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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The Internet Can’t Silence The Gospel (Even If It Bans It)

Headstick 2013Longtime readers of this blog may remember my initial purpose for abandoning the blog I’d kept on Google’s Blogspot.com for nine years in favor of starting this one on WordPress. For the benefit of newer readers, however, allow me to reiterate why I made the move.

The Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, by which the United States Supreme Court unilaterally legalized same sex marriage signaled that the political left would no longer tolerate any opposition to their various viewpoints. Almost immediately, same sex couples began suing Christian bakers, florists and other vendors who chose not to participate in celebrating weddings that violated Scripture’s definition of marriage. Some of those vendors have lost their businesses as a result.

I was not surprised.

Along those lines, I realized that having Google host a free blog invited censorship because I write boldly from a Biblical perspective. In so doing, I firmly state that homosexuality is sin. I also firmly state that salvation cannot occur apart from repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such statements, of course, violate the liberal positions that Google officials hold. And, since Google essentially owned my old blog, they would have the legal right to shut it down because of my Christian stand.

Technically, WordPress could probably do the same, but the fact that I pay for it may delay the termination. I hope.

I’m sure some people think I made a knee-jerk reaction in leaving Blogspot.com. Until yesterday, I could have been persuaded that perhaps I did. Perhaps I sunk all that money into WordPress needlessly. But yesterday, YouTube (which Google owns) issued their new policy for combating hate speech and terrorism.

Like many Christians, I found the following section of the new policy disturbing:

Youtube policy change
Borrowed from James White’s Twitter feed

Obviously, Christians should consider this clause a warning that we will eventually be shut out from the Internet if we dare to proclaim Biblical principles. Compared to the persecution Christians endure in other countries, this is mild, I admit. But it does limit our ability to use social media to advance the Gospel and equip Christians in discernment ministry.

Yet Google can’t prevent us from spreading God’s Word. Christians proclaimed it for 2,000 years before the Internet, and we’ll continue to proclaim it long after Google, Facebook and Twitter block us. So let’s use social media as long as we can to declare the Gospel and prepare for the opportunities God will give us once we lose our online privileges. No matter what, we can trust His faithfulness.

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Saturday Sampler: July 16 — July 22

Critter Sampler 01Too bad Summer White’s Peterson and the Ghosts in the Machine (appearing in Sheologians) didn’t reach my in-box until after I published last week’s Saturday Sample, because Summer raises some extremely interesting angles to the controversy.

Examining one of the more prevalent false dichotomies among evangelicals, Mark McIntyre of Attempts at Honesty presents External versus Internal Focus to remind us that the Great Commission involves more than just evangelism and more than just discipleship.

Speaking of good reminders, Elizabeth Prata cautions us against Lucky Dipping by her post in The End Time. Her warning isn’t particularly novel, but it can’t be repeated too often.

Interestingly, Nikki Campbell of Unified in Truth also directs us toward proper Bible study techniques in the article Rightly Handling the Word of Truth (part 2). The principles laid out can help us in our own understanding of Scripture, and they can also assist us in discerning false teaching. Therefore this post deserves our careful attention.

Regular readers of Saturday Sampler know that One Hired Late In The Day is a blog I love to feature. This week’s article, The narrow gate, looks at the Lord’s claim that salvation excludes many people — including professing Christians who show no fruit of genuine conversion. Jennifer substantiates her points with a good variety of Scripture, making this an essay well  worth your time and attention.

Those of you following the Eugene Peterson fiasco might appreciate Amy Spreeman’s  Eugene Peterson’s error isn’t about gay weddings in Berean Research. I think she gets to the heart of the matter quite effectively.

Michelle Lesley weighs in with The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies. She raises excellent questions that this Southern Baptist Convention publishing company should have answered years ago.

As women, none of us should serve as the pastors that John Chester directly addresses in his Parking Space 23 article, Church 101. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the principles he puts forth, however. I especially appreciate his thoughts on the purpose of the church.

Am I including Elizabeth Prata’s The Approachableness of Jesus (Reprise) because she mentions John Adams? Maybe a little (I live near Quincy, MA). But seriously, she uses Adams’ struggle with royal protocol to highlight the graciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to receive us into His presence without  condition. Her post fills me with adoration for the King of kings!

Yes friends, it’s true. I’m really giving you two posts by Michelle Lesley on top of two by Elizabeth Prata this week. Michelle’s Throwback Thursday ~ Persecution in the Pew brings back an article Michelle wrote nearly two years ago about a sad form of persecution that I’ve personally experienced. As we stand for Biblical truth, we should expect pushback — even from professing Christians.

I’m new to Lara d’Entremont’s blog, Renewed in Truth Discipleship, so I can’t yet fully endorse it (I have a sneaking suspicion that I eventually will). Her post, 7 Mistakes You Might Be Making When Studying the Bible, certainly indicates that  she’s worth reading. See if you agree.

