Flashback Friday: Starting Discernment Out Right

Originally published January 24, 2019:

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Although I taught children’s Sunday School for several years,  I can’t recall once teaching the basic Bible lessons that I heard as a child (in a liberal denomination, at that). “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

Evangelicals generally have an aversion to teaching children to fear the Lord. Frankly,  we don’t even teach it to ourselves. Yet the Bible explicitly states:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. ~~Proverbs 9:10 (ESV)

That standard Sunday School verse taught in the 1950s shouldn’t be downplayed, explained away or outright ignored the way it is in our postmodern evangelical culture. Perhaps a main reason that we now equate discernment strictly with polemics comes from our hesitancy to embrace the idea of fearing God.

Yet both the Old and New Testaments contain several verses urging people to fear God. Holy fear doesn’t require feeling terrorized by Him, nor does it negate His love for us. At the same time, His love for us doesn’t negate our proper response of approaching Him with an acute awareness of His holiness and our sinfulness. The apostle Paul told us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:13).

I loved my mother. Until my late teens, I pretty much thought she could do no wrong. But when I misbehaved at school, the absolute worst punishment my teacher could inflict was telling Mom what I’d done. She never treated me harshly, but that initial look of anger and disappointment always shook me to my core. Loving her compelled me to fear her.

Loving God, then, should compel Christians to fear disappointing Him. The fear of the Lord actually encourages us to love Him by keeping His commandments (John 15:10). Rather than avoiding  talk of fearing God, we should cultivate holy fear and let it teach us to live in ways that please, honor and glorify Him.

The fear of the Lord leads us to the wisdom that helps us discern His will from the pages of Scripture. Fearing Him, as an aspect of loving Him, develops discernment in our day-to-day lives.

If we desire to be women of discernment, we must begin by developing a healthy fear of the Lord. Maybe our churches and Sunday Schools need to return to teaching this basic principle.

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Throwback Thursday: Distinctively Loving

Originally published September 21, 2015:

Rainbow Heart

When, pray tell, did liberal culture determine that standing for Biblical values, particularly (but not exclusively) in relation to homosexuality, constitutes hate? The very people that demand love and tolerance from Christians show the least tolerance toward those who view their lifestyle as sinful.

And yes, I realize that people claim homosexuality as an identity rather than a behavior. I even sympathize with their conviction that homosexuality is “who” they are. In most cases, such people have genuinely felt different from their same sex peers early in childhood, and sometime during puberty they sexualize this feeling. Therefore, they understandably conclude that they were “born gay.”

Admittedly, I present an over-simplification of the situation, but not as much of an over-simplification as many might have us believe. I only mean to say that I reject the notion that anyone consciously decides to experience same sex attraction.

Yet I also make a distinction between a person and their behavior. For example, I struggle with the sins of anger, greed and, selfishness, all of which I’ve exhibited  since early childhood. Scripture condemns these behaviors, even though I have reason to say, “That’s just who I am.” In obedience to the Lord, I repent of those thoughts, attitudes and behaviors, separating them from my identity. Similarly, I believe homosexual thoughts, attitudes and behavior don’t obligate a person to declare homosexuality as intrinsic to his identity.

Postmodern  culture demands that I make no such distinction. When I say that the Bible uniformly condemns homosexuality just as it condemns my ingrained sins of anger, greed and selfishness, people accuse me of bigotry and hatred. I resign myself to the reality that they characterize Biblical Christians in such terms, but I believe they make a mistake in so doing. Furthermore, I believe they err by judging Christians as haters.

The prevailing sentiment of postmodern society insists that we love people only by agreeing with their behavior. Love, according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, never requires a capitulation to sin.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

Love requires Christians to extend kindness with an attitude of humility, but it also does not allow us to celebrate sin. My husband responds to my outbursts of anger with patience, for example, but he never condones them and he expects me to repent of anger. He wants me to repent precisely because he loves me enough to encourage me to obey Christ.

