Saturday Sampler: August 6 — August 12

Vexel Rose TrioDo you need practical guidance in structuring your personal Bible Study time? If so, How Much of the Bible Should I Study? by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word will provide you with a good variety of suggestions.

I suppose that moms make up the vast majority of my readership. Since I couldn’t have children, however, I feel unqualified to counsel anyone on child rearing. Thankfully, One Degree To Another author Scott Slayton posts How Can I Help My Child Grow as a Christian? As a pastor and father of four, Scott can address this subject more authoritatively than I could.

Entering the Empty Nest season, Leslie A writes We know we will be fine in Growing 4 Life. Her post enables me to sympathize better with ladies in her position. Extending grace goes so much further than spouting off platitudes!

In her guest post for Berean Research, Grace Scott maintains that The felt-needs gospel is no Gospel at all. Ladies, this is well documented and extremely thought through in its engagement with an article defending a felt-needs approach to evangelism. Don’t pass over this superb presentation of how to Biblically proclaim the Gospel, even to millennials.

Sammy is a cute little dog. Why is Michelle Lesley blogging about a cute little dog? There’s only one way to find out — go ahead and click the link.

Sydney is a young woman, still in her teens, with astonishing insight which often shows up in her blog, Squid’s Cup of Tea. Her reflective essay, Jealous No More and Other Thoughts, bring me joy as I see the Lord maturing her. You may be encouraged (and possibly even challenged) by her godly attitudes.

Like all bloggers who stand against false teaching, Tom of excatholic4christ has his share of critics. “Stop saying Catholics believe they must obey the Ten Commandments PERFECTLY!” responds to a frequent complaint he receives by explaining how Catholics maintain a state of grace.

Dispelling yet another myth of liberal theologians, John Ellis writes God Is Not Everyone’s Father for PJ Media. I appreciate Ellis’ courage to hold to solid Biblical doctrine on this point.

If you struggle with your prayer life (and really, what Christian doesn’t), Prayer: some thoughts on the how-to’s by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day might be just what you need.  I love Jen’s focus on Scripture as the model for prayer.

Scott Stayton, in One Degree to Another, supplements Jen’s essay with Why We Struggle  to Pray in the Digital Age. What a challenging, thought-provoking article! I’d never really considered some of the points he raises, but they make a lot of sense. He also offers wonderful suggestions for restoring prayer to its proper priority.

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Where Do We Find Assurance Of Salvation?

Broken Heart CrossIf you’re like me, you’ve probably experienced serious doubts about your salvation. Such doubts generally arise in response to falling back into familiar patterns of sin. As you see yourself committing the same ugly sin, even decades after your conversion, you have to ask yourself whether or not you were ever  really saved in the first place.

In one respect, you and I definitely should ask ourselves this question when we find ourselves committing the same sin habitually. Children of God at some point start to resemble the Father’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-21, 1 John 3:4-10). Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians do persist in unrepentant sin, often rationalizing their rebellion and sometimes even believing that God approves of what they do. I know: I’ve done it.

Seeker-sensitive churches compound the problem by producing false converts who embrace an idealized concept of Jesus without submitting to the true Christ’s authority. These false converts see no need to repent and have no concern for personal holiness.

So yes, sometimes our sin should cause us to wonder if the Lord has truly done a work of regeneration in us. If we live without regard to His holy standards, some honest self-examination is most likely necessary.

But others of us, despite genuinely loving the Lord and wanting to obey Him, manage to get sucked back into sin on occasion. From our perspective, it seems like a habitual pattern because we repeat the same old sins time after time. We grieve every time we do it, fully aware that we’ve dishonored Him. Even if nobody else ever finds out what we’ve done, we know that we’ve violated His commands.

Like the apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-21, we hate our sin. We yearn to please the Lord, knowing that our sin put Him on the cross. How can we be so ungrateful? Why did we act like children of the devil, dragging our glorious Lord through the mud while we selfishly gratified our flesh?

As we fixate on the horrors of our sin, we accept Satan’s accusations that we’re nothing more than hypocrites. Because those accusations carry an element of truth, we believe his lie that we never really had salvation. We despair.

Sisters, we forget that assurance of salvation can never come from us. Paul wrote Romans 7 precisely to demonstrate that we don’t have any righteousness in and of ourselves. Looking at ourselves can never give us assurance!

Ah, but look at Paul’s  concluding paragraph in Romans 7:

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:21-24 (ESV)

Paul doesn’t deny his wretched condition, but he ultimately clings to Jesus Christ as his deliverer. He remembers that Christ paid for all his sin (every ounce of it) by shedding His blood on the cross. Of course, Paul’s not excusing sin or implying that God’s grace gives Christians permission to indulge in sin. Rather, he’s encouraging us to rest in what the Lord has done for us.

Sin should trouble a Christian’s conscience. We should live lives of repentance, earnestly desiring to reflect our Heavenly Father’s holiness as we declare the Gospel to a dying world. But, when our sin breaks our hearts, let’s shift our gaze to Jesus, finding assurance in Him.

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In Praise Of The Trinity

In these past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Trinity. Actually, my prayers increasingly celebrate all three Persons, focusing on each of their respective offices and functions. It’s been kind of exciting, and kind of fun, to pray with such a view of God in His various Persons.

