Category Archives: Persecution

Too Serious For A Blog About Roaming Around Boston In Power Wheelchairs

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Boston Public Garden May 2018

Blogs should have a definite focus. A purpose beyond merely writing for the pleasure of writing. Such vanity blogs (as I call them) do attract some followers, I admit, especially if disability features prominently in enough of the posts. But after a spell, the narcissism gets old. Christian bloggers, in particular, begin seeing the need to use their blogs as tools for advancing God’s kingdom.

Three years ago today, I abandoned a blog I’d maintained for nine years. Originally, I began that blog to showcase my digital art, chronicle day trips John and I made into Boston, and reflect on various things the Lord taught me as I transitioned toward Reformed Theology. Toward the end of that blog’s life, I wrote my first  Bible Study series.

In that final month, the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision legalizing same sex marriage gave me reason to believe that Google could shut down my blog, which they hosted on their free Blogger platform. It seemed to me that paying for a WordPress blog might prolong the time I had to blog about the Lord without censorship.

But, to be honest, I’d been contemplating starting a new blog months before Obergefell happened. As much as I delighted in having a blog which allowed me to write whatever struck my fancy, I struggled with a conviction that I needed a focus. And I knew that focus should be determined by the blogs I gravitated toward. That would be my niche.

The blogs I enjoyed most (Do Not Be Surprised, The End Time, Pyromaniacs and Michelle Lesley) all concentrated on exposing false doctrine and encouraging readers to rightly handle God’s Word. Of course, I understood that I’d need to add to their conversation rather than just echo their thoughts, but I felt confident that I could do so.

Over this past three years, the Lord has faithfully given me a unique blogging voice among the esteemed writers in this niche. Convinced the Obergefell has stepped up hostility toward the Gospel that will lead to the persecution of Christians, I’ve worked to equip women for that persecution by pointing to Scripture. I believe that only a firm grounding in the Word of God will get us through persecution, so I write about issues that either draw us away from Scripture or about the wonderful ways Scripture reveals the Lord.

Sometimes, yes, I miss my old blog. As John and I propel our power wheelchairs through the streets and parks of downtown Boston, I occasionally feel a desire to write a narration of our adventures. Boston by wheelchair is fun!

But we live  in serious times, ladies. As fun as it might be to take occasional deviations from the subject matter of The Outspoken TULIP, I remain convinced that we must stay within our boundaries. So we enter this fourth year anticipating more posts that draw us closer to Christ, honoring Him by honoring His Word.

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ~~Romans 1:16 (ESV)

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According To Scripture: Study #6 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

You might think that the four verses we’ll be studying today in 1 Corinthians 15 are pretty straightforward, and in a sense you’d be right. I began working through the passage last Tuesday, and found it amazing that Paul packed so much meaning into these  seemingly simple remarks.  So let’s look at the entire passage for context, and then dive into verses 16-19.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ~~1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (ESV)

Did you notice that verse 16 pretty much repeats verse 14? Paul’s not getting forgetful in his old age. Rather, he uses repetition to enforce his argument, and maybe so that the Corinthian Christians would really get the point. Repetition is an effective teaching device, especially when a teacher needs to drive home an important fact. 2 Peter 1:13 tells us, for example, that the apostle Peter valued repetition in his ministry. What could possibly be more important than Christ’s resurrection?

Regarding this verse, the Believer’s Bible Commentary says: “If resurrection is an utter impossibility, then there can be no exception to it. On the other hand, if resurrection had taken place once, for instance in the case of Christ, then it can no longer be thought of as an impossibility.” Thus Paul repeats his statement, challenging the Corinthians to use their reasoning skills to conclude that Christ’s resurrection implies a general resurrection.

The pivotal point of Paul’s argument appears in verse 17, as he stresses that our justification comes through Christ’s death and resurrection. He has consistently preached this as the Gospel throughout his ministry (Romans 4:25). The other apostles also preached this message in Acts 5:30-31.

The shed blood of Jesus indeed atones for sin, but Christ’s resurrection shows that God accepted His sacrifice (Romans 1:4 with Romans 4:25). So without Christ’s resurrection, the Corinthians would have believed the Gospel for nothing, and consequently would still bear the weight of their sins. Since Christ’s resurrection is the evidence that God confers justification on believers, a lack of resurrection would signify that justification never took place. Denial of the resurrection robs Christians of hope.

