The Kind Of Discernment That’s Kind

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What are we doing as discernment bloggers? Lately, there’s a viciousness that I’ve never seen. A friend of mine, in discussing the matter, observed that some bloggers and podcasters appear to relish the task of calling out wolves just a little too much.

Now, I do agree with the perspective that women often won’t get it if pastors and teachers simply teach sound doctrine without ever naming names. Surely their favorite celebrity Bible Study teacher doesn’t teach error! After all, she tweets all the time about how many commentaries she supposedly reads, how she “prays the Scriptures” and how she loves God’s Word. Never mind that she teaches Old Testament passages as allegories and claims to receive direct revelations from God.

So yeah, calling out false teachers certainly has an important place in women’s ministry. Again, praise God for Elizabeth Prata, Michelle Lesley and Leslie A who boldly and consistently identify false teachers and demonstrate how these false teachers deviate from Scripture.

As an aside, I came to Reformed Theology primarily because my research of “Christian” yoga led me to discernment blogs. I thank the Lord for using those blogs to educate me on how to apply proper hermeneutics in studying the Bible and for solidifying essential doctrines in my mind. Those discernment blogs went a long way in getting me grounded in the Bible and protecting me from popular evangelical fads.

But the idea of discernment (not necessarily discernment itself)  is somewhat of a fad among Reformed Christians these days. Even more troubling, some discernment ministries have developed a nastiness about them that completely drives out even the willingness to extend charity.

When people use character assassination and nit pick, applying the heresy label to Arminians and Charismatics, they’ve crossed a very dangerous line. Arminians and Charismatics hold to some doctrinal errors, to be sure. I’ve embraced Armimian and Charismatic teachings during much of my Christian life, and I well understand the dangers of those teachings.

But I absolutely do not believe those errors meant that I was a heretic. Furthermore, looking at the Scriptural criteria for genuine salvation convinces me that, despite accepting those errors, my salvation proved real. Therefore I grieve that people so quickly decide that our Armimian and Charismatic brothers and sisters aren’t truly saved.

Discernment encompasses so much more than discrediting those we disagree with. Yes, the wolves need to be rebuked and avoided, but in a way that draws sheep closer to the Shepherd Who feeds them in the green pastures of His Word.

For that reason this blog (while naming names when necessary) best teaches discernment by immersing women in God’s Word.

In a few weeks (probably March, to accommodate my personal Bible reading plan), we will begin studying Christ’s resurrection through 1 Corinthians 15. We’ll notice how the apostle Paul addressed a popular false teaching about the resurrection that circulated through the church in Corinth (hint: he did it without naming names) and we’ll learn how teaching doctrine in a positive manner can feed Christians effectively.

Mostly, we’ll focus on honoring Christ instead of dishonoring people.  I hope many of you ladies will join me in studying this wonderful Christian doctrine. May we all grow in the sort of discernment that truly honors the Lord Jesus Christ.

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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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Saturday Sampler: December 17 — December 23

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In his OnePassion Ministries blog, Steve Lawson alternately brings us to tears and gives us belly laughs with his personal memories of R.C. Sproul. The R.C. I Knew portrays several sides of Dr. Sproul, all of which are endearing.

I’ve often emphasized, at this time of year, that Jesus was born for the purpose of dying for our sin. But Amy Mantravadi, in her essay entirely Christ Was Born for More Than Death, fills out the story by reflecting on the Lord’s righteous life. We need to remember the whole Gospel, not just the Readers Digest version.

The author of A Peculiar Pilgrim writes The Truth About Love as a challenge to the postmodern interpretation of what it means to love. As conservative as I believe myself to be, even I see remnants of worldly love in myself as a result of reading this article.

‘Tis the season for final exams, and Elizabeth Prata of The End Time seizes on the theme by writing about the respective Final Exams that believers and unbelievers will eventually face. In all the frivolity of the holidays, perhaps this sobering essay can keep us  grounded.

Jordan Standridge had planned for months to visit St. Andrews Church in Florida on December 17. In his moving and surprising article for The Cripplegate, he recounts The First Sunday Without R.C. Sproul in that church. Burk Parsons, now St. Andrews’ pastor, used the situation to demonstrate the benefit of church as usual.

There is no other name by which we must be saved insists Sharon Lareau of Chapter 3 Ministries. Sure, most Biblically literate Christians know that fact, but a little reinforcement never hurts.

Winter often brings discouragement and depression, even amid the joyous season of Christmas. In Clang! The Harsh Notes of Discipline, Sophie McDonald writes about God’s purposes in bringing us through difficult circumstances. See this encouraging blog post based on 1 Peter 1 on the Unlocking the Bible website.

