Discernment Ministries That Lose True Discernment (Avoiding Their Mistakes)

Discern YourselfTwo days ago I wrote about the necessity of using wisdom in discernment ministry. Sadly, I got more caught up in the attacks Brannon Howse is making on Justin Peters than I’d planned, and consequently had little time left to write about my real concern. I hope I can rectify that omission today.

As I said Wednesday, there’s definitely a time and place for naming false teachers in discernment ministry. I’ve done so many times in this blog, and I’m planning an article for next Wednesday on another evangelical trend that needs to be exposed. But I fear that, in our zeal to warn people of dangerous teachers and trends, we may have distorted the concept of discernment, forgetting that its real purpose lies in our Christian maturity.

Consider the argument that the writer of Hebrews makes as he pleads with Jewish Christians to lay aside their efforts to earn salvation in favor of resting in Christ’s finished work on the cross:

11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. ~~Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV)

Here, discernment has precious little to do with generating conspiracy theories or calling out false teachers, and everything to do with helping these believers live in fidelity to the Gospel. Discernment isn’t sanctified gossip used to ruin reputations; it is the means of learning how to conform to God’s will.

Oddly, some bloggers and podcast hosts seem to have lost sight of this true purpose of discernment. They ironically fail to discern when they cross the line into fault finding for the sake of parading their supposed discernment skills. In so doing, they forget basic principles of Scripture, such as respectfully expressing disagreement while recognizing someone as a brother or sister in Christ unless they teach outright false doctrine.

Biblical discernment calls us, first and foremost, to distinguish good from evil in our own lives. How obedient are we to the Lord? Are we understanding His Word properly? Do we apply it correctly to our own lives before we hold others to its standards? Sisters, these questions make me uncomfortable, and they draw me to repentance. They confront me with my need to exercise discernment in my own life well before I call out anyone else.

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The Internet Can’t Silence The Gospel (Even If It Bans It)

Headstick 2013Longtime readers of this blog may remember my initial purpose for abandoning the blog I’d kept on Google’s Blogspot.com for nine years in favor of starting this one on WordPress. For the benefit of newer readers, however, allow me to reiterate why I made the move.

The Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, by which the United States Supreme Court unilaterally legalized same sex marriage signaled that the political left would no longer tolerate any opposition to their various viewpoints. Almost immediately, same sex couples began suing Christian bakers, florists and other vendors who chose not to participate in celebrating weddings that violated Scripture’s definition of marriage. Some of those vendors have lost their businesses as a result.

I was not surprised.

Along those lines, I realized that having Google host a free blog invited censorship because I write boldly from a Biblical perspective. In so doing, I firmly state that homosexuality is sin. I also firmly state that salvation cannot occur apart from repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Such statements, of course, violate the liberal positions that Google officials hold. And, since Google essentially owned my old blog, they would have the legal right to shut it down because of my Christian stand.

Technically, WordPress could probably do the same, but the fact that I pay for it may delay the termination. I hope.

I’m sure some people think I made a knee-jerk reaction in leaving Blogspot.com. Until yesterday, I could have been persuaded that perhaps I did. Perhaps I sunk all that money into WordPress needlessly. But yesterday, YouTube (which Google owns) issued their new policy for combating hate speech and terrorism.

Like many Christians, I found the following section of the new policy disturbing:

Youtube policy change
Borrowed from James White’s Twitter feed

Obviously, Christians should consider this clause a warning that we will eventually be shut out from the Internet if we dare to proclaim Biblical principles. Compared to the persecution Christians endure in other countries, this is mild, I admit. But it does limit our ability to use social media to advance the Gospel and equip Christians in discernment ministry.

Yet Google can’t prevent us from spreading God’s Word. Christians proclaimed it for 2,000 years before the Internet, and we’ll continue to proclaim it long after Google, Facebook and Twitter block us. So let’s use social media as long as we can to declare the Gospel and prepare for the opportunities God will give us once we lose our online privileges. No matter what, we can trust His faithfulness.

