Saturday Sampler: June 4 — June 10

Bertucci Sampler
Sampler plate at Bertucci’s

Clint Archer posts Running for the  Reward: Comrades Marathon and the Bema Seat in The Cripplegate. Sometimes we Christians forget that rewards await us when we finish this life.

Reprising a column that she originally wrote in 2011, Marsha West of Berean Research chronicles the Purpose Driven dismantling of Christianity as  a testament to the many corrosive influences on the 21st Century church. Her comments on psychology particularly interested me.  In addition, she unmasks the resurgence of Gnosticism among evangelicals and explores Rick Warren’s affiliation with Robert Schuller.

Sometimes we ignore seemingly inconsequential sins, assuming the Lord also overlooks them. Tim Challies directs our attention to one such sin (grumbling about fellow Christians) in The King Is Within Earshot.

People commonly object to the doctrine of election because they infer that, if God elects some to heaven, He conversely elects others to hell. In The Cripplegate, Jesse Johnson writes Reprobation: Does God elect people to hell? as a way to demonstrate the logical fallacies of this argument. After you’ve read this piece, however, I strongly suggest that you read Reprobation Rejoinder by Mike Riccardi, also in The Cripplegate.

I’ve been disturbed, for the past few years, about the common perceptions professing Christians have regarding heaven. So it encourages me to read Heaven: The Biblical Version by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day. I feel less alone in my understanding of what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Denny Burk provides a sobering reminder that American Christians have already begun to face persecution. His article, Watch Bernie Sanders tell  a Christian that his faith disqualifies him from office, reminds me that we can no longer expect to be embraced by our culture. But Jesus repeatedly warned us that the world would reject us, so we really shouldn’t be surprised.

If you want to read something both fun and educational, look at The Mischievous Protestant’s Guide to Catholic Rome by Tim Challies. Now, why do you suppose my art history professor at Dominican University of California  (a school started by Catholic nuns) never mentioned the items in this piece.

In her essay for The Gospel Coalition Blog, Kendra Dahl shares The Lesson That Saved My Marriage to help us adjust our expectations of our husbands. I definitely needed to read her wisdom this week!

 

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Why The Reformation Still Matters

Bible Mask MedievalOctober 31, 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, still looms six months ahead of us. Because most 21st Century evangelicals have little interest in church history, however, the anniversary will go largely unnoticed, except by those who seek some sort of reconciliation with the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, Pope Francis has declared that the Reformation is over, emphasizing “common ground” between Catholics and evangelicals.

Many evangelicals have little problem accepting Roman Catholicism as a branch of Christianity. Rick Warren has famously referred to Pope Francis as “our” pope, and Beth Moore celebrates the notion that Catholic women are our sisters in Christ.

It all seems so Christian, doesn’t it? And, frankly, I’d love to pretend that the doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants didn’t matter. Why not concentrate on our shared beliefs in the Trinity and Christ’s Incarnation? Why not rejoice together in His death, burial and resurrection?

In fact, until recent years, I didn’t think the differences between Catholics and Protestants really did matter (although I couldn’t agree with their beliefs on things like Purgatory or the veneration of Mary). But then, doctrine didn’t seem very important to me until about 16 or 17 years ago.

I was pretty typical of most present-day evangelicals, especially in my voluntary ignorance of both doctrine and church history. God has graciously changed all that, even in my twilight years, convincing me that the Reformation has profound meaning that 21st Century evangelicals dare not ignore.

The Reformation happened, not because a constipated German monk decided to cause trouble (as my Catholic Political Science professor taught me), but because God sovereignly opened up His Word to men who then embraced the doctrines of grace. These men saw that, even though the Roman Catholic Church grew out of genuine Christianity, it perverted Biblical doctrine in favor of tradition and political power. In His mercy and faithfulness, the Lord brought about the Reformation in order to restore Scripture to His Church.

Next Tuesday, we’ll examine the doctrine of justification, which divides the Protestant from the Catholic church. As serious as the other doctrinal differences are (and many are extremely serious), the matter of justification makes it impossible for Bible-believing Christians to reconcile with Catholicism.

The Reformation continues, and the Reformation matters, as long as Rome insists that human effort plays a part in justification. Pope Francis can make all the declarations he wants, but his pontifications (pun fully intended) can’t change the fact that Rome fails to teach basic Gospel truth.

