Saturday Sampler: November 18 — November 24

Reflecting Balls Sampler

I’m not going to tell you why Clint Archer contributes Moths & Roaches: Responding to the Light to The Cripplegate this week. I want your curiosity to bug you until you read it.

Those of us who lean to the right politically should pay attention to Tim Bates’ Judge the Left Rightly in Things Above Us. He masterfully helps us subjugate our political affinities to the authority of Scripture.

Pyromaniacs features Hohn Cho’s insightful post, Voting and the 2018 Elections. Okay, it’s lengthy (even by Pyromaniacs standards). But he makes several important points that Christians need to contemplate. A few of his thoughts might even offer you some refreshment and encouragement.

As part of a series he’s writing for Abounding Grace Radio, R. Scott Clark discusses the Canons of Dort (5): God Ordains Means To Call His Elect. As a Reformed Baptist, I would add only that God’s means also includes personal  evangelism, a task that every believer should perform. Other than that amendment, I completely agree with Clark.

Writing from Australia (which legalized same sex marriage only last year), Stephen McAlpine shows us the rapid fallout Australian Christians now face. I’m the bad guy? How did that happen? chronicles the increasing persecution to people who dare to stand for a  Biblical view of human sexuality. I wonder, reading his words, if American Christians have become desensitized to the sexual revolution.

For a truly helpful explanation of baptism, see Tom’s post, RE-baptized??? What’s that all about? on excatholic4christ.

Please read Elizabeth Prata’s Movie Review – American Gospel: Christ Alone in The End Time. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but Elizabeth’s review gives me the extra nudge I need. See what you think.

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One Important Reason I Probably Won’t Blog About Butterflies On Subway Cars

Subway Butterfly

Because John and I met online,  we hold a special fondness for the movie, You’ve Got Mail. Meg Ryan plays a woman who carries on an email correspondence with Tom Hanks, not knowing that he’s the same man who put the children’s bookshop she owned out of business.

Throughout the movie, Ryan and Hanks do voice-overs of the emails they write to one another. Ryan’s early emails particularly interest me, as she reflects on an inconsequential thing (like a butterfly fluttering on and then off of a subway car) in a way that reveals so much of who she is. Her lines make me wish I could write as lyrically.

In another email, she comments on the strangeness of typing words into a computer, not knowing where they’ll go our who will read them. Since that movie was written long before blogs, Facebook and Twitter, I can’t help wondering if online communication has become even stranger now.

As a blogger, I sometimes wonder how my tenuous words have amassed the modest but growing following that The Outspoken TULIP  has developed in slightly less than three years. And would I have a larger or smaller following if I wrote about butterflies on subway cars and such?

Not that I can imagine anything as poetic as a butterfly fluttering on a Boston subway car. A dirty pigeon, perhaps. Though a pigeon would flap violently rather than delicately fluttering. Not the same.

Anyway, I once did operate a blog in which I wrote simply for the sake of writing. Yes, I enjoyed that freedom.  At times I regret giving it up in favor of this more focused blog. What harm could there be, I ask myself, if I occasionally departed from the main themes of this blog to have a little fun with writing? Although I seriously doubt I’d ever see a butterfly on a Boston subway car, I could easily find other interesting moments to develop into essays of little consequence.

A couple of verses I read in Ephesians yesterday stops me from allowing myself such liberties.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ~~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Indeed, the days are evil. Outside the church, abortion and homosexuality are celebrated as human rights, not decried as murder and perversion. Truck commercials on TV assume that dating couples will move in together before (or without) getting married. Christian bakers and florists lose their businesses for declining to cater gay weddings. Public schools offer yoga classes, denying yoga’s connection to Hinduism. Christians receive warnings not to pray in public, and sometimes get banned from social media for proclaiming the Gospel.

Many of us anticipate much more severe persecution in the near future.

Inside the visible church, professing Christians compromise in numerous respects, from so-called “Holy Yoga” to advocating for women pastors. For all our talk about believing God’s Word, our fondness for mysticism and psychology betray our confidence in human philosophies. False teachers infiltrate evangelical circles in droves.

The Outspoken TULIP exists precisely because the Church faces so many external and internal threats. Christian women need encouragement to study Scripture so we can withstand the overwhelming pressure to compromise with the world. While writing about butterflies on subway cars and such would certainly be a lot more fun, I don’t have time for that. Rather, it wouldn’t be the best use of my time.

Do I have a big enough following to make a significant difference?  Of course not. But the scope of my blog doesn’t matter. My faithfulness does. And faithfulness demands using my time for His glory, not for floating inconsequential musings across the Internet.

