Category Archives: Worship

Saturday Sampler: March 26 — April 1

Butterfly SamplerJohn Ellis’ piece in PJ Media, Teenage Boy Sues School Over Transgender Bathrooms is a political article rather than a specifically Christian one, but it serves as a reminder that our culture has chosen a path that degrades most of society. Christians must prepare to be marginalized as a new version of “morality” takes over.

Continuing her series on discernment at Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. writes Learn to Discern: Acknowledging the War. Find out how (and why) spiritual warfare fits into using discernment properly.

Does the Lord care how we worship Him? Rebekah Womble, blogging at Wise In His Eyes, believes He does. Her blog post, The Freedom of Worshipping God’s Way (she spelled worshiping with two p’s, not me), helps us understand why we must avoid self-styled approaches to worshiping a holy God.

Why Bargain With God?, a post that Kennedy Mathis wrote for Biblical Woman, brings back memories of my struggles as a single woman. But the principle she’s learned really applies  to any struggle Christians have.

As you can tell, I appreciate the series on cessationism that Jordan Standridge has been doing for The Cripplegate this month. His latest article, Three Reasons God is a Cessationist, employs arguments I’ve heard before, but they’re not common arguments. Please, if you have any Charismatic or continualist leanings, consider the points he makes.

Cameras Buettel, writing for the Grace To You Blog, says You Might Be A Pharisee If… This essay helps us examine ourselves (and others) more effectively to make sure we remain faithful to the Bible.

Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day writes Same Bible, different beliefs, showing how the Lord helped her work though a perplexing question. And while you’re on her website, please check out Deconstructing Absurdity: a discernment lesson to watch her tackle a recent Tweet by Rick Warren.

R.C. Sproul posts TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election on the Ligonier blog. Appealing to Scripture, he both explains the doctrine of election and deals with the argument that election is unjust.

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Discernment: More Than Exposing Error

Ladies Study 01When did Christians begin equating discernment with calling out false teachers? Certainly, identifying harmful teachings and trends that worm their way into even the best of churches has merit, especially in this age of technology when false teachers can influence a lot more people in a lot less time. At times, discernment bloggers absolutely must name names and loudly denounce error. Please don’t think I disapprove of warning other believers when wolves threaten God’s flock.

But if we reduce discernment ministry simply to the act of exposing false teachers, we distort the entire concept. One aspect of a ministry should never be mistaken for the ministry as a whole.

In addition to enabling Christians to recognize error, Biblical discernment draws us towards God’s truth. It refutes bad doctrine by filling us with sound doctrine. That sound doctrine, in turn, leads us to greater intimacy  with the Lord.

By intimacy, I don’t mean a romantic or quasi-erotic experience with Jesus as our supposed Lover. As we study Scripture, rather, we see Who the Lord is, how He thinks and what He values. The doctrine of Christ’s supremacy, for example, gives us an understanding of His relationship to His creation, as we see in the following passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

It may interest you to know that Paul actually wrote that particular passage in  response to false teachers who tried to tell the Colossians that Christ didn’t have supreme authority. In this case (as in so many others), Paul refrained from naming the error directly and instead addressed it by replacing it with the correct view of the Lord. In the process, he drew his readers into a deeper understanding of Christ’s deity, His role as Creator, His eternal nature and His atoning work on the cross. That, dear ladies, is a hefty amount of doctrine to pack into one little paragraph!

Doctrine helps Christians discern error, then, but it does so with the purpose of leading us into a closer knowledge of the Lord. Simply calling out false teachers may allow us to feel an air of superiority, but that’s quite different from leading us into His presence. True discernment does protect Christians from deception, but that protection ought to ultimately bring us into greater worship and adoration of the Lord.

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Perspectives In Titus: A Meaningful Salutation

purple-bibleFor a few reasons, we’ll continue our Titus Bible Study by remaining in verse 4 of Chapter 1 today. Primarily, we’ll do so because last Monday we used this verse to introduce Titus rather than exploring how it fits in with the rest of Paul’s salutation. Its context makes going on to verses 5-9 awkward since we didn’t really examine it last week.

