Saturday Sampler: January 14 — January 20

Bell Sampler

The age of feminism seduces Christian women into thinking we have to perform monumental tasks for God, according to Elizabeth Prata of The End Time. She writes Ladies, no job is too menial and no sphere is to small to make a huge difference as an encouragement to those of us who feel unnoticed and obscure.

To help us understand the importance of patience, Clint Archer posts Waiting for God? Oh. in The Cripplegate. The English major in me appreciates Archer’s allusion to the play, Waiting for Godot, but I appreciate even more the Biblical application he brings out in this devotional piece. Each of us should take this message to heart.

What do you think The Easiest Sin to Justify is? I used to justify this one all the time, so I believe Tim Challies hits the nail on the head. See if you agree.

Once again, Leslie A of Growing 4 Life graces us with her wisdom in Do I Need a Special Experience in Order to Know God? It’s shameful that evangelicals still need teaching on this matter, but praise the Lord for people like Leslie who continually proclaim the truth and remain faithful to Scripture!

If, like me, you wondered if Hollywood’s protest against sexual harassment at the Golden Globes was disingenuous, Brett McCracken’s Will #MeToo Cause Hollywood to Rethink its Views on Sex in The Gospel Coalition Blog will confirm your suspicions. But it doesn’t just throw stones at the entertainment industry; it also challenges Christians to accept responsibility.

Guest posting for Unlocking the Bible rather than her own blog, Lara d’Entremont addresses the typical decline in maintaining New Year’s resolutions her article, Change of Plan: To Change Every Day. She strikes at the heart of Christian living, using Scripture to illustrate the practical principles she proposes.

Although Michelle Lesley repeats Answering the Opposition – Responses to the Most Frequently Raised Discernment Objections in Discipleship for Christian Women, reading it again sure doesn’t hurt! So many of the objections she addresses betray a lack of properly understanding Scripture in its context. This issue accentuates the critical importance of knowing God’s Word thoroughly.

Al Mohler’s article, Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is), raises a point that all too often gets overlooked. Praise God that Mohler brings it to our attention, handling it with balance and fidelity to Scripture.

Quoting the heartbreaking experience of a feminist who aborted her baby, Denny Burk writes A feminist describes her abortion… and sadness to remind us that the unborn aren’t the only victims of this horrible practice. What a needless tragedy.

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Dividing From Sound Doctrine

Watch Out

Last night I listened to a sermon given at a Charismatic church. The curious mixture of references to “anointing”and allusions to low self-esteem had me looking for a wall to bang my head against. And the pastor inverted the Scriptural narrative (which he admitted to paraphrasing rather than reading), totally misapplying it to his congregation. He concluded by having everyone leave their seats to come forward to receive prayer and to have members of the prayer team anoint them with oil.

Thirty years ago, I would have scolded myself for feeling uncomfortable with the situation and then I would have submitted to the prayer team.  I would have assumed that my misgivings resulted from rebellion against the Holy Spirit and His work. In short, I  would have caved into peer pressure.

Churches like that depend on peer pressure. They may allow a certain amount of questioning behind closed doors, but they view open dissent as divisiveness.

Interestingly, Scripture’s warnings against divisiveness target those who deviate from sound doctrine, not those who speak out against aberrant teaching and practices.

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. ~~Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)

Today, I would leave the room while everyone else went up for prayer. If anyone asked my reasons, I’d explain each of my objections to the sermon, showing why it deviated from God’s Word. Next, I’d meet with church leadership and show them the problems with the sermon. Then I’d start praying for a new church home.

Sadly, Charismatic churches will only grow worse as time progresses, and they will utilize peer pressure to prevent anyone from challenging them on the basis of Scripture. Yet their influence, fueled largely by promising to help people understand how special God thinks they are, now creeps into non-Charismatic churches, opening people up to mysticism and experience based spirituality.

Right now, I’m disgusted with this shoddy approach to Christianity. Some people in Charismatic churches may be genuinely saved. I’d go so far as to say that some Charismatic pastors may be genuinely saved. But the system, with its promises of self-esteem and anointing, locks people in to the deception and keeps them trapped through peer pressure.

