Saturday Sampler: April 15 — April 21

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Personally, I enjoy reading the Old Testament prophets, though I must admit that I didn’t really understand them until recent years. Ryan Higginbottom sees that many Christians often neglect these books of the Bible. Write for Knowable Word, he outlines What We Miss When We Skip the Prophets in an effort to keep us from a lopsided intake of Scripture. He even coaches us on ways to approach these books.

In The Chains of “Cool”, appearing in Growing 4 Life, Leslie A has no difficulty speaking the truth boldly! Toward the end, you’ll possibly feel a bit breathless, but only because you’ll know she’s right in standing against evangelical compromise.

Reflecting on a recent diagnosis, Doug Wilson muses on The Obedience of Cancer in Blog & Mablog by directs attention back to God’s sovereignty. He exhibits true faith in his trial — faith that convicts me of sin concerning my own reactions to adversity. Please do pray for Doug and his family as they walk through this time of trusting God’s wisdom.

Standing firm for the Lord means we must Buck the current. Elizabeth Prata draws from her personal experiences of living on a boat to demonstrate this spiritual principle in her blog, The End Time.

Responding to a comment he overheard in a restaurant, Scott Slayton of One Degree to Another informs us Why You Should Study Theology. Now, before you decide that this article is probably full of mothballs, why don’t you give it a try? It might surprise you!

Diana Severance, in her essay for Biblical Woman, asks us to seriously consider The Cost of Saying “I Am A Christian” in a culture that hates the Gospel. We might not think we’ll ever endure physical torture for the Lord. Perhaps we should think a little harder, and then remember His grace that carries believers through even the most extreme persecution.

Drawing from this week’s airline tragedy, Stephen McAlpine shares a powerful illustration of our urgent need to constantly keep the Gospel in view. Paying Attention Is On The Nose is important reading for those of us who feel so familiar with the Gospel that we fumble to apply it properly during times of crisis.

If women shouldn’t preach or teach in mixed company, what can we do to serve the Lord and our churches? Michelle Lesley offers great insight in Unforbidden Fruit: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach The Church on Discipleship for Christian Women.

I’m generally not a fan of The Christian Post (it’s hardly a bastion of discernment), but John MacArthur: Evangelical Christians Today ‘Tolerate False Gospel,’ Avoid Sanctification for ‘Relevance’ by Leah MarieAnn Klett epitomizes so much of why 21st Century evangelicals miss the boat that I believe you need to read it.

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The Tragedy Of The Entertaining Church

Powerful Word“Show people that Christians are just like  everyone else.”

“If we have non-threatening activities like movie nights, people will get comfortable enough with us that they’ll want to come to church.”

“Unless we have games and refreshments, kids won’t come to youth group.”

I heard all these comments, and more, from a church I used to attend, usually in connection with evangelism and church growth strategies.  We want to attract people to the Lord, not scare them away from Him, the leadership of the church reasoned. For a while, they even made sense. Why not make visitors comfortable before hitting them with the Bible?

Sometimes the promoters of such ideas supported them with 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Never mind that this passage, in context, refers to restricting one’s Christian liberties to avoid offending people with anything but the Gospel. But in his next epistle to that same church, Paul made it clear that presenting the Gospel would, in fact, offend those who would not receive salvation.

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17 For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ. ~~2 Corinthians 2:15-17 (ESV)

Churches, including youth groups, act deceptively when they advertise themselves as being cool, hip and in touch with the world, only to slip Jesus in there when they can do it inconspicuously. They know that a blatant bait-and-switch will expose them, so they have to continue making Scripture palatable. Sermons include stand-up comedy, movie clips and props rather than verse-by-verse exposition of the text, knowing that the folks they attract through entertainment require continuing entertainment in order to keep them coming.

Contrast that mindset with Paul’s command to Timothy.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

God’s church can, and should, be overflowing with joy. Fellowship halls should ring with laughter, and youth groups should include extra activities outside of Bible Study hours. As someone known for practical jokes, I’m hardly adverse to having fun at appropriate moments.

But when we use fun as an evangelism tool, and especially when we blur the lines between Christians and the world, we tend to obscure the Gospel. After all, the call to repentance can’t be slipped in between funny stories or during a game of Pictionary if we expect non-Christians to take their sin seriously.

Churches must preach the Word, even if so doing makes people uncomfortable. In fact, we want people to feel uncomfortable about their sin in hopes that they will then desire the Savior. Preaching a compromised gospel that elevates human comfort over the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ may fill churches, but it won’t save souls.

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Saturday Sampler: March 11 — March 17

Extruded CrossesI admire Albert Mohler’s grasp on church history and his practical way of applying it to our present-day Christian experience. So I appreciate Ligonier for featuring Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary in their blog this week. Mohler reasons from insights that wouldn’t have occurred to me, making it a fascinating article.

Check out Six Significant Things I’ve Learned from John MacArthur by Leslie A of Growing 4 Life. She makes several interesting points, even beyond the six that comprise the body of her blog post.