My blog may not be widely read, but I still have a responsibility to use my writing for the Lord. Although writing fun pieces every so often wouldn’t necessarily be bad, I have to ask myself if it would be the best use of my blogging time. When I consider how rapidly Western society is hurling itself into rebellion against God, and how greater numbers of professing Christians compromise with worldly values, I can’t help concluding that writing about the Lord and encouraging women in their walks with Him is the best use of my blogging time.

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Saturday Sampler: April 8 — April 14

rose-sampler-silkUsing 1 Corinthians 12, Kristen Wetherell of Unlocking the Bible demonstrates our responsibility to Trust God With the Spiritual Gifts He Gives. She brings us back to the reason He gives those gifts in the first place.

Evangelism intimidates most Christians. Because of this fact, Becoming More Faithful in Evangelism by Zach Putthoff in Parking Space 23 will encourage you through its practical counsel.

In Throwback Thursday ~ Don’t Get Your Theology from the Movies, Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women cautions us that a Movie Subscription Service doesn’t necessarily promote sound doctrine. We can’t hear this message enough!

Katie McCoy lists 5 Things A Woman Considering An Abortion Needs To Hear in a post for Biblical Woman. She raises a couple points that I never would have come up with.

The term “evangelical” has a complicated history, as Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate shows us in I’m old enough to remember when “evangelical” was a bad word. He provides interesting insight into the theological mess in Christian America today.

Few people understand how to pray Biblically. On her blog, Growing 4 Life, Leslie A asks Are You Treating God Like Your Personal Genie? She uses the Lord’s Prayer as a template for true prayer. Interestingly, my pastor is preaching through Luke’s treatment of that same topic.

Let me squeeze in a second post from Michelle Lesley. Safe Spaces and Wearing Our Hearts on Our Sleeves: 6 Ways to Follow Jesus’ Example of Handling Hurt addresses self-centered attitudes that far too many Christians (including myself, I admit with shame) nurture.

Michael Coughlan, in a contribution to Things Above Us, offers some Recent Racist Rhetoric Reflections that balance the discussion. I really like his delineation between the Gospel and its efforts.

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The Tragedy Of The Entertaining Church

Powerful Word“Show people that Christians are just like  everyone else.”

“If we have non-threatening activities like movie nights, people will get comfortable enough with us that they’ll want to come to church.”

“Unless we have games and refreshments, kids won’t come to youth group.”

I heard all these comments, and more, from a church I used to attend, usually in connection with evangelism and church growth strategies.  We want to attract people to the Lord, not scare them away from Him, the leadership of the church reasoned. For a while, they even made sense. Why not make visitors comfortable before hitting them with the Bible?

Sometimes the promoters of such ideas supported them with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Never mind that this passage, in context, refers to restricting one’s Christian liberties to avoid offending people with anything but the Gospel. But in his next epistle to that same church, Paul made it clear that presenting the Gospel would, in fact, offend those who would not receive salvation.

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. ~~2 Corinthians 2:15-17 (ESV)

Churches, including youth groups, act deceptively when they advertise themselves as being cool, hip and in touch with the world, only to slip Jesus in there when they can do it inconspicuously. They know that a blatant bait-and-switch will expose them, so they have to continue making Scripture palatable. Sermons include stand-up comedy, movie clips and props rather than verse-by-verse exposition of the text, knowing that the folks they attract through entertainment require continuing entertainment in order to keep them coming.

Contrast that mindset with Paul’s command to Timothy.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

God’s church can, and should, be overflowing with joy. Fellowship halls should ring with laughter, and youth groups should include extra activities outside of Bible Study hours. As someone known for practical jokes, I’m hardly adverse to having fun at appropriate moments.

But when we use fun as an evangelism tool, and especially when we blur the lines between Christians and the world, we tend to obscure the Gospel. After all, the call to repentance can’t be slipped in between funny stories or during a game of Pictionary if we expect non-Christians to take their sin seriously.

Churches must preach the Word, even if so doing makes people uncomfortable. In fact, we want people to feel uncomfortable about their sin in hopes that they will then desire the Savior. Preaching a compromised gospel that elevates human comfort over the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ may fill churches, but it won’t save souls.

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Saturday Sampler: February 11 — February 17

Umbrella Sampler

Psychology has no place in the church, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life shows us in What Should I Look for in a Biblical Counselor? It encourages me to see more Christians speaking up about the dangers of “Christian” psychology.

In addition to my own trials lately, I’ve watched a friend suffer through her husband’s terminal cancer. So Sarah Walton’s article, Why the Church Needs Suffering in Unlocking the Bible, refreshes my perspective by bringing me back to Scriptures and principles that I’d all but forgotten. See whether or not her words benefit you.

Reprising her March 3, 2017 blog post, Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women lists 40 Things to Give Up for Lent. Number 1 is my personal favorite. What’s yours? Use my Comments Section to tell me.

I’m not the only blogger to reprise her article about the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy.  Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised also resurrects  the article she wrote three years ago. Erasing the Grey definitely deserves your attention!

