Saturday Sampler: May 13 — May 19

IMG_2187Andy Stanley continues to undermine the authority of Scripture, this time by teaching that Jesus and the apostles “unhitched” Christianity from the Old Testament. David Prince of Prince on Preaching refutes this ridiculous notion by writing A Response to Andy Stanley: Jesus and the Old Testament, What God has joined together, let man not separate.

For a more subtle response to Andy Stanley, wander over to The Cripplegate  to read Clint Archer’s post, Why Preach the Older Testament? Without mentioning Stanley directly, Archer clarifies why neither Testament should be “unhitched” from the other.

To demonstrate that Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice, Michelle Lesley draws from two instances in the life of King Saul to illustrate how churches in the 21st Century can disobey God even while thinking they worship Him. She makes a point worth considering.

Now I understand why the standard evangelical quip about God giving second chances rubs me the wrong way. Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another argues that God Doesn’t Give Second Chances by appealing to the Gospel and to God’s grace.

Refering to a Spurgeon quote that he saw on Twitter, Denny Burk has A word about criticism from anonymous sources that applies well in this age of social media. I’d been considering changing the name on my Twitter account from DebbieLynne Kespert to The Outspoken TULIP. Although The Outspoken TULIP is linked to my name, Burk’s article leads me to keep my real name, lest anyone think I’m leveling anonymous criticism when I confront worldly ideas.

I like Eric Davis’ post, Should I Stay Home from Church When Life Gets Hard? in The Cripplegate. It addresses the latest notion that emotional pain excuses people from corporate worship. It also admonishes pastors and elders to order church services around the Lord, explaining how doing so effectively ministers to all members of Christ’s body.

Leslie A admits it. It’s Not Just a Book! probably won’t be her most popular article on Growing 4 Life. But I agree with her that it’s probably one of the most important things she’s ever written. Therefore it saddens me that it won’t be popular.

Adding to my article on journaling (which I published Wednesday), Elizabeth Prata shares Thoughts on introspection and journaling in The End Time. She brings interesting insight into the discussion, causing me to wonder if more needs to be written about this topic.

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Friday Flashback: Opened Eyes And Ageless Words

This post originally appeared in The Outspoken TULIP in February of 2016. Its message continues to be relevant, giving me a desire to repost it today.

Bible Mask framedPsalm 119 extols the Word of God by using pithy couplets to illustrate its various effects on individual believers. I love the psalmist’s way of presenting various facets of Scripture. He reminds me of an expert jeweler carefully appraising a rare and exquisite diamond. Whenever I read this psalm, I gain a deeper appreciation for Scripture, knowing that it’s God’s way of revealing Himself to His people.

Several verses in this psalm have been meaningful to me throughout the years, and I wish I could write about each of them. But one verse stands out as the key, first to the psalm, but also to Bible reading as a whole.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law. ~~Psalm 119:18 (ESV)


The psalmist relied on the Holy Spirit, rather than his own intellectual abilities, to give him a clear understanding of Scripture. Notice his prayer for God to open his eyes, expressing his human inability to fully understand what God says. This dependence on God’s Spirit finds support in Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ~~1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (ESV)


When a regenerate believer comes to the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps him understand the text. Notice, however, that the Spirit doesn’t speak apart from or outside of the Word, but rather that He enables us to understand it. The Spirit doesn’t bury truth in the way Gnostic religions (that reserve esoteric knowledge for an elite group) do, but He recognizes that those who reject His authority over them simply won’t “get it.” Submission to Him gives us a willingness to accept His precepts.

Additionally, our dependence on the Spirit doesn’t excuse us from reading God’s Word in context. He won’t isolate a fragment of Scripture to give it a “personal meaning.” His Word may be veiled to those who have no intention of obeying it anyway, yet in it the Lord speaks clearly and says the same thing to all believers from every generation. What He said to the First Century Christians continues into the 21st Century unaltered, applying to each of us equally. No secrets. No private whispers.

