Category Archives: Human Condition

Saturday Sampler: April 9 — April 15

Tulip Sampler 01Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center enumerates 9 Glorious Things The Resurrection Means To Us as a preparation for our Resurrection Sunday worship. Please enjoy this encouraging piece.

Having adopted New England as my  home, I’ve often felt saddened and troubled by this region’s departure from its Biblical foundation. So I appreciated Elizabeth Prata for writing New England’s mission drift in The End Time. She shows the destructive power of compromise.

While you’re on Elizabeth’s website, be sure to read O to see ourselves as others see us. Or maybe not… I think it’s one of her finest essays.

I’m not overly fond of Mortification Of Spin, and have been thinking about canceling my subscription. But Todd Pruitt’s article, Bit-O-Vinegar on his 1517 blog, has made me reconsider. He encourages people like me who tend to be less than gentle about confronting error.

Over at Biblical Woman, Dorothy Patterson writes Ms. Independence Gets Married in response to one of her readers who married later in life (although it amused me, since I married at age 48, that her reader considered the late 20s marrying late). Patterson gives Scriptural advice that any bride should read.

On her blog, Wise In His Eyes, Rebekah Womble asks, Are Reformed Christians “All Head, No Heart”? She handles this common criticism with fairness and grace.

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Familiar, Horrible And Beautiful

Horrible Beautiful CrossSo much has been said about Christ’s death on the cross that many people, even those who passionately love the Lord, can sort of glaze over. A good expose on Beth Moore would be more welcome right now, we secretly think.

A lot of our weariness with Good Friday blog posts, sermons and what have you results from familiarity with the story. We’ve read the accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John  countless times, almost so often that we can recite the details effortlessly (and without much thought). As the saying goes, “familiarity breeds contempt.”

But perhaps Good Friday also bothers us because it confronts us with the horrible truth that our sin nailed Jesus to the cross.  The more we read about the beatings, mockery and the physical anguish of crucifixion the Lord endured, the more we want to distance ourselves from the whole mess. Surely our sin can’t be that bad!

Surely it is!

Like it or not, ladies, even the Old Testament points to Christ’s crucifixion as the only means of atonement. Over 600 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah predicated that Messiah would suffer for the sins of the people.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. ~~Isaiah 53: 4-6 (ESV)

When we look at the cross, we see our sin. And, since our pride wants to flatter us that we are actually good people who simply make a few mistakes here and there (hey, doesn’t everybody?), we prefer to ignore the implications of Christ’s crucifixion.

But as we acknowledge our sinfulness, the cross becomes beautiful, even in its horror. It reveals a Savior Who loves us enough to bear the wrath of God that we deserve! As Christians, we cherish the cross as Christ’s loving atonement for our transgressions against Him.

The crucifixion story, for all its familiarity, never ceases to fill Christians with both sorrow and joyous wonder. As we await the glories of Resurrection Sunday, we can praise the Lord for taking our sin upon Himself, setting us free from its consequences. As we rejoice in His inexplicable love toward us, the accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of Good Friday never get old.

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Filling In For His Own

At The CrossHe approached me just minutes before church stated (and therefore a scant 20 minutes before Sunday School) to inform me that he didn’t feel like teaching that day. He and I, along with another lady, rotated teaching the Junior High Sunday School class, each of us teaching every third Sunday. As lead teacher, I also served as the substitute when either of the others couldn’t (or in this instance, wouldn’t) teach.

Dictionary.com defines the word “substitute” this way:

 
noun
1.

a person or thing acting or serving in place of another.
2.

(formerly) a person who, for payment, served in an army or navy in the place of a conscript.
3.

Grammar. a word that functions as a replacement for any member of a class of words or constructions, as do in He doesn’t know but I do.
 
verb (used with object), substituted, substituting.
4.

to put (a person or thing) in the place of another.
5.

to take the place of; replace.
6.

Chemistry. to replace (one or more elements or groups in a compound) by other elements or groups.
 
verb (used without object), substituted, substituting.
7.

to act as a substitute.
adjective
8.

of or pertaining to a substitute or substitutes.

9.

composed of substitutes.
 

The Bible teaches that, in dying for the sin that would rightly condemn you and me, Jesus willingly died in our place! Scholars refer to His act as the “substitutionary atonement” to emphasize that He accepted the punishment for crimes that we (being born sinners) commit against God. This article on the GotQuestions.org website begins with the following summary of the doctrine:

The substitutionary atonement refers to Jesus Christ dying as a substitute for sinners. The Scriptures teach that all men are sinners (Romans 3:9-18, 23). The penalty for our sinfulness is death. Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That verse teaches us several things. Without Christ, we are going to die and spend an eternity in hell as payment for our sins. Death in the Scriptures refers to a “separation.” Everyone will die, but some will live in heaven with the Lord for eternity, while others will live a life in hell for eternity. The death spoken of here refers to the life in hell. However, the second thing this verse teaches us is that eternal life is available through Jesus Christ. This is His substitutionary atonement.

