Friday, March 29, 2013

That Was A GOOD Friday!

My fellow Christian bloggers are doing wonderful jobs covering various facets of Good Friday, so I'd strongly encourage you to click the links to Cripplegate and Do Not Be Surprised to read some thought-provoking reflections concerning the Lord's Crucifixion. I'm not sure anything I could type would add much to their thoughts. Yet, I urge you to consider the following comments, asking the Holy Spirit if they apply to you:

The more the Holy Spirit  convicts me of sin and reveals how intrinsic  sin is to my very nature, the more I treasure Jesus' death on the cross in my place. I read about the physical torment He suffered, and the even greater spiritual anguish He underwent due to His separation from the Father, and I realize how much He hated sin. He willingly gave Himself as the final Passover Lamb, uncomplainingly accepting the punishment that rightfully belongs to me.

Until I acknowledged that my sins would prevent me from enjoying eternity in God's presence, Christ's Crucifixion mystified me. But when the Holy Spirit used the Bible to confront me with the reality that I was hopelessly chained to my own sin, the Cross became my hope. I can never thank Jesus enough for shedding His blood for my sin, but His death on the Cross  has given me an eternity to try.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Whew!

No time for much of a post today, as my primary PCA called after noon today. She can't get me up tomorrow morning because she tripped over her cat and strained her ankle. Praise God, one of the applicants for the "swing shift" is available!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Necessarily Offensive

Of course most conversations today focus on same sex marriage. Social media is absolutely littered with red and pink "equality" symbols, and even professing Christians seem supportive of legalizing it. Everybody fears being labeled as a bigot or a homophobe, preferring to water down the Scriptures concerning homosexuality to avoid offending anyone.

And unnecessarily offending people certainly is sinful. No Christian should purposefully set out to offend anyone. Several years ago, while protesting same sex marriage at the Massachusetts State House, it mortified me that I accidentally ran my wheelchair over the toes of a gay counter-protester, knowing that he needed to receive love and respect from those who disagreed with him. I wish my speech defect hadn't prevented me from offering a sincere apology.

But the point comes at which a Christian must choose between offending non-Christians or offending the Lord. We may have to accept the fact of legalized same sex marriage in much the same way that we have to accept the fact that abortion is legal, but acceptance of its legality shouldn't require us to reject those portions of the Bible that condemn homosexual behavior. At some point, we must align  ourselves with the Lord's standards, even though doing so puts us out of step with society in general.

People will hate us. Jesus many times promised that they would, and even said we should sorrow when people speak well of us (Luke 6:26). Please understand that He wasn't commanding us to be intentionally obnoxious as much as He wanted us to realize that embracing His teachings (if done correctly) would antagonize those who reject His authority.

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)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Don't Ask Me The Secret To Marriage

Lately, several people I know (most of whom claim to be Christians) have chosen to end their marriages. In most of the cases, the husbands either committed adultery or simply wanted the freedom to explore other relationships. I won't divulge any specifics, of course. These are private situations, and I must respect the privacy of everyone involved (including the offending parties).

As John and I pray for these couples, we feel a crushing grief. We know divorce devastates both spouses, not to mention any children they may have produced, and our hearts break for the pain that each person (even the one who wants the marriage to end) will live with for years to come. We grieve even more that Christians choose to imitate the world rather than remembering that the husband-wife relationship is intended to model Christ's relationship with His Bride, the Church.

As sad as we are for these couples, however, we're also grateful that  the Lord has blessed us with a happy marriage. We don't understand why He has given us so much grace, nor do we take credit for having a successful marriage. If someone were to ask me  the secret to a good marriage, I'd shrug and honestly say I only know that I married a Christ-like man. I wish my friends had done the same.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Need I Say More?