Christians, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to get good teaching to Charismatics so that His Word will free them from the real divisiveness. No Christian should be divided from the correct teaching of God’s Word and made to participate in silly shows like filling before prayer teams to be anointed with oil. We need to know the Bible well enough to identify such foolishness and to openly reject it.

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White, Brown And Muddy Waters

Questions

Are you waiting for me to come out with an article about James White interviewing Michael Brown? If you follow me on Twitter, you know I have partially formed opinions on the matter, and that one or two of those opinions have a certain amount of  validity. You’ll also know that some Tweets from other ladies have forced me to reconsider some of my positions.

I’m trying to listen to all sides of this issue, mostly because John and I really like James White and want to believe his critics are categorically wrong 100% of this time. Maybe that’s idolizing Dr. White. Maybe, however, it’s because Dr. White  seems (at least to me — I’m not speaking for John here) to have a “you’re either with me or against me” mentality. At any rate, the whole situation leaves me struggling with whether or not I have very developed discernment.

Michael Brown, from my studies of him, shouldn’t be trusted. He may be genuinely saved, just as I believe I was genuinely saved when I was a Charismatic, but he tends to say what people want to hear in any given situation. As learned as he is in some areas (such as Hebrew texts), his claims of not researching Benny Hinn or Bill Johnson make me wonder if he’s qualified to defend Charismatic teaching. In a nutshell,  I don’t think Dr. Brown has a great deal of credibility.  (See this article by an Assemblies Of God pastor.)

My confusion is less about Michael Brown’s credibility than it is about James White’s willingness to partner with him. And on this point, waters are a great deal muddier than anyone wants to admit.

On the one hand, public personalities need to be very careful. Suppose, for example, that I found a Tweet by Beth Moore that, taken in isolation, actually communicated a Biblical principle (hey, it could happen). Suppose further that her Tweet reinforced something I felt strongly about. Even though I’d have right motives in retweeting Mrs. Moore’s words, people might mistake my retweet as tacit endorsement of Beth Moore. Particularly if they hadn’t read my many blog posts pointing out her false teaching!

Similarly, not everyone has watched the debates between James White and Michael Brown. Frankly, I haven’t, though I know they’ve debated several times. People who don’t realize that these men have debated might mistakenly assume that White is now giving Brown a pass on some very troubling issues. Indeed, people who are intent on destroying James White have been using Michael Brown as a weapon to undermine White’s ministry. For that reason I believe White would do well not to partner with Brown in an upcoming debate they plan (they’ll be debating as a team against two other men). I think their collaboration, at this moment in time, could cause a lot of people to stumble in a lot of ways.

On the other hand, it isn’t good to implicitly demand that James White declare Michael Brown a heretic, as some “discernment bloggers” are doing. Yes, Michael Brown teaches some serious error, but only the Lord really knows whether or not he’s genuinely saved. James White considers him a brother just as I consider friends from my Charismatic church back in California to be brothers and sisters in Christ.

What gives anyone the right to discredit James White on the basis of his friendship with Michael Brown? Perhaps White could be more circumspect in how he publicly conducts their friendship, but the mere fact that they’re friends shouldn’t mean that we should distrust his commitment to Reformed Theology.

Round and round the thoughts swirl in my head, causing me to doubt my discernment abilities. I want to keep listening. I also want to pray for Michael Brown to come out of Charismatic deception, and for James White to exercise more wisdom. May they both silence White’s critics.

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Insisting That God Speaks Apart From His Word

God's MegaphoneStarting off the New Year with an intestinal bug that results in minor (but headache inducing) dehydration sorta makes blog post ideas fly out the window, ya know? So now I sit at my computer keyboard, scrambling to recall the great ideas I had during a couple separate but loosely related Twitter debates I engaged in over the weekend.

I know — arguing on Twitter accomplishes little. The utter frustration probably lowered my resistance to the stomach ailment that decimated my yesterday, and I certainly didn’t persuade either of my opponents to rethink their positions.

