Saturday Sampler: March 11 — March 17

Extruded CrossesI admire Albert Mohler’s grasp on church history and his practical way of applying it to our present-day Christian experience. So I appreciate Ligonier for featuring Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary in their blog this week. Mohler reasons from insights that wouldn’t have occurred to me, making it a fascinating article.

Check out Six Significant Things I’ve Learned from John MacArthur by Leslie A of Growing 4 Life. She makes several interesting points, even beyond the six that comprise the body of her blog post.

Evaluating the rise of the NAR movement in Berean Research, Amy Spreeman demonstrates How abandoning Sola Scriptura shipwrecks your faith. I recommend this piece to anyone who believes that God supplements His Word by speaking to them directly.

Evangelism requires a balanced attitude, as Jordan Standridge shows us in Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings, But Christians Should in The Cripplegate. His words particularly encourage me, since I often struggle with guilt that my mom evidently never came to saving faith before she died. Yes, my tone in witnessing to her was sinful, and I need to declare the Gospel with much greater gentleness and humility, but I must remember Who ultimately determines salvation.

Are You a Contender? asks Rebecca Stark in an essay for Out of the Ordinary. I especially love her point drawing a correlation between contending for the faith and knowing God’s Word. Ladies, contending for the faith is a responsibility that each of us must take seriously.

The End Time by Elizabeth Prata looks at The entertainment-driven church that’s so prevalent in evangelical culture these days.  Heed her wise words.

In a guest post for Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc, Marcia Montenegro describes The Basic Spirituality of Yoga to show us why Christians must avoid this practice. Marcia practiced Hatha Yoga for 20 years prior to her conversion to Christ, and therefore handles the topic with authority. If you’re at all considering yoga as a means of exercise, I beg you to read this article and seriously think about the points she raises.

Tim Challies suggests a few reasons Why Some People Aren’t Christians. His insights appear simple, but they are also profound. If you feel discouraged regarding your evangelism efforts, this blog post might give you some helpful perspective.

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The High Calling Of Discernment

Floating BalloonWhen people think of discernment ministry,  they usually think of calling out false teachers. And that’s certainly an important aspect of discernment. Jude’s epistle supports the task of identifying those who propagate false teaching, suggesting an urgency in doing so.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (ESV)

And regretfully, the visible church in our century swarms with more false teachers than I can keep track of. So we most definitely need people who have the courage to name names when they see a popular teacher consistently spouting error.

That said, it increasingly bothers me that we’ve apparently diminished the concept of discernment to this one area. Contending for the faith definitely has a part in discernment ministry — a vital part, as a matter of fact. But if we limit the role of discernment ministry to merely pointing out false teachers, I believe we miss the grander scope of what it means to be discerning.

Discernment, in its broadest sense, encompasses the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. This distinction necessarily includes distinguishing between truth and error. Therefore, identifying false teachers is obviously part of the process, but it shouldn’t be mistaken for discernment as a whole.

To properly discern whether or not someone teaches falsely, we first need to know true doctrine. Reputable discernment bloggers like Elizabeth Prata, Michelle Lesley, Leslie A and Amy Spreeman can tell you who the false teachers are, and even demonstrate why they’re false teachers. But unless you have a firm grasp on sound doctrine, you’ll likely replace the teachers they identify with other false teachers who are just as dangerous.

Therefore, true discernment requires regular and careful intake of God’s Word.

I hear some of you groaning, wishing I wouldn’t bring up something as dry and academic as studying Biblical doctrine. Isn’t it more interesting to pick apart Beth Moore’s latest sermon?

Yes, I agree picking apart her sermons provides hours of entertainment, but again, we still need to land on truth after examining her half-truths and falsehoods. We need to know what God really means, and how He really desires us to respond to Him. In a nutshell, ladies, we need to know truth.

Furthermore, we need to know truth for its own sake, rather than simply so that we can refute false teachers. God is more concerned with our ability to worship and honor Him than with how many false teachers we can call out. His Word, more than anything else, teaches us how to love Him as He wishes to be loved. Discernment helps us understand how He wishes us to love Him properly.

Like every other spiritual discipline, discernment has the purpose of drawing us closer to the Lord. True discernment shows us how to live in ways that glorify Him. Yes, contending for the faith is one part of Biblical discernment, but I’d encourage you to remember the bigger picture. The Lord calls us to discernment for His glory. What a high calling!

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Saturday Sampler: March 4 – March 10

Rose Sampler 02Biblical Christianity no longer enjoys widespread acceptance, so we can often feel embarrassed about our faith. In response to this problem, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace writes I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel. Why do those words sound so familiar to me?

Although Joe Carter’s article, Why Teenagers Are Becoming ‘Trans-Curious’, in The Gospel Coalition Blog didn’t surprise me, his discovery may not occur to each of you. Or perhaps it may. At any rate, it highlights the problems with embracing the LBGTQ narrative.

