Category Archives: God’s Kingdom

Narrow Ways And The Claims Jesus Makes

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As a power wheelchair user, I prefer the wide sidewalks of downtown Boston to the comparatively narrower ones in the suburban town where I live. I’ve been known to crank up my chair’s speed on Boyleston Street and leave John in the dust!

Here at home, I keep my wheelchair at a fairly conservative speed. It means a longer time between the bus stop and our apartment building, which gets annoying when the bus is late and we need to get through supper before my Personal Care Attendant arrives. But with my uncontrolled movements due to Cerebral Palsy, I feel safer on narrow sidewalks with a slower speed.

I like the wide sidewalks of Boston.

Most people tend to equate narrowness with negative things, don’t you think? We want wide sidewalks, wide margins and wide religion. And accordingly, we imagine Jesus as an inclusive God Who accepts all people (except those we really dislike, of course) regardless of whether or not they believe in Him or love His Word. Jesus, we insist, is broad minded. Surely He would detest any spiritual narrowness and exclusivity in favor of welcoming everybody into heaven!

The real Jesus, however, has a habit of going against our expectations and making proclamations that, to be honest, seem very intolerant. Let me quote just two of His frustratingly narrow remarks:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~~Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ~~John 14:6 (ESV)

These words offend most non-Christians. As a matter of fact, many people who consider themselves to be Christians distance themselves from these words, sometimes even asserting that He never actually said them. But Jesus, because He is Lord, reserves the right to be as narrow as He sees fit, not depending on our approval in making His decrees.

His narrowness confines us in several respects. Most obviously, it demands holy conduct that reflects the new nature He gives His elect at regeneration. The apparent freedom to indulge sinful passions no longer reigns, and we resent His authority to tell us what we should and shouldn’t do.

Even deeper than resenting His authority over our behavior, we resent His rejection of other religions and belief systems. His narrowness demands that we worship only Him, giving no grace to those who practice other religions.

We forget that, as Lord, Jesus deserves to be our one and only object of worship. We forget that heaven, rather than being a place where all our desires find satisfaction (although that’s certainly the case), revolves around praising and worshiping Him. As wide and expansive as eternity is, Jesus alone is its focus. And He’s more than enough for me!

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Perspectives In Titus: What Are We Waiting For?

Titus 2 v 13

I debated whether or not to post a Bible Study today since a) its a holiday, b) we’re celebrating John’s birthday a day early and c) I still don’t feel well. But I decided it’s too soon after that summer hiatus I took to have another break, especially since we hope to go to Boston tomorrow for more birthday fun. However, I’ll only cover verse 13 today, and I didn’t study it as thoroughly as I would have if I hadn’t gotten sick.

Last week we studied the fact that grace enables Christians to live in holiness. You’ll recall that Paul wanted Titus to teach the churches to live in contrast to the self-indulgent culture of Crete, much as we need to live in contrast to the self-indulgent 21st Century culture. Let’s look at our passage again to understand how we can stay motivated to renounce worldliness.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

As we turn to verse 13, we see that the grace of God trains us to live in holiness as we wait for Christ’s return. This waiting has an attitude of expectation, or “eager longing,”  reminiscent of an engaged woman in the final weeks before the wedding. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown point out that this expectation serves as an antidote to the worldly passions that grace teaches us to renounce.

We await a blessed hope. Far more glorious than an earthly wedding day, our blessed hope lies in the triumphant return of the Lord Jesus Christ . Romans 8:24 reminds us that we have this hope as a result of faith (see also Galatians 5:5). Colossians 1:5 offers the insight that this hope comes from “the word of truth, the gospel.”

Grammatically, “hope” and “appearing” share the same article in the Greek. This connects Christian hope specifically to Christ’s appearing. The Believers Bible Commentary indicates that this appearing could refer either to the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) or to the time when He judges the world and sets up His Kingdom (Revelation 19:11-16), though it leans toward the first interpretation. So do I,  actually.