Scripture supports the premise that Jesus died as our Substitute, as you’ll discover if you read the GotQuestions.org article for yourselves. I’d like to highlight just one of the Scriptures involved in this doctrine. I particularly like this two-verse passage because the second verse offers the practical implication of Christ dying the death that you and I deserve.

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. ~~1 Peter 2:24-25 (ESV)

Of course, we balk at the truth that, as born sinners, we actually deserve God’s wrath. For that reason  it’s difficult for us to grasp the fact that Jesus bore the horrible judgment that rightfully belongs to you and me. If you resist the truth that you’re completely incapable of earning God’s acceptance through your own efforts, I beg you to ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through the Bible.  Once He convinces you of your spiritual bankruptcy, you can rejoice that He went to the cross as your substitute!

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The Grace Of Absolute Truth

2th 3v5The continued exodus from Biblical Christianity doesn’t shock me as much as it used to, but it saddens me. Friends whom I once greatly respected as sterling examples of Christians, both for their doctrinal fidelity and their moral purity, have been embracing liberal theology and/or moving into blatantly sinful behavior patterns. A few, but only a very few, are honest enough to acknowledge that they aren’t following the Lord. Most, however, foolishly believe that He has led them to make these tragic choices.

“There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

There have been far too many times I’ve looked down my sanctimonious nose at erring friends, not so secretly congratulating myself that I would never go into sin like they did. Really? In my eagerness to judge them, I’d conveniently forget the times I’ve tried to rationalize certain beliefs, attitudes and behaviors with the Bible, knowing full well that I violated God’s standards.

At other times, I admitted my deviation from the truth, and seriously considered turning my back on Jesus in favor of following my selfish desires. Sometimes I still feel that way. No room for self-righteousness here!

But I always come back to the Lord, repentant and convinced that He is my only hope of salvation. You see, when all is said and done, I actually believe everything the Bible says. As a result, I believe I’d spend eternity in hell if I embraced my sinful desires in rebellion against Him.

I’d also miss the joy of fellowship with Him and His people. Sin just doesn’t offer the deep satisfaction of a right conscience before Him. Sacrificing my relationship with Christ for the transient pleasures of sin simply isn’t worth it. I’ve seriously tried to compromise my faith, and I’ve tried to abandon it altogether, but I’ve always come back to wanting the Lord and knowing that He is the Truth.

I can’t leave Jesus, even when I’d very much prefer going my own way, nor can I reassemble my understanding of Him to accommodate my rebellion. Despite the prevailing philosophy that all truth is relative, I am sure that Jesus is the Truth. His Word, the Bible, is absolute, and therefore not subject to personal interpretation. Simply stated, Jesus has a hold on me.

As I watch dear friends pervert Scripture and distort their lives, I must credit the Lord for keeping me anchored in Him. Why He hasn’t given me over to deception puzzles me. I can’t take credit for my steadfastness, though I’d like to believe I’m that much of a spiritual giant. Jesus keeps me following Him, however imperfectly, by convincing me that Truth is exclusively in Him.

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” ~~John 6:66-69 (ESV)

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A Sinful Disagreement

Open Bible 03A woman speaking at a retreat I attended years ago shocked me by stating: “I don’t agree with Paul concerning the roles of women.” Now, it’s one thing to dislike the gender roles delineated in Paul’s epistles, and I admit to struggling with the prohibition against teaching in terms of this blog. (I don’t know how many men read it, but I try to discourage them from doing so.)

In disagreeing with Paul, this speaker was actually disagreeing with Scripture. Her comment disturbed me then, and it has continued to disturb me throughout the years. The entire Bible, whether we like it or not, is God’s Word. As such, it claims authority over us and leaves no room for dissension.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

If God Himself has breathed out Scripture, then the gender roles it prescribes obviously reflect His intent for men and women. For that matter, the Word of God reflects His intent in regard to a wide variety of issues. When we elevate our opinions over Scripture, daring to disagree with certain parts, we betray our arrogance.

Let me clarify why I call it arrogance. If we don’t believe the Bible to be God’s Word, then we subjectively determine our own moral and ethical standards, thereby making ourselves God. And if we claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word, then any disagreement with its human writers is actually disagreement with God. Either position makes me shudder!

A friend of mine often says, “It’s not about what we think; it’s about what God says.” His maxim doesn’t mean (as some have misinterpreted) that Christians ought to disengage our intellect. On the contrary, studying Scripture and accurately applying its teachings in practical ways (such as a woman blogging about the things of the Lord) requires discernment, and discernment is an intellectual exercise. My friend’s point is that our opinions don’t matter as much as what God clearly says.

