The Confusing Aspects Of Contending For The Faith

Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (NASB95)

Have you noticed an increase in articles and podcasts lately discussing if, why and how Christians should address false teachers and doctrinal error? There seems to be a growing angst within Reformed circles regarding the topic, and not a great deal of consensus.

Regular readers of my blog know that I’ve struggled with this matter for years. I don’t know if that puts me ahead of the curve or what. And it doesn’t really matter if I was onto something before it was popular or not, does it? I guess I just find it reassuring that more and more people now question certain tactics and motives of some discernment ministries.

A recent episode of Apologetics Live from Striving For Eternity made an interesting point about how good discernment ministries can take a wrong turn. Host Andrew Rappaport explained that the vast majority of discernment bloggers start out with right intentions. They see false teachers or erroneous practices among professing Christians, and they write articles correctly addressing those problems. But when those articles get lots of clicks, likes and shares, many bloggers realize that calling out the bad guys enhances the popularity of their website. So they produce more articles, sometimes cutting corners on research and ignoring context in order to convince their followers of their position. In the end, they forfeit whatever discernment they have for the sake of notoriety.

Read More »

How Did The Church Get So Messed Up?

I’ve shared in this blog before that a friend of mine once dismissed my interest in church history by insisting that she cared more about the current mess in evangelical churches than about church history. The articles I wrote each Tuesday between November 1, 2016 and October 31, 2017 about the Protestant Reformation struck her as boring and irrelevant. She preferred, perhaps, to have me call out false teachers and erroneous trends.

Lately her remarks have come back to me in an unexpected way. Recently, John gave me a subscription to AGTV, an online streaming service that offers high quality Christian teaching and commentary. My favorite series so far is Steve and Paulette’s Place, hosted by Steve Kozar of The Messed Up Church and his wife Paulette. In this series, the Kozars examine eras of Church History as those eras influence present evangelical trends.

The Kozars encourage me to keep studying and writing about Church History, even though few people care for such articles. Many bloggers (including me) feel hesitant to write about Church History after the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. 2017 taught us the discouraging lesson that our readers don’t care about church history. About any type of history. Like my friend, they are more concerned about how to fix the problems in today’s messed up church.

Read More »

A TULIP Repost: Mary Knew Where To Sit

Originally published September 17, 2018:

Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will I Have An Occasional Glass Of Wine?

If you want a lively debate with other Christians, just mention alcohol! You’ll get impassioned responses from people on all sides of the issue, and you may even damage one or two of your friendships in the process (I say that mostly in jest).

Alcohol consumption among Christians has always required a careful reading of Scripture and an understanding of Christian liberty in the light of exhortations towards temperance. It’s a sensitive topic, requiring extensive study coupled with prayer for wisdom to apply God’s Word accurately and lovingly. Therefore, this small blog post can’t thoroughly examine the matter.

Truth be told, I really don’t want to blog about alcohol. But we can’t work through Titus 2:3-5 unless we deal with Paul’s command to older women women regarding this topic.

Read More »

A TULIP Repost: Talking About The Gospel Ain’t Necessarily Explaining The Gospel

Originally published July 27, 2021:

Several years ago, John and I sat in an adult Sunday School class where the teacher asked if anyone could explain the Gospel. The church heavily emphasized evangelism, and sponsored a food pantry for the specific purpose of sharing the Gospel along with groceries. They also regularly visited a local nursing home as an evangelistic outreach. The wall of that Sunday School classroom sported a poster detailed the Romans Road. And those who had gone through the membership class had been required to share the Gospel with a friend or relative outside the church.

You would think people in that class would be stepping all over each other to answer the teacher’s question.

The silence was awkward, if not embarrassing. Finally someone answered, correctly using 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as the basis for her response. The teacher expressed his relief that somebody knew the answer, though later he confessed to me his discouragement and frustration over the obvious confusion people exhibited when he asked a question that he assumed each of us could readily answer.