Either way, our hope shouldn’t lie in temporal things like personal prosperity or the government, but we should place it completely in the glory of our coming God and Savior Jesus Christ.

Notice that last phrase. Paul unmistakably states here the deity of Jesus. The Greek construction of this phrase (again according to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown) can only be understood as declaring that Jesus Christ is both God and Savior. Paul has already called God our Savior in verse 10, thereby strengthening the doctrine of Christ’s deity.

Anticipation of Christ’s return draws our affection away  from worldly passions and ungodliness, causing us to focus on our treasure in heaven. I pray that today’s  Bible Study will help us marvel at our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who indeed is our treasure.

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Hail Him Who Saves You By His Grace

Why do we worship the Lord Christ Jesus? Sometimes I wonder if we really understand His worthiness to receive glory, honor and praise as the King of all creation. Do we realize that angels fall on their faces before Him, proclaiming His holiness? Do we eagerly anticipate standing before His throne with the redeemed from all generations and all nations worshiping Him eternally?

As you listen to this magnificent 18th Century hymn, please think about Jesus as the King He is. Let the lyrics direct your thoughts to His unparalleled majesty, as well as to His inexplicable kindness in bringing you to salvation.

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Saturday Sampler: July 16 — July 22

Critter Sampler 01Too bad Summer White’s Peterson and the Ghosts in the Machine (appearing in Sheologians) didn’t reach my in-box until after I published last week’s Saturday Sample, because Summer raises some extremely interesting angles to the controversy.

Examining one of the more prevalent false dichotomies among evangelicals, Mark McIntyre of Attempts at Honesty presents External versus Internal Focus to remind us that the Great Commission involves more than just evangelism and more than just discipleship.

Speaking of good reminders, Elizabeth Prata cautions us against Lucky Dipping by her post in The End Time. Her warning isn’t particularly novel, but it can’t be repeated too often.

Interestingly, Nikki Campbell of Unified in Truth also directs us toward proper Bible study techniques in the article Rightly Handling the Word of Truth (part 2). The principles laid out can help us in our own understanding of Scripture, and they can also assist us in discerning false teaching. Therefore this post deserves our careful attention.

Regular readers of Saturday Sampler know that One Hired Late In The Day is a blog I love to feature. This week’s article, The narrow gate, looks at the Lord’s claim that salvation excludes many people — including professing Christians who show no fruit of genuine conversion. Jennifer substantiates her points with a good variety of Scripture, making this an essay well  worth your time and attention.

Those of you following the Eugene Peterson fiasco might appreciate Amy Spreeman’s  Eugene Peterson’s error isn’t about gay weddings in Berean Research. I think she gets to the heart of the matter quite effectively.

Michelle Lesley weighs in with The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies. She raises excellent questions that this Southern Baptist Convention publishing company should have answered years ago.

As women, none of us should serve as the pastors that John Chester directly addresses in his Parking Space 23 article, Church 101. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the principles he puts forth, however. I especially appreciate his thoughts on the purpose of the church.

Am I including Elizabeth Prata’s The Approachableness of Jesus (Reprise) because she mentions John Adams? Maybe a little (I live near Quincy, MA). But seriously, she uses Adams’ struggle with royal protocol to highlight the graciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to receive us into His presence without  condition. Her post fills me with adoration for the King of kings!

Yes friends, it’s true. I’m really giving you two posts by Michelle Lesley on top of two by Elizabeth Prata this week. Michelle’s Throwback Thursday ~ Persecution in the Pew brings back an article Michelle wrote nearly two years ago about a sad form of persecution that I’ve personally experienced. As we stand for Biblical truth, we should expect pushback — even from professing Christians.

I’m new to Lara d’Entremont’s blog, Renewed in Truth Discipleship, so I can’t yet fully endorse it (I have a sneaking suspicion that I eventually will). Her post, 7 Mistakes You Might Be Making When Studying the Bible, certainly indicates that  she’s worth reading. See if you agree.