Both conversations centered on the sufficiency of Scripture, with my opponents vigorously objecting to the proposition that God now speaks exclusively through the Bible. Both people claim to be Christians. And maybe they are, just as I was during the years I subscribed to Charismatic theology. I don’t  believe I can judge the genuineness of their salvation based on brief Twitter exchanges. But I do find it disturbing that people who profess to be Christians demonstrate such hostility to the statement that God speaks exclusively through the pages of the Bible.

One of them admitted that she wanted more than God’s Word offers.

Certainly, Scripture does seem limited sometimes. When we face major decisions or suffer heart rending tragedy, we want God to whip out His megaphone and speak directly to us. After all, He spoke personally to people in the Bible. Just this morning, as a matter of fact, I read several conversations He had with Abraham. If He spoke directly to Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, why shouldn’t He speak directly to us?

Answering that question would require multiple blog posts. And writing even one such post when I still feel tired from yesterday’s tussle with whatever bug assailed me really doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. It’s a valid question that deserves a thoughtful answer. I’d prefer to approach it when I feel healthier.

I would, however, like to address my dismay that so many evangelicals in our day do expect direct revelations from God. This expectation no longer confines itself to Charismatic circles, which further distresses me. We’ve forgotten that the Holy Spirit gives us everything we need through His Word.

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 3:16-17 (ESV)

“That the man of God may be complete,” it says. Doesn’t that phrase imply that we don’t need mystical experiences or extrabiblical words from God?

Although the Church faces threats from those outside its walls, it faces even greater threat from false teachings within those walls. And every one of those false teachings in some sense challenge the sufficiency of Scripture. Consequently, we have a responsibility to stand firmly on the knowledge that we have everything we need in the Word of God. Applying His Word to our individual circumstances admittedly takes patient study, but the Lord will faithfully use it to teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness. What more could we possibly need?

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Saturday Sampler: December 10 — December 16

Snowmen Sampler

SharaC, who blogs at Into the Foolishness of God already looks forward to the new year in her article, Cheers To The Simple Things. She has a fresh alternative to those pesky New Years Resolutions that none of us keep anyway.

How much do you know about pearls? The End Time author Elizabeth Prata shows us their value in New Testament times, as well as why they held such high value, in her magnificent essay, Pearls in the New Testament. Not only does Elizabeth inform us, but she fills us with wonder at God’s intricacies.

I’ve got to agree with Tim Challies as he identities the 5 Most Ridiculous Books to Ever Become Christian Bestsellers. Whether you watch the short video or read the transcript, you’ll see clear examples of discernment as Challies examines these popular, but woefully unbiblical, pieces of evangelical literature.

Pope Francis, eager to protect God’s reputation (doncha know), wants to change the English translation of The Lord’s Prayer from “lead us not into temptation” to “do not let us fall into temptation.” Denny Burk writes Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer? to raise the possibility that the pope’s modification may actually undercut confidence in the sovereignty of God.

In a study of Romans 12:1-2, Judy Allen gives us A Lesson from Paul on Transformation on the Unlocking the Bible blog. Her brief, but comprehensive, study takes the mysticism out of God’s transforming work in Christians.

Erin Benziger’s series on “acceptable” sins in Do Not Be Surprised has certainly convicted me! Now she concludes it with The Cure for ‘Acceptable’ Sins by directing us back to the reasons for God’s grace and His wonderful ability to transform us. If you’ve read any articles in this outstanding series, please avail yourself of this capstone piece.

Growing 4 Life by Leslie A. always delivers gems such as Enjoying the Ride. Leslie narrates her recent misadventure of a family outing (what could go wrong looking at Christmas lights?), and finds a splendid application to remind us of God’s sovereignty.

Although I’m still in the process of vetting Fred Deruvo, I’ve pretty much agreed with his articles on his Study – Grow – Know blog. In Knowing God’s Will: Focusing on God or Satan?, Deruvo discusses the practice of deliverance ministry from a Biblical perspective. His insights are so needed in today’s evangelical circles.

Evangelicals, and particularly Reformed evangelicals, are grieving the loss of R.C. Sproul this past Thursday. At the same time, we rejoice that Dr. Sproul is in the Lord’s presence. Naturally, many people are publishing tributes to him on the Internet. I can’t begin to read them all, but I hope you’ll read John MacArthur’s post, R.C. Sproul, on the Grace To You blog.

