Thursday, July 23, 2015

Heartfelt Thanks

I want to thank all of you who have faithfully followed this blog over the past nine years. Your support has encouraged me tremendously, and I pray that each of you has seen the Lord more clearly as a result of my posts.

Please consider joining me at The Outspoken TULIP (https://headstickdeb.wordpress.com/), where I'd be delighted to have your company. And once again, thank you so very much for taking time to read The Things That Come Out Of My Head.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Moving My Blog To A TULIP Garden

I've made the decision to leave Blogger and begin a new blog on WordPress. For an explanation, please visit The Outspoken TULIP (https://headstickdeb.wordpress.com/), and bookmark it. For those who link to me on your blogrolls, please update your rolls to reflect this change. Meet me among the tulips!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Sober Time

Yes, we're grieved that five Supreme Court justices had the hubris to redefine  marriage. Certainly, we're sickened that Planned Parenthood sells body parts of the babies they abort. Most assuredly, we see that the nuclear arms deal with Iran promises disaster for Israel. And no amount of political action can reverse western civilization's obvious determination to rebel against God to the point of self-destruction.

But rather than wringing our hands helplessly, let's view these horrible events as reason to  proclaim the Gospel. Human depravity now flaunts itself unapologetically, leaving little doubt that everyone has turned away from God. Very much like Israel and Judah at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, Europe and America have rejected our Christian heritage. Daniel's great prayer of confession sounds remarkably like a prayer that Christians ought to pray today:
I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. ~~Daniel 9:4-10 (ESV)
Notice that despite Israel's stubborn rejection of God's Word, Daniel acknowledged the Lord's capacity to extend mercy and forgiveness. He extends that mercy and forgiveness though the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:19-20 (ESV)
After atoning for our sin by dying an excruciating death on the cross, Jesus rose from His grave! His resurrection promises eternal life to those who place their trust in Him.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. ~~1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (ESV) 
The forgiveness of sin must be proclaimed to a society that celebrates its own wickedness. The general course of history will continue gravitating toward evil until Jesus returns to judge the earth, so please don't misunderstand me to suggest that proclaiming the Gospel will produce massive social reform. But as society goes from bad to worse, people need to hear that Jesus offers hope. Please,  my fellow believers, recognize the urgency of making the Gospel known while we still have the liberty to share it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Backward Evaluations

Sunday, I listened to the audio, "Why Is Homosexuality Wrong?" from Truth Community Church's The Bible And Homosexuality conference this past weekend. (Psst, Erin--please put up the rest of the links.) During this second session, Pastor Don Green made a statement that hit at the heart of why I devote so much attention to various issues that have infected 21st Century evangelicals.
We evaluate homosexuality in light of God's Word. We do not judge Scripture by public opinion on homosexuality.
As an increasing number of evangelicals embrace homosexuality and same sex marriage as good things, we see them manipulating God's Word through the lens of worldly values. Sadly, they make similar compromises concerning a wide variety of other issues. So, although I believe I should continue addressing the matter of homosexuality from time to time, I want to zoom out to the larger problem of evangelicals losing their conviction regarding the Bible's authority.

The evangelical church has been influenced by the Charismatic movement, which (despite their  claims to the contrary) routinely interprets Scripture by subjective experience. I can make this accusation because I was a practicing Charismatic for 20 years and I remained in a Charismatic  church for 12 years after that. I spent the next 12 years in a Baptist church, watching it slide into pragmatism and again interpret God's precious Word to fit its seeker sensitive agenda.

Personal friends have defended false teachers like Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer and Beth Moore, not with Scripture, but with comments about the popularity of these teachers and/or how these teachers "helped" them. Like Charismatics, my Baptist friends (in the church we left last year, not our current Baptist church) downplayed a Scriptural evaluation of these teachers in favor of personal opinion.

I hasten to add that a number of these friends, in  both churches, are genuinely saved, as I was during  my years with them. Furthermore, very few people in either church would affirm homosexuality as being acceptable Christian conduct. My point, however, remains that evangelicals generally judge Scripture on the basis of personal experience and/or peer pressure rather than relying on it as the basis for evaluating every area of life.

