Saturday Sampler: March 4 – March 10

Rose Sampler 02Biblical Christianity no longer enjoys widespread acceptance, so we can often feel embarrassed about our faith. In response to this problem, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace writes I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel. Why do those words sound so familiar to me?

Although Joe Carter’s article, Why Teenagers Are Becoming ‘Trans-Curious’, in The Gospel Coalition Blog didn’t surprise me, his discovery may not occur to each of you. Or perhaps it may. At any rate, it highlights the problems with embracing the LBGTQ narrative.

I appreciate Tom at excatholic4christ for writing Paradigm Shift: How Gospel outreach to Catholics became “anti-Catholic bigotry” to chronicle the changed relationship between Catholics and evangelicals over the last 60 years. He raises some interesting points that we really ought to consider.

Short but insightful, Michelle Lesley parodies the beloved children’s hymn by writing Jesus Loves Me: The “Contending for the Faith” Version. Check it out on her Discipleship for Christian Women blog, especially if you enjoy clever writing as much as I do.

In an article for the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Katie McCoy uses a careful study of Hebrew words to answer the question, Did Old Testament Law Force a Woman to Marry Her Rapist? The answer surprised me, and it also reinforced the incredible value of studying God’s Word.

Writing for the Canadian Edition of The Gospel Coalition Blog, Heather Peacock suggests 8 Ways to Welcome People with Disabilities into Your Church. I only wish she had said more about adults with disabilities, but her list is an excellent start.

We all go through tough times, so How to Rejoice When Life is Hard by Pastor Colin Smith of Unlocking the Bible brings us back to an eternal perspective on suffering. In doing so, he necessarily shows us that having an eternal perspective actually enables us to rejoice in our trials. I hope I haven’t given away too much of his post! Read it to see how he fits it all together.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time has a brilliant essay called Don’t leave the Baby in the manger or the Man of the cross that mustn’t be ignored! If we truly want to know Jesus, we have to embrace all of Him.

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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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Writing: A Pleasure And A Responsibility

Header May 2013

Sometimes a writer writes simply for the fun of manipulating language. We take pleasure in the cadences of sentences and the textures of words. It delights us when a nimble vocabulary tames otherwise nebulous ideas, communicating them to anyone who bothers to read them. And if nobody reads them, we still savor the heady  experience of shaping words, sentences and paragraphs into something lovely.

Writing for its own sake has the advantage of training a writer how to develop his or her craft. The practice helps us fall in love with writing. That sense of romance in turn carries us through the difficult aspects of writing. When we strain for just the right way to phrase a concept, staring at an impatiently blinking cursor, we feel such exhilaration when the stubborn words suddenly decide to cooperate with us. Without the love of writing, we’d give up and find a mind numbing app to keep us unprofitably entertained.

Therefore, a moderate amount of writing merely to enjoy the act of bending language to one’s purpose has merit. It should not be shunned as frivolous or wasteful, but instead harnessed as a valuable tool in learning to use language efficiently.

That said, a Christian writer must indulge in writing for the sake of writing sparingly. A few exercises will renew our pleasure in the task, but it mustn’t distract us from our job of communicating the Gospel as long as the powers that govern the Internet allow us to do so.

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)

Ladies, it doesn’t take a prophet to see that American Christians won’t have freedom to express Biblical views online much longer.  Major social media platforms have already begun clamping down on people who don’t embrace homosexuality as a positive sexual expression. In time (maybe less time than we imagine), any sort of writing about the Lord Jesus Christ that exalts Him will not be tolerated.

We actually shouldn’t find this prospect all that surprising. Jesus bluntly stated that we would be hatred because we represent Him (John 15:18-21). The United States Constitution may promise religions liberty, but the Holy Spirit assures us of persecution (2 Timothy 2:12). The time for blogging about the Lord grows extremely short, and we should expect as much.

But rather than bemoaning our impending loss of liberty, Christian writers should use their writing abilities as frequently and earnestly as we can to build God’s kingdom. We’ve been given only a few short years to proclaim the Gospel on social media, and it would be tragic to spend those years writing only to enjoy the fun of playing with language.

