Christmas For Bloggers: Christ’s Example Put To Practice When There’s Nothing Original To Say

Bethlehem Green tintSometimes familiarity does breed a sort of contempt. Boredom is, when you really think about it, a type of contempt for the blessings of life and the opportunities to serve the Lord and people with the talents and abilities He gives us. Boredom loses the sense of wonder, yawning at events that should overpower us with awe.

Even the most devout Christians can approach the Christmas account with boredom, and therefore with contempt. We’ve heard it all so often, from the Holy Spirit causing Mary to conceive to the wise men following the mysterious star. We know about the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah, the angels appearing to lowly shepherds and Christmas making Easter possible.

Sadly,  even the amazing truth of God coming to earth as a helpless infant can lose its impact over time.

Bloggers can struggle at this time of year, feeling pressure to come up with fresh angles to the story. What can we say that hasn’t already been said? How can we capture people’s attention and lead them to a renewed sense of awe? And really, how can we rekindle our own sense of awe?

Several of my fellow bloggers have managed to write essays that have given me insights into Christmas that I’d never had before this year. I appreciate those insights, and have grown in my understanding of the Incarnation because of their blog posts. Thank you, ladies, for teaching me more about the glories of God in human form, and His plan of redemption.

But the things I’ve learned during this Christmas season are only mine to ponder this year — not mine to write. Perhaps next December, when I’ve lived with those concepts for twelve months, I can relay them with my own passion, but right now I’d do little more than parrot what my sisters have written. I fear I’d be flirting with plagiarism.

So what can I contribute to the Christmas conversation in 2017? Nothing particularly novel, I’m sorry to say. Although my fellow bloggers have graciously nudged me out of my boredom with the familiar (praise God), I don’t feel equipped to do the same for my readers without impinging on bloggers that I deeply respect.

Jesus came as the obedient Son of our Heavenly Father. Paul, in this passage so frequently quoted at this time of year, describes the Lord’s humility as both a wonder in itself and an example for Christians to follow.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~~Philippians 2:3-11 (ESV)

I could have taken ideas from my fellow bloggers, reworded them cleverly and passed them off as my own.  Only a few people would have noticed, and several readers might have been impressed with my supposed originality. I would have essentially stolen other people’s work to gain attention for myself.

Instead, I shared one article on Twitter and Facebook (both my personal page and The Outspoken TULIP page). You’ll find the rest on last week’s and tomorrow’s Saturday Sampler. These bloggers did outstanding work, and therefore deserve full recognition.

Meanwhile, may I remember that God Himself became a Man in order to die a humiliating death so that He could bring salvation to those who believe in Him. Any sacrifice I   could purport to make obviously pale in comparison to His humility, but the magnificent example encourages me to avoid selfish ambition.

So, even though other bloggers roused me out of my boredom with Christmas, I come to you empty handed this year. And perhaps my inability to offer any unique perspective can remind all of us of our wondrous Savior Jesus Christ Who emptied Himself for our salvation. O come, let us adore Him!

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Saturday Sampler: December 10 — December 16

Snowmen Sampler

SharaC, who blogs at Into the Foolishness of God already looks forward to the new year in her article, Cheers To The Simple Things. She has a fresh alternative to those pesky New Years Resolutions that none of us keep anyway.

How much do you know about pearls? The End Time author Elizabeth Prata shows us their value in New Testament times, as well as why they held such high value, in her magnificent essay, Pearls in the New Testament. Not only does Elizabeth inform us, but she fills us with wonder at God’s intricacies.

I’ve got to agree with Tim Challies as he identities the 5 Most Ridiculous Books to Ever Become Christian Bestsellers. Whether you watch the short video or read the transcript, you’ll see clear examples of discernment as Challies examines these popular, but woefully unbiblical, pieces of evangelical literature.

Pope Francis, eager to protect God’s reputation (doncha know), wants to change the English translation of The Lord’s Prayer from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.” Denny Burk writes Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer? to raise the possibility that the pope’s modification may actually undercut confidence in the sovereignty of God.

In a study of Romans 12:1-2, Judy Allen gives us A Lesson from Paul on Transformation on the Unlocking the Bible blog. Her brief, but comprehensive, study takes the mysticism out of God’s transforming work in Christians.

