They Enjoy Their Own Cleverness

OpenBible John 1How many times have people ridiculed you for believing the Bible? Have they questioned your sanity or acted surprised that you believe serpents  speak and messiahs rise from the dead? Yeah, and you’re probably already bracing for such uncomfortable conversations at Thanksgiving gatherings. So maybe I can offer a little perspective to help prepare you for conflicts around the adult table.

Ladies, we’ll resume our Monday Bible Studies on 1 Corinthians 15 pretty soon. Before you accuse me of a non sequitur, hear me out. I started working through verse 35 this morning, and I had some immediate thoughts on it that made me think about the ways some non-Christians (particularly those who are openly belligerent) try to derail us when we share the Gospel with them. Look at the verse with me.

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (ESV) 

Okay, I didn’t get very far into my study today (I had a stressful situation last night that kept me from getting adequate sleep), so I don’t have as much of a handle on the verse as I will when we actually work through it. But the small amount of study I did reminded me that often people who raise objections to our beliefs honestly think they’re helping us understand why Christianity is intellectually untenable.

You’ll recall that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 in response to those who denied the doctrine of bodily resurrection. In the first 34 verses, the apostle provided legal evidence that Christ rose from the dead. Then he argued that Christ’s resurrection ensures the resurrection of believers. Verse 35 transitions to the rather childish challenge to prove the doctrine by giving specific details.

In other words, these skeptics think they’ve poked holes in Paul’s theology. They remind me of neighborhood kids who tried to prove that I was intellectually disabled by peppering me with impossible arithmetic questions that they themselves couldn’t answer.

“What’s 97,043 plus 32,017?” they ask.

I’d admit I didn’t know, and watch their smug grins steal over their little faces. With perhaps a little sadistic pleasure, I’d give them a minute to savor their cleverness before asking, “So what is 97,043 plus 32,017?”

Though I in no way recommend such a smart alec retort to non-Christians who fancy that their arguments blow holes in our Christian faith, I do want you to realize that they trust in their own cleverness. We must pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes the truth before they face the Lord in judgment. At that time, they won’t feel quite so clever.

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Disappointing Discoveries About God’s Will

God's Will

Before becoming a Christian, I gravitated toward various forms of fortune telling (usually for the purpose of knowing whether or not my romantic aspirations would be gratified). After my conversion, I ardently sought prophecy and “words from the Lord” that would help me determine His will for my life. There’s something in human nature that demands to know how our individual lives will unfold.

In my Bible reading this morning, I thought about the quest to know God’s will as I read Continue reading

Excuse Me, Could You Repeat That Please?

Repetitive BiblesSome may think John MacArthur’s current radio series on 2 Peter 1 inspired what I’m about to say. No. I’ve been thinking about this matter for a few months as I’ve watched some fellow bloggers put away their blogs.

I respect them for doing so because of health concerns and/or family commitments. Both are much higher priorities than blogging, and most readers understand that. The same goes for those who need to redirect their time and energy into serving God through their local churches.

It bugs me, however, when they add that they’ve said everything they can say. Sure, within our niche of Bible study and discernment, we can’t avoid repeating the same thoughts time and again. There’s only so much to say.

But over the past six weeks I’ve subscribed to a secular blog about blogging. Although I’m learning a lot from that blog (and have implemented some of its ideas), I’ve noticed Continue reading

According To Scripture: Study #3 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Generally, I prefer presuppositional apologetics to evidential apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics start from the premise that, since the Bible is the ultimate authority for faith and practice, Christians can make the case for Christ solely from its pages. But in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 (which we’ll study today), Paul augments his Scriptural substantiation for Christ’s resurrection by listing eyewitnesses who could testify to having seen the resurrected Lord.

Looking at these verses in context within the larger passage, we trace Paul’s progression from Scripture to eyewitnesses to his personal testimony.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. ~~1 Corinthians 15:5-7 (ESV)

Before we go over the eyewitnesses that Paul identifies, let’s briefly mention the witnesses he omits: the women. Liberal scholars often point to this omission as evidence of Paul’s supposed misogyny. Please don’t fall for such nonsense! Instead, remember Paul’s former position as a Pharisee. He understood that Jewish Law at that time disqualified the testimony of women. Therefore he builds his case by citing witnesses that everyone in First Century Corinth would consider credible.

The first witness Paul brings to his readers’ attention is Cephas (verse 5), better known as Peter. None of the commentaries I read explained why Paul singles Peter out here, so (although I admit to having a theory about this matter) it’s probably prudent not to speculate. Let’s be satisfied that Paul begins with Peter, whom Christians knew and respected.

The verse continues by stating that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. Since Judas had already committed suicide, this designation troubles some people. It needn’t. Even after Judas died, people commonly referred to Christ’s immediate disciples as the Twelve.

Verse 6 can be perplexing because the gospel writers never directly record a post-resurrection appearance to 500 people at one time. Yet commentaries agree that this event happened when He met the disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:10, Matthew 28:16-17). Jesus had already appeared to the Twelve in Jerusalem, but His main ministry had taken place in Galilee. Consequently He would have to go to Galilee to show Himself to His followers there.