Sometimes I wonder whether or not most evangelicals could explain the Gospel. Frankly, I seriously doubt they could. Popular teachers like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore have mangled it so badly with false teaching and worldly additives that few professing Christians remember what the Bible says.

I’ve included pages entitled Statement Of Faith and What Is The Gospel, Anyway on this little website, and I pray you’ll look at them once in a while. Before ladies can develop discernment, or even grow in doctrine, we need to understand the Gospel basics.

In What Is The Gospel, Anyway I wrote:

In order to understand the Good News of the Gospel, we must first understand the bad news that all human beings (except Jesus) are sinners by nature and by choice (Romans 3:10-20, Ephesians 2:1-3). As such, every person rightfully deserves to spend eternity in hell (Revelation 20:15).

God, to rescue us from His own wrath, came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ and shed His innocent blood on the cross to atone for the sins of all who trust in Him (1 John 4:9-10, John 3:16). But He rose again, displaying His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).

The Lord calls us to respond to His death, burial and resurrection by turning from sin (Acts 2:38) and by placing our faith in Him (Romans 10:9). Jesus bore all of God’s wrath on the cross so that we could be considered righteous (Romans 5:6-11).

Once someone becomes a Christian, we can expand on the Gospel by teaching the doctrines of election, the Incarnation and so forth, helping her grow in her application of the Gospel. We can join her in studying the variety of implications involved in receiving the Gospel, sharing our wonder at God’s incredible grace. Truly, the Gospel launches innumerable topics to explore and apply!

Sadly, we can often get so caught up in the glorious ramifications of the Gospel that we lose sight of the Gospel itself. We mention it on social media and in conversations rather casually, without considering whether or not our readers and hearers understand what we mean. I know that I refer to it in nearly every article on this blog, but I seldom take time to make sure my readers know what I’m talking about.

Of course I can’t explain the Gospel in every post I write. Especially if I link to every Scripture that teaches it. Most of the time, I need to operate on the assumption that my readers know the Gospel themselves and can pull up their big girl panties. And that’s usually true.

But I get emails notifying me of new readers all the time. Occasionally, these new readers are clearly not believers, and I suspect some might be false converts. These women may have never heard a solid presentation of the Gospel, particularly if they follow people like Rick Warren, Joel Osteen and Beth Moore. They may need help understanding their need for salvation, and what the Lord has done in order to provide that salvation. Consequently, it doesn’t hurt to go back and reiterate the Gospel from time to time.

Romans 1:16, the theme verse for this blog, calls the Gospel “the power of God to salvation.” With that being the case, Christians had better know what the Gospel really is and how to articulate it accurately. All sorts of people make reference to it — including false teachers. Good discernment, as well as good evangelism, therefore depends on understanding it well enough to explain it to other people. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to bring sinful souls to new life in Him.

Talking about the Gospel is wonderful. All of us should do it more often. But in so doing, all of us must explain it now and then.

Scattering Blog Posts And Trusting God’s Sovereignty

Things hadn’t gotten back to where they had been before my back injury, but I’d gotten into a nice routine of publishing two articles a week plus a weekly Saturday Sampler. It bothered me a little (okay, maybe more than a little) that I recycled graphics so often, but I’d decided that the content of my writing outweighs the importance of a new picture.

So I contended myself with a scaled back blogging schedule, reminding myself that I’ll turn 69 at the end of this month. How many old ladies even have blogs? I accepted a reduction in my productivity, albeit reluctantly.

Then a little over a week ago, my primary Personal Care Attendant called out, suffering from extreme stomach pain. She called again as she was being admitted to the hospital for gallbladder issues. Yesterday she called to tell us that she can’t work (except to do laundry and cooking) until after she has surgery.

Because I’ve been without a consistent weekend PCA for over a year, the ladies who do backup for me are getting understandably tired. With my weekday PCA out of commission, their frustration is rising. Tomorrow, we’ll start advertising for a temporary weekday person in addition to ads we’ve been running for the weekend position. We’d appreciate prayer for that endeavor.

