Saturday Sampler: April 14 — April 20

Easter Cross Sampler

Elizabeth Prata, writing in The End Time, reminds us that Grace IS Amazing as she reflects on her own conversion to Christ. It’s good to look back on who we were without Him so that we can delight in how He changes us for His glory.

For an insightful assessment of 21st Century Christianity, read Mike Ratliff’s False disciples and a compromised gospel in Possessing the Treasure. He apples doctrine drawn from God’s Word to address a very contemporary problem among professing Christians. I highly encourage you to give serious thought to his perspective.

In his article for Knowable Word, Ryan Higginbottom writes Context Matters: The Prodigal Son to challenge our traditional understanding of this beloved parable.

How Do Christians Lose Their Saltiness? Jordan Standridge challenges our misguided attempts at being “all things to all people” with this hard hitting piece for The Cripplegate. What excellent incentive to live in holiness!

Maybe my French heritage leads me to recommend Sam Wegener’s The Bells of Notre Dame Will Be Silent This Easter in Caffeinated Theology, or maybe it’s because The Hunchback Of Notre Dame is of my favorite novels. More likely, it’s because we need to pray for spiritual awakening in France.

The Ligonier Ministries blog features What Do Expiation and Propitiation Mean? by the late R.C. Sproul. What a timely article after yesterday’s observance of Good Friday.

Would it shock you to hear that Mr. Rogers Deserved Hell? John Chester’s blog post for Parking Space 23 explains this jarring statement with a personal anecdote followed by reasoning from Scripture. Don’t forget to click the link to his companion post about rightly understanding John 3:16.

Jared Olivetti writes Lies & Sex as his contribution to Gentle Reformation. If you’ve fallen for any of these lies, please remember that God gives grace to repentant sinners. Then start walking in truth and purity.

Reflecting on the church growth movement, R. Scott Clark of Abounding Grace Radio cautions, Choose Your Metaphors Carefully: The Church Is A Pasture Not A Business. Having been in churches that adopted church growth models, I praise the Lord for this Biblical depiction of God’s intention for His Church.

Christians shouldn’t need Michael Coughlan’s warning to be Careful With Your Mocking: SSTA! in the Things Above Us blog. Sadly, some discernment bloggers do succumb to the childish temptation to make personal attacks on false teachers.

Let’s have a second post from Elizabeth Prata, shall we? Tap dancing on the fence confronts us with the either/or nature of following Jesus. If you suppose that you can be a Christian without sacrificing your hopes, desires and even your very life, I beg you to read this essay.

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Good Friday And The Pressure To Feel Appropriate Emotions

Horrible Beautiful CrossI remember the Good Friday marches Church of the Open Door staged during the years I belonged to that church. With men portraying Jesus (carrying a hollowed out cross) and a Roman soldier followed by six women dressed as mourners,  thirty or forty of us would parade down Fourth Street in San Rafael, CA. Ending at Courthouse Square, we’d sing a few praise songs before someone read a Gospel account of the crucifixion.

Even more fondly, I remember the Good Friday plays that our drama team presented a few hours afterwards. I helped write and direct three of those productions, enjoying the collaborative writing followed by six weeks of rehearsals. Best of all was Continue reading

Cosmic Child Abuse Or Amazing Grace?

First LoveIf you want people to consider you a thinking Christian in this postmodern age, you must reject the whole idea of God’s wrath. Old Testament writers propagated that obviously misshapen view of God as a product of their unenlightened (and generally barbaric) cultures. The New Testament corrects this blasphemy by emphasizing His love for humankind, progressive Christians tell us.

I recently read some articles passionately protesting the teaching that Christ died in order to propitiate His Father’s wrath. Furthermore, one writer insisted that such a notion constitutes “cosmic child abuse.” Whatever atonement means, Continue reading

Hosanna Past And Future

As we contemplate Palm Sunday today,  let’s look  back at Mark’s account of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” ~~Mark 11:1-10 (ESV)

Hopes soared high that day. Messiah had come at last, and surely He would end Roman oppression and usher in His kingdom. Finally, they thought, all the world would see how God favored Israel, and they rejoiced to witness this fulfillment of His promise.

A week later, feeling bitterly disillusioned, those same people demanded that Rome crucify Jesus. They didn’t understand that His kingdom would arrive in stages, allowing the Gentiles to come to saving faith.

But the completed canon of Scripture reveals that more must take place before the final consummation of His kingdom. We can rest assured that the King Who humbly entered Jerusalem riding on a  donkey colt will one day return in the clouds astride a white stallion as heavenly portals ring with loud Hosannas!

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Flashback Friday: He Did It For Himself

I originally posted this article on April 30, 2016.

