How You — Yes,You! — Can Be A Woman Of Discernment

Purple Tulip

For all our public denunciations of discernment blogs (many of which actually deserve to be denounced), we feel a certain desire to be women of discernment. As well we should! John MacArthur famously says that the greatest problem in the evangelical church today is the lack of discernment.

According to my blog stats, most of you like reading my articles about discernment, especially if I zero in on popular false teachers. Anything with Beth Moore’s name in the title is practically guaranteed to Continue reading

There’s Suffering, And Then There’s Suffering For The Gospel

Young Lady 01My Cerebral Palsy naturally drew me to the various Bible verses on suffering when I was young. And my friends often read those verses to me during times of frustration and discouragement. Ministries to people with disabilities characteristically use those verses in their books and seminars.

A few of the Scriptures used in ministering to the disabled (and others who experience profound suffering) actually do apply to such situations. Please understand that I support using them when we can do so without violating their context. Hurting people need assurance that God cares about their struggles. That He has a purpose in allowing them to suffer.  Certainly, using God’s Word to extend comfort and encouragement must never be overlooked or disdained.

But lately I’ve been thinking about how often evangelicals focus those Scriptures on the types of suffering that don’t really discriminate between Christians and non-Christians. Many non-Christians sit in wheelchairs, go through divorces, bury loved ones and lose jobs just before the holidays. Yet God’s promises don’t apply to them.

You see, most of the New Testament Scriptures about suffering address a particular type of suffering. They specifically target suffering persecution for the sake of the Gospel.

Let me offer an example of a passage I often turned to for comfort when I was young.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~~1 Peter 1:6-7 (ESV)

I grabbed on to the phrase, “various trials,” quite confident that Cerebral Palsy fell somewhere under that umbrella. I appropriated that promise with gusto! Clearly, the Lord would reward me, simply because I spent my life in a wheelchair, right?

Wrong!

When you read 1 Peter in its entirety, you find that he wrote this letter to persecuted Christians who suffered because of their stand for Jesus. They had been scattered throughout the known world, fleeing from those who would kill them for the crime of being Christians. Yet many of them still ended up in regions that were hostile to the Gospel — and therefore hostile to them.

Peter wrote his first letter to these beleaguered Christians, reminding them that they weren’t merely strangers in their adopted countries. They were also (and perhaps more profoundly) aliens to the world system that hated Christ. As such, they would most likely suffer persecution again.

1 Peter is really written as an encouragement to Christians on how to conduct themselves in environments that didn’t tolerate their commitment to Christ. In this context, the various trials he mentioned specifically referred the sufferings they endured for the Gospel.

As 21st Century culture grows in animosity toward Christ and those who represent Him, we must expect to suffer for Him. And it’s that suffering (rather than suffering because of disability, bereavement, divorce or job loss) that this passage addresses. Certainly, it applies to us. But let’s be sure to make the proper application.

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What You Think Doesn’t Matter, But It Matters That You Think

Twisting ScriptureLongtime readers have read this story before, but I want to tell it again in a slightly different context. In my freshman year of college, I took a Shakespeare class.

My Shakespeare professor scowled as I told him what the passage he’d set before our class meant to me personally. He found my comment entirely too subjective, and therefore not acceptable in the context of scholarly discussion. I tried to appeal to a 1974 mindset by explaining that my Bible Study group used that method to interpret Scripture, but he wouldn’t consider such a perspective. “What matters is not what what the passage says to you,” he explained, “but what Shakespeare intended when he wrote the play.”

That incident sobered me, teaching me one of the most important lessons in my Christian life. All too often, professing Christians read the Bible with the expectation that they can arrive at a personal, subjective interpretation. Just as I showed disrespect to Shakespeare by presuming that I could make his plays and sonnets say whatever I imagined them to say, so we show disrespect to the Holy Spirit by conforming His Word to our personal experiences and biases.

What you and I think Scripture says to us personally may be vastly different from what the Lord intended when His Spirit inspired the Old and New Testament writers to record His Word. We dare not treat it like a piece of putty that we can stretch and mold according to our preferences and ideas.

19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~~2 Peter 1:19-21 (ESV)

So, interpreting God’s Word isn’t determined by our subjective thoughts and opinions. What we think it says must be subordinated to what the Holy Spirit purposes it to mean.

Having said that, reading and obeying the Bible requires us to think Biblically. Rather than viewing verses as isolated fragments, we need understand Scripture as a whole. Interpreting Scripture, it turns out, takes the same kind of analytical thought that I learned to utilize in studying literature and art.

My Shakespeare professor taught me to analyze a play’s passage by examining its use of language, its historical context and (more importantly) to the context of the play itself. Additionally, it helped to study how people used certain words in 16th Century England, as well as knowing some biographical information about The Bard himself. Finally, familiarity with literary history offered insight.

Understanding Shakespeare’s intent, in other words, took work. But it could be done. And I had to do the same work in studying Homer, Virgil, Malory, Chaucer, Donne, Byron, Browning, Frost and all the writers in between. In art history, I had to do the same with Leonardo, Michelangelo and Carravargio.

