Nothing Is New Under The Sun, So Can Any Christian Blogger Be Totally Original?

These past two weeks, I’ve been thinking about a short post that Erin Benziger wrote in Do Not Be Surprised recently, explaining her decision to pull back from blogging for a while. You can read her entire article here, as she raises more points than I can comment on in this singular essay.

God used Erin greatly as He led me to the Doctrines of Grace, and I praise Him for allowing her to influence me in those areas. At one point, I followed her around the internet like an eager puppy. As her approach to discernment ministry evolved, I reevaluated my own understanding of Biblical discernment. I reached different conclusions about discernment blogging than Erin reached, and since then she and I have diverged on other issues. Some of her thoughts in her post on her retreat from blogging differ from my thoughts on the topic. And that’s okay. Knowing Erin, I feel confident that she would agree.

But one paragraph she wrote has challenged me in a good way regarding The Outspoken TULIP. Let me quote it, and then offer some of my responses to her perspective.

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“The World Is Watching” — An Excuse To Compromise Or A Reason To Be Obedient?

“The world is watching” became the unofficial motto of last month’s Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. From what I’ve heard, the phrase hampered attempts to challenge any worldly ideas that came across the floor. In particular, it stopped any debate on Critical Race Theory. The logic went that, because the world is watching, we must take care not to offend its sensibilities. This short video from Founders Ministry explains (among other things) why these four words betray a worldliness within the SBC leadership.

But “the world is watching” didn’t originate with SBC21. When John and I were in a seeker sensitive church several years ago, we often heard them from the pulpit. At the time, I understood them to mean that, because non-Christians observe us, Christ expects us to live in ways that reflect Him. So far, so good.

So when I’ve seen those four words on social media, I’ve generally been convicted to conduct myself in a manner which honors the Lord. In disagreements, I’ve learned not to attack anyone’s character. Name calling is never permissible — Jesus occasionally employed that tactic, but He could see the hearts of the people He called names. As best I can, I want to argue with respect and kindness on social media. In that context, we certainly should bear in mind that the world is watching.

Sadly, it appears that the awareness of a watching world now means that Christians ought to accommodate worldly ideas. And I don’t think this posture is unique to the SBC, So, regardless of your church affiliation, I’d like you to think with me about the implications of the motto.

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Blessing Or Cursing The Men In Our Lives

Driving me home from college every day, my mom would reach a particular on-ramp that indeed was dangerous. She firmly believed that one day someone would be killed there (to my knowledge, thankfully, her prediction hasn’t come true). I still remember her lips tightening in disdain as she muttered, “A man must have designed this!”

Actually, she muttered those words any time she encountered things that she deemed inconvenient or illogical, explaining to me and my sister that women would not make anything so complicated or dysfunctional. She taught us to degenerate men, as if the poor things simply didn’t possess the intellectual abilities that characterize women. Yes, men came in handy now and then, she conceded. But for the most part, women could manage just fine — and perhaps better — without them.

Definitely women would have designed that on-ramp better!

As we prepare for Father’s Day, and the many sermons pointing out the shortcomings of fathers, I find myself thinking about Mom’s disparaging remarks. Society pretty much echoes her sentiments. Television, movies and even comic strips routinely portray men as buffoons. At times, according to my husband (an authority on all things pertaining to Superman), even Clark Kent had occasional moments of ineptitude. I believe I can safely say that our current culture all but celebrates male bashing.

Ladies, I know we get frustrated with the men in our lives sometimes. But don’t you think that we frustrate them just as much as they frustrate us? Maybe more? And yet, our culture wastes no time in labeling them as misogynists if they dare say anything the least bit unflattering about us. This double standard has no place in Christian conversation!

James, the half-brother of the Lord, may not have written specifically about male bashing, but his passage on the tongue in Chapter 2 of his epistle definitely applies to the matter. Look at the passage with me as we consider what we say about our husbands, dads, brothers and male friends.

