Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Angels' Harvest

Technically, Thanksgiving weekend extends until midnight tonight, so I have no problem with posting "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" today. I love the way this hymn begins with the image of a literal harvest and then uses it as a metaphor for that Final Harvest when Christ returns. I pray this hymn will encourage you.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas Newsletters As Farming Tools

Traditionally, I type our annual Christmas Newsletter the day after Thanksgiving. So yesterday, although I longed to blog, I spent pretty much all day formatting the photo of me and John (including drawing a wreath frame that I later found out I didn't need to draw) and then composing the two-page recap of our year.

In 36 years, I've produced 33 such Christmas Newsletters (or 32, depending on how you categorize the one that ended up being a Valentine's Day Newsletter). As I mentioned, these letters typically chronicle our past year, ending with a brief synopsis of the Gospel. I pray that the Lord  might plant seeds through each year's letter that will result in someone coming to faith in Jesus Christ. As far as I know, that hasn't  happened yet.

I don't believe God has gifted me in the area of evangelism. I do believe, however, that He expects every Christian, whether they possess the gift of evangelism or not, to proclaim the Gospel as often as possible. People like me, who see little effect of our evangelistic efforts, can find peace in remembering that we must merely be faithful and obedient to state the truth. The Holy Spirit accepts full responsibility and glory for the results.
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. ~~1 Corinthians 3:7-8 (ESV)
So, though I finally accept my complete inability to bring anyone to salvation, I recognize that the Lord requires me to use my writing skills to make His Gospel known. Christmas provides such a natural opportunity for telling people the Gospel, so I want to take advantage of it. I pray that the Lord will use  my annual newsletter to plant seeds of truth in the hearts of those He's chosen for salvation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson's Misdirected Fury

As white as I am, I believe my disability gives me a small glimpse of the fear and frustration that many young black men experience daily in this country. If you'll read my November 29, 2011 post, My Criminal Record, you'll see that I underwent the indignity of a police officer questioning me simply because someone felt "concerned" by my unattended presence on the street.

In that respect, I have some empathy with the African-Americans who protest the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, MO. Do I fully understand their suffering? I don't know. I refuse to claim that I do, even though living with Cerebral Palsy frequently subjects me to a variety of indignities. I've realized, for instance, that my drooling, slurred speech and poor posture will always convince people that I have intellectual disabilities. That reality helps me sympathize with blacks who battle false assumptions society makes about them.

Michael Brown's supporters regard him as a young black man who died because an overzealous white police officer racially profiled him. These supporters want vengeance, just as I wanted  vengeance when that police officer detained me in 2011. After 300 years of suffering the cruelties of slavery, the horrors of Jim Crow laws, and now the indignities of racial profiling, black Americans have had enough! As they  see it, Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown maliciously...and because of Brown's race. To them, Brown represents centuries of white oppression. And they feel anger.

My anger toward the officer who detained me helps me, in a very small way, comprehend the outrage black Americans feel.

Having said all that, I have some objections to the reactions to the Grand Jury's decision. I may, by expressing them, gain the reputation of a racist, and I realize that some of my readers will judge me as such. Given my struggles as a disabled person, they may assume that I should side against Wilson.

But let me make a few points. If you disagree with me, please at least consider my perspective before you write me off as a bigot.

Michael Brown and his friend not only matched the description of two men who had just robbed a convenience store, but he possessed cigars like the cigars that had been stolen. Wilson had heard the dispatch regarding the robbery, and saw reason to interrogate. He didn't profile the  men; he made a reasoned response to a crime report. Therefore, people should not hold Brown up as merely a victim of racial profiling. (In fact, the store's security camera confirmed that Brown stole the cigars.)

Additionally, Brown responded to Wilson's questioning by aggressively beating Wilson. I know, first hand, the anger a person feels when confronted by police, but giving in to that anger by physically attacking an officer doesn't exactly exonerate someone. Wilson said he feared for his life. Perhaps he  fired more shots than necessary. I don't  know. What would I do if someone physically assaulted me? What would you do?
 Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; ~~Luke 6:37 (ESV)
Let's be careful not to condemn a man for 1) doing his job and 2) acting in self-defense when he felt threatened.

Finally, the violent protests against the decision both target innocent people and perpetuate stereotypes of lawless black mobs. The violence can only worsen racial tensions. I've heard of people making death threats on Wilson and his family. Such vindictiveness betrays how far Americans have departed from trusting God to exercise His perfect vengeance.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~~Romans 12:16-21 (ESV)
I do, in small part, understand some of the frustration black Americans feel because of the ways people respond to my disability. Yet I believe the furor over the Ferguson Grand Jury decision ignores Michael Brown's illegal activity and assumes an attitude of vigilante "justice."  I grieve that Americans can't (or won't) deal with this situation in ways that honor Christ.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Legally Innocent And Forever Judged Guilty

As a white Republican, do I even have a right to comment on the Grand Jury's decision in Ferguson last night? What about the subsequent violence? Was I out-of-line to tweet that I fail to understand how the rioting could possibly improve race-relations? Does my belief that the Grand Jury saw evidence about the case that the  general public had no way of seeing, and therefore that we should trust their judgment, make me a racist?

