Saturday Sampler: April 1 — April 7

Spring 2018 SamplerWhat do you call home? Sometimes (too often, actually) I tell folks that God made me for Boston. John Ellis, in his blog A Day in His Court, writes Rooted: A Christian’s Place to challenge that temporal perspective. But his rejoinder isn’t exactly what you probably think it is.

Starting with an account of John Hooper’s martyrdom under Bloody Mary, Clint Archer discusses Exquisite Tenderness – Being Christlike in the Crucible of Suffering for The Cripplegate, The main body of his post draws from Christ’s attitude during His crucifixion. It’s an uncomfortable post to read, but we certainly need its message as we face the growing threat of persecution in our own century.

In How to Cheat Death, Leslie A of  Growing 4 Life questions the power of a healthy diet. She sees a much more effective way of cheating death.

I remember the frustration of being single, and thus I feel concern for my unmarried sisters in Christ. Lisa Robinson, who blogs at Thinking and Living Theological Thoughts Out Loud, writes On kingdom seeking and stuff: a personal reflection to encourage other single women through the wonderful blessing God is working in her life.

Using Titus 2 as a  template, Amanda Walker shows us Six Habits Younger Women Need Older Women To Teach Them in Biblical Woman. Ladies, all of us can benefit from the reminders Amanda provides.

Although I don’t think I’ll close The Outspoken TULIP’s Facebook page quite yet, Stephen McAlpine’s When Facebook Falls Out of Like With Your Blog gives me something to ponder.  I understand that the growing censorship against Christians and conservatives in social media is minimal compared to the persecution Christians face in other parts of the world, but I believe we should be aware that we have limited time in which to proclaim the Gospel online. Let’s not waste it!

Also in this week’s The Cripplegate, Eric Davis writes Is the Bible Enough for Us? – Sufficiency as part of his series on God’s Word. My regular readers know how strongly I believe that the Bible provides absolutely everything we need to live in accordance with God’s will, so you’ll not be surprised by my recommendation of this post. Davis makes the case for the sufficiency of Scripture much better than I ever have.

Michael Coughlan’s thought-provoking piece, Sad Facts About Racism, adds needed perspective to the difficult conversation we’re having in our nation currently. He regularly contributes posts to Things Above Us.

If you struggle to distinguish between discernment ministry and “discernment ministry,” please read How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, Part 1 and How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, Part 2 by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time. Whether you aspire to write a discernment blog or you need help determining which blogs to trust, Elizabeth’s two essays can help you develop a good criteria for vetting discernment ministries.

At first, Stephen McAlpine’s title,  The Sex Pistols, The Bible and China, put me off. But as we think about the probability of persecution reaching American shores, this article offers encouragement and hope that the suppression of religious liberties might actually serve to further the Gospel!

I certainly have an abundance of links in this edition of Saturday Sampler, but I must include That’s Not How This Works by SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God. The practice she addresses reminds me of Thomas Jefferson, who reportedly took scissors to the parts of the Bible he didn’t like.

Finally, Jeff Robinson writes Jonathan Edwards and Why I am a Cessationist for Founders Ministries to help us evaluate the work of the Holy Spirit in revivals. He imports thoughts from Jonathan Edwards, who preached during the Great Awakening in the 18th Century.

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Saturday Sampler: March 4 – March 10

Rose Sampler 02Biblical Christianity no longer enjoys widespread acceptance, so we can often feel embarrassed about our faith. In response to this problem, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace writes I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel. Why do those words sound so familiar to me?

Although Joe Carter’s article, Why Teenagers Are Becoming ‘Trans-Curious’, in The Gospel Coalition Blog didn’t surprise me, his discovery may not occur to each of you. Or perhaps it may. At any rate, it highlights the problems with embracing the LBGTQ narrative.

I appreciate Tom at excatholic4christ for writing Paradigm Shift: How Gospel outreach to Catholics became “anti-Catholic bigotry” to chronicle the changed relationship between Catholics and evangelicals over the last 60 years. He raises some interesting points that we really ought to consider.

Short but insightful, Michelle Lesley parodies the beloved children’s hymn by writing Jesus Loves Me: The “Contending for the Faith” Version. Check it out on her Discipleship for Christian Women blog, especially if you enjoy clever writing as much as I do.

In an article for the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Katie McCoy uses a careful study of Hebrew words to answer the question, Did Old Testament Law Force a Woman to Marry Her Rapist? The answer surprised me, and it also reinforced the incredible value of studying God’s Word.