Evaluating the rise of the NAR movement in Berean Research, Amy Spreeman demonstrates How abandoning Sola Scriptura shipwrecks your faith. I recommend this piece to anyone who believes that God supplements His Word by speaking to them directly.

Evangelism requires a balanced attitude, as Jordan Standridge shows us in Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings, But Christians Should in The Cripplegate. His words particularly encourage me, since I often struggle with guilt that my mom evidently never came to saving faith before she died. Yes, my tone in witnessing to her was sinful, and I need to declare the Gospel with much greater gentleness and humility, but I must remember Who ultimately determines salvation.

Are You a Contender? asks Rebecca Stark in an essay for Out of the Ordinary. I especially love her point drawing a correlation between contending for the faith and knowing God’s Word. Ladies, contending for the faith is a responsibility that each of us must take seriously.

The End Time by Elizabeth Prata looks at The entertainment-driven church that’s so prevalent in evangelical culture these days.  Heed her wise words.

In a guest post for Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc, Marcia Montenegro describes The Basic Spirituality of Yoga to show us why Christians must avoid this practice. Marcia practiced Hatha Yoga for 20 years prior to her conversion to Christ, and therefore handles the topic with authority. If you’re at all considering yoga as a means of exercise, I beg you to read this article and seriously think about the points she raises.

Tim Challies suggests a few reasons Why Some People Aren’t Christians. His insights appear simple, but they are also profound. If you feel discouraged regarding your evangelism efforts, this blog post might give you some helpful perspective.

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Saturday Sampler: October 29 — November 5

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An essay by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word reveals One Temptation of Digital Searching that had never occurred to me. His admonition might spare you from misinterpreting God’s Word.

I enjoy pretty much everything Candi Finch writes on Biblical Woman, but Meet Katie Luther, One of the Protestant Reformation’s Leading Ladies has to be my all-time favorite piece I’ve read of hers. Once again,  we see that history can not only inspiring, but downright fun! I dare you to get through this piece without cracking a smile.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge gives us The Cry of the Reformation: Jesus is our Sufficient Savior!  His article goes to the heart of the Reformation, directing us  back to the Lord Jesus Christ as all a sinner ever needs.

What should 21st Century evangelicals learn from the Reformers’ cry of Sola Scriptura?Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder answers that question with What is Sola Scriptura Protecting Us Against? More Than You Think. This article taught me a few things that deepen my appreciation for this doctrine of grace.

On her blog,  The End Time, Elizabeth Prata analyzes the state of present-day evangelicalism against the backdrop of the Reformation. Reformation Day 500 and counting! affirms the sad reality that the Reformation is far from over. Her essay will enhance your conviction that we absolutely must stand on God’s Word, using it as an instrument of discernment.

Reprising an article from Tabletalk Magazine (which I read all the time), the blog from Ligonier features The Holy Spirit’s Ministry by Sinclair  Ferguson. If you struggle with the idea that some of the Spirit’s gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era, this piece may help you.

I’ve definitely sinned in my attempts to perform discernment ministry. So Lara d’Entremont’s blog post in Renewed in Truth Discipleship, Where Discernment Goes Wrong, rightly convicted me. Please take a look at the post yourselves and see whether or not the Lord would have you reconsider your approach to discernment.

Erin Benziger once again correctly uses Scripture to expose a sin that all of us fall into — usually without realizing it. In Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Envy on Do Not Be Surprised, she illustrates the dangerous potential in this seemingly innocuous sin.

I’m including a second article from The Cripplegate because Jesse Johnson’s Semper Reformanda? addresses seven serious problems in 21st Century evangelical churches. My regular readers will notice that some of his concerns echo issues that I’ve been writing about for years. Please take a look at this thought-provoking blog post.

Commenting on events in the news, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day concludes that Sin makes people stupid, and explains the world we live in. Her essay matches the power of its title!

I struggle with sinful, self-centered anger.  But Michelle Lesley reminds of 6 Reasons to Recapture Righteous Anger. She makes very interesting and unexpected observations that most Christians overlook.

As someone who has been severely disabled since birth, I read Tim Challies’ essay,  No Better (Or Worse) Time To Be Disabled with tremendous interest. Although he specifies people with intellectual disabilities, don’t think for a moment that these ideas couldn’t eventually carry over to anyone with severe birth defects.

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Saturday Sampler: July 23 — July 29

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For those who wonder why people object so strongly to The Message paraphrase of the Bible, I beg you to read Eugene Peterson by Justin Peters. He compares selected passages with more standard Bible translations to show why this paraphrase cannot be trusted.

One of the things I like best about Michelle Lesley is her unwillingness to compromise God’s Word. Her post, The Mailbag: Female Pastors – False Teachers or Just Sinning?, looks at the issue fairly while raising important questions based on both Scripture and Michelle’s observation. I do wish she would have also commented on women who, although they don’t hold the office of pastor, teach men.

