Saturday Sampler: June 11 — June 17

Bezier Flower SamplerLike Michelle Lesley, I’d never heard of Karen Ehman, but based on The Mailbag: Did Jesus Really Teach Karen Ehman’s 3 Step Life Plan? I don’t think I’ll bother. In addition to examining questionable aspects of Ehman’s teaching, Michelle shows us the importance of keeping everything we read in context.

Praise the Lord that Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day pays attention to her Bible! She supplies Some Encouragement for Marrieds & Parents in response to the Social Gospel and its call to radical living.

Is The Bible A Love Letter From God? Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center says no. Find out why he disagrees with this popular view of God’s Word.

Lysa TerKeurst is, from what I’ve read, a false teacher. I’m still researching her, but I know enough about her to be very wary of her. Sadly, she’s announced this week that she’s decided to divorce her husband, alleging he’s been unfaithful. In response, Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life has written Some thoughts on ending a marriage. I appreciate Leslie’s balanced, compassionate approach to this matter. This is not a time for self-righteousness or glee, but a time to pray for Lysa’s repentance.

Highlighting two very different incidents from Martin Luther’s life, Allen Cagle writes If he is inviting me to my death, then I will come for Parking Space 23. Even if you don’t normally like history, this article is an inspiring portrayal of courage. Don’t cheat yourself out of it!

As a woman with a disability, I resonate with Elizabeth Prata’s Two or more good things about having a disability in The End Time. It’s not a typical Elizabeth Prata essay, but I love the way she points to the Lord’s goodness and sovereignty in giving us various trials.

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God Saves Whether We Cooperate Or Not

Hope in the LordLast Tuesday we saw that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that, even though Christ died to forgive our sins, we need to go through various sacraments in order to receive His grace. And yes, I understand that I’ve oversimplified the matter in one respect; the Catholic system for obtaining salvation is highly complex and confusing. Yet the primary message of the Protestant Reformation declares that Christians needn’t go through all the sacraments, penances, indulgences and rituals prescribed by Catholic tradition. Returning to Scripture, the Reformers brought us back to the Gospel message that Christ alone accomplished our redemption by His finished work on the cross.

The idea that God does all the work of justification caused Rome to proclaim, at the Council of Trent:

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

I can go to a variety of Scriptures which refute Rome’s assertion that justification requires human cooperation, but today I want to limit myself to Paul’s teaching in Romans 9 regarding election. (Please read the entire chapter before continuing.) I’ve chosen this chapter because it emphasizes that God chooses His elect on the basis of His sovereign will rather than because of any performance on our part.

Paul’s main argument in Romans 9 centers around God’s choice to save believers, whether Jew or Gentile, as opposed to saving physical descendants of Abraham. Within this framework, however, we can reasonably apply the embedded principles to individuals, concluding that He brings some to salvation while leaving others to die in their sins. Notice, in the passage below, that His determination of who receives His mercy has nothing to do with human performance.

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. ~~Romans 9:6-16 (ESV)

Verse 12, in particular, holds the key to our discussion because God chose Jacob without considering Jacob’s works. Indeed, the Lord didn’t even take Jacob’s future works into account. Jacob was pretty much of a scoundrel, after all. Very little about him could have possibly warranted God’s favor!

Applying this passage to Catholicism, we see that the concept of cooperating with the Lord to achieve justification is absolutely foreign to how He dispenses mercy.  When a person, by the grace of God, trusts completely in Christ’s atoning work on the cross for his or her justification, salvation needs no augmentation. Sacraments and penance become unnecessary, as does Purgatory, because the Lord Jesus Christ has completely accomplished our salvation! He has mercy, not because we contribute to His grace with our obedience to Rome’s rituals, but because He is compassionate to those He chooses.

I’ve belabored this point because Pope Francis world have us believe that the Reformation is now over, and that Protestants can now consider the issues that divide us from Catholics as inconsequential. Next time, we’ll look at Galatians to see what the Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, said about adding human works to Christ’s work, and we’ll apply the principles there to Catholicism’s sacramental system. I believe we’ll realize, from that study, that the Reformation continues.

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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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Saturday Sampler: May 21 — May 27

Bows SamplerReflecting on her personal study of Titus 3, Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life reminds us that For So We Once Walked. Her insights help us have humility toward God and compassion toward non-Christians.

16-year-old Squid,  purveyor of Squid’s Cup Of Tea, is wise beyond her years. Her recent post, Not a Bad Temptation, offers a fascinating take on Eve’s disobedience in the garden. Why didn’t I have the caliber of discernment she has when I was young?

In a creative, but pointed essay in The End Time, Elizabeth Prata shows us how the Bible might read If Jeremiah, John the Baptist and Paul were Armimian… This piece is entertaining, and yet it wonderfully demonstrates the sovereignty of God in electing us to salvation.

Examining tongues, prophecy and healing as present-day Charismatic churches practice them, John Chester explains Why Our Church Isn’t Charismatic in Parking Space 23. As a former Charismatic, I appreciate his clarity in demonstrating how the current interpretation of these gifts differs from their Scriptural functions.

Jennifer at One Hired Late in the Day responds to the timely question How do we love and engage with our unbelieving friends without compromising our testimonies? In this era of political correctness and unbridled sexuality, Jennifer’s advice offers encouragement and wisdom.

Recycling an essay she wrote two years ago, Michelle Lesley ministers to those who need to find a new church, either because they’ve relocated or because their present church fails to uphold Biblical doctrine and practices. Throwback Thursday ~ Six Questions for a Potential Church includes links to three other posts that list important things to ask pastors or elders before joining a church.

