Saturday Sampler: December 3 — December 8

Bell SamplerAfter resolving to be truthful with your children about Santa Claus, you still face the sticky issue of what they tell their little friends. Michelle Lesley tackles that awkward dilemma in The Mailbag: My kid knows the truth about Santa. What if he tells his friends who don’t? Michelle puts forth some thought-provoking arguments that maybe we need as we navigate this question.

Biblical Sexuality Isn’t a Stump You Can Mow Around insists Mike Leake in a blog post for Borrowed Light. He looks at reasons we’re tempted to compromise our position on homosexuality, and explains why we mustn’t compromise.

Mike Ratliff of Possessing the Treasure reminds us of The Cross and its offense. Although it should be Christianity 101, most evangelicals seem willfully oblivious to this basic part of the Gospel.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily when people hurt us. Writing for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis challenges our tendency to hang onto offences with Love & Hurt Feelings — Refresher. This isn’t exactly a “feel good” article, I realize, but it brings us back to a basic principle of Christianity.

The current focus on homosexuality and transgenderism somewhat obscures the seriousness of sexual sins among heterosexuals. SlimJim of The Domain for Truth goes back to fundamental Christian teaching on sexual purity by posting Pre-Marital Abstinence Makes the Married Heart Grow Stronger. Sadly, I think many professing Christians have forgotten the importance of waiting until the wedding night.

I couldn’t agree more with Don’t Be Just Another Fan by Leslie A in Growing 4 Life. Her insightful article leads me to ask you to always evaluate each blog post I write in light of Scripture.

In his moving piece, Planned Parenthood Sings Hush, Little Baby, Samuel Sey objects to the notion that abortion is best for unwanted babies. Appearing in his blog, Slow to Write, this article traces the experiences of two unplanned pregnancies that were in God’s plan all along.

Elizabeth Prata’s essay, Love Thy Neighbor? That’s only half of it, refutes the growing idea that love means ignoring sin in another person. You’ll find her insightful piece in The End Time.

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Saturday Sampler: November 18 — November 24

Reflecting Balls Sampler

I’m not going to tell you why Clint Archer contributes Moths & Roaches: Responding to the Light to The Cripplegate this week. I want your curiosity to bug you until you read it.

Those of us who lean to the right politically should pay attention to Tim Bates’ Judge the Left Rightly in Things Above Us. He masterfully helps us subjugate our political affinities to the authority of Scripture.

Pyromaniacs features Hohn Cho’s insightful post, Voting and the 2018 Elections. Okay, it’s lengthy (even by Pyromaniacs standards). But he makes several important points that Christians need to contemplate. A few of his thoughts might even offer you some refreshment and encouragement.

As part of a series he’s writing for Abounding Grace Radio, R. Scott Clark discusses the Canons of Dort (5): God Ordains Means To Call His Elect. As a Reformed Baptist, I would add only that God’s means also includes personal  evangelism, a task that every believer should perform. Other than that amendment, I completely agree with Clark.

Writing from Australia (which legalized same sex marriage only last year), Stephen McAlpine shows us the rapid fallout Australian Christians now face. I’m the bad guy? How did that happen? chronicles the increasing persecution to people who dare to stand for a  Biblical view of human sexuality. I wonder, reading his words, if American Christians have become desensitized to the sexual revolution.

For a truly helpful explanation of baptism, see Tom’s post, RE-baptized??? What’s that all about? on excatholic4christ.

Please read Elizabeth Prata’s Movie Review – American Gospel: Christ Alone in The End Time. I haven’t watched the movie yet, but Elizabeth’s review gives me the extra nudge I need. See what you think.

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Flashback Friday: Twisting Matthew 18:15 To Make Sin Acceptable

Originally published April 26, 2016.

Twisting ScriptureSeveral years ago, a personal friend of mine began a very public journey away from biblical Christianity. Claiming to still be a Christian, he adopted a lifestyle that directly contradicted Scriptural principles and he encouraged others to follow his example. When I wrote a comment on his blog challenging his new theological positions, he chastized me for not approaching him privately first, in accordance with Matthew 18:15. Regrettably, I acquiesced to his demand that I confront him privately, because he twisted that very Scripture in an effort to avoid responsibility for his sinful choices.

Matthew 18:15-20 deals with restoring a transgressing brother or sister to fellowship within a local congregation.

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (ESV)

As Josh Buice recently wrote in his article, Matthew 18 and the Universal Church, there’s a difference between someone in one’s local church who sins privately and a person like my friend (who lives in another state) whose sin appears, not only in his blog, but also on television interviews and on other websites. The public display of his rebellion eliminates the need for private confrontation because his reputation doesn’t require protection.

I would add that my friend had already committed to his choices. Since Matthew 18:15-20 carries the goal of restoring a person to right relationship with God, it doesn’t really apply to someone who no longer accepts Biblical standards–especially when he or she publicly works to influence others to misinterpret Scripture in respect to that sin. When someone believes and teaches that their behavior meets with God’s approval, twisting the Word of God in order to justly their course of action, we can safely assume that they don’t honestly care about obedience to His Word.

