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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Aren’t You Glad He Never Leaves Us?

This past week, I encountered people who were seriously hurting. Sadly, they aren’t Christians, and respond very little when John and I try talking to them about the Lord. It hurts to see them in such emotional pain, especially knowing that they reject the One Who could carry them through their trials.

It makes me appreciate the Holy Spirit, Who stays with me through good times and bad. My attitude, of course, doesn’t always reflect an awareness of His presence, but He doesn’t let my lack of faith limit His faithfulness to me. He proves Himself dependable time after time! And He assures me, through Scripture, that He will actually use my trials to produce His holiness in me.

Today’s hymn seems appropriate after a week of weeping with those who weep. Whether you weep or rejoice, I pray that it will encourage you to remember His loving presence in your life.

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Calvin’s Repudiation Of Personal Revelations

Discernment BibleIn writing about the Reformers each Tuesday, I’ve sought to emphasize their commitment to God’s Word. Present-day evangelicals, for reasons I don’t fully understand, have moved away from the idea of relying on Scripture as the sole means of hearing from the Lord, and instead pursue mystical experiences of direct communication with Him. The Reformers would have found such expectations puzzling.

John Calvin, as a matter of fact, directly refuted the concept of God speaking to anyone apart from His Word. Consider the following quotation of Calvin’s writing on the topic of Scripture’s authority:

Since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only record in which God has been pleased to consign His truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized unless they are believed to have come from heaven as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them.

As far as Calvin was concerned, the thought of God speaking in any way other than Scripture shouldn’t even be entertained. He insisted that the Lord had spoken with full authority in His Word, and therefore believers could trust that written record of His truth.

But Calvin didn’t stop there in his repudiation of personal revelations. With boldness that would make a modern discernment blogger blush, he unapologetically equated the practice with outright heresy!

The fanaticism which discards the Scripture, under the pretense of resorting to immediate revelations is subversive of every principle of Christianity. For when they boast extravagantly of the Spirit, the tendency is always to bury the Word of God so they may make room for their own falsehoods.

I doubt John Calvin would show much tolerance in a room full of 21st Century evangelical women off-handedly talking about things they believe God told them. But then, he lived in an age that cherished the Bible, having seen the Roman Catholic Church persecute (and often execute) men and women for simply owning a Bible in their own language. He valued Scripture too much to see its authority supplanted by claims of personal words from the Lord.

According to Calvin, such personal words “buried” the Word of God. Hadn’t the Reformers just excavated that same Word of God that had been buried under Roman Catholic tradition and papal authority for centuries leading up to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses? Why, in so short a time, would Calvin acquiesce to anyone allowing Scripture to then undergo a second burial? And wouldn’t a burial under something as subjective as personal mysticism (which might easily be attributed to too much wine or not enough sleep) be even worse?

Calvin’s words elevating Scripture over personal spiritual experience must echo through our minds today. Like so many aspects of the 16th Century Protestant Reformation, they must remind us to treasure the Bible as God’s Word — His only Word — to His people. They must remind us not to bury such a incomparable treasure under the filthy vestiges of subjective experience.

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In Praise Of The Trinity

In these past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Trinity. Actually, my prayers increasingly celebrate all three Persons, focusing on each of their respective offices and functions. It’s been kind of exciting, and kind of fun, to pray with such a view of God in His various Persons.

The hymn I have chosen for today gives a vivid portrayal of God in each of His Persons, and I simply love the rich theology! As you listen, I pray that you will grow in your appreciation of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

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Saturday Sampler: March 19 — March 25

Flower SamplerContinuing her series in Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. writes Learn to Discern: Who Do You Follow? She raises several important points that women should seriously consider as we pray to develop our discernment .

Unbelief doesn’t need one more miracle says Jennifer at One Hired Late in the Day. I’d been considering writing a similar article, but I really couldn’t improve on hers. If you want a solid explanation of the doctrine of justification, Jennifer’s blog post certainly gives it clearly.

“Authentic” seems to be the latest buzzword among evangelicals. In Has “Be Authentic” Replaced “Be Holy”? Rebekah Womble explains what postmodern people mean by authenticity, contrasting their understanding of the characteristic with the holiness that Christ calls us to practice.

Dinitatians typically believe in the Father and the Son, but not the Holy Spirit. In his blog post, Are Cessationists Dinitatians? Eric Davis of The Cripplegate refutes the popular notion that non-Charismatics don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. I love his list of 20 things Cessationists believe about the Holy Spirit.

Do you sometimes wonder what you should pray in praying for your pastor? Steve Altroggie, blogging on The Blazing Center, enumerates 8 Prayers You Should Regularly Pray For Your Pastor to offer us good direction in the matter.

John Ellis’ article, How NOT to Argue Online in adayinhiscourt convicted me. But it also encouraged me in arguing my case in ways that honor the Lord .

Responding to one of Beth Moore’s recent Tweets, Elizabeth Prata writes How does the Holy Spirit lead us? in her blog, The End Time. Her essay is lengthy, admittedly (and perhaps could have been broken into two separate ones), but her point is so crucial to Christian women that I strongly recommend it as essential reading.