The hymn I have chosen for today gives a vivid portrayal of God in each of His Persons, and I simply love the rich theology! As you listen, I pray that you will grow in your appreciation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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He Looks On Him And Pardons Me

Certainly we have cause to recognize, accept and confess our absolute wretchedness in contrast to God’s perfect holiness. Too few professing Christians understand the depth of human sinfulness or the height of His righteous purity. Indeed, one of this blog’s main purposes involves showing women how completely unable we are to live in a manner acceptable to the One Who knows and judges the secrets of our hearts.

That said, the Lord exposes our vileness, not to brow-beat us, but to show us His tender mercy and abundant grace. Gloriously, our sinless Savior bears the shame for our rebellion, firmly securing the Father’s favor toward us (if we trust in His shed blood for the remission of our sins). When I remember His flabbergasting love that caused Him to die on the cross for my sins, my heart floods with joy, gratitude and adoration for the spotless Lamb of God. Today’s hymn reminds me of His wonderful grace in bringing me before His Father’s throne.

The Grace Of Life: Ephesians 2:1-10

This post continues our Bible Study series on Ephesians 2:1-10 exploring the Gospel. Thus far we’ve seen that prior to conversion we were spiritual corpses. But we’ve also seen God’s mercy to give us life. Let’s continue studying that gift of life today.

Again, we’ll only get through one verse in our study today. But, like verse 4, verse 5 overflows with so much doctrinal content that we really need to spend time making sure we have a concrete understanding of Paul’s terminology so that we can apply the principles in our daily lives. So let’s go back to the text, this time adding verse 5.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— ~~Ephesians 2:1-5 (ESV)

In our study last Thursday. we watched the spotlight move from our deadness of spirit to the riches of His mercy as motivated by His great love in sending His Son to die for our sin. Verse 5 continues the Gospel message by triumphantly declaring that God raised us from death (verse 1) to new life with Christ. 

Here, Paul brings in the resurrection. We could not have life apart from Christ’s resurrection. (1Corinthians 15:20-23).  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is as essential to the Gospel as His shed blood on the cross.  And it is much more than the greatest event in human history. It carries a personal application for regenerate believers! Without compromising the literal facts of the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection, Paul demonstrates in Romans 6:5-11 (which I hope you’ll read) that believers die with Christ to our sin natures and now live in His righteousness.

As Adam Clarke writes: 

God has given us as complete a resurrection from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, as the body of Christ has had from the grave. And as this quickening, or making alive, was most gratuitous on God’s part, the apostle, with great propriety, says; By grace ye are saved.

With that thought, Clarke takes us to the first of two mentions in Ephesians 2:1-10 that salvation is by grace. Sadly, many professing Christians in our century often throw the word “grace” around with the assumption that everyone understands its theological meaning. Some even confuse grace with moral license, living as if it frees them to live in the very sin that once held them in death. Clearly then, we need a solid definition of grace.

I consulted a few Bible dictionaries, and found the most comprehensive explanation of grace in The Complete WordStudy Dictionary, which says, 

Grace, particularly that which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor, acceptance, for a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, thanks, gratitude. A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor. Cháris stands in direct antithesis to érga (G2041), works, the two being mutually exclusive. God’s grace affects man’s sinfulness and not only forgives the repentant sinner, but brings joy and thankfulness to him. It changes the individual to a new creature without destroying his individuality (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Grace necessarily implies dependence on the Person bestowing the grace. Unable to effect our own conversion to Christianity because we are dead in sin, we must rely only on what Jesus did on our behalf. The Amplified Bible offers a helpful rendering of “by grace you have been saved.” It reads, “it is by grace (His favor and mercy which you did not deserve) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation).”

Verse 5 therefore reinforces the idea that the new life of salvation comes, not from anything we do, but as a  result of God’s great mercy. His grace transforms us from senseless followers of Satan into His holy children who desire to honor and obey Him. We enter into His life. What a glorious metamorphosis!

So, bit by bit, Ephesians 2:1-10 gives us a handle on the Gospel. Halfway through, we already see why the Gospel is such good news! But even  more good news awaits us in the next five verses, so don’t miss next week’s installment.

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How Many Reasons?

The Lord Jesus Christ has indeed given us more temporal blessings than we could ever begin  to count. Let me list just a few of mine:

  1. A mom who encouraged my independence
  2. Friends who included  me in activities
  3. Opportunities to travel
  4. Being mainstreamed into “regular” school
  5. College
  6. My writing abilities
  7. My digital art abilities
  8. Ministry opportunities
  9. Friends who listened and prayed with me
  10. A power wheelchair
  11. My headstick that enables me to type
  12. My Dell computer
  13. Personal Care Attendants
  14. All my wonderful adventures in Boston
  15. Belonging to First Baptist Church Weymouth
  16. Best of all temporal blessings, my wonderful husband John

As glorious as all those blessings are, however, I enjoy even greater blessings in knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord and Savior. He gives me:

  1. Forgiveness of sin
  2. The faith that leads to salvation
  3. A hunger for righteousness
  4. Scripture that reveals Who He is
  5. His righteousness in exchange for my depravity
  6. Assurance that I belong to Him
  7. The constant presence of His Holy Spirit
  8. The guidance of His Word
  9. A heavenly Father
  10. The knowledge that He understands my weaknesses
  11. The grace to resist sin
  12. The power to obey Him
  13. Increasing grace to reflect His nature
  14. Joy in knowing Him
  15. The sure hope of heaven
  16. Best of all, eternity with Him!

Today’s praise song reminds me of how much this amazing God offers each  of His children. I’ve only listed 32 of my reasons for praising Him, but I’m sure I can think of at least 10,000 more.

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