Writing for the Canadian Edition of The Gospel Coalition Blog, Heather Peacock suggests 8 Ways to Welcome People with Disabilities into Your Church. I only wish she had said more about adults with disabilities, but her list is an excellent start.

We all go through tough times, so How to Rejoice When Life is Hard by Pastor Colin Smith of Unlocking the Bible brings us back to an eternal perspective on suffering. In doing so, he necessarily shows us that having an eternal perspective actually enables us to rejoice in our trials. I hope I haven’t given away too much of his post! Read it to see how he fits it all together.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time has a brilliant essay called Don’t leave the Baby in the manger or the Man of the cross that mustn’t be ignored! If we truly want to know Jesus, we have to embrace all of Him.

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Why Jesus Won’t Be Your Valentine Tomorrow

Tulip Sampler 01Out of curiosity, I spent some time Sunday afternoon researching Ann Voskamp, a popular evangelical teacher, writer and speaker whom we can safely categorize  as a false teacher. Michelle Lesley lists several articles evaluating Voskamp that support my allegation. The two most prominent factors in distinguishing her as a false teacher are her tendencies toward panentheanism (God is in everything) and her erotic descriptions of her relationship with God.

The second factor begs the question: Should Christian women see the Lord in sexual, or even romantic, terms? During my single years, female leaders in my church certainly encouraged me to do so. I learned from my multiple failed efforts to view Jesus as my Husband that the type of cosmic romance that teachers like Ann Voskamp promotes does extensive emotional and spiritual damage to women.

The problems with the “Jesus is my Boyfriend/Lover/Husband” approach to Christianity could keep me blogging for several weeks. Indeed, I would like to write about some of its harmful effects later this week. Because Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore perpetuate this blasphemous notion, we need to understand why it goes against sound Biblical teaching.

This teaching not only damages women by encouraging a self-centered understanding of God, but it drags us into enormous self-condemnation when we can’t sustain romantic feelings toward Him. Many times as a single woman (I didn’t marry until I was almost 49), I tried to imagine Jesus as my Husband, only to be frustrated with myself when I felt unsatisfied with Him.

My apparent deficit in appreciating Him romantically led me to feel spiritually inferior. I wondered why I still longed for a husband who could physically touch me when I knew full well that only Jesus  could love me perfectly. Evidently, I had skewed priorities. I felt intense shame, wrongly believing that He should be enough for me.

The teaching that Jesus fulfills our romantic and/or sexual desires, however, seriously perverts Scripture’s teaching on how believers should express intimacy with Jesus.  Loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength has more to do with obedience to Him than with having  Him satisfy my romantic desires. The same principle applies to all Christians. Look at His own description of our love relationship with Him:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ~~John 15:9-10 (ESV)

I do, very much, believe that the Lord blesses Christians with an intimate knowledge of Him. We talk to Him in prayer, pouring out our hearts with confidence that He cares about our deepest concerns. In turn, He speaks to us through His Word, disclosing Who He is and what He desires. Sisters, that’s intimacy!

Ann Voskamp’s “intimacy” with Jesus has a particularly disturbing component that I want to discuss Thursday (I have a Valentines Day date with John tomorrow). I hope today’s essay laid a foundation that we can build on at that time. Please guard against seeing the Lord in a role that He simply doesn’t have. Instead, rejoice in your correct relationship with Him.

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How Not To Subdue Pink Elephants

Pink Elephant

Funny how growing in the Lord and getting Biblical teaching changes the way one views things. A little over twenty years ago I left my position as correspondence counselor for an ex-gay ministry, largely because of my personal circumstances. Sure, a few things about the ministry bothered me a bit, but for the most part I believed in what they did. I accepted no criticism of them from any quarter.

To be clear, I still believe homosexuality violates God’s intent for sexuality. Those who engage in it, even if their engagement never extends beyond fantasy, stand guilty of sin. Furthermore I still believe homosexuality can, like every other sin, be forgiven and forsaken through the blood of Jesus Christ.

 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

Over the passage of twenty years, however, I’ve come to question the wisdom of building an entire ministry around one specific sin rather than around the Lord. When people meet together, and especially when they live together in a residential program, should we really be surprised when they fall back into the very sin that they’re seeking to escape?

A friend once counseled me, when I was single and struggling with desires for marriage, that simply telling myself not to think about marriage would invariably backfire. “It’s like trying not to think about pink elephants,” she said. “The harder you try not to think about pink elephants, the more you think about them.” She was right. Try not to think about pink elephants, and see what happens.

