Each morning Daddy struggled to put on my leg braces. In an effort to move my leg into position, my muscles would tense to the point of becoming rigid and all but impossible for him to get into the brace. When I explained that I just wanted to help, he’d bellow, “Quit helping me — you’re making it harder!” My seven-year-old mind reeled with confusion and hurt.
Then I’d be at the school for handicapped children, working on an arithmetic problem or an art project. The volunteer assisting me, out of the kindness of her heart (or maybe impatience to get the job done), would do just a little something that I could have done myself. Invariably, Mrs, G. (one of the aides that took care of our physical needs) would see the infraction and give me a big scolding for accepting unnecessary help.
So what was a seven-year-old to do? Should I obey Daddy or Mrs. G.? Was I supposed to relax and let able-bodied adults take over, or was I supposed to do whatever I could? I loved and wanted to please both these adults, and yet carrying over the principles one taught me seemed to violate the principles that the other taught. I tried to be obedient, but it was genuinely difficult to discern how they wanted me to behave.The two scenarios happened repeatedly, and neither adult had the slightest idea that I found their instructions contradictory.
At that age, I hadn’t yet been introduced to the concept of context.
But I am not writing about my childhood angst for the purpose of talking about myself, Rather, I want to use my experience to illustrate the importance of understanding things within their appropriate context. As adults, we chuckle at my childhood dilemma because we see that trying to help Daddy with my braces was vastly different from letting volunteers do things that Mrs. G. knew I needed to do for myself. Context should have shown me how to respond in each situation.
Michelle Lesley and Amy Spreeman host A Word Fitly Spoken, which is definitely my favorite Christian podcast for women. Every episode makes me think Biblically about the topics they cover, even on those rare occasions when I disagree with them. Ladies, even if podcasts aren’t your thing, please make an exception for this program. I promise that the Lord will minister to you through them!
A recent episode particularly challenged me regarding my struggle over how to warn people about false teachers and dangerous “Christian” practices within evangelical circles. The graphic below this paragraph contains a link to the episode in its tittle, and I encourage you to give it a listen.
In this episode, Michelle made the point that, no matter how nicely you try to call out error, people will always accuse you of being snarky, judgmental or hateful. She explained that many of her critics say that they agree with her statements, but object to her tone. When she traces their social media feeds, however, she often discovers that they actually disagree with her! She made the conclusion that they would find fault with her no matter how gently she makes her case.
Obviously, Christians must be as respectful as possible in confronting error. The Bible instructs us to present truth gently and with humility (1 Peter3:15). Being intentionally rude and offensive certainly doesn’t fails to display a Christlike character.
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.
Growing up in the 1960s, I had exposure to many occult and New Age influences. My mom, although she in some respects had turned away from her Christian Science upbringing, introduced me and my sister to horoscopes, Ouija boards and yoga. The liberal Presbyterian church (PCUSA, of course) encouraged my fascination with occult and paranormal phenomena. On a youth group ski trip the pastor’s daughter read our palms.
Very soon after that ski trip, the Lord graciously brought me to Himself, and within a few months He allowed people to confront my interest in astrology. Over the next few months He helped me renounce other forms of occult and New Age practices.
But readers of my Autobiography With Purpose series will recall that I attended Pentecostal and Charismatic churches for the first 31 years of my Christian life. True, after 18 years the Lord showed me that the sign gifts ceased when the Canon of Scripture was completed, but He let me remain in the church for several more years. Throughout those 31 years, I occasionally observed random incidents that reminded me of my occult past.
At the height of my embrace of Charismatic teaching, for instance, I read some books on inner healing to augment my ministry with Love In Action. One evening, as I poured over LeAnne Payne’s book, The Broken Image (which, just to be clear, I do not recommend), a close friend and co-worker came by my house to deliver stuff from the office. (I worked from home because the office was up two flights of stairs.) Instead of greeting him properly, I looked up from the book and complained, “A bunch of her stuff reminds me of the occult.”
It doesn’t seem possible that anyone who regularly reads The Outspoken TULIP would need an introduction to Michelle Lesley and her blog. Of all the women bloggers in Reformed circles, she is probably the best known. Celebrity status? Well, not quite. But hardly some obscure housewife with a meager following!
That said, I want to recommend MichelleLesley.com in this concluding article of my series on trustworthy women Bible teachers because she offers Biblical wisdom that few women receive. On the off-chance that you’ve actually never heard of her, I take pleasure in making her blog available to you.
I suspect most people regard Michelle as a discernment blogger because she frequently writes about popular evangelical teachers. In fact, just today she published an article evaluating Jen Wilkin, explaining her reasons for not recommending Wilkin. Over her years of blogging, Michelle has written about several teachers women should avoid. such as Beth Moore, Priscilla Shrier, Lysa TerKeurst and Christine Caine. Michelle makes it clear that she doesn’t have time to research every teacher thoroughly (her primary ministries are to her husband and children), but she definitely documents her findings quite well. Her website includes a list of Popular False Teachers and Unbiblical Trends, as well as a list of Recommended Bible Teachers.
Discernment is only one aspect of Michelle’s online ministry, however. Her overarching goal is to disciple women. She rightly asserts that discernment is just one element of Christian discipleship, not an end in itself. Therefore her blog covers a wide range of subjects, all related to the three umbrella areas of discernment (which I’ve already discussed), church involvement and Bible Study.
When people ask me about Beth Moore, I immediately refer them to Elizabeth Prata. In her blog, The End Time, Elizabeth has the most comprehensive collection of articles on Beth Moore that I have ever seen. A former investigative journalist, Elizabeth has carefully researched Moore from many different angles, and therefore has written and compiled critiques that cover her topic thoroughly. In my estimation, Elizabeth is the foremost authority on this false teacher.
But The End Time is about so much more than just Beth Moore. In addition to reporting on a variety of false teachers, Elizabeth also writes about Biblical prophesy and practical aspects of Christian living for women.
Elizabeth came to Christ relatively late in life (I believe she was in her 40’s), but she has grown in maturity remarkably fast. Her writing shows that maturity in both her theological knowledge and her tone. She is unapologetic in confronting error, as she should be! At the same time, she writes with grace and compassion toward women who find themselves caught in deception. To top it all off, she displays beautiful humility in her willingness to receive correction.
Several years ago, I stumbled across a blog that (to my knowledge) doesn’t get as much recognition as it deserves. Yet the lady who writes it consistently offers Biblical wisdom and discernment that challenges me to examine myself before the Lord. So I want to begin this series on recommended women bloggers and teachers by introducing you to Leslie A and her blog, Growing 4 Life.
Leslie shouldn’t be confused with Michelle Lesley, whom I plan to profile in a later article. Having said that, these two women have much in common, starting with their keen understanding of God’s Word and their desire to teach women how to apply it. Both firmly believe in the importance of Biblical discernment, and Leslie’s Learn to Discern series a few years ago provided excellent tools for developing discernment skills.
Discernment and an understanding of Scripture are essential to Christian growth. So Leslie, who runs a landscaping company with her husband, named her blog as both a homage to the landscaping industry and an encouragement to women as they grow in the Lord. As a result, she regularly challenges her readers to reject worldliness in favor of holiness.
In Revelation 2 and 3, the glorified Christ commissions the apostle John to write letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor. As I read these letters earlier this week, the letter to the church at Ephesus grabbed my attention because of its warning to people involved in discernment ministry. Look at the passage with me, and then we’ll talk about some of its application to discernment ministry.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
2 ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3 and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. 6 Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:1-7 (NASB)
The letter starts by commending the Ephesian church for its discernment. This church was characterized by its doctrinal purity and faithfulness to test false teachers. Verses 2 and 3 describe a church that Christians should emulate. God’s Word repeatedly commands both leaders and laity to stand against those who pervert the Gospel. Consider, for example, Paul’s instructions to Titus:
If you use enough marinara sauce, a plate of worms might taste like spaghetti, but Martin Luther really didn’t eat the squiggly critters on April 16th through 18th of 1521. Nevertheless, his historic stand before the Diet of Worms on that date marked the return to the belief that Scripture is the final authority for Christian faith and practice.
According to GotQuestions.org:
Throughout the Middle Ages in the Holy Roman Empire, a “diet” was an assembly of governmental and/or religious leaders called together to settle a political or religious matter. The Diet of Worms was held in 1521 in Worms (pronounced “Vermz”), Germany, to discuss the teachings of Martin Luther. In 1517, Martin Luther had posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This was essentially the start of the Protestant Reformation. Between the posting of the 95 Theses and the Diet of Worms, four years later, the Protestant Reformation became a significant movement.
In 1520, Pope Leo X issued a papal bull against Martin Luther, declaring him to be a heretic. As a result, Emperor Charles V called the Diet of Worms as a court of inquisition and ordered Luther to appear and either affirm or renounce his teachings. Johann Eck, who was representing the Emperor, asked Martin Luther if he was ready to recant his heresies. After a one-day recess, Martin Luther responded, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”
John is graciously typing this blog post as I dictate to him from bed. Because I cannot type this entry myself, I will not include Scripture quotes or links to verses — doing so would be difficult to teach John. Please don’t interpret this absence of Scripture as an abandonment of God’s Word.
Regardless of your eschatology, you must admit that evil is escalating. The political situation in the United States indicates that Bible believing Christians will face varying degrees of persecution in the next few months. Regular readers of this blog know that I have been warning about this probability for the last five and a half years, yet I’m not sure any of us (including me) have really let the truth sink in.
It’s not a truth we want to face.
As Elizabeth Prata shows us in her recent post about James Coates, Canadian Christians have begun to experience real persecution. In our prayers for this pastor and his family, American Christians must keep in mind that our pastors may soon experience the same suffering that James Coates and his family are going through.