A TULIP Repost: Mary Knew Where To Sit

Originally published September 17, 2018:

Learning

I know you’ve heard this Bible story a million times. Every women’s ministry gets to it eventually — usually with warnings against becoming like Martha.

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” ~~Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

But I’m not bringing the story up today to scold you if you’re an overly diligent housekeeper or pat you on the back if you neglect your house in favor of studying your Bible. Again, you’ve heard both those applications a million times, and you’re certainly not interested in hearing them from me. Furthermore, I’m equally not interested in writing about them!

But I thought about this passage in the context of our painfully evident preoccupation with secondary matters. Most of those matters desperately require attention, just as managing a household requires attention. Longtime readers undoubtedly know that I believe it’s absolutely crucial to examine trends within evangelicalism that seriously damage the Church and distort people’s understanding of Who Christ is.

All the issues we look at on this blog, from the problems with false teachers to the Social Justice Movement, are as important as cleaning the bathroom and serving nutritious meals. Neglecting them causes problems that usually harm us spiritually. Poor Martha only wanted to attend her legitimate responsibilities, just as Christians who address hot-button topics only want to attend to legitimate concerns.

But sometimes we get so caught up in dealing with secondary matters that we obscure the Lord from our conversation.  When that happens, we need the same rebuke that the Lord gave Martha.

If we’re too busy with whatever issue dominates our thinking to open our Bibles and enjoy God’s revelation of Himself, we’ve made a lesser choice. Martha was, after all, giving her all to serve Jesus because she genuinely loved Him, but Mary chose to sit at His feet and soak in His teaching.

I don’t want you to neglect the issues that cause trouble in the Church today. But neither do I want those matters to end up distracting you  from the Lord Himself. Mary knew where to sit. Do you?

Does Titus 2:3-5 Ignore Single Women?

As my friends and I moved through our late 30s without double rings on the third fingers of our left hands, we harbored ambivalent feelings about what older women should teach us. On the one hand, we did want teaching on how to be godly wives and mothers. Maybe learning these skills would nudge God into bringing us husbands, we reasoned. At least, that was my reasoning. Additionally, I believed older women could teach me how to attract a godly man in the first place. Hunger for marriage certainly makes a young woman eager to learn the things Paul lists in Titus 2:3-5.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (NASB95)

On the other hand, single women can feel left out if women’s Bible Studies revolve completely around marriage and child rearing. Not every godly woman has the opportunity to marry. Sometimes the only available men aren’t Christians, in which case marriage would be an act of disobedience. Thus, sitting through continual instruction on marriage and motherhood would just pour salt on the gaping wounds of singleness. Speaking from years of experience as an unmarried woman (who desperately wanted to be married), I really didn’t appreciate lessons on domestic skills.

As I’ve stated earlier in this series, I agree that the primary thrust of Titus 2:3-5 focuses on marriage and motherhood. That emphasis sadly gets downplayed nowadays, which I believe is a terrible flaw in typical women’s ministries. At the same time, however, I also believe that we must offer ministry to women who (through no fault of their own) have no romantic prospects.

Consider, please, the account of Martha and Mary.

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Flashback Friday: Where Do We Find Assurance Of Salvation?

Originally published July 20, 2017:

Broken Heart Cross

If you’re like me, you’ve probably experienced serious doubts about your salvation. Such doubts generally arise in response to falling back into familiar patterns of sin. As you see yourself committing the same ugly sin, even decades after your conversion, you have to ask yourself whether or not you were ever  really saved in the first place.

In one respect, you and I definitely should ask ourselves this question when we find ourselves committing the same sin habitually. Children of God at some point start to resemble the Father’s holiness (1 Peter 1:14-21, 1 John 3:4-10). Sadly, many people who claim to be Christians do persist in unrepentant sin, often rationalizing their rebellion and sometimes even believing that God approves of what they do. I know: I’ve done it.

Seeker-sensitive churches compound the problem by producing false converts who embrace an idealized concept of Jesus without submitting to the true Christ’s authority. These false converts see no need to repent and have no concern for personal holiness.

So yes, sometimes our sin should cause us to wonder if the Lord has truly done a work of regeneration in us. If we live without regard to His holy standards, some honest self-examination is most likely necessary.