Evangelicals need to understand the Reformation in order to stand firmly in Biblical doctrine. Sure, it would be lovely to throw our arms around Rome’s children and let them claim us as their own. But fidelity to the Gospel forbids it. No  matter what Rick Warren, Beth Moore and Pope Francis say, the Reformation isn’t over. And it mustn’t be forgotten.

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Saturday Sampler: March 26 — April 1

Butterfly SamplerJohn Ellis’ piece in PJ Media, Teenage Boy Sues School Over Transgender Bathrooms is a political article rather than a specifically Christian one, but it serves as a reminder that our culture has chosen a path that degrades most of society. Christians must prepare to be marginalized as a new version of “morality” takes over.

Continuing her series on discernment at Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. writes Learn to Discern: Acknowledging the War. Find out how (and why) spiritual warfare fits into using discernment properly.

Does the Lord care how we worship Him? Rebekah Womble, blogging at Wise In His Eyes, believes He does. Her blog post, The Freedom of Worshipping God’s Way (she spelled worshiping with two p’s, not me), helps us understand why we must avoid self-styled approaches to worshiping a holy God.

Why Bargain With God?, a post that Kennedy Mathis wrote for Biblical Woman, brings back memories of my struggles as a single woman. But the principle she’s learned really applies  to any struggle Christians have.

As you can tell, I appreciate the series on cessationism that Jordan Standridge has been doing for The Cripplegate this month. His latest article, Three Reasons God is a Cessationist, employs arguments I’ve heard before, but they’re not common arguments. Please, if you have any Charismatic or continualist leanings, consider the points he makes.

Cameras Buettel, writing for the Grace To You Blog, says You Might Be A Pharisee If… This essay helps us examine ourselves (and others) more effectively to make sure we remain faithful to the Bible.

Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day writes Same Bible, different beliefs, showing how the Lord helped her work though a perplexing question. And while you’re on her website, please check out Deconstructing Absurdity: a discernment lesson to watch her tackle a recent Tweet by Rick Warren.

R.C. Sproul posts TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election on the Ligonier blog. Appealing to Scripture, he both explains the doctrine of election and deals with the argument that election is unjust.

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Saturday Sampler: November 27– December 3

squirrel-samplerGlen Chatfield of The Watchman’s Bagpipes writes a  heartfelt and extremely balanced article entitled “Gays,” Lesbians, and “Transgenders” — What Do I Think About Them? Admittedly, it’s probably a longer blog post than it needs to be, but Glen reminds us of some salient attitudes that  Christians ought to hold when discussing homosexuality.

Could you explain the Gospel to an unbeliever? If not, read An 8 Point Summary of the Gospel! by Lisa Morris on her Conforming to the Truth blog. You can even download the material as a free booklet. I love the fact that she presents the Gospel almost entirely from God’s Word.

Stop Excommunicating Yourself from the Lord’s Supper says Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace. His article shows us the difference between Scriptural self-examination and wrongfully disqualifying ourselves from an ordinance that Jesus commands His people to observe.

Excommunication, however, should happen when a church member refuses to accept Biblical correction, as we see in Denny Burk’s post, Why churches may need to excommunicate “affirming” members of the congregation. Although Burk writes specifically about those who minimize, ignore or deny the sinfulness of homosexuality, much of what he says also applies to all forms of false teaching.

On  her blog, One Hired Late In The  Day, Jennifer gives a practical example of how to evaluate things we hear and read through the lens of Scripture. Her blog post, Filtering Ideas Biblically, reiterates the necessity of saturating ourselves in God’s Word.

Jason Vaughn, writing for Parking Space 23, demonstrates how to understand the Gospel narratives in  Context: The Key to Unlocking the Gospels. Okay, I know I harp on the importance of context a lot, but maybe this essay will help you see how reading Scripture in its own context can help us better understand and apply its truths.

Writing for She Disciples, Kimberley Cummings provides Scriptural reasons for Overcoming Empty Optimism as well as Biblical ways to cultivate an optimism that has its basis in the Lord. Because social media inundates us with fluffy platitudes that imply that we can handle the world in our own  strength, this article really needs our attention.