Eighteen years ago, I accepted a black man's marriage proposal, and would have married him if he hadn't broken our engagement. He taught me a little about the collective memory of African-Americans. "There isn't one of us in the South," he informed me, "who can't point to a tree where the KKK lynched one of our great-grandfathers." As white and Republican as I am, I took his words very seriously.

Perhaps I'll never fully understand the fear black men experience when a white police officer confronts them. And certainly, the racial make-up of Ferguson's police department in no way corresponds to the racial make-up of its general population. I do get those points. That said, I don't believe Darren Wilson should be indicted simply because he, as a white man, shot a black robbery suspect who pummeled him with his fists. I could be wrong. I wasn't there, so I really don't know what happened.

And those protesting this decision, which the Grand Jury reached after a very lengthy deliberation, don't really know all the facts either. Popular opinion convicted Darren Wilson back in August, sentencing him to relinquish his law enforcement career. The Grand Jury's findings may have spared him from legal consequences, but he will always suffer as Michael Brown's murderer.  As an American, I disagree with this popular conviction.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Character Transformation

At 4:05 this afternoon, all the ideas I'd collected since Saturday for a blog post have scattered, giggling at how they've left me dumbfounded and sputtering in their wake. Yet I know that, once I begin typing, the Lord will remind me of some way my words can bring honor to Him.

Bringing Him honor doesn't come naturally. Not to me, and (pardon my boldness) not to you. A passage I read during my Quiet Time this morning reminded me of who I am apart from Christ:
For your hands are defiled with blood
    and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
    your tongue mutters wickedness.
No one enters suit justly;
    no one goes to law honestly;
they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,
    they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
They hatch adders' eggs;
    they weave the spider's web;
he who eats their eggs dies,
    and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched.
Their webs will not serve as clothing;
    men will not cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity,
    and deeds of violence are in their hands.
Their feet run to evil,
    and they are swift to shed innocent blood;
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
    desolation and destruction are in their highways.
The way of peace they do not know,
    and there is no justice in their paths;
they have made their roads crooked;
    no one who treads on them knows peace. ~~Isaiah 59:3-8 (ESV)
Like most people, I'd like to look down my nose at rebellious Israel when I read these words, perhaps also applying them to non-Christians. Those applications work, but they don't extend far enough until I humble myself and claim that Isaiah also described my inner heart. As much as I tell myself I'm not really that bad,  I must believe God's Word over and against my own self-assessment.

Accepting His Word also means, however, that I will accept His grace. Jesus died to put my sin to death, allowing me to live in His Spirit. His Spirit mercifully empowers me to exhibit qualities that reflect His wonderful character.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~~Galatians 5:16-23 (ESV)
The Lord, in His graciousness,  has created a new DebbieLynne!  The vile creature of my flesh died with Him, and now His Spirit lives in me, enabling me to live a  life that glorifies Him. I love that trade-off, especially because it honors Him.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

More Imporant Than The Marvelous Array Of Desserts

This coming Thursday, approximately 44 of us will converge on the home of John's cousin, which has been remodeled (twice!) to accommodate the growing clan each Thanksgiving. We joke that when this cousin bought the house from their grandparents, the fine print specified that they continue to host Thanksgiving.

We anticipate juicy turkeys, vegetables, sparkling cider (I'd better remember to have my PCA get that tomorrow) and a magnificent array of various desserts. We will enjoy the cousins' grandchildren, wishing they wouldn't grow quite so fast, and we may hear stories from all those wonderful summers when John, his two sisters, six cousins and two moms stayed with Grand and Nana on Cape Cod.

Did I mention the magnificent array of desserts?

Thanksgiving serves as a pinnacle celebration for this family that I joined by marrying John. But in all the fun (and magnificent array of desserts), John and I turn our thoughts to the Lord. He is the object of our thanksgiving, and not only on the fourth Thursday of November. The traditional Thanksgiving hymn I've chosen today reminds me to keep the Lord central as we celebrate the holiday.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Numbers Count For Little

My little bout with vanity yesterday reminded me of churches that measure themselves by the number of warm bodies that fill their seats (and consequently their offering plates) on Sunday mornings. Such churches turn to marketing methods and more palatable presentations of "Christianity" in order to attract young families with earning potential. Though leaders in such churches convince themselves and their congregations that they desire to advance God's kingdom, I know from first-hand involvement in two such churches that they primarily seek to expand their organizations.