Tom at excatholic4christ writes Papal allies accuse American right-wing Catholics and evangelicals of joining together in “ecumenism of hate” to remind us that the Gospel is not about American politics. It’s an interesting read for many reasons.

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Was It Really Worth All That?

John Reading Tyndale Bible
Photo taken by Julie Garber of John reading a 2nd edition Tyndale Bible

Anyone can access the story of William Tyndale by doing a simple Google search or by reading Stephen J. Lawson’s book, The Daring Mission of William Tyndale. I’m quite confident that others can narrate his contribution to the Protestant Reformation more accurately, and certainly more eloquently, than I could.

Nevertheless, I want to offer a brief outline of Tyndale’s exploits, simply for the sake of showing you what the Reformers sacrificed in order to restore God’s Word to Christians.

Tyndale (b. 1494 – d. 1536) was an accomplished linguist, with impeccable credentials for any sort of translation work. As he grew in his exposure to the writings of Erasmus (a Roman Catholic who made the Greek New Testament available) and Martin Luther, he developed a desire to translate the Bible from its original Greek and Hebrew into English.

Although such a translation would have been technically legal in England in the 16th Century, Catholic condemnation of the practice stemming from the struggle with Wycliffe two-and-a-half centuries earlier resulted in a law that such translation work could only take place under a bishop’s patronage. Obediently, Tyndale approached Bishop Cuthbert Turnstall, who had actually worked with Erasmus on his Greek New Testament. Turnstall flatly refused Tyndale’s request.

Tyndale believed that Scripture should be available to common Englishmen, rather than left to a Roman Catholic clergy that added their own doctrines to it and therefore amassed enormous political and ecclesiastical power. So he fled to Europe, where he lived incognito while he produced the forbidden translation.

Living in Brussels, Tyndale and his supporters smuggled English translations of the New Testament in bales of cotton that were shipped to England. Of course, this activity definitely violated English law. Tyndale knew that, if he was captured, he would face the death penalty. But he willingly took that risk, continuing to translate the Old Testament as he smuggled copies of the New Testament back to England.

In 1530, Tyndale wrote a pamphlet opposing King Henry VIII’s plan to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. While Tyndale most assuredly was correct in denouncing the king’s actions as unbiblical, I’m baffled as to why he would do something that would obviously intensify England’s resolve to capture and execute him. As a result of the pamphlet, someone high in the king’s   court engaged a profligate named Henry Philips  to befriend Tyndale and ultimately deliver him to English authorities.

After an 18-month imprisonment, Tyndale was executed by strangulation (because his executioners respected him and wanted to spare him the  30-minute agony of being burned alive) and then burned at the stake. His last words were “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes!”

Was God’s Word worth such suffering and sacrifice? The indifference many professing Christians show it today makes it seem like William Tyndale would have done better to pursue an academic career, privately studying the Bible for himself. But he loved God’s Word and gave his life. As he once said to a prestigious clergyman, “I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!”

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Sweet Apples Rot Quickly, And Other Consequences Of Promoting My Blog

Rainbow HeartMy vanity got the better of me yesterday. For months, I’ve been praying about whether or not I should try to promote this blog. Part of me knew I needed to be content with a small readership base. In fact, earlier this week, I finally decided not to pursue any more avenues of publicizing it. I would trust God’s sovereignty to bring my articles to the women He wanted them to reach.

Then yesterday morning I received a message from a woman who administrates a website for writers. She’d read my article, Transforming America, and claimed to “love” it. Further, she asked my permission to cross-post it on her site, explaining that she desires a diversity of viewpoints.

Glancing at the articles already posted on her site, I noticed that they overwhelmingly represented liberal perspectives. “Maybe,” I told myself, “she wants my article in order to bring balance to her site.” Her complements on my writing skills felt so good! And I thrilled at the thought of more people finding The Outspoken TULIP!

So, like Eve in the garden, I bit into the fruit. I allowed her to cross-post my article. All afternoon, I savored the sweet taste of drawing readers to my blog, of course convincing myself that I wanted more people to read the Gospel.

I finished yesterday’s blog post late yesterday, so I couldn’t check email until late. But my in-box had several notifications of comments on my article. Obviously, I expected some negative comments, but surely they would engage intelligently with my content.

Instead, I encountered an onslaught of personal attacks including a very hurtful remark regarding my profile picture. Honestly, the experience reminded me of 7th Grade. I’ll spare you further details, except to say that the administrator (who so eagerly answered my emails yesterday) now seems a lot less happy to send responses today.

I wonder if she wanted my article in order to take me down a peg. I realize that’s only speculation, and that only the Lord can judge her motives. Even John, who normally sees the best in everyone, has expressed some cynicism, though.