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Holiness Is Anything But Casual

Awful Glory

Holiness carries connotations of stuffiness. Typically it conjures up images of dour old spinsters sanctimoniously reading their King James Bibles as they pass judgment on anyone who tries to enjoy life. Not exactly appealing, even to the best of us.

Generally, we don’t like thinking too seriously about God’s holiness either. We don’t mind singing popular praise songs that mention it, mind you. We just prefer not to delve deeply into its implications.  That reluctance comes, in large part, from instinctively sensing that facing His holiness inevitability means confronting our unholiness.

Indeed, the prophet Isaiah had an encounter with God’s holiness that completely devastated him.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” ~~Isaiah 6:1-4 (ESV)

How different Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord was from 21st Century claims of God appearing to people in visions or speaking to them. The accounts I’ve heard, even of God supposedly speaking personally to them, rarely included remarks of wonder at His presence, and almost never mentioned any conviction of sin. In fact, they usually expressed a casual attitude, practically ignoring His holiness altogether.

In reality, the Lord’s holy nature should cause us to tremble!

Think about the apostle John, who had such a deep friendship with Jesus during the Lord’s earthly ministry that he laid his head on Jesus’ chest. 70 years later this faithful man saw Christ in all His glory.

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. ~~Revelation 1:12-17a (ESV)

John’s personal friendship with Jesus did not negate his sense of awe at being exposed to Christ’s unvarnished holiness and glory. There was nothing casual about it. Like Isaiah centuries earlier, John was overwhelmed by the Lord’s holiness.

God’s glory and holiness have a power and beauty that few men could handle. Only in our resurrected bodies will we be able to withstand such magnificence. And even then, I wonder if, like the holy angels in the Temple with Isaiah, we’ll cover or faces because of the brilliance of His holiness.

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Saturday Sampler: November 26 — December 2

Flower mask sampler

Oh, praise the Lord for people like Elizabeth Prata who stand firmly on the Word of God! Her essay, Michael did not rebuke Satan in The End Time, needs to get into the hands of so many evangelicals and (especially) Charismatics who presume to command Satan and his demons! Once you read this superb post, I beg you to share it as widely as you possibly can.

The holiday crunch has officially begun, and Ryan Higginbottom of Knowable Word acknowledges that sometimes our time with God’s Word suffers as a result of the busy pace of the season. He writes How to Prevent a Spiritually Dry December to help ensure that we have sufficient Bible intake in the midst of our celebrating.

Doing a devotional study on Psalm 117, Josh Parsons assures us that God is Worthy of Your “Wow” in Unlocking the Bible. His piece will inspire you to worship throughout your day by reminding you how wonderful the Lord really is.

There are  certainly occasions when leaving a church becomes necessary. Yet  Eric Davis, in his post for The Cripplegate, provides suggestions for godly responses When Your Church Disappoints. And really,  every church will eventually disappoint us, no matter how faithful it is to  Scripture. Again,  however, sometimes the Lord does lead us to leave a church. Davis simply presents ideas to try before we call it quits.

Phil Newton, in an article for Founders Ministries, lists several ways that we can assist our pastors as they preach God’s Word each Sunday. The Congregation and the Pulpit encourages us to participate in this centerpiece of Christian worship.

Are you enjoying Erin Benziger’s series on acceptable sins in Do Not Be Surprised? Her latest installment, Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worldliness, strikes a good balance between “being in the world and not of it.” The entire series challenges us towards personal holiness in areas we frequently ignore. If you haven’t been reading it, set aside time to do so.

I couldn’t agree more! Prompted by yet another firing of a celebrity for sexual misconduct, Growing 4 Life author Leslie A. lists Four Ways to Love Our Men as they struggle to remain pure in a culture saturated by sex. Ladies, we have a responsibility in helping our brothers in Christ.

Another creative and insightful blog post rolls off Michelle Lesley’s keyboard. A Pox Upon Our House: Three Chronic Diseases Plaguing Women’s Ministry all too accurately diagnoses service ailments affecting the spiritual health of women. Ladies, this article underscores my reasons for constantly calling you back to God’s Word.

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