Numerical growth can be a blessing. Acts 2:41, for example, certainly celebrates the fact that 4000 people came to salvation in response to Peter's Pentecost sermon. The church that John and I currently prays for revival in New England, longing to see many people return to the faith of the godly men and women who first came to Plymouth Rock. So please understand that I do see great value in a church's numerical increase.

Quantity, however, must always assume a second place to quality, especially in relation to church growth. Rick Warren's supporters defend his marketing techniques on the premise that "he brings so many people" into churches. Yet many people who purportedly "get saved" through his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, come through a grossly watered-down presentation that barely resembles the Biblical Gospel (page 58):
 "Right now, God is inviting you to live for his glory by fulfilling the purposes he made you for . . . all you need to do is receive and believe.... Will you accept God's offer?" Again, he offers a sample prayer, "I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity, "Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you."
That's woefully inadequate, but much more attractive than the posts I've recently written about the Gospel. He fails to explain why his audience needs salvation, or even how Jesus accomplished salvation. Basically, Warren reduces the Lord to a life-improving commodity. That way, more people will, he believes, come into our churches.

But we must desire that men and women come to a real knowledge of Christ. And the Lord said very candidly that only a minority of people would truly experience regeneration.
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~~Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)
Yes, we by all means ought to pray for more people to fill our churches. But we must pray even more for true conversions, even if doing so means half-empty pews and smaller offerings. Numbers, as exciting and affirming as they are, simply don't reflect surrendered hearts that focus on glorifying Jesus.

Friday, November 21, 2014

I Don't Believe My Own Lie Today

"Okay, Deb," I tell myself firmly,  "you've got to write something." My readership has diminished, so I can't afford to slack off, even though I really don't feel like blogging today.

This time, I won't tell myself the lie that I want more readers so Christ can receive glory. Often, the desire to proclaim Him honestly does motivate me, and I don't care about numbers in my Stats. At those times, I type eagerly, excited by Him and desirous to declare His excellencies. I pray for more readers, but only so that His Spirit can minister truth and draw people to Him.

Today, my motives lack such purity. There!--I admitted my egocentric attitude. And my acknowledgement makes me cringe with shame. I know, all too well, how passionately God detests human self-centeredness. I've written two blog posts about it just this past week, so He holds me accountable to align my attitude with my words. Hypocrisy, to put it bluntly, repulses Him.
 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. ~~Matthew 7:1-5  (ESV)
I plead guilty, rejoicing in the Holy Spirit's faithfulness to confront my sin of hypocrisy and pride. How wonderful of Him to strip my heart naked, that I might all the more depend on His grace and praise Jesus for shedding His blood on my behalf!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Not Worth Eliminating

If I could revise Christianity, I'd eliminate hell. Very few people enjoy believing that hell  exists and that those who don't place their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will spend eternity tormented by its terrors. I spent a sizable chunk of my Christian life ignoring the doctrine of hell to such an extent that I wouldn't even pray for the salvations of non-Christian family and friends. The thought of them suffering eternal separation from God just hurt too deeply.

Even now, I don't like thinking about it. Most of my regular prayers these days do concentrate on those who haven't surrendered to Jesus, beseeching Him to let them hear the Gospel and to give them faith to believe it. Those prayers still wrench my heart, but I  rejoice in God's sovereignty to answer as He sees fit.

My distaste for the doctrine of hell honors God in the respect that He's given me a love for people and a desire to see them experience His mercy. That distaste also motivates me to pray, as well as to seek opportunities to proclaim the Gospel. Evangelism isn't my spiritual gift, admittedly, but I see the critical importance of telling people about the salvation that only comes through Jesus.

If I could eliminate the doctrine of hell, I'd have to also eliminate the wonder of Christ's Incarnation and substitutionary atonement. Yet those great events provide the clearest demonstration we have of His glorious love. Could we appreciate (or even understand) how deeply and boldly He loves His own apart from knowing something of the horrors we face without His demonstration of grace?

I know I love Him most when I realize that He rescued me from a horrible eternity. His mercy on me causes me to adore Him because I see His love for me. So perhaps hell, as much as we'd like to blot it out of our minds, helps us better understand His glories. I never want to eliminate anything that allowed me to see His love.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Clear Window View

As  a writer, I sometimes enjoy writing simply for the sake of developing my skill. That sort of journalistic exercise does carry a certain value. Since I write primarily with the purpose of exalting the Lord Jesus Christ, my writing must  convey thoughts clearly, intelligently and with enough creativity to grab my readers' attention and stimulate their thinking.