Although the Lord used this unpleasant episode to convict me of my vanity, He also used it to encourage me. Yes, I know that seems odd. But consider the message of the blog post she put on her website. That article focused on the fact that Christians should expect animosity from the world. The more I’ve thought about the vitriolic reactions of the commenters on that website, the more amused I am that they inadvertently proved the very point I wanted to make.

Being human, I don’t particularly enjoy people making fun of me. But the humiliation I’ve endured, besides confronting me with my pride and selfish ambition, gives me an opportunity to rejoice.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~~Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV)

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It’s To Die For!

Open Bible 03On November 1, 2016, I set out to write weekly blog posts on various aspects of the Protestant Reformation. Originally I envisioned writing about the cost the Reformers paid to restore access to the Word of God.

I’m troubled, you see, by the vast Biblical illiteracy among evangelicals in the 21st Century. The very fact that I attended a Charismatic church that allowed people to continue giving prophecies even when their prophecies obviously didn’t come true, and then a church that turned to seeker-sensitive methodologies in order to fill its pews, convinces me that present-day evangelicals simply don’t know how to rightly divide God’s Word. For the most part, even those who read the Bible daily fail to read it in context or apply proper hermeneutics. In short, I believe that professing Christians in our day and age don’t understand the incomparable value of Scripture.

We take it for granted.

And because we take Scripture for granted, we twist it, misapply it and/or make it more about us than about the Lord Jesus Christ. I’d love to cite examples of how we do so, but there are just too many to fit into a single blog post. If you’ll look through my categories list, you’ll find numerous posts I’ve written about various false teachers and movements within evangelicalism that deviate from Biblical Christianity.

Of course, part of the deviation from sound doctrine happens because Satan aggressively works to distract Christians from the truth. In Scripture, both Jesus and the apostle Paul repeatedly warn us, “Do not be deceived.” Christians must constantly wage spiritual warfare by using the Word of God, which Paul and the writer of Hebrews call the Sword of the Spirit.

Additionally, human beings are just plain obstinate. Like Old Testament Israel, we’ll follow the Lord in the excitement of revival, but when the enthusiasm wears off we look for ways to enhance the Gospel. We deceive ourselves into thinking that our little additions give us better worship experiences and/or enable us to appropriate God’s grace more accurately.

But also, we (and yes, I include myself in this indictment) fall into error so easily because we forget to cherish the Bible.

In this digital age, Christians (and non-Christians, for that matter) have access to the Bible that would have astounded the Reformers! Yet Bible illiteracy hasn’t been this high since the Middle Ages. I read one survey of teens raised in Christian homes who thought Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple.

Studying the Protestant Reformation has taught me how precious the Bible really is. Next time I write an installment in this Tuesday series on the Reformation, I intend to write about William Tyndale, an English contemporary of Martin Luther who spent years as a fugitive before being captured and executed by strangulation and burning at the stake. His crime. Translating the Bible into English. I will share his story for the same reason I’ve been blogging almost every Tuesday about the Reformation: to plead with you to recognize that God’s Word is worth our very lives!

 

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Transforming America

Pray For AmericaOur country has recently passed the second anniversary of the Obergefell decision legalizing same sex marriage. Truthfully, even though I knew that the decision would have disastrous ramifications for Bible-believing Christians, I hadn’t expected those ramifications to appear so quickly. Thankfully, religious liberties haven’t completely disappeared yet, but most of us feel the pressure to affirm homosexuality as a good thing. Popular evangelical celebrities like Jen Hatmaker haven even declared boldly that God considers same sex marriages to be holy.

But, while the growing pressure to enthusiastically embrace the LBGTQ most assuredly endangers those of us who stand firmly on Scripture’s pattern for human sexuality, I don’t   believe it profits us to spend a lot of time and effort trying to reclaim America as a Christian nation. I am, frankly, increasingly doubtful that it ever truly was one.

Rather, it seems more appropriate for believers to understand that our primary citizenship is in heaven, making us aliens in terms of this world. If we are to be shocked that western culture now approves of homosexuality, perhaps we should be shocked that it took this long for such a shift to happen. After all, the world is simply acting like the rebellious world it is.

I’m by no means suggesting that Christians acquiesce to LBGTQ ideology, so please don’t misinterpret me as saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” That posture may make people like Jen Hatmaker feel good about themselves, but true Christians will hold fast to God’s standards. We’ll remember the words our Lord Himself spoke:

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ ~~John 15:18-25 (ESV)

For a while, for reasons I don’t at all comprehend, western society tolerated Biblical Christianity (or at least a semblance of it) for the past 500 years. Perhaps we’ve gotten used to being socially acceptable,  therefore forgetting that we can’t expect the world to line up with godly values. Jesus never promised that we could transform America into a land that honors Him. Instead, the Obergefell decision should transform Christians into a people who understand that this world is not our home.

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