Yes, God says many things that I, in my flesh, really don’t like. It would feel good to support gay marriage, indulge in sex outside of marriage, brag about my “accomplishments,” spend money exclusively on myself, and be a woman pastor, but all those pursuits disregard Biblical instruction. How I feel about those matters must bow to the Lord’s wisdom. He is, after all, both Creator and King, having full authority to determine how things should function. How can a Christian possibly disagree?

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Perspectives In Titus: An Embarrassing Emblem

Titus 1 12I really  wanted to get through Titus 1:12-14 today,  understanding that most blog readers prefer a faster pace than I’ve been giving you. Alas, all weekend and today I’ve struggled physically with my typing,  so I managed only to make it through verse 12. I pray that the Holy Spirit will use my meager offering to deepen your understanding of  the need for Titus to build up the churches throughout Crete.

Let’s look at verse 12 in context before we begin analyzing it, just to keep ourselves from losing perspective.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ~~Titus 1:10-16 (ESV)

You’ll recall, hopefully, that Paul gave Titus rather explicit instructions on the type of men Titus should appoint to govern the  churches in Crete. Last Monday we started discussing the problem of false teachers infiltrating the island. Now Paul adds the corrupt condition of Crete’s inhabitants as a whole.

Barnes points out that Paul found problems with native Cretans as well as the Jewish false teachers. Possibly, the negative characteristics of the Cretans had rubbed off on the Jews.

The Cretans acknowledged their own reputation for lying. According to Jamieson, Fausset and Brown,  Paul here quotes “Epimenides of Phaestus, or Gnossus, in Crete, about 600. He was sent for to purify Athens from its pollution occasioned by Cylon. He was regarded as a diviner and prophet. ” First Century culture often regarded poets as prophets, so Epimenides may have been considered a prophet for that reason.

Epimenides accused the Cretans of being “always liars.” Vincent’s Word Studies  says that the Greek  word here translated “always ” means habitually. Their lying was so chronic that it became emblematic of their region, just as sexual immorality was emblematic of Corinth. Not exactly the best reputation. Barnes suggests that their moral deficiency went deeper than lying, as exemplified by the remainder of the quotation.

Crete didn’t have wild animals, so Epimenides used irony in calling the Cretans wild beasts  to illustrate their greed and savagery. Apparently, they seldom controlled their passions,  but instead used brute force to obtain whatever they wanted.

The term “lazy gluttons” referred to their self-indulgence. Paul used this idea in Romans 16:18 and Philippians 3:19. But their self-indulgence was made even worse by their laziness.  Clearly, the  selfish, undisclosed people of Crete needed godly elders who could pull them out of the sin that was so emblematic of their culture.

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He Said, “Look Mommy — I’m Wearing A Dress!”

glory-cloudA few days ago, someone told  me that her three-year-old godson met his mother when she came to pick him up from preschool, greeting her with the words, “Look Mommy — I’m wearing a dress!” Horrified, his mother asked him why he was in a dress. He pointed to his teachers and claimed, “Them gave it to me!”

“Oh no,” the teachers argued, “we gave him a choice. We want our children to use costumes to express themselves.”

My friend said that her godson, if he’s not telling the truth about something, normally changes stories when he’s later asked again. But this time, he firmly stuck to his narrative that the teachers made him wear a dress. Therefore, his parents believe that the school pressured him into wearing the dress, perhaps letting him “choose” between two or three dresses.

It turns out, as I suspected it would, that this little boy attends a preschool that accepts state monies. I pretty much believe that the purpose of giving him a dress was to desensitize him, as well as the rest of the children, to transgender issues.

I do believe public schools have a mandate to normalize LBGTQ orientations. Since Obergefell legalized same sex marriage just over two years ago (it seems like it’s been so much longer!) and Bruce Jenner declared himself to be a woman named Caitlyn, I’ve noticed a greater push to force Americans to embrace these sexual deviations wholeheartedly. And the best way to reach this goal, obviously, is to indoctrinate young children.

And people wonder why I so strongly advocate homeschooling?

As troubling as the attack on Biblical views of gender and sexuality is, however, I have confidence that the Lord has complete control. While He hates the sin engulfing our world today (and please, I mean much more than simply sexual sin), He’s allowing a rise in lawlessness to demonstrate our need for Him.

Is His Second Corning imminent? I hope so. Actually, I really believe it’s probable. But I also believe I would be presumptuous to make a dogmatic prediction. I can, however, assert that the Lord is using our collective sin as a judgment on our culture. Please see Romans 1:18-32 as substantiation for my position.

Certainly I reject the idea of coercing a three-year-old to cross-dress. If I was his mommy, he’d never set foot in that school again! But as reprehensible as the school’s actions were, I don’t wring my hands in helpless dismay. The Lord, even though He hates such perversion, remains completely sovereign. In His perfect time, He will bring His righteousness to us so that all creation will bow before Him, confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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