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Emotional Abuse, Divorce And Why I’ve Remained Silent About Them

Dear DebbieLynneA couple of years ago, a lady initiated an email correspondence with me. She suffered from an emotionally abusive marriage, and desperately wanted me to affirm her in seeking a divorce. More than that, she wanted me to blog about women in abusive marriages, presumably advocating for divorce in such circumstances.

I could do neither. Since that correspondence, however, I’ve often thought about the problem of emotionally abusive marriages. As someone who blogs as a ministry to other women, I sometimes wonder if perhaps people expect me to address this important issue. So today I want to offer some loosely organized reasons that I don’t believe I’m qualified to write much on this subject.

Of course I felt sad for the lady. Emotional abuse is terrible, and nobody should have to endure that sort of suffering. I really wanted to agree that God would bless her decision to abandon the marriage, especially as her emails overflowed with painful feelings of frustration and entrapment. Sadly, my understanding of Scripture doesn’t allow me to support divorce for any reasons other than adultery or abandonment.

Could I be too legalistic in how I interpret Scriptures on the topic of divorce? Yes, I absolutely could! I can see, based on commentaries and articles that I’ve read, the possibility of wider latitude in the application of the passages on divorce. Indeed, a desire to show compassion draws me to embrace that wider latitude.

The very fact that God has given me a godly husband and a happy marriage makes it difficult for me to identify with women who suffer through abusive marriages. Coming to terms with the disparity between myself and these hurting women challenges me to exercise humility. Since I don’t go through the type of suffering that they do, wouldn’t compassion dictate that I support their decisions to escape abusive marriages?

Yet if compassion would have me accept a relaxed interpretation of Scriptures concerning divorce, shouldn’t that same compassion lead me to soften my stance on same sex marriage? Why should a Christian who experiences same sex attractions be consigned to a lifetime of either marriage without real sexual satisfaction or celibacy? Wouldn’t either of those options constitute emotional abuse?

Compassion must flow from Christians, leading us to comfort people who suffer. I understand that principle. At the same time, compassion can’t permit us to water down God’s Word, even when God’s Word demands painful sacrifices from those we want to comfort.

The woman who emailed me  about her marriage. while she was genuinely hurting, could only give me the story from her perspective. Understand, I’m  by no means accusing her of lying. She presented the facts from her point of view, which is all anybody can do. But I hadn’t heard her husband’s version of the story, nor had I heard her pastor explain why he counseled her to remain in the marriage. I could have allowed a misguided sense of compassion to undermine appropriate Biblical advice, all because I couldn’t see all sides of her situation.

Perhaps God’s Word does make provision for abused spouses to end their marriages. I’ve read articles on both sides of the issue, and have concluded that I don’t have enough understanding to address the matter Scripturally. I’m sorry for ladies like the one who emailed me, but until I feel confident that I rightly understand the Bible about this subject, I’d rather write about subjects I actually do understand.

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After Two Years, The TULIP Maintains Its Mission

cropped-cropped-tulip-header12.jpgYesterday marked the second anniversary of The Outspoken TULIP. I’d blogged for nine years prior at the now deleted The Things That Come Out Of My Head on Blogspot.com, but the Obergefell decision legalizing same sex marriage left me wondering when Google would pull the plug in retaliation for my politically incorrect views. I figured paying for a WordPress blog might prolong the time I’d have before censorship silenced me.

Additionally, I wanted a more focused blog that would consistently draw attention to the Lord Jesus Christ rather than to my aimless musings or my digital art skills. Time to proclaim the Gospel and disciple younger women through the Internet is growing desperately short, making me less willing to blog for the sake of blogging.

The discipline of producing almost daily articles with solid doctrinal content (as opposed to narratives of my excursions into Boston, childhood memories and progressive views of my digital art projects interspersed with essays about Christianity) has proved more demanding than I anticipated. The demands surprised me because I’d been blogging on a similar schedule for three or four years with my previous blog. Until I started The Outspoken TULIP, I hadn’t realized how much of my blogging was mere fluff.