When will evangelicals stop trying to hear God’s voice in addition to Scripture? In Rick Warren: Forget Sola Scriptura, But There is “Plus Scriptura, Pulpit & Pen’s Bud Ahlheim compares Warren’s recent post on four ways God supposedly speaks to Christians with the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy on the sufficiency of Scripture. Ahlheim’s article should be read by everyone who claims to know Christ!

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Some Roads Only Lead To Abandoned Dog Racing Tracks

When I lived in Memphis back in 1995, Mom  came out to visit. She stayed in a hotel only two miles away from the nursing home (where I lived). On the Saturday of my visit, my friend James picked me up in my van, and we set out for Mom’s hotel.

1995, of course, hadn’t yet seen GPS devices, so we honestly believed the road we’d taken led to the hotel. But 15 minutes later, as we found ourselves on the bridge crossing the Mississippi River into Arkansas, James remembered that the road split way back near the nursing home. We had stayed on the wider, more traveled road, thinking it would get us to the hotel in downtown Memphis. Instead, it led us to an abandoned dog racing track in another state.

This story fluttered back into my memory one day as I thought about the various trends and teachers flooding the evangelical church today. At first, we don’t notice any deviation from Biblical doctrine. In fact, we see these trends and teachers attract more people to church, and we conclude that the numbers signify God’s blessing. Just as James and I assumed the broad, more populous road would take us to Mom’s hotel, so evangelicals trust these popular movements and teachers to lead them to spiritual truths.

But often, the popular route ends up miles away from truth. Things that appear to  be Christian may actually lure people to a counterfeit spirituality. And popularity may, to our surprise, even serve as an indication of deviation from truth. Consider this passage from the Lord’s own Sermon on the Mount:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” ~~Matthew 7:13-27 (ESV)


The narrow gate squeezes  out false doctrine.  Though it’s so much easier to jump on whatever bandwagon comes to “a church near you,” Jesus holds us accountable to examine the quality (rather than the quantity) of each program and teaching. Beth Moore and Rick Warren, for example, may inspire millions of people to buy their books and attend their speaking engagements, but they manipulate Scripture to preach a  false gospel of  narcissism instead of elevating the Lord Jesus Christ. Similarly, the Gay Christian Movement concentrates on rewriting God’s Word for the sole purpose of legitimizing their sexual  sin. 

And on an on the deception goes, slowly and subtly leading evangelicals away from the Biblical Christ into a parody of Christianity as lifeless as those dog racing tracks in Arkansas. Perhaps my attempts to demonstrate how various trends and teachers steer people in wrong directions appear unloving and unnecessarily divisive as I “rip” cherished teachers and ideas. But love, if it’s genuine, warns people that they misread maps and follow the traffic on the wrong road.

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The Reformation Happened, And It Matters

When did I stop blogging about the Reformation?  More to the point, why did I stop blogging about the Reformation? Over the past few weeks,  I’ve had passing thoughts that I really should start addressing the topic again, especially since the 500th anniversary of its inauguration is a little more than a year away. To be honest, however, I’ve felt pretty overwhelmed by all the church history I’ve been learning this year, and I didn’t want to do the heavy lifting required to write on its various aspects.

But the Lord has a way of using different things to nudge me in my blogging, and I believe He gave me a little push this afternoon towards reviving my posts on this topic. Today’s episode of Entreating Favor’s Fire Away podcast, featuring Grant Castleberry talking about Luther and the Reformation, reminded me that the Reformation restored Christianity to its biblical foundation: the Bible.  Equally important, it brought the Church back to the Gospel message of justification by faith alone.

Evangelicals in the 20th and 21st Centuries have minimized these two pivotal doctrines, often teaching that Catholicism is a valid form of Christianity. I well remember that summer evening in 1973 when some friends and I attended a mass at a local Carmelite  convent, certain that God had saved those nuns because, after all, they spoke in tongues. Although I understood that their veneration of Mary and the saints had no Scriptural basis, I believed Roman Catholicism taught the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Most of my evangelical friends agreed.

In the 90s, several prominent evangelicals and Catholics drew up a document called Evangelicals and Catholics Together. They forged this alliance for the purpose of minimizing doctrinal discrepancies with the claim that both sides hold the same fundamental beliefs. And just last year, evangelical pastor Rick Warren insisted that the two camps “are far more united than divided.”

