Beware Of Yeast — Not Really All That Cryptic

Worldly WiseIn my devotional reading today, I came across a familiar passage that made me think about my pride.

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. ~~Matthew 16:5-12 (ESV)

I realize that most of the disciples were tradesmen, and therefore lacking in formal education. Perhaps that fact accounts Continue reading

When We’re Too Discerning To Love Christ

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We seldom recognize our own idols. This spiritual blindness engulfs all Christians, it seems to me, but I think people involved in discernment ministry ought to be particularly mindful that our zeal to expose false teachers can actually distract us from loving the Lord.

A couple of years ago, I read a passage in Revelation 2 that really compelled me to ask myself some uncomfortable questions. Sure, I could make the case that loving Christ leads to a desire for doctrinal purity in His church. In many instances, that’s  entirely true. But look at what the Lord commands the apostle John to write to the church at Ephesus:

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:2-7 (ESV)

In this letter, the Lord begins by commending the Ephesians for standing against false teachers. This point shows that discernment ministry definitely has its place. Indeed, several of the other churches in Revelation 2 and 3 receive harsh chastisement precisely because of their tolerance of false teaching. The Lord demands purity in His Church.

Yet the Ephesians focused so much on discernment that they abandoned their devotion to Christ Himself. They no longer had a zeal to serve Him in other ways. So, despite their stellar record in standing against false teachers, they had allowed their discernment abilities to eclipse their devotion to the Lord. In no uncertain terms, these discernment giants were ordered to repent.

Although this letter affirms discernment ministry, it also indicates that discernment can become an idol. How ironic is that? We can become so enamored with our skill in distinguishing truth from error that we read the Bible looking for ammunition that will help us expose whatever false teacher we happen to have in our cross-hairs at the moment. We forget Christ’s answer when asked about the greatest commandment:

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. ~~Matthew 22:37-38 (ESV)

Let’s cultivate discernment, by all means! But let’s not limit discernment merely to calling out false teachers. Let’s also seek to discern from Scripture how we can best love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. The Ephesians forgot to maintain that type of discernment. We dare not.

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Correction Must Come From God’s Word

baaa1-stainedglass03I got a little pushback on yesterday’s blog post. That’s fine.  Because I’m human, and therefore fallen, I certainly can get things wrong. May God give me the humility to accept correction when I publish articles that misrepresent His character and/or violate the teachings of Scripture. In fact, I beg my readers to show me any doctrinal errors in my writing!

31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
    will dwell among the wise.
32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
    but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor. ~~Proverbs 15:31-33 (ESV)

You should worry about me if I show a resistance to receiving correction that’s grounded in God’s Word. The Lord does not permit anyone to exalt human wisdom over the authority of Scripture, least of all a housewife with a blog! If I make the mistake of thinking that I am somehow above the ability to insert error into my writing, I definitely need godly people to rebuke me from Scripture.

Notice, please, my emphasis on the Word of God as the standard for correcting me. The challenges I received to yesterday’s post (both on my Comments Section and on social media) appealed to personal experience, misapplied Bible verses (at least that person tried — initially — to reason from Scripture), ad hominem attacks and worldly philosophies.

Colossians warns Christians to be careful about worldly philosophies.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. ~~Colossians 2:6-10 (ESV)

We receive faith through the Word of God, according to Romans 10:17. From there, Scripture fully equips us in all spiritual matters, as we see in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:3-5. Rather than being persuaded by the philosophies invented by human wisdom and subjective experience, Christians cling to God’s Word as our ultimate authority.

Furthermore, we don’t add to His Word by observing religious regulations or spiritual practices. Going back to Colossians, we see the folly of depending on human wisdom and tradition for godliness.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. ~~Colossians 2:16-23 (ESV)

So, while I welcome correction and will happily retract any and all blog posts when I’m shown that I’ve distorted or contradicted clear Biblical teaching, I reject arguments that don’t come from Scripture. As a Christian, I have a responsibility to maintain a humble and teachable attitude, but I have an even greater responsibility to keep God’s Word as the standard for distinguishing truth from error.

Please don’t hesitate to correct me using the Comments Section at the end of each blog post I write. Public error demands public rebuke. But make certain that, in offering correction, you appeal to His Word as your basis for correcting me. Anything less dishonors Christ.

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Flashback Friday: Giving Permission To The King

Originally posted August 9, 2017.

Cinderella's  ClosetThroughout the bulk of my Christian life, I’ve heard the following sentiments:

“God is a Gentleman; He won’t violate your will.”

“Give the Lord permission to work in your life.”

“You need to get out of the way in order for God to work.”

“Let go and let God.”

You’ve undoubtedly heard these same ideas, and maybe you’ve even said them. They sound very reasonable, and even a bit spiritual. Many celebrity evangelicals routinely teach them, urging us to partner with God as if He’s helplessly wringing His hands as He waits for us to participate in whatever He’s doing.