The answer to controlling my fantasies wasn’t in thinking about how sinful my fantasies were. Nor was it in gathering with other single women and talking about the struggles to control our desires for marriage. We thought praying together and asking the Lord for psychological insight into the root causes for our desires would eventually free us from our bondage to romantic fantasies.

We ignored a simple principle from Scripture.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.~~Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV)

Walking by the Spirit means nothing other than filling our minds with God’s Word and ordering our lives in conformity with His teaching. It does require discipline, yes, and admittedly self-denial causes emotional pain. But the more we delight in the Lord, the less we want things that offend Him. Walking by the Spirit isn’t easy,  but it is certainly simple.

The Bible never advises us to surround ourselves with people who struggle with the same sin we do. Instead, it encourages us to look to Christ with a commitment to glorify Him.  In so doing, we really do experience victory over whatever pink elephants we battle.

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Marriages: Happy And Others

MistyWeddingJoyYesterday, John and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. After his cancer and heart attack five years ago, we appreciate every year that the Lord gives us together.

Even before John and I went through that trial, we savored our marriage more than most couples do. Since both of us grew up with severe physical disabilities, we struggled with the probability that marriage wouldn’t happen for either of us. I distinctly recall my emotional pain as a single woman who wanted nothing more than to marry a godly man, and my many psychological contortions to accept singleness as God’s will for me. So when Pastor Mike wheeled me down the aisle toward John a month before my 49th birthday, my heart flooded with gratitude. I cherished this marriage that had seemed so impossible for so many years.

When the cancer diagnoses came, followed by the heart attack (which delayed surgery for six weeks), I honestly thought the Lord was taking John away from me. Frankly, I believed that surgery would kill my precious husband.  I returned home from the hospital after the surgery saying incredulously, “I’m still married!”

I understand that not all marriages are as happy as mine. Maybe a few of you read this post and pray desperately that I won’t tell you to cherish your marriage. You wish I knew about the physical and/or emotional abuse you suffer. You read this article just before going to bed alone, knowing your husband’s sleeping with someone else tonight. You worry that your children will hear yet another argument. Or you’d like an argument because the silence between you has become unbearable.

You’re right in accusing me of not understanding how you feel. And yet you’re wrong. Until I met John, I knew loneliness. I once sat through a particularly romantic wedding, directly across the aisle from a man who rejected me. I watched him dance with one of my closest friends at the reception. And, slumped over in a wheelchair that didn’t properly support my spine, I felt like a used Kleenix.

As I rejoice in the wonderful marriage that God has given me and John, please keep in mind that I don’t mean to throw my happiness in the faces of sisters who have unhappy marriages or no marriages at all.

Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
    is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
    and like vinegar on soda. ~~Proverbs 25:20  (ESV)

But remember that I attended that romantic wedding in order to rejoice with a happy couple who stood in front of a packed church praising the Lord for bringing them together. In my sorrow, I could still share in their joy because I knew what God had done in their lives. As I weep with those of you who weep, I hope God will give you  grace to rejoice with me and John.

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Saturday Sampler: August 6 — August 12

Vexel Rose TrioDo you need practical guidance in structuring your personal Bible Study time? If so, How Much of the Bible Should I Study? by Ryan Higginbottom in Knowable Word will provide you with a good variety of suggestions.

I suppose that moms make up the vast majority of my readership. Since I couldn’t have children, however, I feel unqualified to counsel anyone on child rearing. Thankfully, One Degree To Another author Scott Slayton posts How Can I Help My Child Grow as a Christian? As a pastor and father of four, Scott can address this subject more authoritatively than I could.

Entering the Empty Nest season, Leslie A writes We know we will be fine in Growing 4 Life. Her post enables me to sympathize better with ladies in her position. Extending grace goes so much further than spouting off platitudes!

In her guest post for Berean Research, Grace Scott maintains that The felt-needs gospel is no Gospel at all. Ladies, this is well documented and extremely thought through in its engagement with an article defending a felt-needs approach to evangelism. Don’t pass over this superb presentation of how to Biblically proclaim the Gospel, even to millennials.

Sammy is a cute little dog. Why is Michelle Lesley blogging about a cute little dog? There’s only one way to find out — go ahead and click the link.

Sydney is a young woman, still in her teens, with astonishing insight which often shows up in her blog, Squid’s Cup of Tea. Her reflective essay, Jealous No More and Other Thoughts, bring me joy as I see the Lord maturing her. You may be encouraged (and possibly even challenged) by her godly attitudes.