Since time is short today, I thought I'd  share the following modern hymn, which we sang in church today:


Saturday, March 23, 2013

When Memory Verses Meet Life

When I decided to memorize James 1:2-4 the other day, I suspected that a trial might be approaching.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~~James 1:2-4 (ESV)

Well...yesterday I opened my email program to  find a hastily written note from my Personal Care Attendant scheduled for both shifts on Sundays and the Wednesday evening shift. She'd been having serious problems with a family member that required her to move out of state so quickly that she couldn't even come sign her time sheet.

So I spent yesterday on email, Facebook and the PCA referral list. I wrote the girl who's leaving, letting her know how highly I think of her, and offering to write a letter of recommendation any time she needed it. Then I emailed  my back-up people, securing help for tomorrow, Wednesday night and Easter morning. Next, I emailed someone from  the PCA referral list.

Today, I put out another email to  a woman that a friend from church suggested. Tomorrow I will put an ad on Craigslist, so I expect to begin interviewing Monday. Which, of  course, means less time for blogging, and eliminates our hopes of going to the Museum of Fine  Arts Thursday (when the weather will finally be decent).

This trial is familiar, and much less severe than the one facing my former PCA, but it's still a trial. I am not happy about it, but I do rejoice that the  Lord will use it to further develop my steadfastness. He's preparing my character for His purposes, and I find it exciting to think about the ways He might use me and John to minister during the interview process and in our relationship with whomever we hire. It's no accident that I'm memorizing James 1:2-4 this week!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Walking With Others

During 1986 and 1987 (when I still lived in California), Good Friday preparations began with a  January meeting in my living room. The head of our church's drama ministry and two other writers came to brainstorm about the annual Good Friday play, eager to move beyond the tableau-style reenactments of The Last Supper that had been done every year. 

In 1986, the four of us decided to write a musical based on the Gospel of John. The dramatic portrayal of Christ's trial the following year was more challenging and demanding, both for the writers and the cast, and I'm grateful for all the commentaries and other background materials I had to study before  even starting to write, but the 1986 musical stands out in my memory.

The three of us divided the script into segments. They assigned the disabled man at the pool of Bethesda and the raising of Lazarus from the dead to me, also entrusting me to write lyrics for the songs that would be performed within those scenes. I must have had a three week deadline to get it written (between correspondence counseling letters I wrote for Love In Action), so I pretty much lived in front of my electric typewriter. But, as both Bible narratives held particular meaning for me, I took great pleasure in writing them.

The song I wrote for the Pool of Bethesda scene delighted everyone with its ironic title, "I Can Walk." The woman that wrote the music didn't know that I had envisioned a ballad-like tune, so she composed a lively one with a slight country-western flair, really capturing the joy the man must have experienced upon being emancipated from his disability after 38 years.

When rehearsal started, the actor playing the disabled man wanted to dance as he sang the song. I was the director of that particular scene, but obviously not a choreographer. Yet I loved the idea of him dancing, so of course I gave him free reign.

Late in rehearsals, long after we'd all been accustomed to his dance, he spontaneously grabbed an actor who had been playing one of the Pharisees (that actor was, in real life, an overly serious man anyway) and spun him around! The startled reaction was so funny that we all decided the twirl (and shocked reaction) absolutely needed to become part of the number.

I loved seeing the music writer and the actors take the words I'd written and infuse them with joy. Collaboration was such a hallmark  of drama ministry in that little church, as it probably is in most theatrical productions. Having the usually inflated ego and desire for control that I do, I found it surprising that I took such delight in having other people give their creative twists to what I'd written. And I'm certain my most cherished memories prior to my marriage tend to come from those Good Friday productions precisely because I didn't create alone.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Pride Of New England

People keep insisting that Spring began today, yet two more snow storms threaten New England in the coming seven days. Kids too young to understand that more Snow Days now mean a delayed (and therefore shortened) summer vacation don't mind, but the rest of us are very tired of winter. Even though we didn't see any substantial snow until February, the bitter cold caused me and John to miss a total of 13 Sunday services...nine of which were consecutive.