In verse 18, Paul adds emotional intensity to his case for general resurrection by bringing up believers who have already “fallen asleep.” The euphemism for death, fallen asleep, itself affirms the resurrection. Sleep implies eventually waking up, does it not? So Paul deliberately borrows from Jesus (John 11:11) in describing the death of believers. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 elaborates on this point, again tying the hope of believers’ resurrection to the resurrection of Christ.

Paul strengthens his case by reminding them of other Christians who have passed away. If bodily resurrection doesn’t happen, why assume that there would be any sort of conscious existence after death? In essence, without His resurrection, those people died apart from salvation.

Verse 19 offers the final, if not the most haunting, consequence of no resurrection. If Christ hasn’t been raised, and we won’t be raised, we have forsaken worldly pleasures for nothing. Furthermore, we’ve suffered persecution for the Gospel with no hope of a heavenly reward, which is pretty absurd. Sacrificing lives of pleasure in this life, when we can’t anticipate eternal life, only makes following the Lord ridiculous.

Some commentators suggest that Paul means the apostles are “people most to be pitied” because of the particularly high level of suffering they endured for the sake of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 4:9-13). And no one disagrees that they suffered in greater degree than most other Christians. Grammatically, however, in this passage Paul never mentions the apostles as an antecedent to the word “we,” making it more likely that he means Christians in general should be pitied if there is no resurrection.

Jesus taught that believers should expect persecution for the Gospel, as seen in Scriptures such as Matthew 24:9 and John 16:2. But without faith that we will receive a reward in eternity, we lack any motivation for undergoing that level of persecution and self-denial. Therefore all Christians should be pitied for putting ourselves in hard circumstances if we won’t derive any benefit.

Paul’s words don’t necessarily mean that the Christian life is joyless. Rather, he here wants to emphasize that we make sacrifices that unbelievers find incomprehensible precisely because of our faith that we will follow Christ in resurrection. If, however, there is no resurrection, we’ve placed our hope in an illusion. People should pity us as fools!

As we’ve seen, embracing the doctrine of resurrection is essential to Christianity as a whole. Thankfully, as we will see in verse 20 next week, Christ indeed has risen from the dead, giving us hope of eternal life! Between now and next Monday, then, join me in rejoicing over our glorious hope.

I look forward to your questions, insights and even your disagreements (as long as you can substantiate those disagreements with Scripture) in the Comments Section or on The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook page.

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Saturday Sampler: June 17 — June 23

Bows SamplerOkay ladies, summer has already made its grand entrance, bringing sizzling temperatures to a large portion of the United States. Hot weather, of course, ushers in the temptation to dress in ways that might not be honoring to the Lord. Kari Dent of living in paradise courageously writes Dear Sisters to speak frankly about our call to modesty.

Rarely can I curate an edition of Saturday Sampler without including something that Leslie A posts in Growing 4 Life. This week’s essay, Simply Broken or Thoroughly Dead? requires us to think Biblically about our relationship with sin and the current trend to call ourselves broken. As usual, you really shouldn’t miss this one!

Women struggle with improper thoughts as much as men do. In response to this reality, Amanda Walker shows strategies for Guarding Your Heart…On Purpose in her latest post for Bible Study Woman. Although her approach isn’t exactly novel, it reminds us to protect our minds from anything that distracts from the Lord.

We could all use the Evangelism Encouragement that Michelle Lesley offers. Praise the Lord for her Scriptural perspective on seeing results when we witness to unbelievers.

Elizabeth Prata, in The End Time, uses an Italian Renaissance painting to demonstrate that  Bad fruit is bad, thus warning us against false teachers. Okay, I’m a sucker for Italian Renaissance art, but Elizabeth’s essay really is worth reading whether you like art or not.

Happy Birthday to Two Faithful Preachers from Erin Benziger. To learn the identities of these two men, and how their ministries parallel each other, go over to Erin’s Do Not Be Surprised blog, which you should read regularly anyway.

Blogging for Stand to Reason, Natasha Crain provides A Parent’s Guide to the 5 Skeptics Who Want to Shame Your Kids for Being Christian. You don’t have to be a mom in order to benefit from Natasha’s counsel, however; each of us encounters these common objections to Christianity.