Cross of GloryAs Christians, of course we take great joy in the fact that Jesus shed His precious blood to pay the price for our sins. Indeed, the knowledge that He made that sacrifice fills us with awe, as we wonder why He would do such a outrageously generous thing.

Back in the 1980s, some evangelical churches taught that He redeemed us because He saw something in us worth saving. That explanation certainly boosted people’s self-esteem, but nothing in Scripture substantiated it. On the contrary, Ephesians 2:1-10 plainly tells us that nothing in us in any way merits the grace He has shown by taking our sin on Himself.

So if Christ had nothing to gain from us, why did He die for us? Obviously He loves us, although I don’t understand why He does. But Ephesians 2:7 offers an even fuller understanding of what motivated Him to such an incredible demonstration of love.

So let’s spend a little time looking at verse 7. Even though I’ll do my best to comment on this verse, I  hope you’ll take the time to look at the cross-references I’ll provide, as they offer deeper insight into the text. Scripture best interprets itself, so these cross-references will help you grasp the teaching in this verse.

But first let’s go back to the passage itself, shall we?

 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. ~~Ephesians 2:1-7 (ESV)

Paul begins verse 7 with the assuring statement that  God will, in the ages to come, give a fuller revelation

  • of the immeasuarable riches
  • of His grace
    • in kindness toward us
    • in Christ Jesus

Commentators differ on whether the “ages to come” denote succeeding generations of Christians who would understand the Ephesians’ conversions as a demonstration of God’s rich mercy or to the ages that will begin when Christ returns. The former interpretation finds support in 1Timothy 1:16, where Paul claims His own conversion as  an example of God’s mercy. Compare Titus 3:4-7, which states that the believers in the church Titus pastored experienced the same mercy as did the Ephesians. Yet 1 Peter 1:3-13 implies that God will display His mercy and grace at the time that Christ reveals Himself universally. I tend to favor the  latter understanding because Christ’s return is part of the Gospel.

God’s purpose in showering believers with grace and mercy benefits us, but ultimately it refers back to His character. Vincent’s Word Studies says that the grammar of the Greek phrase translated here as “He might show” implies that God does all this for His glory first, and then for our benefit. The primary emphasis on His glory,  over and above our blessing, must not be ignored!

The Lord showed similar mercy to Israel, not because they deserved it (they certainly didn’t!), but for the sake of His reputation (Ezekiel 36:21-23, Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Psalm  106:8, Psalm 115:1-2, Ezekiel 20:41). God bestows His mercy on us, just as He did on Israel, out of concern for His reputation among unbelieving nations. For this reason, as well as because of the way verse 7 flows from preceding verses, I tend toward the opinion that these “immeasurable riches” will coincide with Christ’s return when all will see Him (Matthew 24:30).

At the Lord’s return, He will at last become the focal point of all creation. While we will enjoy the privilege of spending eternity in His glorious presence, all the attention will center  exclusively on Him. Our only worth will come from His inexplicable love for us. And even that love, precisely because it refers back to His kindness, manifests  His glory. Truly, when He died for us, He did it for Himself.

Continue reading

Hidden In His Protection

This world isn’t friendly towards anyone who takes Christ or His Word seriously. And since Obergefell, the hostility has become a great deal more open. No wonder we struggle with feelings of vulnerability!

Thankfully, we serve a Savior Who loves us passionately and tenderly. However the world may harm us emotionally, financially or even physically, He lovingly keeps our souls under His protection, assuring us of abundant spiritual blessings. He calls us to take refuge in Him as we delight in the pleasures of His glory and holiness. What a comfort to be hidden in His protection for all eternity.

I have always loved the hymn that I’m posting today because it reminds me to take shelter in the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps you also will find encouragement in its lyrics to trust Him as He hides your soul in the depths of His love.

 

 

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The Sinking Sand Of Self

I have never outgrown my love for Shirley Temple movies. Several years ago, John gave me the complete collection of her movies on DVD as a birthday gift. Some of my favorites include The Little Princess, Captain January and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

Her character in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm often assures people, “I’m very self-reliant!” In the story’s context, her self-reliance always rescues her from horrible dilemmas, therefore becoming a desirable quality.  In fact, when my sister and I were kids, our mother used this movie to encourage us toward self-reliance.

But in the context of salvation and spiritual life, nothing could more dangerous than depending on oneself. We may think our good works and religious devotion commend us to God, but those things simply can’t support us. Before His judgment throne, only the shed blood of Jesus Christ and the righteousness that He imputes to us can justify any of us.

Any ground other than Christ will prove itself to be nothing more than sinking sand. Little Rebecca, precisely because of her charming self-reliance, must never serve as a spiritual role model. Christ alone is our solid Rock. Let’s make sure to stand  on Him!

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