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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Saturday Sampler: July 30 — August 5

Extruded FunsiesVisit Growing 4 Life to see how Leslie A has revived her series on discernment with Learn to Discern: How Do You Determine What is True, Right, and Good? All of us need to think seriously about the way we make these determinations.

In her article for 9Marks, Carrie Russell writes about Ministry to Women When There’s No “Women’s Ministry”. Her thoughts on the topic go against popular ideas, but she successfully substantiates them with Scripture.

Speaking from her personal experience, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day offers Turnstile Salvation as evidence that nobody can claim a relationship with the Lord simply because Christian parents raised her. Maybe Jennifer states the obvious. Then again, maybe not.

In his mid-teens, my Catholic-turned-agnostic husband decided to see what the Bible said about the origins of life, so he picked up a Catholic New Testament. The Holy Spirit used it to bring him to salvation. Tom’s article, Sketchy Catholic versions of the Bible were stepping stones to salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone in excatholic4christ, reminds me of John’s testimony. Even better, it reminds me of the power off God’s Word!

Denny Burk outlines Four stages of “evangelical” affirmation of gay marriage as a warning to us all.

In her blog, Renewed In Truth Discipleship, Lara d’Entremont uncovers The Real Reason to Remain Sexually Pure. She directs her teaching to women waiting to be married, single women and women who teach younger women.

Guiding us through Psalm 19, Lisa Morris of Conforming To The Truth lists 6 Reasons  to Glory in the Sufficiency of Scripture. Honestly, professing Christians often forget (or at least ignore) the marvelous provision God has made for us by His Word. Lisa’s blog post serves as a helpful refresher on this essential point of faith.

How about a double dose of Leslie A this week? Her candor in Grace That Changes convicts me of my own self-righteousness, which I appreciate. So often, we lose sight of God’s gentleness with us, and consequently get impatient with less mature believers. Leslie’s article encourages us as we endeavor to overcome that sin. Yet she offers an important balance.

Coming to Christ as an adult, Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day has experienced both the world’s view of womanhood and the Lord’s. From this rare vantage point, she unveils the contrast between  Biblical vs. Secular Womanhood. Ladies, we can’t hear these things too often.

As I’ve been saying for two years, Obergefell vs Hodges opened a door for a full assault on traditional values. John Ellis’ article in PJ Media, Transgender Student Sues Private School in California, sadly confirms my warnings, but it also encourages us to stand firm.

Those who see no harm in the ordination of women will want to read The Slippery Slope and the Jesus Box by Richard D. Philips on the Reformation 21 blog. Philips’ assertion doesn’t at all surprise me, but it may help you to understand the dangers of compromising Scripture in this seemingly minor area. Obedience to Scripture matters!

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Saturday Sampler: July 23 — July 29

Swatches 01

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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Emotional Abuse, Divorce And Why I’ve Remained Silent About Them

Dear DebbieLynneA couple of years ago, a lady initiated an email correspondence with me. She suffered from an emotionally abusive marriage, and desperately wanted me to affirm her in seeking a divorce. More than that, she wanted me to blog about women in abusive marriages, presumably advocating for divorce in such circumstances.

I could do neither. Since that correspondence, however, I’ve often thought about the problem of emotionally abusive marriages. As someone who blogs as a ministry to other women, I sometimes wonder if perhaps people expect me to address this important issue. So today I want to offer some loosely organized reasons that I don’t believe I’m qualified to write much on this subject.

Of course I felt sad for the lady. Emotional abuse is terrible, and nobody should have to endure that sort of suffering. I really wanted to agree that God would bless her decision to abandon the marriage, especially as her emails overflowed with painful feelings of frustration and entrapment. Sadly, my understanding of Scripture doesn’t allow me to support divorce for any reasons other than adultery or abandonment.

Could I be too legalistic in how I interpret Scriptures on the topic of divorce? Yes, I absolutely could! I can see, based on commentaries and articles that I’ve read, the possibility of wider latitude in the application of the passages on divorce. Indeed, a desire to show compassion draws me to embrace that wider latitude.