SlimJim, who blogs at The Domain for Truth, gets it right with Christians Must Grow Deeper In Biblical Doctrines. His assertion is near and dear to my heart. Please read his Scriptural reasoning for making this claim.

Yesterday I started to blog about the upcoming Revoice conference, but after reading As the Serpent Uncoils by Douglas Wilson in Blog & Mablog I’m glad I held off. Doug approaches the controversy with a fresh, but Biblical, perspective that needs to be considered as professing Christians demand to retain homosexuality as their identity.

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The Obvious Truth That Christians Forget

Rainbow Bible02The LBGTQ agenda to force Western society to celebrate various forms of sexual orientation and/or expression poses a particular threat to Bible-believing Christians. Some of you may be thinking, “Well duh, DebbieLynne, tell us something we don’t know!” And yes, most Christians understand that there is tremendous pressure — pressure that increases daily — to affirm their lifestyles as good and wholesome.

What many don’t understand, however, is how relentless LBGTQ activists are about enforcing their agenda. I’d always thought that, once they got same sex marriage they’d be happy. As a matter of fact, I remember copious assurances that legalizing same sex marriage wouldn’t affect heterosexuals.

Then faith-based adoption agencies had to either place children with same sex couples or close their doors. Christian florists, bakers and photographers who refused to lend their creative talents for same sex weddings faced litigation, with some losing their businesses. All the while, secular adoption agencies and wedding vendors would probably be delighted to take their money.

But you know all these things, don’t you? Why am I spending time blogging about things that I don’t even need to document because everyone knows about them?

I blog about the efforts to enforce universal celebration of LBGTQ causes because eventually proponents of those causes will demand legal sanctions against pastors who dare to preach that homosexuality is sinful. You might argue that such  a thing would never really happen. Certainly not in the United States of America!

Twenty years ago, my mom said same sex marriage would never become legal in the United States.

Obviously, we shouldn’t regard individuals within the LBGTQ community as enemies. Some feel hostile toward Christians, yes, and the more militant ones definitely want to silence us from proclaiming God’s Word about proper contexts for human sexuality. They’ve seen us as their oppressors, and now they believe we can make amends only by enthusiastically affirming their lifestyles. I actually understand their perspective.

We most assuredly should treat them kindly and respectfully, as we would treat anyone with a life-dominating sin. At the same time, we mustn’t compromise God’s Word in an effort to placate them. They have begun to bully us, sincerely believing that we’ve bullied them for centuries. They unwittingly serve as Satan’s agents to bring down Christ’s Church.

Therefore we walk the delicate balance of loving them as individuals made in God’s image and standing firmly against the LBGTQ agenda. We will suffer persecution. Our pastors (and some us us) will go to prison. I don’t think many of us realize that LBGTQ issues will be the main vehicle for initiating persecution against Christians in the 21st Century.

Maybe you already know these things. But maybe you needed a reminder.

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How Can Christians Respond To 21st Century Controversies?

ancient-church-01Last year, despite a nearly universal aversion to history in 21st Century Western culture, many evangelicals tolerated talk about the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. After all, October 31, 2017 marked the 500th anniversary of  Martin Luther’s infamous act of posting his 95 Theses. Though the majority of Christians remained pretty much indifferent to this anniversary, they didn’t begrudge Reformed Christians our celebration. It was understandable, in a bewildering sort of way. And on November 1st, everything returned to normal.

But should we have closed our history books to once again gather dust and cobwebs? Can we now assure ourselves that the significance of the Reformation pales in comparison to the issues in our present time? The more progressive branch of evangelicals (including those who claim to be Reformed) now busy themselves with so-called social justice concerns like racism and misogyny, filing the Reformation away as irrelevant to today’s Christian culture. In turn, those of us who see dangers in the social justice movement push the Reformation aside in order to address more immediate matters.

Perhaps you feel that way. Perhaps you think last year’s celebration was all well and good, but that was then and this is now. You may be surprised to learn that I share the temptation to move on from the 16th Century and focus on 2018.

The Protestant Reformation, however, actually gives us the necessary tools for dealing with contemporary issues. I say this because the 16th Century Reformers all pointed back to Scripture. They correctly believed that Roman Catholicism had corrupted Christianity with unbiblical teachings and practices that took people away from pure devotion to God. They remedied that problem by making the Bible accessible to everyone and then by teaching it systematically through verse-by-verse exposition. Most importantly, they affirmed its authority as the Word of God.