Paul points out that many of those 500 witnesses were still alive and able to verify having seen the risen Christ. The Corinthians could easily interview those who were still living. Paul includes them as evidence that the resurrection wasn’t simply an idea that the apostles concocted.

Finally, in verse 7, Paul says that the Lord appeared to His half-brother James, and again to the apostles. Really, there isn’t much to say about this verse, other than to point out that James held a high position in the Jerusalem church. That being the case, he understandably would have been influential in testifying to Christ’s resurrection.

Paul’s appeal to these eyewitnesses certainly strengthens my faith that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. I marvel at His faithfulness to provide so much objective evidence proving His resurrection. Studying this passage encourages me to worship Him for making the resurrection irrefutable.

Has this study strengthened your faith? Or has it raised questions? The Comments Section here, as well as on The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page, offers you the opportunity to intact with each other, as well as with me, about each week’s study. I would honestly love reading your responses, and learning how the Lord uses His Word to deepen your worship of Him.

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A Stubborn Fact Of History And How It Causes Me To Worship The Lord

IMG_2034Boston’s role in the American Revolution has captivated my imagination since I moved to the Greater Boston Area almost sixteen years ago. Visiting historic sites and going on countless Freedom Trail walking tours has delighted me. And I’ve come to think of key figures like Abigail Adams, James Otis, John Hancock and Paul Revere as people I actually know.

Yesterday John and I went to Paul Revere’s grave marker at the Old Granary Buying Ground to attend a ceremony commemorating the 200th anniversary of his death. What a thrill! The ceremony included fife and drum music, a color guard from the USS Constitution (wearing period uniforms), three of Paul Revere’s descendants and the ringing of the bell (a bell Revere had cast) at King’s Chapel. Oh yeah, and remarks from the Masons of Massachusetts’ 89th Grand Master.

Sigh.

Prior to the program, my optimistic husband tried to soothe me with the thought that many men joined the Masons simply to advance their standing in the business community. They didn’t really get into it. We assured ourselves that, since Paul Revere was a Puritan, that must have been the case.

Not exactly (as a friend of mine says during his segments on Paul Revere in his Freedom Trail walking tours). The Grand Master told us that Revere served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts between 1794 and 1797.

I left the Granary feeling the same grief that I felt when I first learned that my beloved Abigail Adams embraced Unitarianism later in her life. I so want to imagine these people who founded our country to have been solid Christians, but (as John Adams famously said), facts are stubborn things. My Revolutionary heroes have tragic flaws.

Last night I thought a bit about my sadness over Paul Revere’s involvement in Freemasonry. Although it disappoints me, it also reminds me to worship only Jesus Christ. I  can appreciate — and even admire — Paul Revere, Abigail Adams and the others who took part in the efforts leading to America’s Independence.  They can still be my heroes. In some respects, dear Abigail can continue to be my role-model. But the Lord uses my knowledge of their false beliefs to protect me from idolizing them. For that kindness, I worship Him.

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Why Shouldn’t My Faith Inform My Politics (And Every Other Area Of My Life)?

Faith Informs Politics

Participating in a political argument at Thanksgiving doesn’t exactly demonstrate wisdom, so I hate admitting my folly. But one comment my relative made during that heated exchange has stayed with me in a positive way, causing me to reflect on how deeply the Lord influences how I think.

Of course, when she said, “Your faith informs your politics,” she meant it in a negative manner. As she saw it, I vote the way I do, not because I think through the issues for myself, but because the white evangelical establishment dictates my political opinions. Had I been sharper at that moment, I would have countered that her world of academia informed her politics. Missed opportunity!

I’ve thought a lot about her remark over the years, and I’ve concluded that my faith indeed should inform my politics. In fact, it should inform every area of my life. I don’t mean, as my relative insinuated, that I should mindlessly obey my pastor and elders as if they have some Orwellian control over me. I do mean, however, that the Lord has authority to show me how to align every area of my life (including my politics) with His revealed will in Scripture.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~~Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

As God’s Word renews my mind, I start seeing things like abortion, homosexuality, military actions and economics from a Biblical perspective. Occasionally, I’ll question positions that my pastor and elders take, and I’ll vote my conscience (a fact that would quite probably shock my relative), but I do my best to base my decisions on clear Biblical principles.

My faith really should inform every decision I make. If it doesn’t, I betray a lack of trust in God’s wisdom, if not a deliberate rebellion against Him. Essentially, I follow Eve in declaring that I know more than He does.  That His Word has no bearing on how I conduct my affairs.

In truth, I don’t want anything I do to be divorced from the clear teachings of Scripture. Every area of my life, and maybe especially my politics, absolutely must reflect the Lord’s priorities and principles rather than those of the world. My relative may dismiss my politics as  mindless obedience to my church if she wishes. But if God’s Word informs my politics and all other areas of my life, I know I can rest easy.

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