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Before I Tell You About Recommended Women Bloggers And Teachers…

What qualities should we look for in anyone (male or female) who professes to teach God’s Word?

Before I profile women bloggers and teachers that I believe merit our attention and trust, I would like to invest a little time in giving you tools for vetting such people for yourselves. In fact, you should use these tools to evaluate me! Discernment doesn’t come from letting someone tell you who to follow and who to avoid. Rather, it comes from knowing what characteristics God says a Christian leader should have.

As obvious as it seems, the most important characteristic of a sound teacher is her ability and obedience to handle the Word of God responsibly. Every teacher makes an occasional misstep, but a good teacher works diligently to apply proper hermeneutics when she presents a text.

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, ~~2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NASB)

Good Bible teachers find their doctrine from the Word rather than using Scriptures (usually out of context) to support their assertions. Not only do they depend on the immediate context of the verse or passage, but also the genre of the book they teach. For instance, Psalms is a collection of poems originally set to music, so often it uses metaphorical language. Trees do not literally clap their hands and believers are not literally sheep. Yet the four gospels record actual miracles, most notably Christ’s literal resurrection from the dead. These miracles must never be taught as metaphors or allegories!

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How Did We Get From John Adams To Joe Biden?

Despite the opinions of some politically conservative Christians, not all the founding fathers were Christians. My favorite founding father, John Adams, became a Unitarian at some point in his adult life (perhaps influenced by his wife Abigail). In fact, most of the founding fathers were influenced more by the Enlightenment than by the Bible.

Christians who profess to care about truth dare not twist history to suit their own purposes. John Adams himself said “Facts are stubborn things.” We might be tempted to lament the loss of a Christian nation, but facts challenge us to consider that the United States may never have actually been a Christian nation. Let us be careful to tell the truth even when it damages the narrative that we wish to promote.

Having said that America cannot be properly considered a Christian nation, we must also note that John Adams said that our Constitution was written for a religious and moral people. Furthermore, all the founding fathers — including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson — lived under the assumption that religion meant some form of cultural Christianity. In that respect, we can say that America was indeed founded on Biblical principles.

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Why Paul Didn’t Go To Church — And Why He Thought We Should

Once again, John is typing this post at my dictation. I’m getting better, and even sat at the computer for 15 minutes last night. However, I am still looking for a morning PCA who can help me build up my back muscles. Consequently, I am not able to include Scripture verses or links to citations at this time. Thank you for your patience and prayer as I recover from my back injury.

First Baptist Church of Weymouth has been open since May, but various circumstances have prevented me and John from attending. Even between my illnesses and back injuries, mask mandate makes it impossible for me to drive my power wheelchair because I operate the joystick with my face. Essentially, John and I are now shut-ins.

Throughout recent months, I’ve been hearing podcasts explaining that church attendance is a command from God. This weekend, in fact, Chris Hohnholz and Rich Story did their Voice Of Reason Radio podcast examining Scriptures directing Christians to meet together. Since Rich has a disability that prevents him from attending his local church, they were careful to note that some Christians are legitimately unable to meet with their fellowships on Sunday mornings (I deeply appreciated their carefulness to mention that fact). But they spent the bulk of their program urging listeners not to depend on livestreams and podcasts rather than going to church physically.

I have often thought about asking Chris and Rich to do a program addressing the needs of shut-ins. Those of us who cannot physically attend church often feel frustrated to hear sermons and podcasts about the necessity of going to church. At least I do. Although I know that the Bible explicitly says that Christians must gather together, I also know that John and I have absolutely no way of obeying that command. Yet it always seemed as if the Bible overlooked Christians in our situation.

Then I started thinking about the apostle Paul.

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Flashback Friday: Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

Originally published May 19, 2017.

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Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

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Throwback Thursday: Distinctively Loving

Originally published September 21, 2015:

Rainbow Heart

When, pray tell, did liberal culture determine that standing for Biblical values, particularly (but not exclusively) in relation to homosexuality, constitutes hate? The very people that demand love and tolerance from Christians show the least tolerance toward those who view their lifestyle as sinful.