Tom at excatholic4christ writes Papal allies accuse American right-wing Catholics and evangelicals of joining together in “ecumenism of hate” to remind us that the Gospel is not about American politics. It’s an interesting read for many reasons.

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The Trouble With Emphasizing Our Woundedness

Michele SmithThere’s something comforting in hearing someone confess their flaws and vulnerabilities, isn’t there? If she’s as imperfect and broken as we are, she makes us feel better about ourselves. Therefore, we gravitate to her blogs, books and/or conferences, knowing that she’ll make us feel good. She’ll assure us that God thinks we’re awesome, that He wants to date us and that He validates all our feelings. As He met her in her woundedness, so He will meet us in ours.

Lately, I’ve confessed, not cute little flaws in my character, but outright sin. Maybe you feel that I’m more approachable because of my transparency. That’s flattering to me, I’ll admit, but it’s also a little troubling.

If I use self-disclosure as a means of attracting followers, the focus goes to me. That’s not going to benefit either me or my readers. It may make me feel important and influential, but it probably does little to build the kingdom of God. And the possibility that I’m building my personal empire rather than investing the abilities He gives me in advancing His kingdom terrifies me.

The apostle Paul gives a glimpse into how the Lord will judge believers. Please read the following passage with the understanding that it refers to God judging how to reward Christians, not about salvation. Jesus Christ has already determined salvation by His death on the cross. The judgment in this passage focuses on whether believers have used our natural and spiritual gifts for Christ’s honor and glory.

11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ~~1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (ESV)

(No, that’s not about Purgatory.)

When a Christian uses ministry to draw attention to herself, she’s failing to build on the foundation of the Lord Christ Jesus. Her fan base may believe she’s a personal friend to each one of them because she’s been so authentic about her brokenness. They wouldn’t mind having a cuppa with her while she empathized with their brokenness.

I have no problem with a Christian blogger, writer and/or speaker extending empathy to hurting women. Please don’t misunderstand me on that point. God’s Word specifically commands us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). But at some point, the empathy must lead to Christ. Sin must be confronted and the Gospel must be presented in its entirety. Above all, Jesus must be exalted.

So much so-called ministry these days revolves around making people feel good about themselves, prompting bloggers, writers and  speakers to parade their flaws and vulnerabilities without discretion. But many times their veneer of authenticity covers us a thirst for applause instead of a desire to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. And they forfeit eternal rewards.

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Saturday Sampler: July 9 — July 15

Heart Sampler 02Let’s begin this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler with An explanation of Martin Luther and the Reformation for children (and adults can watch, too!) courtesy of Tom and his excatholic4christ blog. Tom features a charming (and surprisingly accurate) animated video using Playmobile figurines to tell the story of Luther. Even if you think history is boring, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this video and Tom’s remarks.

Studying the Bible should change us as we apply what we’ve learned. Sometimes, though, we don’t  quite know how to make the application. Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word writes Make Your Bible Application Stick to provide helpful tips.

Celebrating a milestone in his blogging career, Tim Challies offers advice to his fellow bloggers in 5,000 Days. Whether you’re just starting to blog or you’ve blogged for several years, you will definitely learn something from Tim’s wealth of experience. And Tim, if you read this paragraph via pingback, congratulations on having produced 5,000 blog posts!

Prayer is difficult, especially when we don’t see immediate results. Praise the Lord for Elizabeth Prata’s encouraging article, Heaven is a busy place in The End Time. I appreciate the wonderful glimpse of the heavenly realm in reference to prayer that Elizabeth opens to us in her essay. I think you might also find it exciting.

Five “Fake News” Stories That People Believe about Early Christianity by Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder corrects common arguments refuting the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. I hope people who dismiss the importance of church history will read this piece and consider that knowing the past can help us correct flawed thinking in unbelievers.

