Saturday Sampler: May 13 — May 19

IMG_2187Andy Stanley continues to undermine the authority of Scripture, this time by teaching that Jesus and the apostles “unhitched” Christianity from the Old Testament. David Prince of Prince on Preaching refutes this ridiculous notion by writing A Response to Andy Stanley: Jesus and the Old Testament, What God has joined together, let man not separate.

For a more subtle response to Andy Stanley, wander over to The Cripplegate  to read Clint Archer’s post, Why Preach the Older Testament? Without mentioning Stanley directly, Archer clarifies why neither Testament should be “unhitched” from the other.

To demonstrate that Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice, Michelle Lesley draws from two instances in the life of King Saul to illustrate how churches in the 21st Century can disobey God even while thinking they worship Him. She makes a point worth considering.

Now I understand why the standard evangelical quip about God giving second chances rubs me the wrong way. Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another argues that God Doesn’t Give Second Chances by appealing to the Gospel and to God’s grace.

Refering to a Spurgeon quote that he saw on Twitter, Denny Burk has A word about criticism from anonymous sources that applies well in this age of social media. I’d been considering changing the name on my Twitter account from DebbieLynne Kespert to The Outspoken TULIP. Although The Outspoken TULIP is linked to my name, Burk’s article leads me to keep my real name, lest anyone think I’m leveling anonymous criticism when I confront worldly ideas.

I like Eric Davis’ post, Should I Stay Home from Church When Life Gets Hard? in The Cripplegate. It addresses the latest notion that emotional pain excuses people from corporate worship. It also admonishes pastors and elders to order church services around the Lord, explaining how doing so effectively ministers to all members of Christ’s body.

Leslie A admits it. It’s Not Just a Book! probably won’t be her most popular article on Growing 4 Life. But I agree with her that it’s probably one of the most important things she’s ever written. Therefore it saddens me that it won’t be popular.

Adding to my article on journaling (which I published Wednesday), Elizabeth Prata shares Thoughts on introspection and journaling in The End Time. She brings interesting insight into the discussion, causing me to wonder if more needs to be written about this topic.

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This Happens When Amy Spreeman Does A Podcast

I first wrote this article over a year ago, but needed to temporarily suspend it for personal reasons.

 

OpenBible John 1I just listened to a thought-provoking podcast from Fighting for the Faith, in which Amy Spreeman, Steve Kozar, and Chris Rosebrough discuss Discerning Discernment. Ladies,  my head is spinning right now, as I continue struggling with whether or not I classify as a “discernment blogger.” And whether or not I want to classify as a “discernment blogger.” And, most importantly, whether or not the Lord wants me to classify as a “discernment blogger.”

Discernment blogging used to carry a certain prestige in Reformed circles, as we saw various trends and evangelical celebrities corrode the Gospel by handling Scripture incorrectly and/or adding to it with subjective experiences and worldly philosophies. My regular readers will recall from my Autobiography With Purpose series that many of these doctrinal aberrations hindered my spiritual development for roughly four decades, which explains my passion for exposing doctrinal error now.

Then earlier this year, bloggers whom I highly respect began pulling back from discernment ministry. They correctly pointed out that this type of blogging often degenerates into scandal mongering gossip which depends on sensationalism to attract readers.  Admittedly, I’ve sometimes put Beth Moore’s name in blog post titles knowing full well that doing so would boost my readership. Cheap trick, but it works like a charm.

Amy made a comment on that Fighting for the Faith podcast that gave me a sense of balance in this whole debate over the legitimacy of discernment ministry. She remarked that our goal isn’t so much to call out false teachers and unbiblical practices in the Church as is is to draw people back to the authority of Scripture. So many popular evangelical teachers and practices distract people from properly reading and understanding the Word of God that we need to call professing Christians (both false converts and legitimate believers) to examine everything against the standard of Scripture. Even more, we need to remind them that the Lord reveals Himself in His Word.

The debate over whether or not discernment blogging constitutes appropriate ministry will continue. It raises important questions too numerous to explore today, and my small blog certainly can’t cast any decisive verdicts.

But I do believe this 63-year-old housewife from Massachusetts can use her past experiences with doctrinal error to guide younger women to better study of God’s Word. I make no claim of infallibility (and in fact plead with you to hold my writing up against Scripture to make sure I present Biblical ideas), but I desire to encourage women toward properly understanding sound doctrine . I’ve learned that Biblical doctrine is the only way any of us can know the Lord as He has revealed Himself, and that worshiping Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) requires that we continually seek Him in the pages of Scripture.

Regardless of whether or not I can consider myself a “discernment blogger,” I pray that I can inspire women to open their Bibles and know the Lord Jesus Christ.  Discernment must have no other goal than to direct people to Him!