Dear fellow believers, I implore you to  keep God's Word as your standard for every area of life. Let the following counsel of the apostle Paul, written  mere days before his death, sink deep into your hearts:
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Luxury Of Limiting God

Most professing Christians would affirm, without hesitation, belief in God's control over every aspect of His creation. Yet a Twitter post I read early last week, followed by a completely unrelated conversation at church yesterday, caused me to question the average believer's faith in His sovereignty. Certainly, my own struggle with the sin of worry betrays that I have difficulty trusting His ability (or at least His willingness) to manage situations.

As American Christians approach a time of overt persecution, we desperately need to understand that God maintains complete control. We see our culture's moral disintegration, and quite rightly grieve that sin seems to reign so defiantly. Although grief is indeed an appropriate emotional response, however, that grief must  never degenerate into despair. The same Lord that purified Israel and Judah by means of the Babylonian Captivity has His purposes for His Church through the impending opposition knocking on our door.

More than ever, Christians will need an understanding of God's sovereignty. Let's start with me. I can no longer afford the luxury of thinking that human will has the power to restrict His activity or dismantle His plan. Contrary to popular evangelical thinking, the Lord is not a Gentleman. If He does abandon us to our own rebellion against Him, He does so in order to bring about His great plan.
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,
“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
    and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
    there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” ~~Romans 9:14-26 (ESV)
We all too frequently regard circumstances as the whole story, neglecting the fact that God is orchestrating a much bigger picture. We forget that He not only has an eternal plan to display His glory, but He controls all the moving parts that bring that plan to fruition. Yes, He will judge sin, bringing all His wrath against everything that dares to shake a fist at Him, but even that terrible judgment will  magnify His glory.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

My Faithful Father

At my age, I really should know better than to fall into the sin of worry. Each time I worry, I forget God's sovereignty and consequently malign His character. Looking at it from that perspective plunges me into an attitude of confession and repentance for dishonoring my Heavenly Father.

Because God brought me to new birth when His Spirit gave me faith in Jesus as my Savior, He blesses me with the privilege of calling Him "Father." As my Father, He assumes full responsibility for my care and well-being. Therefore, He constantly demonstrates His faithfulness, thereby revealing the absurdity of  my tendency to worry.

Each morning, I begin my time alone with God adoring Him for being my faithful Father. Slowly, He really is giving me victory over the sin of worry as I remember the beloved hymn that I've chosen to feature today. This hymn sets my mind on His faithfulness as the Father Who chose to make me His daughter.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

March 14, 1916 To July 11, 2014

Mom died a year ago today.

What can I say about her? At once, I think of all the funny stories, and the one magnificent story about swimming with dolphins, that she used to tell. I also think of the spiritual differences between us. Mostly, I think about how carefully she guarded her privacy, and I wonder if I should continue guarding her privacy even now. Extending such protection requires that I also restrict what I write about my own life and my emotional responses to her death.

All week, I'd planned to write about her today, even though I wasn't at all sure what I'd write. So I'll share the few photos I have of her and me together.
To say I miss her sounds terribly trite, and yet I can't help but say the obvious. I miss her dry humor, and her outbursts of playfulness. I miss calling her when I need comfort, and I miss the way she loved and respected John. My mom knew how to make my friends feel welcome in her home,  caring for them almost as if they also belonged to her. She laughed often, even at herself, and she loved deeply.

She stayed active with the Widowed Persons Association of  California, even taking cruises with them and (at age 92) serving as the president of her local chapter. She also played bocce ball, up to a few months before she died, with a seniors group called the Goldenairres.  She once told me and a friend, "I've lived a good and happy life." I'm so glad she made sure she enjoyed her 98 years.

Friday, July 10, 2015

No Court Decision Derails God

After two weeks, Christian bloggers still reel from the enormous threat to religious liberty that has already begun as a result of the Supreme Court's decision to legalize same  sex marriage. And we certainly must acknowledge that those who remain faithful to Scripture's unambiguous prohibition of homosexuality should expect varying degrees of persecution. Further, few Christians are prepared for serious persecution, and we definitely need to address that lack of preparation.