Along those lines, I remember Sister  Nicholas (my favorite English professor in college) telling our Victorian Lit class (or was it our 18th Century Lit class?) that great writing serves as a clear window to ideas rather than drawing attention to itself as a stained  glass window does.

I've carried Sister's analogy with me throughout my adult life, but I've especially pondered it in this past year. I pray regularly about this blog, and have been asking the Lord to help me write well. That prayer has merit, but only with the qualifier that my writing skills honor Him rather than accentuating whatever talents I might have. Over time, I've modified my prayer. Now I ask that I might write well so that my readers can see Him  more clearly.

This point of using my writing ability to draw attention to the Lord reminds me of the passage that John and I read during our family devotions this morning.
19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. ~~John 1:19-28 (ESV)
When we finished reading, John prayed that he and I would regard ourselves as being unworthy to serve Jesus even in menial tasks. If my writing serves the purposes of His kingdom, it shouldn't obscure Him with dazzling vocabulary or cleverly turned phrases. Neither should it muddy Him with lifeless cliches and grammatical errors...but that's another blog post.

Jesus, for so many reasons, must always command center stage. Some people (who obviously don't know Him enough to marvel at His glory) accuse Him of egomania, not really understanding His divine nature nor His ultimate sacrifice on  the cross. But those who receive His free gift of salvation know that all blessings, abilities and talents gain their richest meaning by referring back to Him.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sad Errors

Like many Bible-believing Christians, I feel troubled by the various compromises and false teachings lurking around evangelical churches today. I know...regular readers of this blog already know, all too well, my concerns on such matters, and some may wish I'd move on to other topics.

Sometimes I share their wish.

Sadly, however, the visible church continues flirting with ideas and practices that pervert Scripture. I thought about this battle for doctrinal purity during my Bible reading today, remembering a dear friend who, in order to "reconcile" his homosexual urges with Christianity, has accepted the convoluted teachings of pro-gay theologians. Rather than suffer with desires that he should deny, he has loosened his stand on God's Word and acquiesced to the devil's plans.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. ~~1 Peter 5:8-10 (ESV)
This man no longer places his hope in heaven. Unwilling to suffer through the pain of unlawful sexual longings for the sake of pleasing Christ, he now makes God's Word subservient to his homosexuality.

Let me interject that I do sympathize, more than my friend realizes, with the anguish of sexual longings that run counter to the Bible's teaching. Yes, I'm happily married now, but my wedding didn't happen until a month before my 49th birthday. I had a couple (admittedly, only a couple) opportunities before my marriage to enjoy illicit sexual encounters, but I resisted them for the sake of honoring Christ. I didn't like denying my sexual desires, but I knew what Scripture teaches. Sometimes with tears, I obeyed the Lord instead of satisfying myself.

I know my friend experienced great emotional pain during the years he surrendered his homosexuality to the Lord. I regret that the ex-gay ministry we both served implicitly promised him that God would remove his same sex attractions. Understanding his emotional suffering, however, doesn't mean I have any intention of compromising Scripture in order to condone his homosexual relationship or consider his new "understanding" of God's Word.

My friend has led others away from Scriptural truth. He errs in the arena of homosexuality, while other evangelicals err in various ways. I don't hold the illusion that my small voice can call professing Christians to repentance. Still, I pray that the Lord might use me to uphold His truth. May I, in pointing to God's Word, encourage people to trust the Lord enough to live in faithfulness to Him.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Leader To Trust

Neither John nor I particularly enjoyed our path these last few days, but the Lord enabled us (although imperfectly) to trust Him. Slowly, we learn to rely on His wisdom, believing that He has eternal purposes in leading us through these difficulties.

I take comfort in emphasizing the point that He leads us. Our troubles aren't random occurrences so much as situations the Sovereign Lord has prepared in order that we might honor Him. He, the One Who loves us, leads us for His Name's sake. Could anything be more glorious?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Who's In Your Mirror?

Mom took this photo when, at 10 months of age, I discovered mirrors and found myself utterly fascinating! She loved this picture, but sent it to her sister to share the amusement. After Mom passed away this summer, my cousin  posted it on Facebook, triggering memories of Mom telling me about my first moment of self-adoration.

Such a photo taken then indeed elicits chuckles. But now that I've reached my senior years, a photo of me gazing so lovingly at myself would (or at least should) repulse people by exposing an egocentric attitude. Yet post-modern culture, with its roots in psychology, mysticism and various forms of self-indulgence finds  more subtle ways to promote narcissism. We "deserve a break today" at fast food restaurants, and we buy expensive hair coloring products because "we're worth it." Madison Avenue thrives on egocentric consumers.