Present-day believers face serious issues unknown to people 500 years ago. But Martin Luther and his contemporaries faced equally serious issues unknown to the First Century apostles. Yet beneath all the issues that seem so unique to each generation lie principles that the Lord addresses in His Word. For that reason, the Reformation teaches us the value of returning to Scripture.

Additionally, the Reformers model ways to handle persecution. I particularly think of William Tyndale, who was savagely executed for translating the Bible into English. The Reformers suffered greatly for their commitment to God’s Word. As our own times produce increasing hostility towards Christianity, we’d do well to study those Reformation martyrs instead of whining that we’re losing our religious liberties. Indeed, many Reformers like John Knox probably would be puzzled that Protestants would consider religious liberty to be an inalienable right.

Dear sisters, please don’t relegate the Reformation to mothballs. The grand celebrations may be long over as we exchange heated Tweets about white Christians perpetually repenting for how our ancestors offended black people or about the Southern Baptist Convention’s alleged misogyny. But we can best respond to such controversies by following the examples of the Reformers. Like them, we must go back to God’s Word and rightly divide it. Now, more than ever, we must remember the Reformation.

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Flashback Friday: Inconsequential Disability

 

This article originally appeared on October 20, 2016. Interestingly, I’ve been contemplating this topic lately, having forgotten that I wrote this post. Those of you who read it before might appreciate the reminder, while newer readers may benefit from my perspective.  If nothing else, you can enjoy my photo with Edge Allen Poe.img_0501Clearly, Cerebral Palsy affects every area of my life to one degree or another. I don’t really care for that fact, but there you have it. I’ve accepted the reality that my disability shapes and controls how I live in such a variety of ways that I could most likely write an interesting blog exclusively on that topic. If we throw John’s Polio into the mix, maybe we could get a good book deal going.

A lot of Christians with disabilities use their disabilities as platforms for ministry. Joni Eareckson Tada, of course, instantly comes to mind as the most notable example, although I’ve known others that also serve their fellow disabled people. Over the course of my life, I’ve made a few attempts at involvement in disability ministry…primarily because other people thought I should.

But, to be brutally honest, I’m simply not interested in disability. Not even my own disability, despite its pervasive nature. If I write about it now and then, I generally do so out of necessity, aware that I can’t totally avoid the subject. Even as a blogger, I need to help my readers understand why my posts are so short; typing with a headstick (especially in conjunction with the involuntary movements of Cerebral Palsy) means that I can’t produce 1,000 word essays every day. Yet, I only mention this fact because I need to.

Some people have suggested that I’ve always avoided disability ministry out of denial. I’ll admit that I want, in some ways, to distance myself from disability, but charging me with denial seems a bit ridiculous. C’mon folks, I married a man who also uses a wheelchair! I can hardly be accused of running away from disability when I deal with both his and mine. I married John, accepting his disability (just as he married me accepting mine), fully aware of the many implications involved.

Occasionally, yes, the Lord uses my disability (or John’s) to give me insight into a Scriptural principle, and I have no problem writing about those instances. If I can exploit my disability to bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, I won’t hesitate to take full advantage of the opportunity. But, for the most part, my blog rarely mentions wheelchairs, headsticks, Personal Care Attendants or any of the oddities that come with having a severe physical disability.

My true passion is teaching women the importance of good doctrine. Writing a blog about disability issues might get me a bigger audience (particularly if I hinted here and there about my sex life, I suppose). But I see a much greater need in the Body of Christ than telling people how to handle temporal suffering. Actually, I seldom consider myself as afflicted anyway, especially when I remember Christians in other countries who are being tortured, imprisoned and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. Those people suffer infinitely more than I ever have.

The disability I really want to blog about has nothing to do with Cerebral Palsy, and everything to do with spiritual health. With evangelicals increasingly minimizing the importance of the Bible in favor of emotional experiences and distorted ideas of Jesus, I desire to challenge the fads and false teaching that cripple God’s people. Believe me, ladies, these handicaps have far more eternal consequences than whether or not I can walk. Therefore, I reserve the right to focus on the clear teachings of Scripture, not on disability, praying that Christ will receive the glory.

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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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