Free Will by letting us in on how Martin Luther resolved his struggles over this issue. It’s an interesting little insight into a hotly debated topic.

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