Erin Benziger’s series on “acceptable” sins in Do Not Be Surprised has certainly convicted me! Now she concludes it with The Cure for ‘Acceptable’ Sins by directing us back to the reasons for God’s grace and His wonderful ability to transform us. If you’ve read any articles in this outstanding series, please avail yourself of this capstone piece.

Growing 4 Life by Leslie A. always delivers gems such as Enjoying the Ride. Leslie narrates her recent misadventure of a family outing (what could go wrong looking at Christmas lights?), and finds a splendid application to remind us of God’s sovereignty.

Although I’m still in the process of vetting Fred Deruvo, I’ve pretty much agreed with his articles on his Study – Grow – Know blog. In Knowing God’s Will: Focusing on God or Satan?, Deruvo discusses the practice of deliverance ministry from a Biblical perspective. His insights are so needed in today’s evangelical circles.

Evangelicals, and particularly Reformed evangelicals, are grieving the loss of R.C. Sproul this past Thursday. At the same time, we rejoice that Dr. Sproul is in the Lord’s presence. Naturally, many people are publishing tributes to him on the Internet. I can’t begin to read them all, but I hope you’ll read John MacArthur’s post, R.C. Sproul, on the Grace To You blog.

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Saturday Sampler: November 26 — December 2

Flower mask sampler

Oh, praise the Lord for people like Elizabeth Prata who stand firmly on the Word of God! Her essay, Michael did not rebuke Satan in The End Time, needs to get into the hands of so many evangelicals and (especially) Charismatics who presume to command Satan and his demons! Once you read this superb post, I beg you to share it as widely as you possibly can.

The holiday crunch has officially begun, and Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word acknowledges that sometimes our time with God’s Word suffers as a result of the busy pace of the season. He writes How to Prevent a Spiritually Dry December to help ensure that we have sufficient Bible intake in the midst of our celebrating.

Doing a devotional study on Psalm 117, Josh Parsons assures us that God is Worthy of Your “Wow” in Unlocking the Bible. His piece will inspire you to worship throughout your day by reminding you how wonderful the Lord really is.

There are  certainly occasions when leaving a church becomes necessary. Yet  Eric Davis, in his post for The Cripplegate, provides suggestions for godly responses When Your Church Disappoints. And really,  every church will eventually disappoint us, no matter how faithful it is to  Scripture. Again,  however, sometimes the Lord does lead us to leave a church. Davis simply presents ideas to try before we call it quits.

Phil Newton, in an article for Founders Ministries, lists several ways that we can assist our pastors as they preach God’s Word each Sunday. The Congregation and the Pulpit encourages us to participate in this centerpiece of Christian worship.

Are you enjoying Erin Benziger’s series on acceptable sins in Do Not Be Surprised? Her latest installment, Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worldliness, strikes a good balance between “being in the world and not of it.” The entire series challenges us towards personal holiness in areas we frequently ignore. If you haven’t been reading it, set aside time to do so.

I couldn’t agree more! Prompted by yet another firing of a celebrity for sexual misconduct, Growing 4 Life author Leslie A. lists Four Ways to Love Our Men as they struggle to remain pure in a culture saturated by sex. Ladies, we have a responsibility in helping our brothers in Christ.

Another creative and insightful blog post rolls off Michelle Lesley’s keyboard. A Pox Upon Our House: Three Chronic Diseases Plaguing Women’s Ministry all too accurately diagnoses service ailments affecting the spiritual health of women. Ladies, this article underscores my reasons for constantly calling you back to God’s Word.

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Judge Not, But Be Discerning?

Judge NotBefore we examine ways that Biblical discernment directs our actions, leading us to personal holiness, let’s look at the relationship between discernment and judging. Certainly, discernment is an aspect of judging ourselves, others and the surrounding culture by the standard of God’s Word.

Some of you are probably objecting to what I just typed, frantically wanting to remind me that the Lord Jesus Christ specifically taught against passing judgment. Even the most militant non-Christians believe that verse, which they’ll quote without hesitancy. And of course, I can’t deny that Jesus did, in fact, command us not to judge. But looking at the verse in context helps us understand what He actually meant.