As I’ve just mentioned, verse 4 concludes Paul’s salutation to Titus. This salutation can’t be skipped over lightly because of its rich doctrinal content. Most of this epistle centers around the practicalities of church structure and function, leaving Paul little opportunity to proclaim doctrinal truths, which probably frustrated him just a bit. For that reason, he took full advantage of the chance to pack theology into every crevice of his letter to Titus that he could find. You see, Paul proclaimed doctrine as a way to express his worship of Christ.

Let’s look at the entire salutation, remembering the great doctrines of God’s sovereignty and His election of believers that we saw in our study two weeks ago.

 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. ~~Titus 1:1-4 (ESV)

Paul has just introduced himself as a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, stating his mission of bringing the Gospel of eternal life to the elect. Notice how he delights in the details of God’s sovereignty? But now he realizes that he needs to finish his salutation, so he greets Titus by calling him “my true child.”

That phrase conveys far more than mere affection. Most commentators believe that Paul led Titus to the Lord. They base their assertion on the fact that Paul uses similar language to describe Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17) and Onesimus (Philemon 10). The apostle reminds Titus of the spiritual bond they share.

But he quickly erases any thought that he’s spiritually superior to Titus by adding the phrase “in a common faith.”  Here Paul suggests that Christians have a faith shared by both Jews and Gentiles,  common to all believers regardless of their position within the Church. As an apostle who is ethnically Jewish, Paul considers this Gentile convert as his equal

This phrase also may allude to the Council of Jerusalem, where the possible presence of Titus may have demonstrated the erasure of distinction between Jews and Gentiles. If indeed Titus had been present at the Council, this allusion would have served to encourage Titus in the genuineness of his ministry. Such an affirmation would help Titus in exercising his pastoral authority in Crete.

Paul’s epistles often open by wishing the recipients grace and peace, so this occurrence of that phrase shouldn’t surprise us. Since none of the commentators I read said much about it, I will simply remark that grace and peace come through Christ Jesus our Savior. In the previous verse, God is called Savior, implying Christ’s shared deity with the Father. Both Father and Son impart grace and peace.

As we close today’s study, perhaps we can think about the wonderful truth that, by God’s grace, each of us participates in a common faith. By grace, we stand before the Lord as equals with each other. Therefore we must avoid attitudes of spiritual pride, accepting each other in love and humility. As we progress through the book of Titus, we’ll discover how such love and humility plays out.

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Celebrating, Not Merely Stating

Lady Reading BibleThe First Century church at Colossae, because of its location as a major seaport welcoming tradesmen and sailors representing a variety of cultures, struggled against false teachings of various kinds. In response to the multiplicity of errors that made their way into the Colossian church, the apostle Paul wrote a letter meant to correct the doctrinal problems. Before addressing the particulars, however, he reviewed the basic Gospel message.

Paul introduced this review of the Gospel with a powerful explanation of Christ’s deity:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-20 (ESV)

In describing Christ as  “the image of the invisible God,” Paul equates Him with God. From there, He identifies Christ’s role in creation, insists that He holds the entire universe together, and crowns Him as the Sovereign Ruler. Then he makes his claim even more directly in verse 19: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”

Yes, God dwells in every believer through His Holy Spirit, but He doesn’t give us all of His fulness.  Vincent’s Word Studies offers the clearest commentary on verse 19 that I could find.