Discernment ministry isn’t the path to popularity, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life tells us in Don’t Expect a Crowd.

The problem with hip humility by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day hits the nail on the head. Is it really cool to cuss a little if we profess to love Jesus? Jennifer causes us to think seriously about such casual attitudes.

What can I say about Erin Benziger’s essay, On the Dangers of Distorting God’s Grace, which you’ll find on Do Not Surprised? She gives a healthy balance on responding to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. I love her passion for His truth!

It bothers me that evangelicals teach people to expect God to speak to them apart from Scripture. So Elizabeth Prata’s pointed essay, How did they ever hear God without a how-to manual? in The End Time, both amuses and encourages me. She stands firm on the Word of God, as we all should.

Sunny Shell of Abandoned to Christ writes a heartfelt blog entry called Content in Christ Alone that, to be honest, addresses a malaise common to all women. Although she doesn’t say anything particularly novel, she certainly reminds us of basic Biblical truth. Sometimes we need such reminders.

Are you in that heartwrenching season of praying earnestly for someone, only to see them harden themselves against the Gospel? If so, Even If He Doesn’t by Staci Eastin of Out of the Ordinary will most assuredly minister to you.

On her blog, Unified in Truth, Nikki Campbell educates us on The Downgrade Controversy that dogged the ministry of C.H. Spurgeon and relates it to the downgrade in evangelical churches today. She features a short, but compelling video with John MacArthur explaining how history is sadly repeating itself, as well as how pastors and congregations can resist this unbiblical trend.

Let’s add a second article by Leslie A., if only to validate my pet peeve regarding smart phones. Every Three Seconds looks at our addiction to these devices as well as suggesting ways to use them more responsibly and in ways that honor God.

Visiting an Embassy by Jesse Johnson is a slight departure from the sort of writing that usually appears in The Cripplegate. It also makes a powerful point about seeker-sensitive churches.

Please don’t miss Amy Spreeman’s article, When women’s ministries abandon the Bible, on the Naomi’s Table website. It perplexes me that any Bible Study group would choose to study a book when they can study the very Word of God.

If you feel left out because you don’t hear God speak personally to you, check out God Doesn’t Talk to Me on Rachel’s danielthree 18 blog. She guides us on making right decisions. I’ll offer no hints on how she advises us to seek God’s will; I want you to read her counsel for yourselves.

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This Little Window

As global unrest gathers momentum, I see a greater urgency to proclaim the Gospel. I don’t know how soon Jesus will return to bring final judgement on the world, but world events lead me to suspect that Western Christians have little time left  to speak (and write) freely about the Lord.

Perhaps I discern this situation wrongly. But even if I do, people die every day and enter a Christless eternity while professing evangelicals focus on receiving blessings and filling pews with warm bodies who happen to have deep pockets.

The Lord has indeed blessed us in this little window of human history by giving us Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other forms of social media. What powerful tools for declaring the Person and work of Jesus Christ! Yet some of my Christian friends have told me point-blank that they use social media for their  “down time,” preferring not to post things that might start spiritual discussions or offend their non-Christian family and friends.

Okay. They can make that choice. I think, however, that they may regret wasting the wonderful opportunities that social media currently offers to Christians. Time may not allow us to publicly post the Gospel much longer, and I’d like to see people take advantage of social media while we can. If Christ indeed does return soon, the very non-Christians that we’d rather not offend will need to have heard the Gospel.

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. ~~John 9:4 (ESV)

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What You Win Them With

Love and truthOn a recent episode of The Dividing Line, James White quoted the maxim, “What you win them with is what you win them to.” His, point was that churches using entertainment as a means of evangelism would necessarily then have to continually provide entertainment in order to satisfy their new converts. Otherwise they’d be rightfully accused of bait-and-switch tactics.

Youth ministry, sadly, has become dependent on entertaining young people, rationalizing that teenagers won’t come to meetings that consist solely of Bible Study and singing. Bible Studies must be kept short, youth leaders insist, because teenagers have short attention spans.

Yet these same kids are expected to sit attentively through five periods of classroom instruction each day. Granted, some of their teachers feel obligated to crack jokes constantly to hold their interest, but most teachers don’t. The kids go to school to learn math, literature, history and science, not to play. Their school experience proves that they are perfectly capable of participating in a Bible Study without requiring additional incentives.

Let me say this clearly.  If they’re not interested in the Bible without fun and games, they’re not interested in the Bible. You can have the most outrageous activities you want, but please realize that a steady diet of entertainment does absolutely nothing to attract them to the Lord. Kids, like anybody else, come to Christ by hearing His Word.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ~~Romans 10:14-17 (ESV)

Look, I’m not against an occasional pizza party or movie night. I like having fun as much as the next gal. But let’s give adolescents the benefit of the doubt by treating them as young adults who can, by the grace of God, sit through a Bible Study without needing some auxiliary method to lure them in. As James White said, “What you win them with is what you win them to.”

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