 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. ~~Matthew 7:1-6 (ESV)

And later in the chapter:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. ~~Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV)

In the first passage, Jesus condemns hypocritical judgment, commanding that we judge ourselves before judging someone else. Once we’ve properly addressed our own sin through confession and repentance, however, we can discern sin in others. That discernment, in turn, enables us to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ. It also helps us determine when someone wouldn’t receive godly correction (and therefore should be left to God’s judgment).

The second passage goes even further by commanding us to judge whether or not someone is a false teacher by evaluating that person’s teachings and conduct. In essence, the Lord tells Christians to judge those we listen to and read to see how their teachings and conduct lines up with Scripture.

In making judgments, we must first judge our own teachings and conduct. No, we don’t have to be perfect before we judge someone else, but we do need to humbly admit our sin with an attitude of repentance. We can’t coddle our sin, especially if we then condemn the very same sin in another person. We must be willing to turn from that sin through the grace God gives us.

If we self-righteously judge someone for (as an example) dressing immodestly when we’re flirting with somebody at the gym, we need to readjust our focus and deal with our own immodesty before we address that gal who shows too much cleavage. Once we’ve stopped our immodest banter with the guy at the gym (do we really need to work out during the time he goes?), then maybe we can talk to our friend about her wardrobe, acknowledging the struggle both of you have in the area of purity.

Discernment is a good thing, unless we dispense it hypocritically. Jesus calls us to make judgments between good and evil, truth and error and obedience and sin all the time. But discernment must begin with a willingness to judge ourselves first.

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A Sin All To Common

Pure WordsBefore I say anything else, let me confess that I’ve recently sinned in the area I want to address today. The Holy Spirit has graciously convicted me of using crude language (in my case, as humor), and He has brought me to repentance. Therefore I can’t write this essay from a self-righteous posture. Instead, I write with the attitude that I’ve been forgiven of a serious sin that I hope to help you avoid.

Scripture forbids Christians from using impure language.

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. ~~Ephesians 5:3-6 (ESV)

I well understand that we live in a culture where even the President of the United States of America uses foul language in his public speeches. And I know we can’t go anywhere in public without hearing words that should offend us because they offend the holy Lord. Facebook overflows with horrible language that should make a sailor blush — often on the Timelines of lovely young women. So yes, I know that we face tremendous temptation to let impure words flow from both our mouths and our keyboards.

As Christians, however, we have an obligation to live differently from the world. I’m not advocating a legalistic morality that breeds self-righteousness, but rather a commitment to purity that honors the Lord. As His daughters, we want to reflect His holiness, even in our speech and writing.

Yesterday I came across a blog post by a Christian (at least, this person claims to be a Christian) that contained expletives in the first three paragraphs. At that point, even though I wanted to read the rest of the author’s thoughts, I felt convicted that I shouldn’t deliberately expose myself to language that I struggle to avoid using. I also felt sad that the writer would use those corrupt words repeatedly in a blog that claims to be written for the Lord.

Again, I realize that our culture treats filthy language as normative. But it also treats a whole host of other sins as normative. The Lord, however, calls us to honor Him, not to imitate non-Christians. He faithfully forgives us when we confess to using filthy language, but His grace should inspire us to then use our words for His glory.

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Saturday Sampler: August 13 — August 19

Birds SamplerElizabeth Prata gives us tiny glimpses into why The Bible is so amazing in The End Time. What a wonderful encouragement to be in God’s Word regularly!

I implore you to go to excatholic4christ to read Tom’s post, An evangelical writes to “Your Holiness,” the pope. Incidents like the one he reports show me why we need education on the Protestant Reformation.

For a better understanding of the theological deterioration of evangelicals, visit Leslie A.’s blog, Growing 4 Life and read Moralistic Therapeutic Deism: America’s New Religion. This blog post explains a lot about why we have drifted away from Biblical Christianity. Leslie also offers a Biblical response to this escalating problem.