In Don’t Get Your Theology from Movies, Michelle Lesley explains why even Movie Subscription Services that advertise themselves as Christian fail at helping us negotiate life’s issues. I’ve never seen anyone address this matter quite this comprehensively before, but Michelle does an excellent job.

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Saturday Sampler: February 5 — February 11

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Writing a guest post for Pulpit and Pen, Dr. Jeff Hagan explains How NOT To Follow the Holy Spirit. Isn’t it sad that, in a time when technology has made the Bible more accessible than ever, we still need articles like this?

Please don’t miss The Five Tests of False Doctrine by Tim Challies. His blog post provides an excellent grid for practicing Biblical discernment.

Leslie A. at Growing 4 Life writes Learn to Discern: Introduction to inaugurate her new series on discernment. I appreciate her balanced, Biblical approach to this topic, and look forward to reading her insights. I’ll be interested to see how her series complements the one Tim Challies is writing.

I regret my neglect of Pastor Gabe’s Blog last week. Gabe Hughes writes Examining the Worship Song “Above All” with such theological accuracy that I just have to include it in this week’s Sampler.

Although I have problems with the “live the Gospel” mentality, I also understand that, as Christians, our behavior must line up with our professed beliefs. So John Ellis’ article, Why Are  Christians Bad Tippers? in PJ Media, made me both sad and angry. As Christians, we’ve got to do better for the sake of the Gospel.

For those of you who mingle psychology with Christianity, please prayerfully consider Rebekah Womble’s blog post, Guilt and Forgiveness: Why We Need Both in Wise In His Eyes. She well demonstrates the corrupting influence that psychology has on evangelicals, as well as the Biblical response to guilt.

The Cripplegate includes Battalogeo & Heavenly Prayer Language, in which Eric Davis thoughtfully discusses the Charismatic practice of speaking in tongues as a private prayer language.  This article may trouble Charismatics. Hopefully, they’ll be troubled enough to seriously study the Scriptures on this matter.

Inadequate Understanding of God #1: Why did He make things? launches Jennifer’s new series on One Hired Late In The Day. In this initial installment, Jen looks at God’s real purpose in creating the heavens and the earth.

Do you belong to a good church? Over on Parking Space 23, Greg Patterson gives us Marks of a Good Church to help us evaluate our home church by Biblical standards. The church John and I belong to more than passes the test!

 

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Th Distraction Of Psychology

dark-crossWhen evangelicals started blending psychology into theology back in the 1980s, they subtly shifted the Gospel’s emphasis from the Lord Jesus Christ to human beings. Okay, problems started before that point, particularly as a result of Pentecostal and Charismatic teaching, which unapologetically centers on personal (and therefore subjective) experience. But the advent of “Christian” psychology definitely made things a lot more narcissistic than they were.

I confess to still struggling with residual narcissism in my relationship with the Lord. I admit that fact with great shame and embarrassment, accepting ultimate responsibility for my self-centered attitude toward Christ. But, while understanding that God holds me completely responsible for this sin, I believe He will also hold accountable those who try to integrate the two disciplines.

Attempts to infuse human philosophy into Christianity didn’t begin with the 20th Century, of course. If you follow my Tuesday series on the Reformation, for example, you’ll see how the Roman Catholic Church corrupted itself by fabricating doctrines that had absolutely no basis in Scripture. Going further back, my   Monday series on Jude has shown that false teachers even infiltrated the First Century Church.

The apostle Paul warned the Colossian church against ideas that compete with the purity of the Gospel.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. ~~Colossians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Psychology, especially when couched in evangelical terminology, appeals to our fleshly senses as counselors promise to give us deeper understanding of ourselves. Typically, they work on raising our self-esteem by explaining that our sin patterns come from involuntarily responses to our environment.

Psychologists would likely attribute my anger, for instance, to behavior I learned from my dad. Admittedly, Daddy did use anger to control my sister, inadvertently teaching me by example that anger helps me get my way, but the real source of my anger is  the fact that I’m a born sinner. Years of psychological counseling might raise all sorts of interesting speculations about my relationship with Daddy, some of which might even be true, but the anger would remain. In fact, the counseling would provide a convenient excuse for   my tantrums.

Conversely, the Gospel tells me that my anger exposes the depravity of my heart. My anger condemns me as a sinner, highlighting my need for a Savior. By His grace, Jesus bears the penalty for my sin of anger and His Spirit teaches me to control my tantrums by obeying His Word. It’s not comfortable, but neither is it complicated.

Whether or not my father’s example encouraged me to practice anger as a means of  gaining control really doesn’t matter. And dredging up memories (some of which would probably be false) would only make me more preoccupied with myself. The answer comes as I focus on Christ, desiring to behave in a manner that honors and glorifies Him.

Psychology, like other human philosophies, directs our attention to ourselves. We may dress it up to appear “Christian,” but that dressing up doesn’t change the truth that it keeps people self-centered. On the other hand, the Gospel turns us to our merciful Savior, reminding us that our lives belong to Him. We can’t afford self-centered distractions.

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