I appreciate Tom at excatholic4christ for writing Paradigm Shift: How Gospel outreach to Catholics became “anti-Catholic bigotry” to chronicle the changed relationship between Catholics and evangelicals over the last 60 years. He raises some interesting points that we really ought to consider.

Short but insightful, Michelle Lesley parodies the beloved children’s hymn by writing Jesus Loves Me: The “Contending for the Faith” Version. Check it out on her Discipleship for Christian Women blog, especially if you enjoy clever writing as much as I do.

In an article for the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Katie McCoy uses a careful study of Hebrew words to answer the question, Did Old Testament Law Force a Woman to Marry Her Rapist? The answer surprised me, and it also reinforced the incredible value of studying God’s Word.

Writing for the Canadian Edition of The Gospel Coalition Blog, Heather Peacock suggests 8 Ways to Welcome People with Disabilities into Your Church. I only wish she had said more about adults with disabilities, but her list is an excellent start.

We all go through tough times, so How to Rejoice When Life is Hard by Pastor Colin Smith of Unlocking the Bible brings us back to an eternal perspective on suffering. In doing so, he necessarily shows us that having an eternal perspective actually enables us to rejoice in our trials. I hope I haven’t given away too much of his post! Read it to see how he fits it all together.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time has a brilliant essay called Don’t leave the Baby in the manger or the Man of the cross that mustn’t be ignored! If we truly want to know Jesus, we have to embrace all of Him.

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A Counterfeit Discernment

Charismatic BibleWe all want discernment. Definitions of discernment vary according to theological convictions, of course, with Charismatics believing that it entails mystical gut feelings that supposedly identity some level of spiritual warfare and/or demonic activity.

I think specifically of a friend of mine in Memphis who believed God had given her the gift of discernment. During my first few months in the nursing home, she noticed that another middle-aged resident had befriended me.

This resident happened to use thick glasses that greatly magnified her eyes. Admittedly, she wasn’t a Christian and tended to use gossip as a way of establishing her importance, so she obviously wasn’t the sort of person I should have as a best friend. But nursing homes don’t allow for much socialization,  so I accepted the resident’s friendship. She also needed a friend, after all.

One day my self-proclaimed discerning friend came to visit. With a knowing look on her face, she informed me that she sensed a demonic spirit in the resident who had befriended me. She claimed she could “discern” it in the resident’s eyes.

Should I mention that a year later this “discerning” woman attended a Benny Hinn meeting, believing that God would use Hinn to heal her diabetes?

In my over 30 years in Charismatic circles, I’ve witnessed many other instances of people (usually women)  exercising the kind of mystical “discernment” that my friend in Memphis supposedly exercised in detecting a demonic spirit in the resident’s eyes. But this type of discernment, from what I see in Scripture, belonged to the Apostles. Notice that 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 lists the gift of discernment among the gifts that expired at the close of the Apostolic Age.

Rather than being a spiritual gift for post-apostolic Christians, Biblical discernment is a cultivated skill that all Christians can (and should) develop through reading and studying God’s Word.

 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~~Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

The Word reveals Who the Lord is and how He thinks. Consequently, it enables us to discern good teaching from poor teaching, truth from error and wise decisions from unwise. For example, studying Scriptures about gossip would have been a better warning regarding the resident in the nursing home than a gut feeling based on glasses that magnified her eyes. And a good knowledge of Scripture would have made it obvious that Benny Hinn is neither a Biblical teacher nor someone with the gift of healing.

Let’s get over the idea that discernment is a mystical sensation that “gifted” believers possess. That misconception actually draws people away from God’s Word instead of helping them develop true discernment skills.

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Saturday Sampler: February 25 — March 3


As more and more evangelicals claim to receive personal revelations from God, discerning Christians must hold them to Scriptural standards. Fred Deruvo, in his Study – Grow – Know blog offers Biblical counsel about Prophets and Dreamers from Deuteronomy that should sharpen our discernment skills.

We can find wonderful encouragement by reading Joe Carter’s Wheaton College’s  Courageous Stance Leads to Religious Liberty Victory in The Gospel Coalition Blog. Even if Wheaton College had lost its case, however, their commitment to obey God despite pressure from the government inspires me. This, ladies, is a sterling example of the obedience Christ expects from His followers.

In The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge recounts his conversation with The Young Roman Catholic Man Who Clenched His Fist to remind us that, even when we present the Gospel respectfully, people may respond with animosity.

Like Elizabeth Prata, I enjoy social media. Also like Elizabeth Prata, I see the many difficulties that attends online communication. So I appreciate her essay, Tips and resources on using Social Media in The End Time for its honesty and balance. I highly recommend this one!