Iceland boasts that 100% of women who test positive for carrying unborn children with  Down Syndrome choose to abort. Writing in adayinhiscourt, John Ellis repudiates Iceland’s Genocide of Babies with Down Syndrome to remind us that abortion can never be justified. As someone actually living with severe birth defects, I find the practice of aborting disabled babies thoroughly reprehensible!

Lara d’Entremont of Renewed in Truth Discipleship recently asked several Christian bloggers how they schedule their personal Bible Study time. She compiles their responses in How Crazy Busy Women Make Time For God’s Word as an encouragement to us. You’ll find several practical ideas here to jumpstart your own time in Scripture.

Modesty involves external obedience, certainly, but take a look at Sunny Shell’s blog post, Our External Sensuality Reveals Our Internal Depravity in Abandoned to Christ. A good reminder during hot August weather.

If Lara’s post didn’t give you enough ideas for your time in God’s Word, check out One Degree to Another for Scott Slayton’s 4 Biblical Reading Strategies for Reading Plan Quitters. I found some things that I might try.

Once we read God’s Word, of course, we gain the responsibility to actually obey it. In  Basic Training: Obedience: 8 Ways To Stop Making Excuses and Start Obeying Scripture, Michelle Lesley tells it like it is. Her blog post may not be comfortable reading, but it definitely says things all of us need to hear. Please make this one a high priority.

Writing for Bible Thinking Woman, Kesha Griffin lists 5 Benefits For Bible Thinking Women. I haven’t fully vetted this blog yet, but Kesha writes this particular essay from a solid Biblical standpoint, giving me hope that the rest of this website proves equally solid.

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Saturday Sampler: July 30 — August 5

Extruded FunsiesVisit Growing 4 Life to see how Leslie A has revived her series on discernment with Learn to Discern: How Do You Determine What is True, Right, and Good? All of us need to think seriously about the way we make these determinations.

In her article for 9Marks, Carrie Russell writes about Ministry to Women When There’s No “Women’s Ministry”. Her thoughts on the topic go against popular ideas, but she successfully substantiates them with Scripture.

Speaking from her personal experience, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day offers Turnstile Salvation as evidence that nobody can claim a relationship with the Lord simply because Christian parents raised her. Maybe Jennifer states the obvious. Then again, maybe not.

In his mid-teens, my Catholic-turned-agnostic husband decided to see what the Bible said about the origins of life, so he picked up a Catholic New Testament. The Holy Spirit used it to bring him to salvation. Tom’s article, Sketchy Catholic versions of the Bible were stepping stones to salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone in excatholic4christ, reminds me of John’s testimony. Even better, it reminds me of the power off God’s Word!

Denny Burk outlines Four stages of “evangelical” affirmation of gay marriage as a warning to us all.

In her blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, Lara d’Entremont uncovers The Real Reason to Remain Sexually Pure. She directs her teaching to women waiting to be married, single women and women who teach younger women.

Guiding us through Psalm 19, Lisa Morris of Conforming To The Truth lists 6 Reasons  to Glory in the Sufficiency of Scripture. Honestly, professing Christians often forget (or at least ignore) the marvelous provision God has made for us by His Word. Lisa’s blog post serves as a helpful refresher on this essential point of faith.

How about a double dose of Leslie A this week? Her candor in Grace That Changes convicts me of my own self-righteousness, which I appreciate. So often, we lose sight of God’s gentleness with us, and consequently get impatient with less mature believers. Leslie’s article encourages us as we endeavor to overcome that sin. Yet she offers an important balance.

Coming to Christ as an adult, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day has experienced both the world’s view of womanhood and the Lord’s. From this rare vantage point, she unveils the contrast between  Biblical vs. Secular Womanhood. Ladies, we can’t hear these things too often.

As I’ve been saying for two years, Obergefell vs Hodges opened a door for a full assault on traditional values. John Ellis’ article in PJ Media, Transgender Student Sues Private School in California, sadly confirms my warnings, but it also encourages us to stand firm.

Those who see no harm in the ordination of women will want to read The Slippery Slope and the Jesus Box by Richard D. Philips on the Reformation 21 blog. Philips’ assertion doesn’t at all surprise me, but it may help you to understand the dangers of compromising Scripture in this seemingly minor area. Obedience to Scripture matters!

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