Category Archives: The Reformation

Saturday Sampler: June 24 — June 30

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In The Domain for Truth, SlimJim writes a short, thought-provoking article entitled VBS and thought about Christian Unity. It’s such a simple concept. But I think its simplicity is precisely what makes it so brilliant!

How are you doing when it comes to reading your Bible daily? Allen Nelson IV, writing for Things Above Us, decided to read his Bible every day after being convicted to do so back in 2008. Now he encourages us to follow suit with 5 Reflections from 10 Years of Daily Bible Reading. If you struggle in this spiritual discipline, this post will definitely give you hope!

If you want some encouraging news regarding freedom of religion, you’ll want to read Supreme Court vacates lower court’s verdict again florist by Denny Burk. I certainly didn’t expect this ruling.

Responding to recent attempts to suppress literary works that contain elements of racism, SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God speaks up In Defense Of That Little House On The Prairie to demonstrate that we shouldn’t try to rewrite history simply for political correctness. Perhaps we get offended too easily these days.

Writing for Whole Magazine, Jessica Hageman explores How Our Incorrect View of Good Affects Our Daily Lives in a way that makes theology practical. It’s tempting, I know, to regard doctrine and Bible Study as irrelevant to our everyday lives, which is precisely why Jessica’s perspective is so necessary. I recommend her article with my whole heart.

Phil Newton’s piece in Founders Ministries examines the claim of personal revelation when people say God Told Me… with an incident from the Reformation. Okay, you don’t like history. I know that. But give it a chance by reading what Newton has to say. You just might discover that discernment ministry isn’t a new invention.

Usually, you can regard the links in Saturday Sampler as endorsements of the blogs I cite (which is why I no longer include links to The Gospel Coalition Blog). I have reservations about Kristen Wetherell as well, but some of her posts deserve recommendation. 14 Ideas to Make Your Bible Reading More Consistent is one such post because it encourages us to get into God’s Word regularly. So if you struggle in reading your Bible on a consistent basis, this one is definitely worth reading.

Leslie A of Growing 4 Life tells us precisely what we need Before We Can Learn to Discern. I know from experience that this isn’t a popular approach to discernment ministry, but ladies, Leslie speaks truth here! Please, if you desire to be discerning, take her words to heart.

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How Can Christians Respond To 21st Century Controversies?

ancient-church-01Last year, despite a nearly universal aversion to history in 21st Century Western culture, many evangelicals tolerated talk about the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation. After all, October 31, 2017 marked the 500th anniversary of  Martin Luther’s infamous act of posting his 95 Theses. Though the majority of Christians remained pretty much indifferent to this anniversary, they didn’t begrudge Reformed Christians our celebration. It was understandable, in a bewildering sort of way. And on November 1st, everything returned to normal.

But should we have closed our history books to once again gather dust and cobwebs? Can we now assure ourselves that the significance of the Reformation pales in comparison to the issues in our present time? The more progressive branch of evangelicals (including those who claim to be Reformed) now busy themselves with so-called social justice concerns like racism and misogyny, filing the Reformation away as irrelevant to today’s Christian culture. In turn, those of us who see dangers in the social justice movement push the Reformation aside in order to address more immediate matters.

Perhaps you feel that way. Perhaps you think last year’s celebration was all well and good, but that was then and this is now. You may be surprised to learn that I share the temptation to move on from the 16th Century and focus on 2018.

The Protestant Reformation, however, actually gives us the necessary tools for dealing with contemporary issues. I say this because the 16th Century Reformers all pointed back to Scripture. They correctly believed that Roman Catholicism had corrupted Christianity with unbiblical teachings and practices that took people away from pure devotion to God. They remedied that problem by making the Bible accessible to everyone and then by teaching it systematically through verse-by-verse exposition. Most importantly, they affirmed its authority as the Word of God.

Present-day believers face serious issues unknown to people 500 years ago. But Martin Luther and his contemporaries faced equally serious issues unknown to the First Century apostles. Yet beneath all the issues that seem so unique to each generation lie principles that the Lord addresses in His Word. For that reason, the Reformation teaches us the value of returning to Scripture.

Additionally, the Reformers model ways to handle persecution. I particularly think of William Tyndale, who was savagely executed for translating the Bible into English. The Reformers suffered greatly for their commitment to God’s Word. As our own times produce increasing hostility towards Christianity, we’d do well to study those Reformation martyrs instead of whining that we’re losing our religious liberties. Indeed, many Reformers like John Knox probably would be puzzled that Protestants would consider religious liberty to be an inalienable right.

Dear sisters, please don’t relegate the Reformation to mothballs. The grand celebrations may be long over as we exchange heated Tweets about white Christians perpetually repenting for how our ancestors offended black people or about the Southern Baptist Convention’s alleged misogyny. But we can best respond to such controversies by following the examples of the Reformers. Like them, we must go back to God’s Word and rightly divide it. Now, more than ever, we must remember the Reformation.

