An Unexpected Perk Of Disability

When the phone rang before 6:30 a.m. Monday, I knew my PCA was calling out. She had a serious family emergency that required her presence. I’d been without a regular PCA all weekend, and spent Sunday in bed to accommodate my girlfriend’s Mother’s Day schedule (I deeply appreciate her for filling in on Mother’s Day to keep me clean), so I felt a little disappointed Monday. It took until 10:30 to locate a backup PCA.

Usually, situations like this make me grumble. Since I can’t use my hands, being in bed means I can’t type or read. John has to call around for backup help because I can’t operate a phone. I just lie in bed, aware that I’m physically as helpless as a newborn baby.

Times when PCAs call out or just plain don’t show up remind me of my total dependence on other women. Instead of congratulating myself on my writing and artistic abilities, my days stuck in bed confront me with the actual extent of my disability.

Those confrontations are an answer to prayer.

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Flashback Friday: What Can I Say About The Gospel That Hasn’t Already Been Said?

Originally Published June 21, 2019:

cfce9-crossofresurection

Lately, evangelicals have been telling us that social justice is a “Gospel issue.” A recent comment on one of my blog posts suggested that the Gospel teaches us to have unity despite theological differences (a point worthy of its own article). These sentiments, as well as similar sentiments I’ve heard throughout the years,  prompt me to think that we need periodic reminders of what the Gospel actually is.

Most of you may decide not to read this article. Why waste time reading about something so basic? Do I have new insights into the Gospel? Perhaps a fresh take on it? Can I present it in a creative manner that makes it more interesting? More relevant?

No, I can’t. As a matter of fact, adding to the Gospel would lead me to damnation (Galatians 1:8). I have no interest in dressing it up for the purpose of making it more appealing and/or entertaining.

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Flashback Friday: The Gospel Can’t Be Shared Often Enough

Originally posted August 28, 2010:

Heavenly Cross

No matter how long, or how deeply, we walk with the Lord, we never outgrow the need to hear that Jesus Christ took our place on that cross, shedding His innocent blood in payment for our sins. As we mature in Him, of course we will pay attention to many other issues that Christians must face, as well we should. But we must keep the Gospel central in our hearts and minds as we glorify the Lord for His grace in saving us.

Some of you might disagree with this assessment.  You might even show me Hebrews 6:1-3.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (ESV)

Of course, that passage actually refers to professing Christians in the First Century who wanted to return to Judaism while still identifying as Christians. By no means is the writer suggesting that believers reach a point at which we no longer need reminding that Jesus died for our sins, rose again and saves those who repent and believe in Him.

Yes, most of my readers know the Gospel. Some may not, but the majority of you do. However, ladies, none of us can hear or read it too often. We all need to remember that we are saved, not because of anything we’ve done, but because Jesus Christ offered Himself to bear the wrath of God that rightfully belonged to us.

The apostle Paul reiterates the Gospel in almost all of his epistles. As much as I’d like to take you through each reference, time dictates that I limit myself to just one.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. ~~Romans 5:6-11 (ESV)

Did you notice that Paul addresses this passage to Christians? He preaches this very rudimentary message to people who have already experienced God’s saving grace, even though this passage can definitely be used in evangelism. Evidently the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to remind the Roman Christians of the Gospel, despite the fact that they had already been saved.

Remembering the basic Gospel keeps us humble as we recall the staggering weight of our sin and then the enormous beauty of God’s grace. When we allow other points of doctrine to relegate the Gospel to the background, we can easily start patting ourselves on the back. We begin secretly thinking of ourselves as God’s little darlings, even supposing that He saved us because we were worthy of salvation.

The Gospel redirects the praise and honor back to Christ. As we recount His grace in shedding His innocent blood for us, we can’t resist praising Him. We marvel that such a holy God would condescend to sinners like us.  Indeed, each time we think about Him on the cross, paying the price for our rebellion against Him, we adore Him all the more!

Finally, we should realize that we will spend eternity worshiping Him as the Lamb slain for us.

And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!” ~~Revelation 5:6-12 (ESV)

If the Gospel will be proclaimed throughout eternity, what makes us think that we’ve grown beyond the need to hear it now?

We can never hear the Gospel too often! Let’s cherish it now, knowing that we’ll cherish it forever.

Flashback Friday: Where Do We Find Assurance Of Salvation?

Originally published July 20, 2017:

Broken Heart Cross

If 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.

Remember Who You Were

Take a minute to think about the power of the Gospel in your life. Think about how Jesus rescued you from an eternity in hell and liberated you from slavery to sin.

The longer we’ve been Christians, the easier it becomes to forget how desperately we needed salvation, it seems to me. We get involved in whatever ministry God calls us into, and sometimes those ministries can make us feel pretty prideful. Over the years, memories of life before Christ dim a little… or a lot. Oh sure, we can give our testimony when asked, but often we word it in such a way that we present ourselves, rather than Jesus, as the heroes. And then we dwell upon all the wonderful things we’ve done for the Lord.

Certainly, we don’t want to go on and on describing our sinful lives prior to our conversions. Reliving sinful memories usually caters to our flesh, both by arousing old emotions in us and by distracting attention away from Jesus. As a new Christian, I’d frequently hear about my friends detail their past involvement in drugs, sex and alcohol, tacking on hasty comments about Jesus turning their lives around. I’d often wonder if I was genuinely saved, since I lacked such a sordid past. For years, I exaggerated my dabbling in astrologically, just to create a sense of contrast. Wallowing in our pasts, however, doesn’t really give the glory to God.