The general reaction to bad weather should be humble acknowledgement of God's authority and human dependence on Him. Yet, for all its churches, New England is extremely defiant toward Biblical Christianity, and only a small sliver of our population goes to any religious service. God, despite His efforts to gain attention, pretty much gets ignored.

He will, of course, eventually bless us with warm, beautiful weather, and He'll do so because He's kind and merciful. But, while many New Englanders will appreciate beautiful days and moderate temperatures, very, very few will attribute the better weather to the Lord Jesus Christ. And their stubborn rebellion against recognizing either His authority or His goodness saddens me much more that the prospect of more snow does.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Words (Spoken And Typed) And Private Thoughts

Words generally reveal a person's true thoughts, beliefs and attitudes. Yes, some people are hypocrites,  saying one thing publicly and behaving quite differently behind closed doors, but even their words eventually betray them. In Luke 6:45, Jesus said that we speak out of the abundance of our heats. By saying this, He meant that our words end up exposing the truth about our characters, at least at some point.

After deciding to write about using my words to honor the Lord, I went on Facebook and came across a video of Joni Eareckson Tada's keynote address at the 2013 National  Religious Broadcasters Convention yesterday. (I really recommend that you click the link and make time to listen to her speech). As she narrated her experiences to illustrate the Lord's grace in using her disability, chronic pain and breast cancer to heal her spiritually from her own sinfulness, she very candidly recounted instances in which her words pulled away her masks to show the depths of her selfishness. What came out, ugly and vile, told a truth about her that I doubt she wanted to see.

John's health has brought equally deplorable words through my lips. Words of rage, accusing the Lord of heartlessness. As I scream those vile words and feel them come from the deepest part of my being, they shock me.  They confront me,  as Joni's words confronted her, with how insistent I am  that God bow His will to mine. I see, through those angry words, a devilish pride. And those horrible words force me to rely on the blood He  shed to atone for my sin, as I see how hopeless I am apart from His grace.

One of my memory verses applies to this matter of how my words (spoken and typed) emanate from the depths of my being. I've memorized it in the New King James Version.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of  my heart, Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer. ~~Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

This verse, often (though not often enough) is a prayer I pray for myself. I desire that my words (spoken and typed) as well as my private thoughts, would be pleasing and honoring to King Jesus. It grieves me when I say or think things that peel back the  Good Christian Girl mask to face me with how monstrous I am apart from His Spirit, and I hunger to think, say, pray and write thoughts and words that would honor Him.

The power to speak, type and think in ways that He would find acceptable, however, will never come through my attempts at self-reformation. His Word and His Spirit will transform me. Notice that the psalmist relies, not on himself, but on the Lord, to be his Strength. Like Joni, I'm utterly helpless to purify myself. But the Lord, in His inexhaustible graciousness, can make my thoughts acceptable to Himself.

Even more wonderful, the Lord redeems me when I fail Him. As I would lie alone in bed during John's hospitalizations this past year, railing at his seeming indifference to the  suffering John and I experienced, He deepened my understanding of His salvation. He showed me that He alone is my Redeemer, and He redeems even my most repulsive thoughts with His precious blood!

May my words and thoughts increase in their acceptability to Jesus. And may I trust my Strength and my Redeemer to make them so!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Shyly Approaching The Edicts Of Rome

This week's bandwagon for bloggers who tend toward Reformed theology leans toward refuting the Catholic Church, and various posts have sharpened my understanding of how Catholic theology deviates from sound Bible doctrine. While those differences certainly need to be discussed, however. I'm not quite prepared to tackle them. Admittedly, some of my reluctance comes from fear of man, which is funny in light of the other topics I've broached lately. If I can take on Holy Yoga, women pastors, contemplative prayer and the Gay Christian Movement, surely I have equal courage to discuss the Catholic Church...? Well, perhaps.