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Saturday Sampler: May 27 — June 2

balloon-turtle-samplerElizabeth Prata certainly hasn’t “unhitched” from the Old Testament. Her essay, The Man of God and the old prophet (and don’t forget the shriveled hand!) in The End Time, shows how delightful it is to discover lessons from Old Testament history that apply to Christian life today.

In The Upward Call, Kim Shay pleads, Older woman, don’t be a trope. Being officially an older woman, I greatly appreciate her admonition.

Even Beth Moore the Broken Clock can come up with correct ideas once in a while. Okay, her solutions lack Biblical integrity, but occasionally she actually identifies a problem accurately, as Jason Marianna reveals in his thought-provoking post in Things Above Us. Don’t worry — he’s not endorsing Beth Moore. But he acknowledges that the Lord may, in one rare instance, have used her to shed light on a real problem within the church. Who knew?

Catholicism teaches that the concept of Purgatory comes from Scripture. Tom, blogging at excatholic4christ, refutes that error with Does 2 Timothy 1:16-18 teach Purgatory? This entire issue gives one more example of practicing discernment by understanding the Word of God in its proper context.

I’ve never thought of self-control as the linchpin for the fruit of the Spirit. But in her article for Biblical Woman, Courtney McLean celebrates The Gritty, Grace-Filled Virtue of Self-Control by showing how this attribute activates love, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness and gentleness.

Oh boy, do we despise being told that we can’t do something! But Kristen Wetherell rightly contends that The Only Way You Can Do God’s Will requires first acknowledging your absolute inability to do God’s will. Intrigued?  Then check out her blog post on Unlocking The Bible.

I once taught that same sex attractions were only sinful if a person acted on them. In his latest Pyromaniacs post, Regarding “Sexual Orientation,” Evil Desire, and the Question of Moral Neutrality, Phil Johnson corrects my erroneous thinking by appealing to the teachings of Scripture. Praise God for Christians who stand firmly on God’s truth, even when doing so contradicts popular opinion!

Appealing to the writings of Martin Luther, Stephen Nicholas of Ligonier answers the question, Is Sola Scriptura a Rejection of Teachers and Tradition? This essay gives a wonderful response to both critics of Reformation principles and people who misuse those principles.

Writing on the Phylicia Masonheimer blog, Anatasis Faith explains How to Avoid the Bible Journaling Mentality that adversely affects so many Christian women. If you only read one blog post featured in this Sampler, make it this one!

We end Saturday Sampler with another Elizabeth Prata essay, this one responding to Kim Shay’s piece above. Act Your Age expands on Kim’s points, drawing from a wider variety of Scriptures to demonstrate how God calls older women (like me) to behave. She beautifully rounds out Kim’s thoughts, adding her own touch of wit.

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How To Tempt A Christian Blogger And Why You Shouldn’t Do So

liberal-religionThe ugly fact about social media (including blogging)  is that controversy generates hits. I regret to say that Christians follow the world in this regard. I have followed the world in this regard. A decade ago, the popularity of discernment blogs demonstrated the fascination with controversy as people flocked to blogs that called out false teachers but shied away from those that offered good Bible teaching.

There’s definitely a place for naming names and exposing false teachers that seriously threaten the purity of the church. Where would we be if the 16th Century Reformers hadn’t stood up to the perverted doctrines of Roman Catholicism? And many of today’s discernment blogs have helped people come out of a wide range of deceptions. As my readers saw this past Friday, occasionally I deem it necessary to write about controversial matters.

But we bloggers learn all too quickly that we attract many more readers when we  insert certain names into our titles. Sometimes we rationalize that, by addressing controversial issues, we attract readers who will then stick around for our more theological posts.

Only they rarely do.

Instead, they skip over doctrinal articles and wait (almost like vultures) for the next juicy essay exposing a false teacher. This craving for sensational blog posts puts bloggers in a tough position. Do we sacrifice our responsibility to direct readers to the Lord in order to retain readers? Or do we put blood, sweat and tears into writing Bible Studies that only a handful of people will bother to read?

Most of us pay WordPress to host our blogs. We don’t receive payment beyond occasional donations or (as in my case) Kindle books. And that’s okay. We blog because we love the Lord and want to help our readers know Him better. We feel deep concern about all the false teaching and evangelical trends that distract people from sound doctrine. We don’t blog for material gain.

At the same time, we invest so much time and energy (and yes, money) into our blogs that we feel discouraged when readers ignore the posts that offer the most spiritual nourishment in favor of those about whatever controversy happens to be in vogue on a given week. Can you see how your preference for more sensational pieces tempts bloggers to compromise what the Lord would have us write in favor of articles that garner more visitors?

