Saturday Sampler: June 4 — June 10

Bertucci Sampler
Sampler plate at Bertucci’s

Clint Archer posts Running for the  Reward: Comrades Marathon and the Bema Seat in The Cripplegate. Sometimes we Christians forget that rewards await us when we finish this life.

Reprising a column that she originally wrote in 2011, Marsha West of Berean Research chronicles the Purpose Driven dismantling of Christianity as  a testament to the many corrosive influences on the 21st Century church. Her comments on psychology particularly interested me.  In addition, she unmasks the resurgence of Gnosticism among evangelicals and explores Rick Warren’s affiliation with Robert Schuller.

Sometimes we ignore seemingly inconsequential sins, assuming the Lord also overlooks them. Tim Challies directs our attention to one such sin (grumbling about fellow Christians) in The King Is Within Earshot.

People commonly object to the doctrine of election because they infer that, if God elects some to heaven, He conversely elects others to hell. In The Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson writes Reprobation: Does God elect people to hell? as a way to demonstrate the logical fallacies of this argument. After you’ve read this piece, however, I strongly suggest that you read Reprobation Rejoinder by Mike Riccardi, also in The Cripplegate.

I’ve been disturbed, for the past few years, about the common perceptions professing Christians have regarding heaven. So it encourages me to read Heaven: The Biblical Version by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day. I feel less alone in my understanding of what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Denny Burk provides a sobering reminder that American Christians have already begun to face persecution. His article, Watch Bernie Sanders tell  a Christian that his faith disqualifies him from office, reminds me that we can no longer expect to be embraced by our culture. But Jesus repeatedly warned us that the world would reject us, so we really shouldn’t be surprised.

If you want to read something both fun and educational, look at The Mischievous Protestant’s Guide to Catholic Rome by Tim Challies. Now, why do you suppose my art history professor at Dominican University of California  (a school started by Catholic nuns) never mentioned the items in this piece.

In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Kendra Dahl shares The Lesson That Saved My Marriage to help us adjust our expectations of our husbands. I definitely needed to read her wisdom this week!

 

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Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

Serious Little Boy01Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

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Resurrection Benefits

This Resurrection Sunday, I’ve chosen a lesser known hymn to present to you. Although it’s not strictly about the Lord’s resurrection, it definitely highlights some of the ways we benefit from His having risen from His grave. Please enjoy this beautiful hymn and the glorious truths it proclaims.

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King Jesus

On this Palm Sunday. we remember Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At last, He allowed the crowds to proclaim Him as King of the Jews!

As glorious as that day was, I look forward to His return to Jerusalem, when He will take His throne and reign over the earth.  Thankfully, even now we can worship Him as King. Today’s hymn gives us a good starting place.

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A Wrinkle In Theology

Robin Olsen PortraitSocial media definitely gives me a wealth of subject matter! Consider this quotation:

Joy is the infallible proof of the presence of God.  ~~Madeline L’Engle

When that quote showed up on my Twitter feed a few years ago, I vacillated between laughing, crying and throwing up. I have fond childhood memories of Madeline L’Engle’s book, A Wrinkle In Time, but I rather wish she’d confined her writing to children’s fiction and left theology alone. That quote sounds pretty and poetic, admittedly, but it positively oozes with the sloppy theology that permeates today’s visible church.

L’Engle elevates the subjective emotion of joy as “infallible proof” that God is present. This “reasoning” reminds me of so many professing Christians who validate things like the Gay Christian Movement because they interpret the enthusiasm among “gay Christians” as an indication that He sanctions their misinterpretation of Scripture.

But truth must never be at the mercy of fleeting experience. People often feel great joy in the midst of extremely sinful behavior. Yet God, being holy, neither will nor can grace sinful  behavior with His presence. The joy at a college drinking party may, in some instances (such as celebrating the end of finals), be quite genuine, but any true presence of the Lord would bring the revelers to repentance in short order. Indeed, His presence brought the prophet Isaiah to humility.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)
 
Throughout the Bible, actually, God’s presence frequently evoked fear and trembling as people saw the contrast between their sinfulness and His holiness. Sometimes, joy followed. And we definitely will have joy in heaven, where those of us who are born again through His Spirit will be in His presence forever. But humility and repentance serve as much more reliable indicators of His presence for now.
 