Don’t miss Michelle Lesley’s beautiful Christmas essay, The Shepherds’ Gospel. Absolutely magnificent!

The author of Eternity Matters skillfully refutes liberal theologians with his article Leopard Theology: Not as fun as it sounds. Those of you who seriously care about Biblical discernment would do well to read this one to learn how a high view of Scripture helps us detect error.

 

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When Disabilities Keep Us Away From Church

IMG_4362New England winters mean that cold temperatures keep me and John pretty much housebound. Both of us have respiratory issues (he uses ventilators 24/7) and I have increased muscle tightness that makes it difficult to operate my power wheelchair . As a result,we miss a lot of church between the months of December and March.

Even in good weather, the unpredictability of the paratransit system combined with my evening Personal Care Attendant’s schedule prohibits us from active involvement in midweek Bible Studies and ministry opportunities in our church. We’d both dearly love to serve our wonderful church family, but our circumstances simply prohibit anything beyond Adult Sunday School and Sunday services (unless there’s something directly after the service).

Thankfully, our pastor and elders understand our physical limitations and treat us as valued members of the body. One elder visits during the winter months, often bringing hymnals and the Lord’s Supper while another elder and his wife allow us to be honorary grandparents to their four children. That attention helps us feel connected, as do the online audios of our Sunday School class and our pastor’s sermons.

But it’s not the same as being there.

Several of my fellow bloggers periodically write about the importance of regular church attendance and the necessity of actively serving in a local church. I agree with everything they say. Although reading their posts causes pain because of our particular circumstances, I cheer them on for admonishing Christians to be actively involved in their local churches. Scripture calls for such commitment.

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~~Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

When I hear able-bodied people say they skipped church to do something recreational, to sleep in, or because they just didn’t feel like going, it angers me. Do they have any idea how heartbreaking it is to cancel our paratransit reservations Sunday after Sunday because the thermometer won’t move above the mid-thirties? Do they know what I’d give to serve on the Missions Committee or as a deaconess? Despite my current reservations regarding AWANA, it crushes me to hear the leaders beg for workers because I can’t volunteer.

I write this article, not to make anybody feel sorry for me and John (throughout our decades of being single, the Lord blessed each of us with opportunities to serve our respective churches), but to encourage you to be active in your churches as much as you possibly can. Sunday services aren’t an obligation; they’re a joyous privilege!

This winter, as in the other 15 winters of our marriage, John and I will rejoice in God’s faithful provision of online teaching and visits from church friends. The Lord will take excellent care of us, as He always does. But we look forward to that first warm Sunday morning when we’ll drive our power wheelchairs into that Sunday School classroom and into that worship service. There’s nothing like being with our brothers and sisters in Christ!

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Saturday Sampler: December 3 — December 9

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Let’s begin with Pastor Colin Smith’s encouraging post, Three Ways Your Faith is Tested When God Says “No” in Unlocking the Bible. Drawing from God’s refusal to allow David to build the Temple, Smith explains ways that personal disappointment can actually develop our maturity in Christ.

The Santa Claus dilemma always catches Christian parents this time of year. You young moms out there might appreciate reading The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus? by Michelle Lesley. I like her Biblical and practical approach, especially in preserving the fun of Christmas without lapsing into sin or doctrinal error.

Andrew Gutierrez, in an article aimed primarily at youth leaders in The Cripplegate, admonishes us Thou Shalt Not Create Little “Christian” Narcissists. I include it here because all of us struggle with narcissism, and consequently would benefit from applying the principles that Gutierrez sets forth.

In the present climate of accusations against public figures, even pastors are subject to scrutiny. As Tim Challies demonstrates in Do Not Admit a Charge Against an Elder, Except..., churches have guidelines for disciplining their leaders in the pages of Scripture. Don’t miss this balanced and Biblical treatment of a crucial matter in today’s church.

Once again, Erin Benziger nails it with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Pride in her Do Not Be Surprised blog. She has a gentle, but firm, caution for those of us in the Reformed camp that needs to be heeded.

In this season of giving, Lesley A. of Growing 4 Life encourages us to continue Serving All, All the Time. It’s refreshing to come across an essay elevating the practical application of God’s Word.

What Do We Really Know about the Three Wise Men? asks Mark Ward in his article for the Logos Software Blog. He uses this question from his own children to give us a practical lesson in separating fact from tradition as we interpret familiar Scriptures.

Writing for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson directs our attention to A Christmas Song that Doesn’t Belong … But Does. He does more than simply informing us of some hymn writing trivia (although that’s quite fascinating in and of itself); he causes us to rejoice in all of Christ’s promises to bring salvation.