Yet without the Spirit’s assistance, we can read Scripture only as another piece of literature. We may find certain portions beautiful and inspiring, but we’ll fall short of letting its words transform our thoughts and lives.

So, as I approach Scripture, I pray for God to open my eyes to the wonders of His Word, so that He can teach me to better love and obey Him. Certainly, I have a responsibility to use my intellect as I study, and I do my best to engage my mind by reading in context, taking notes and consulting commentaries. But as I do these things, I also ask Him to teach me, as He has taught believers through the ages, by opening my spiritual eyes. I trust Him to honor my prayer.

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Hoaxes Surrounding Christ’s Resurrection

He Is Risen

Being a known practical joker, I always enjoyed April Fool’s Day. I played some pretty good pranks over the years, having learned from a mother who took far too much pleasure in waking us up every April 1st with the proclamation of some fictitious catastrophe. (You’d think we would have caught on after a few years, right?)

Yesterday, however, I had no desire to play any April Fool’s jokes,  nor did anyone attempt to play one on me. The excitement of Easter, coupled with the first Sunday in months that weather allowed us to attend church, captivated my attention. I felt like worshiping the risen Savior, not like playing jokes on anyone.

Yet I thought a lot about hoaxes in relation to Christ’s resurrection throughout the day yesterday. Over the past two millennia, for instance, those who reject Christianity have often claimed that the resurrection was the most colossal hoax in history. According to Luke’s gospel, the disciples didn’t even believe the women who first discovered the empty tomb.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. ~~Luke 24:1-12 (ESV)

Notice verse 11. I can just picture the apostles rolling their eyes and muttering snide comments about women overreacting. Who were these dizzy dames trying to fool?

Obviously, Peter ended up verifying that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead, and he led the others in preaching the resurrection to the known world. Ten of those original apostles died gruesome deaths because they refused to recant their confidence that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and the apostle John suffered intense persecution. People simply don’t put their lives on the line like that for the sake of a hoax.

But a hoax indeed was perpetrated when Jesus rose from the dead. The Jewish authorities knew very well what had really taken place, but instead of repenting and trusting Christ as the Lord and Savior, they conspired to counter the truth with a mammoth hoax intended to keep the Jewish people from believing the Gospel.

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. ~~Matthew 28:11-15 (ESV)

How preposterous to think that Roman guards, who would be executed for failure to guard that tomb, would actually permit that cowardly bunch of disciples to fake a resurrection that they didn’t even believe would happen! Could there possibly be a more ridiculous hoax?

Sadly, to this day many people, including highly educated people, fall for that absurd little fabrication instead of believing the overwhelming evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The theory that the disciples stole His body is probably the greatest hoax of all time!

Rather than spending yesterday playing April Fool’s jokes, I celebrated the glorious truth that Christ the Lord is indeed risen. And I enjoyed this April 1st more than any April 1st I can remember.

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Saturday Sampler: March 18 — March 24

Three BunniesIf I comment on Even more than the watchmen of the night! by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time, I’d surely spoil it for you. But if you take time to read it, I promise that you’ll be glad you did.

Writing for Ligonier, W. Robert Godfrey examines The Word-less “Church” that permeates the evangelical landscape these days. Ignoring God’s Word has grave consequences that churches must recognize in order to responsibly honor the Lord Jesus Christ.

Unlocking the Bible features Pastor Tim’s Bible Q&A: What Should I Do If I Am Doubting the Goodness of God? Sometimes my sin causes me to question my salvation, and so Pastor Tim’s points offer the assurance I need.

Even though John Chester writes When Preaching Wears a Mask for pastors, I believe his thoughts can help all of us be discerning about the preaching we sit under. You’ll find this post on the Parking Space 23 blog.

“The issue of inerrancy is an issue of the integrity of God” according to Eric Davis of The Cripplegate. His article, How True is the Bible? — Inerrancy examines the trustworthiness of Scripture as the expression of God’s character. Yes, it’s a lengthy piece, but its length underscores the critical importance of the topic.