The word must be taken in its passive sense – that with which a thing is filled, not that which fills. The fullness denotes the sum-total of the divine powers and attributes. In Christ dwelt all the fullness of God as deity. The relation of essential deity to creation and redemption alike, is exhibited by John in the very beginning of his gospel, with which this passage should be compared. In John the order is: 1. The essential nature of Christ; 2. Creation; 3. Redemption. Here it is: 1. Redemption (Colossians 1:13); 2. Essential being of the Son (Colossians 1:15); 3. The Son as Creator (Colossians 1:16); 4. The Church, with Christ as its head (Colossians 1:18). Compare 2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 1:19, Ephesians 1:20, Ephesians 1:23. Paul does not add of the Godhead to the fullness, as in Colossians 2:9 since the word occurs in direct connection with those which describe Christ’s essential nature, and it would seem not to have occurred to the apostle that it could be understood in any other sense than as an expression of the plenitude of the divine attributes and powers.
Thus the phrase in Him should all the fullness dwell gathers into a grand climax the previous statements – image of God, first-born of all creation, Creator, the eternally preexistent, the Head of the Church, the victor over death, first in all things. On this summit we pause, looking, like John, from Christ in His fullness of deity to the exhibition of that divine fullness in redemption consummated in heaven (Colossians 1:20-22).

Again, the passage celebrates (rather than merely stating) Christ’s divine nature, making it inseparable from the Gospel message. Christ, being God Himself, willingly bled and died on the cross to atone for the sins of those who trust in Him. Remember, Paul here identified Christ as both the Creator and the focal point of His own creation, and in the next breath introduced His willingness  to sacrifice Himself for our rebellion against Him. If that amazing fact doesn’t give you a desire to fall on your knees with wonder and adoration, just keep reading about the Gospel. It only gets better.

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My Admittedly Delightful Quandary

Listening to Enfield’s version of There Is A Fountain puts me in an interesting, and admittedly delightful, quandary. Usually, one aspect of a hymn will grab my attention so that I write  a post emphasizing that point. This hymn, however, is so overflowing with rich content that I just plain don’t want to highlight any one part over the others.

So sit back, turn your speakers up and savor all the rich theology of hope that bursts from this glorious hymn. Honestly, could you choose any part over the others? Isn’t it all wonderful?

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Will I Be Pretty In Heaven?

debbielynne-as-queenIt’s probably natural to wonder what heaven will be like, as well as what we’ll be like when we’re there. Vain woman that I am, I often catch myself hoping I’ll look young again. And beautiful, of course.

As I grow in my love for Christ, however, the Holy Spirit convicts me of my shallow, self-focused attitude.  Ever so subtly, my imaginations of heaven revolve around me, not around the Lord Jesus Christ. That selfishness comes primarily from my sinful fresh, to be sure. But poor teaching from so-called Christian writers, pastors and teachers reinforce it.

In contrast, the Bible says very little about our state in heaven. 1 John 3:2 offers the most direct answer to questions about our eternal state:

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (ESV)

Admittedly, that response doesn’t satisfy us. But, my beloved sisters in Christ, may  I suggest that such dissatisfaction only betrays the fact that our affections still remain upon ourselves rather than on Jesus?  We don’t like considering the possibility that our preoccupation with self really goes that far. But maybe we need to let the Lord examine our hearts on this matter.

The Holy Spirit describes heaven most vividly in the book of Revelation. I don’t have time to cite  all the passages in today’s little essay, but let me show you just one example.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. ~~Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)

Do you notice that the passage keeps the emphasis on the Lamb? John 1:29 and John 1:36  identify Jesus as “the Lamb of  God Who takes away the sin of the world.” Clearly, then, Jesus is the focal point, not us. Through He bestows His love on us by saving us from sin and bringing us into His Kingdom, He doesn’t build His Kingdom around us. He receives our worship, still calling us His servants.

I’m 63 now, and most of my earthly life has passed (boy, it goes by quickly). As a result, I think more seriously about heaven than I did as a young woman. And a lot of my thoughts reject speculations concerning what I will be and do in the Kingdom. I realize, more and more, that I simply won’t care whether I look young or pretty, or even about having a body that’s free from Cerebral Palsy. I’ll be in the Lord’s presence, worshiping Him freely. Will anything else matter?

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How Precious Did That Grace Appear

The second stanza of John Newton’s classic hymn, Amazing Grace is really the testimony of every true Christian. The Lord graciously shows us how wretched we are, and then He even more graciously shows us that Jesus Christ died to take the punishment for our vile sins.

Will eternity be long enough to praise Him for His marvelous grace? I only know that I’ll never be able to adequately praise Him for something so precious!

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