That said, Scripture indicates that we need to remember enough of who we were apart from Christ that we continually rejoice in His saving grace. Consider this familiar passage from 1 Corinthians:

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What Cerebral Palsy Teaches Me About God’s Grace

Until recently, having Cerebral Palsy was little more than a nuisance to me. It always rather shocked me to hear people refer to me as having a severe case. Although I obviously knew that I can’t walk, use my hands or speak clearly, I focused on all my abilities and accomplishments to such a degree that I saw little distinction between myself and others. School and church friends pretty much included me in all their activities, allowing me to feel as if I had a sizeable amount of control in my life. Looking back, I’m forced to acknowledge that I developed quite a sense of pride in my apparent normalcy.

Lately, circumstances have changed my perception of my control. Possibly due to the current health and economic mayhem overtaking the world right now, I’m having trouble getting a weekend Personal Care Attendant, and my weekday PCA often has legitimate reasons for having to call out. The Lord always provides help at least once a day, but sometimes it means I can only get up to use the bathroom. Snowstorms especially confine me to bed, leaving me feeling helpless and vulnerable,

That vulnerability makes me wonder why I struggle so much with the sin of pride.

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So Much More Than A Pretty Piece Of Jewelry

Like many Christian women, I wear a pendant shaped like a cross. It’s a pretty silver thing — slightly fanciful, but nothing ornate. Truth be told, it’s a bit bigger than it should be, making me look a bit like a nun. One of John’s Avon customers ordered it years ago, but decided she didn’t want it, so John offered it to me. I’ve worn it for several years because I like identifying myself as a Christian.

Cross shaped pendants really are pretty, don’t you think? That fact is sort of bizarre, considering that execution by crucifixion was one of the cruelest ways to put even the vilest criminal to death. Some critics of using it as jewelry argue that we might as well wear little gold and silver replicas of electric chairs around our necks. Grudgingly, I see their point. When I think about the gruesome realities of the crucifixion process, it does seem a bit barbaric to turn the cross into a fashion accessory.

In an article on the Learn Religion website, Marcy Fairchild explains The Definition of Crucifixion, an Ancient Method of Execution. If you’ve never read about the things crucifixion entails, her article outlines it delicately but accurately, so I’d strongly encourage you to take a minute to read through it before continuing with this post.

You can see the inhumanity of crucifixion in Ms. Fairchild’s post, and you probably wince at the thought that the sinless Lord endured such physical pain and degradation. Wincing is definitely an appropriate response to the barbaric execution of the One Who created the universe, I daresay! Never has there been a miscarriage of justice as extreme and unfounded! Jesus did nothing to deserve the death of a criminal, and even Pilate (who sentenced Him to death) knew it.

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I Can’t Get Away From Peter!

As before, John is typing at my dictation. We are still trying to get a morning Personal Care Attendant so that I can gradually work up to being in my chair all day, but so far our efforts aren’t yielding results. We would ask for your prayers as we continue looking. We also thank those of you who have sent gifts through Paypal — I had worried that you had given much more than we needed, but I have used some of your donations to pay for advertising. Please continue praying that the right person will answer our ads so that I can get up and start typing blog posts on a more regular basis.

Praise God that our DVD player accommodates Youtube! As I lie in bed I can watch sermons and teachings by such people as John MacArthur, Sinclair Ferguson, and the late R.C. Sproul. I appreciate the opportunity to listen to solid Bible teaching from great men. In addition, we can live stream Sunday services and Wednesday night Bible Study from our own church, keeping us connected with the fellowship there.

During these months, I’ve listened to teaching on a wide variety of topics ranging from eschatology to personal holiness to the assurance of salvation. Each teaching has been encouraging and convicting, increasing my understanding of the Bible and God’s calling on my life. But in all these teachings, one incident from the earthly life of Jesus pops up repeatedly: Peter’s great confession that Jesus is the Christ and Peter’s immediate attempt to dissuade Him from predicting His crucifixion.

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The Roarings Of Woke Evangelicals

More and more, evangelicals demand all manner of social justice. The predominant issue is reparations for racial inequality, but the umbrella also covers women’s rights and LBGTQ concerns. The Black Lives Matter crusade is actually a cleverly marketed program to transform the culture into a Marxist society.

People are buying it because they’ve ignored history to the point of not understanding that socialism really amounts to communism, and communism is infinitely more oppressive than the alleged systemic racism and binary patriarchy of our present culture.

Although it troubles me that non-Christians embrace this velvet gloved Marxism, I can understand how they fall into such deception. It bothers me to a far greater extent that evangelicals (even some within the Reformed camp) have jumped on various corners of this bandwagon, many going so far as to claim social justice as a Gospel issue.

I thought of this dangerous false teaching as I worked through Psalm 74 this morning.

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For Even Me!

It’s good to face up to the severity of our sin. Sadly, few churches these days teach much about human depravity. Efforts to bolster self-esteem minimize any mention of sin in favor of emphasizing our righteousness in Christ. We nod in agreement that Jesus died for our sins, rarely seriously thinking of ourselves as sinners.

But those of us who actually do understand the depth of our wretchedness run the danger of not speaking enough about God’s grace. This failure is ironic, since our conviction of sin should enable us to have a deeper appreciation of His grace.

What could be more joyful than knowing that the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches even me? How can I resist praising His Name when I think about His grace being broader than the scope of my transgressions, making me God’s dear child? The matchless grace of Jesus fills me with such joy that I want to magnify the precious Name of Jesus!

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