Between advertising, interviewing, (hopefully) training and accommodating the schedules of my backups, I don’t anticipate much blogging time for a while. Oh, never fear — I’ll blog as often as I can! It’s just that Saturday Sampler will be entirely off the table for a while, and I may post old articles more than I’d like. I hope to write some original blog posts whenever possible.

So far, the Lord is helping me resist temptation to feed feelings of anxiety. I know He has sent this trial to deepen my trust in Him and to mold my character.

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. ~~Romans 8:28-30 (NASB95)

Please pray that God will continue strengthening me against the sin of anxiety. I know I have a particular weakness in that area, but I also know that God is faithful. I want an attitude that glorifies Him. The closing hymn of our church service today encouraged me to cultivate that attitude.

Saturday Sampler: September 4 — September 10

In The Millennial Kingdom: Back to the Future, Part 8, Clint Archer of The Cripplegate makes sense of God’s promises to Israel in the Old Testament. He clears up a lot of confusion, while demonstrating principles of good Bible interpretation.

Ah, the excitement of being engaged! Yet sometimes the engagement period forces us to think more carefully about Prince Charming, as Michelle Lesley shows us in The Mailbag: My fiance and I don’t agree on theology. If you or your daughter is contemplating marriage, this post will provide excellent guidance concerning the most essential aspect of Christian marriage.

Writing as a For the Church contributor, Lydia Schaible encourages us to Age with Joy. Since I’m a little over a year away from 70, I desperately needed this Biblical point of view. Maybe some of you will also find comfort in what she has to say.

Looking over sermon notes that her elder preached in 2013, Elizabeth Prata writes The Love of Jesus is,.. in The End Time. Both she and I blogged about God’s wrath last week, so this essay provides wonderful balance without compromising truth. Her use of Scripture highlights the object and incredible nature of Christ’s love, so you’ll want this clarifying perspective. You might also see her companion piece, God’s love is...

As a citizen of Australia, Stephen McAlpine is technically under British rule, making his reflections on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II all the more poignant. The day the Queen Met the King includes encouraging glimpses of Her Majesty’s Christian faith, contrasting it against the militant secularism that engulfs England and western culture. As an American, I appreciate reading his view of the situation. As a Christian, I love his concluding paragraphs.

I’m glad someone besides me repudiates the lie that God won’t give you More Than You Can Handle! Austin Dovin, writing in For the Church, firmly insists that He indeed often exceeds our limitations so that we must rely on Him.

Queen Elizabeth II: An Example Of Self-Denial

Please watch this short video before reading further.

In 2022, we can’t imagine any 21-year-old seriously vowing to dedicate her life to the service of others. But then Princess Elizabeth knew that she would one day become the queen of England and all its realms.

She also knew that she would inherit this responsibility because her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne a few years earlier so that he could marry Wallis Simpson, an American divorcee. His sacrifice for “the woman I love” sounds romantic, but it forced King George VI to assume the monarchy. Young Elizabeth blamed her uncle for her father’s ill health, and perhaps for failing to marry a woman who could produce a suitable heir. I believe witnessing the detrimental effects of her uncle’s selfishness instilled a heightened sense of duty in her.

We can debate whether or not Queen Elizabeth took her sense of duty too far at the expense of her family, but today wouldn’t be the day for that discussion. Rather, we should admire her own self-denial as she served her kingdom. Many articles I’ve read since her passing indicate that Queen Elizabeth II had a genuine Christian faith, suggesting that she understood the value of putting others before herself.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. ~~Philippians 2:1-4

I’m challenged by Queen Elizabeth II’s example. She lived her life honoring the astounding promise she made as a 21-year-old girl.

