I Remember Being 35

d2676-sunset03I’ve arrived at a shocking realization: I’m going to be officially elderly on my next birthday. When I advertised for a Personal Care Attendant last month, several applicants emailed back saying they enjoy working with elderly people. At first their comments baffled me, since I no longer think of being 64 as the precipice of old age.

I mean, really! I blog and use social media. I read books on Kindle. How much cooler could I possibly get? And that wedding anniversary that John and I will celebrate two months from now will only be our 16th. Now I ask you, don’t I sound closer to 35 than 65? Thank you. I think so too!

Except that I blog and use social media because typing has gotten too strenuous for writing magazine articles, more less that autobiographical book that so many people throughout the years have told me I should write. I know I’m supposed to edit and revise blog posts like I used to edit and revise articles that I submitted to print publications back when I used an electric typewriter (some of you have probably never even heard of typewriters), but I don’t. I read books on Kindle only because I can no longer turn the pages of a physical book. And I had no viable opportunity for marriage (at least for a godly marriage) until I met John. Now I ask you, don’t I sound old?

Well, I guess I am old. And lately I’ve noticed that  blogging daily has been growing more difficult. People don’t realize that typing with a headstick and Cerebral Palsy uses my entire body, not just my neck. Last night, after typing that 635-word blog post, I went to bed sore.

I haven’t been doing much digital art lately, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed by the graphics I use over and over to illustrate The Outspoken TULIP. I feel guilty about that, but blogging leaves me too tired to produce many new drawings. I rarely email friends, let alone write an actual letter. The Outspoken TULIP demands the bulk of my time and energy, causing me to ignore those other things.

I remember being 34 and writing counseling letters for work, plays for church, entries in my personal journal and 8-page letters to friends — all on (you guessed it) my typewriter. I’ll never be that productive again!

But I’m wondering whether or not blogging daily really honors the Lord. I take days off to go to Boston on dates with John, as I will to celebrate unFather’s Day tomorrow,  but maybe I need days off to draw, write letters or even play solitaire. Who knows? I might even revise some blog posts before I publish them.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

According To Scripture: Study #5 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Taking a two-week break from our Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15 couldn’t have been avoided, but I hope my truancy hasn’t caused any of you ladies to lose interest. We’ve still got over 40 verses to work through, and today we can only make it through four. So, rather than prolong this introduction, let’s quote our new section and then discuss verses 12-15.

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 1:12-19 (ESV)

As you’ll recall from the studies we’ve done so far, Paul began his defense of the doctrine of resurrection by listing all the eyewitnesses to Christ’s resurrection. Now, in verse 12, he pivots his argument, drawing a connection between His resurrection (which the Corinthian believers affirmed) and the general resurrection of believers (which some of them denied).

In light of the eyewitnesses who proclaimed Christ’s resurrection, Paul in fact finds it strange that some of the Corinthians denied the whole possibility of general resurrection. Indeed, the initial preaching of the apostles centered on the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, as evidenced by Acts 4:2.

As Gentiles, however, the Corinthians depended on human reason, and therefore had trouble believing the concept of the dead being raised (Acts 17:32; Acts 26:8). Greek philosophies that paved the way for Gnosticism, which taught that matter was evil, separate from anything spiritual. For that reason , the idea of physical resurrection would have been repulsive to them.

As a consequence of the Greek philosophies, some Corinthian Christians openly denied that the dead would be resurrected. Though it’s possible that Jews from the Sadducee party may have influenced the Corinthians, I doubt this theory based on 1 Corinthians 1:19-2:8, in which the apostle rebukes their infatuation with human wisdom. Thus Paul began his refutation of their unbelief by appealing to the eyewitnesses, who established Christ’s resurrection as demonstrable fact (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)

Now, in verse 13, Paul moves his defense of the resurrection from the eyewitnesses evidence to the reasoning skills that so enamored the Corinthians in earnest. By reasoning that the impossibility of bodily resurrection leads to the conclusion that Christ couldn’t have been raised, Paul establishes the connection between Christ’s resurrection and general resurrection. He will demonstrate that connection more fully in verses 20-22 (also see John 14:19).