Readers, I won’t compromise my blog, especially in this time when social media threatens to silence anyone who stands for Biblical truth. But I ask, ladies, that you might consider reading the theological posts I write as enthusiastically as you read the ones that call out false teachers. Really, the more you understand sound Biblical doctrine, the more easily you’ll discern false teachers for yourselves.

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Are White Evangelicals Guilty Of Assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr?

Five Easter BabiesI’ve spent all week trying to articulate how Christians should respond to racism. I’m not certain I’ve done the greatest job of handling this topic. Most of the time, I’ve felt as if I was trying to put pantyhose on an octopus.  As I remarked Monday, writing on racial issues as a white woman pretty much sets me up for accusations of racism, white privilege and any other invectives liberals might care to hurl my direction.

So I worked hard at my attempts to acknowledge that American blacks have suffered mistreatment. That mistreatment sometimes affects their perception, causing them to cast unfair judgments such as when the young man in the nursing home bit my head off for calling him “boy.” I continued by arguing that I am grieved and embarrassed because of actions that my great-great-grandfather and my grandmother took, but that God doesn’t hold me responsible for their sins.

I’ll add today that, regardless of Thabiti Anyabwile’s demand that white evangelicals repent of our complicity in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. (please, I was only 14 at the time!), such demands are unbiblical and unnecessarily divisive. It both puzzles and saddens me that Anyabwile, a prominent figure in Reformed circles, would write something so opposed to the foundations of the Protestant Reformation.

In requiring that white evangelicals repent of our parents’ and grandparents’ supposed participation in King’s assassination, Anyabwile seems to ignore basic Gospel teaching. Those evangelicals who are truly saved (and my regular readers know that many evangelicals are false converts) have experienced complete forgiveness at the cross.

13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. ~~Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV)

Certainly, we must daily confess and repent of sins we commit after the Lord saves us, but Jesus paid the penalty even for those. If we’ve engaged in racist attitudes and/or behaviors, by all means we should repent! You can be sure I’ll never call a young black male “boy” again!

Yet even in our sorrow over sin, we mustn’t wallow in guilt.  Continual penance looks back to Roman Catholicism and its endless efforts to remain in a state of grace. Worse, repenting for the sins of ancestors, grandparents and parents for their roles in slavery, Jim Crow laws and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. seems all too reminiscent of buying Indulgences to free loved ones from Purgatory.

Has Anyabwile forgotten that we can’t atone for our own sins, much less the sins of our parents and grandparents?  If so, he has forgotten why the Reformation happened in the first place! I would hope that he would go back into church history and brush up on Martin Luther and the 95 thesis.

And as long as he is studying history, I suggest that he think about Martin Luther King’s Dream  Speech. Rather than holding white evangelicals accountable for King’s assassination, perhaps he should see us as individuals. Perhaps he should judge us, not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our individual characters.

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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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The Unusual American Tolerance Of Christian Values

ConstitutionIf you take the Bible seriously, people have most likely branded you as a narrow-minded bigot. That accusation hurts, doesn’t it? After all,  we live in a culture that celebrates the tolerance of sin and false religion, but is markedly intolerant of Biblical Christianity. Astonishingly, many American Christians are surprised by this animosity. They forget that Jesus told His disciples point blank that the world would reject us because it rejects Him.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~~John 15:18-19 (ESV)

To understand why American Christians struggle with the current hostility towards Christianity, we should briefly look back on our history. New England was first settled by Puritans, who sought to establish a land that held to Biblical precepts. 150 years later, people already deviated from Puritan doctrine, but they continued to adhere to many Christian principles when framing our new nation. John Adams famously declared:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

The 19th Century further eroded Christianity in the United States with the advent of liberal theology and cults like Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism. Yet Americans still largely embraced Christian values and revered the Bible at least as a moral standard. Though the first half of the 20th Century brought a little more spiritual erosion, open hostility towards Christianity only gained momentum after the 1960s.

The momentum accelerated in our present century, and pretty much doubled when the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states.  Older Christians, remembering days when America still respected Christian values to a certain extent, feel puzzled by recent challenges to religious liberties.

Although America’s Christian foundations began crumbling even before the Declaration of Independence was written, most Americans regarded Biblical principles as noble and desirable until the last decade. Therefore the open hatred of Christianity shocks us.

We’re shocked because our American experience insulates us from knowing how Biblical Christians have suffered persecution throughout history. My 2017 Tuesday posts on the Protestant Reformation give a small glimpse into some of that persecution. If we understood that Christians have been hated throughout the 2000 years since our Lord’s crucifixion, maybe we’d realize that God mercifully gave us 300 years of tolerance before allowing us to suffer for His sake.

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