Category Archives: Prayer

Saturday Sampler: March 26 — April 1

Butterfly SamplerJohn Ellis’ piece in PJ Media, Teenage Boy Sues School Over Transgender Bathrooms is a political article rather than a specifically Christian one, but it serves as a reminder that our culture has chosen a path that degrades most of society. Christians must prepare to be marginalized as a new version of “morality” takes over.

Continuing her series on discernment at Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. writes Learn to Discern: Acknowledging the War. Find out how (and why) spiritual warfare fits into using discernment properly.

Does the Lord care how we worship Him? Rebekah Womble, blogging at Wise In His Eyes, believes He does. Her blog post, The Freedom of Worshipping God’s Way (she spelled worshiping with two p’s, not me), helps us understand why we must avoid self-styled approaches to worshiping a holy God.

Why Bargain With God?, a post that Kennedy Mathis wrote for Biblical Woman, brings back memories of my struggles as a single woman. But the principle she’s learned really applies  to any struggle Christians have.

As you can tell, I appreciate the series on cessationism that Jordan Standridge has been doing for The Cripplegate this month. His latest article, Three Reasons God is a Cessationist, employs arguments I’ve heard before, but they’re not common arguments. Please, if you have any Charismatic or continualist leanings, consider the points he makes.

Cameras Buettel, writing for the Grace To You Blog, says You Might Be A Pharisee If… This essay helps us examine ourselves (and others) more effectively to make sure we remain faithful to the Bible.

Jennifer of One Hired Late In The Day writes Same Bible, different beliefs, showing how the Lord helped her work though a perplexing question. And while you’re on her website, please check out Deconstructing Absurdity: a discernment lesson to watch her tackle a recent Tweet by Rick Warren.

R.C. Sproul posts TULIP and Reformed Theology: Unconditional Election on the Ligonier blog. Appealing to Scripture, he both explains the doctrine of election and deals with the argument that election is unjust.

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Perspectives In Titus: The Teachers Of Deception

Titus 1 10&11For the past few Mondays, our study of Paul’s letter to Titus has focused on the appointment of elders in every city of Crete. As we come to verses 10-11 today, we finally learn Paul’s reason  for wanting Titus to ordain these elders, as well as the purposes of the strict qualifications he placed on elders. I’ll quote these verses in their immediate context, and from there we can start talking about the problem of false teachers in Crete.

For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. ~~Titus 1:7-11 (ESV)

As you can easily see from the passage, Paul felt an  urgency for Titus to establish solid leaders in Crete because Crete had a variety of people who resisted godly authority, evidently talking foolishness and spreading false doctrine. Elders would, he implies, provide a way to remedy the damage.

In verse 10, Paul begins to explain the problem. Notice how Paul contrasts “empty talkers” with an elder’s responsibility to hold firm to the trustworthy word. The empty talkers may be fluent in Christian terminology, convincing people that they are spiritual,  but their words are mere pretense. Godly leaders, in contrast, teach substance rather than fluff, drawing on the very Word of God. Paul wanted elders who refuted the false teachers by living lives that placed them above reproach as well as by teaching sound doctrine.

The empty talk of the insubordinate teachers naturally included deception. As an example, Paul’s reference to the circumcision party alludes to Jews living in Crete. Like the Judaizers in Galatia and Philippi, these Jewish “Christians” taught that Gentile converts had to undergo circumcision in order to be genuinely saved.

The false teachers in First Century Crete, just like false teachers in the 21st Century,  deceived people by influencing their minds. According to Robertson’s Word Pictures,  the Greek word for deceivers is a rare  compound that denotes deceiving minds. Essentially, Paul tells Titus that these false teachers messed with the minds of Cretan believers.

As we progress to verse 11, we see the strategy for responding to the people who caused the disturbances in the Cretan churches. Paul tells Titus quite clearly that such false teachers must be silenced. The Greek word for silenced literally means muzzled. The elders Titus was to appoint had to muzzle these deceivers by both godly conduct and accurate teaching.

By saying these false teachers upset whole families, Paul means that they subverted households. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown suggest that these households were local congregations. Either way, their deceptions disrupted close bonds and apparently turned people away from the faith.

By “shameful gain,” Paul probably means that they derived financial benefit from injecting false doctrine into their ministry, Barnes states his belief that they devised doctrines that boosted their popularity, thus winning the confidence of those they then collected money from. Not only did they cause upheaval to entire families with their false doctrines, but they taught their deceptions as a way to profit materially.

False teachers permeate the 21st Century church using empty talk and deception to introduce division in even the best congregations. We need, whenever possible, to join churches that have elders and pastors who live godly lives and teach Biblical doctrine. And those of us who already belong to such churches should pray regularly for our pastors and elders to continue guarding us through God’s Word.

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Saturday Sampler: March 19 — March 25

Flower SamplerContinuing her series in Growing 4 Life, Leslie A. writes Learn to Discern: Who Do You Follow? She raises several important points that women should seriously consider as we pray to develop our discernment .

Unbelief doesn’t need one more miracle says Jennifer at One Hired Late in the Day. I’d been considering writing a similar article, but I really couldn’t improve on hers. If you want a solid explanation of the doctrine of justification, Jennifer’s blog post certainly gives it clearly.

“Authentic” seems to be the latest buzzword among evangelicals. In Has “Be Authentic” Replaced “Be Holy”? Rebekah Womble explains what postmodern people mean by authenticity, contrasting their understanding of the characteristic with the holiness that Christ calls us to practice.

Dinitatians typically believe in the Father and the Son, but not the Holy Spirit. In his blog post, Are Cessationists Dinitatians? Eric Davis of The Cripplegate refutes the popular notion that non-Charismatics don’t believe in the Holy Spirit. I love his list of 20 things Cessationists believe about the Holy Spirit.

Do you sometimes wonder what you should pray in praying for your pastor? Steve Altroggie, blogging on The Blazing Center, enumerates 8 Prayers You Should Regularly Pray For Your Pastor to offer us good direction in the matter.

John Ellis’ article, How NOT to Argue Online in adayinhiscourt convicted me. But it also encouraged me in arguing my case in ways that honor the Lord .

Responding to one of Beth Moore’s recent Tweets, Elizabeth Prata writes How does the Holy Spirit lead us? in her blog, The End Time. Her essay is lengthy, admittedly (and perhaps could have been broken into two separate ones), but her point is so crucial to Christian women that I strongly recommend it as essential reading.

In Don’t Get Your Theology from Movies, Michelle Lesley explains why even Movie Subscription Services that advertise themselves as Christian fail at helping us negotiate life’s issues. I’ve never seen anyone address this matter quite this comprehensively before, but Michelle does an excellent job.

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Claiming Discernment Doesn’t Mean You Have It

Dark WisdomWe all like to believe that we have good discernment. I’ve noticed, however, that a fair number of evangelicals who claim to possess discernment fall for teachers and practices that actually violate God’s Word. Mostly, I’ve observed this phenomenon in Charismatic circles, but occasionally I also see Reformed believers claiming discernment as they embrace error.

For instance, I’ve been personally attacked by a self-proclaimed discernment blogger who took issue with a video I posted. The video presented the Gospel, begging non-Christian viewers to repent and turn to Christ for salvation. The blogger adamantly believed that, by posting the video, I denied God’s sovereignty in bringing people to salvation.

This blogger had evidently embraced hyper-Calvinism, which insists that God saves people without requiring any sort of human responsibility (perhaps I should do an article on hyper-Calvinism at a later date). But in reading her blog, I found that she made allegations about John MacArthur and Al Mohler that had long since been proven false. Furthermore, on her blog’s sidebar she had links to conspiracy theory websites.

Obviously, neither John MacArthur nor Al Mohler are above question, and I checked out her claims about each of these men as thoroughly as I possibly could. Her sources, it turned out, were unreliable and had axes to grind. Sadly, the blogger failed to use discernment in researching the allegations against these men.

Scripture, certainly, admonishes Christians to exercise discernment.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~~1 John 4:1 (ESV)

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~~Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV) 

But in our efforts to practice discernment, may I suggest that we also cultivate attitudes of humility? Sometimes we tout whatever discernment skills we have with a subtle attitude of pride, supposing that we have inside knowledge to dispense to “average” Christians who desperately need our expertise.

We forget that Biblical discernment encompasses so much more than calling out false teachers and warning other Christians against aberrational practices. True discernment moves Christians toward living in holiness and obedience to the Lord. Rather than than pointing to our presumed abilities at “rightly dividing the truth,” our exercise of discernment should draw attention to the Lord Jesus Christ in ways that honor and glorify Him. It should encourage us to know and obey His Word for His glory.

Am I discerning? I hope so. Do I bill myself as a discernment blogger? Um, no. Instead, I pray daily that, as I read and study the Bible, the Holy Spirit will grant me discernment. Not so I can have an edgy discernment blog with oodles of followers praising my apparent wisdom. I request discernment so that I can worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.

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Saturday Sampler: January 15–January 21

bible-samplerThe cult of Scientology is back in the news. In her compelling blog post, An Unexplored Mission Field, Erin Benziger of Do Not Be Surprised describes how this organization’s basic teachings contradict Biblical Christianity. But she goes further by reminding us what our response should be. Her article, ladies, helps us understand the real purpose and proper use of discernment.

In Don’t Worry Be Godly – Pt 2, Clint Archer of The Cripplegate concludes his series on anxiety. His practical application of Scripture encourages me. I think those of you who struggle with anxiety will appreciate this teaching.

Leslie A. recently had an unpleasant encounter with facial tissue while trying to survive a nasty cold. Her experience results in Velvet Soft, an interesting essay in Growing 4 Life that examines the need for discernment regarding “Christian” books and entertainment. Don’t necessarily assume they’re really Biblical.

Is Sexy a Sin? Candi Finch answers that question in her essay for Biblical Woman.

Speaking of important questions, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day asks Do You Consider Yourself A ‘Red Letter’ Christian? She explains what that term means and why it’s unbiblical.

Including a lesson on understanding Scripture verses in context, Rachel at danielthree18 writes Theology Thursday: All Things are Possible with God to prevent us from misapplying this beloved sentiment. And just when I’d planned to jump off the roof of our apartment building to try flying! Man, Rachel, you’re such a killjoy!

The division over President Trump is sad, and even sadder when professing Christians express animosity toward him. Therefore I appreciate Michelle Lesley for outlining 7 Ways to Pray During the Trump Administration, which carefully takes us through God’s Word to give us a Biblical attitude.

Rebekah Womble of Wise In His Eyes writes Let Me Be a Woman to review Elizabeth Eliott’s book of the same title. Even without reading the actual book, I gained great encouragement from Rebekah’s review. I think you’ll also learn some things about being a godly woman by reading it.

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Let Thy Glory Be Over All Of The Earth

The praise songs of the late 1970s and early 1980s, to their credit, often did have richness that few present-day songs match. That richness came because many of those songs, despite being simple and repetitious, drew their lyrics directly from Scripture (usually the Psalms).

John Michael Talbot popularized Psalm 57:9-11 in his beautiful praise song, Be Exalted, O God. Not only is it pleasurable to sing, but it gently redirects attention from ourselves to the Lord. The psalmist seeks after the Lord to glorify Himself.

The song always gave me proper perspective. God’s job isn’t to give  me purpose, to have a wonderful plan for my life or to bless me with good health and material prosperity. He exists for the sole purpose of glorifying Himself. Thankfully, He often demonstrates His glory through His love and faithfulness to me, causing me to praise Him publicly. As you listen to the psalmist’s prayer, won’t you join him (and join me) in asking the Lord to let His glory be over all of the earth?

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Hey Jude — How Should We Contend For The Faith?

Biblical UnityHappy New Year ladies! Isn’t it fitting that, as we pivot from 2016 to 2017, we’ve reached the point in Jude’s epistle at which he pivots from describing false teachers to explaining how true believers can contend for the faith (Jude 3). The two verses we’ll study today rather surprised me, since so many discernment bloggers have used Jude 3 as a rallying call to publicly expose and denounce false teachers. While other Scriptures certainly support such exposure and denunciation, Jude 20-21 proposes a different, more foundational strategy.

I’d really like you to prepare for this study by reading the entire epistle  (it’s only God 25 verses) to remind yourselves of the context. Click this link to make it easier. I know I’m always beating the context drum, but context helps more than I can say in sharpening Biblical discernment. When we view verses within their proper context, we get a much better sense of their intended meaning. So please, before you read any further in this blog entry, click the link and revisit Jude’s epistle.

Now, let me quote Jude 20-21 in its more immediate context.

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. ~~Jude 17-23 (ESV)

Last Monday we saw that the First Century apostles had directly warned Jude’s immediate readers that false teachers would arise. Jude verified that the apostles spoke of the people who, because of their worldliness and lack of the Spirit, cause divisions in the church. Now Jude draws a contrast between such apostates and true believers by giving us four practical ways to stand against heresies.

Jude begins by exhorting us to build ourselves up in the “most holy faith.” Notice the plural pronoun. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown juxtapose building up the body with the false teachers in verse 19 who cause divisions.

Where false teachers divide the church, we must edify the body of  Christ instead of tearing it apart. And, according to Jude, we build each other up in the “most holy faith.” By this phrase, he means specifically the Christian faith as opposed to the unbiblical ideas of false teachers. And how do we build each other up in the “most holy faith?” MacArthur comments that this building up happens through the ministry of God’s Word  (Acts 20:32). So we contend for the faith by bringing each other back to the truth of Scripture, which shows us the false teaching of apostates.

In addition to building each other up with sound doctrine, Jude instructs us to pray in the Holy Spirit. I could, with probably way too much relish, write an entire article on the topic of praying in the Spirit, basing it on the ways that Charismatics use this verse fragment to support their practice of speaking in tongues. However, I will restrain myself and simply say that praying in the Spirit means nothing more than praying according to the Lord’s revealed will in Scripture.

Rather than distract ourselves with a debate on Charismatic misinterpretations of this phrase, let’s concentrate on Jude’s point. Again,  Jamieson, Fausset and Brown draw a contrast between praying in the Holy Spirit and the apostates being devoid of the Spirit. Contending for the faith requires that we align our prayers with God’s Word. In so doing, we keep ourselves in His Spirit.

Next, Jude calls us to keep ourselves in the love of God. Those of us with Calvinist sensibilities understandably bristle at this clause, which clearly teaches a synergistic dynamic. But Philippians 2:12-13 helps us understand that any efforts on our part ultimately depend on God’s work in us. Remember also that Jude 1 stated that God keeps us for Jesus Christ.

Here Jude encourages the obedience that results from true faith. Jesus made a similar connection between faith and obedience in John 14:21. Since Jude has been  highlighting the permissiveness of false teachers, he directs us to combat their ungodly influence by living in obedience to godly principles.

Finally, Jude tells us to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. The commentaries I read didn’t belabor this point except to say that it refers to Christ’s return. After Jude’s repeated warnings about the judgment awaiting false teachers, he assures us that we can expect mercy!

Contending for the faith really boils down to basic Christian living that contrasts the rebellious lifestyle of apostates. Next week we’ll discover ways to minister to friends and family who have been deceived, or at least influenced by false teachers.

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