Observe Paul’s method of argumentation: If the dead in general could not be raised, how then did Jesus experience resurrection? Wasn’t His corpse buried and already rotting? Paul challenges the Corinthians to use the very reason that they prided themselves on having, convinced that it would lead them to acknowledge the general resurrection.

Paul intensifies his case in verse 14 by reminding them of the preaching they received from him as an apostle of Christ. The apostles appealed to Christ’s resurrection as validation for Christianity (Acts 4:33). Therefore, teaching Christ’s resurrection would have been teaching falsehood if the dead aren’t raised, making the preaching of the resurrection a false teaching. As a false teaching, the Gospel couldn’t offer any real salvation. Without Christ’s resurrection, the entire Gospel collapses, showing Jesus to be fraudulent and the apostles to be false teachers.

Because of this, if He really wasn’t raised, their preaching had no substance and the Corinthians believed for nothing. Since the Gospel depends on the resurrection, eliminating that element made believing in the Lord useless and absurd. If the foundational premise of Christ’s resurrection was false, how could anything the apostles preached be trusted? What was the point of believing a Gospel based on a fabricated event?

Verse 15 continues this train of thought by demonstrating that proclaiming Christ’s resurrection would have actually dishonored God. If the dead aren’t raised, the apostles lied about God’s actions, claiming He did something that He really didn’t. If they testified falsely that God raised Jesus from the dead, they consequently gave an erroneous representation of God. Doing so would indirectly dishonor Him. It would have been lying about Him, as well as accusing Him of raising up an impostor (Jesus).

If the dead aren’t raised, Paul reasons, Christ certainly wouldn’t have been raised either. Again, Paul emphasizes that the entire Gospel rests on the doctrine of resurrection.

Next Monday we’ll see Paul strengthen the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of believers. For now, however, I want to leave you with the thought that the Gospel absolutely depends on the resurrection. Although we tend to focus on Jesus dying for our sin when we proclaim the Gospel, writing this Bible Study has helped me see how foundational the resurrection is to that Gospel.

I’d love hearing what the Study taught you. Please feel free to use the Comments Section or The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook Page to tell me what stands out to you, to ask questions and to interact with each other. Together, we can rejoice that Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the dead. Hallelujah!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Not One Tiny Bit Of Credit

Ephesians 2 8&9Christians, even genuinely born-again Christians who love God’s Word and have a commitment to discernment, often struggle with the teaching that God takes complete responsibility for their salvation. We desperately want to believe we’ve played even a teeny tiny microscopic part in receiving His grace. In fact, a major reason people despise Reformed Theology (or Calvinism) stems from an unwillingness to relinquish the idea of human participation in salvation.

Believe it or not, I understand that objection. Until very recently, I told my testimony in a way that afforded me the dignity of having “accepted” Jesus. Sure, I conceded, He did all the heavy lifting, but I believed I made the final decision to become a Christian.

As a result of my years of embracing the doctrine of free will, I can’t dismiss Arminians as false converts. None of us should. Unless taken to the extreme of Pelagianism, we should give the benefit of the doubt to brothers and sisters in Christ who have been taught that they chose the Lord. After all, none of us has absolutely perfect theology. While right doctrine is essential, all of us are growing towards it a step at a time.

Having voiced my understanding of those who believe in free will, let me now challenge their belief that God won’t save anyone against their will. I have to question the presupposition that anyone, prior to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, would even desire the God of the Bible. Someone might desire a god who conforms to their notion of spirituality, but Scripture clearly states that no one (apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit) has the slightest interest in the true God.

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~~Romans 3:9-18 (ESV)

Notice verse 11, ladies. Despite popular rhetoric about so-called seekers, Paul asserts that no one seeks for God. Free will seeks for a spirituality that feeds the ego, always ending in making us feel good about ourselves, but it cannot choose the Lord Who rightly deserves all the glory. We can’t choose the God Who demands our repentance because we don’t really want to live without our pet sins.