On January 26, 2016, Pope Francis announced plans to join in celebrations of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary this coming October in Lund, Sweden. In so doing, he implicitly has declared an end to the Reformation. In other words, he now believes that Protestants and Catholics have reached an agreement concerning the doctrine of justification by faith.

Most evangelicals, as well as most Catholics, see nothing wrong with putting the Reformation behind us and  embracing unity. This eagerness to bury our theological differences sounds wonderful, but it betrays an ignorance of church history as well as an indifference to doctrinal purity.These lapses must be addressed and corrected by the clear teachings of Scripture rather than swept under the rug.

Bible-believing Christians must not forget the causes of the Reformation. nor must we take its benefits for granted. Martin Luther, John Calvin and the other 16th Century Reformers risked their lives to stand against teachings that the Roman Catholic Church has never renounced. Understanding both the history and the doctrinal positions of the Reformation is essential to maintaining Biblical Christianity.

Therefore,  I will once again start blogging about the Reformation, bearing in mind that I’m more interested in history than accomplished in it. Despite my deficits, I pray that my posts will inspire you to study  church history and consequently understand why we can’t unite with Rome unless she repents and embraces the Bible as her only authority. Yes, I feel completely overwhelmed, but I’m completely certain that I must blog on this immensely important topic.

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Autobiography With Purpose: My Doctrinal Homecoming

Header May 2013
Reading the Pyromanics blog

We need to set aside discussion regarding Brookville Baptist Church until my next Autobiography With Purpose installment so that I can give you an idea of changes that the Lord made in my theology in the years between 2006 and 2012. Actually,  the word “changes” seems a little misleading, since my shift in doctrine felt more like a spiritual homecoming than a new beginning.  At any rate, I’ve realized (mostly from thinking about it at 2:30 this morning) that a narrative of what happened with Brookville would make much more sense if I first explained what the Lord was doing with me between Sunday morning services.

Shortly after I joined Facebook in 2008, I re-connected with a friend I’d known when we both attended Church of the Open Door in San  Rafael, California. We’d known each other since about 1977, at times being fairly close.  Around the time I moved to Massachusetts to marry John, this lady and her husband also relocated their family, causing us to lose touch for roughly six years until Facebook reunited us.

To my shock and dismay, I soon learned that my friend had become heavily involved in Holy Yoga. Even though I’d known since first coming to Christ that yoga is diametrically opposed to Biblical Christianity, I began searching out Christian websites that offered biblical explanations for rejecting the practice. My search led me to Sola Sisters, a blog written by two women who had been saved out of New Age philosophies.

Sola Sisters not only helped me in my research on yoga; they addressed the problems with Rick Warren, evangelical mysticism and other issues infiltrating the church.  Many of their blog posts verified misgivings I’d had regarding a wide variety of teachings and popular teachers I’d encountered over the years.  In addition, their emphasis on Scripture and the Five Solas of the Reformation beautifully complemented John MacArthur’s radio broadcasts, which John and I listened to each morning.

It wasn’t long before I started clicking links on Sola Sisters’ blogroll. That practice led me to the Pyromanics blog, maintained by Dan Philips, Frank Turk and Phil Johnson. I recognized Phil Johnson as being part of MacArthur’s Grace To You ministry, so I eagerly read the blog and was introduced more fully to Reformed Theology. Through Sola Sisters I also found Erin Benziger’s Do Not Be Surprised blog, which opened doors to more discernment and Reformed Theology blogs and websites than I could hope to mention in today’s autobiography.

As I explored these blogs and studied Scripture in more systematic ways, I would often come upon ideas that my past churches (and, to a lesser extent,  Brookville) had talked me out of embracing. Most notably, they refuted so-called Christian psychology and the erroneous idea of building up self-esteem.  Frequently, I’d read an article and think, “Yes! I thought the passage said that!”

There were still instances, of course, when I struggled with my Armimian background.  I had difficulty realizing, for example, that I couldn’t take any credit for my salvation.  But through His sovereignty and providence, the Lord Jesus Christ began ushering me into Reformed Theology.  The tension I experienced at Brookville came largely as a result of this doctrinal redirection, but the joy of coming home greatly eclipsed that discomfort.  At last, I knew what I believed and why I believed it.

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