But others of us, despite genuinely loving the Lord and wanting to obey Him, manage to get sucked back into sin on occasion. From our perspective, it seems like a habitual pattern because we repeat the same old sins time after time. We grieve every time we do it, fully aware that we’ve dishonored Him. Even if nobody else ever finds out what we’ve done, we know that we’ve violated His commands.

Like the apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-21, we hate our sin. We yearn to please the Lord, knowing that our sin put Him on the cross. How can we be so ungrateful? Why did we act like children of the devil, dragging our glorious Lord through the mud while we selfishly gratified our flesh?

As we fixate on the horrors of our sin, we accept Satan’s accusations that we’re nothing more than hypocrites. Because those accusations carry an element of truth, we believe his lie that we never really had salvation. We despair.

Sisters, we forget that assurance of salvation can never come from us. Paul wrote Romans 7 precisely to demonstrate that we don’t have any righteousness in and of ourselves. Looking at ourselves can never give us assurance!

Ah, but look at Paul’s  concluding paragraph in Romans 7:

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ~~Romans 7:21-24 (ESV)

Paul doesn’t deny his wretched condition, but he ultimately clings to Jesus Christ as his deliverer. He remembers that Christ paid for all his sin (every ounce of it) by shedding His blood on the cross. Of course, Paul’s not excusing sin or implying that God’s grace gives Christians permission to indulge in sin. Rather, he’s encouraging us to rest in what the Lord has done for us.

Sin should trouble a Christian’s conscience. We should live lives of repentance, earnestly desiring to reflect our Heavenly Father’s holiness as we declare the Gospel to a dying world. But, when our sin breaks our hearts, let’s shift our gaze to Jesus, finding assurance in Him.

Can Shut-Ins Serve Their Local Churches?

During the last three years (even before Covid), health problems and New England winters have prevented me and John from physically attending church. Thankfully, I’m getting better, so we anticipate returning to in-person worship in April. Meanwhile, we praise God that our church streams its Sunday morning services and Wednesday night Bible Studies. Recently, we had to download Zoom (for my annual doctor visit), which will allow me to participate in our church’s bi-weekly women’s Bible Studies. We maintain contact with our pastor, and one of the elders (along with his wife) visits us often. This period has relegated us to the status of shut-ins.

We typically think of shut-ins as being sick, elderly and/or disabled, which is certainly true. But we should also include caregivers who must miss church in order to assist us. I guess I could write a post listing ways churches can minister to shut-ins, seeing that most of my readers probably are able-bodied. Perhaps I will write such an article in the future. But right now I want to give you tools to encourage shut-in friends and family members in taking whatever responsibility they can to serve their local churches. And I pray that any shut-in reading this post will apply the principles I lay out.

Scripture teaches that the local church is a body of believers (1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:10-16). Those who are able to physically attend church, therefore, need to meet faithfully with their brothers and sisters as frequently as possible (Hebrews 10:23-25). At the same time, those of us who are (to borrow a phrase from Michelle Lesley) providentially hindered from attending church need to adopt the attitude that we’re still very much a part of the body. We possess the same privileges and responsibilities as all the other members in the congregation. Today I want to talk about some of those responsibilities.

Let’s look at a passage from 1 Corinthians 12 for a moment.

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Jemima Puddle-Duck And Hebrews 12:1-2

Image taken from Amazon.com

Beatrix Potter is best known for her children’s book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Her story is heartwarming, exquisitely illustrated with the author’s own water color paintings. and gently moralistic (though it failed to deter my childhood disobedience). But Beatrix Potter wrote several other books, all of which lined my sister’s bookshelf — and probably still do. The collection includes The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, which you can read here at no cost. It only takes a few minutes to read, unless you linger over the pictures. This article will make a lot more sense if you’ll read the story,

Jemima Puddle-Duck fell into temptation, didn’t she? Trusting a fox who only wanted to dine on her unhatched eggs, she made a series of very stupid decisions. Temptation to get what she wanted (in a way that seemed easy and convenient) blinded her to an obvious danger. And even the dogs who rescued her from the fox ended up devouring her precious eggs. Her sin of inattention kept her from the one desire of her heart.