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The Culture Is Hostile — Who Cares?

The Lord is my Refuge

We live in a time when it doesn’t take much effort to see the proliferation of wickedness. Until recently, Christians in America and Western Europe have enjoyed nearly universal acceptance, causing us to feel great dismay that our culture now increasingly rejects Biblical standards of morality.

Indeed, Western culture does exhibit growing hostility toward Christianity. And those of us who grew up in a time when society encouraged at least a nominal expression of Christian values find that hostility somewhat shocking.  As a result, we vacillate between the two extremes of wanting to “take back America and for Christ” and whimpering in despair. While neither extreme befits a true believer, the second one demonstrates an inability to trust the Lord.

The opening verses of Psalm 11 vividly illustrates how our fear of prevailing evil can cause us to forget God’s  protection of us. Look at these verses with me:

 In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to my soul,
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain,
for behold, the wicked bend the bow;
    they have fitted their arrow to the string
    to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord‘s throne is in heaven;
    his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
    but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. ~~Psalm 11:1-5 (ESV)

In this passage, David refutes alarmists who suggest that the forces of evil could potentially overpower God’s people. He reasons that the Lord, Who is his refuge, may well test our faith with adversity, but that ultimately He will triumph.

Notice that David doesn’t mention any power that believers supposedly have to overcome the wicked. Rather, he directs our attention to the Lord, Who reigns in heaven. Too often, in considering the apparent success of secular humanism, we tend to believe that the battle depends on our effort (particularly in terms of gaining political power), but David reminds us that God is on  His throne. Instead of trusting ourselves and then wailing helplessly over our impotence, we must find encouragement in His sovereignty.



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Higher Than The Supreme Court And Longer Lasting Than Wedding Cakes

Same Sex Marrriage

When the United States Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage on June 26, 2015, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there would be implications on religious liberty as a result.  I believe the very point of demanding marriage for a segment of society known for its astronomical rate of promiscuity had more to do with forcing people to approve of homosexuality than with equality. Furthermore, I believe a primary objective of LBGTQ activists centers on coercing Christians to renounce the Biblical standards of sexuality.

As I type this blog post, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments regarding a Christian baker in Colorado who, wanting to be consistent with his religious convictions, declined to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple. While I’d love to see the Court rule in favor of the baker, I expect them to chip away his First Amendment rights. I also expect an overall rise in public hostility toward Christians who dare to take the Bible seriously.

That hostility has actually been simmering for quite some time, and it’s not exclusive property of the LBGTQ activists. Although I do believe responsible Christians must avoid conspiracy theories like the plague, I do understand that Scripture teaches us to expect increasing opposition as we draw closer to Christ’s return.

In reading Psalm 2 recently, I thought about the world’s derisive attitude toward Christians.

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.” ~~Psalm 2:1-3 (ESV)

Verse 3 captures the prevailing animosity that the movers and shakers of 21st Century American culture (as well as Canadian and much of European culture) bears toward Bible-believing Christians. They see the Biblical view of sex as being restrictive. They actively work to break the bonds of monogamous, heterosexual marriage, casting away the cords of obedience to God’s Law in favor of gratifying their lusts in whatever way they choose.

In so doing, of course, they must silence anyone and everyone who reminds them of God’s standard for sexuality. They must force compliance.  They  require Christians to celebrate sexual sin.

But reading on in Psalm 2, I noticed that any victories they appear to gain are temporary.  The Lord promises,  quite literally, that He will have the last laugh.

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.” ~~Psalm 2:4-6 (ESV)

Things will become more and more difficult for Bible-believing Christians as time goes on. Obedience will be costly.  But in the final analysis, the Lord still reigns, and those who rebel against Him now will eventually bow in submission to His authority. We should pray for His enemies to surrender before that time of judgment, so that they might know His mercy and grace. But we need not fear that His plan will be thwarted. King Jesus has been set on God’s holy hill.