In fact, our natural inclination toward sin deadened us to the Lord, rendering us incapable of voluntarily seeking Him. We needed the Holy Spirit to fill us with life, thereby giving us the faith to receive His grace.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:1-10 (ESV)

I wish time permitted me to quote all the Scripture passages that God used to convince me that I played no part in coming to Christ. The realization of my utter dependence on His grace humbles me. I liked believing that I could take some credit for choosing to follow Him. But the more I read His Word, the more I understand that He saved me by His grace. He alone deserves the praise.

 

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

My Sin, Dwarfed By Grace

Lately, the Lord has allowed me to see the instances when I sin a bit more frequently. Not that I’ve been sinning more frequently. Rather, I’m less blinded to my sin than usual, so I can confess more often and more specifically.

Although I’ve been praying for a greater sensitivity to my sin, I can’t say I exactly enjoy being confronted with my wretchedness. I don’t like knowing that I’ve displeased the Lord or that I’ve acted unbecomingly. I like to maintain a high opinion of myself, and I like others (especially God) to share that high opinion.

But by seeing the ugliness of my sin, I also get to see the astounding beauty of God’s grace. As today’s hymn demonstrates, that grace is ever so much more powerful than any sin I commit. And it’s more powerful than any sin you commit. So, as the Lord faithfully allows us to look at our sins, let’s rejoice in the opportunity to experience His grace to forgive and cleanse us.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday Sampler: May 20 — May 26

Boston July 26 2010 005

Custom Tower & Old State House

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of Bishop Curry’s sermon? Garrett Kell, in All Things for Good, asks a more accurate question with What Would Jesus Say About Bishop Curry’s Royal Wedding Sermon? I heartily agree.

Unbelievers sure love discounting the veracity of the Bible, don’t they? SlimJim, who blogs at The Domain for Truth, writes Bible Contradiction? Did Jesus perform many signs and wonders? He has a running series responding to alleged contradictions in Scripture; this is the first installment I’ve read, and it’s an excellent example of why context matters.

The apostle Paul, says Jordan Standridge, was Obsessed with the Gospel. His piece, appearing in The Cripplegate, draws from Paul’s letter to the Philippians to challenge us in our response to persecution.

IMG_3672

Swan Boat at Boston’s Public Garden

The sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical  Beginnings takes on the popular false teaching associated with John 10:10 in her essay, Twisted Tuesday — The Abundant Life. I appreciate her encouragement to study God’s Word carefully and with discernment.

How could the doctrine of total depravity possibly encourage Christians?  In his post for Parking Space 23, Zach Putthoff answers that question. You might find yourself rejoicing as you read Total Depravity & the Christian Life.

Boston Adventure July 25 2012 013

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum

I never expected to read The Master’s Seminary Blog, but The Wretched Art of Loveless Discernment by Reagan Rose caught my eye. His points convict me to continue discernment blogging, but to make sure I do so from right motives and with a godly attitude. Anyone interested in discernment ministry needs to take this article to heart.

Like Michelle Lesley, I belong to a church within the Southern Baptist Convention. And like her  church, the church I belong to has strong leanings toward Reformed Theology, for which I praise God! Yet, as I read about the denomination as a whole, I must agree with her that It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right.

IMG_3607

Massachusetts State House

Praise the Lord that Phil Johnson has revived Pyromaniacs, one of the blogs God used to bring me to Reformed Theology a decade ago. His post, The Root of the Matter, identifies the serious problems creeping into Reformed circles lately. Again, praise the Lord for Johnson’s faithfulness to stand against worldly compromise for the sake of the Gospel.

Photos of downtown Boston sites taken by John Kespert

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday Sampler: May 6 — May 12

Flower Sampler

Michelle Lesley of Discipleship for Christian Women responds Biblically to the latest Beth Moore stunt in her piece, The Mailbag: What did you think of Beth Moore’s “A Letter to My Brothers”? This thoughtful analysis covers a wide range of Moore’s remarks while pleading with Moore (and her followers) to repent.

The woman who writes at Biblical Beginnings examines a popular false teaching in Twisted Tuesday — First Born by showing us how context interprets a phrase in God’s Word. What a wonderful demonstration of correct Bible Study methods producing good discernment!

Doug Wilson of Blog & Mablog expresses his Gratitude & Update to those who prayed about his cancer surgery.

