Saturday Sampler: December 3 — December 9

penguin-sampler

Let’s begin with Pastor Colin Smith’s encouraging post, Three Ways Your Faith is Tested When God Says “No” in Unlocking the Bible. Drawing from God’s refusal to allow David to build the Temple, Smith explains ways that personal disappointment can actually develop our maturity in Christ.

The Santa Claus dilemma always catches Christian parents this time of year. You young moms out there might appreciate reading The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus? by Michelle Lesley. I like her Biblical and practical approach, especially in preserving the fun of Christmas without lapsing into sin or doctrinal error.

Andrew Gutierrez, in an article aimed primarily at youth leaders in The Cripplegate, admonishes us Thou Shalt Not Create Little “Christian” Narcissists. I include it here because all of us struggle with narcissism, and consequently would benefit from applying the principles that Gutierrez sets forth.

In the present climate of accusations against public figures, even pastors are subject to scrutiny. As Tim Challies demonstrates in Do Not Admit a Charge Against an Elder, Except..., churches have guidelines for disciplining their leaders in the pages of Scripture. Don’t miss this balanced and Biblical treatment of a crucial matter in today’s church.

Once again, Erin Benziger nails it with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Pride in her Do Not Be Surprised blog. She has a gentle, but firm, caution for those of us in the Reformed camp that needs to be heeded.

In this season of giving, Lesley A. of Growing 4 Life encourages us to continue Serving All, All the Time. It’s refreshing to come across an essay elevating the practical application of God’s Word.

What Do We Really Know about the Three Wise Men? asks Mark Ward in his article for the Logos Software Blog. He uses this question from his own children to give us a practical lesson in separating fact from tradition as we interpret familiar Scriptures.

Writing for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson directs our attention to A Christmas Song that Doesn’t Belong … But Does. He does more than simply informing us of some hymn writing trivia (although that’s quite fascinating in and of itself); he causes us to rejoice in all of Christ’s promises to bring salvation.

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Higher Than The Supreme Court And Longer Lasting Than Wedding Cakes

Same Sex Marrriage

When the United States Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage on June 26, 2015, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there would be implications on religious liberty as a result.  I believe the very point of demanding marriage for a segment of society known for its astronomical rate of promiscuity had more to do with forcing people to approve of homosexuality than with equality. Furthermore, I believe a primary objective of LBGTQ activists centers on coercing Christians to renounce the Biblical standards of sexuality.

As I type this blog post, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding a Christian baker in Colorado who, wanting to be consistent with his religious convictions, declined to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple. While I’d love to see the Court rule in favor of the baker, I expect them to chip away his First Amendment rights. I also expect an overall rise in public hostility toward Christians who dare to take the Bible seriously.

That hostility has actually been simmering for quite some time, and it’s not exclusive property of the LBGTQ activists. Although I do believe responsible Christians must avoid conspiracy theories like the plague, I do understand that Scripture teaches us to expect increasing opposition as we draw closer to Christ’s return.

In reading Psalm 2 recently, I thought about the world’s derisive attitude toward Christians.

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.” ~~Psalm 2:1-3 (ESV)

Verse 3 captures the prevailing animosity that the movers and shakers of 21st Century American culture (as well as Canadian and much of European culture) bears toward Bible-believing Christians. They see the Biblical view of sex as being restrictive. They actively work to break the bonds of monogamous, heterosexual marriage, casting away the cords of obedience to God’s Law in favor of gratifying their lusts in whatever way they choose.

In so doing, of course, they must silence anyone and everyone who reminds them of God’s standard for sexuality. They must force compliance.  They  require Christians to celebrate sexual sin.

But reading on in Psalm 2, I noticed that any victories they appear to gain are temporary.  The Lord promises,  quite literally, that He will have the last laugh.

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.” ~~Psalm 2:4-6 (ESV)

Things will become more and more difficult for Bible-believing Christians as time goes on. Obedience will be costly.  But in the final analysis, the Lord still reigns, and those who rebel against Him now will eventually bow in submission to His authority. We should pray for His enemies to surrender before that time of judgment, so that they might know His mercy and grace. But we need not fear that His plan will be thwarted. King Jesus has been set on God’s holy hill.

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The Longings Of One Physically Disabled Woman

Commonwealth Mall Sept 2012 026Being a physically disabled Christian often requires responding graciously to assumptions that my able-bodied brothers and sisters in Christ make. One friend envied all the extra time I have to study God’s Word (never mind that everything takes longer and my Personal Care Attendant schedule limits the hours I have on my computer). Countless people think of me as a prayer warrior (never mind that I struggle more with prayer than any other spiritual discipline). And almost everyone assumes I wish I could walk (believe me, I’d much rather be rid of my speech defect).

But the assumption that most bothers me is that I can’t wait for my resurrection body.

Friends often talk about having foot races with me in heaven. They envision me pushing them around in wheelbarrows (as payback for all the times they pushed me around in my manual wheelchair), and they anticipate dancing with me or wearing me out on a celestial tennis court. And I appreciate their desire to see me free of my Cerebral Palsy, with all its muscle tension,  skeleton distortions and limitations. Of course my resurrection body will be a wonderful relief after my earthly lifetime as a quadriplegic.

I am looking forward to having a glorified body, but not so that I can run and leap and dance. As wonderful as those things may be, I believe they will take a very distant second to the real joy of heaven.

Revelation 5:6-14 is my favorite description of heaven. Please click this link and read it. You’ll find no mention of healed bodies or formerly disabled people playing tennis, but you most definitely will find multitudes praising the Lord Jesus Christ, centering all their attention completely on Him. You’ll find adoring declarations of His worthiness to receive honor and glory because of His work on the cross.

Our resurrection bodies certainly will be liberated from physical weaknesses, but that liberation has a purpose far beyond our physical comfort. Ultimately, our resurrected bodies will be free from the corruption of sin.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. ~~Romans 8:18-25 (ESV)

Recently, a friend of mine remarked to me that once we have our resurrected bodies we will be able to worship the Lord without mixed motives. No more wondering if others see how spiritual we look. No more trying to manipulate Him into giving us what we want. Our glorified bodies  will enable us to worship Him in total purity, with no sin polluting our praise.

I don’t really care about being set free from my disability in heaven,  though I know I’ll praise the Lord  for that blessing as well.  I eagerly await a resurrection body no longer infected by sin. A body free to praise the Lord Jesus Christ with pure motives. A body that can stand before His glory and holiness without flinching in shame.  I long to see His face.

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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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