But I'm only now learning that the Catholic Church (which is distinct from individuals within its ranks who are genuine Christians) officially rejects the Bible's teaching that faith alone determines a person's salvation. Sacraments, acts of penance, and sojourns in Purgatory all play a role in Rome's view of how a person gains acceptance into heaven. This reliance on acts that  people perform, however, sharply conflicts with the Scripture's teaching that salvation comes solely and completely from God...Who even supplies us with the faith necessary to receive salvation.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~~Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

As I read more about Catholicism, I'll most likely reflect more deeply on how its official teaching measures against Scriptural teaching. But I can't keep up with the current bandwagon inspired by the retirement of Pope Benedict and the subsequent election of Pope Francis. Though this papal transition makes Catholicism a hot topic right now, I'm only just beginning to understand the true reasons that the Reformers rose up and questioned the Church's doctrines. Because the matter is so important, I want to study it as responsibly as I've studied other issues before addressing it in depth.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Goodness? Gracious!

"You write too much about man's sinfulness,"  the email complained. "You should focus on God's grace, not His supposed anger." And some of my friend's criticism made sense. The Lord's grace certainly deserves ample attention,  and it rightfully moves Christians to shower Him with worship, praise and adoration. His grace demonstrates His amazing love and wonderful compassion, and obviously calls us to celebrate His goodness. How remarkable that Jesus has brought His grace to all people!

But why must we speak of His grace in terms of compassion? When we speak of God's grace, there's necessarily an understood subtext that we were, before receiving grace from Him, somehow in need of Him to bestow kindness, forgiveness and mercy. The very concept that human beings need His grace (which is classically defined as "unmerited favor") implies some sort of flaw or deficit on our part.

My friend's email continued by reminding me of the basic goodness in humanity, which he believed somehow validated the grace of Jesus. He wanted me to renounce my misanthropic tone in favor of writing about God's enjoyment and celebration of humanity.

But a celebration of human goodness (besides being a blatant contradiction of Scripture) pretty much negates the whole point! The Lord's grace is valuable precisely because of human depravity. And post-modern people (even many who claim to be Bible-believing Christians) simply don't accept the idea that they are not intrinsically good.

So, while I agree that I should emphasize the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ more than I presently do, His grace must be shown as His response to our moral and spiritual bankruptcy. Otherwise, grace has no meaning. Thus, writing about grace would be totally superfluous, and I would seriously have to question whether or not it would even make sense. Consequently, in order to celebrate  the glorious grace that Jesus has extended toward His creation, I must talk about our unworthiness. In so doing, the beauty of His grace will shine!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What's In It For Jesus?

Our pastor sat in on today's Bible Study, joining the discussion on Colossians 3:17:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)

In exploring what it means to "do everything" in the Lord's name, the conversation turned to worship, both in and out of church. From there, we touched on an attitude many professing Christians have that Sunday morning "worship" (which is generally misunderstood as referring only to the singing portion of the service), commenting on the many times people talk about whether or not they get something out of it.

Pastor refuted that attitude, arguing that we're not supposed to "get something" out of worship. Rather, the Lord should be "getting something" out of our worship (which encompasses a great deal more than the singing). As he made that remark, I knew that He'd hit on an important, but habitually neglected, principle. Western evangelicals, despite our pious bumper-sticker slogans that "it's all about You, Jesus," still come to church with every expectation of receiving emotional gratification, usually through the music.

Worship's sole purpose is to glorify Him, not to give ourselves goosebumps...or even fortification against the coming week. Gathering with other believers and hearing God's Word faithfully preached almost always does benefit us because the Lord is gracious and loving, but those benefits are side-effects, not the goal. We worship to honor Him, because He deserves it!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Less Equal Words Of God?

Some time last week, one of my favorite blogs (Apprising Ministies) republished Dr. Gary Gilley's post examining the practice of contemplative/centering prayer, which  is becoming increasingly popular among evangelicals. Like most posts on this subject, it explored the historical roots of contemplative prayer as a discipline of Catholic mystics rather than one taught in Scripture, and it demonstrated that the "still small voice" that the Lord used to speak to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:12 had nothing to do with it.