How much more should Christians study Scripture in order to understand what the Lord says through it. Engaging our minds is mandatory in order to rightly understand God’s Word. As I’ll show you in my next blog post, however, a large number of evangelicals fail to use their minds in talking about God.

Imposing your opinions on Scripture is infinitely worse than imposing them on a few Shakespearean couplets. But perhaps we make such impositions precisely because we don’t bother to think carefully about what we read. It doesn’t matter what we think any given verse means to us personally,  but it matters a great deal that we think carefully about what God’s Word really means.

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Saturday Sampler: October 14 — October 20

Autumn Leaves Sampler

Clint Archer of The Cripplegate answers the question,  How is God the Savior of all people? (in 500 words). This article helps those of us who are challenged for embracing Reformed Theology.

I haven’t fully vetted the Spirit Of Error website, but Holly Pivec’s ‘Eat the meat and spit out the bones’: A proper response to NAR teaching? makes some excellent points. I especially like her closing milkshake analogy.

In Isaac’s Dilemma, Michael Coughlan of Things Above Us writes about a young man he encountered while doing open air evangelism. What Michael shares warrants our attention for a variety of reasons.

On his Delivered By Grace blog (which I don’t read often enough), Josh Buice examines The Rise in Women Preachers and What You Should Know. As Bible-believing Christians,  we should be aware of this trend. And we should be troubled.

Adapting a commentary by the late R.C. Sproul, the Ligonier blog examines the question, Where Does Ultimate Authority Lie? I particularly appreciate the brief explanation of hermeneutics and proper Bible interpretation.

You might want to read Unaware of Our Slavery, which Laura Lundgrin posts on the Servants of Grace blog to help us realize the danger of entertaining temptation. She lets us see why even the most gentle princess shouldn’t presume that she can tame a baby dragon.

If you’ve been following the Social Justice Movement among evangelicals, you may want to go over to Pyromaniacs and read What Did Jesus Say about “Social Justice?” by Colin Eakin. He demonstrates that Scripture is remarkably clear on the topic.

An incident with one of her employees led Leslie A of Growing 4 Life to write Are You Mowing the Wrong Lawn? In this short, entertaining post, she shows us the best means of determining whether or not we’ve been exposed to false teaching.

Want some excitement in your personal Bible study? Peter Krol’s article, What to Do When the New Testament Quotes the Old Testament in Knowable Word, certainly delivers a thrilling concept for better understanding how God’s Word works as a whole. I’m definitely looking forward to putting his principles into practice!

Australia has followed the United States in legalizing same sex marriage, and it’s experiencing the same terrible consequences. In Let’s Rip The Band-Aid Off Quickly, Stephen McAlpine alerts us to the disastrous fallout caused by the normalization of homosexuality.

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Flashback Friday: Twisting Matthew 18:15 To Make Sin Acceptable

Originally published April 26, 2016.

Twisting ScriptureSeveral years ago, a personal friend of mine began a very public journey away from biblical Christianity. Claiming to still be a Christian, he adopted a lifestyle that directly contradicted Scriptural principles and he encouraged others to follow his example. When I wrote a comment on his blog challenging his new theological positions, he chastized me for not approaching him privately first, in accordance with Matthew 18:15. Regrettably, I acquiesced to his demand that I confront him privately, because he twisted that very Scripture in an effort to avoid responsibility for his sinful choices.

Matthew 18:15-20 deals with restoring a transgressing brother or sister to fellowship within a local congregation.

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (ESV)

As Josh Buice recently wrote in his article, Matthew 18 and the Universal Church, there’s a difference between someone in one’s local church who sins privately and a person like my friend (who lives in another state) whose sin appears, not only in his blog, but also on television interviews and on other websites. The public display of his rebellion eliminates the need for private confrontation because his reputation doesn’t require protection.

I would add that my friend had already committed to his choices. Since Matthew 18:15-20 carries the goal of restoring a person to right relationship with God, it doesn’t really apply to someone who no longer accepts Biblical standards–especially when he or she publicly works to influence others to misinterpret Scripture in respect to that sin. When someone believes and teaches that their behavior meets with God’s approval, twisting the Word of God in order to justly their course of action, we can safely assume that they don’t honestly care about obedience to His Word.

Obviously commenting on my friend’s blog wasn’t going to bring him to repentance, but it could have made his readers think about the matter. Or I could have (and eventually did) written about him in my own blog, warning people against his error. Because he is somewhat of a public figure who writes openly about his lifestyle and beliefs, and because it’s highly unlikely that anyone will dissuade him from his sin unless the Lord miraculously intervenes, I need not talk to him privately before warning others about his false teaching.

I use my experience with him today as an example of how people use Matthew 18:15 out of context in order to silence those who expose their false teaching. Like my friend, they don’t really care about being corrected in a Biblical manner. They want to shame Bible-believing Christians into leaving them unchallenged.

Please be aware that someone who publicly disseminates false doctrine, particularly with the purpose of excusing sin and influencing people to embrace that sin must not be permitted to hide behind Matthew 18:15. Their public espousal of false teaching already demonstrates an unwillingness to repent. Just as they distort other Scriptures to their advantage, so they twist this verse. We need not play their game.