Along those lines, Nichols T. Batzig, in his blog, Feeding on Christ, writes The Weight of the Church as encouragement to factor in the availability of solid churches when considering a move or a college.  Batzig provides an excellent perspective.

Infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell falsely believes himself to be a Christian, and has recently published a manifesto attempting to defend his actions from Scripture.  In 5 verses used to justly abortion, Jesse Johnson of The Cripplegate exposes Gosnell’s wrong use of God’s Word. This blog post both shows that abortion can never be defended as a moral act and affirms the importance of properly using the Bible.

Reformation 500 has been steadily posting daily history lessons highlighting various events of the Protestant Reformation. In their article, Ignatius Loyola, they present a powerful discernment lesson by comparing and contrasting Ignatius Loyola and Martin Luther. The article applies so well to evangelicals in 2017.

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Not Afraid To Fear The Lord

Serious Little Boy01Evangelicals in the past 50 or so years have carefully minimized (or avoided altogether) the subject of fearing God. When, in the course of a group Bible Study, they inadvertently encounter verses about fearing God, they cough out a few sentences about simply revering Him before rapidly moving on to more manageable verses.

Fearing God isn’t politically correct anymore, even among Bible-believing Christians. We much prefer dwelling on the Lord’s goodness, compassion and love. That way, we keep Him much more approachable, even when we persist in our pet sins. Even more to the point, we make Him more attractive (we think) to non-Christians when we evangelize them. Talking about fearing Him, we reason, makes Him less marketable.

Scripture, however, never seems all that concerned with the Lord’s marketability, nor with keeping us comfortable even in our disobedience. Even the beloved book of Psalms, which often consoles false converts with poetic assurances of God’s love and mercy, insists that we need to fear Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever! ~~Psalm 111:10 (ESV)

Does fearing God mean feeling literally afraid of Him? Well, yeah. Sometimes such fear is highly appropriate, actually. Such fear acknowledges His authority to establish His standards of how Christians ought to behave, and to discipline us when we violate His standards.

In considering the fear of the Lord, we must clarify that genuinely saved Christians can fear Him without doubting His love for us. Hebrews 12:6 explains that, as our heavenly Father, He disciplines the ones He loves. I realize that postmodern parenting, influenced by psychological models, often consider it unhealthy for children to fear parents, but God graciously allowed me to grow up in a time when I both knew the security of my mom’s love and feared her discipline.

I was a willful child (and, to my shame, I’m still very willful). In school, I had no problem defying a certain teacher. If he chose to punish my disobedience, I was perfectly fine with that. But I always begged him not to tell my mom. He always did, once even going to her workplace! And, although she really wasn’t as harsh with me as he was, I feared her discipline far more than I feared his.

Fearing God helps me obey Him more consistently. I know He won’t revoke my salvation because of my sin, but I also know that facing Him in judgment and accounting for ways I squandered opportunities to serve Him will be painful. I fear dishonoring Him, even as I rejoice in knowing that I will spend eternity with Him.

Fearing God gives me discernment to live in a manner that pleases Him. It teaches me holiness. Maybe fearing Him isn’t fashionable in the 21st Century, and maybe psychologists would disapprove of my fear of Him, but the Bible recommends this holy fear. It calls it the beginning of wisdom.

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His Blood Availed For Me!

Even as a new Christian, I yearned for everyone to know the wonderful Savior Who had graciously granted me forgiveness by shedding His innocent blood in payment for my sins. So Charles Wesley’s powerful hymn, “O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing” became one of my favorites early on.

In particular, I love its reminder that no sin, no matter how vile and polluted, can resist the cleansing power of Christ’s blood. All too often, I let the enormity of my sin obscure my vision of His great grace in taking the punishment on my behalf. The name of Jesus certainly does charm my fears and bid my sorrows cease! How can I not both praise Him and long for others to praise Him with me?

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The LBGTQ Victory: Is It Permanent?

Rainbow ChurchIn the April 2017 issue of Tabletalk Magazine, Al Mohler wrote a sobering, if not somewhat pessimistic, article called The Revolution Demands Unconditional Surrender, in which he evaluates a May 2016 essay by Harvard Law School professor Mark Tushnet declaring a liberal victory in the Culture Wars. With the national legalization of same sex marriage wrought by Obergefell v. Hodges only a year earlier, Tushnet gleefully asserted that liberal causes no longer need to fear a Supreme Court reversal. Furthermore, the rest of the country must now embrace the LBGTQ agenda.

Mohler, while of course continuing to hold the Biblical position that homosexuality violates God’s Law, appears to concede that liberals have indeed won the Culture Wars and consequently will not tolerate dissent. In some respects, I guess he’s right. As he points out, Christian florists and bakers face choosing between catering same sex weddings and losing their businesses.

But as I read Mohler’s article, I kept wanting him to say the obvious. The United States of America may never return to Biblical sexual standards, and Christians will face increasing persecution for refusing to condone sinful lifestyles, but the Lord maintains complete control over the world.

By God’s providence, shortly after I read Mohler’s article, I read the first twelve psalms in the book of Psalms. Almost uniformly, each psalm lamented the power and presence of people who boldly defy God’s Law, but then declared God’s ultimate victory. Psalm 2, for example, literally says that the Lord will have the last laugh.

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (ESV)

Currently, liberals enjoy their power in America, and they browbeat those of us who dare to stand for God’s righteousness. People like Mark Tushnet puff out their chests triumphantly, claiming dominance over their enemies. They forget that the Lord, although He permits their rebellion for the time being, will one day bring them under His judgment. As Christians, we must pray that the Holy Spirit will mercifully bring them to repentance before He comes to judge the earth.

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