Those of you who are moms will appreciate Scott Slayton’s When You Lose Your Temper With Your Children on One Degree to Another. Even aunts and people in ministries to children can benefit from Slayton’s godly counsel. As a matter of fact, anyone with anger issues should apply the principles to all their interactions with children and adults.

In a second post written for Unlocking the Bible, Judy Allen suggests Five Questions to Ask About Entertainment. Each question has a corresponding Scripture to help us evaluate the media we consume in ways that honor the Lord.  I love the way she challenges us to think of what we read, watch and do in terms of spiritual merit.

Assisted suicide is not a pretty topic, but it’s something Christians will need to address. Jen Oshman discusses Five Reasons for Assisted Suicide (And Crucial Responses to Each One) to help us navigate conversations with those who honestly think this practice is a humane way to deal with human suffering.

The aggressive movement of the LBGTQ community has serious ramifications for Christians, as Is it okay for the state to take your child away because you won’t affirm his transgender feelings? by Denny Burk demonstrates.  I struggled over whether or not to include such a dark article in Saturday Sampler, but decided that I created The Outspoken TULIP to prepare women for the persecution that knocks at the door of the Western church. Therefore I believe it necessary to draw your attention to this matter. Scenarios like the one Burk narrates will only increase. We must prepare for them.

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50 Shades, 40 Days…And None Of The Above (Reprise)

In response to Fifty Shades Freed being released in theaters this past Friday, I’m republishing a post I wrote on February 18, 2016. Please consider its points. And please stay far away from that movie!

2c5ac-swansMost of my readers probably would have no problem with me denouncing 50  Shades Of Grey (book or movie), despite the fact that I’ve never read anything more than  Wikipedia’s synopsis of the book (which was bad enough). In fact, if I had read the book itself, a majority of those same readers would most likely write me off as a hypocrite for writing so much about personal holiness and then reading such pornography.

And such a dismissal of my integrity would definitely be warranted. If I read that sort of book, my readers shouldn’t respect anything that came from my keyboard ever again. I know enough about the book to understand that reading it dishonors the Lord. I really don’t need to read the book (or see the movie) to know that it’s sheer pornography that I must avoid. Obviously. I can’t imagine anybody arguing with me on this point.

So why, when I refuse to read books by Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer and Rick Warren, do professing Christians believe I have no grounds for criticizing them? I have, actually, read some of their blog posts and Twitter feeds, as well as watching their YouTube videos. But that doesn’t satisfy those who ardently support these people. They demand that I invest hours slogging through books that will only reiterate the bad theology that I’ve already seen on their blogs, Twitter feeds and videos.

In other words, I don’t question these teachers before I’ve done my homework. For instance, several years ago, the church John and I attended went through Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose campaign. Both of us initially felt excited about the campaign, especially since the Sunday School Superintendent had asked John to lead the Adult class during those Sundays.

But as we watched the promotional videos leading up to the campaign, we noticed  how frequently Warren wrenched Scripture out of context in order to advance his agenda. Because I have a shameful history of misusing God’s Word in that way (the Lord has graciously brought me to repentance), I picked up on it quickly. In response to my discomfort about him, I researched him and discovered quite a few people who also saw serious flaws in his doctrine. After a few days of  fighting through his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, I could see that Rick Warren simply didn’t respect God’s Word. Therefore, John and I chose not to participate.

Of course, people scolded us for condemning Warren’s teachings without reading his entire book. Yet many of those same people would undoubtedly applaud me for writing against 50 Shades Of Grey, all the while respecting my integrity for not reading it.

If people commend me for pursuing moral and sexual purity, shouldn’t they also appreciate my desire for doctrinal purity? Obviously, I believe they should. The Lord calls for both types of purity.

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~~1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV)

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Six Questions About Hollywood’s Newfound Moral Outrage

Woman Asking FramedCircumstances got the best of me today, seriously limiting my time for blogging. I’d planned to write some observations on Hollywood’s newfound moral outrage regarding sexual misconduct. Alas, time prohibits me from composing the essay I had in mind.

So instead, let me pose just a few questions that would give you a rough idea of my thoughts on the matter:

  1. Why does an industry so devoted to sexual immorality suddenly decide that it can condemn a practice of sexual sin?
  2. How come Hollywood waited until now to decry something that’s gone on since the medium first started?
  3. What standard does Hollywood use to determine sexual morality?
  4. Will they now start producing films that uphold modesty and morality?
  5. Should moviegoers stay away from sexually explicit entertainment, sending a message that we reject Hollywood’s culture of unrestrained sex?
  6. As Christians, are we surprised by  Hollywood’s obvious hypocrisy?

My questions probably give you a pretty good summary of the blog post I would have presented if I’d had time to write it. Perhaps just this brief list is all I need to offer right now.

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