Yes! Emphatically YES! Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women hits the nail on the head with Throwback Thursday ~ The Daily Wonder of Easter. We need committed pastors, not creative ones. Thank you, Michelle, for reprising this essential essay.

Writing for Southern Equip (a blog produced by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Thomas Schreiner discusses Faith that moves mountains: What Jesus didn’t mean. He provides an excellent example of understanding Scripture in its correct context, as well as extricating familiar verses from popular misinterpretations.

Don’t miss Your Testimony Is Not The Gospel by the late R.C. Sproul on the Ligonier blog. His observations in this matter clarify what we should emphasize in our evangelistic efforts.

Normally I don’t link to anything posted prior to the dates listed in a Sampler title bar, and I can’t remember ever linking to a podcast. Andy Olson’s February 17 episode of Echo Zoe Radio, Costi Hinn: Defining Deception, causes me to make exceptions on both counts. Costi once ministered with his uncle, Benny Hinn, but has since become a cessationist. His testimony will absolutely fascinate you.

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Enough Evidence For Faith

Clouds and light

Occasionally — usually in the wee small hours of the night — the thought comes to me that I’m believing a gigantic fairy tale. Perhaps God really is just a myth, and nothing exists beyond the grave.

When such thoughts come, I immediately remind myself of the overwhelming evidence of Christ’s resurrection. For instance, His tomb had been sealed so securely that the women who came to anoint His body wondered who would roll away the stone?  Didn’t they realize those burly Roman soldiers guarding the tomb would be the only people with the authority to do so? Or is it possible that the stone was even too heavy for them?

And those soldiers definitely wouldn’t have permitted anyone (least of all the disciples) to steal the body. Pilate appointed them to guard the tomb for precisely that reason! Sure, they probably thought it was a ridiculous assignment, but they also knew that any dereliction of duty would cost them their lives. In fact, the Pharisees had to offer them protection in exchange for letting them spread the story that the disciples took the body.

Speaking of Christ’s disciples, why would such a cowardly collection of men risk their lives to perpetrate a story that they knew to be a fraud? Ten died horrendous deaths as martyrs, and John suffered as an exile in a prison camp on Patmos. All any of them had to do would have been to say they made the resurrection up. Seems to me that, given their abandonment of Jesus at His arrest, they simply lacked the fortitude to then allow a falsehood to dominate their lives and  send ten of them to death.

Finally, Paul made this claim:

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. ~~1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (ESV)

Did you catch verse 6? Most of those 500 men who saw the risen Lord were still alive when Paul wrote the letter to the Corinthians. That means, dear sisters, that the Corinthians could have interviewed enough of them to legally establish the truth or falsity of Paul’s claim. No court of law, in any judicial system, could reject the testimony of almost 500 eyewitnesses!

Since Christ’s resurrection is therefore an established fact, I believe it follows that His claim to be both God and Man must also be true. Likewise, He must also have sent  the Holy Spirit to superintend the writing of Scripture. As I see it, the resurrection validates everything else about Christianity.

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Saturday Sampler: December 17 — December 23

christmas-sampler

In his OnePassion Ministries blog, Steve Lawson alternately brings us to tears and gives us belly laughs with his personal memories of R.C. Sproul. The R.C. I Knew portrays several sides of Dr. Sproul, all of which are endearing.

I’ve often emphasized, at this time of year, that Jesus was born for the purpose of dying for our sin. But Amy Mantravadi, in her essay entirely Christ Was Born for More Than Death, fills out the story by reflecting on the Lord’s righteous life. We need to remember the whole Gospel, not just the Readers Digest version.

The author of A Peculiar Pilgrim writes The Truth About Love as a challenge to the postmodern interpretation of what it means to love. As conservative as I believe myself to be, even I see remnants of worldly love in myself as a result of reading this article.

‘Tis the season for final exams, and Elizabeth Prata of The End Time seizes on the theme by writing about the respective Final Exams that believers and unbelievers will eventually face. In all the frivolity of the holidays, perhaps this sobering essay can keep us  grounded.