One comment the blogger made, however, made a point that I'd never considered--and one that actually gets to the bottom line of why "listening prayer" should pose a problem for Bible-believing Christians:

Foremost, [Richard Foster, whom the blogger had just quoted] is equating the supposed inner voices, which are being interpreted as from God, as the very “Word of God.” This is important to note throughout spiritual formation literature. There are often disclaimers given by contemplatives to the effect that such revelations are not on par with the Scriptures, nor do these communications ever contradict Scripture. But the reality is that these perceived words are considered the very “Word of God” as O’Connor and Foster affirm. Tricia Rhodes writes, “Once I’m in that place of quiet, I often ask, ‘Lord, what would you have me know right now? What would you have me consider?’ Surprisingly enough, I often hear a specific word for that which lies in front of me.”


 Dr. Gilley's point made me think. If God really speaks to believers now, then His Word is not limited to the Bible, and therefore the Bible ceases to be the Christians final authority. In other words, anything He whispers to an individual has equal weight to the Bible by virtue of the assertion that God Himself spoke. For if His personal words to an individual are, in fact, His words, how can their authority be secondary to Scripture? Is  He less  God now than He was during Biblical times?


My questions probably seem ridiculous to those who practice listening prayer. Evangelicals routinely insist that they would never consider personal words from God as being equal to Scripture! But why not? If these words are from God, wouldn't it be within reason to assume that they have as much authority as the Bible? If not, what exactly makes them less authoritative? Those who believe God speaks to them personally may initially laugh at my questions, but I believe these questions deserve carefully considered answers.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dualistic Landscapes, Courtasy of My Doctor

If a doctor must be an  hour and fifteen minutes late for an appointment, and then spent longer than expected on an evaluation for a new power wheelchair, nice weather certainly comes in handy! Our return trip from her office had been scheduled for 1:30, but she entered the exam room at around 1:45. We didn't leave until 2:50.

Rather than attempting to get The RIDE to fit us in to go home, John canceled our return trip and we wheeled home (stopping at Papa Gino's for a Veggie Pocket and Shaw's for a cannoli). Because the sidewalk leading to our apartment building still has snow on the curbcuts, we wheeled on the side streets where, since there's less car traffic, we could stay in the streets.

What an interesting trip on those side streets! One home-owner, evidently fed up with all the snow these past two months, had defiantly planted spring flowers at the end of his or her walkway:


So funny to see spring flowers amid patches of snow, isn't it? I loved the contrast, and I also loved the sense of  winter having to yield  to spring!

Another front yard still lay captive to winter, yet it also bore an irresistible beauty:

After seeing these lovely, though  somewhat incongruous, snatches of landscape, I appreciated the long wait at the doctor's. It might have been nice to get home before 2:00 rather than at  4:30,  but we would have missed so much!
 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In Spite Of Jet-Lag

Does the first week of  Daylight Savings Time make  you feel as if you're experiencing jet-lag? We only lost an  hour's sleep, but I  feel run down physically and very whiny emotionally. Not a good representative of Jesus!

Like many evangelicals, particularly in America, I repeatedly fall into self-centeredness,  even in my relationship with the Lord. Though I know intellectually that I'm His servant  (not visa-versa), I  behave as if He's obligated to do my bidding. His Spirit convicted me of my perverted attitude Saturday morning, as I read about the apostle Paul's final departure from Ephesus in Acts 20:17-35. Verse 24 struck  my heart, as I saw the contrast between Paul's attitude and mine.

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. ~~Acts 20:24 (ESV)

Obviously, I'm not an apostle, and God won't use  me as widely and  profoundly as He used Paul. But Paul's humility sets an example of self-sacrifice that I believe all Christians should have. And...I don't have it. 