Obviously commenting on my friend’s blog wasn’t going to bring him to repentance, but it could have made his readers think about the matter. Or I could have (and eventually did) written about him in my own blog, warning people against his error. Because he is somewhat of a public figure who writes openly about his lifestyle and beliefs, and because it’s highly unlikely that anyone will dissuade him from his sin unless the Lord miraculously intervenes, I need not talk to him privately before warning others about his false teaching.

I use my experience with him today as an example of how people use Matthew 18:15 out of context in order to silence those who expose their false teaching. Like my friend, they don’t really care about being corrected in a Biblical manner. They want to shame Bible-believing Christians into leaving them unchallenged.

Please be aware that someone who publicly disseminates false doctrine, particularly with the purpose of excusing sin and influencing people to embrace that sin must not be permitted to hide behind Matthew 18:15. Their public espousal of false teaching already demonstrates an unwillingness to repent. Just as they distort other Scriptures to their advantage, so they twist this verse. We need not play their game.

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Saturday Sampler: August 26 — September 1

Vintage Tulip

I love Elizabeth Prata for many reasons. In particular, I love her boldness to speak unpopular truths in her blog, The End Time. Her essay, Shout Your Abortion, and John Owen on infanticide, offers no apology for unmasking the basic brutality behind the willful termination of a pregnancy.

Equally outspoken, Leslie A of Growing 4 Life answers the question, What Does the Bible Say About…(Being Relevant)? We should carefully consider the Scriptural arguments she makes.

Ancient Church 01Clint Archer, writing for The Cripplegate, examines Charismatic and mystical experiences in his pithy piece, Are claims of supernatural experience really that harmful (in 500 words)? You need to read this one!

Plucking Forbidden Fruit by  SharaC appears in Into the Foolishness of God with an interesting observation for control freaks.

The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundations blog includes Is Reading the Bible a Chore or a Delight? by Steve Midgley. You’ll appreciate his practical solution for making your time in God’s Word more enjoyable and fruitful, I think.

If you’d like to see an interesting perspective on developing ethnic diversity in local Little Girl Welcoming Advanced Maskchurches, look no further than The Domain for Truth, where SlimJim writes Ethnic Churches: A More Better Way than Bashing Them. I can’t remember when I’ve read an article this fascinating and thought-provoking! Even better, SlimJim writes as a pastor of an ethnic church.

Reading Michelle Lesley isn’t always safe. The Holy Spirit often uses her writing to convict me. See if her post, Wise to the Ways of the Worldly: 4 Ways Worldliness Sneaks In, and the Scriptures to Slay It doesn’t expose something in you. Dolly's portraitThat’s okay — conviction is a good thing!

In his article for Pyromaniacs, Colin L. Eakin underscores the importance of discernment. Sheep, or Wolf? A Call to Discern explores reasons that evangelicals fail to exercise discernment and suggests ways that we can cultivate this necessary skill.

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Now I Understand Why Reading Sojourner’s Magazine Made Me Feel Slimy

Snail

Not long after I graduated from  college in 1977, one of my pastors started teaching Adult Sunday School classes on world hunger and social justice. Several of us fell under his influence, equating socialist politics with Christianity. We justified this equation by pointing to Acts 2:44-45  as a proof-text  supporting our “radical discipleship.”

Like all good radicals, we protested nuclear power plants, boycotted subsidiaries of corporate conglomerates and mourned profusely when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter. We firmly believed our liberal politics reflected Biblical values.

And we faithfully read Sojourner’s Magazine. I grabbed each issue the moment it hit my mailbox, eagerly flipping to the editorials by Jim Wallis. His writing always assured me that Jesus championed the poor and disenfranchised.

And yet, I always felt a certain discomfort with my so-called Christian socialism. Continue reading

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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Alfie Evans And The Arrogance Of Doctors

This weekend, a Twitter friend encouraged me to blog about Alfie Evans, the disabled toddler who died because the British courts refused to allow his parents to seek treatment in Rome (at Pope Francis’ expense). The Twitter friend based her request on a Tweet I had sent:

Could Have Beeen Me

When I was born, the doctors told my mother that I’d never be anything more than a vegetable. They advised her to put me in an institution and forget she ever had me. By God’s grace, my mom was a stubborn Irish woman who didn’t often think doctors knew what they were talking about, so she took me home. As time progressed, her decision vindicated her; here I am blogging, after all! Not the most vegetative activity, to be sure!

But over the days since I sent that Tweet, I’ve struggled with whether or not my situation really compares to that of Alfie Evans.

On the one hand, I believe the courts definitely should have permitted his parents to take him to Rome. First of all, as parents, they should have had the final say, just as my mother had when the doctors determined that I’d live in a persistent vegetative state. I proved the doctors wrong. Alfie may well have proven his doctors wrong as well.

On the other hand, I regret having implied that Alfie’s situation would have turned out as favorably as mine did. It very well could have, I suppose. Obviously, the doctors made enormous miscalculations about my future. But little Alfie may not have grown up to attend college, get married and find useful ways to occupy his time. By using myself as a measuring rod, I subtly suggested that Alfie should live because he might surprise the world in the same way I did.

Alfie Evans should have been given the chance to exhaust every possible treatment. But not because he might gain all the abilities that I have. Rather, his life had value simply because he was created in the image of God. If treatment in Rome could have enabled him to live at any level, he should have been allowed that opportunity. Maybe he really would have surprised the world.  It breaks my heart that we’ll never know.

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