But in all this struggle, we first need to remind ourselves of God's Sovereignty. He not only knew that western society would fall into perversion, but the Bible says that God actually "sends" deluding influences on those who don't belong to Him.
11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. ~~2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (ESV)
This court decision has already caused some professing believers to show their affinity for the world. A couple friends whom I'd considered as fairly solid Christians have, this past week, posted comments on Facebook basically chastising Christians for stating Scriptural positions on the sinfulness of homosexuality. But, as much as their capitulation to the world breaks my heart, I take joy in seeing the Lord making clearer distinctions between mere professors and Christians who take His Word seriously. I believe He has allowed this cultural embrace of sexual sin, as well as the resultant persecution of those who stand on the authority of Scripture, for the purpose of purifying His Church.

Yes, I sorrow over the acceptance of sin (and  not just homosexuality) that permeates 21st Century culture. All Christians should grieve, and  grieve deeply! But in our grief, we can rejoice that God still maintains complete control. No man-made laws, no matter how corrupt, can possibly defeat His purposes.
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
    and strips the forests bare,
    and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!  ~~Psalm 29 (ESV)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Foolish Christians

Christians in 21st Century America receive little respect from the world at large. As time progresses, what little respect we receive now will diminish because genuine believers refuse to interpret God's Word through the lens of political correctness. Of course, our unwillingness to compromise His Word causes the world to regard us as "backward" and "uneducated."

The apostle Paul, who himself enjoyed both Hebrew and classical Greek educations, noted that the 1st Century world also held Christians in low esteem. Yet he maintained that our wisdom, which often contradicts worldly wisdom, is far superior to all the sophistication of worldly philosophies can offer.
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” ~~1 Corinthians 1:20-31 (ESV)
Right now, most of our country celebrates the "enlightened" views of political and religious liberals, dismissing conservative beliefs as antiquated at best. They accuse us of oppression, largely because we hold to Biblical teachings on Christ's authority and how He commands us to live. Because the world rejects Christ and His teachings, it holds Christians in contempt (see John 15:18-25).

The animosity that the world holds toward believers will erupt in persecution. I believe seeker sensitive and emergent churches will avoid persecution because of their readiness to accommodate contemporary culture by downplaying doctrine. But those of us who continue to stand on the truth of Scripture, especially when doing so opposes the accepted wisdom of American culture, must expect various levels of pressure to compromise our allegiance to the Lord.

Those of us who adhere to Scripture already appear foolish to the world. This perception of us will only intensify with the passage of time. We can, however, rejoice that God's wisdom will ultimately trump the supposed enlightenment of worldly sages. When Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom, all of His detractors will see their folly in opposing Him. At the same time, those who remain faithful to Him will joyfully boast in His wonderful faithfulness to prove the superiority of His wisdom.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Love We Resent

John has, on occasion, yelled at me when he sees me driving my wheelchair in ways that might harm me. Initially (because I don't see the danger myself) I bristle with resentment, sometimes stubbornly continuing my course of action until I see my error. Thankfully, so far I've caught my mistakes in time to avoid serious consequences,  but I have gotten into a few sticky situations that I wouldn't have faced had I listened to my husband.

He yelled at me out of love for me.

Christians often warn people against beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that would place them under God's wrath. Just as I resent John's efforts to protect me, so most people resent Christians for proclaiming the truth. They perceive us as hateful, self-righteous bigots who want to impose our antiquated morality on society at large. As they see it, we want to restrict their freedom...particularly in reference to sexuality.

In contrast, because we take Scripture seriously, we know that rebellion against God requires punishment. Those who trust Christ can rest secure that He has paid for our sin by shedding His blood on the cross. His grace in effecting our salvation, however, means that He has authority over how we conduct our lives.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
Those who reject the Lord's authority, insisting on pursuing sin (and sometimes even demanding that He bless it), demonstrate that they have no understanding of grace. They stubbornly stride toward an eternity in hell, misinterpreting our pleas for their repentance as hate speech. Little do they understand that, like John yelling to keep me from driving my wheelchair into danger, we can best love them by hating their sin.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

We Will Rise To The Occasion

This modern hymn offers particular encouragement as we begin to face the persecution that surely knocks on the door of the church in America. As you listen, rejoice that our Lord will have ultimate victory.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Joy. Mourning. Joy!