I don’t mind if liberal culture calls me to address people with kindness and patience. But I do have a hard time when they decide that I’m unloving simply because I believe that God’s Word prohibits homosexuality. Such an assessment shows an incomplete understanding of love.

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I’ll Blog When I Can

Among all my other problems lately, I haven’t had a regular PCA for Tuesday and Thursday mornings since mid-August. A cousin and a dear Christian friend had been graciously helping out, understanding that I’ve been feeling too poorly to advertise and interview.

Yesterday, neither lady was available, so I spent the day in bed watching Animal Planet while John posted an ad on Craigslist. So today I have a backlog of email, made heftier by responses to the ad.

As much as I want to blog, I don’t anticipate anything other than a Throwback Thursday tomorrow and a Flashback Friday the following day. I apologize for the lack of original content right now. Hopefully things will settle down soon — at least enough for me to blog consistently.

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Speaking The Truth In Love Doesn’t Mean People Will Feel The Love

Quite often, you’ll hear Christians quote the phrase, “speaking the truth in love” (a phrase from Ephesians 4:15), as if it was a fully fledged point of doctrine. Moreover, you’ll hear them emphasize love, almost as if it truth holds little consequence. By implication, love requires us to make truth palatable, even if it means changing truth or covering it up.

In the early 21st Century, love demands that we never hurt someone’s feelings.

And that’s where discernment bloggers (even the legitimate ones) get in trouble. We call out false teachers and/or identify unbiblical practices, trying our best to be charitable. And even when we manage to be charitable enough that some people accuse us of fence sitting, we still have readers calling us self-righteous and arrogant. According to most people, speaking the truth is the antithesis of speaking in love.

Maybe we should look at Ephesians 4:15 in its context to see what the apostle Paul meant.

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Saturday Sampler: September 13 — September 19

Regular readers know I really like the things Ryan Higginbottom writes for Knowable Word. His post this week, Bible Study is Painful, has a surprising honesty that will encourage even the most reluctant Bible student. Oh c’mon — you know I’ve got you interested!

As Leslie A of Growing 4 Life acknowledges, 2020 has been a very rough year. How We Shouldn’t Be (and Should Be) Changed in 2020 (PART 1) lists some interesting ways that Christians shouldn’t allow the craziness of this year to affect us.

If you’ve ever wondered whether or not you were Losing Discernment, pick up Servants of Grace News to see what James Williams advises. I think his article will help you understand what Biblical discernment really is and how to cultivate it.

In this current climate of thinking that every issue is of first importance, articles like Now We Can’t Even Watch Football by Melissa of Your Mom Has a Blog is wonderfully refreshing, This is one you really don’t want to miss.

Writing for Gentle Reformation, Jared Olivetti explains The Promise of Holiness and the most effective motivation for being holy. You’ll be surprised and encouraged by his perspective.

Some essays are short and sweet, while still proclaiming a powerful and convicting message. Elizabeth Prata writes Giving Grace in The End Time as one such essay. Boy, do Christians (especially those of us who use Twitter) need the reminder that Elizabeth offers!

Michelle Lesley brings back Unforbidden Fruit: 3 Ways Women MUST Lead and Teach the Church as a reminder of various ways the Lord has called women to minister. Although God’s Word makes it clear that women are not to have authority over men within the church setting, Michelle shows us ways that God actually has called us to serve..

Flashback Friday — Journaling: The Pitfall We Should Recognize

Originally published May 16, 2018:

Little blonde angel

Between the autumn of 1977 and the spring of 1994, I kept a personal journal. I’d write about a wide variety of topics, ranging from Scriptures I’d read in my Quiet Time (frequently taken out of context and misapplied) to practical jokes I played on my friends. For the most part, however, I wrote about my disappointments, my frustrations and my fears. Toward the end of that 17-year period,  I realized that journaling served mainly to fuel my self-pity. For that reason, I abruptly quit writing it.