Now, I understand that the Lord chooses to work through human beings much of the time. He calls Christians to obedience, especially in regard to proclaiming the Gospel to all creation. The same letter of Paul that declares God’s sovereignty in determining who should be numbered in the elect (Romans 9:6-26) also pronounces His decree that the elect should come to faith by means of evangelism (Romans 10:13-17). In that sense, He indeed uses our obedience as the means of accomplishing His purposes.

But we make a grave mistake if we assume that a lack of cooperation on our part in any way hinders or prevents the Lord from carrying out His will. In truth, He has all power. Nothing any of us does, even at our highest points of rebellion, can possibly block Him from doing exactly what He wills.

From the time Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, men and women have tried to claim control over God. We cherish the notion that we somehow allow Him to have His way in saving us and then in working in our lives. Proudly, we believe He stands immobilized, waiting patiently until we grant Him permission to move.

Look again at Romans 9.

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? ~~Romans 9:19:24 (ESV)

Who do we think we are? Do we seriously believe the sovereignty of God depends on our will or behavior? Does the King of kings and Lord of lords bow in subjection to us? Scripture certainly never portrays Him as such a dependent weakling, nor does it suggest that He gives us authority over His dealings in our lives.

We need to repent of our arrogant attitudes. Let’s stop flattering ourselves that anything God does hinges on our attitudes or actions. If sovereignty really belongs to Him (and it does), then He will do anything He wants to do with or without our permission.

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Praising God For Breaking My Heart

John DrawingYesterday I read several chapters in Proverbs, carefully noticing all the verses on the sinfulness of anger and being a quarrelsome wife. I know all too well how weak I am in both areas. So I thought I approached them with humility, acknowledging my failures to honor the Lord by controlling my temper and respecting John.

Yeah,  well.  The wheelchair vendor put John in his new chair a few hours after I read those Scriptures. The new chair has multiple problems — far too many to enumerate here — that seriously impact John’s health. We’re talking life-threatening issues.

To make matters worse, his current wheelchair Continue reading

Saturday Sampler: April 21 — April 27

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The Easter attacks in Sri Lanka prompted Stephen McAlpine to write When The Silence Is As Deafening As the Explosions. I’ve been saying since the inception of my blog that Christians must expect persecution — McAlpine underscores this reality in his post as well as discussing the world’s reluctance to report on it.

I’ve also been saying for quite some time that Biblical discernment entails so much more than calling out false prophets. In The Mailbag: Vaxxers, Anti-Vaxxers, and the Health of the Body, Michelle Lesley uses practical application of Scripture to address heated debates about vaccinations.

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A Chosen Race, A Royal Priesthood, A Holy Nation by Hohn Cho of Pyromaniacs addresses several crucial issues from a Biblical perspective. It’s a sterling example of how discernment operates.

I like SharaC’s thought that Easter isn’t the end, but the beginning. Her devotional post, Jesus On The Beach, appears in Into the Foolishness of God.

Once again,  Possessing the Treasure includes Mike Ratliff’s insightful exegesis with Worldly Wisdom vs. God’s Absolute Truth. If you want to learn ways of handling Scripture properly, look no further. More importantly, Mike builds a solid case for God’s sovereignty in electing people to salvation.

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Although John and I couldn’t have children, we support our friends who have big families. It pains me to hear people (especially Christians) make judgmental remarks about them. So James Faris’ Do You Know What Causes This?! in Gentle Reformation encourages and refreshes me. Whether you’re a mom to several children or a critic of large families, please read this one.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time observes The fallout from a hyper-casual generation (of pastors). She takes a hard line without resorting to legalism, an attitude which only strengthens her case. And it’s a case well worth presenting. While you’re on her website,  check out The days of Christian persecution in America are coming.

In Context Matters: I Never Knew You; Depart From Me, Peter Krol sharpens our understanding of arguably one of the most frightening statements Jesus ever uttered. Besides demonstrating how to interpret the meaning of a Bible verse by its context, Krol augments our ability to discern whether or not someone is a false teacher. Krol blogs for Knowable Word.

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Cattle On A Thousand Hills Doesn’t Make The Promise We Think It Makes

Awful GlorySo often evangelicals encourage each other to expect the Lord to bless them materially by saying, “After all, our Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills.”  This remark alludes to a verse fragment in Psalm 50. They imply (if not outright declare) that they have unfettered access to material abundance because they claim God as their Father.

Some Scriptures, such as Matthew 6:25-33, assure us that our Heavenly Father will provide the things we need. The Lord indeed takes care of His own, sometimes even giving us much more than we actually need. For example, as I type this article, I’m looking at two of the three blouses my sister sent me as an Easter gift (I wore the other to church yesterday). The Lord definitely blesses His children.

But let’s look at how Psalm 50 uses the clause about God owning the cattle on a thousand hills. Back up to verses 1-6, in which Asaph draws a picture of the majestic Lord summoning His people Continue reading