Hopefully Madeline L’Engle ironed out her theology before she died.

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He Said, “Look Mommy — I’m Wearing A Dress!”

glory-cloudA few days ago, someone told  me that her three-year-old godson met his mother when she came to pick him up from preschool, greeting her with the words, “Look Mommy — I’m wearing a dress!” Horrified, his mother asked him why he was in a dress. He pointed to his teachers and claimed, “Them gave it to me!”

“Oh no,” the teachers argued, “we gave him a choice. We want our children to use costumes to express themselves.”

My friend said that her godson, if he’s not telling the truth about something, normally changes stories when he’s later asked again. But this time, he firmly stuck to his narrative that the teachers made him wear a dress. Therefore, his parents believe that the school pressured him into wearing the dress, perhaps letting him “choose” between two or three dresses.

It turns out, as I suspected it would, that this little boy attends a preschool that accepts state monies. I pretty much believe that the purpose of giving him a dress was to desensitize him, as well as the rest of the children, to transgender issues.

I do believe public schools have a mandate to normalize LBGTQ orientations. Since Obergefell legalized same sex marriage just over two years ago (it seems like it’s been so much longer!) and Bruce Jenner declared himself to be a woman named Caitlyn, I’ve noticed a greater push to force Americans to embrace these sexual deviations wholeheartedly. And the best way to reach this goal, obviously, is to indoctrinate young children.

And people wonder why I so strongly advocate homeschooling?

As troubling as the attack on Biblical views of gender and sexuality is, however, I have confidence that the Lord has complete control. While He hates the sin engulfing our world today (and please, I mean much more than simply sexual sin), He’s allowing a rise in lawlessness to demonstrate our need for Him.

Is His Second Corning imminent? I hope so. Actually, I really believe it’s probable. But I also believe I would be presumptuous to make a dogmatic prediction. I can, however, assert that the Lord is using our collective sin as a judgment on our culture. Please see Romans 1:18-32 as substantiation for my position.

Certainly I reject the idea of coercing a three-year-old to cross-dress. If I was his mommy, he’d never set foot in that school again! But as reprehensible as the school’s actions were, I don’t wring my hands in helpless dismay. The Lord, even though He hates such perversion, remains completely sovereign. In His perfect time, He will bring His righteousness to us so that all creation will bow before Him, confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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Discernment: More Than Exposing Error

Ladies Study 01When did Christians begin equating discernment with calling out false teachers? Certainly, identifying harmful teachings and trends that worm their way into even the best of churches has merit, especially in this age of technology when false teachers can influence a lot more people in a lot less time. At times, discernment bloggers absolutely must name names and loudly denounce error. Please don’t think I disapprove of warning other believers when wolves threaten God’s flock.

But if we reduce discernment ministry simply to the act of exposing false teachers, we distort the entire concept. One aspect of a ministry should never be mistaken for the ministry as a whole.

In addition to enabling Christians to recognize error, Biblical discernment draws us towards God’s truth. It refutes bad doctrine by filling us with sound doctrine. That sound doctrine, in turn, leads us to greater intimacy  with the Lord.

By intimacy, I don’t mean a romantic or quasi-erotic experience with Jesus as our supposed Lover. As we study Scripture, rather, we see Who the Lord is, how He thinks and what He values. The doctrine of Christ’s supremacy, for example, gives us an understanding of His relationship to His creation, as we see in the following passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

It may interest you to know that Paul actually wrote that particular passage in  response to false teachers who tried to tell the Colossians that Christ didn’t have supreme authority. In this case (as in so many others), Paul refrained from naming the error directly and instead addressed it by replacing it with the correct view of the Lord. In the process, he drew his readers into a deeper understanding of Christ’s deity, His role as Creator, His eternal nature and His atoning work on the cross. That, dear ladies, is a hefty amount of doctrine to pack into one little paragraph!

Doctrine helps Christians discern error, then, but it does so with the purpose of leading us into a closer knowledge of the Lord. Simply calling out false teachers may allow us to feel an air of superiority, but that’s quite different from leading us into His presence. True discernment does protect Christians from deception, but that protection ought to ultimately bring us into greater worship and adoration of the Lord.

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