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Saturday Sampler: November 12 — November 18

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In a short post (as in five paragraphs), Tim Challies uncovers The Problem with the “Want Ads” in Denominational Magazines. Sadly, the person he quotes was not exaggerating.

Leslie A. once again uses her Growing 4 Life blog to get us thinking about how we order our lives to honor the Lord. Balanced is Beautiful cautions us against narrowing our spiritual focus so tightly that we neglect other areas that also require our attention.

If you want to change things up in your personal Bible Study time, consider doing some topical studies.  Sharon Lareau of Chapter 3 Ministries walks us through some ideas on How to Study the Bible by Topic that could definitely help you approach God’s Word in a way you haven’t tried before.

Check out Unlocking the Bible to read Why Christians Should Not Get Angry with the Lost  by Pastor Colin Smith. This analogy is vivid enough to stick with you, and may be useful as you spend Thanksgiving with unsaved relatives.

Like Lara d’Entremont, I’m not a fan of having people point out my flaws.  So her article,  The Gracious Response to Criticism in Renewed In Truth Discipleship, challenges me to again confess my perfectionist tendencies and remember that having someone call me out on sin might help me better obey the Lord.

Don’t overlook Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Anger in Erin Benziger’s blog, Do Not Be Surprised. Maybe you’ll wince a little (okay, maybe more than a little) as you read it, but keep reading. Her conclusion alleviates all the discomfort.

Have I called someone you follow a false teacher? If so, you probably didn’t appreciate it. But Michelle Lesley’s post, Throwback Thursday ~ Bad Fruit, Diseased Trees, And the Authority of God’s Word, could help you think through your reactions. Sometimes “discernment bloggers” do wrongfully accuse people of false teaching. Michelle’s article can help you determine whether or not that’s happening.

Whether you watch the short video or read the transcript,  be sure to give Tim Challies’ The Problem with Love Languages – Three Minute Thursdays #3 your attention. John and I heartily agree with all of the points Challies makes, and I particularly liked his conclusion.

Continuing her Bible Study on James, Lisa Morris of Conforming to the Truth writes Genuine Faith Understands the Importance of Taming the Tongue. Ladies,  all of us need this one.

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Saturday Sampler: November 5 — November 11

Autumn Leaves Sampler

The lovely sister in Christ who blogs at Biblical Beginnings showcases a splendid, though relatively unknown, hymn by John Newton with Sunday Hymns from the Past – The Trembling Gaoler by John Newton. She could post only the lyrics, but they’re quite powerful and well worth reading.

As usual, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day nails it when she posts Worldly influence and the Church’s fixation on youth. I’ve seen what she describes first-hand, so I can attest to her accuracy.

Denny Burk’s piece, Pastors, be ready for questions about homosexuality and abortion, isn’t really just for pastors. While pastors should certainly take the lead in standing for Biblical truth in these vitally important areas, the rest of us also have a responsibility to proclaim the truth regarding these matters.

Barry York of Gentle Reformation cautions us against using theology to avoid actually practicing Gospel principles in his piece, You Can’t Reform What You Won’t Touch. His words made me rather  uncomfortable — and that’s undoubtedly a good thing!

Writing from her passion for the prophecy of Scripture, Elizabeth Prata profiles The Man Who Will Change the World in her blog, The End Time. We need the wonderful reassurance that Elizabeth finds (and shares) as she faithfully studies God’s Word.

In this week’s installment of her series on the seemingly insignificant sins that we routinely commit without feeling convicted, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised both challenges and encourages us with Acceptable Sins Not Excepted: Worry. If you’ve missed previous posts in this series, you can find links to them at the conclusion of her article.

Amy Mantravadi opens her month-long series on thankfulness with a beautiful essay that closely parallels my own experience. Please read Thankful Thursday: The Communion of Saints both to appreciate the privilege of regular church fellowship and to rejoice in God’s provision for those of us who, because of physical limitations, can’t be as active as we want in our local churches.

It’s been a while since the ladies at Out of the Ordinary have posted anything, but Persis more than made up for their long absence with Doctrine Matters: Imputation. Now, before you jump to the conclusion that this is a dry theological article, consider the fact that the Lord encouraged me tremendously as I read it. Praise the Lord for using her words to deepen my assurance of His faithfulness!

Beware These Seven Counterfeit Gospels warns Kristen Wetherell in a contributing post for Unlocking The Bible. Her list, with each point backed up by Scripture, gives us an excellent framework for recognizing false teaching.

In a brief,  easily read, post on the Ligonier blog, R.C. Sproul helps us in the task of Understanding Free Will by letting us in on how Martin Luther resolved his struggles over this issue. It’s an interesting little insight into a hotly debated topic.

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