The very fact that God has given me a godly husband and a happy marriage makes it difficult for me to identify with women who suffer through abusive marriages. Coming to terms with the disparity between myself and these hurting women challenges me to exercise humility. Since I don’t go through the type of suffering that they do, wouldn’t compassion dictate that I support their decisions to escape abusive marriages?

Yet if compassion would have me accept a relaxed interpretation of Scriptures concerning divorce, shouldn’t that same compassion lead me to soften my stance on same sex marriage? Why should a Christian who experiences same sex attractions be consigned to a lifetime of either marriage without real sexual satisfaction or celibacy? Wouldn’t either of those options constitute emotional abuse?

Compassion must flow from Christians, leading us to comfort people who suffer. I understand that principle. At the same time, compassion can’t permit us to water down God’s Word, even when God’s Word demands painful sacrifices from those we want to comfort.

The woman who emailed me  about her marriage. while she was genuinely hurting, could only give me the story from her perspective. Understand, I’m  by no means accusing her of lying. She presented the facts from her point of view, which is all anybody can do. But I hadn’t heard her husband’s version of the story, nor had I heard her pastor explain why he counseled her to remain in the marriage. I could have allowed a misguided sense of compassion to undermine appropriate Biblical advice, all because I couldn’t see all sides of her situation.

Perhaps God’s Word does make provision for abused spouses to end their marriages. I’ve read articles on both sides of the issue, and have concluded that I don’t have enough understanding to address the matter Scripturally. I’m sorry for ladies like the one who emailed me, but until I feel confident that I rightly understand the Bible about this subject, I’d rather write about subjects I actually do understand.

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The Trouble With Emphasizing Our Woundedness

Michele SmithThere’s something comforting in hearing someone confess their flaws and vulnerabilities, isn’t there? If she’s as imperfect and broken as we are, she makes us feel better about ourselves. Therefore, we gravitate to her blogs, books and/or conferences, knowing that she’ll make us feel good. She’ll assure us that God thinks we’re awesome, that He wants to date us and that He validates all our feelings. As He met her in her woundedness, so He will meet us in ours.

Lately, I’ve confessed, not cute little flaws in my character, but outright sin. Maybe you feel that I’m more approachable because of my transparency. That’s flattering to me, I’ll admit, but it’s also a little troubling.

If I use self-disclosure as a means of attracting followers, the focus goes to me. That’s not going to benefit either me or my readers. It may make me feel important and influential, but it probably does little to build the kingdom of God. And the possibility that I’m building my personal empire rather than investing the abilities He gives me in advancing His kingdom terrifies me.

The apostle Paul gives a glimpse into how the Lord will judge believers. Please read the following passage with the understanding that it refers to God judging how to reward Christians, not about salvation. Jesus Christ has already determined salvation by His death on the cross. The judgment in this passage focuses on whether believers have used our natural and spiritual gifts for Christ’s honor and glory.

11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ~~1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (ESV)

(No, that’s not about Purgatory.)

When a Christian uses ministry to draw attention to herself, she’s failing to build on the foundation of the Lord Christ Jesus. Her fan base may believe she’s a personal friend to each one of them because she’s been so authentic about her brokenness. They wouldn’t mind having a cuppa with her while she empathized with their brokenness.

I have no problem with a Christian blogger, writer and/or speaker extending empathy to hurting women. Please don’t misunderstand me on that point. God’s Word specifically commands us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). But at some point, the empathy must lead to Christ. Sin must be confronted and the Gospel must be presented in its entirety. Above all, Jesus must be exalted.

So much so-called ministry these days revolves around making people feel good about themselves, prompting bloggers, writers and  speakers to parade their flaws and vulnerabilities without discretion. But many times their veneer of authenticity covers us a thirst for applause instead of a desire to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. And they forfeit eternal rewards.

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After Two Years, The TULIP Maintains Its Mission

cropped-cropped-tulip-header12.jpgYesterday marked the second anniversary of The Outspoken TULIP. I’d blogged for nine years prior at the now deleted The Things That Come Out Of My Head on Blogspot.com, but the Obergefell decision legalizing same sex marriage left me wondering when Google would pull the plug in retaliation for my politically incorrect views. I figured paying for a WordPress blog might prolong the time I’d have before censorship silenced me.