But I  belong to Jesus, and therefore I trust  His Holy Spirit to transform my self-serving attitude into an attitude of seeking His glory. He's already begun the process by showing me Acts 20:24. He will be gracious to continue working with me, helping me to put aside my desire for comfort and satisfaction in  favor of honoring  Him. Even during the first week of Daylight Savings Time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Disagreeing To Agree

This weekend, I got into a Facebook discussion with someone whose interpretation of Calvinism's doctrine of limited atonement is that Jesus "rejects" most of the world. I simply commented that she had a sad misunderstanding of Calvinism. My remark set of a conversation in which she equated Calvinists with Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics and evolutionists, called us hypocritical liars, accuses us of quoting Spurgeon more than the Bible, and stated that we give man credit for salvation.

Well.

Rather then substantiating her charges, she would shift from one allegation to the next, ignoring my defenses and using far too many words in upper case letters and frowny-face emoticons. If I stated that Calvinists believe salvation is completely God's work, she'd call me a liar because she believed I attributed that belief (which she shares) to Calvin rather than to the Bible. She couldn't accept any point of common ground. In her mind, I (along with all Calvinsts) preach a false gospel, and am therefore accursed.

Interestingly, the only issue she and I really disagree on is whether or not Calvinists attribute salvation solely to God's work. Her beliefs, which she correctly draws from Scripture, are pretty much the same beliefs Calvinists draw from Scripture. Though she claims to disagree with limited atonement, she acknowledges election and predestination.

Instead of recognizing that theologically we're on the same page, however, she challenged me for identifying as a Calvinist rather than as a Christian. I explained that the context of the thread was Calvinism, and that ordinarily I don't really label myself. Like her, I care about doctrinal purity, and my blog had only mentioned Calvinism once prior to Saturday. The context of the thread, which she initiated, made Calvinism the issue, and in  that context it was appropriate to attach the term to my statements of faith. She's now deleted the thread, so I can't find her response...but I remember her saying something about me lying--that Calvinists lie about believing that we're saved by faith alone.

At any rate, when I responded to her charge that Calvinists quote Spurgeon more than the Bible by offering to address her concerns with Scripture, she wrote me a private note saying that all cults can quote Bible verses. Therefore, she wasn't  interested in a continued conversation, knowing that all I wanted was to defend my position.

I applaud her zeal for doctrinal purity, as I certainly agree that we must attribute everything to Jesus. I'm not sure why, when so many professing Christians really do add to God's Word, she bears such anger toward a strain of theology that, while not perfect, teaches God's Word as accurately as flawed humans can. Like her, I hurt when people corrupt Scripture with human notions, and I believe such people will be judged. But let's focus on those who actually violate Scripture rather than on those who historically uphold it, shall we? I pray both she and I will grow in discernment as we contend for the faith.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Calvinism, Revealing The Lord's Beauty

Years ago, someone mentioned wishing he could show me the beauty of Calvinist theology. Since I had always considered Calvinists to be legalistic misanthropes who thought of God as a cosmic Puppeteer, I politely said "No thanks," feeling as if I'd avoided a border-line heresy.

As I became acquainted with John MacArthur's sermons (and later with many other online resources), I discovered that their Calvinist tendencies pretty much line up with Scripture. Perfectly? Of course not! No theology completely adheres to the Bible because human beings are both limited and flawed. But as I tested their various  sermons against God's Word, I found a clarity to my faith that had always been lacking.

To be honest, I'm not well-versed in the intricacies of Calvinist theology, and probably never will be. But I agree that the basics of a Holy God choosing specific sinners from the foundation of the world, and then voluntarily shedding His blood to atone for their sin and enabling them to trust completely in His sacrifice for their salvation is a beautiful creed.