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According To Scripture: Study #13 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Sometimes God’s Word is so straightforward that we don’t need a great deal of help from commentaries to understand it. Verses 39-41 of 1 Corinthians 15 serve as a case in point. As I studied the passage this past week, I found that, when read in the context of the preceding verses, these three verses pretty much simply drive home Paul’s point that our resurrected bodies will be much different from the bodies we have now.

At the same time, proper Bible study demands that we avoid the temptation to skim over these verses as if they’re superfluous. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write them for a reason, and therefore we must cherish them as His Word.

So let’s look at the full passage, perhaps remembering what we discussed last Monday, and then make a few observations about today’s brief verses.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. ~~1 Corinthians 15:35-41 (ESV)

You’ll recall from last Monday that the scoffers referred to in verse 35 ask about the nature of resurrection bodies as a challenge, hoping to show that resurrection is ridiculous. But Paul responds by reasoning from God’s creation. Just as bodies of different species differ, and as stars and moons differ, so temporal and resurrection bodies differ.

The introduction of the word “flesh” in verse 39 emphasizes the physical aspect of resurrection, which some of the Corinthians (influenced by early Gnostic philosophies) denied. Jesus’ own bodily resurrection points to this reality. In Luke 24:39, for example, He presents Himself to the disciples and reminds them that spirits don’t have flesh and bone as He does. Philippians 3:21 insists that the Lord will transform our bodies to be like His. Clearly, such a transformation entails a physical body.

But as the flesh of different species varies, so our earthly bodies will be different from our resurrected bodies. Barnes appeals to the transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly; it’s all the same insect, but the butterfly is far different from the caterpillar! Paul doesn’t go there, but he certainly distinguishes between various types of flesh with the purpose of illustrating the distinction between the earthly body and the resurrection body.

This takes us to verse 40, where the argument moves from species to cosmology. Paul differentiates between earth and other bodies (planets and stars). Although people in the First Century obviously didn’t know about geological and atmospheric conditions, the Holy Spirit clearly inspired Paul to write this observation.

He furthers his argument in verse 41 by noting distinctions between heavenly bodies themselves. Considering that Paul wrote this epistle several centuries before the invention of telescopes and space exploration, I think his statement underscores the fact that he writes under direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. Only God knew, at that point in time, how stars and planets differed from each other. Yet He wanted Paul to include this example.

Believers Bible Commentary also indicates that this verse may suggest that we will retain our individuality even in our resurrected states. Although none of the other commentaries I read corroborated with this thought, it definitely deserves our consideration. I’d caution against being dogmatic about this possibility, however. Let’s stick with Paul’s main argument that our earthly bodies aren’t to be compared with the bodies we will receive at the resurrection.

Next Monday we will see how Paul ties these examples to the resurrection a bit more concretely. In the  meantime, if you have any questions, comments or observations, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Please don’t hesitate to use the Comments Section, The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page or Twitter to give your perspective.

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Saturday Sampler: September 23 — September 29

Birds Sampler

In her guest post for Biblical Counseling for Women, Svea Goertzen muses about a One Hit Wonder — The Impact of a Single Song to demonstrate how someone, even in the depths of suffering, can rejoice in the Gospel.

Visit Growing 4 Life to read Leslie A’s thoughts on “Wordless” Christianity. You’ll see why spending time in God’s Word is so vital to spiritual development.

I’m including Steven Kozar’s The Gigantic Problem Beneath the Really Big Problem a week late because I didn’t see it until this week. But I can’t emphasize strongly enough how crucial his point is in developing discernment through sound doctrine! Kozar’s blog, Messed Up Church, appears on the Pirate Christian Media website.

Unafraid  to write on a difficult topic, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time writes What about hell? I didn’t want to read it any more than you do, but willfully ignoring the reality of eternal damnation has eternal ramifications.

Elizabeth continues confronting us with unpopular truth with When Women Pastor. She stands against today’s cultural climate in favor of Biblical gender roles. She also draws an interesting connection between women as pastors and the rise of Pentecostal churches.

Since we get a double dose of Elizabeth Prata this week, why not also have a double dose of Leslie A? Her piece, What Determines Truth for You?, challenges us to continually examine our hearts.

Personally, I’m not a fan of tattoos. But neither am I a fan of misusing Scripture to support my distaste for them. Peter Krol’s post in Knowable Word, Context Matters: Your Body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit, provides excellent guidance on using 1 Corinthians 6:19 appropriately. So I’ll enjoy my cheesecake while those of you with tattoos enjoy them. Deal?

John Ellis, writing for adayinhiscourt (his personal blog), ruminates on #BelieveWomen Versus the Presumption of Innocence. His empathy for accusers and the accused alike encourages us to think Biblically instead of rushing to judgment.

What’s Behind the Social Justice Gospel-ers? Colin Eakin answers that question in his riveting essay for Pyromaniacs. His assessment couldn’t be more accurate! Ladies, I beg you to read this one.

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