The doctrine of the Trinity fascinates me. Sadly, I seldom write about it. While I certainly should change my silence on this wonderful topic, Jeanie Layne introduces it brilliantly in The Mysterious Trinity and Why It Matters, which appears in For The Church. Her work challenges me to devote more blog time to writing about God’s triune nature.

Readers of The Message paraphrase should read Denny Burk’s informative post, Eugene Peterson will always exist. I’m not totally surprised by this revelation about Peterson, but it intensifies my belief that Christians should not read The Message as their Bible. You’ll also want to read Burk’s follow-up article On Eugene Peterson’s Retraction.

In his piece for Parking Space 23, Jason Vaughn writes Sex as a Biblical overview of the Lord’s intention for this special activity between husband and wife. It’s a lengthy read, but well worth the time.

For those who believe that Calvinists don’t support evangelism and/or missions, please go to 5 Minutes in Church History and read Calvin & Missions. This transcript of Stephen Nichols’ interview with Michael Haykin dispels the widespread characterization of Reformed Christians by explaining John Calvin’s passion to bring the Gospel to lost people.

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Saturday Sampler: July 2 — July 8

Butterfly SamplerWhat a wonderful way to begin the week! Sunny Shell, in her Abandoned to Christ blog, writes #PsalmSunday: Psalm 48:10-11 as a brief, but powerful, devotional on why we should rejoice over God’s judgments. She gives us good food for thought with this one!

As Americans celebrate Independence Day, Clint Archer’s Heavenites: Our True Citizenship in The Cripplegate puts patriotism in its proper perspective. Loving America has its place, but Christians may want to rethink how closely we align ourselves with this present world.

They say history repeats itself. The Reformation 500 blog demonstrates this principle through its post Jesus Overthrows a Corrupt Priesthood.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day consistently produces outstanding blog posts, but Is it normal to feel like I’m sinning more? easily ranks among her best. She deals with a common fear that few Christians dare not ask out loud.

Make time to read Does Abstinence Teaching Really Promote Purity? by Aimee Byrd of Housewife Theologian. She takes the responsibility of sexual purity way beyond external behaviors. Doesn’t that approach remind you of something Jesus would do? Anyway, her angle on teaching purity can apply both to young teens and those of us who have been married for years.

Using the life of Solomon as an example, Jim Elliff of For The Church issues the warning, Don’t Just Tweet Your Proverbs to those of us who are in the latter stages of life. Younger people, however, also need to consider his admonition. Praise God for His faithfulness in bringing this piece to my attention.

John and I enjoy Christian podcasts. Because our disabilities limit our church involvement, we appreciate being able to augment the Sunday sermons our pastor preaches with sound teaching from men like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Mike Abendroth and Alistair Begg. Yet we understand that Man (Or Woman) Cannot Live on Podcasts Alone, as Courtney Reissig of The Gospel Coalition Blog helps us see. Unless physical limitations (such as those John and I have) prevent you from active participation in your local church, please don’t depend on podcasts as your primary source of spiritual nourishment.

Providentially, a brief teaching in Biblical Woman offers encouragement to those of us who actually have been relegated to the sidelines. How Do You See the Difficulties in Your Life comments on Philippians 1:12-19 to redirect or perspective on our limitations.

In Hanging on to the Life Ring Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life shows us how to survive the flood of false teaching that engulf present-day evangelicalism. Ladies, please don’t overlook this one!

Scripture-twisting is epidemic among professing Christians, and the 4th of July can bring some examples out of the woodwork. Michelle Lesley demonstrates this problem in her post, Top Ten 4th of July Twisted Scriptures. Dearest sisters in Christ, please remember to read verses in their proper context before you apply them to 21st (or 18th) Century America.

I’ve confessed before that I battle the sin of anger. Tim Challies brings much needed conviction to me with his article, Angered At and Angry With. He approaches the topic from a different perspective than usual, which makes it all the more interesting.

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