The Ligonier blog features Sinclair Ferguson’s wonderful ruminations on The Gracious Work of the Holy Spirit in the salvation process. I particularly love the way he connects the Holy Spirit with the Word of God.

Cale Fauver’s article, Christian, Don’t Follow Your Heart, appears in For The Church to address a very common problem in society at large and among evangelicals in particular. Of course, evangelicals should know better. Pastor Fauver’s reminder cannot be repeated too often!

My regular readers know how adamantly I advocate for reading the Bible in context. So they’ll understand why I appreciate Alan Shlemon of Stand To Reason for writing Double the Trouble if You Ignore the Context.

Why would Leslie A of Growing 4 Life open a blog post talking about how mice infiltrate houses? Read The Smallest Crack for her accurate and convicting spiritual application.

Inspired (in a strange way) by the frustration that many women feel in response to Proverbs 31, Steven Ingino of The Cripplegate offers perspective and encouragement with Studying Proverbs 31…the right way. Ladies, although our husbands will benefit from reading this piece, enjoy the refreshing words for yourselves.

How can a blog post about hell end on a positive note? Allen Nelson IV, blogging for Things Above Us, answers that question with The Overwhelming, Never-ending, Reckoning Wrath of God. The post, as an extra bonus, gives us a couple verses to use in witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Throwback Thursday: A Question Of Choice

Originally published on September 28, 2016.

cropped-cropped-cropped-img_4654.jpgGenerally, evangelism should present evidence of a person’s need for salvation, followed by an explanation that Jesus died as a substitute for that person, rising again as a guarantee of eternal life for those who would believe in Him. From there, evangelism should instruct the person to repent of their sin and put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have little doubt that I’ll write future blog posts elaborating on these points.

Neither John nor I came to faith as a result of such a presentation, however. Yet the Holy Spirit exposed us to Scripture, and worked through that Scripture to give us saving faith (please see Romans 10:17). I believe our rather unconventional conversions each testify to God’s Irresistible Grace.

An updated phrase for Irresistible Grace (and a phrase I used yesterday) is effectual call.” Both terms emphasize the idea that the people God elects for salvation will respond to Him. Obviously, I can’t type out all the verses and passages that substantiate this doctrine, but OpenBible.info provides this helpful compilation.

Our Armimian brothers and sisters, many of whom genuinely know and love the Lord, argue that Irresistible Grace violates the doctrine of free-will. I agree! The Bible, even in the verses that appear to teach free-will, consistently affirms the ultimate sovereignty of God. Therefore, He gives us a willingness to choose Him as a result of our regeneration.

In addressing the matter of the effectual call, it follows, we must maintain that the doctrine of free-will suggests that God is at the mercy of human choice. Arminians believe that God’s foreknowledge of who would respond to the Gospel determined who He included as His elect. I certainly used to embrace that theory. But eventually He confronted me with Ephesians 1:3-10.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (ESV)

Notice verse 4, which says that the Father chose us. It gives absolutely no indication that He looked helplessly down the “corridors of time” to see who would decide to follow Jesus. This passage depicts a God Who fully controls redemptive history (and all history, for that matter) according to His plans and purpose.

Making the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth dependent on whether or not or not we choose to be saved erodes His sovereignty. As a matter of fact, the doctrine of free-will pretty much transfers sovereignty to us. Isn’t that essentially blasphemous? I think so!

Additionally, the doctrine of free-will assumes that human beings possess an ability to choose to follow Christ. I’ll remind you, in considering this point, of Ephesians 2:1-3.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  (ESV)

These verses describe unregenerate people. In other words, this is who you and I were prior to becoming Christians (and who you are if  you don’t yet have saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ). Our physical bodies functioned, but we had no capacity or desire to  respond to the things of God. We lacked any ability to come to Him on our own volition (consider Romans 3:10-18). Consequently, we can only choose to follow Christ after the Holy Spirit does His regenerating work in us.

Of course, entire books devote themselves to refuting the doctrine of free-will, beginning with Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will (which I’m currently slogging through), so I hardly think that this minuscule article  will settle the question. But I wanted you to see the Scriptures that have most helped me work through this objection to Irresistible Grace.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin