Saturday Sampler: December 25 — December 31

Despite the fact that I’ve been blogging for around 16 years, I learned this week that people generally don’t read blogs as much during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I guess other bloggers have figured this principle out, because I had a very difficult time finding posts to share with you. Please accept this small collection of articles. Hopefully next week’s Sampler will have more goodies.

Much to my dismay, it’s still popular to believe that God speaks to us personally, as a supplement to Scripture. Refuting this false teaching, Mike Abendroth discusses Secret and Sinister Messages From God: Does God Speak Outside Of His Word? (1) in his article for The Heidelblog, Although I am beginning to question certain things about R. Scott Clark and his influence on Mike, I do recommend the particular article for its contribution to the conversation. Also see Part 2 and Part 3.

Have you made a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible regularly? If you don’t know where to start, Michelle Lesley offers a wide variety of Bible Reading Plans for the New Year — 2023 for you to consider. She even includes plans and tips for children. And if a commitment for the whole year intimidates you, she mixes in a few short-term plans that you might find more manageable.

In a similar vein, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time gives us Ministries to Follow: Recs & Lists. Elizabeth wants women to receive solid Biblical teaching, which each of the podcasts she links to provides. She shares some of my favorites. and maybe some will become favorites of yours as well. As a bonus, she gives suggestions on how podcasts can fit into busy schedules to nourish us spiritually.

Although I haven’t fully vetted Jacob Crouch of Aliens and Pilgrims, I love his perspective on making New Year’s Resolutions. He writes both 3 Reasons Why You Should Make a New Year’s Resolution This Year and 3 Reasons Why You Should NOT Make a New Year’s Resolution This Year. Before you decide that Jacob contradicts himself, give these two posts a chance (they’re both very short anyway, so they won’t eat up a lot of your time). You’ll be surprised by how they fit together.

Writing for the Ligonier blog, Nick Batzig lists 5 Things You Should Know about Sanctification. He begins with the Westminster Shorter Confession, but finds that Scripture itself offers a much more dimensional understanding of the various aspects of sanctification. You’ll be encouraged by his insight into this important topic.

No Whip-Poor-Wills Or Applesauce Cake

Flowers in the North End that resemble flowers on Walton’s Mountain

For Christmas 2021, my husband gave me the complete DVD set of The Waltons (a TV show from the 1970s). If I recall correctly, we began watching it straight through sometime in February, finishing with the six epilogue movies shortly after Thanksgiving. We own several DVD sets of other TV shows, and had almost decided which of them to watch next. But as the final show closed with Earl Hamner reading the voice-over of John Boy’s journal entry, I knew I wanted to go through the series again.

John Boy’s character is based on Earl Hamner Jr., who grew up in rural Virginia during the Depression era. Like Hamner, John Boy is an aspiring writer, writing mostly about his family and Walton’s Mountain. He writes with simplicity, and yet with a poignancy that often astounds me. I especially love his descriptions of the mountain at night, with its sounds and smells intermingled with fond memories of his family as they bid each other good night.

As a child, oddly enough, I had no patience for descriptive passages. I much preferred dialogue. But Earl Hamner and John Boy had such a way of using words, that they transport me to their world of whip-poor-wills and applesauce cake and younger siblings who cause irritation and joy. Each time John Boy or Earl Hamner reads the prose that supposedly flow from John Boy’s pen, I find myself wishing I could make my words paint such beautiful pictures. Perhaps the exquisite quality of those brief moments inspired me to go through the series a second time.

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52 Years Later, The Fascination Only Grows

He sat cross-legged in front of the white brick fireplace in his parents’ living room, balancing his Bible on one thigh as almost a dozen high school kids surrounded him. It seemed like it was going to be a typical Thursday night Bible Study as we sang upbeat praise songs to begin the evening. But his opening prayer came with an odd intensity. He forcefully praised Jesus for being God in the flesh, his voice swelling with passion at each sentence.

Before he could finish his prayer, a girl I’d never met lept from her seat and, covering her ears, ran out of the house yelling, “Blasphemy! Blasphemy!” The Bible Study leader watched calmly, saying he’d pretty much expected that reaction, though he’d hoped she would stay and listen.

Only a few months old in the Lord myself, I was quite confused by the incident. I asked point blank why he’d intentionally prayed something when he knew it would offend her. I didn’t think his actions modeled Christian love.

Patiently, he explained that the girl was a Jehovah’s Witness, which meant that she denied that Jesus was God. He had wanted to take a bold stand against the false teaching that kept her from knowing the true Jesus Christ. Looking back, I’m still not sure his methodology totally pleased the Lord, but I believe his motives came from a sincere desire for her salvation. He knew that she’d been deceived into believing in a false Jesus.

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Who Should Come And Worship?

Origianally posted December 17, 2017:

The hymn I present today may begin with angels, but it quickly moves to various groups of human beings. Each stanza highlights a unique aspect of doctrine that compels that group (and by extension, all of us) to come and worship.

As Christians, we now have the responsibility of calling people from all walks of life to come and worship. True, only the elect will respond, drawn by the Holy Spirit, but the Lord has decreed that we be His instruments in putting forth the call to salvation. Since God alone knows whom His elect are, we must proclaim the Gospel to all people, just as angels from the realms of glory did.

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A Familiar Christmas Hymn With A Wonderful Surprise

Originally published December 10, 2017:

When I first started playing this version of O Come, All Ye Faithful on YouTube, I didn’t really like the sound quality. As my husband will attest, I’m finicky about the hymn videos I post each Sunday.

They must, of course, contain sound doctrine, but they also need to include certain verses, have specific wording, be pleasing to the ear and have good graphics. I also avoid artists that I know represent bad theology (like Hillsong).

I can’t always meet all my criteria. While I never compromise on doctrine or artists, sometimes I settle for boring graphics or slight updates in lyrics. Rarely will I tolerate poor sound quality.

So, as verse 1 played on YouTube, I began moving my mouse cursor up to the “Back” button in order to search for a version I would like better. But before I could reach it, verse 2 startled me. I’d never heard it before.

I love its bold pronouncement of Christ’s deity.  What could possibly get to the heart of Christmas more than an unashamed declaration that God Himself was born in that manger? Listen to this familiar Christmas hymn and enjoy the wonderful surprise of verse 2.

The Incarnation Never Gets Old

Originally published December 18, 2016:

I love many of the traditional Christmas hymns, with their bold declarations of the Lord’s Incarnation. Indeed, His Incarnation is one of my favorite doctrines! Those Christmas songs usually contain verses that secular people, presumably embarrassed by the frank theology they convey, omit. Evidently, the moral implications of Christ’s deity bothers them.

But I digress. As much as I love traditional Christmas hymns, occasionally I find a  contemporary Christmas song that focuses on the Lord’s Incarnation. So today, just to do something a little different, I thought I’d feature a contemporary song that still expresses the wonder of God made flesh to dwell among us.

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Saturday Sampler: December 11 — December 17

Could a Roman Catholic pope have declared An infallible Catholic dogma based upon a blatant translation error? Examining the supposed Immaculate Conception of Mary, Tom of excatholic4christ explains how a 19th Century pope used a mistranslation of Genesis 3:15 to validate this unbiblical doctrine. His post reminds us that we need to use accurate Bible translations. And that we mustn’t accept any teaching, no matter who gives it, without measuring it against God’s Word.

I should write A Letter to My Old Self similar to the one Blake Long published in Theology & Life. It’s a brilliant dramatization of Romans 7, coming from an attitude of resolve and victory. Once Jesus gets hold of us, we don’t really want to go back to who we were.

We all know that Jesus was The Baby Who Turned the World Upside-Down, so we might be tempted to skip Cindy Matson’s post in The Bible Study Nerd. Resist that temptation! Cindy does a brilliant job of looking at ways in which Mary’s declaration that the Lord has toppled kingdoms and fed the hungry have already been realized in Christ.

Life gets prickly, as Leslie A of Growing 4 Life reminds us. Yet she encourages us to keep Looking for the Blooms in places where we don’t really expect to find anything with color or beauty. This simple little devotional brings a lovely sense of optimism that will lighten your heart.

Elizabeth Prata is used to pushback for her essays exposing false teachers in The End Time. But she finds that The most anger now comes from a surprising quarter. I didn’t expect this particular source of opposition, though I should have. I’m proud of Elizabeth for standing up for Biblical truth, especially when so many people clamor for compromise.

In his post for Knowable Word, Peter Krol teaches us to Know Your Literary Devices in interpreting Scripture. He walks us through some of the main interpretative devices, showing how they make a passage clearer without having to rely on commentaries. As you begin your 2023 reading plan, his tips might help you understand God’s Word better than ever.

Sweet Little Babies Threaten No One, Do They?