Reading The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck reminded me of a Scripture John and I recently read during our morning devotions together.

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Weaned Children Aren’t Know It Alls

Let’s be honest: we look at all the insanity in the world, as well as the various trials in our personal lives, and try to figure out what the Lord is doing. As a matter of fact, Christians feel a sense of responsibility to understand His purposes in everything that happens. I suppose we think having a firm grip on perplexing circumstances will help us weather them.

A few days ago I read a psalm that gave me a perspective on facing difficulties that I’d never considered before.

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord
From this time forth and forever. ~~Psalm 131 (NASB)

In the past, I’d isolated the verses from each other, so none of them really made much sense to me. Occasionally verse 1 reminded me to maintain a semblance of humility, and verse 2 encouraged me to trust the Lord, but I failed to see how those verses fit together. And I completely ignored verse 3.

When I read Psalm 131 a few days ago, however, I disciplined myself to think about their context. Suddenly the psalm took on a clarity that surprised me. In this psalm, David teaches that Israel can hope in the Lord by resting in Him instead of trying to figure out what He’s doing through the various situations in the world.

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I Can’t Get Away From Peter!

As before, John is typing at my dictation. We are still trying to get a morning Personal Care Attendant so that I can gradually work up to being in my chair all day, but so far our efforts aren’t yielding results. We would ask for your prayers as we continue looking. We also thank those of you who have sent gifts through Paypal — I had worried that you had given much more than we needed, but I have used some of your donations to pay for advertising. Please continue praying that the right person will answer our ads so that I can get up and start typing blog posts on a more regular basis.

Praise God that our DVD player accommodates Youtube! As I lie in bed I can watch sermons and teachings by such people as John MacArthur, Sinclair Ferguson, and the late R.C. Sproul. I appreciate the opportunity to listen to solid Bible teaching from great men. In addition, we can live stream Sunday services and Wednesday night Bible Study from our own church, keeping us connected with the fellowship there.

During these months, I’ve listened to teaching on a wide variety of topics ranging from eschatology to personal holiness to the assurance of salvation. Each teaching has been encouraging and convicting, increasing my understanding of the Bible and God’s calling on my life. But in all these teachings, one incident from the earthly life of Jesus pops up repeatedly: Peter’s great confession that Jesus is the Christ and Peter’s immediate attempt to dissuade Him from predicting His crucifixion.

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It’s Not Too Late For Christians

John and I regularly listen to The Dividing Line webcast with Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. Yes, people, I know James White is a controversial figure, and sometimes he aligns himself with teachers he really shouldn’t (most notably, Michael Brown). At the same time, White holds tightly to Reformed Theology, and has an excellent understanding of history in general. We value his insight and carefully consider his perspective — even when we don’t share his conclusions.

White has made various predictions about our country’s trajectory that cause many to accuse him of wearing a tin foil hat. He firmly believes that the Biden administration will plunge the United States into a dystopian society. And he thinks the damage will be irreversible.

I hope he’s wrong. I believe he’s right.

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He Hadn’t Forgotten Me, So Why Would He Forget You?

John wore his new black suit, and I wore a wedding gown that a friend had generously given me. Both of us had waited decades for this day, often despairing that marriage would pass us by. In less than two weeks, John would turn 53, and my 49th birthday would follow a few weeks after that.

So yes, we endured years of attending weddings. We rejoiced with friends and relatives as they took their vows, always wondering when — if — our turn would ever come. We agonized in prayer, wanting to accept singleness if that was God’s will, even as we begged Him to send us someone “to have and to hold.”

I chose Great Is Thy Faithfulness as one of the songs for our wedding because the Lord so faithfully brought us together and made marriage possible for two people who had been severely physically disabled since childhood. As we sang that hymn, I reflected on God’s goodness in bringing us to that church.

God may not answer all your prayers the way you want Him to. Last I checked, I neither have a puppy nor an apartment in downtown Boston. God’s faithfulness to you may look a great deal different than His faithfulness to me and John. But in whatever way best suits His purposes for you. He doesn’t play favorites. Great is His faithfulness to you, just as it has been great to me.

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