But if The Outspoken TULIP is more demanding, it’s also more gratifying. Although I’m not as erudite as many other bloggers in my niche, and my readership remains comparatively small, I love knowing that the Lord is the central Person of this blog. If my audience remains small, He still sovereignly reaches the ladies He wants to reach through my writing. I don’t get much feedback, which is probably just as well, but I trust that my investment in blogging honors Him.

I believe evangelicals of the 21st Century have by and large lost the sense that God has saved us for His honor and glory. As we’ve incorporated Charismatic teaching and psychological principles into our weakened version of Christianity, we’ve accepted the mistaken idea that God exists to heal our bodies, expand our bank accounts, make our marriages satisfying and remove all temptation from us. We conveniently forget why He calls us to Him in the first place.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~~1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

Anyone can blog about the wonderful history of Boston. Plenty of digital artists can blog about their creations and explain the various techniques they use. But since the Lord has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light, shouldn’t I praise Him by using this blog to proclaim His excellencies? Sure, it demands a lot more thought and prayer, as well as the physical work of typing with a headstick and researching the Protestant Reformation, but if Christ allows me to honor Him through this little blog, I welcome this third year of The Outspoken TULIP! To God be the glory!

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Saturday Sampler: July 9 — July 15

Heart Sampler 02Let’s begin this week’s edition of Saturday Sampler with An explanation of Martin Luther and the Reformation for children (and adults can watch, too!) courtesy of Tom and his excatholic4christ blog. Tom features a charming (and surprisingly accurate) animated video using Playmobile figurines to tell the story of Luther. Even if you think history is boring, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this video and Tom’s remarks.

Studying the Bible should change us as we apply what we’ve learned. Sometimes, though, we don’t  quite know how to make the application. Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word writes Make Your Bible Application Stick to provide helpful tips.

Celebrating a milestone in his blogging career, Tim Challies offers advice to his fellow bloggers in 5,000 Days. Whether you’re just starting to blog or you’ve blogged for several years, you will definitely learn something from Tim’s wealth of experience. And Tim, if you read this paragraph via pingback, congratulations on having produced 5,000 blog posts!

Prayer is difficult, especially when we don’t see immediate results. Praise the Lord for Elizabeth Prata’s encouraging article, Heaven is a busy place in The End Time. I appreciate the wonderful glimpse of the heavenly realm in reference to prayer that Elizabeth opens to us in her essay. I think you might also find it exciting.

Five “Fake News” Stories That People Believe about Early Christianity by Michael J. Krueger of Canon Fodder corrects common arguments refuting the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. I hope people who dismiss the importance of church history will read this piece and consider that knowing the past can help us correct flawed thinking in unbelievers.

The doctrine of the Trinity fascinates me. Sadly, I seldom write about it. While I certainly should change my silence on this wonderful topic, Jeanie Layne introduces it brilliantly in The Mysterious Trinity and Why It Matters, which appears in For The Church. Her work challenges me to devote more blog time to writing about God’s triune nature.

Readers of The Message paraphrase should read Denny Burk’s informative post, Eugene Peterson will always exist. I’m not totally surprised by this revelation about Peterson, but it intensifies my belief that Christians should not read The Message as their Bible. You’ll also want to read Burk’s follow-up article On Eugene Peterson’s Retraction.

In his piece for Parking Space 23, Jason Vaughn writes Sex as a Biblical overview of the Lord’s intention for this special activity between husband and wife. It’s a lengthy read, but well worth the time.

For those who believe that Calvinists don’t support evangelism and/or missions, please go to 5 Minutes in Church History and read Calvin & Missions. This transcript of Stephen Nichols’ interview with Michael Haykin dispels the widespread characterization of Reformed Christians by explaining John Calvin’s passion to bring the Gospel to lost people.

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My Messy Life Isn’t The Point (Even If It Means You’ll Have Cheesecake With Me)

44cb0-cross2bof2bgloryAuthenticity is apparently the latest evangelical craze, especially among women. When a blogger or teacher lets us see her “messy” life, she appears more approachable. Just like us, she has struggles with sin. What a relief!