The Roman Catholic veneration of Mary troubles most Protestants, as well it should. Writing for The Vatican Files, Leonardo De Chirico explores the question, Does Mariology Imply A Diminished Role for Jesus and the Holy Spirit? This eye-opening article clarifies the deep problems with the Catholic devotion to Mary.

Leslie A does not play nice! And that’s a good thing when it comes to telling us what we need to hear. Are You Any Different? in Growing 4 Life certainly convicts me, and it may make you uncomfortable as well. But oh, do we need to hear her message! Please don’t pass it up.

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Sometimes Disability Ain’t No Fun

Tulip WaterOver the past few months, John and I have seen the need to let my evening Personal Care Attendant go. The reasons are best unmentioned, especially as I struggle with feelings of unforgiveness, but suffice it to say that we kept her on because we understood her financial situation and didn’t want her to lose any income. Hopefully, I’m not boasting about any magnanimous attitude on our part — we simply wanted to be as obedient to the Lord as possible under frustrating circumstances.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.  ~~Matthew 7:12 (ESV)

A few weeks ago, however, we realized that keeping her just wasn’t fair to us. The encroachment on my time (her schedule necessitated putting me to bed earlier than I wanted) left little time to do digital art for this blog, and that fact weighed heavily on me. Of course, several other things added to the stress, and we finally worked out a plan with our pastor to let her go as fairly as possible.

Then yesterday she called with an unreasonable request. When we said no, she angrily quit.

Okay, that took a load of stress off of us. But now we need to interview people as well as lining up people to fill in until we hire someone.  Although we had already begun advertising last week, I put an ad on Craigslist last night and have received quadruple the responses than from the PCA Job Board. I know the Lord will provide.

As a result, however, I’ll have less time for blogging. I don’t like cutting back on this area of my life, but right now I see no other choice. I pray you’ll understand,  now that I have the liberty to explain the situation fully, and that you’ll  enjoy my archives until I can finally resume my regular blogging schedule.

John and I would greatly appreciate your prayers during this time of interviewing. Also, please pray for the gal who quit, as I see no evidence that she truly knows  Christ. Above all, please pray for my attitude to honor the Lord through this.  Thank you.

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Don’t Use Discernment Ministry To Tear Apart God’s People

Discernment ScrollDiscernment ministry, particularly online ministry, has suffered increasing criticism in the last six or seven months. The scrutiny has intensified as a result of online squabbling between well-known discernment ministries on Twitter and Facebook.

To be sure, the bickering and anathematizing generates terrible confusion. I find myself scrambling to figure out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Just when I think I have a handle on it, one of the good guys will link to one of the bad guys, or one of the bad guys will speak at a conference that the good guys host. So I’m left doubting my own discernment abilities, and wondering if I’ve misjudged people.

There are, certainly, individuals and ministries I definitely avoid. Other people within Reformed circles have no problem with these individuals and ministries. I’ve learned to disagree quietly, aware that I may be off-base in my assessments. Just because I participate in discernment blogging doesn’t mean my judgments are infallible. They’re most assuredly not!

And maybe other discernment bloggers and podcast hosts need to remember that occasionally they could make mistakes in calling out people. Obviously, there are blatantly false teachers like Beth Moore and Rick Warren; anyone can easily document their errors. But sometimes waters get murkier, and discernment bloggers end up labeling people as false teachers based on minor differences or incomplete research.

The individuals and ministries I avoid may or may not promote false teaching. So I’m learning to remain silent, or at least express my reservations very cautiously. In the past six months, I’ve come the conclusion that naming names should be done rarely, and only when someone definitely teaches false doctrine on a consistent basis.

I do realize that we must take care not to partner with those who embrace false teaching (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 and 2 John 10-11). But I question whether or not we take this principle a bit too far. You realize, for example, that John Piper has spoken at both The Shepherd’s Conference and Passion 2018. That being the case, should we write off John MacArthur because he gave a platform to someone who shared another platform with Beth Moore at Passion 2017?

I’ve asked a thorny question here. Sadly,  there are other thorny questions discernment ministries must struggle with if we play the guilt-by-association card too fastidiously. Sometimes we call someone a wolf in sheep’s clothing when they’re simply a little naive about who they affiliate with. Because discernment bloggers and podcast hosts can judge too harshly and/or too quickly at times, we need to remind ourselves of the apostle Paul’s counsel:

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. ~~Galatians 5:13-15 (ESV)

People make mistakes. People in discernment ministries make mistakes too. Discernment bloggers can too eagerly call out others who, in reality, may be solid teachers with a few blind spots.

Discernment ministry does greatly serve the body of Christ. In no way do I believe we should shut down discernment ministries in general. But I implore bloggers and podcasters to dial back the name calling and balance the critical rhetoric with sound teaching that enables readers and listeners to discern for themselves. Furthermore, let’s bear in mind that sometimes even solid teachers have areas of disagreement. Let’s use discernment ministry to build each other up, not tear each other apart.

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