Someone recently commented that manger scenes and songs about the Baby Jesus don’t pose the same sort of threat as other Christian topics do. After all, what could be more appealing than a cuddly infant full of childlike innocence? The story Luke narrates lends itself to sentimental Christmas cards and adorable Sunday School pageants that often cause the most secular eye to moisten just a bit. It seems like these days there’s always “room at the inn” for Baby Jesus.

The Jesus Who calls out sin and commands repentance isn’t quite as lovable to the world. Good Friday and Easter Sunday don’t receive anywhere near the attention that we give Christmas, even though those two holidays celebrate the heart of the Gospel message. Unlike Christmas, Good Friday and Easter Sunday confront us with our sin as well as with Christ’s authority as the risen Savior and Lord. Therefore, Christmas feels much safer, focusing on “the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

The sentimentality of the Christmas story, however, gets upset by Matthew, as he writes about the Magi who journey from the East searching for the newly born king of the Jews (please read Matthew 2:1-18). Obviously, I can’t quote the entire passage here. And even if I could, I prefer not to bog myself down in a discussion of the Magi themselves. Rather, I want to concentrate on King Herod and his terror at the announcement that a king of the Jews had been born near Jerusalem.

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Christmas: The Teacher Of Humility

As a Christian blogger, I feel a different sort of pressure at this time of year than most people feel, especially when other bloggers start writing about Advent and Christmas before I can even digest my Thanksgiving turkey. I scratch my head at my reticence to join their ranks, particularly due to my fascination with the Incarnation. Wouldn’t you think that I’d be chomping at the bit to blog about the wonder of God becoming Man? But honestly, I’m just not interested in writing Christmas themed articles right now.

A lot of the problem comes from knowing that I don’t have anything original to say about the Incarnation. Or at least feeling as if I have nothing worthwhile to contribute to the conversation. In my pride, I demand that I come up with a fresh angle on it to dazzle my readers — skillfully displaying both my cultivated talents as a writer (my college professors would be so pleased!) and my grasp of God’s Word.

Did you catch the phrase, “In my pride?” What an ironic attitude to harbor after my pastor, in preaching through Ephesians, recently did an entire sermon on humility! Look at this passage:

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. ~~Ephesians 4:11-6 (NASSB95)

My pastor focused his sermon on the first three words of verse 2: “with all humility.”

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Saturday Sampler: December 4 — December 10

In Farewell, Charlie Brown Christmas, Denny Burk tenderly reminiscences on a beloved classic that will grace network television this year for the last time. Though it will still be available, I’m sad that it won’t have the wide exposure that it’s had for nearly 60 years. Don’t watch the second video clip until you grab a box of tissues!

It’s that time of year when most children excitedly anticipate visits from Santa Claus — and talk about him with each other. In The Mailbag: My kid knows the truth about Santa. What if he tells his friends who don’t?, Michelle Lesley discusses this sensitive matter using godly wisdom. If you have school aged children, this article (repeated from December 2018) will help you navigate a tricky situation,

Forgiving others doesn’t come naturally, even for Christians. Leslie A of Growing 4 Life addresses this problem, and shares how the Lord has helped her deal with it, by writing Let It Roll. Just Let it Roll. In this crazy world where people feel offended so easily, her counsel and insight fill a big hole.

Writing for Fight for Faith, Doug Eaton looks to Zacherias and Elizabeth as examples of Celebrating Christmas with Jesus Himself. This short devotional challenges us to examine our prayer and Bible intake as we prepare to welcome Christ into our holiday celebrations.

Is discernment ministry an excuse for gossip? Not always. But more and more, that’s becoming the case according to Tim Challies. So he writes Let’s Talk About Jesus, Not Celebrities to help us guard against using discernment as an excuse to speak and write things that unnecessarily damage the reputations of others. Thankfully Tim acknowledges that sometimes we do need to call out people; had he not made this caveat, I probably wouldn’t have recommended his article.

Sunny Shell, who blogs at abandoned to Christ, writes When My Heart Breaks in response to a slanderous text from someone dear to her. You’ll appreciate her godly way of handling her emotions.

What’s Your Top Priority When Studying the Bible? Peter Krol’s post in Knowable Word differentiates between our ultimate goal and the necessary steps for reaching it. His insight guides us to proper interpretation of the text, which in turn leads to right application.

Michelle Lesley is more to me than a fellow blogger. Although I only met her in person once, I consider her a personal friend. Therefore, I beg you to read If you’d like to help… and act accordingly. This lady has served God faithfully by ministering to her family, her church and women all over the county. Now we have the opportunity to minister to her. Please, as you are able. take this opportunity. Thank you!