Like all bloggers who stand against false teaching, Tom of excatholic4christ has his share of critics. “Stop saying Catholics believe they must obey the Ten Commandments PERFECTLY!” responds to a frequent complaint he receives by explaining how Catholics maintain a state of grace.

Dispelling yet another myth of liberal theologians, John Ellis writes God Is Not Everyone’s Father for PJ Media. I appreciate Ellis’ courage to hold to solid Biblical doctrine on this point.

If you struggle with your prayer life (and really, what Christian doesn’t), Prayer: some thoughts on the how-to’s by Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day might be just what you need.  I love Jen’s focus on Scripture as the model for prayer.

Scott Stayton, in One Degree to Another, supplements Jen’s essay with Why We Struggle  to Pray in the Digital Age. What a challenging, thought-provoking article! I’d never really considered some of the points he raises, but they make a lot of sense. He also offers wonderful suggestions for restoring prayer to its proper priority.

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From My Archives: In Eve’s Footsteps

3d383-ladies2bstudy2b03My schedule is a little different this week, therefore diminishing my time for blogging. Please enjoy this article  from May 2016:

Eve’s fatal encounter with the serpent and subsequent rebellion in eating the forbidden fruit is such a familiar narrative to me that sometimes I fail to comprehend all of its implications. But an article in the January/February 2016 issue of Modern Reformation sent me back to the text in Genesis 3. Simonetta Carr’s article, “East of Eden,” tells the story as if through Eve’s words, comfortably familiar (as I said) until I reached  this paragraph:

As wonderful as the Garden was, the serpent convinced me we could have much more, right then and there, without waiting for God’s timing. The serpent appeared to be our friend, but he was strange. He could speak our language and seemed to know more than we knew, but I didn’t give it much thought then. It was an enticing prospect of having our eyes opened, of being like God and knowing more than what God had revealed.

The story continues as she heartwrenchingly wrestles with the realization that Able died and Cain suffered banishment as a result of her rebellion in eating the fruit, and I don’t mean to misrepresent the point Mrs. Carr intended her article to convey. At the same time, the paragraph I just quoted sparked my thinking concerning women and our attraction to mystical adaptations of Christianity.

Specifically, the closing phrase of that paragraph captured my attention.”Knowing more than what God had revealed.” Was that Eve’s motivation? Had Satan promised her revelation beyond the words of God, insinuating that what God had spoken to her and Adam wasn’t sufficient? Fascinating questions! I went to my Bible to verify this interesting possibility. Genesis 3:6 had my answer.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (ESV)

That phrase, “the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” gave me confirmation Simonetta Carr had indeed offered a profound insight. Despite the intimate fellowship that she and Adam regularly enjoyed with God, Eve liked Satan’s suggestion that they could possess knowledge beyond what He had revealed to them.

That idea made me think of the mysticism that pervades many evangelical churches today. Although many men get sucked into this terrible trend, it appears to be the most pronounced in women’s ministry. Immediately I think of Beth Moore’s claims of revelations from God and Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling. I also remember countless women’s retreats and Bible Study meetings where leaders encouraged us to “allow” the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself, not in the pages of Scripture, but “personally” during times of “listening prayer.”

All too often, evangelical “Bible” teachers send the message that the Bible only goes so far in showing us what we need. Typically (and I speak from both personal experience  and first-hand observation), evangelical women receive subtle pressure to understand their psychological wounds and/or to  experience God emotionally. They may certainly start with a Bible verse that “ministers” to them (i.e., that gives them goosebumps), but they must then seek “more.”

One example of the mysticism evangelical teachers push on women comes in the form of “intimacy with God.” Jesus must be their “Lover,” especially if they’re single. Beth Moore and Ann Voskamp both urge women to enjoy “romance” with Him…with Voskamp  boldly advocating erotic expressions of such romance. Sometimes single women are actually shamed for wanting a flesh-and-blood husband when Jesus “offers” them emotional and even sexual satisfaction.

That spiritual rush, of course, exceeds the limitations of mere Bible study. As with other forms of evangelical mysticism, this intimacy with God suggests that we need more than what He has given us in His Word. But didn’t Eve plunge all of creation into decay and death precisely because Satan convinced her that she needed to digest the knowledge of good and evil? Didn’t he persuade her that God’s Word didn’t give her everything she needed?

Evangelical women fall for the same stale lie that Satan first told Eve. Thankfully, we can trust that God’s Word really does supply everything necessary for us to live on this side of heaven.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

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