Why I’d Rather Not Blog About Matt Chandler And His Online Conversations

Firstly, Matt Chandler has never been more than an occasional blip on my discernment radar. I’ve vaguely been aware that he has some questionable theology, so I’ve kept him at arm’s length. But, as I’ve said before, I no longer have time nor energy to research all the celebrity pastors and teachers who populate the evangelical landscape. So in that respect, I really don’t care about the online conversations with a woman that led to him stepping down from his ministry position. So much about that situation remains unclear at this point that I just don’t feel knowledge enough to formulate an opinion. Actually, I see no valid reason for me to formulate an opinion.

My invalid reason for formulating an opinion would be to reinstate my discernment blogger status. My article on God’s wrath didn’t attract many readers, even though such articles on Christian doctrine develop discernment much more effectively than articles exposing false teachers and evangelical celebrities. If I’d dig up some juicy dirt on Matt Chandler and add in some speculation, I’d draw attention.

This matter ties in with my ongoing examination of Titus 2:3-5:

Read More »

Saturday Sampler: August 28 — September 3

Progressives and non-Christians love claiming that the Bible condones slavery, as if that approval gives cause to reject its authority. Thankfully, SlimJim posts a helpful Fact Sheet on Bible and Slavery on his The Domain for Truth blog. It’s short and easily read, but it clears up a lot of common misconceptions about slavery in Biblical times.

I do not condone the new trend of employees quiet quitting at their jobs. But there’s an even worse trend, as Stephen McAlpine shows us by his post, Hey Christian, Don’t “Quiet Quit” Your Faith. I don’t always agree with McAlpine, so I can’t recommend his post blog without reservation. But this article deserves attention. We very much need reminders such as he gives us here.

Clint Archer, writing for The Cripplegate, finishes his excellent series on eschatology with More Reckonings: Back to the Future, Part 7. This series has answered many of my questions about the end times. I pray it’s also helped you.

Homosexuality has become an uncomfortable topic for Christians because the world no longer regards it as shameful. Calvin Goligher, contributing to Reformation 21, writes Talk about an Awkward Term to remind us why standing for God’s design for human sexuality is so necessary, even when our culture would rather that we conform to current attitudes.

Maybe discernment is easier than we think. By Comparing Two Religions (that go by the same name) in her Growing 4 Life blog, Leslie A uses Scripture to differentiate between true and false Christianity. Although sometimes the particulars are more subtle than the examples she uses, careful examination will ultimately expose false teaching.

R. Scott Clark’s The Lapsed Now And Then: What The Decian Persecution Teaches Us About Recovering From Covid wonderfully draws on early church history to help us walk in grace toward our brothers and sisters with whom we disagree. Even if the very thought of history makes your skin crawl, give this piece a chance. Its application just might bless you.

After reading When You Hear of a Scandal by Darryl Dash, I’ve decided to subscribe to Dashhouse. What a balanced, godly response to the constant deluge of scandalous information that assaults us daily!

I’m not sure how much of you care about Roman Catholicism, but I found Leonardo De Chirico’s September article in The Vatican Files extremely helpful in understanding the political dynamics of this religious system. One Roman (Vatican) Stop After a Catholic (German) Push examines a current controversy caused by progressive German Catholic leaders. While we Protestants may not have much interest in the skirmish in and of itself, De Chirico provides invaluable insight into Rome’s resistance to the Gospel.

Thanks to Michelle Lesley for posting Throwback Thursday – Nine Reasons Discerning Women Are Leaving Your Church again. Please remember as you read this one that Michelle is a strong proponent of active church membership, so she is by no means advocating Lone Ranger Christianity. Rather, she highlights nine serious problems that churches need to address.

Do you sometimes dream of performing a great ministry for God? I know I find myself wanting to be a well-known blogger with thousands of devoted followers. So I praise the Lord for The End Time, in which Elizabeth Prata reminds us that Blooming where He plants you glorifies God just as beautifully as the ministries that receive notice and applause. Elizabeth published this little gem of an essay precisely when I really needed it!