 

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According To Scripture: Study #2 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Ladies, today I want to start getting into our study of Christ’s resurrection by taking you through 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Those of you who have been through my Bible Studies on Ephesians 2:1-10, Jude and Titus know that I always emphasize context when studying Scripture, and therefore I insist on looking at the entire first section of 1 Corinthians 15 before we discuss today’s verses:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. ~~1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (ESV)

In verses 1-2, Paul brings attention back to the Gospel, which he had personally preached to the Corinthians when he first established their church. Notice that he tells them that they stand in the Gospel they have received as a result of his preaching. Only the Gospel enables us to stand before God. In verse 2 he elaborates that, by standing in the Gospel, they are being saved.

I don’t want to spend much time analyzing these two verses, but I believe it’s important to think just a little about standing in the Gospel. Salvation comes only through placing our trust completely in the Gospel message, so any failure to cling to that message would indicate a false conversion.

From there, Paul reiterates the basic Gospel, clarifying that it has primary importance over everything else. He has just written 14 chapters dealing with serious issues within the church in Corinth that caused injurious division, and now he seeks to unify them under the primary tenets of the Gospel.

The first point he makes (in verse 3) is that Christ died as a substitute for us, bearing the full penalty for our sins. Implicit in this statement is that we no longer bear responsibility to atone for our sins through sacraments, purgatory or good works. According to Scripture, specifically Isaiah 53:4-6, Jesus took the punishment for our rebellion against God.

Next (in verse 4), Paul recounts that Christ was buried (Isaiah 53:9), and that He rose again (Isaiah 53:11; Psalm 16:10). As in verse 3, he ties the events to Scripture. Although he proceeds, in the verses we’ll examine next week, to enumerate eyewitnesses who could verify the Lord’s resurrection, it’s important to note that he appeals to Scripture as his foremost authority. Certainly, he sets an example that we must follow.

Christ’s burial proves His resurrection because only the truly dead  require burial. Paul deliberately builds his case, even in reminding his readers of the the basic Gospel, for the resurrection. Verses 3-4 demonstrate that the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection is just as essential to the Gospel as His atoning death on the cross. As we progress through 1 Corinthians 15, we’ll learn why this doctrine is so vital to believe in order to stand firmly in the Gospel.

Please use the Comments Section below or The Outspoken TULIP  Facebook page to ask questions and/or share insights about the passage we’ve studied today. I’d appreciate hearing how this study has ministered to you, or how I might approach the text more effectively. Feel free to bring in other Scriptures that apply to this passage, and to interact with each other in the comments. Next week we’ll talk about Paul’s eyewitnesses.

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Why Shouldn’t My Faith Inform My Politics (And Every Other Area Of My Life)?

Faith Informs Politics

Participating in a political argument at Thanksgiving doesn’t exactly demonstrate wisdom, so I hate admitting my folly. But one comment my relative made during that heated exchange has stayed with me in a positive way, causing me to reflect on how deeply the Lord influences how I think.

Of course, when she said, “Your faith informs your politics,” she meant it in a negative manner. As she saw it, I vote the way I do, not because I think through the issues for myself, but because the white evangelical establishment dictates my political opinions. Had I been sharper at that moment, I would have countered that her world of academia informed her politics. Missed opportunity!

I’ve thought a lot about her remark over the years, and I’ve concluded that my faith indeed should inform my politics. In fact, it should inform every area of my life. I don’t mean, as my relative insinuated, that I should mindlessly obey my pastor and elders as if they have some Orwellian control over me. I do mean, however, that the Lord has authority to show me how to align every area of my life (including my politics) with His revealed will in Scripture.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~~Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

As God’s Word renews my mind, I start seeing things like abortion, homosexuality, military actions and economics from a Biblical perspective. Occasionally, I’ll question positions that my pastor and elders take, and I’ll vote my conscience (a fact that would quite probably shock my relative), but I do my best to base my decisions on clear Biblical principles.

My faith really should inform every decision I make. If it doesn’t, I betray a lack of trust in God’s wisdom, if not a deliberate rebellion against Him. Essentially, I follow Eve in declaring that I know more than He does.  That His Word has no bearing on how I conduct my affairs.

In truth, I don’t want anything I do to be divorced from the clear teachings of Scripture. Every area of my life, and maybe especially my politics, absolutely must reflect the Lord’s priorities and principles rather than those of the world. My relative may dismiss my politics as  mindless obedience to my church if she wishes. But if God’s Word informs my politics and all other areas of my life, I know I can rest easy.

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Friday Flashback: Opened Eyes And Ageless Words

This post originally appeared in The Outspoken TULIP in February of 2016. Its message continues to be relevant, giving me a desire to repost it today.