And yes, I realize that people claim homosexuality as an identity rather than a behavior. I even sympathize with their conviction that homosexuality is “who” they are. In most cases, such people have genuinely felt different from their same sex peers early in childhood, and sometime during puberty they sexualize this feeling. Therefore, they understandably conclude that they were “born gay.”

Admittedly, I present an over-simplification of the situation, but not as much of an over-simplification as many might have us believe. I only mean to say that I reject the notion that anyone consciously decides to experience same sex attraction.

Yet I also make a distinction between a person and their behavior. For example, I struggle with the sins of anger, greed and, selfishness, all of which I’ve exhibited  since early childhood. Scripture condemns these behaviors, even though I have reason to say, “That’s just who I am.” In obedience to the Lord, I repent of those thoughts, attitudes and behaviors, separating them from my identity. Similarly, I believe homosexual thoughts, attitudes and behavior don’t obligate a person to declare homosexuality as intrinsic to his identity.

Postmodern  culture demands that I make no such distinction. When I say that the Bible uniformly condemns homosexuality just as it condemns my ingrained sins of anger, greed and selfishness, people accuse me of bigotry and hatred. I resign myself to the reality that they characterize Biblical Christians in such terms, but I believe they make a mistake in so doing. Furthermore, I believe they err by judging Christians as haters.

The prevailing sentiment of postmodern society insists that we love people only by agreeing with their behavior. Love, according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, never requires a capitulation to sin.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

Love requires Christians to extend kindness with an attitude of humility, but it also does not allow us to celebrate sin. My husband responds to my outbursts of anger with patience, for example, but he never condones them and he expects me to repent of anger. He wants me to repent precisely because he loves me enough to encourage me to obey Christ.

I don’t mind if liberal culture calls me to address people with kindness and patience. But I do have a hard time when they decide that I’m unloving simply because I believe that God’s Word prohibits homosexuality. Such an assessment shows an incomplete understanding of love.

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The Heart Issue Of Headcovering

Photo of me wearing a hat

The apostle Peter acknowledged in 2 Peter 3:16 that the letters of the apostle Paul had Scriptural authority. In that very same verse, he admitted that Paul sometimes wrote things so difficult to understand that unstable people could easily distort them. While Peter’s emphasis was on the false teachers that distort God’s Word, it bears noting that Paul indeed wrote things that aren’t so easily interpreted.

1 Corinthians 11:1-16 is, according to several pastors and commentators I interviewed and read, one such passage. Those supporting the Head Covering Movement of course believe that the passage is straightforward, mandating that women cover their heads in worship services. This Website offers an overwhelming amount of articles, videos and ebooks expounding on 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 to make the case that headcovering is not optional for Christian women.

Really? An entire movement dedicated to one passage of Scripture?

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Keys To Discernment: Why Paul Prays For Their Wisdom (Reboot)

As I’ve mentioned before, I had started posting these Bible Studies back in January. At the end of February, a compression fracture in my back forced me to discontinue it. About a month ago, I felt well enough to resume it, and I decided to run the original installments again just to reestablish some continuity. However, I’m augmenting these reruns with a few additional comments to provide clarification or because I missed something earlier.

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Although we’re getting into the meat of Paul’s letter to the Colossians today, our text will demand that we look at some background information on the false teachings that he addresses. I aim to demonstrate how he uses sound doctrine, rather than direct discussion of the errors at hand, to steer the Colossians away from faulty theology and practices.

We’ll most likely only get through two verses in this installment of our study, but (as usual) I’ll quote the whole passage for the sake of context.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. ~~Colossians 1:9-14 (ESV)

If you take verses 9 and 10 at face value, you could get a fairly accurate interpretation of them. Definitely, Christians should pray for each other along these lines, getting beyond the superficial prayers for health, finances, marriages and other temporal matters.  Therefore these two verses encourage us to pray for each other far more deeply than we generally do.

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