The present-day evangelical church also capitalizes on man's innate self-absorption, all too routinely interpreting Scripture in ways that turn God into a Cosmic Bellboy Who exists to do our bidding. In a typical 21st Century evangelical  church, sermons gravitate toward topics such as improving your marriage, feeling God's love, hearing His personal whisper to you, and getting answers to prayer.  You'll hear that Jesus is your Husband, that you'll find fulfillment in Him, and that He rejoices over you.

I believe the Lord loves each of His own deeply and personally. Do not misunderstand me! I trust in His bewildering love for me, and praise Him for all the beautiful ways He expresses it. But as I read through the Bible, watching His relationship with Israel in the Old Testament and His relationship with the Church in the New Testament, I've noticed that His love for us reflects His glory. He loves us so that we might mirror Him.
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ~~2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
Let's keep the Lord's love for us in proper perspective. He honors us by choosing to love us, but in giving us such a high and undeserved honor, He actually draws attention to His unexplainable mercy and grace.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Emergencies And Faithfulness

Dear husband John spent yesterday in Massachusetts General Hospital's Emergency Room, this time with extremely high blood pressure. As much as I'd like to go into detail about everything that led up to yesterday's event, however, I don't believe doing so fits the purposes of this blog. Anyway, after spending all day yesterday on the phone, writing emails and updating my Facebook Status about his condition, I just don't feel like writing any more narratives about it.

I do, however, want to boast in the Lord's faithfulness to me. A lady from our new church came and sat with me. I made a new friend! How do you not love that? Then the PCA that we hired just the night before came early and cleaned the apartment after feeding me lunch. When John got home, she prepared dinner for the three of us and put me to bed.

Friends both in our new church and the church we recently left surrounded us in prayer, as did other friends on Facebook. The whole episode reminded me of how many people genuinely love us. I don't want to go through this sort of thing again, but the practical and spiritual support I received reminded me that the Lord does provide for me. If nothing else, I want my readers to see His hand in this ordeal.

Well, I'm almost as exhausted as my poor husband is, so I want to close. Keep John in prayer as he waits for his follow-up appointment with his primary care doctor Tuesday, as I prefer that he stay out of the Emergency Room between now and then. I'll return, Lord willing, to more typical blogging tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Pressure Of The Trials

Life has gotten crazy, leaving me little time and even less inclination to blog. As the stress continues to rise, however, Scriptures like 1 Peter 1:6-7 challenge me.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~~(ESV)
I choose the word "challenge" rather than "comfort" or "encourage" because right now the stress has escalated to the point that I just want the trials to stop! Thinking about the eternal benefits of this testing grows difficult as obstacles multiply and  additional problems arise. Can I keep rejoicing? Will these trials expose my spiritual immaturity yet again?

As I confess my fears of yet another spiritual failure, however, the Holy Spirit reminds me that He is the Person responsible for enabling me to rejoice in tribulation. He gives me faith; I don't manufacture it myself.  1 Peter 1:6-7 doesn't command me to rejoice so much as it states my rejoicing as a given. Feelings, of course, are optional.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Promise Or Baptized Divination?

Arriving at the conference, I enjoyed the anticipation. The year before, I'd met Shane (not his real name). Shane and I shared an interest in ex-gay ministry as well as ministry to people living with AIDS, but we also both enjoyed writing. During the year leading up to this conference, he initiated a lively correspondence, often sending me samples of the book he had started writing about how God prepared Christians for marriage. Of course, he'd won my heart.

My attendant/roommate and I entered our dorm room to find a tiny scroll, artfully tied with a green ribbon, placed on each of our pillows. She unrolled mine for me, revealing "A Scripture Promise For The Week."
“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. ~~Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)
I knew (intellectually) that I should resist the urge to interpret the "Scripture Promise" as assurance that my long history of romantic disappointment had ended, but Shane did things that week (and afterward) to further kindle my hopes. I'll spare you the messy details of how my history with Shane played out, and  say only that the "new thing" in verse 19 had absolutely nothing to do with my romantic desires.

That memory came to mind as I thought about the narcissism in contemporary evangelical circles. Interestingly, I read Isaiah 43 during my Quiet Time today, keeping its historical context, as well as its prophetic intent in mind. Isaiah prophesied about two events: the Jews' release from the Babylonian Captivity and (ultimately) the Messianic kingdom. Back in that dorm room during the conference, I turned that broad promise to Israel and the Church about God's glorious plan for His collective people into a horoscope-like prediction tailored to my  selfish aspirations.