This year, as Christians reel from the impending consequences of Obergefell v. Hodges, many of us find it difficult to celebrate America's birthday. The almost certain denial of First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion herald our country's death, causing mourning rather than rejoicing. Although I dressed in red, white and blue today, I feel like wearing black.

Yet the Lord would have Christians rejoice, even now, in the freedom that  no court or government can take away. J.D. Hall, of Pulpit & Pen, published a marvelous blog post today that reminded me of Who ultimately gives us freedom. Please take time to read Should We Celebrate Independence Day?

Friday, July 3, 2015

It's As He Said It Would Be

Photo courtesy of PreachTheGospel.org
This morning I read Matthew 10:1-23, which describes Jesus sending the Twelve out to cast out demons, heal the sick and preach the Gospel to the lost sheep of Israel. Although most of His instructions were specific to those twelve men, I believe the last section applies to all Christians. And after last Friday's SCOTUS decision, which goes against the Lord's design for marriage, His words take on a more vivid urgency.
 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. ~~Matthew 10:16:23 (ESV)
If those of us who claim to be Christians remain faithful to Scripture, the world will naturally hate us. We represent a holy God Who refuses to compromise His righteous standards and does not bow to any human cultural invention. Our  courts, influenced by media propaganda and liberal politics, may attempt to redefine marriage, but the King of kings and Lord of lords holds fast to His intent and expects His followers to remain loyal to Him.

Homosexuality, of course, is only one of many ways humanity rebels against God's authority. Over the last 2000 years, Biblical Christians have suffered various forms of persecution ranging from mild censure to violent martyrdom. Men like Wycliffe, Hus and Tyndale, for example,  bore the wrath of the Roman Catholic church because they called people back to Scripture and denounced the false doctrines that still overtake that church. In our time, the legalization of same sex marriage just happens to be the issue that will usher in the next wave of persecution. But Christians have always incurred the world's hatred simply by our fidelity to Christ.

Jesus taught clearly that the world would reject His disciples (in all generations) because it rejects Him.

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. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ ~~John 15:18-25 (ESV)
As the legalization of same sex marriage brings persecution on Christians who refuse to condone it, we must remember that the Lord warned us of the high cost of following Him. Yes, I grieve over the  loss of religious liberty in this country, and I do feel frightened. But I've always understood that following Jesus would most likely have painful implications. Reading Matthew 10:16-23 today merely reminded me that I'll be in good company  as I suffer reproach for Him.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Correcting, Not Condemning: A Response To Homosexual Sin

We do need to acknowledge that same sex marriage, along with the celebration of sexual immorality in all its forms, both harms society and shakes a defiant fist at the Creator's intent for sexuality. Sometimes, however, our zeal for righteousness can cause us to forget our responsibility to treat people in bondage to homosexuality with compassion and humility. Yet the very Bible that condemns homosexuality also commands Christians to exercise gentleness and humility as we confront sin.
 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. ~~Galatians 6:-1-5 (ESV)
Throughout my nearly 25 years of close friendships with men and women who struggled with same sex attraction (12 of those years, I served as a correspondence counselor for an ex-gay ministry), I repeatedly heard both friends and clients lament that they never chose to experience same sex attractions. Although I believe Scripture teaches that we indeed choose whether or not to feed lusts of any sort (see, for instance, James 1:13-15), I believe that we need sensitivity in addressing their perceptions of involuntary sexual orientation. These people honestly feel trapped in same sex attractions.

I believe each of us excuses our own sin habits in pretty much the same way. I have. Someone once told me that Cerebral Palsy makes it more difficult to control anger. For decades, I latched on to his pronouncement, comforting myself in my fits of rage that I wasn't completely responsible for my outbursts. My disability provided me with a convenient excuse to give in to the sin of anger, and I didn't hesitate to take full advantage of that excuse. I highly doubt that I'm alone in blaming my sin on conditions beyond my control.

So I empathize with those who sincerely accept the lie that they were born gay.  In addressing same sex marriage, therefore, I believe Christians need an awareness that people who experience homosexual feelings see no hope other than redefining marriage in order to accommodate their sinful desires. While Christians must never condone sin of any sort, and must consequently not support same sex marriage, the Lord demands that we show the sort of mercy that we need when people  have to correct us.

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