How beautiful to realize that, apart from Christ, I have nothing to commend me to God, but that He graciously predestined me for salvation, and then did everything necessary to bring that salvation about! Even repentance and faith are gifts from Him rather than actions I can claim. Though I still struggle with spiritual pride, the Holy Spirit faithfully chips away at that pride until all I see is the Lord's glory!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Appropriate Flower

Daisies have a precision and simplicity that attract me. While tulips may be heralds of spring, in my efforts to draw flowers in anticipation of spring (and to distract myself from the snowstorm that has been pummeling New England for nearly 40 hours now), it just seemed necessary to draw my favorite flower!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

When Mountains Get Steep

I am a woman of passionate views, especially when people challenge Scripture's authority. Such passion is, in my  opinion, good. God's Word, while it doesn't need frail humans to defend it, deserves to be upheld in the face of liberal theology. The liberal theology will continue, and in fact it will grow more pronounced as human history moves closer to Christ's return. Jesus Himself warned of a great apostasy in Matthew 24:9-12.

My concern for the deterioration of evangelical "Christianity" drives me to write about some of the aberrations from  Biblical belief and practice that flood the professing church today. I make no apology for standing against these trends. In fact, I pray that my repetition in addressing such matters will, by God's grace, inspire people to read the Bible for themselves, checking out my assertions to see what the Lord really teaches on each matter.

While other bloggers can sustain a steady pace of contending for the faith, however, I find that I need breaks from the intensity. Not long breaks, necessarily. My passion for God's Word couldn't stand long breaks, I don't think. I shouldn't be surprised if tomorrow or Saturday I end up contradicting today's post by blogging about some trend or teaching that undermines Biblical doctrine, and perhaps you'll smile and say, "There she goes again!"

Right now, though my passion by no means has waned, I feel overwhelmed. Rather than thinking there are no blog-worthy topics, I'm paralyzed by the absolute enormity of issues that scream out for my keyboard's attention. The integrity of God's Word suffers assault by people who profess to know Jesus, and something about that assault demands that I stand against the falsehoods. Yet I can't decide which issue to attack next.

Also, the slowness of my typing frequently makes it difficult to write as deeply about matters as my fellow apologetics bloggers do, making my treatment of these complex subjects appear superficial. And superficiality can be easily dismissed as an incomplete understanding of subject matter. As I consider addressing various issues, therefore, I feel daunted by my physical limitations. And, preemptively, yes I've tried Dragon...it couldn't handle all the  pauses for breathing that I need to make, and it hurt my lungs.

So, if I blog about my artwork, or about funny memories, or just throw words together for the sheer sake of keeping my writing skills limber, please don't decide I've abandoned my passion to stand for sound doctrine. I haven't. But let me buffer that passion from time to time. After all,  I am a woman of many passions.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When The Dog Bites

Just a couple weeks ago, Boston TV stations ran a heart-wrenching story. A 15-year-old girl had been babysitting her 6-year-old neighbor. For some inexplicable reason, she took the boy to her house. Her dog, a cute beagle mix named Milo, bit the little boy on the face and ankle, causing him to require over 400 stitches on his face  (and an unspecified number on his ankle).

Upon learning that the town's Selectmen would meet to discuss Milo's fate, the girl appeared on news shows, standing outside her home with a leashed Milo docilely wagging his tail as he sniffed at the camera. Such a peaceful little animal must surely have been provoked! After all, 6-year-old boys can be rambunctious, and may not always understand that dogs may perceive playful overtures as actual threats.

The girl, distraught at the prospect of losing her pet, promised to build a fence, keep the dog away from neighbors...even muzzle him. She'd take him to obedience school. As a former dog-owner, I sympathized with her, hoping the Selectmen would consider her earnest intentions and allow Milo to live. But last week, the Selectmen voted to euthanize him. They gave the girl's family ten days to either file an appeal or surrender Milo. Not surprisingly, the family  immediately announced their decision to appeal.

Then this past weekend, Milo viciously bit the very girl who had made such a passionate plea for his life, inflicting such deep wounds (again on her face and leg) that she needed hospitalization. At that point, the girl's father admitted that neither attack had been provoked. He theorized that Milo suffered from a neurological disorder. In no uncertain terms, he declared that the dog would never be permitted back in  his house.