Most present-day evangelicals play similar games with God's Word, I'm sorry to say. To a very large extent, pastors, teachers and   Christian books encourage us to privatize God's Word into personal promises that spin far away from God's main point. Yes, He guides us through Scripture's principles--even in terms of selecting a spouse--but He most certainly doesn't want us  wrenching fragments out of context as if the  Bible lends itself to some sort of baptized divination.

As I've been reading through the Old Testament these past two years, the Holy Spirit has shown me that I must read it at face  value rather than digging around for personal intimations. I may learn from His dealings with Israel, particularly as  I see my rebellion as a mirror image of theirs. I may see His call to holiness and apply it. But when  I make His promises to them for His kingdom into allegories about my personal fulfillment, I err. And I forget that Scripture revolves around Him!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Simply Come

Today got away from me for various reasons, leaving me little time to post. But since I love hymns and like Alan Jackson (in that order), I decided to post this beloved hymn. It demonstrates the best possible response to the Gospel.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

"Creating" My Creator

Traditionally, I start writing our annual Christmas newsletter a day or two after Thanksgiving, at which time I generally realize (with appropriate horror and self-recrimination) that I haven't used the 335 (more or less) days between New Year's Day and Thanksgiving to create a graphic. Mind you, I now own three digital art software programs, one of which I use with relative proficiency. I really could begin drawing my newsletter graphic considerably earlier than the day before Thanksgiving.

This past Wednesday morning, I woke up thinking about how I could write this year's newsletter in a manner that would diplomatically explain why we changed churches. Suddenly, I realized that, unless I wanted to recycle the same old Bethlehem "skyline" that I've been using for the past few years, I'd better start drawing! So, in the past few days, I've come up with a rendition of the Baby Jesus:

Okay, Rembrandt I'm not. In fact, the act of trying to draw the Lord humbled me. I kept wondering how I, with my limited skills and cartoonish style of drawing, dared to attempt a drawing purporting to create my Creator. The very thought of drawing the  One Who formed the heavens and the earth, as well as forming me in my mother's womb, filled me with a desire to represent Him well.  My glaring imperfections remind me of His absolute perfection. As I drew, I thought about John 1:1-3.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (ESV)
May He look past my immature lines and  clumsy imperfections to see my worship and awe of Him. And may my illustration, even with its flaws and childishness, help those who receive my newsletter to think about the amazing message of Christmas. The real infant in the manger both created us and, through His death on the cross, created the way for us to be saved.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Head Full Of Ruminations, Not Necessarily "Housewifey"

Earlier today, I found myself thinking that I should "lighten up" and just compose a fun blog post. Actually, I will spit such posts out from time to time. Like anyone else, I enjoy a good laugh, and I love writing about our Boston Adventures. Also, I like writing simply for the sake of manipulating words into sentences and paragraphs that give form to some of the thoughts that constantly rumble through my head. And finally, I don't like limitations (perhaps because of my Cerebral Palsy), so I've purposefully set this blog up so that it can cover a broad spectrum.

The last few weeks have been intense, in terms of both my blogging and my personal life. I think (and sincerely hope) this roller-coaster ride with my Personal Care Attendant situation is drawing to a close, although 37 years of experience has taught me that this ride always has nasty little surprises. Even if the ride really has slowed down, however, it has left me physically and emotionally exhausted. As a result, I don't feel like tackling any theological topics today.

Today, in fact, I feel like changing the whole direction of my blog. To what? I don't know. But I long to do one of those typical "housewifey" blogs where I do little more than ruminate on my feelings...sort of like I'm doing now. Wouldn't that be fun?

What I feel like doing, however, reminds me of Jesus' Parable of the Talents, which appears in Matthew 25:14-30. And please...this parable has absolute nothing to do with my "talent" for writing. In the parable's context, a "talent" referred to a unit of money, making the point that the master entrusted his servants to invest the currency in a way that would yield a return. For him, not for them.

So, while I may occasionally write about Boston, childhood memories or my digital art projects, I remain mindful that the Lord has entrusted me with an ability to write about Him. He has also given me a passion to uphold Biblical truth. In response, I gravitate to writing the difficult posts, even when I don't especially feel like doing the research or thinking through the points.

Ultimately, this blog must exalt the Lord Jesus Christ rather than showcase my writing and digital art. When I do insert narratives about Fenway Park, cannolis that I eat even though I shouldn't or my experiments with CorelDRAW, I hope even those posts reflect the Lord's grace and truth. "Housewifey" blogs have their place, but the Lord has fashioned me to write on a different level. I want to invest my talent wisely.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

End Times Or Not, It's Time

The world spirals more and more into chaos. Although Christians in every generation have believed Jesus would return in their lifetimes, current events suggest to me that He may come within the next few decades. Don't interpret that statement as a prophecy, however. I claim neither prophetic powers nor a clear understanding of eschatology.