Jordan Standridge had planned for months to visit St. Andrews Church in Florida on December 17. In his moving and surprising article for The Cripplegate, he recounts The First Sunday Without R.C. Sproul in that church. Burk Parsons, now St. Andrews’ pastor, used the situation to demonstrate the benefit of church as usual.

There is no other name by which we must be saved insists Sharon Lareau of Chapter 3 Ministries. Sure, most Biblically literate Christians know that fact, but a little reinforcement never hurts.

Winter often brings discouragement and depression, even amid the joyous season of Christmas. In Clang! The Harsh Notes of Discipline, Sophie McDonald writes about God’s purposes in bringing us through difficult circumstances. See this encouraging blog post based on 1 Peter 1 on the Unlocking the Bible website.

Don’t miss Michelle Lesley’s beautiful Christmas essay, The Shepherds’ Gospel. Absolutely magnificent!

The author of Eternity Matters skillfully refutes liberal theologians with his article Leopard Theology: Not as fun as it sounds. Those of you who seriously care about Biblical discernment would do well to read this one to learn how a high view of Scripture helps us detect error.

 

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Perspectives In Titus: Faithful Words On Profitable Teachings

Titus 3 8

Once again, we’ll only get through a single verse in our study of Titus today, but in this verse Paul reaches the zenith of his letter to Titus. Given the climactic nature of Titus 3:8, I believe we need to take our time looking at it, remembering that Titus pastors several churches in Crete with two major problems.

First of all, false teachers known as Judaizers have infiltrated the churches, teaching that Gentile Christians must observe Jewish law. Second, the Cretan culture outside the church is marked by self-indulgence. Paul left Titus the task of putting that region’s churches in order so that they could resist the corrosion of false teaching and thus live in contrast to the unbelievers who surrounded them.

With that refresher on the reason for Paul’s letter to Titus, let’s look at today’s verse within its immediate context.

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. ~~Titus 3:4-11 (ESV)

Verse 8 begins by telling us “The saying is trustworthy.” The saying Paul refers to is, of course, Titus 3:4-7 in its assertion that God’s justifying grace leads Christians to live in ways that reflect His holiness. Paul reminds Titus that this understanding of grace is trustworthy. Thayer’s Dictionary brings up the idea that the Greek word carries the sense that we can rely on this saying. In other words, we can rely on the declaration that grace will produce works according to God’s nature.

As an aside, Psalm 19:7 assures us that the testimony of the Lord is sure, again underscoring that Scripture is trustworthy. So we can completely trust Paul’s saying in Titus 3:4-7, confident because the Holy Spirit included the passage in His Word.

Paul wanted Titus to insist on the truths of Titus 3:4-7. Pay attention to the word “insist” here, as it’s pivotal to Paul’s point. The King James Version translates it as “affirm constantly,” leading Barnes to comment that Paul’s intent was that Titus make these doctrines of grace “the constant subject” of his preaching. Indeed, our pastors should repeatedly preach on God’s sovereignty in bringing us to salvation.

The reason for insisting on the doctrines of grace is to encourage believers to good works. Barnes says that the good works here are not “merely to acts of benevolence and charity, but to all that is upright and good – to an honest and holy life.” His interpretation best fits the context of this letter. These good works, remember, don’t merit salvation.  Rather, they verify that the Holy Spirit has truly regenerated us.

Furthermore, these doctrines, being excellent because they accentuate God’s sovereignty, are profitable, in contrast to the unprofitable types of conversations outlined in the next verse. Vincent’s Word Studies cross-references 1 Timothy 4:8 as evidence that godliness is of greater value than even physical fitness because godliness holds both temporal and eternal value. As we exercise the doctrines of grace by keeping them constantly on our minds, we profit immensely.

It seems fitting that last Monday and today we’ve talked about grace, justification and the trustworthiness of God’s Word. Tomorrow marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a work of God that restored these crucial doctrines to the church. What a blessing to see that these doctrines benefit Christians even now.

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