Not to take away from the very real suffering both families have experienced because of Milo, but I can't escape seeing the situation as an apt illustration of what happens when we coddle pet sins.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dull Letter From Home

Today got away from me, mostly as we struggled on the phone with a Customer Service agent from Mircosoft who didn't seem to be listening to us. Evidently, she actually had listened because she solved the problem, allowing me to finally restore modules to my eSword Bible that I hadn't had since I got  my new computer in November. That settled, I went to Amazon to order a birthday gift for my mom (which I got), and then to download Solitaire software (I didn't find anything acceptable). Now it's too late to write much of anything.

So why am I bothering to type this post? Perhaps because I don't have a solitaire game to play...

Monday, March 4, 2013

So, I Drew Calvinist Tulips

My mind's on Paintshop Pro today. I've been experimenting with some special effects, as well as drawing tulips (a good, Calvinist thing to draw). Of course I'm eager to share some of my creations here, but my readers seem to have little interest in my artwork. Sigh.

Back when I called this blog Joyfully Christian Lady's Museum, I primarily intended it to showcase my digital drawings. Over time, I noticed myself wandering increasingly into other subject matter, which prompted a more general title. And  frankly, the blog has been more successful as a result. I enjoy thinking that the Lord uses my writing for His glory, especially as I address issues in the visible church (which is not necessarily comprised of people who are truly converted), and I want to keep such posts as the most prominent aspect of this blog.

But I'd hate to ignore Paintshop Pro completely!

I enjoy creating digital art. If you'll click on the tab entitled The Art That Comes Out Of My Head, you'll understand what a joy having the ability to draw again, after 35 years of not having it, means to me. It's an added bonus from the Lord, for no other reason than that He's a generous God. I'm not sure how to use this talent for Him. Or if I can. But it can't honor Him unless I share it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Nothing But Raw Sewage

During today's sermon on the impossibility of doing anything to contribute to our salvation, two lines from the hymn, Rock Of Ages, kept running through my mind:

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.

The sermon focused on Paul's realization that all his presumed spiritual accomplishments were (in my pastor's polite paraphrase of the text) dog waste. To his fellow First Century Jews, Paul's pre-Christian resume was worth envying. He had in impeccable pedigree, was highly educated in the Torah, and did what Jewish law prescribed by executing Christians (whom the Jews regarded as blasphemers). Paul was, in human terms, righteous. But He learned, when Jesus called him to salvation, that his own righteousness repulsed God, and he could only find true  righteousness in the shed blood of Jesus.

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. ~~Philippians 3:2-11 (ESV)

How often  I'd read this passage, nodding in intellectual agreement, while cherishing the idea that my Bible reading, my obedience and my ministry somehow commended me to God! Now I see, as Paul did, that I was offering the Lord raw sewage instead of wrapping myself in His righteousness!


Friday, March 1, 2013

Not Even Asking For A Bone

Last time I felt this angry (and was foolish enough to use my blog as a a vehicle to vent my feelings), I increased my readership. According to my stats, those posts are still getting hits. So it's very tempting to vent about today's little aggravation, suspecting that doing so would once again increase traffic.

Then I remember the comments on those posts, all condemning my anger (rightly so), but also my attempts to repent of that anger...because I continued to believe the other person treated me wrongly. As a result, my credibility as a Christian was diminished, therefore dishonoring the Lord.

Although I made some bitter remarks about today's situation on Facebook and Twitter (probably a mistake), I'll leave things there. Accepting what I believe to be an injustice and meekly cooperating with the bureaucratic red tape is probably the best approach.

Venting never really works anyway. The more I express anger, I've noticed, the greater foothold I give that anger. And consequently, I behave in ungodly ways that reinforce the popular notion that all Christians are self-righteous hypocrites. So, instead of letting a rant rip, and then getting comments which I'd use as an excuse to become defensive in a way that only intensifies my anger, I think I'll go find a relaxing way to play on my computer.

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