Having made my disclaimer, permit me to make my main point. Regardless of whether the Lord returns before I publish this post or comes 2000 years from now, I see an urgency for Christians to proclaim the Gospel! Yes, I believe the Bible teaches the doctrine of election, but I also believe the Holy Spirit chooses to bring those He elects to salvation through the faithful proclamation of His Word (Romans 10:14-17). Furthermore, I believe hearing God's Word confirms the non-Christian's guilt before God, rendering  him or her incapable of charging God with injustice (Romans 9:14-33). In either case, the Lord emphatically declares that His Word will accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 55:10-11).

At this point in my life, I no longer hold myself responsible for convincing people to believe the Gospel. I pray, certainly, and I proclaim the Gospel, but then I trust the Lord with the results. The urgency I sense has little to do with muscling people into the kingdom and everything to do with being faithful to the Lord.

These may indeed be the last of the last days. I sincerely hope so. But if the Lord plans to wait a few millennia more before His triumphal return, it still holds true that we live in extremely troubling times. Sadly, many people who profess to be Christians have fallen into doctrinal error, sinful behaviors or both to such a degree that they also need the Gospel. Therefore, we must never lay it aside or allow "Christian" fads to obscure it. We must declare it boldly, prayerfully, and with assurance that the Holy Spirit will use it to bring salvation to His elect.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. ~~Romans 1:16 (ESV)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Shock Value, Beth Moore and The Gospel

I remember being a teenager and sighing impatiently any time an adult attempted to explain anything to me. I'd roll my eyes and whine insistently, "I already know that!" I saw no need to reiterate basics.

Since I started this series on the Gospel and its doctrines, my readership has declined. I can almost hear people sigh, "Boring!" And I understand that most of my readers, because you self-identify as Christians, may very well feel like you really don't need any more explanations of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

Perhaps you'd prefer narrations of my conflicts with people who unintentionally treat me as if I'm mentally disabled, so you can fill my comments section with discourses on my unbecoming responses. Those posts seem to draw the highest volume of hits. And yes, such posts appeal to the human interest in juicy gossip. But I no longer believe such diatribes belong in this blog...or anywhere else online.

Fair enough, you say, but why not continue blogging about false teachers like Rick Warren and Beth Moore? Many of you gravitated to those posts! Well, rest assured that, when appropriate, I have every intention of calling them out. Furthermore, I fully intend to blog about Holy Yoga, contemporary Christian music, Gay Christians and several other topics that infect the 21st Century church. Such topics grieve me, and I desire to help others understand how those people and trends subtly undermine sound doctrine.

Writing about the various assaults on doctrine from within the church, however, necessitates that we continually review doctrinal basics. Beth Moore, in  her recent televised conversation with Joyce Meyer, made this comment:
"We love the same Jesus. We love the same scriptures. ... Even if we did not have that in common, if we could say our salvation is found in Christ if He died and rose again and how to be saved and Jesus sits at right hand of God, then that is my sister, my brother.”
Friends, people like Beth Moore blatantly  resist Scripture's many commands to separate from those who hold to false gospels! Catholics, for example, attest to Christ's death and resurrection, but their official church doctrine (as I've shown in recent posts) teaches that human participation merits God's grace. Similarly, Mormons profess to believe in Christ's death and resurrection, but they deny His deity. Biblical Christians must not unite with those who hold false teaching.
Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. ~~2 John 8-10 (ESV)
In order to distinguish doctrinal aberrations, we need to maintain an accurate understanding of what the Bible teaches. And in particular, we absolutely must be clear on what constitutes the true Gospel. Consequently, I believe the series I've just finished has great importance. Please reconsider giving attention to it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

His Resurrection And Ours

1 Corinthians 15 (too long to quote in its entirety) offers the most detailed defense and explanation of the crucial nature of Christ's resurrection. Please click this link and read the chapter.

The physical resurrection of the Lord, as this chapter states very directly, guarantees that Christians will also be raised with Him. This promise motives us to live in holiness even now, looking forward to our life with Him in heaven.
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. ~~1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (ESV)
Without the prospect of living with Jesus in His eternal Kingdom, having Him atone for our sin seems pretty ridiculous. If nothing exists after this life, why bother with forsaking sin and trusting in Christ?  As verse 19 says, without the resurrection and its promise that Christ will in turn raise us from the dead, Christians lead the most pathetic lives of all people! 

Let's suppose, for a moment, that Christ's resurrection never happened. Consider the silliness of our Christian lifestyle. We deny our fleshly desires in obedience to Someone Whose sacrifice for sin ultimately failed to please His Father, and as a result, we do nothing but miss out on pleasures that our non-Christian counterparts enjoy. Why bother battling against sin? If the Incarnate God couldn't overcome sin, what makes us think we can atone for it? We might as well enjoy the party, indulging in whatever behaviors suit our fancy.

Thankfully, however, Jesus  Christ did rise from the dead, opening the glorious promise that He will also raise us! In gratitude, I eagerly turn from the sin that offends His holy nature, joyfully anticipating the wonderful day when, in my resurrection body, I'll finally experience liberation from temptation. I'll be physically in His presence, worshiping Him without distraction or impurity. And I'll pity those who believed the fleeting pleasures of this life could satisfy them.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Frustration And Promise

Another PCA has disappeared without explanation, leaving me frightened and frustrated. I'm tired of advertizing (Craigslist charges employers $25 per job advertizement), interviewing and training, not to mention scrambling for people to fill in between times. But the alternative--a nursing home--chills my blood. Been there. Done that. Really don't want to do it again.

As I struggle with all these emotions (and more), I think about a passage I read in 1 Peter a week ago.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~~1 Peter 1:3-7 (ESV)
While I put my attention mainly on verses 6-7 by trying to rejoice in the way Christ will use this current trial to prove that my trust in Him is genuine, I recognize that the rejoicing shouldn't be in the trial itself. Rather, Peter calls me, along with all of his Christian readers, to rejoice because our trials will give us assurance of our heavenly inheritance. And that inheritance results from being regenerated, or born again.

Peter specifies that our new birth comes through Christ's resurrection. Interestingly, I'd planned to continue my series on the Gospel by introducing the doctrine of the resurrection today, but didn't quite know where to begin. How could I explain the significance of Christ's resurrection in relation to the basic Gospel message?

Thinking about relating Christ's resurrection to the Gospel overwhelmed me this morning.Throughout my Christian life, I've always believed that Christ physically rose from the dead, even leaving my childhood church because the minister said it didn't matter whether people believe Jesus rose from the dead literally or figuratively. I've always known that faith in His literal resurrection marks legitimate Christianity. But I have difficulty articulating the specific role His resurrection plays in the Gospel.

Over my next few posts, I'll discuss a few implications of Christ's resurrection, but I praise God that my struggle over my PCA situation drew my attention  back to 1 Peter 1:3-7. The connection between His resurrection and the believer's new life gives me a starting point. As His blood puts our sin to death, so His resurrection brings us into a new life as God's children.

As God's daughter, I anticipate an inheritance of eternity with Jesus, forever gazing on His glory and worshiping Him without distraction. That wonderful promise encourages me as I go through all the frustrations of advertizing, interviewing and training the endless parade of PCAs. Yes, I react imperfectly, allowing myself fits of self-pity and wishing Christ would take me Home. As I age, it all gets harder and my weariness increases. Yet  I know that the risen Lord wants to purify my faith through this trial, preparing me for my eternal inheritance.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Was There Any Question?

Sometimes I have to go with the obvious. I wrote about Luther's  most famous hymn at length yesterday. Now I'll just leave you to enjoy it.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Luther's Halloween Message

While scrolling through my Twitter feed yesterday, I noticed this verse-fragment from Martin Luther's famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God:
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure.
One little Word shall fell him!
That juxtaposition of proclaiming victory over the demonic forces that Halloween unabashedly celebrates and the homage to the great reformer fascinated me. As I thought about it, I couldn't help wondering whether or not the Lord, in His sovereignty, deliberately arranged for Reformation Day and Halloween to fall on the same day so that Luther's hymn could give Christians a Biblical perspective of His power over Satan.

In my Charismatic years, I'd often spend Halloween night holed up in my bedroom, "praying" and "taking authority" over Satan and his demons. My practice completely violated Jude's teaching that we must not presume to rebuke Satan directly.
Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. ~~Jude 8-10 (ESV)
For all my presumptuous bravado in rebuking the devil, fear motivated my actions. In spite of correctly seeing Halloween as a day that openly glorifies evil, I focused on its demonic attributes when I should have kept my eyes on the Lord.

Satan, unlike the Lord, has very limited powers. Additionally, the Lord uses him as an unwitting pawn to confirm divine judgment on those who are blinded to the Gospel. Certainly, Christians will naturally despise Satan and resist his schemes to destroy us by drawing close to Christ. At the same time, we need not cower in fear. Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus stripped Satan and his minions of any real power by shedding His blood on the cross.
13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. ~~Colossians 2:13-15 (ESV)
Luther's hymn reminds me that Jesus, the Living Word of God, removes Satan's terror for Christians. We can celebrate Christ's victory, thankful that He is indeed a mighty Fortress.


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