Bible Mask framedPsalm 119 extols the Word of God by using pithy couplets to illustrate its various effects on individual believers. I love the psalmist’s way of presenting various facets of Scripture. He reminds me of an expert jeweler carefully appraising a rare and exquisite diamond. Whenever I read this psalm, I gain a deeper appreciation for Scripture, knowing that it’s God’s way of revealing Himself to His people.

Several verses in this psalm have been meaningful to me throughout the years, and I wish I could write about each of them. But one verse stands out as the key, first to the psalm, but also to Bible reading as a whole.

Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law. ~~Psalm 119:18 (ESV)


The psalmist relied on the Holy Spirit, rather than his own intellectual abilities, to give him a clear understanding of Scripture. Notice his prayer for God to open his eyes, expressing his human inability to fully understand what God says. This dependence on God’s Spirit finds support in Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ~~1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (ESV)


When a regenerate believer comes to the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps him understand the text. Notice, however, that the Spirit doesn’t speak apart from or outside of the Word, but rather that He enables us to understand it. The Spirit doesn’t bury truth in the way Gnostic religions (that reserve esoteric knowledge for an elite group) do, but He recognizes that those who reject His authority over them simply won’t “get it.” Submission to Him gives us a willingness to accept His precepts.

Additionally, our dependence on the Spirit doesn’t excuse us from reading God’s Word in context. He won’t isolate a fragment of Scripture to give it a “personal meaning.” His Word may be veiled to those who have no intention of obeying it anyway, yet in it the Lord speaks clearly and says the same thing to all believers from every generation. What He said to the First Century Christians continues into the 21st Century unaltered, applying to each of us equally. No secrets. No private whispers.

Yet without the Spirit’s assistance, we can read Scripture only as another piece of literature. We may find certain portions beautiful and inspiring, but we’ll fall short of letting its words transform our thoughts and lives.

So, as I approach Scripture, I pray for God to open my eyes to the wonders of His Word, so that He can teach me to better love and obey Him. Certainly, I have a responsibility to use my intellect as I study, and I do my best to engage my mind by reading in context, taking notes and consulting commentaries. But as I do these things, I also ask Him to teach me, as He has taught believers through the ages, by opening my spiritual eyes. I trust Him to honor my prayer.

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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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How To Combat Spiritual Erosion In 21st Century Churches

ancient-church-01Between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017, I devoted almost every Tuesday to blogging about the Protestant Reformation. Since October 31, I’ve said little about the matter, largely because the 500th anniversary had passed and everyone has moved on to other topics.

Admittedly, in a culture that finds history boring, trying to write a weekly column about 16th Century church history left me frustrated and exhausted. The release from the year-long project emancipated me to write whatever I felt like writing on Tuesdays, and I thoroughly enjoyed my sudden freedom from researching the various aspects of the period and its implications. Also, it was nice attracting more readers on Tuesdays.

But I wonder, now that October 31, 2017 has passed and we’ve found new bandwagons to jump on, if anyone really gained an appreciation for the Reformation. Have we learned to value the Scriptures that plunged so many Reformers into martyrdom? Have we understood why we must reject the teachings of Roman Catholicism in favor of returning to the Word of God? In short, have all the celebrations in 2017 meant much to evangelicals?

This morning I picked up the September/October 2017 issue of Modern Reformation magazine, which prompted my thinking about the Protestant Reformation. While I have no desire to revert to weekly blog posts about the Reformation, I realized that I shouldn’t abandon the topic either. Many of the problems in 21st evangelicalism, I believe, stem from ignorance of and indifference to the Reformation.

Specifically, present-day evangelicals tend to downplay the importance of doctrine, claiming that doctrine destroys unity. Well, it does — Martin Luther would be the first to tell you that! However, do Christians cherish unity over and above God’s Word? Luther didn’t. He entered the Diet of Worms fully expecting to face execution because he couldn’t bend Scripture to accommodate Rome’s extrabiblical teachings. He, along with other Reformers throughout Europe and England, demonstrated that doctrine mustn’t ever be jettisoned simply to keep the peace.

I’m under no illusions that any of the Reformers were perfect. Luther, in later years, developed ghastly anti-semeticism that, 400 years afterwards, Adolph Hitler further distorted and exploited. Obviously,  we can’t place even the most heroic Reformers on pedestals. Only Christ deserves such adulation!

But I strongly believe that we need to both understand and emulate their devotion to Biblical doctrine, even if our devotion divides us from professing Christians who mix God’s Word with human religion. We look back to the Protestant Reformation, not as history geeks, but as its progeny. Its great lessons promise protection against the false teaching that could once again remove the Gospel from the visible church.

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