Perhaps some people can journal without focusing on themselves. Those people should certainly maintain journals! Their journals offer rich treasures to those who read them. But I suspect, especially in this culture that exalts feelings and believes in following psychological principles, that most people use their journals for the purpose of venting.

After 17 years of venting my feelings, I woke up to the fact that venting only keeps a person’s attention fixed on his or her problems. Venting through a journal is even worse, in my opinion, because the act of writing slows down the thought process, prolonging the focus on a subject. So when someone uses a personal journal to ruminate on their feelings, should it surprise us that we wind up wallowing in self-absorbtion?

Self-absorbtion, however,  is the antithesis of Biblical Christianity. Christ demands that His followers actually die to ourselves for His sake.

34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” ~~Mark 8:34-38 (ESV)

Popular evangelical teachers promise us “our best life now” and romantic dates with Jesus, urging us to get in touch with our feelings. They advise hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day and write their feelings out “to the Lord.” What horrible advice!

Honestly confessing our feelings to the Lord is one thing. Job, David, Jeremiah and Jesus all had times of pouring their hearts out to God. But in so doing, they invariably wound up acknowledging His sovereign right to order their circumstances according to His will. They ultimately turned their eyes away from themselves and back to Him.

If you keep a personal journal that revolves around your disappointments, frustrations and fears, please consider the possibility that it may be locking you into patterns of self-absorbtion. If possible, turn your journal into something your descendants can read to find Christ. Let them see that, no matter what your circumstances, He remains faithful and deserves the glory.

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The Roarings Of Woke Evangelicals

More and more, evangelicals demand all manner of social justice. The predominant issue is reparations for racial inequality, but the umbrella also covers women’s rights and LBGTQ concerns. The Black Lives Matter crusade is actually a cleverly marketed program to transform the culture into a Marxist society.

People are buying it because they’ve ignored history to the point of not understanding that socialism really amounts to communism, and communism is infinitely more oppressive than the alleged systemic racism and binary patriarchy of our present culture.

Although it troubles me that non-Christians embrace this velvet gloved Marxism, I can understand how they fall into such deception. It bothers me to a far greater extent that evangelicals (even some within the Reformed camp) have jumped on various corners of this bandwagon, many going so far as to claim social justice as a Gospel issue.

I thought of this dangerous false teaching as I worked through Psalm 74 this morning.

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Keys To Discernment: Disappointment And Encouragement

When I posted my first installment of the Keys To Discernment Bible Study on Colossians back in January, I was excited. I had spent several months working through the text. I read commentaries, took notes and acquainted myself with the text. Colossians is my favorite book of the Bible, and the thought of teaching it thrilled me.

When I broke my back at the end of February, obviously I had to discontinue the series for a while. But as my strength returned, I rebooted the series and then managed to write a couple new installments. I covered my very favorite passage of Scripture:

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I’m Not Letting Go Without A Fight!

Not only do I type with a headstick, but I drive my power wheelchair with my face. Having a strong neck is crucial to my daily function, particularly as a blogger.

So you can probably guess that the severe neck pain that I’v been feeling since a week ago yesterday has alarmed me and John considerably.

We got Blue Emu last night. I tried my first application this morning, and so far I haven’t had any significant relief. Some reviews said it works immediately, while others said it takes a few days. Still others said it was a complete waste of money. So I’m asking the Lord to let it work for me. So that I can keep working for Him.

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I Couldn’t Have Paid Anything

Most of us have no idea of how extensive our sin is. Personally, I can understand it only by realizing that erasing it required nothing less than the innocent blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But I do know that I have absolutely no resources with which to atone for my sin. Any good that I might have done could never outweigh the ways that I have offended the thrice holy God. My debt towards Him is just too formidable.

Thankfully, Jesus is a merciful God Who took my debt upon Himself. He graciously paid the entire price of my sin, leaving me free to worship God with a clear conscience. Throughout eternity, I will praise Him for paying a debt that I never could have paid.

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