The Bible unabashedly records the flaws of men and women commended as heroes of the faith. From Sarah and Abraham exploiting Hagar to the apostle Peter hypocritically reverting to Jewish legalism, otherwise strong believers in Sacred Text demonstrate the propensity toward sin that all humans possess. The most poignant example comes from none other than the apostle Paul:

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. ~~Romans 7:13-20 (ESV)

Certainly, no teacher or blogger should give the impression that they’ve somehow risen above the temptations that “normal” Christians face. Doing so undermines the Gospel by insinuating that we can reach a point of trusting in our own righteousness!

At the same time, we can use “authenticity” as an excuse to showcase ourselves, rather than directing attention to the Lord Jesus Christ. An overemphasis on revealing our sins and weaknesses may really be a calculated attempt to attract followers. And certainly it denotes a preoccupation with self in place of adoring God and proclaiming His excellencies.

Two years ago, I discontinued a blog that, while it referred to Christ in almost every post, basically revolved around me. The Lord convicted me of my narcissism, leading me to start The Outspoken TULIP to focus women on Christ.

As our country moves toward persecution against Bible-believing Christians, we need less encouragement to feel better about our shortcomings. When bloggers and teachers prattle on and on about their “messy” lives, they subtly lull us into feeling better about ourselves instead of helping us recognize our need for Christ. He recedes into the background while the teacher or blogger assures us that we could have a gabfest with her over coffee and (if I’m involved) cheesecake.

As much as I want to make myself approachable, however, I’m more concerned with drawing my readers to Christ. Even more, I want this blog to honor Him, regardless of how readers feel about me.  I’ll gladly confess my sins when appropriate, and I definitely don’t want anyone thinking I’ve got it all together. But if this blog degenerates into something about me, it wastes my time and yours. Jesus Christ is the Person Who matters.

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Sweet Apples Rot Quickly, And Other Consequences Of Promoting My Blog

Rainbow HeartMy vanity got the better of me yesterday. For months, I’ve been praying about whether or not I should try to promote this blog. Part of me knew I needed to be content with a small readership base. In fact, earlier this week, I finally decided not to pursue any more avenues of publicizing it. I would trust God’s sovereignty to bring my articles to the women He wanted them to reach.

Then yesterday morning I received a message from a woman who administrates a website for writers. She’d read my article, Transforming America, and claimed to “love” it. Further, she asked my permission to cross-post it on her site, explaining that she desires a diversity of viewpoints.

Glancing at the articles already posted on her site, I noticed that they overwhelmingly represented liberal perspectives. “Maybe,” I told myself, “she wants my article in order to bring balance to her site.” Her complements on my writing skills felt so good! And I thrilled at the thought of more people finding The Outspoken TULIP!

So, like Eve in the garden, I bit into the fruit. I allowed her to cross-post my article. All afternoon, I savored the sweet taste of drawing readers to my blog, of course convincing myself that I wanted more people to read the Gospel.

I finished yesterday’s blog post late yesterday, so I couldn’t check email until late. But my in-box had several notifications of comments on my article. Obviously, I expected some negative comments, but surely they would engage intelligently with my content.

Instead, I encountered an onslaught of personal attacks including a very hurtful remark regarding my profile picture. Honestly, the experience reminded me of 7th Grade. I’ll spare you further details, except to say that the administrator (who so eagerly answered my emails yesterday) now seems a lot less happy to send responses today.

I wonder if she wanted my article in order to take me down a peg. I realize that’s only speculation, and that only the Lord can judge her motives. Even John, who normally sees the best in everyone, has expressed some cynicism, though.

Although the Lord used this unpleasant episode to convict me of my vanity, He also used it to encourage me. Yes, I know that seems odd. But consider the message of the blog post she put on her website. That article focused on the fact that Christians should expect animosity from the world. The more I’ve thought about the vitriolic reactions of the commenters on that website, the more amused I am that they inadvertently proved the very point I wanted to make.

Being human, I don’t particularly enjoy people making fun of me. But the humiliation I’ve endured, besides confronting me with my pride and selfish ambition, gives me an opportunity to rejoice.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~~Matthew 5:11-12 (ESV)

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