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The Scripture Made Me Ask Myself Some Uncomfortable Questions

PonderingWhat do you put on your prayer list? When you gather with other believers, what prayer requests do you typically make? If you’re like most Christians, you most frequently ask people to pray for your health, your job, your living situation or other temporal matters.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that! One pastor I had used to say, “If it’s big enough to think about, it’s big enough to pray about.”

Last week, I read a prayer request that the apostle Paul made in his letter to the Colossians.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. ~~Colossians 4:2-4 (ESV)

He wrote  that prayer request from prison. That little piece of information really arrested my attention when I read it last week, and caused me to mull over what prayer requests I might send out if I were in a Roman prison, chained to guards day and night.  Based on my attitude during the two years I spent in a nursing home, I more than likely would have asked people to pray for things to alleviate my physical or emotional discomfort.

But Paul only sought prayer that he could further the Gospel!

How often do you pray for opportunities to declare the Gospel? I don’t pray such prayers often enough, even though I pray them a great deal more than I once did. (What might the Lord have done if I had prayed that way in the nursing home?) I could be mistaken, but I have a hunch that very few 21st Century Christians pray that way.

Those verses in Colossians challenge me. Do I take the Gospel seriously enough to pray for opportunities to proclaim it? Am I more interested in my comfort than in making sure that others hear what Jesus Christ did for them? These questions don’t feel good. Actually, they make me squirm. But they’re probably some of the most important questions I’ll ever ask myself.

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The Boring Way To Develop Discernment

Stained Glass WindowDuring October 2017, you couldn’t go online without seeing multiple blog posts about the Protestant Reformation. Actually, some of us started writing about it much earlier, hoping to build excitement (or at least interest) among evangelicals. We did so primarily because most professing evangelicals fail to appreciate — or even understand — the differences between Protestant theology and Roman Catholicism.

Many evangelicals simply don’t care. They prefer to minimize the importance of doctrine in favor of finding common ground with Catholics.

Even deeper, many evangelicals follow the wider culture’s general disdain for history. Having suffered through a Medieval History class in college with a professor who spoke in a monotone, I do see why people believe history is boring. His class bored me, and I marveled at the history majors who constantly raved about that professor. I suspect many people assume history is boring because they’ve also endured history teachers like that.

The predominate boredom with history frustrated me as I blogged about the Protestant Reformation week after week. By October 31st, I found myself feeling relieved that the 500th anniversary had passed. I looked forward to writing on more popular topics that might attract more readers.

I  wonder if other bloggers felt the same relief. It wouldn’t surprise me.

But I think folding up the Reformation and packing it away until next October 31st might do a great disservice to the body of Christ. Instead of bowing to the prevailing indifference to church history, we need to encourage our fellow evangelicals to understand why the 16th Century Reformers (not to mention Reformers before them) risked their lives to draw people back to God’s Word.

Professing Christians have once again moved away from the Word of God. That’s why they gravitate to popular teachers like Beth Moore and Joel Osteen. Interestingly, people who consider themselves to be discerning gravitate to blogs that expose these false teachers. And, in moments of weakness, I find myself writing articles that allow me to plunk Beth Moore’s name in the title, knowing that doing so will attract readers.

I wish that those who so eagerly seek to be discerning realized that the Protestant Reformation was the greatest example of discernment in Christian history. If anyone really wants to learn principles of discernment, the Reformation definitely offers the quintessential starting place. Why? Precisely because each and every one of the Reformers went back to Scripture. Many suffered martyrdom for their insistence on the authority and sufficiency of the Bible.

The hoopla over the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has given way to blog posts about celebrity sex scandals, Thanksgiving and now Christmas. The pressure to convince postmodern evangelicals that the actions of a German monk in 1517 have any serious meaning as we approach 2018 has subsided, liberating us to blog about subjects that readers crave.

Except we need, more than ever, to remember the Reformation, with its passion to bring God’s people back to His Word. Maybe I won’t blog about the Reformation every week, but I will most assuredly keep it before you, praying that you’ll understand its relationship to Biblical discernment. Hopefully you’ll begin to see how the Reformers teach us to evaluate popular teachers against God’s Word.

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