Additionally, I wanted a more focused blog that would consistently draw attention to the Lord Jesus Christ rather than to my aimless musings or my digital art skills. Time to proclaim the Gospel and disciple younger women through the Internet is growing desperately short, making me less willing to blog for the sake of blogging.

The discipline of producing almost daily articles with solid doctrinal content (as opposed to narratives of my excursions into Boston, childhood memories and progressive views of my digital art projects interspersed with essays about Christianity) has proved more demanding than I anticipated. The demands surprised me because I’d been blogging on a similar schedule for three or four years with my previous blog. Until I started The Outspoken TULIP, I hadn’t realized how much of my blogging was mere fluff.

But if The Outspoken TULIP is more demanding, it’s also more gratifying. Although I’m not as erudite as many other bloggers in my niche, and my readership remains comparatively small, I love knowing that the Lord is the central Person of this blog. If my audience remains small, He still sovereignly reaches the ladies He wants to reach through my writing. I don’t get much feedback, which is probably just as well, but I trust that my investment in blogging honors Him.

I believe evangelicals of the 21st Century have by and large lost the sense that God has saved us for His honor and glory. As we’ve incorporated Charismatic teaching and psychological principles into our weakened version of Christianity, we’ve accepted the mistaken idea that God exists to heal our bodies, expand our bank accounts, make our marriages satisfying and remove all temptation from us. We conveniently forget why He calls us to Him in the first place.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~~1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

Anyone can blog about the wonderful history of Boston. Plenty of digital artists can blog about their creations and explain the various techniques they use. But since the Lord has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light, shouldn’t I praise Him by using this blog to proclaim His excellencies? Sure, it demands a lot more thought and prayer, as well as the physical work of typing with a headstick and researching the Protestant Reformation, but if Christ allows me to honor Him through this little blog, I welcome this third year of The Outspoken TULIP! To God be the glory!

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My Messy Life Isn’t The Point (Even If It Means You’ll Have Cheesecake With Me)

44cb0-cross2bof2bgloryAuthenticity is apparently the latest evangelical craze, especially among women. When a blogger or teacher lets us see her “messy” life, she appears more approachable. Just like us, she has struggles with sin. What a relief!

The Bible unabashedly records the flaws of men and women commended as heroes of the faith. From Sarah and Abraham exploiting Hagar to the apostle Peter hypocritically reverting to Jewish legalism, otherwise strong believers in Sacred Text demonstrate the propensity toward sin that all humans possess. The most poignant example comes from none other than the apostle Paul:

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ~~Romans 7:13-20 (ESV)

Certainly, no teacher or blogger should give the impression that they’ve somehow risen above the temptations that “normal” Christians face. Doing so undermines the Gospel by insinuating that we can reach a point of trusting in our own righteousness!

At the same time, we can use “authenticity” as an excuse to showcase ourselves, rather than directing attention to the Lord Jesus Christ. An overemphasis on revealing our sins and weaknesses may really be a calculated attempt to attract followers. And certainly it denotes a preoccupation with self in place of adoring God and proclaiming His excellencies.

Two years ago, I discontinued a blog that, while it referred to Christ in almost every post, basically revolved around me. The Lord convicted me of my narcissism, leading me to start The Outspoken TULIP to focus women on Christ.

As our country moves toward persecution against Bible-believing Christians, we need less encouragement to feel better about our shortcomings. When bloggers and teachers prattle on and on about their “messy” lives, they subtly lull us into feeling better about ourselves instead of helping us recognize our need for Christ. He recedes into the background while the teacher or blogger assures us that we could have a gabfest with her over coffee and (if I’m involved) cheesecake.

As much as I want to make myself approachable, however, I’m more concerned with drawing my readers to Christ. Even more, I want this blog to honor Him, regardless of how readers feel about me.  I’ll gladly confess my sins when appropriate, and I definitely don’t want anyone thinking I’ve got it all together. But if this blog degenerates into something about me, it wastes my time and yours. Jesus Christ is the Person Who matters.

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